SUNSET • by Gordon Pinckheard

He cried when he was born. Mom had said so. But don’t all newborns cry? Leaving warmth and safety for the cold, bright world?

He cried in his cot before going to sleep. Yeah, Mom had told him that, too. But not for long. It upset her. She had stroked his back, sung to him. That must’ve been nice.

He cried his first day at school. Mom said when she got home, she had had a little cry, too. He had been so small; they all were. And it was the first time he really had a life away from her. She couldn’t know what he had been up to, sitting at his tiny table in the big room with its poster-covered walls.

He cried when he finished the damn exams. He should have prepared better; he knew that. He knew he had done badly in at least two of them. And the future he wanted was slipping out of reach. He lay on his bed, face buried in the duvet. Mom and Dad must’ve known. “Everything will work out,” they said.

He cried when Mom died. They had all known it was coming, but it was so final. The old family home was hollow without her; Dad drifting through it, all alone. He was grateful that he had Sharon and the kids. 

He cried when Dad died. He had lasted a few more years after Mom but then seemed to fade away. It was peaceful enough; just a pity to die in the hospital, not at home. Some things doctors can’t fix, can they? Why do they feel they have to try? Daft.

He cried when he retired. Of course, that was after the party. First, he had to get through all the witty remarks about taking it easy in his bathrobe. But so much of his meaning had been cut away. What had it all been for? Did he matter to his colleagues? Would they remember him?

He cried when he got the diagnosis. Part of you thinks you’ll live forever, and another part wonders what’s going to kill you. Well, he had the answer. Provided he avoided walking out in front of a bus. Decisions, decisions.

He cried when Sharon died. That time, he had cried at the graveside in front of everybody. They had been together so long, and now he had to go on without her. And he was meant to be the sick one, yet she had beaten him into the ground. The kids had minded him for a while.

He cried when he left home for the last time. To go into a Home. He knew it was necessary, but he didn’t have to like it. The kids had told him it was for the best. Well, none of them was going to take him in, anyway.

Kids? Kevin was old enough to be thinking about retirement. He sat there in the armchair, looking around the room, checking it out. There was not much space to contain a life. Sitting back, fingers interlocked over his swelling belly, commiserating. And then Kevin comes out with, “Life is suffering,” nodding away to himself. Thankfully, he left soon after that.

Alone again, using his walker, he slowly made his way outside, sat down. The nice helper brought him a cup of the good coffee; she trusted his trembling hands that much.

The lawn stretched away in front of him, a distant strip of sea glistening in front of the eternal mountains. The sun was low in the sky. Tomorrow is another day, he thought. And if I don’t get that far, I’ll enjoy this evening. It’s been a good life.

In the fading light of the setting sun, he smiled.

Gordon Pinckheard lives in County Kerry, Ireland. Retired from a working life spent writing computer programs and technical documents, he now seeks success in his sunset years submitting short stories pounded out with one arthritic finger. His stories have been published by Every Day Fiction, Cabinet of Heed, Flash Fiction Magazine, Shooter, Cranked Anvil, and others.

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