The man was old and tired. Very old. Too tired. Though there wasn’t a living soul other than he who knew it, today was his ninety second birthday, and he thought about that at six a.m., while he moved barefoot and shirtless across his kitchen, wearing only a faded pair of twenty eight waist blue jeans on his way to the coffee pot.
His wife died and he would have, too, but he had a son, and that made him hang on. But the man that he had been slipped away, and he did not know who was left. He drank, though that had never been him, and he found in it a numbing comfort. He smoked, and that had once been him, but so long ago that it made him a stranger now.
When Andrew Vilner’s father died, the younger Vilner inherited a tidy sum of money and the contents of a cardboard box. When the check providing the tidy sum arrived, Andrew sneered at it, deposited it, and wrote a check for the exact amount to a hospital specializing in the treatment of children afflicted with cancer. When the box came, he threw it in a closet where it remained, jostled but unopened, for thirty years.