He’s hummin’ a little tune as his ears follow that clickety-clack of his walking stick . A white extension of his black self. Dark-leathery skin contrasts with the brilliant white stick, with them red stripes. His nostrils flare. Bertha has fresh pie waiting at the diner already. Coffee. The papery scent lettin’ him know the Sunday edition is waiting in his customary spot.
“Well howdy Nate, got your pie right here,” Bertha says, loud, because people think that blind people is deaf too, he don’t know. He nods and smiles at the sound because he don’t know if Bertha is a pretty missus or a miss or if she’s—
Blackberries. His nose fills up with berries and his hands fall to the table right where his fork and napkin sit because that’s where Bertha’s put them as long as he can remember. She always givin’ him the coffee for free. He tries to tell her sometimes it ain’t right but she laughs and takes his money and gives back the wrong change anyway.
Nate. He was born Nathaniel, but he’s been shortened to Nate, and now it just don’t matter anymore as long as they don’t call him late for his pie—supper—he’ll be just fine. The door jingles. Bertha changes it out every so often. Christmastime she has a set of sleigh bells and he smiles because sleigh bells just sound so pretty. So pretty.
Erma’s gone. Been gone for fifteen years. He still has the old house they shared, still talks to her sometimes just to have sound. He don’t like radio anymore really. It isn’t music. It just isn’t. He hangs up his hat where the old mirror used to be ‘til the night Darcy was born; Erma pulled it down during one of her contractions because it hurt so bad.
The pie settles a little off. He opens the refrigerator with the same creak it’s had for a decade or more since Darcy collapsed in front of it when her heart failed. She’s got a nice job somewhere in Chicago. Pacemaker saved her life.
Maalox is right there on the shelf and he takes a cold chalky swig. Closes the door. Turns to go up the stairs. Halfway up he pauses with a grunt. Leathery black hands let go. Everything is static. Static and hissin’, but it’s the rush of water and he opens his eyes.
Erma smiles down at him and he touches her glowing cheek. She’s just beautiful to look at.