prompt: cob, title: strong to the finish in misc. flash fiction

  • July 27, 2021, 1:57 p.m.
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  • Public

“I am what I am and that’s all what I am,” the old sailor muttered, half to himself, half to no one, “and I guess what I am is tired. Just tired.” He still clenched that corn cob pipe between his teeth but he didn’t smoke it anymore, doctor’s orders, it wasn’t supposed to be good for him. He vaped and he wore little patches, like some kind of pirate, he laughed to himself, but he could not let go of just holding that pipe in his mouth. That was how his whole life felt, how he felt himself to be as a member of the human race, outmoded but hanging on in half-measures by lingering reflexes.

Money wasn’t a worry, at least, he’d gotten out of his friend J. Wellington Wimpy’s Burgercoin scheme on the top, at its highest value, before the bottom fell out. You can keep telling a person you’ll pay them next Tuesday for a hamburger today but eventually a next Tuesday comes. Still, minimum security wasn’t a bad thing for Wimpy, the food good, tennis twice a week and all the other white-collar criminals treating him like a king for pulling off such an audacious flim-flam.

Health, amazing for his age, a lifelong diet of spinach, fresh catches and citrus juices to hold off scurvy do that for you. The children grew up, they still called on the regulars, that was nice. The wife, well, they had good times for a long time but with the kids gone and all that money, Olive found her own scam to run, one she actually believed in, unlike Wimpy. Little scented things she thought were magic that really just made people feel good because they smelled pretty. Essential Oyls, she called them, and they sure sold. She hung out with celebrities like Oprah and Gwyneth, which meant nothing to him but he was glad it kept her busy, it kept her happy. If he had learned anything in his life, that was it, find something to keep you busy and happy, even if it was stupid.

So, he’d made peace with Bluto and Brutus, bought a seafood restaurant for them to run together, even if with his bad eye he still had to admit, he couldn’t always tell those two brothers apart. No more enemies to fight, no more monsters to wallop, just the standing conscription of years to live out. Sometimes he thought about just sailing alone off into the nowheres, like his own father had, to drift until the waters claimed him, but that wouldn’t be fair to the kids. He had to set a heroic example for them, strong to the finish and all that good stuff.

Staring off into an azure sea, into a rich magenta sunset, he pulled at the vape again. His life, just like that robotic cigarillo, not exactly what he’d expected but still pretty much good enough. Red sky at night, after all, sailor’s delight. Two more puffs. Toot toot.

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