The only time Micro ever left his house was at dusk to walk his pug dog, Dumpling. Neighbors got used to the sight of the old man and the pug, both huffing and puffing with every step, as they made their way down to the old wooden pier, jutting out into the Ohio River. Once there, the two would sit on that old pier until dark or after, catching their breath and gazing out into the dark water.
"Didn't always have breathing problems," Micro said, "but years of chain smoking spotted my lungs. Now old Dumplin' here," he said, "well, he come to me snortin' and snuffin'. No bigger than my hand when I got him." He studied the palms of his big calloused hands and then bent and patted the little dog.
Back when Micro moved into the house on the lower east side, down next to the river, he said his name was Micro Wave. His disability checks came addressed that way so people figured he was telling the truth. Or the truth as far as Micro knew it. Truth to Micro wasn't always truth to the others. Neighbors learned that about the old man right off.
He told stories that made people wonder. Like the one about a wife named Ocean Wave and about being part of the Woodstock scene and the Hough Avenue Riots and the Kent State shootings.
Micro was neither black nor white but somewhere in between. He said he didn't stand for any one race but stood for many. He played Chuck Berry records on his phonograph, original 45's. Not worn. Worth something, he said.
"Oh, Maybelline, why can't you be true, oh, Maybelline, why're you doin' those things you used to do." The music floated out through the open windows of Micro's house, drifting out through long white curtains that billowed onto the porch, wrapping Chuck's words in gauze. Wooden spoons propped in the windows held them open year round.
Dumpling would snore and Chuck would sing. No wonder the old man's hearing was nearly shot. Or so he said, when he was still talking to the neighbors.
On Friday nights, he used to come and sit with the neighbors, whoever had chairs out, and he'd talk until he ran out of words. Or until he'd take a coughing fit. He would start on the weather and how it was changing and go on to Ocean Wave and how with her the tide was always turning.
One of the neighbors would finally stick a finger up to his own ear and draw a circle, indicating to the group that Micro was crazy. Others, though, drew in every word he uttered. He may have been crazy, but he was entertaining-crazy on hot summer nights.
Right before he quit coming out of his house for anything except to walk his pug dog at dusk, he told me in detail how it was at Kent State. The National Guard. The shots ringing out. The blood. And that awful sound of the screaming. How it made his ears ring, even today. He couldn't have told it as well if he hadn't been there.
Some people came away with pictures of it, he said. He came away with a scar. Neighbors never saw any scar. It could be his scar was in a place eyes couldn't see. Maybe not even his own.
I have a collection of short stories. Some very different than what I usually write.
This one is certainly different.
Not sure where it came from but I'm thankful it arrived. I'd be interested in your thoughts good or bad or indifferent. I'm deciding which stories to leave out of the book of stories I hope to publish on Kindle this summer. Spill your thoughts below. Many thanks! Bless you on this cloudy in Ohio Monday!