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AR #61 Cover
number 62

by Michael Hettich

The Old Man

Then we stuffed the old man's body with newspaper
to keep him with us a little longer; we asked him
to sit still and smile for us, so we wouldn't feel
our efforts were in vain. We unbuttoned his chest
from neck to belly. It was easy, not much different
from ubbuttoning a shirt; we filled him up
with rags and small tokens of our fondest memories—
a model of the Statue of Liberty, a deck of cards,
a shellacked turtle shell he had given me way back
when grandma was alive. In his mouth we stuffed snapshots
that embarrassed us a little but weren't that bad—
myself on the beach with my belly falling over
my bathing suit and a badly-fitting ball cap, and mommy
as a cloud standing barefoot in a puddle.
He seemed to enjoy the taste of those memories
and having his mouth full of something all the time,
though he drooled all over his paper-stuffed belly.
So we had to put the dog's bowl there. We'd have let his feet
go bare but they were turning black, so we covered them in opaque
nylons. He looked fine. We could keep him in the closet,
we thought, gutted out that way, but we thought instead to keep him
in the kitchen, tied upright to a chair. In that way
we'd be less likely to forget him. But still we did forget him.

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