This story started out as a poem, like “Tuesday Evening in a Small, Southern Town”, but, because I’m not a poet, it eventually became a piece of flash fiction that, I think, sort of serves as a follow-up or sequel to my short story “Two Flights”.
Originally published Foliate Oak Literary Journal, September, 2012.
The Old Man We Saw on Bourbon Street
By Lee Wright
If he drinks enough, he can remember the way things used to look: The smooth gray stones, tight and even, rising above her little courtyard garden, the shallow pools sparkling in the light of the iron-faced lamps, the neat double rows of daffodils that skirted the meandering cobblestone path, the wooden swing moving gently back and forth in the still summer air.
If he closes his eyes, she's there on the wall, her arms extended, fingers splayed. Her bare feet move: Toe-to-heel, toe-to-heel, along the crest of the garden wall. He stands in the garden, arms tense, legs tight, as if he could actually catch her should she fall. She laughs and the Spanish moss shudders in the old oaks behind him. The night clings to them the way it always does.
If he drinks enough, he can remember that he once tried to forget. So I toss him whatever change I have in my pocket—a dollar, maybe. He nods and puts it in the old felt hat at his side then goes back to staring at the crumbling wall behind the sagging house.
As we walk away, she takes my hand and tells me she wants to go home. Not to our apartment, but home.
The night clings to us the way it always does.
© 2012 Lee Wright