Golden Years: A Flash-Fiction Story

“Everyone kept telling me to wait until my golden years. I tell ya, ‘golden years,’ what a crock!”

The words struck me as I dropped my trash into the compactor, my nose cringing at the stench. Looking up, I saw two men locked in conversation. Oversized glasses and a baseball cap that sat high on his head hid the speaker, but the size of his neck and the shape of his chest betrayed his age.

The other man, with grey hair slicked back, teeth crooked, jumped to respond. “Every time I get together with people my age, it’s always a laundry list of what’s wrong with us.”

“I’m just happy every day I can get up without any pain.”

“Amen. Doctors can give us new hips, knees, even hearts, but it’s still not the same. Youth is wasted on the young.”

The man with the hat climbed back into his car, paused, and then said through the window, “I want it said I squeezed every bit out of life.”

He never noticed me, but the man with the hair slicked back did turn and nod; there was no smile, just a simple recognition of my presence. I waved quickly and got back into my car.

As I drove away, that nod lingered with me. Was there a touch of pity in his look?

I was easily half his age; my concerns were different. That week my wife and I had moved into our first house, a modest brick ranch, decades old, in a neighborhood past its prime. But the purchase had kept me up at night. I knew it wasn’t my dream home.

I’d always hoped to live on the coast–not a large house, just a simple cottage next to the ocean. Summer trips to the beach in my youth had infected me with this dream, and now whenever I thought of the future, I thought of cool breezes, seagulls, the surf, and the sand.

Once I’d mentioned it to Bekah, and she’d smiled and said, “Maybe we could retire there.”

It was something for our golden years.

But the nod from the man with crooked teeth stuck with me, and that night when I dreamed of my beach house, I found every room was filled with sand, much like an hourglass abandoned on its side.

{An entry into a 400-word-story contest put on by Short Story and Flash Fiction Society.}

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