The Old Man Next Door at Our Rooming House
Thick fog beyond window obscured morning -- momentary sensation of drowning in lentil soup -- the old man warmed some coffee left from previous evening, shook out a cup & a half of overpriced cereal into the mendicant bowl and poured in whole milk, noting the plastic jug was now under a quarter full -- while trying to remember what he intended to do today.
A coupla hours later, about the time when evaporation seemed to rapidly clear to sunny skies, the task suddenly came back to him -- stand at the sink and clean the razor clams -- that's what he was doing when we came back from the market offering him an Anchor Steam from the six-pack my girlfriend had found on sale -- we liked to keep him pleased with us so he wouldn't complain about the sighs of pleasure and loud exclamations late at night which most likely came through the wall to his room.
Anyways, he took a break, and as the first sips of ale loosened his tongue he began telling us about the rock crab -- not only that he'd taken it from the same hole as a seven-inch razor, but his quandary as to why it is named rock crab when it hides in the wet sand of low tide -- and rambling on to enumerate various hypotheses about tactile contact between rock crab and clam -- was it predator & prey, or somehow symbiotic because of sand loosened by the clam?
All I could think about was the column of oysters who walked up the beach behind the walrus and the carpenter in Tweedledee's poem , recited in Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There -- and I gazed at my girlfriend's hair where the sun coming through the window made it gleam -- she liked to listen to and spur on the old man's conjectures.
I'd asked him one time, earlier, "What the heck did you survey in a railyard?" -- he'd said laconically that there were daily product outputs and railcars most of the time for transporting it -- which somehow didn't give me enough details to envision the work, but he went on into something else -- I'm not as good as my girlfriend at framing the follow-up questions to delve to the heart of the matter, and let it ride.
We saw the old man, Dirk I should've said by now, later in the afternoon -- he must've walked to the market because he was coming back with a half-gallon of milk and something green -- zucchini, asparagus, or parsley, I supposed for his chowder -- but next evening, not that day, but yesterday, we heard that he had died -- yes, apparently he'd gone clammin' again, and waded through a furrow to a somewhat exposed sandbar, but stayed too long tryin' to get his limit, and the weather was more rough that morning -- a big wave took away his footing, that's what happened, and washed the old man out and under -- God, rest his soul !
Now we've got to find a new place to stay -- after two family cleaned out Dirk's possessions, a group of three or four moved into that room within hours -- real party animals, it's pretty loud tonight -- interferes with my yoga