His brown corduroy pants are hiked up to his rib cage and his socks cover the length of his ankle the pants have exposed. His skin is paper-thin and I see bruises that come from touching lying close to the surface and he looks like the wind blowing down these coal-emptied hills would blow him right away.
He says it’s his last meeting.
And I wonder what makes a man come back month after month, year after year, until the seasons have melted into decades and still he sits here, making decisions in this small town.
He likes to mention all the posts he’s held. He always adds dog-catcher, makes sure that one’s mentioned.
He’s the man who served in World War II, who called a cost-cutting attempt to merge small municipalities together “Hitlerish,” but never bothered to explain.
He calls every woman “young lady,” even scolding one irate woman with a “You speak when spoken to, young lady,” that left me (and her, temporarily) speechless.
Small things stick in his craw, it seems; particularly police officers who don’t write enough parking tickets. That really bothers him.
And when the borough borrows from the savings account to pay the bills until taxes come in? He asks, every month, when that money’s going to be paid back to the savings account.
And it is, every penny of it, and it’s announced at his last meeting and I think it’s fitting.
He said it was time to let younger blood come in but if that was his concern he’d have left a decade ago. He looks frail today, and I wonder about his health, whether these trips to the borough office are growing too arduous.
But he laughs and there’s a twinkle in his eye and he leans back in his chair and basks in the attention they’re all giving him, calling him their mentor and counting up his years of service.
Maybe he’s just ready to try something new.