Leading a full life under the radar.
By Manny Dixon-Peralta
Burdine Street. Late July. The sun has fallen. All is quiet, bar the tunes of the crickets and cicadas drifting aimlessly into the warm summer dark. In his humble home, along this modest street in Somerset, Kentucky, Jerry Wayne, 76, is almost ready for bed.
He sits in his recliner, drinking a cold glass of water. The television is playing, but he is not watching.
He keeps it on to fill the quiet of the house.
His wife, Sarah Jane, 75, is on vacation with her sister in sunny California. They have been married more than 50 years. She loves him almost as much as the sound of her own voice.
He is not accustomed to the quiet.
On the mantle above the hearth sits an old clock. At the change of the hour, the show he was not watching comes to an end, and the clock chimes 10 times. He clambers up from the chair, slowly, and by the dim light of a lamp, begins making his bed on the couch.
Though the bedroom is vacant, he is accustomed to the feel of the couch, and climbing up into the bed would be too big a feat for his ever-aching back.
The television is now off as is the lamp. He lays still and stiff on the couch. He wears nothing but his bloomers — no blanket covers his hairy, freckled body.
The home is decorated with things he once was: a picture of him wading in a river fly fishing sits on the table by the lamp; his painting of a Native American man hangs above the old clock on the mantle; a plaque inscribed with “To ‘Mr. D’ our teacher, father, friend” hangs on the wall by his computer; and the plans of various houses and business around Somerset he designed sit stacked on his desk.
Of these things — fisherman, artist, teacher, architect — he was and still is.
But add old man to the list.
On the couch he does not sleep. There is a pain in his right side, and it is growing ever-more sharp. His breath becomes laborious, shallow, painful. He lays like this early into the morning, until it becomes unbearable.