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Short Stories: The Old Man and the Window


The old man restlessly flops, twists, and turns in his sleep, repeatedly awakened by nightly calls to empty his bladder and lessen the pain in his legs and spine.

In the distance, he hears the noise tires make as first-shift factory workers and other laborers make their way to their places of employment.

As the old man nears the door of the bedroom, he stops, turns, and pulls back the curtain on the window.

The old man and the window know each other well. He has stood at this window thousands of times, perusing the village street — a main two-lane highway running north to southeast through Defiance County.

The old man surveys the early morning landscape. He glances up at the yellow streetlight giving off its glow. The light reflects off a light snow that is falling.

The old man glances at the car sitting in his driveway — a 2020 Ford Edge — covered with a skiff of snow.

To the south and west, the old man notices the lights are on at what he calls the “party house.” Young adults live there, though they are rarely seen except for when they throw a party. Then, the house is pulsating with music so loud that even the deaf old man hears the noise. Voices, laughter, and drunken revelry join the music, singing a chorus of freedom. But on this morning, the house is quiet.

The house on the corner shows signs of life. The old man notices his young neighbor’s minivan is running, the heater warming its cabin before the neighbor leaves for work. The right flasher is flashing, likely having been accidentally activated when the neighbor started the van.

Farther to the west, the old man sees the lighted sign for the local bar and restaurant. Cars are parked along the road, likely farmers meeting at the restaurant to eat breakfast and catch up on the latest gossip

Far in the distance, the old man sees the sign for the local gas station and convenience store. Nearby hangs the town’s one unnecessary traffic light.

The old man sees all of these things in seconds.

He wonders, “How many more times will I look out this window before I die?”

He knows the answer, “not many.” There will come a day when life will continue coursing through the streets of Ney, but without the old man in the window.

All he knows is that today is not that day.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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  1. Avatar

    Well written, Bruce. You surely have the gift of communication. I feel like I can see what you saw out your window and can appreciate the emotions.

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    MJ Lisbeth

    This had me in tears, Bruce. You capture one of the most basic truths about life: its finiteness.

    Also, I couldn’t help but to notice that the old man is sitting by the window, where he sees everything, but it seems that nobody sees–or, more precisely, notices–him.

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    Gosh dang Bruce the old man gazing wistfully out the window lit up memories of when I lived in a small town like Ney. I was a 9th grade dropout attending Tri-State College trying desperately not to flunk and humiliate myself. You inspired me to write about it. I won’t copy all of it here. You’l have to buy my book, or wait for the movie. (satire OK?)

    Ch (1)
    I often looked out that frosty window over frozen Pleasant Lake at the blue lights on the other side framed in cold misty halos. I could only study so long in the isolation of the old farm house and had to get up and look out occasionally at the lights over on Route 27. I wondered what what was going one over there. I wondered what younger unmarried classmates living in the dorms were doing. Partying no doubt, as I huddled with my books and notes while my Wife slept.

    (To be continued)

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      John S.

      Hey Dutchguy- I used to work with someone from Ney- he said there was an establishment called the “Ney Bar”. Not sure if he was telling a tall tale, making a joke (“neighbor”) or if it was actually true?

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    ... Zoe ~

    I love this. Like you, Biker Dude and I have a similar routine looking out the windows. We have lived in this home for 40 years. We know who has come and who has gone. What time people leave for work, and when they get home. We watch the sun rise and the sun set. I can tell who is driving on the road by the sound of their vehicle. This time of year, we look out the window and take in the decorative lights and note how every year there is another inflatable blown up for the season. I find myself now thinking of life here on this street, in this home, on this property when we are gone. How life will go on. How the squirrels will sit in that same spot in the tree. How the chipmunks will continue for generations to come. I wonder, will the gardens remain. All the years toiling the soil. Heirloom plants, butterflies and birds. Thank you for sharing this Bruce. With tears in my eyes, I thank you.

    • Avatar
      ... Zoe ~

      So I had to come back to this and share. Up at 1:00 a.m. to take something for pain and heat up my Magic Bag (for those who don’t know, it’s like a bean bag that you heat up to help with soreness and pain). I finally manage to find a comfortable position and fall back to sleep, when for only the second time in all these years, I hear out back, an owl rhythmically hooting at 2:30 a.m.. Hoot, hoot, hoot, pause for 5 seconds and then again. I found it comforting but part of me is like: seriously? I just got back to sleep. 🙂 My inner naturalist had to get up. I went to the patio door, quietly opened it, as knew it would see and hear me. I opened the door and just sat there taking it in. I listened to two of them having a bit of a duet. They didn’t stay for long and I went back to bed. 🙂

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    What a wonderfully sad vision this story paints. Brings to mind the many times I would look at my sister and smile as our elderly mom and dad would stop by the window to peer out in the night as they were on their way to bed. And now, being the same age as Bruce, when the toilet is calling me at 3:15 in the morning, I habitually peek through the blinds, occasionally catching sight of a lone deer crossing the front yard, but usually, there’s nothing to see here.
    Bruce, please stay with us a little longer and keep telling us what you see.

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    Brian Vanderlip

    Aw, ya old prick! Standin’ at the window lookin’ fer trouble when ya oughta be preachin’ at the traffic lights, barking on the sidewalk at hapless citizenry! Who cares if you are going to be dead soon! There’s souls to be saved and the empty pockets of Ohio are not empty enough… And don’t git me started on that fool-hat you wear supporting commie ideas! I see right through your bullshit football talk! You can’t bluff Revival Fires and me! Yer not even 70 years in! Get crackin’ lad. And shave that beard! Not even Jesus would hire you lookin’ like a hippy

  7. Avatar

    Such an insightful and moving post, Bruce. I’ve been thinking about Life recently as when I visit small g/son, he likes to come into my bed for an early morning cuddle. He likes stroking my face and has commented how come I’ve got a wrinkly face, hands and arms. Giving me a hug in bed not long ago, he said, ‘I do love you granny, and if you get too old and die, I never ever want a step-granny instead of you.’ Precious moments!

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    Yulya Sevelova

    A very evocative piece, Bruce. Like most of the others do, I am in the habit of peering out of my apartment windows, especially when getting something from the kitchen, or when I hear something,after midnight. I agree too, with our collective wish that you’ll be inspired somehow to be able to remain with us, writing at home in Ney, like you have been doing for quite a while. Especially when the best holiday of the year, is almost here ! And as for the un- revived Revival Liar, you can just shut up.

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