He sat alone at the picnic table, thinking about his tasks for the day. He had worked his morning shift, grinding away at placing items back on the shelves and hiding from management. He was feeling time creep into his muscles and bones, forcing them to ache and moan with stress. He was ready to retire and enjoy his life once again.
The picnic table that the old man sat at was under one of his favorite trees. As a kid, him and his girlfriend had carved their initials into and surrounded it with a heart. He thought it was stupid and cheesy but she loved it and that’s what had mattered. Looking at the tree now, it’s tall branches keeping him cool on this spring day, he wished he could still see the carving. Instead the tree had healed and some other lovers had put their initials in, just like he had.
The old man gave a sigh as he looked down at the notebook in front of him. On the pages was a list of things his wife had given him to do. Take the dog to the vet. Go grocery shopping. Take the car to the shop. The list felt like it just kept going. He let out another sigh before reaching into his breast pocket and began pulling out a cigar. It was something his wife wanted him to stop doing in his older age, but he didn’t care. The whole reason he worked was so they could both have insurance and he’d be damned on what she told him. Nevertheless he still looked around anxiously, his thoughts betraying him that she may be lurking and watching.
The old man didn’t see his wife but he did see a younger gentleman walking in his direction. He looked to be in his mid twenties and was wearing a blue and white striped polo and khaki pants. His hair was cut into the weird side shave these millennial men decided were cool. The old man chuckled to himself, thinking about how the haircut was ridiculous, but then he remembered some of the styles he sported in the sixties and stopped laughing.
The millennial kept walking towards the old man and he began to feel uneasy. He didn’t know who this young man was or why he was approaching him. The old man puffed lightly on his cigar. He had heard something about how millennials hated any kind of smoking save for those “vape” things that he saw commercials for. Still though, the millennial approached the old pine picnic table and put his hands gently on it. His hair blowing in the spring breeze.
“What do you want?” The old man asked. He tried to sound mean and intimidating. This millennial kid hadn’t done anything wrong to him, but he did want to enjoy his peace and quiet before going to run the endless amount of errands his wife gave him.
“I was just hoping to sit and enjoy one of these with you,” the millennial said. The old man watched as the kid pulled a cigar out of his pocket along with a small thing of matches. “My family and girlfriend don’t like me smoking but I can’t help but enjoy these.” The old man smiled.
“I know what ya mean kid,” the old man replied. “I’ve been told to stop with this for years but it hasn’t killed me yet and it never killed my father either.” as he talked he watched in amusement as the millennial struggled with lighting one of his matches. “Here, give me those,” the old man said. As the kid blushes and hands them over, the old man can’t help but notice the similarities in their hands. Both are scarred and the nails are long.
“You a musician?” the old man asks.
“Guitar player,” the millennial replies with the now lit cigar in his mouth. “I was taught to finger pick but I found that keeping your nails long made it even easier to play.” The old man nods and thinks back on how he use to play. He used the same style and he remembers how everyone he’d play for would be impressed. They’d always ask how he could use his nails instead of a pick. He never had a good response to that.
The old man is pulled out of his thoughts as the millennial mentions the tree behind him. “I actually carved my initials into that oak behind you a few years ago,” he says. “I took my girlfriend on a picnic here and played a few songs for her. We had been dating for several months and she thought it was cute to act like the couples in the movies and do the same thing as them.” The old man says nothing to this, how could he? This kid, this millennial, was someone he wasn’t supposed to like. A liberal idiot that does stupid ass things that don’t make sense. And yet. Yet this kid reminded him of how he was when he was young.
At this point the millennial had fallen silent and him and the old man both sat in silence under the shade of the tree. The old man looked down again at his list and let out another sigh before taking a big puff on his cigar. He really should get going.
“Everything alright there?” the millennial asks.
“Yeah, just a damn laundry list of shit to do for the wife,” the old man replied. “It never ends. She takes off work whenever she likes and instead of going to run these errands, I end up doing it because I’m ‘out and about’ already.” The old man shakes his head, getting flustered again about running errands.
“I feel ya,” the millennial says, “my old lady has me doing the same thing today and I’ve still gotta work in the evening, it’s miserable!” The old man looks up at the kid again and sees him chuckling to himself while looking down at his phone. The old man notices that the cigar the millennial has is small and appears to be bought at a gas station. The old man smiles as an idea crosses his mind.
“What did we get ourselves into,” the old man says with a chuckle, drawing the attention of the kid back to him. “But anyhow, I need to get going, these errands won’t run themselves.”
“Yeah, I guess I better get to mine too,” the millennial says. “It’ll only be a matter of time before I get a call asking where the groceries are.” The old man watches as the kid shakes his head and gingerly puts out the cigar. He cringes as he sees him try to put half of it back into his pocket.
“Hey listen, how about you just throw that cigar away and I’ll give you a better one tomorrow if you come here again,” the old man says. He watches as the millennials eyes widen. “Don’t get crazy on me kid. I just think if you’re going to enjoy those things in secret, best do it with some company. Also, that brand you have sucks, let me get you one that’s actually good.”
“Really?” the millennial asks. “I mean, I’m fine with that if you are.”
“Of course,” the old man replies, “I wouldn’t have asked you if I didn’t mean it. Now get going before you get yourself into trouble. Trust me, I’ve been in your shoes enough times to know it’s always an uphill battle the later you are.” The old man watches as the millennial laughs and agrees. The kid waves and begins to walk away before running back and offering his hand to the old man.
“Sorry, I almost forgot, the name is Matt,” he said. “What time do you want for tomorrow?”
“Sam,” the old man said. “Does this same time work for you?”
“It definitely does,” Matt said. “I’ll see you tomorrow morning Sam.” And with that he ran off while Sam continued to sit quietly under the tree at his picnic table. As he sat smoking his cigar, Sam calmly thought about what him and his new friend would talk about tomorrow.