“If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.”
His mother’s words reached out to him through many years. The timbre of her voice was still vibrant and lyrical, as if she hadn’t been dead for nigh on four decades.
“If ifs and buts were candies and nuts, we’d all have a Merry Christmas!”
Marvin T. Mundorf sat dozing in the late afternoon sun in the solarium of the Happy Haven Retirement Community, or as he liked to think of it, “The Old Fart Room.” He kept nodding off periodically, which was a pretty normal occurrence for him these days, especially when sitting with Martha Jane O’Halloran, aka the “One-Eyed Knitter,” in the hour or so before the dining room opened for the early-bird dinner seating, precisely at five o’clock. Not five-oh-five and certainly not at five-ten. Riots in Happy Haven started for less, although those usually involved BINGO or what was shown on “Classic Movie Night” in the rec room.
His mother’s voice still echoing through his mind, Marv guessed she must be thinking about him up in heaven. That or the mind-numbing clicks and clacks of The One-Eyed Knitter’s proficient needles were causing him to hallucinate.
Everyone in the Haven admired Martha Jane’s knitted creations, especially since the woman hadn’t been able to see out of her left eye for twenty years. Martha Jane never let that particular handicap stop her in her relentless, life-long quest to make sure every single resident in the Haven had their own personal tissue box cover. Or matching potholders. Or full-sized Mr. and Mrs. Claus dolls made from empty hand soap bottles, covered in gobs and gobs of brightly colored red and white yarn.
Martha Jane was sweet on Marv, no matter how disagreeable he could be on any given day. In his youth, he was charming and quite the rogue. Since men were vastly outnumbered in the Haven, Marv allowed Martha Jane to fuss all over him. It was the very least he could do for the sweet old bird. His apartment looked like a craft store had blown up in there, such was the level of her ardor. She really shouldn’t have bothered. Marv was an unrepentant, lifelong bachelor. A condition he had no intention of correcting, especially at this advanced date.
“So I told Millie French that it wasn’t me who told Betty about her secret banana bread recipe. I can’t even see enough to know what’s in it! It’s bad enough she lets her cat, Frankie, traipse all around the place…I mean, honestly, Marvin have you ever heard such nonsense? Marvin, are you listening?”
“Ayuh, MJ, my sweet, succulent kumquat! You know your every word is like poetry to this old man’s ears!”
“Oh, Marvin, you rascal…” he could see the color rising in her wrinkled cheeks. Now and then she’d flash her eyes (well, her one good eye) at him, and Marv could see a trace of the beauty she must have been. But then, Marv once had a full head of rich dark hair and a muscular, god-like body. A bona fide ladies man was Marvin T. Mundorf in those magical days of yore.
Old age is a real bitch.
“Now, as mesmerizing as this conversation is, my lovely, I think Denny is just about ready to open up the cafeteria for dinner. Shall we, my dear?”
“Yes, Marvin! Just as long as I get to sit next to you tonight. Last night, you spent all your time with that Maddie Travis and you know how awful she can be! Why, just last week she borrowed Agnes’ brand new BINGO dauber and tried to pawn it off by saying it was hers! Can you just imagine the nerve? Marvin?”
Marv shuffled along as fast as his desiccated old legs would allow, letting the One-Eyed Knitter’s chatty gossip wash over him. He figured he could get through almost anything if Denny had his world-class salmon dish on the menu tonight. The man really was a whiz in the kitchen.
“Marvin? D’ya hear me?”
“Yes, MJ. I eagerly await every word.”
“Good! As I was saying…” Sarcasm is really lost on this woman, he thought in mild amusement.
Marvin smiled and nodded, discreetly turning down his hearing aid as they slowly made their way to the table with Martha Jane chatting at him the entire time. Marv had just enough time to see that Denny’s poached salmon was on the menu and thanked the good Lord and all the Saints for life’s tiny victories.
Belly filled to bursting, Mundorf sat in his favorite old recliner, enjoying the blissful silence of his single unit on the third floor. It wasn’t anything fancy. Just one room with a small sitting room, bathroom and half-kitchen. No Taj Mahal, but perfect for a man of Marvin’s simple taste.
He hadn’t accumulated much in his eighty-odd years, everything fit easily into his tiny apartment. Some folks might find that a little sad, but not Marv. He’d spent years on the road as a travelling salesman and figured he’d sold just about everything it was possible for a man to sell, and then a few more things after that. Spending a lifetime peddling stuff cured a man of the desire to collect it. The stories and experiences he’d collected more than made up for material possessions, especially when it came to the fairer sex. Now, those were the days! The women on the road, in restaurants and shops along the way, lonely, untended housewives on sultry summer days…
Sighing out loud at his memories, Marv felt the old shadow of his robust former self chomping at the bit to escape the prison of his current circumstances. He loved the ladies of Happy Haven but sometimes, he worried about how to make them happy. With that in mind, Marvin slowly got up and walked over to his only real indulgence, a laptop computer. Moving aside a large stack of MJ’s knitted, monogrammed coasters on the table, he fired it up, marveling at the whirs and clicks that would give an old man like himself instant access to the entire world. I wish they’d had these contraptions years ago, I’d have made a killing!
Satisfied the laptop was on, he shuffled into the bathroom and carefully looked himself over in the mirror. Growing old ain’t for sissies. That’s for damn sure! Marv patted down his white, wispy hair, smoothing it over the top of his head as best he could. He quickly gargled two fingers of mouthwash and applied a healthy dose of cologne. Quickly pulling on his special shorts and inspecting that there were no stains on his best flannel robe, Marvin grabbed his meds and made his way back to the desk.
Tonight, not only had Martha Jane joined him for dinner, but also Agnes, Gladys and Maddie Travis, much to the One-Eyed Knitter’s chagrin. Marv thought of them as the “Haven Mavens” and they were a formidible bunch. Each one focused only on Marv, asking endless questions, chatting with him and loudly over each other like a gaggle of excited geese. Martha Jane insisted on riding up the elevator with him, actually blocking the others with her cane until the doors closed, nearly trapping Maddie’s foot between them. Maybe it was the beginning of spring or a full moon, but lately Marv felt an urgency in the Haven, a buzzy female energy. It actually scared him a little.
Marv sat down and opened up the vial of pills. He’d heard other men in the Haven talking about the wonders of the “little blue pill” and figured he ought to give it a try. Taking a deep, fortifying breath, Marv pulled up the website and plunged ahead. Tonight is the night!
Holding the Viagra in his hand, he put on his specs and read the prescription again. It said one pill or 50 milligrams for those ages 18-64, one hour before activity. Marv figured he was twenty years past that so he quickly added a second pill, dry swallowing them whole. Then he began to feel nervous, it’d been a very, very long time. His mother’s voice came back, unbidden, into his mind.
“In for a penny, in for a pound, Marvin. If you’re going to do something, you might as well put your whole heart into it…”
“Ayuh, Ma, appreciate the advice, but I think I’m better off going solo on this one.”
Marv shook his head from side to side, trying to shoo his strong-willed mother out of his head. He felt like a guilty teenager. Figuring he’d better do it quickly before he lost his nerve, he pulled up the “Angie’s Escorts” website and began scrolling through the pictures. I wonder if I could get a nice, pretty young sixty-something? One that wouldn’t laugh or run away in disgust.
The thing was, Marvin really liked Martha Jane. Hell, he liked all the ladies in the Haven, but MJ had really grown on him. He was nervous about taking things to the next level with her as he was woefully out of practice in the romance department. Marv needed a pro to help him rediscover his glory days. That and the wonder of modern medicine.
Making his selection, Marv entered his credit card information and settled back into his easy chair to wait in nervous comfort.
Lightly dozing, Marv dreamt of towering waves crashing against distant shores. Lazily strolling down a white-hot, sandy beach, he began to feel the first stirrings of the miraculous blue pills kicking in. As the minutes ticked by, Marv experienced an overwhelming surge of energy, causing him to literally leap up out of his chair. My God! What kind of strange magic is this? Marv paced back and forth, over and over, almost wearing a groove in his upgraded, plush carpet.
After awhile, Marv began to get worried. His body was reacting in an alarming fashion, memories bombarding him from every direction. The bored, upper class housewife in Poughkeepsie, her pale pink housedress bunched up on the floor in illicit haste; a stunning Jackie-O type brunette with bright red lipstick he met in a diner along Interstate 80, just outside of Kearney, Nebraska; the sweet little barmaid in Bemidji who poured Old-Fashions (skip the fruit, please!) with abandon before taking him home for a nightcap after last call. All of them and so many others. I should’ve savored every last moment, every smile, every touch. I was always so rushed, so driven…the party was supposed to go on forever, no piper to be paid! I was young, handsome, desirable…
Marv nearly jumped out of his skin at that last thought, every nerve in his body taut and frayed to a thread. He began to pace again, a caged lion, trying desperately to banish his memories before he literally exploded. A sharp knock on the door brought him back down to earth, causing a fresh batch of anxiety to break out over his fevered brow. She’s here! Thank the good Lord and all the Saints! Feeling a fresh burst of youthful energy, Marvin T. Mundorf threw off his robe, caution be damned, ready to meet her in all of his grizzled glory. “No time like the present, Marvin! You are the ruler of your own destiny!”
“Ma, not now! He whispered fiercely under his breath, “I can handle it from here!”
Flag flying painfully at full mast, Marvin carefully jogged his way over, ready for his refresher course to begin. He threw the door open like a lovesick teenager. So preoccupied and bothered was Marv, that it took him a full five seconds to realize that who stood before him on the other side wasn’t the lovely lady from “Angie’s Escorts.” It was Martha Jane O’Halloran, her one good eye widening in shock as she took in the spectacle that was Marvin T. Mundorf in his finest pair of red silk boxer shorts.
A pair of neon pink, knitted pot holders fluttered dramatically to the floor as MJ gathered up her composure to speak.
“M…m…Marvin, um..Sully from the front desk..uh..wanted me to give you a message,” she said haltingly, her eyes travelling downward, “he said ‘nice try man, but no dice!’ What a strange thing to say. Marvin? Oh my!”
Struck dumb by the awkwardness of the moment, Marv decided that silence was his only option. Attempting to reclaim his dignity, Marv simply stepped aside, holding the door open as wide as it would go. Martha Jane gleefully tiptoed in, giggling like a schoolgirl every step of the way before closing the door firmly behind her.
Marvin stretched out languidly for the first time in ages, feeling his old bones pop and creak in protest. Something felt slightly off in his spine. Marv guessed he would pay dearly for his recent exertions later in the day, but the benefits of his evening with Martha Jane were definitely worth it.
Rolling over to reach for her, his hand landed on a soft, flat object where MJ should have been. Even without his spectacles, Marv could see it was an obnoxiously bright shade of pink. A potholder. The One-Eyed Knitter had struck again.
Marv let out a long, drawn out sigh, smiling to himself. MJ had just done the old-fashioned equivalent of dropping her hanky. Or truth be told, Marv had become what the kids these days would call a “hook up” or even more descriptively, a Happy Haven “booty call.”
Either way, he was certain Martha Jane was already out in full force, gleefully sharing the details of their magical evening with the “Haven Mavens” or at least insinuating at it. He’d never have a moment’s peace now, he would have a reputation to live up to. It was maddening. It was insane. It was…captivating?
Marv found himself anticipating his day for the first time in years-wondering the right way to move forward with MJ and the other ladies in the Haven, but also knowing the fun would be in figuring it out. Just like in the old days, every sale a winner, every woman a challenge…oh, how I wish…
“Well you know Marvin, if wishes were horses…”
“Ayah, Ma. I know. Beggars would ride.”
Marvin T. Mundorf, newly invigorated, sauntered down the hall to his laptop. He quickly closed out the tab to “Angie’s Escorts” and pulled up the prescription site instead. With a feeling of immense gratitude to be alive in this modern age, Marv refilled his scrip, then quickly doubled it.
“Marvin, you must always strike while the iron’s hot!”
“Yes, Ma. I’ll be doing just that!”
Satisfied he was set for the foreseeable future, Marv headed back to his bedroom for a celebratory nap. Something told him he would definitely be needing the rest. Sometime later, a light knock on his door told him the adventure was about to begin again. Quickly downing the pills, he ran his fingers through his hair and splashed on a dash of cologne.
Marvin T. Mundorf had no idea what awaited him on the other side of the door, but for the first time in decades he couldn’t wait to find out. Not too shabby for an old fart, huh Ma?
For once, his mother remained mercifully silent. Marv joyfully made his way to the door, excited and ready to make his next sale.
A. Elizabeth Herting is an aspiring freelance writer and busy mother of three living in colorful Colorado. She has over 60 short story credits, podcasts, and reprints as well as non-fiction work, and two collections of short stories published by “Adelaide Books,” “Whistling Past the Veil” and “Postcards From Waupaca” available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
For more of her work/contact her at aeherting.com, twitter.com/AmyHerting or facebook.com/AElizabethHerting