It was the last hour of light on what had been a warm day when a middle-aged couple walked leisurely along a quiet gravel road that joined their home with a few others. Greg was pointing out a wildflower to Anne when they heard someone’s shoe scuff the crushed rock. They looked up to see a gaunt young man approaching them. He looked as if he’d been living in his clothes for a few days, like he hadn’t bathed either. His skin was dried and browned, bereft of any fullness.
“Sorry, I thought you were someone else,” the words came out apologetically, slurred.
“That’s okay. Could be anyone out taking a walk,” Greg replied congenially, wanting to put the younger man at ease.
“I thought you were the people who bought the Taylor place.”
“Well, we did buy property from him,” said Greg, “about twenty years ago—before he moved down into the valley.”
Anne regarded the red-eyed man who reeked of sweat and alcohol. “You mean his house?”
“Yeah. His house.”
“So, is he still living down there? In the trailer?” Anne asked.
“He got a new doublewide.”
“I wondered why he was pruning along the road,” Greg said, trying to mask his annoyance with his neighbor’s indiscriminate hacking.
“My sister used to rent the trailer,” the younger man said, “and my dad, he lived in the cottage down there. He just died.”
“Oh, I am so sorry,” said Anne. “I heard he wasn’t doing well.” Perhaps that explained the man’s drunken state, although she suspected not.
“Yeah, everyone is getting together. I just don’t want to be there.”
“I understand,” said Greg as they all resumed walking. “My father died a few years back, and all I wanted was to be alone.”
“I was just walking up the road to see if my friend Kenny was home. I’ve been using my dad’s truck, but there’s no gas.
“They’re all acting like my sister is some kinda hero,” the young man continued, “like she’s been the only one taking care of my dad. But I looked at the checkbook, and there’s $1,600 gone, and she says it was for Dad. Shit, there ain’t even any groceries in the house. And she’s living fine.
“Now I gotta go sort through everything. I don’t know what I’m gonna do with it.”
“Well, don’t be in a rush to throw things away,” Greg said. “There may be some things you really want to hold on to.”
Anne envisioned the cottage that Greg typically referred to as a shack. He doesn’t have that luxury, she thought.
They paused at the couple’s driveway.
“Yeah. There’s no gas in the truck.” The young man shook his head. “I’m just wondering where all the money went.”
“We’re really sorry to hear about your dad,” Anne said.
“Take care,” Greg said.
The spare man continued down the road, to a small home filled with his father’s worldly possessions, no food, no money, and a truck without gas.