The Old Man rose from the kitchen table with some difficulty, getting up in stages that unfolded, like a carpenter’s

ruler, one section at a time. He straightened his back gradually,

downing the last of his coffee and checking three sections of the paper along the way. Though I never heard him complain, I could see he had what he’d have termed

“a hitch in his git-along.”

I waited for him to shuffle through the door, then passed him as he barely puttered forward on the way to connect boat and trailer to the truck. I backed the truck into position, then went around to the bumper to finish the job. The Old Man had arrived to stand between bumper and bow as well by now, inspecting my work as it went. When I dropped the tongue and hitch onto the trailer ball, the red wasps that had made the hitch’s underside their home since we’d used it last erupted to lodge their protest. As I took two quick steps backward and was turning to flee, the Old Man hopped from the ground into the truck bed and over the rail on the driver’s side in three quick bounds, passing me midway through and leading me by a truck length once we were 40 yards away. I’d been stung four times, twice on each hand, but the Old Man had sustained not a scratch. I held my swelling fingers up for our mutual inspection.

“There’s some medicine for that in the house,” he said, and headed that way, shuffling in tiny, foot-dragging steps.

“Where’s that speed you just showed off now?” I asked through gritted teeth.

“I have to save that up,” he said. “I don’t have enough to spare on non-emergencies. I’m not as spry as I once was, but I’m as spry once as I ever was.”

Kevin Tate is a freelance writer. Email

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