Chapter 35 2013 - The Wire

“We are getting down to the wire.” I stated.

“What wire would that be?” Angela asked.

“My sixtieth birthday. It’s coming up in just a few months.”

“And why is that any different that any other?”

“I will officially be an Old Man.” He spoke as if the Capital Letters were the most important part.

“Look at yourself in the mirror. You’re already an old man.”

“Fifty-nine is not old. But sixty is ancient. Why I remember… “ as he chomped his gums.

“You have your teeth, there’s no reason to pretend otherwise.”

“I have most of my teeth. I did have the wisdom teeth pulled out.”

“So that’s what happened.”

“Older, yet wiser. Isn’t that what they say?”

“OK, I’ll accept the older. Otherwise you’re still a kid. I’m not sure you’ve ever grown up. What grown man owns his own amusement park, and runs around as if he’s a teenager?”

“That not youth, that’s retirement. It’s fun. You should try it sometime.”

A great portion of their time over the past few months had them bantering like this, an aging couple, still in love, still happy despite some pitfalls, but generally still in the prime of their lives.

“What do you want to still do in your life?” Angela asked. “You’ve pretty much done it all.”

“I haven’t done it all. Not by a long shot. I haven’t hunted elephants.”

“I didn’t know you wanted to hunts elephants.”

“I don’t. It’s barbaric. But I haven’t done it.”

“Do you want to, now?”


“Take it off your list.”

“How do you know I had a list?”

“Everybody has a list. You can take off elephant hunting.”

“It was never on the list.”

“So you’re saying there’s a list after all?”


“Well, saying there is, what else is on it?”

“I want to be a rock and roll star.”

“You’ve already done it.”

“I didn’t say the list was only things I haven’t done. It’s an old list. I started it when I was ten.”

“Did you check that one off?”


“What else?”

“I want to finish my book.”

“Are we going to deal with that again? I thought you gave that up.”

“It’s still on the list.”

“Take it off.”

“Not until it’s finished.”

“And when will that be?”

“Maybe by the time I’m seventy. I don’t need to finish the list this year. Gotta pace myself.”

“Might as well add your Rock Opera as well, you never finished that as well.”

“It’s on the list. I think I’ll finish that before the novel.”

“The Rock Opera is based on the novel. How is that going to work out?”

“It’s been done. I can do it. Give me thirty days, and I can finish them both.”

“Think you can find thirty days sometime in the next ten years?”

“It can happen.”

“Thirty days to write a Rock Opera and finish a book. I’ll believe it when I see it.”

“Give me thirty days each and I’ll have them done before I turn sixty.”

“That’s only three months from now. You need to get cracking.”

“I’ve got a month, then. Time enough to work on my list.”

“What else is on your list?”

“We need to go Christmas shopping.”

“That’s four months away. And why is it on your bucket list?”

“It’s not a bucket list. It’s a to do list.”

“You’ve kept a to do list for fifty years?”

“Yes. Doesn’t everyone?”


“So, Christmas shopping?”

“We’ll get to it in a couple of months.”

“In a couple of months I’ll be deep in my novel. Or maybe the Rock Opera. Gotta decide. Are you trying to set me up for failure?”

“No. Are you going to be working on those twenty-four hours a day? I’m sure you’ll find time for Christmas shopping.”

“Christmas comes three weeks after my birthday. Can’t we do it then?”

“We’ll see. What else?”

“A trip to Antarctica.”

“Antarctica. The South Pole?”

“Yes, Antarctica. We’ll go for Christmas. It’ll be warm then. I read that on Christmas two years ago it got all the way up to ten degrees.”

“Ooh. Balmy. Make sure to pack your swim suit.”

“Don’t be silly, there’s no lake at the South Pole.”

“OK. Antarctica. Not this year. Too busy.”

I seemed dejected. “That was a bucket list item. Before sixty.”

“Can’t do it all. We’ll go to the zoo and see the penguins. What else? Maybe something not so extreme.”

I searched the list. “Hmm. OK, how about this? North Pole?”

“No North Pole either. You can visit the polar bear exhibit as well.”

“Well, that’s it. That’s my list.”

“You’ve kept a list for fifty years, and are down to the last two items?”

“Three. You forgot Christmas shopping.”

“OK, three items. Let me see that list.” I handed it over.

Angela scanned the list, and hundreds of items were on it, and hundreds had been lined through. Every significant thing they had done had been on the list and crossed off. Some had stars by them.

“What do the stars mean?”

“It’s my ranking system. One star means I might do it again, if I’m forced to and there’s time. Five stars means a must do again.”

“And no stars means ‘never again’?”

“No. No stars means I just haven’t ranked it. Maybe I should add that to the list. Number two thousand, nine hundred and ninety nine. Rank unranked items.”

“Two thousand, nine hundred and ninety nine? One more and you’ll have three thousand?”

“I guess so. I haven’t been keeping track.”

Angela looked at the list again. “I think you have. Where do you find the time?”

“I’m retired.”

“I’m tired, too. Of this stupid list.” She went to tear it up.

I mortified, shouted “NO!”

“I’m just kidding, I know what this means to you. But let’s look at reality straight in the face for once. A trip to the North Pole or the South Pole is not going to happen this year. We will go Christmas shopping. So why not come up with just two more things, something you’ve never done, something you can say you’ve accomplished before your sixtieth birthday.”

I thought long and hard. “Give me a couple of days. This is a big decision.”

A week passed before they resumed their conversation on the to do list. “Well, any ideas?”

“How about ‘Eat kangaroo meat?’”

“We did that when we lived in Australia. And wasn’t that already on your list?”

“Oh, yeah.”

“How about you unplug for forty-eight hours. No phone, no computer, no TV.”

“No. Not something I want to do. That would be a negative stars activity.”

“Make wine?”

“We’ve done that.”

“From grapes you stomped yourself.”

I considered it. “That could be fun. Put it on the list.”

“Learn Esperanto?”

“Mi jam faris ĝin. Kvin cent.”


“I’ve already done that. Five hundred.”

“It’s checked off, but there are no stars.”

“Some things only need to be done once. The system’s not perfect.”

“Learn to work the saxophone.”

“How do you work the saxophone?”

“Just playing around with a song lyric. Learn to play the saxophone?”

“I played clarinet. Same thing.”

“No, it’s not. Playing the saxophone is a whole different skill. You can build from playing clarinet, but there’s a lot more to learn beyond that.”

I thought about all the instruments he’d played over his lifetime. Of course the standard rock instruments were all in his repertoire, and many of the band instruments and strings he had mastered. But as he came to consider it, saxophone was never among them. Although saxophone had been a featured instrument in many of his recorded songs and in live performance, he had always hired the gig out to a notable player, or used the synthesizer as a substitute. He did not know how to play the saxophone.

“OK. Put that on the list. Is that it?”

“Unless you want to go for the even three thousand.”

“OK. One more. How about something kinky?”


“Yeah, on the edge. Something we’d never think about doing, then do it.”

“What would be your idea of kinky?” Angela was a little apprehensive.

“Something naked.”

“You’re naked every day. Each time you step into the shower.”

“But not outside?”

“In public?”

“Doesn’t have to be in public. We have a big place, we have an amusement park. How about a roller coaster ride in the buff? Just you and I.”

“No way I’m doing that. That is too kinky.”

“Think about it. We shut off all the lights. No one will be around. We’ll drink a bottle of the wine we’ll be making. We’ll slip outside with nothing but towels on, climb into the front car strip off the towel, and engage the remote control. It will be fun. I’ll bring the saxophone and serenade you with a sweet tune.”

“Well… We’ll see.”

Angela considered all the crazy things they had done, and looked again at I’s list. There were some things on there a lot more extreme than a couple of old fools baring it all on a roller coaster. She decided it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to be impulsive and act like a crazy fool.


“I’ve got to learn to play saxophone first. And stomp some grapes. Give it a month.”

I worked the saxophone daily, and found he was able to adapt his knowledge of the clarinet somewhat, but also discovered the other skills necessary to be more that just a mediocre player. When he wasn’t practicing, he studied the art of wine making, bought a big barrel and some prime grapes, and stomped until the product was ready for the wine making process. Together they went though all the steps and finally delivered a couple of bottles of their homemade wine. One would be used to initiate their naked ride, the other would age until it was fully ready.

“We are really down to the wire now,” I declared. “I’ve no more time before I have to continue on my Rock Opera and book, and get that Christmas shopping out of the way. It’s tonight or never!”

“Is never still a possibility?”

“No, it’s not.”

Angela and I both stripped off their clothes, and each wrapped a towel around themselves. I took out the saxophone, and begin playing a lovely romantic ballad that he had found the time to write. They poured themselves a glass of wine, and stepped outside in the chill night air and headed for the roller coaster. The lights were brightly lit, and I made sure to hit the switch, so that they would have their privacy. Taking a seat in the first car, they clinked their glasses and cheered their exploit. Sipping the wine, they both immediately spit it out. ”That’s awful,” they both said simultaneously and spit it out, “That’s quite possibly the worst things I’ve ever tasted.” They laughed as they poured out the remainder over the side, then allowed the glasses to crash below.

They stripped off their towels, took a deep breath, hit the remote control and the coaster made its rise.