Reflections from a Calloused Old Man

Reflections from a Calloused Old Man

A Story by A.W. Carl

Reflections from an old man reading the daily newspaper


The fire raged on. Gasping for more to consume, the fire flickered a yellow-white hot, both illuminating and heating the room. Old Max lay curled up next the fireplace as he usually was. My eyes were fixed on the serene, yet rambunctious fire. The contrast of the warm fire and the cool scotch tingling down my throat was a delight. This delight I enjoyed every evening prior to going to bed. Resting beside me and my emerald chair was the newspaper. As I crossed my legs my slipper fell off, nudging Max, waking him for a moment. I sighed a deep sigh and got up out of my chair, my oversized robe swaying as I sauntered over to retrieve another daily luxury. I returned to my seat with a cigar lit in my left hand and my whiskey in my right. These were my best friends ever since Loraine passed away years ago. They never annoyed me with questions, they never talked my ear off, and they were consistent night after night.

I set my glass of whiskey down beside me and reached over for the daily paper. Taking my reading glasses out from my front pocket, I glanced at the front page, the headline reading,

“Turmoil Continues to Disrupt London”.

The article spoke of the increased violence that had been dividing the city. At the end of the article, a young man in the downtown community was asked how to solve the issues of violence and poverty. The man responded to the question,

“We can stop this violence. Everyone is responsible for these problems because anyone and everyone has the power to make a difference. It is just a matter of caring enough to do something about it.”

This answer momentarily jarred me. I took off my glasses for a moment and set them beside me. I pondered what the man had said, scratching my bald head and gazing into the fire like a scene from an artsy film. Although I didn’t want what the man said to be true, I couldn’t find myself to disagree with the man. I puffed my cigar and finished off the last drops in my glass. Suddenly deeper questions arose in my mind. “Why am i here, with these luxuries and other people are not as fortunate? Why am I still alive and Loraine is not? Is there any method to this madness?” I had a lot of time to think about these burning questions since I retired and since Loraine passed. Sadly, pondering these questions only yielded deeper and more difficult questions. The more I thought about life, the more complex life became. Max stretched his long brown legs, yawning a high pitched yawn that only a dog could. I chuckled and returned to reading the paper. Flipping through, I became more depressed as I read more disheartening stories. Murder, theft, corruption. That’s all that seemed to be in the news. Reading the newspaper each night only made me more of a recluse. I just wanted to worry about myself.

I turned the paper over to the very back page, the opinions page. The main article consisted of a young man crying out against violence. Much of the article blamed the well educated people for sitting on their hands and doing nothing. He came off a bit whiny and angry. I quickly thought to myself, “Well, what are you doing to solve these grand issues? Hopefully more than write this sad column.”

God seemed to be attempting to send me a message that night. Some sort of message that was asking me to do something. Anything. For a moment I was touched by some feeling of guilt. Some feeling of shame. Why the hell was I able to enjoy prosperity while others endured pain, sorrow, poverty, and lives full of tragedy? Was it my duty to help those in need? Our life can’t be as simple as giving all of ourselves to the needy? Our time, our money, our compassion. Life can’t be that simple can it? Nobody could truly live a life for others? I quickly snapped myself out of these silly thoughts.

You see, the only problem was that I didn’t believe in God. (Still don’t). It didn’t do me any good to believe in Him, so this “message” fell on deaf ears. Let me intercede to give you lads some advice. If you want to believe in God, don’t read about the s****y mess of a place some call the world. It only leads one to believe there is no God and if there is, he isn’t any good. Stay away from most people too. Also, if you do find God, ask him why my wife deserved to be killed on that night by that drunkard behind the wheel. Be sure to ask why that man served only six months in jail. Finally, ask him if he cares about all people the same because it doesn’t seem like it.

You could accuse me of many things in my life, but not being reflective enough is not one of them. I have asked many questions, but never came up with any substantial answers. I am afraid of the answers to my questions.

I thought about these ideas over several more glasses of scotch. Soon enough, the fire once blazing in front of me, withered to a smoky aroma. I removed my glasses from my weary eyes and placed them back in my robe’s front pocket. I tilted my head back and rested my eyes, realizing sleep was imminent. Max snored below me. I never wanted to leave the comfort of my chair.


© 2016 A.W. Carl

Author's Note

A.W. Carl
Flash Fiction
ignore grammar mistakes unless they are made repeatedly
Honest Opinions are the only helpful kind!

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The blazing fire, in the beginning, turning into ash at the end, is a fitting analogy for our questions in life. They burn strongly while we are strong, but in the end, when bright colors fade to sepia, and then to black and white, we are still just left with ash.

Great writing. This could be a longer story. Maybe a chance meeting at the bottle store where the scotch is bought with one of those newspaper journalists....or a deliberate attempt to get hold of that young man who had such a positive solution for London.......sometimes those dialogues with strangers provide the deepest food for thought....

Posted 2 Years Ago

nice work buddy .... loved it!!

Posted 2 Years Ago

As sad as this commentary comes across to me, I think it's a pretty common assessment of the world, while people turn away from the tragedies & pour themselves another jigger of whatever they use to blot out the noise (even religion falls into this category). Your story crafting works well, with the old man & the drink, newspaper, cigar, fire, & dog -- all described in a palpable way, lending to the credibility of these observations.

Posted 2 Years Ago

you've raised very interesting questions A.W. this is well writting and held my interest all the way threw.
good piece of writing my friend.

Posted 2 Years Ago

Reflecting on the problems of the world he returns to the whisky! God seems to be sending him a message but he doesn't believe in him? I suppose we are all a bit like this so you have described it well.

Posted 2 Years Ago

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5 Reviews
Added on April 12, 2016
Last Updated on April 12, 2016
Tags: Religion, Spirituality, Violence, God, Hope


A.W. Carl
A.W. Carl

Wildwood, MO

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