The Last Time

Mr. Fujimoto wheeled his gray trash bin to the curb and dropped it at the edge. Pausing, he looked down the street, first one way, then the other. Standing at attention like soldiers, the bins waited for the growling yellow garbage truck with its strong steel pincers to come inching along.

How odd, he thought, to realize this was the last time he would ever roll the trash bin to the curb. And he wouldn’t even be the one to wheel it back inside the garage. Someone else, his wife or his son, would have to do it.

Mr. Fujimoto closed the garage door and went back inside his house through the front door with the hinge he could never oil enough to stop squeaking. It would be up to someone else now to figure out how to do that. Maybe the hinges needed to be changed. If so, they would be changed by someone else.

Switching on the TV, he sat down with his final cup of coffee. “This is my last cup of coffee,” he thought, shaking his head. He’d never contemplated that idea, when exactly the last time would be that he would have a cup of coffee. He thought back, tried hard to remember his very first cup of coffee. It had been in high school, early probably, maybe 10th grade. And when he’d drunk that very first cup of coffee, how was he to even comprehend so long ago that one day he would say, “This is the last cup of coffee I will ever drink”?

On CNN, Vladimir Putin’s troops were attempting to take over Ukraine. Mr. Fujimoto realized he would never know how this war ended. That felt strange. He would have wanted to know the outcome, know perhaps that Putin had been thwarted, but he would never have the chance now.

Mr. Fujimoto shut off the TV, leaned back in his rocker, and sipped his coffee. It was good coffee. He looked up at the big clock above the TV. The dial was enormous. “Good for old people,” June, his wife, had said when she pounded the nail into the wall and mounted it. “I bet you can see that really, really good, right, Herb?”

They’d both laughed at that. “Yeah yeah yeah,” he’d said, “very funny. I not that blind yet.”

The second hand moved very slowly, but very surely. He liked that it didn’t jerk. So many of the clocks nowadays jerked from one second to the next. This one didn’t. It moved smoothly. He watched it, closed his eyes, and drifted off to sleep.

“Honey?”

Mr. Fujimoto opened his eyes. He looked at the face in front of him, thought how odd it looked, then realized he was looking at June.

“Herb.” June shook him again. “If you don’t get the rubbish can out, we’re going to miss the pick-up.”

Mr. Fujimoto looked up at the big clock above the TV. The second hand was moving slowly, smoothly along.

“I already put it out,” he said.

“Hah!” said June, who was now standing at the window above the kitchen sink. “So what? You telling me that’s a ghost rubbish can in the garage?”

He shook his head. “Okay,” he said, “I’m going.”

In the garage, sure enough, there was the gray trash bin. How strange. Had he been dreaming?

Mr. Fujimoto wheeled his gray trash bin to the curb and dropped it at the edge. Pausing, he looked down the street, first one way, then the other. Standing at attention like soldiers, the bins waited for the growling yellow garbage truck with its strong steel pincers to come inching along.

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