Old Coots Breakfast Club hogged a corner table on the sidewalk outside the Party Line Café.
“Remember our motto, ‘Up before sunrise,’” 65 said, removing his mask.
“And ‘long naps,’” said 90, the group leader, known as Shar-Pei for the wrinkles creasing his face.
65, also known as “The Kid,” sipped his mochaccino.
“You call that coffee?” 80 asked, swigging a caffeine fix black as night and chomping a slightly charred biscuit.
70 leaned forward and rubbed his back, wincing.
“How old are you anyhow?” Shar-Pei inquired.
“I’m ‘threw-out-my-back-sleeping old,’” 70 replied, nibbling his apple fritter.
“You call that fruit?” Shar-Pei said. “This is fruit.” He carved an apple brought from home, then sat the apple and knife down and rubbed his leg. “You know you’re really old when you’re ‘pulled-a-groin-getting-out-of-the-recliner old.’”
“That’s nothing,” 80 groaned. “I’m ‘tweaked-my-neck-sneezing old.’” He chomped the biscuit held in his right hand and rubbed his neck with his left.
70 stepped inside to the juke box to play “Tutti Frutti” at jet airplane volume. The music wafted out the door.
“That’s a lot of music for 6 in the morning,” 65 hollered between bites of a Danish.
“That pastry is full of preservatives,” 70 observed.
“I need all the preservatives I can get to live as long as Shar-Pei here,” 65 fired back.
The quartet watched traffic roar by, getting busier by the minute as people rushed to work.
“It’s a rat race and the rats are winning,” 80 said.
A waitress stopped to offer cream for coffee.
“Thanks,” Shar-Pei said, gesturing with his pocket knife. “That reminds me. I’m ‘home-milk-delivery-in-glass-bottles old.’”
“I’m ‘15-cent-McDonald’s-hamburgers old,’” 80 said.
“I’m ‘Elmer-Fudd-and-Bugs-Bunny, Scooby-Doo-and-Little-Lulu, Foghorn-Leghorn-and-Betty-Boop old,’” 70 said, not to be outdone.
80 turned to 65. “Hey, Kid, aren’t you late for work?”
“Didn’t you hear,” 65 said. “I got laid off during the pandemic. I wanted to work another year or two. But now, even though there are help wanted signs all over, I can no more find a job than I can juggle chain saws.”
“Now, you have the gift of time, Kid,” 70 said. “Retire already.”
“This financial services website said I need at least a million dollars in the bank ... you know, to pay for the nursing home and all that,” 65 said, “and right now I have about a dollar and a quarter. I’ll probably work up to the day of my funeral.”
“You’ll never have enough, Kid, especially if you keep drinking those moo-cow-chew-chianos,” Shar-Pei said, deliberately mispronouncing the name.
“Just spend less than you make,” he said. “Why do you think I bring an apple off the tree from home? Probably illegal but ... “
“If you’re wind-up-alarm-clock, linoleum-floor, instamatic-camera, cap-gun, balsa-airplane, Lincoln-Logs, take-a-walk-without-counting-steps old, you’re old enough to retire,” Shar-Pei said.
“Geez, Kid, you’ve worked more than 40 years already,” 80 piled on. “You’re not going to live forever. Show some gumption. Pull the plug.”
He nodded toward the commuters racing by. “Haven’t you had enough of combat driving? The suits? The eternal staff meetings?”
65 sipped his mochaccino. “Might as well face facts. I’ve fiddled with rabbit ears. I’ve played eight-track tapes and even eaten food I didn’t take pictures of for Facebook. At my last reunion, my classmates looked older than dirt. And the new kid at the office is young enough to be my grandson. I guess that’s old enough to relax and smell the roses.”
Shar-Pei sniffed the air. “Doesn’t smell like roses to me. Who ordered the burnt biscuit?”