My buddy called. He asked if I was going to the bar to watch football. I said I was.
He told me how he lost his ass at the track the day before. He said he was broke. He asked if he could borrow $200 so he could sit at the bar and watch football and drink beer with the rest of us.
I said I’d loan him the 200 bucks. He’s always been good for paying me back when he says he will.
The day before, while my buddy was losing his ass as the track, the old man had phoned me. We were supposed to go out on Friday but he never called on Friday to affirm. When I called him to affirm, nobody answered.
The old man called the next day – Saturday, the same day my buddy was losing his ass at the track.
The old man said, “Sorry about yesterday. I know I was supposed to call but I was in the hospital. I went to the Emergency. I’ve got COVID.”
He sounded bad.
I got the details from him. They’d tested him. He was positive, but they sent him home. He’d been puking and couldn’t eat. His body ached. But he was back home, with his junkie granddaughter there watching him.
I told him I’d be praying for him. He’s 80-years-old and already as frail as porcelain. Having COVID wasn’t good.
He said, “We’ll have to hold off on going anywhere for a while. And I don’t want you coming over cause I don’t want you to catch it.”
I told him I’d call him the next day to see how he was doing and if he needed anything.
The next day I was at the bar watching football. I gave my buddy the $200 loan. We fistbumped.
He said, “Thanks. You’re a helluva friend.”
At halftime, I called the old man. I asked how he felt.
He said, “Lousy. I hurt everywhere, and it’s hard to breath.”
I asked if he was able to eat. I asked if he was able to keep anything down. I asked if he’d had anything to eat.
He said he thought he’d be able to eat. He said he was going to have some chicken noodle soup his junkie granddaughter was supposed to heat for him.
I said, “If you want, after the game, I can go to Wendy’s and get you something, since you might be able to eat.”
Wendy’s Biggie Bag deal is his favorite.
“That would be great,” he said.
After the game, I went to Wendy’s.
I drove to his trailer with his food.
When I got there, the door was open. His junkie granddaughter’s girlfriend was outside. She told me to go in.
The junkie granddaughter was inside. As usual, she was tweeking. She was excited to show me a Cincinnati Bengals chair she said she bought for $12. She talked somebody down from $30. I knew she wanted me to buy it so she could get more dope or cigatettes. But I didn’t want it, so I declined.
I saw the old man in his bedroom at the end of the trailer.
He was wearing a mask. He was sitting, pantsless, on a portable toilet in his bedroom.
I yelled from the top of the hallway that I had his food.
I yelled that I wasn’t gonna go down there since I didn’t want to catch COVID and take it back to the hospital.
I gave his granddaughter the food. She said she’d give it to him.
I yelled down the hall that I’d be praying for him.
He thanked me.
I told his granddaughter to get my number from him and let me know if things got really bad.
She said she would. I didn’t believe it.
Then I left.
An hour later, I was home, trying to rest. I got a call from the old man.
He said, “You’re a real lifesaver.”
He began to cry.
“They were gonna make me soup but they never did. I was starving all day. Thanks for bringing me something. Nobody else was going to.”
I told him it was no problem. I asked if he’d eaten any of it.
He said he already ate the cheeseburger. He was saving the rest to see if the cheeseburger stayed down.
I told him to take it easy. I told him to call me if he needed anything. I told him our friend who I loaned the 200 bucks to was praying for him.
“Thank him for the prayers,” the old man said. “I need it.”
“I will,” I said.
We hung up. I tried to sleep. It didn’t come easy.
That day I was called a helluva friend for loaning a guy 200 bucks. I was called a lifesaver for bringing a frail old man with COVID some fast food.
I shoulda felt good for being called those things.
It felt like some peaceful rest should have come easy.
But it didn’t.
For some reason, my conscience never finds much peace.