It was late afternoon when I called to see John. He sat in the kitchen twiddling with a piece of burned toast, orange chipped marmalade dripping slowly from a yellow buttery meltdown onto his dishevelled trousers.

   Teapot boiling mewling in weakly whimpers, tapping his middle finger in a monotonous fidget on his cracked stained mug and tattling in low murmurs of no apparent meaning. Sitting, elbow propping head bereft of any lighter mood, gripping my hand with taught gristly knuckles. I wished his spirit were as strong.

   “How are you today John,” I enquired

   He nodded to and fro in a bowing negative, saying in a trailing mumble, “Sure what does it matter now? I cannot bring back the past by longing for it. Most unfortunate.”

   Brought you some cream doughnuts.”

   Thumbs up signalled a positive with a grinning smidgeon but his lighter moment faded in an instant.

   So, what is new?” I asked.

   No response, just his intent gaze, staring down on his pension book lying idle with the leaf unsigned.

   Will you sign the pension book for me?”

   Pointing his pen, inkladen but unable to transcribe. Casting his hand open, he threw down his pen. He was abashed and sadeyed, frightened that his acuity had deserted him. He muttered, I never thought it would come to this – I cannot remember how to sign.” I watched him sorrowful with a lost child’s face, flushed in a tremble of old age dotage. The end had not arrived, but I knew the future would be different.

 Tom McElligott is a retired postal worker who writes fiction, short stories, and poetry. His work is published in County Clare Newspaper, and Liberties Flash Fiction in Dublin. He is  also been published in The Heart of Limerick anthology.