Front Porches

Robert shuffled onto the front porch, pulling the wooden door shut with an ancient creak. Patches of the floor boards were still painted, having survived another winter of freeze and melt. His chair, as weathered as the porch, he had brought out that morning, one item of a very short and meticulous To-Do List, which he had left undone after lunch.

He set his bulk down, slowly, and adjusted himself. The sun was out, warm against his tatty flannel. He absorbed it, letting the heat gather within his layers. It would take more than one afternoon to thaw his bones.

A few robins were at the bird feeder. His scrap of lawn, mostly weeds, was still a sickly green patch surrounded by sidewalk and asphalt.

The house across the street looked worse for the warm weather. Toys left out last autumn lay untouched and the little dog was back on its chain, running from one extent of it to the other, driven mad by every movement of squirrel or car.

It had been a nice house in its day; the whole street had consisted of cozy, honest houses, not fancy, crowded with children, not tidy but clean. Every mother was your mother; every boy was your brother.

He didn’t get emotional about what was lost anymore. He had raged, in the way people do, about change, but that had been a long time ago. With age came acceptance. Things fell apart. He lived at his own pace, in his own way, and let the world do as it pleased.

On his chair, on his porch, both relics, he watched. Sometimes a car drove by, going too fast. A young woman parked across the street three doors down. It must be the man’s newest girlfriend. A scrawny cat wandered by. He heard the screen door from two houses down slam shut. Last fall, a new family had moved in there. He hadn’t seen much of them, just the car leaving and returning, and two bundled kids, only eyes showing, out in the only snow all winter worth playing in. That house had had a front porch, like all the houses on the street used to, until the previous owners’ remodeled.

The woman and her two kids came down the sidewalk, the kids huddled close, the mother whispering fiercely at them. They turned at his house and she looked up and smiled as they approached. “Hi. We were making some cookies for Easter and made too many. We thought we’d share them.”

“We could have eaten them all,” the boy said sullenly in undertones.

“I made that one,” the girl said, pointing to a cross-shaped cut-out splattered with purple sprinkles.

“Can’t have them. Diabetes.”

The mother glanced down, embarrassed. “I’m sorry. Didn’t mean–anyway, I’m Ellen. My husband, he’s at work, he’s Rick. These two are Chase and Cayleigh. Say hi, you two.”

They did, eventually. He nodded.

“And you are?” she asked.


“Well, we had a plate for the house over there, too. What are their names? We’ve done a lousy job introducing ourselves. I’d blame being busy with these two, but that’s just excuses.”

Robert glanced over at the house across the street, thought. “Don’t know their names, honestly.”

The mother nodded. “Well, thank you, Robert. See you later.”

Making the kids look both ways, the mother led the way across the street. Robert sat on his porch, watching.

Originally published at on April 6, 2017.

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