hank fell stepping off an escalator at rockefeller center and banged his head up good/ spent the next ten days in roosevelt hospital/ crankily submitting to every test/ but the doctors found nothing exceptionally wrong for a man of eighty-seven/ just a mild disorientation/ so they called for me to come and take him home/ hank never married and has no family left at all/ just a neighbor/ me/ to look in on him occasionally/ i wish i didn’t have to do it/ the old cuss lives in squalor/ but he’s a retired musician/ my own uncertain trade/ so i figure what must be must be

then hank/ his disorientation getting worse/ got fired from the part-time clerical job he had/ up to that point/ amazingly kept/ he started sleeping all day/ hardly ate/ left the gas on one night/ then fell and hit his head again/ that’s when i got a social worker to come in/ and hank/ rising from his sorry tangle of troubles/ let another/ raffish man emerge/ you’re so young he chirped to the plain middle-aged woman/ then never stopped/ showed her his dusty scrapbook/ him with rudy vallee/ glenn miller/ charlie barnet/ him conducting his own society orchestra on the hotel astor roof/ him conducting it/ in tails/ in the ballroom of the waldorf astoria/ i smiled to see the old coot reliving his past glories/ come so alive

hank was worried about the income he’d lost with his job/ so we finally eased back to the present and talked about how the social worker could help/ is your social security enough to live on she asked/ not quite hank replied/ do you have money saved/ yes/ how much/ that’s private/ any source of funding would have to know that you’ve exhausted your own resources the social worker explained/ is it more than five thousand dollars/ oh yes/ more than ten/ certainly/ more than fifteen/ no not that much/ hank i jumped in/ perturbed/ you live in filth/ you don’t eat right/ you’re worried about money/ you’re eighty-seven years old/ so dip into your savings/ what on earth are you waiting for

thoughtful and serious/ hank slowly leaned back and crossed his thin legs/ no longer confused at all/ i may be getting married he said/ this from a man with urine stains on his trousers/ roaches in his refrigerator/ water bugs scurrying about his sheetless bed/ but neither i nor the social worker sighed or rolled our eyes or laughed/ it was the way he said it/ and sure enough/ there was a woman/ same age as him/ living in a residence in florida/ the woman he’d wanted to marry back when but couldn’t because he didn’t have enough money then/ the woman whose husband/ the wealthy man she’d chosen instead of hank/ had finally died/ so the squalor and the clerical job and the stinginess with himself over the years were to save money for just this eventuality/ i glanced at the social worker who/ glancing back/ closed her file/ we knew what was keeping hank/ like all of us/ alive