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••• The International Writers Magazine: Life Stories

Remembering Art Grossman
• Martin Green


Paul Lerner’s wife Sally was already at the table having her breakfast and reading the Sacramento Bee when he came in.   “There’s a story by Kate Ellison about that grass fire,” she said to him.

     “Guess she hasn’t retired yet,” said Paul, as he poured his orange juice so he could take his morning pills.

     After he’d retired from the State about twenty years ago, Paul had become a freelance writer, doing stories for what was then called the Neighbors section of the Bee.   Kate Ellison had been Paul’s assignment editor.    Neighbors had long since been discontinued and Kate had become a reporter for the Bee.   Paul had kept in touch with her and she’d come to lunch several times when he and Sally first moved to their retirement community.    Now, as usually happened, they just exchanged Christmas cards.

     “How’d you sleep?” Paul asked Sally.

     “I took a pill around two and slept until seven.   How about you?”

     “Not bad; I was up and down.”

     Like most in their retirement community, they suffered from insomnia and took various sleep aids.    Sometimes the aids worked; at other times they didn’t.  It was one of the trials of being old.

     Paul had his breakfast and took his coffee out to the patio to do the Bee’s crossword puzzle.  It was summer in the Sacramento Valley and the forecast was for 100 degrees.  He didn’t plan to go anywhere.  He noticed that their bird feeder  was empty.  He should go out and replenish it. After finishing the puzzle, he did his bathroom business, got dressed in what he thought of as his summer uniform, shorts and light shirt, and then went to his computer.  He wrote a column called “Observations” for the monthly senior paper that went to the retirement community.  When he’d free-lanced for Neighbors he’d proposed writing a column for them but nothing had come of it.  He’d had to wait until writing for the senior paper to become a columnist.

     This month’s column he called “Observations on This and That,” in which he commented on their local supermarket’s recent rearrangement of shelves so that nobody could find anything, the constant road repairs in their area that never seemed to accomplish anything and the obscene salaries being paid to sports stars while ticket prices for ordinary people had gone out of sight.  He concluded the column by referring to an article he’d read about inhabitants in a Chinese village who lived to an old age, several to 100.  One of their secrets was to smile all the time, especially in the face of adversity and he wrote that if he was seen with a smile on his face it was because he was trying to emulate them.

     For no particular reason, the name Art Grossman popped into his head.  Well, it was probably because he’d been thinking about Neighbors and about his possibly writing a column for them.  Art Grossman had been a long-time columnist for Neighbors.   He’d met Art one time when delivering a story to the Neighbors office.  They’d discovered they were both New Yorkers.  They talked about getting together for lunch but that had never happened.  Then he noticed, he forgot when, that Art’s weekly column had stopped appearing in Neighbors.  He remembered now that this was when he’d proposed doing a column for them but, like the lunch, it had never happened.  

     Now he wondered what had happened to Art Grossman. Art was a little older than Paul, which meant he was pretty old.  Was he still around?  The obvious thing was to Google him; Google had information on almost everyone and anything.  He went to Google on his computer and typed Art’s name in the search box.  A lot of stuff came up, as it always did, but no, nothing on Art.  He tried a few things like putting in “Art Grossman and Neighbors” but still nothing.

     He suddenly felt a wave of depression.  Art Grossman, once a popular columnist, had disappeared without a trace.  Would this happen to him?  Would some day someone in their retirement community wonder, What happened to that guy Paul Lerner who used to write that column “Observations”?   Maybe nobody would even wonder.   He took a last look at his column and hit “Save.”  It would be pretty hot outside but he’d go out and take care of the bird feeder.


© Martin Green Oct 2017

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