Cliff stood in front of the gravestone. Etched in granite, the name Clarence “Clank” Hooper in large letters, above the numbers 1929-2009. The old man pursed his lips, then smiled at the epitaph Clank himself had wanted: “Fuck it, I’m old, let’s do this.”
The phrase had taken the two on so many adventures. From the war – when 14 had seemed old – to marriage – when 23 had seemed old – to accepting life as a widower – when 45 hadn’t seemed old enough, but felt too old – to traveling in their retirement. Their lives had paralleled so eerily, until the end.
Cliff remembered his old friend’s careless smile. Flying a kite made out of propaganda pamphlets, or making one for a kid in some brilliant little backwater out of the useless travel books he insisted on bringing everywhere. Clank was a character.
Cliff reached into his pocket, removed a stone – one of many he had picked up in their travels – and placed it on top of the gravestone. “This one’s for you, old man,” Cliff said. He patted the smooth granite, then walked back to his car, duty done for another year.