I went out into the street, where the dogs lay on the shady side under the corrugated iron awnings, and walked down the block till I came to the harness shop. There was one vacant seat out front, so I said how-do-you-do, and joined the club. I was the junior member by forty years, but I thought I was going to have liver spots on my swollen old hands crooked on the head of the hickory stick like the rest of them before anybody was going to say anything. In a town like Mason City the bench in front of the harness shop is – or was twenty years ago before the concrete slab got laid down – the place where Time gets tangled in its own feet and lies down like an old hound and gives up the struggle. It is a place where you sit down and wait for night to come and arteriosclerosis. It is the place the local undertaker looks at with confidence and thinks he is not going to starve as long as that much work is cut out for him. But if you are sitting on the bench in the middle of the afternoon in late August with the old ones, it does not seem that anything will ever come, not even your own funeral, and the sun beats down and the shadows don’t move across the bright dust, which, if you stare at it long enough, seems to be full of glittering specks, like quartz. The old ones sit there with their liver-spotted hands crooked on the hickory sticks, and they emit a kind of metaphysical effluvium by virtue of which your categories are altered.
Time and motion cease to be. It is like sniffing ether, and everything is sweet and sad and far away. You sit there among the elder gods, disturbed by no sound except the slight spasmodic breathing of the one who has asthma, and wait for them to lean from the Olympian and sunlit detachment and comment, with their unenvious and foreknowing irony, on the goings-on of the folks who are still snared in the toils of mortal compulsions.