Sure enough, the dance studio was directly next door. The old man thought that this was indeed going to be a great day he thought as he smiled and pushed open the door which chimed softly at his entrance. The dance studio was a large open room, with wooden floors, and a large mirror along the wall. The lights were dim, and the place seemed deserted. He walked slowly to a door in the back that was slightly ajar. A sign that read "Angela's office" hung just above the door.
The old man knocked gently at the door. "Excuse me, is anyone in?" he called out.
"Sure, I'm sorry, I didn't hear you!" A young woman's voice called from inside the office. "Come on in, its open!"
The old man pushed open the door. The office was small, and very pink. In the rear of the office, near a smaller mirror, a young woman wearing a black leotard and pink tights was practicing her ballet technique. Her iPod was attached to her arm, but she had taken out her headphones upon hearing the old man's arrival. She finished up her routine, and then turned and courtseyed at the old man.
"I do apologise for keeping you waiting. I was just practicing what I'm going to be teaching the girls tonight." He smiled at her and nodded. "So, What can I do for you sir?" she said with a smile.
"Your brother sent me, from next door-- he told me you teach a hula hoop class?"
"Ah, Hoopin' for life, its one of our newer programs, Monday, Wedensday, and Friday's at eight p.m. sharp. It's really a lot of fun. Are you interested in a gift certificate to one of my classes?"
"Oh no, I'm actually interested in attending maybe one day." The young woman looked at him in disbelief.
"Hula? You?" The old man nodded, and replied, "Learning to hula hoop is one of my goals-- its on my list, and your brother Bill helped me to do it! It was entirely too much fun, and I think he liked it as much as I did." A big smile stretched across his face.
"Billy... taught you to hoop? Wow! I knew it, he's such a bugger, talking about how girly it is. Don't tell him, but I saw him hooping in the back yard yesterday from my window. Boys, you know." They laughed and smiled. "Well, The classes are Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, at eight o'clock, they're very popular, so we advise folk to get here a few minutes early, if you want to come to tonight's class, I'll be very sure to hold a spot for you!"
"That would be lovely, but it might be a little late for me, I'm trying to recover from feeling very old. Hey, I was wondering, what other kinds of dance do you teach here?"
"I teach the ballet and fitness classes, my mom though, she teaches the Latin, and Ballroom classes in the early afternoons."
"Latin?" he said questioningly
"You know, the Tango, and the Cha-Cha, and the Rumba. She'll be in around about one if you want to talk to her, I've a feeling she'd really like you."
"Wow, dance lessons! I've always wanted to learn the Tango. Thank you miss! I'll certainly be back, it's pretty early yet, I can get some other things on my list done today."
"Please, Call me Angie, everyone else does, and I look forward to seeing you today.
"Thank's Angie, I'll see you later then!" The old man smiled and shook Angie's hand. She walked him to the door, and smiled as she held it open for him. She waved at him as he left, walking further down the block.
The old man walked down a few more doors until he saw a small diner. The flashing neon sign blinked its familiar "Eat at Joes". The old man walked into the open door, and deeply inhaled the scent of bacon, hamburgers and freshly brewed coffee. The Hostess smiled as she saw him enter. "Sir! How great it is to see you again, we were thinking of you, we haven't seen you in so long!"
"Well, I thought today was as good as any for a change of pace," he said, smiling broadly.
"Let me get you to a table, and get you a cup of coffee, here, follow me." She grabbed a menu, and led him to a small booth up near the counter.
"Actually, do you mind if I sit at the counter today? It's only me, and I'm interested in watching Henry cook, I've always found it fascenating."
"Sure thing!" she said, as she placed the menu up on the counter by one of the red vinyl topped stools.
"Sitting here reminds me of when I was a young man, up at the soda fountain that used to be across the street. We'd sit and wile away the afternoons." The hostess nodded and smiled at him. Another few people had trickled in and were standing by the hostess stand. "Alrighty then young lady, I'll let you to your work."
The hostess smiled her thanks, and resumed her duties seating people. Moments later, Henry turned around from his hot plate and poured the old man a cup of coffee.
"Freshly brewed, just for you!" he said with a smile as he sat the cup down in front of him. "Milk, Cream? The sugar's right in the shaker container there," Henry pointed to a metal topped glass canister off to the side.
"Just some cream, if you please." Henry reached under the counter and rummaged around until he found a small pitcher of cream, and he placed it onto the counter in front of the old man before returning to tend his hot griddle.
The old man took his list out of his pocket and carefully unfolded it. With a pen, he checked off the first item, "Learn to hula hoop." He read down the rest of the list, and was thinking about how much was left to do. If the first item was that easy, the rest couldn't be that bad he thought. Henry turned and looked at the list on the counter, before asking "What's that?"
"It's one of those crazy bunch of stuff to do before you croak lists. I figured that I'd better get started because I have no idea how much time I have left."
"Hmm, I've always thought of making a bucket list too. I'm afraid though that once I get it all done, what else is there, you know?"
"At this point in my life, the 'what else is there' came before the list. I think sitting with nothing to do made me old." The old man looked wistfully into the distance, "You know me how long now, I was never an old man until Martha passed."
"So, Henry," started the old man, "how did you ever get into doing this?" The old man gestured at the stove.
"Well, you remember Joe, the man who used to run this place?" The old man nodded affirmative. "His son Little Joe wanted nothing to do with this. It nearly broke Big Joe's heart. Now, when I was younger, I was a dishwasher in the back, but whenever I wasn't washing dishes, I was watching the old man do his thing. Prepping all the food in the morning, cooking the food all day and afternoon. It was absolutely enchanting to me, watching him do all this amazing stuff. I thought it was an honor just to watch him do this thing. Then, one day, Big Joe, he said to me- 'Hey Henry, you wanna go ahead and peel me some potatoes? The whole bag now,' and that's how it started. First the potatoes, then carrots. It started with prepping the food all morning, and washing dishes all afternoon." Henry turned and flipped some pancakes before continuing.
"Then, one day, this new kid comes in and starts washing the dishes. I was all worried, I thought, 'What did I do wrong?' I mean, I seriously though I was in the process of losing my job. Big Joe just laughed at me and told me he was giving me a real promotion, raise and all. He was going to teach me how to manage the kitchen, and all that came with it. Turns out there's a lot more involved than just standing here and looking cute." The cook turned and put some food on a few plates. He placed the plates on a warm spot on the counter and rung a little bell. "Order up!"
"Anyway, so I learned real good, and I took over when Big Joe retired. Right now, Little Joe runs the Art Gallery, Big Joe's in Boca Raton, enjoying the warm weather, and I'm here doing what I love." The old man raised his cup in a toast and smiled.
"Life's good, ain't it?" said Henry, to which the old man replied "Yep. It's getting better every day." The old man finished the last of his coffee and placed the empty cup on the counter. He started to reach into his back pocket, when he was interrupted by the cook. "On the house, sir. Listening to my story is price enough for me." The old man laughed, and rummaged in his wallet for some money. "Thanks Henry, You don't take it then, you leave it for the pretty girl up in the front. Henry laughed, "Hey, she really is the prettiest girl in town! That's why she's my wife, and only the good lord knows why she puts up with me." The hostess turned around and blew a big kiss at him.
The old man smiled as he placed the money under his coffee cup. "You two go and have a nice day now. I'm off to see just how much trouble I can get into today." The old man giggled as he left.