A Chapter by Tom Cook

"What the hell is this?" Mara said. She looked over a brochure of the Tradition and Honor Act that I splayed over the top of our wood table. Two years ago, a long but short time. Long when judged by a calendar, but short when shared by memories.

                "It's the Tradition and Honor program, it--"

                "I know what it is, Clarence."

                "I'm just, ya know, interested. Seeing what it's all about."

                "Clarence, it's a program where people kill themselves so they can pay off their snobby brother's hybrid or college. Stupid stuff."

                "I mean, it's a good cause."

                "It's a ploy. The government kills one person off, and pays off someone's bills. They know it'll save them bucks in the long run."

                "But they only take healthy and educated people, dear."

                "Everyone gets sick, and just because someone's educated doesn't mean they're smart." She points her finger at the brochure and then back at me. I smile.

                "Overpopulation?" I say. "National debt? Lack of resources? C'mon, Mara, a long time ago economists said abortion was the reason for low crime rates. Yeah, it helps out a family member, but it's for the greater good of the nation."

                "Everyone deserves to live, Clarence."

                "Yeah, but everyone deserves to die."

                We argued a bit more and I gave in and lied to her. I threw away the brochure and said that I was just trying ruffle her feathers. She called me a name, and told me not to do it again. I didn't listen, I merely researched. Deep down inside I had the feeling she knew I wasn't kidding as if something rotting and infected was inside her, bugging her and nagging her. When she kissed me she must've tasted something putrid; lime? manure? the taste of maggots and worms and mites and earth crushing my casket? When we held hands she felt a cold compared to steely coroner's table, I'm sure, and when she looked at me she saw a doll-like complexion. Paranoia. I could see it in her eyes mounting atop her eyelashes. She knew the inevitable was coming soon enough and that that brochure was a way to confront it. Out in the open. Get it off my chest type of thing. She knew.

                There were always little scenes like this. I could paint them if I wanted to. A tall and frail man, damaged goods. Kept a smiling mask on the outside but bled on the in. He didn't know what caused it all, maybe it was genetics or s****y parents. Something like that. Maybe unexplained. Then there was the woman painted in vibrant explosions with gold halos around her head. The angel, the savior. The sour tastes that keeps soldiers fighting and athletes running. She was the reason.

                Mara was the reason to stick around. I felt obliged in a way. She loved me and I swore I loved her. We met in college during courses and then dropped out halfway through our master's. Money problems, one of those tonics that drives people to kill themselves. Limited financial aid, of all the things the government had to cut it was education. Two years after we dropped out we were living outside a small town busting tables and lifting boxes from ethanol powered trucks. I wrote short stories and novellas, and published a few. We worked hard for what we had. We both got teaching jobs at different schools and moved away.

                Of course there was a reason for the big move. The big split or separation. We made fake promises to see each other again but it wasn't until she heard about my decision to become a lamb that she reached out to me. I made it awkward I'm sure.

* * *

                I had sliced my wrists into filets. Long strips of bleeding pink and red running like a crimson river at dusk snaked down my wrists along the bathtub to the cold tile floor. I looked at the gashes and thought if I had made them deep enough? Then my attention hopped to the tile and how I hated the feel of it without a towel draped over it. The freezing bite it gave my toes and heels of my feet. I thought of the blood slipping between each square cut piece of linoleum where it would gather atop the calking and mold. I thought of the squares, and I thought of square cut pizza and how I wished it had been my last meal instead of a bowl of noodles and eggs. A crummy way to go. But I wanted out.

                And I wasn't trying to sneak it past Mara at all. She sat in the other room, I'm sure, reading a history article on her holographic E-Pad. I'm sure she was comfortable between the couch cushions, with her feet nestled between them. She heard the water running and thought about taking a bath with me, but thought otherwise. Mara didn't want her hair wet, she wanted to relax I'm sure. But I wasn't sure what made her stand up and go to the bathroom.

                She knocked. Tapped lightly as if she believed I was sleeping. A small pool gathered at the base of the tub as the blood moved between the tile like city blocks. Warm water lapping against my chest and legs and crotch. My left arm bobbing in the tub filling it with blood. I smiled, relaxed a bit. Closed my eyes and tried to mutter the words I'm sorry and Thank you in the same phrase.

                Louder the knock came and the water was still running. Slowing edging its way to the edge. It passed along my thighs and body. Arm bobbing, head heavy, I was close to the end I was sure.

                "Clarence?" A bit of anxiety in her words. She paused and listened to the water but I'm sure she heard my arteries and veins running like a stream. Then a louder knock, a louder yell. The water rose to the edge and started to leak over. Red water. Red tile. I felt my body go numb for an instant. I wondered if this was it and if I would see some sort of light at the end.

                The door caves in. Mara slips on my pool of blood. She doesn't scream. Her face horrified but she doesn't make a noise aside from quick breathing and panting. She calms and we lock eyes and I utter the only words I can think to say to her.

                "I'm sorry."


© 2012 Tom Cook

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Added on July 20, 2012
Last Updated on July 20, 2012
Tags: suicide, room, fate, death, jack, kevorkian, violence, dystopia


Tom Cook
Tom Cook

Cape Girardeau, MO

My fiction has been published in the World of Myth, my body in Play-girl. I'm an editor for Wednesday Night Writes, please send me your stories, flash fiction, and poetry, I want you to know the wa.. more..

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A Chapter by Tom Cook