A Chapter by Tom Cook



                "Why did you say yes, Clarence?" Mara said. The clinging of glasses and story exchanging voices rumbled one downstairs. I moseyed to the bar in my room and found a bottle of cognac along with an assortment of other liquors. I found some ice and poured a glass and wondered how to answer her question. I shook my head. Mara asked again.

                "You have to think about it don't you?" she said.

                "I think about a lot of things."

                "You're doing something you're not even sure of."

                She was right. I was never sure why I went through with it. When they released me from the hospital I sat at home browsing through that brochure until Mara came home. Then I hid the item somewhere in my clothes and waited for her to leave. I researched online and made phone calls asking for expert opinions. In a matter of weeks I had a doctor's appointment set up and a meeting with an attorney. All behind Mara's back.

                "You want a drink?" I asked her.

                "No." I pour a glass let the liquor roll down my throat like a burning river.

                "You sure you should be drinking?"

                "Yes I'm sure."

                "What are you going to tell everyone at the party, Clarence?" she changed her tone to something more soothing, as if she was close to giving up on persuading me. Pick my brain, I thought. She wanted to be in my shoes right now.

                "I'm not sure what to tell them. Maybe I changed my mind and want to scale Everest? Or go West and rebuild some condo's and strip malls."

                "You're hilarious." She said, I nod and take another drink.

                "Oh hell, I don't know, Mara. What do you tell someone in this situation? It's not like you get a second chance to do it, so if you're going to go all the way with it, make the first time count." Another sip from the glass of cognac and it's gone. Mara stands up and walks over to the bar pulling her cardigan in closer to her breasts.

                I reach for the bottle of cognac and she grabs my wrist.

                "No, Clarence."

                "Why? I'm going to die anyway." She lets go and I pour another glass.

                "You've lost it," she said. "You're crazy, Clarence."

                "I was always crazy. I thought about marrying you right?"

                "I know you did."

                "And we all know how that turned out," I smirk and sneer. The liquor rolls along the back of my tongue more smoothly now. "But I fucked that up, didn't I?"

                "Maybe. Maybe we both fucked it up."

                "No. It was I, my dear." I slam the glass down and fiddle through the bar again.

                "Have a drink with me, just one." I say and she remains silent. I find some cream and Kahlua and snatch a bottle of vodka with two glasses. I make two White Russians for the both of us, mine with a little more vodka and hers with a little more cream. I push it to her and she takes it and guzzles it down. She starts making another one.

                "You hate me, don't you?" I ask her.

                "I don't."

                "Bullshit. You can say it. What I put you through. I always thought about telling you earlier."

                "I wish you had. I could've got you help."

                "Bah!" I smile. "There was no helping me, you know. Some people just don't like life."

                "You wrote good stories," she changes the subject. "What was the one, about the B-17 tail gunner? You know why you wrote it?"

                I pause.

                "You wrote it because I was a history major. You knew I would love it. Almost all your stories were written for me, Clarence." She takes a drink.

                "There's some truth in that, I suppose."

                "I know. You want to paint yourself as some pessimistic a*****e with nothing to live for. You want to go along with your parents who think you're meaningless. You're not, Clarence. You're a good man, always were. A loving one."

                "I'm sorry too." I finish my cocktail.

* * *

                I tried one more time to kill myself. One last time until I etched my name on paper. It started at the bar and gradually followed its way home with me. Drinking buddies, old times. Good times. And the bad times. There was Carter and Wilhelm, two guys I worked with that shared a love for beer like I did. Carter was tall and strong, Wilhelm was solid as a brick with faded blond hair. We smoked and drank for hours.

                "I heard you try to off yourself, Clarence." Carter said taking a long drag from one of his rolled cigarettes.

                "Tried." I take a drink. The bar was full of the same smoke found in house fires and stuffed with sweaty patrons. The air thick like fur tickling and jamming my nostrils and throat. My face lost complexion as the alcohol hit me.

                "It's legal now though," Wilhelm said. "Been for a while. You can do it at a clinic if you want, Clarence."

                "Yeah, I suppose there's no reason to go on living depressed." Carter slams the rest of his drink and hollers at the young brunette to bring him another.

                "It's all f*****g complicated for me." Carter says again, sweat gathering in buckets and puddles on his cheeks and forehead. A tangled mess of brown swirled around on his head.

                "What do you think?" I turned to Wilhelm.

                "Same here, just I don't want to do it. Not yet at least." He loses his thought to holler at a group of college girls.

                "Easy now big fella," Carter laughs, "We're mighty old to be chasing trim like that."

                "What if I did go through with it?"

                "What? Kill yourself?" They slowly turned their attention away from college girls back to the scratched bar table lined with glasses and grown men's drunken memories.


                "S**t, Clarence. I mean we'd miss ya, no doubt. But it's not like we wouldn't understand." Carter gets his drink and whistles at the brunette buxom.

                "I mean you're a damn good worker. And fun to drink with and hang around," Wilhelm goes on. "But you got to do what you got to do."

                "I remember a time my uncles were telling me about when it was illegal to off yourself. They said it was a felony back then."

                "Good luck trying the criminal." I said behind a sip of beer.

                "Yeah, good luck," Carter laughs. "But anywho, he told me how everyone treated suicide so differently. Like they'd baby them and keep after them. Always call them after a couple hours sometime. Just clingy."

                "No s**t. My daddy told me a similar story too." Wilhelm said.

                "Yeah, and what my uncle told me was that sometimes all this attention would drive the poor son of a b***h crazy. Make him want to kill himself again. Ya know, back then they just wanted to forget that they failed or forget the pain. But people man, f*****g people."

                "What about them?" I ask.

                "Girlfriends, boyfriends, best friends. Hell, relatives. All they want to be is up in your business. I mean look at me and Willy here, Clarence. We would hate to see you leave, but what you do in privacy is none of our concern."

                "Definitely not," Wilhelm finishes his pint of ale. "We love you to death. But if you want to kill yourself do it. I mean look at me and Carter here? We're in debt and piss away our money at the bar hunting young women. We ain't got nothing in life. Most people go on living a life that's not worth it. So why suffer any longer?"

                I laugh.

                "I was always told there was a way out," I said, "That killing yourself was the easy way out."

                Carter and Wilhelm laugh.

                "Well whoever told you that is sorely f*****g mistaken," Carter says. "Even though it's legal today, you could walk up to half of these poor b******s who have been divorced, heart-broken, lonely, poor, depressed. The works. They have nothing to live for and you can tell them that there's an easier way out, all it takes is a gun or a razor or a lawyer, and you know what they 'd say?"

                "They wouldn't say anything, Carter," Wilhelm says. "They'd laugh in your face. People who say it's easy should try it sometime, if they succeed then it shows how easy it is."

                "Not so easy now is it?"

                "I'll drink to that." We raise our beverages and take a drink.

                "M***********s, that's what they are. No good nosey m***********s." Carter sneers.

                "Easy buddy," Wilhelm grabs his shoulders. "Don't get too riled up."

                "I can't help it. Who gives anyone the right to stick their nose in old Clarence's business. Tell him how to live his life. I tell you what, Clarence, if you do go through with it you're a goddamned hero in my book. Braver than any of those tofu eating liberal fairies."

                I smile.

                "I'm serious. Goddammit, Clarence, you're the ultimate rebel. The true revolutionary. You're standing up and saying no to the one thing people are so selfish about the most. Life."

                "You're drunk though, Carter."

                "But I'm right," he smiles and raises his glass. "To my brave friend, Clarence. Damned if he does and damned if he don't."

                We take a drink and I pay our tab. And then I say goodbye to everyone in the bar.

* * *

                I wanted to say it was the alcohol that made me do it. That Carter and Wilhelm's words of wisdom were coupled with too much bourbon and beer. That my poor brain took too much sugar from their words and tried to bake a cake of reason. They were right. No one's business. What I did with and to my life was of no one's concern. I thought of my family's visit, and I thought of Mara. I thought that all I needed in life was one push somewhere. Anywhere. In the right direction or over the edge. Just a push. I made up my mind to try it again.

                Mara wasn't home and I wasn't sure when she would be. I didn't care. I tore through the apartment looking for a rope or a belt. No gun or razor. I was a quiet man who didn't want to bother anyone. I emptied the drawers and dressers, spilling their innards of shirts and socks and makeup on the floor. I thought of mother's words, father's sneer, Carissa's texting. I thought of the brochure and how it was never about me but about them. If I was going to kill myself it would be on my terms.

                I wrapped a belt around my hand and stumbled into the living room where I balanced on a chair and wrapped it around a ceiling fan. I gave it a tug. A stern one. It held. I made a noose and slipped it around my neck and thought how I would die. Strangulation? Perhaps, or a broken neck? I was high enough I'm sure, but anyway out was a good one.

                I kicked the chair loose and dangled for a moment. Then the ceiling fan lurched toward the ground. I felt the blood cut off and my face grow puffy and pink. I gasped for air and reached for my neck. I kicked and I flailed like a dying animal and then there was a cracking sound like branches. Then a loud snap and I fell to the floor.

                I landed on my back with the ceiling fan landing on my chest. Drywall and dust covered me. I struggled to breathe in clean air and I coughed for five or ten minutes. I rolled over and peered up to the large gaping hole in our apartment's ceiling. Mara would be pissed, I thought, and so would our landlords. I grip chunks of drywall and carpet in my hands, making small little fists with them, and screamed at the hole. I cursed and spat at it. That damned hole, reminding me how it could never be filled.

* * *

                "I found you there. I'm not sure you remember," Mara told me as she sipped her third cocktail. "You were crying. Wailing more like it. I heard you from downstairs and rushed up. You sounded like a wounded animal, I never heard such a noise before. But I knew it was you."

                "I'm sure."

                When she opened the door there I was. Crying. Bleeding from small wounds on my body. She dropped her purse but the way it slipped off her shoulders it looked like it was grabbed by gravity.

                "You were covered in drywall and bleeding. I thought you were dead." The hotel room around us melted away and I was back on the floor and the bed was base of the couch in front of the front door. The shades pulled close to block the light. Darkness, quiet. There was no outside city buildings, no christening office lights. Quiet.

                "You remember what you said?" I asked.

                Mara sits for a moment. She knows what she said, but it's reliving the moment that causes her to think. To remember something she would rather forget. She had wrapped her hands under my head and screamed and wailed and wiped blood from my coughing face. Then her hands rolled into tiny slabs of rock and she bent over wailing. Our foreheads met and she cried and her tears were salty and heavy mixed with her anger and love.

                "Yes." She pauses.

                "Say it." I say.

                Balled fists. Angry fists. Mean and nasty hands. Salty love tears laden with misery. With stress. Foreheads morphing together.

                "You made me a mess, you know that?" Even now, years later, those delicate hands could change so quickly. "You weren't the only one, you know that? The first time was rough, but then it felt like a waiting game for when you were going to do it again. The waiting was killing me, Clarence. And when I saw you again like that."

                "Say it."

                "I just couldn't bring myself to love you as much as that anymore."

                "Say it."

                Blood and drywall, pieces of ceiling fan. Warm tears, warm not with love but anger this time.

                "If I went on I knew I would be just like you."

                "Say it, Mara."

                She pauses and looks up. Stepping the same steps through the door to my beaten body. Her beaten body. She rubbed her forehead against mine like sandpaper and thought of beating me to death and finishing what I started.

                "I hate you."

© 2012 Tom Cook

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Added on July 26, 2012
Last Updated on July 26, 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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