A Chapter by Tom Cook



                Thurmond Cross sat behind his oak desk with the glossy finish reading through a vanilla colored folder. He skimmed through my health records, never stopping until he found something that would cause him to inflate his cheeks and tilt his glasses down.

                "Says here you tried to kill yourself once?"

                Once. I laughed. His grey beard speckled with bits of black and red. He smiled too but only out of courtesy. On his shelf were a picture frame of his kids with another frame face down. A bottle of scotch to match his Irish roots sat beside the lame picture. I had two lawyers before Cross who couldn't find the time to make my case. So the last one passed me along to Cross who had worked with my family before.

                "Is that going to be a problem?"

                "Oh not much sport, but I'm sure we'll have to navigate through it a bit. Just some turbulence." He pushed up his glasses and continued to skim through my records. Clouds rolled in overhead and rain started to pound the city block where his firm was located on. The room grew dark masking the frames of degrees and certificates, the occasional newspaper clipping of a big case won. There was a small saber above a medal.

                "Were you in the military?"

                "At one time. Did some work out on base toward Sacramento."

                "Were you there?"

                "When the bombs fell?" he peered up for a minute to catch my glance. "Not the first ones. They hit the coast. The second ones were more inland but varied. Sporadic and unorganized. The coast was all they could hit."

                He reads on and I stare at the saber.

                "The saber." He shakes his head and peers up.

                "The saber," I repeat. "That authentic?"

                "Oh, about as authentic as you can get boyo."


                "No. My friend Ferris carried it for ten years," he pauses. "There was a Chinamen who carried it one time. Very nice fellow I'm sure. I bet he was a great mathematician and family man."

                "How'd you get it?"

                "Well, ya see he was torching some condominium across the street. Long story short I killed him and took it with me."

                "I'm sorry, I didn't know."

                "It's fine. Human nature really. The minute we stop killing each other is the minute there's something wrong."

                "Is it bad over there?" He folds the file and places it off the side. He collects his hands into a heap and turns to the ceiling for a moment. Then grabs another list of documents.

                "Some here and some there."

                "Why'd you move out here?"


                "Wife and children? Mother and father?"

                "Children. I got tired of explaining to them what had happened out west. Too young, far too young. They should enjoy being kids not obeying curfew and ration laws."

                "So it is bad?"

                "Pretty bad."

                "I'm sorry."

                "Don't be sorry, Clarence." He takes a deep breath.

                "Why do you want to kill yourself?" He finally asks me.

                "Because I don't--"

                "There is no because. You're not killing yourself, remember that when they ask you." He says after cutting me off.

                "I'm not sure I follow."

                "The last thing the government wants to do is hand out free tuition or healthcare or tax cuts to some spoiled runt or family member, all because they found a loose screw."

                "I suppose I'm the screw?"

                "That's correct."

                "You're very blunt, Mr. Cross." He smiles and folds his hands. "You don't strike me as a lawyer."

                "And you don't strike me as someone who wants to pay for his sister's college."

                The room becomes a vacuum and sucks the air out through the vents and windows. My heart fills with a fearful taste of blood, quickening its beats.

                "We all have our agendas."

                "Listen, Clarence," Thurmond removes his glasses and sets them aside. "I don't care, really I don't. My job is to serve you, and provide you and your family with the best services possible. I get if you want to off yourself and be done with it, and that you may feel a little guilty about not taking advantage of such a good opportunity. I'm all for that. Hell I respect it. But don't bullshit me."


                "Good. Now when the government asks you why you're going through with this it's because you want to provide for your family. You want honor bestowed on their heads. Something very Grecian, along those lines. Just don't give in and say you want to do it because you hate life."

                I nod and lean back in the chair to appreciate Thurmond.

                "It won't happen soon. This suicide attempt is a black-mark I cannot work around. If anything you'll have to attend some kind of rehab clinic for a few months or so. Let them evaluate you. Hell, I may be able to get you probation. After that it's a smooth ride."

                 He pauses and laughs.

                "I forgot to ask. Who the hell are you going through all this for?"

                "No one important."

                "I see. Don't talk much?"

                "What do you mean?"

                "I mean family. Friends. That sort of thing. Don't keep in touch very well?"

                "Something like that. I feel like a burden to them."

                "Love, aye? It's a b***h." He stands up and goes to his scotch where he lifts the sleeping picture frame up for a quick glance and sets it down. He fetches some glasses and ice and sits back in his chair.

                "Who's the picture of?"

                "You mean what's the picture of." He pours a glass and offers me one. I take it.

                "Well what's the picture of?"

                Thurmond takes a drink from his glass like a smoker takes a drag from their cigarette. He lets the alcohol burn his throat and belly.

                "The past."

                "The war?" He nods.

                "You know California was the bread basket of this country for so long. They burnt most of her crops and tore up and poisoned what fertile land they could stand on. Those goddamn Chinese, they're smart, they knew we'd starve," he pauses and laughs. "They're also really stupid. They forget how much food they trade us for."

                "They called it a stalemate."

                "Stalemate? Ha. Sure they hit us when we weren't looking, but last time I checked they don't speak Manchurian in San Diego or Seattle?" he finishes his glass. "And sure we're starving, but we can grow it back. They can't though. We'll see this as a win in the long run. Before I left we were planning on sending troops to Shanghai and Beijing. Launch carrier strikes and land assaults from Taiwan."

                "Doesn't seem too smart. There's already a lot of dead people in the world."

                "Funny coming from a fellow like you, Clarence. All I know is the first boat that heads that way I'm going to be on it."

                "And then what?"

                "I'm going to burn it to the ground. Eye for an eye, am I right?"

                "This seems very personal to you, Mr. Cross."

                "Aye, it is. I have a vendetta against them. Made me a racist is what happened. I find myself working against more Asian Americans these days."

                "That doesn't seem right."

                "Aye, and a dead wife and three quiet kids should be enough then, right?"

                "I'm sorry."

                "Don't be, lad," he waved his hand at me and leaned back in his chair. "Everyone loses something in a fire."

                "Is it hard? With your children?"

                "Yes. I don't blame you for what you're doing or why you're doing it, Clarence. I miss my wife. I miss my kids laughing. Oh how the world changes."

© 2012 Tom Cook

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Added on August 4, 2012
Last Updated on August 4, 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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