Friday, July 3, 2009

#FridayFlash - "Life Happens"

This is my first attempt at Friday Flash. I hope you enjoy it.

Jonas sat down at the office desk and hovered his fingers over the keyboard. His gut clenched. His chest tightened. On the screen, the cursor blinked in anticipation, eagerly waiting for the first line. He glanced at the syringe and gun on his desk. Could he actually go through with it? He had purchased the drug through a chat room on the internet. Demerol. The dosage wasn’t enough to kill, but it would certainly make things easier.

Finally, deciding he could go through with it, Jonas forced a breath and let his fingers race across the keys.

I, Jonas Billings, leave this as my final message. I want people to know why I took my life...

As he wrote, Jonas thought about his wife Sharon. How was she going to react? Somehow, after everything else that had happened between them, he knew she wouldn’t be surprised. To her, he was nothing but a loser. She’d already said as much, though not in those words. Instead, she’d couched it in questions like “Don’t embarrass me tonight, okay?” or in statements like “Sometimes, I just don’t get you.” No, in the end, Jonas knew she would say something about him being a cheap, dumb bastard and this only proved it.

Outside, a semi ran through its gears, powering up the street.

Over the last year, Sharon and I have struggled with our marriage...

That was putting it lightly. In truth, he could have spelled it out in more concise details—how she constantly belittled him in front of her friends and how they didn’t make love anymore—but really, what was the point? Jonas shook his head as continued typing. The point was there was no point anymore. There no reason to keep going as they had, snapping at each other like a couple of Chihuahuas. No, he had turned that screw too many times, and now its head had finally twisted off, leaving nothing but a shard of metal that cut him every time he touched it.

Jonas let his fingers stop for a moment. He closed his eyes and thought about what John Lennon once said: “Life is what happens to you while you’re making plans.” Boy wasn’t that the truth? When he got right down to it, everything in life could have been tossed into a distiller and boiled down, and he still wouldn’t have been able to refine it into such a concise statement about living, breathing and dying. He wanted a nice house out in the Woodlands; however, with several bounced checks and missed payments, thanks to Sharon’s wonderful management skills, they were lucky enough just to get into the rat shack they had. He also wanted a Corvette, even saved for a couple of years just so he could get the financing down to an affordable level; but then Sharon wanted a new bedroom, and new furniture, and the Corvette money vanished faster than a Twinkie in front of Fat Albert’s face. In fact, no matter what he wanted or how he’d planned, it always came down to Lennon’s simple statement. Life happens.

He sighed once and resumed typing.

I also want my parents to know that, no matter what anyone says, even now I love them more than anything...

That might have been stretching it a bit, but there was no point in allowing them to take a dive into despair, constantly asking what they did wrong and what they could have done better. He was a man now and, for better or worse, he made his own decisions.

Jonas finished the letter and printed it out. It wasn’t much of a suicide note. However, he’d never written one before and, quite honestly, didn’t care. He signed it, wondering at first if he should and finally decided it was the right thing to do, and then place it on top of his desk. In the morning, the staff would wander in, see the note, and by noon the whole place would be talking about nothing else. Hey, did you hear about Jonas? Man, I never would have guessed he’d go off like that?

He pocketed the syringe and gun, turned off the lights, and then stepped out into the sweltering night air.

The drive home took him through downtown. At the corner of First and Elm, he stopped, stepped out and walked under the overpass bridge. There in the shadows, Jonas found the man he was looking for, the man all curled up like a hibernating bear, the same man he’d already scoped out for the last two months. Just another example that proved how right Lennon had been.

“Hey, man, how’s it going?”

The homeless man glanced over his shoulder. “Who is that? Toby, is that you?”

Jonas smiled. “Yeah, buddy, it’s me.”

“What you doing down here, man? Don’t you know the V.C. got this whole place—”

And before the man could say anything else, Jonas bent down, stabbed the syringe into his hip, and quickly pressed the plunger.

“Yeeeooow! Hey, man, what’d you poke me with? You want me to call… thaa… caawps… ohhhmaaan…”

Jonas tossed the needle aside. He reached an arm behind the homeless man’s back—the guy reeked of cigarettes, piss and beer—and guided him toward the car. The man wasn’t nearly as tall, but he was close enough. Once home, Jonas would use the gun on Sharon, give her a couple taps to the head, and then give the bum one under the chin. Finally, the whole place would go up in flames.

If it all went as planned, the cops would write it off as another case of domestic violence gone bad, just a freaked-out husband who shot his wife, set the house on fire, and then turned the gun on himself. But what if the cops figured it out? Well, that was the beautiful thing about this old world, wasn’t it? There were plenty of places to get lost.


  1. You had me going there for a while. I thought he was committing suicide until he got to the homeless man. Creepy little story, Stephen. Nice job.

  2. Wonderfully expressive imagery! Welcome aboard the #fridayflash.

  3. I wondered about the Demerol early on, but your story carried me away. Very good internal monologue. It kept me right along with your character and I didn't see the twist coming.

    Thank you for a good read.

  4. oooooo nice little twist! Creepy; I like it :-)

  5. Enjoyed the dark edge of this. The narrative voice is used well to control the pace and twist. Good stuff.

  6. The twist was perfectly judged and I certainly didn't see it coming. And I was with him all the way through, feeling sorry for him and connecting with him, so much that I didn't mind him turning out to be a murderer!
    Just one crit - using 'go through with it' twice in the first paragraph jarred a bit.
    Excellent stuff! Nice to see another #fridayflash newbie - I posted my second this week.

  7. Stephen, you did a good job of telling his story in just a few words, and the ending took me by surprise. Excellent writing.


  8. Thanks for the feedback, everyone, especially the crits. I appreciate fellow writers helping me to make improvements.

    I enjoyed finally contributing to the Friday Flash--many of you have already been at it a few weeks--and I plan to contribute again. It's just the right challenge to keep me on my top of the writing.

  9. Deftly handled, Stephen. You're the master of the reveal.


  10. I know, I'm late to the party. #MondayFlash anyone? Like the others, you had me going. I thought, "This pathetic little snot is writing a sloppy suicide note and he's so wimpy he's got to shoot himself full of Demerol before he has the guts to shoot himself ..." and then you had me off balance. Kudos for that.

    As for writerly critique (which can get so tactical it makes you want to puke), you could make it stronger by eliminating about 80 percent of your use of the word "was."

    Glad to have you on the #FridayFlash circuit.

  11. Greta: Thanks for the kind words. You've been a great friend and a wonderful sounding board for what's good and what stinks in my writing.

    Anasazi: Thanks for the crit. I'll highlight that word in my MS and see how many of them I can eliminate. I appreciate the good advice.