about the author

Brett Pribble is the editor-in-chief of Ghost Parachute and is on the board of directors of the Kerouac Project writer in residence program. His work has appeared in such places as Aquifer: The Florida Review Online, Stirring: A Literary Collection, Saw Palm, The Molotov Cocktail, Crack the Spine, The Airgonaut, Bending Genres, and several others. Follow him on Twitter @brettpribble.

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Courteous Suicide  

Brett Pribble

You’ve planned it all out for over twenty years. Mom and Dad had to die first. They wouldn’t be able to endure it. It sucks having to live for other people’s frail emotions. But at least you didn’t have any kids. By this age, the few friends you have left have their own medical problems. They’ll grieve, but they’re used to it. And you made a point never to get too close to them anyway.

There were some great lovers over the years. Some terrible arguments and people you wish you never dated, but still, some great lovers. You traveled. You volunteered when you could. Did your part. And what more can anyone really ask for out of life? But you never married. That’d be like having kids. Well, not as bad as kids but still not good. No one is going to suffer great agony on account of your death.

You empty out your bank account and leave half your savings in an envelope for the nurse to discover on your dinner table. Your house is not where you’ll be ending your life. It would be cruel to let the nurse find you with the back of your head blown out. No one should experience that, especially not your nurse. She helped you live a functional life the last five years. You could’ve put this off another year, but you never know when you may become too incapacitated to end things yourself. Picking the perfect day is impossible, so you circled a date on the calendar, and you’ve reached it.

The professionals will have to clean you up. You don’t want to put that on them, but it is their job, and they’ve surely seen plenty of suicides in their day. So, you call a cab and have him drive you out to a wooded area you’ve scoped for years. No one ever goes there, and it’s far enough out that even if the gunshot doesn’t work you’ll bleed out by the time the police find you.

“You sure you want me to drop you off here?” the cab driver asks you like you’re suffering from dementia.

“Yes. I’m positive. Thank you so much for driving me. I’m meeting up with someone later.” You hand him a hundred dollar tip, which makes him look at you even stranger, but he eventually just accepts it and drives off.

Not having dementia is the whole point of this journey into darkness. Who wants to die like that? Or from a stroke or a heart attack? Or—god forbid-—after years of wasting away on chemo to treat your cancer. Why should you die on a toilet seat or while listening to your bank’s automated instructions? You can’t stop death, but you can control when it happens, hopefully, if you’re lucky.

The sun is shining and the leaves are green and blue. A peaceful time, you think. Night would have been less conspicuous, but you lost the ability to see in the dark years ago, and you wouldn’t have been able to find your way. You pull out your cellphone and dial 9-1-1. You checked several times in the past to make sure you’d have reception at this location.

“9-1-1. What’s your emergency?” she asks on the other end.

“I’m about to shoot myself in the head, and you need to have someone come out here and take care of the body before someone else finds it.”

“Sir, hold on. Why are you thinking of taking your life?”

“Tell them I’m behind the giant sycamore tree near the fence that ends Good Water Park.” You hang up. The gun is heavy in your hand, but you’ve prepared for this. You close your eyes and put the barrel in your mouth.

You hear the sound of a young boy.

“Why are we going back all the way here, Daddy,” says the boy.

“I used to play on this old tree when I was your age, son,” the man replies to the boy.

You put the gun back in your pants.

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