When his nephew found the body, his eyes alighted upon a piece of paper on his uncle’s now still chest that read, ‘The note is on the desk to your left.’ Turning to his right and walking to one of the two large oak desks in the room, he found another note that read, ‘Your other left.’
Upon reaching the correct desk, the letter he found read as follows:
Just a quick note before I go.
To the coroner who will do the autopsy: I’d been a chemist for 57 years before becoming what learned people refer to as ‘a vegetable’. However, I’ll not insult your intelligence by telling you how I off’d myself. Consider it a puzzle and a gift from me, a complete stranger.
To my nephew, I’m sorry for the little joke. It seemed appropriate. Even writing from the past, I know that you went to the wrong desk. You have that weakness for directions that endears you to old people and children because it makes them feel less feeble. You’re lovely. Truly. You and your amazing family have done an incredible service to me these past two years, taking me in, caring for me in ways that I’m not sure I could’ve done for another.
When your aunt died, I gave up a little. Then when the cancer showed up, I gave up a lot. I spent a life studying the disease and was therefore never under any illusions about my prospects. Hope is powerful thing, however, and I lasted years longer than I’d intended. But there comes a time when even the stubborn need to face facts. There’s hope and then there’s fool’s hope. I’m not now nor have I ever been much of a fool. Kind of an idiot at times, yes, but never a fool.
When I was a boy, I remember hearing the melancholy whistle of distant locomotives at morning and at dusk. From a very young age, I’d desperately wanted to leave my small town and I tied all of my hopes and dreams to that whistle and its owner’s destinations. Since then, I’ve gone to those places and lived dreams that I’d never even considered having. My life has been full in ways I’d never imagined. But the whistle is silent now. There are no more places to go or things to see. Lives run their course and death comes to us all in due time. It’s just that I’ve decided to choose my time instead of letting fate do the heavy lifting on my behalf.
And don’t get all maudlin, either. Let the wake be a good one. Tie one on. Kiss your wife like you mean it. Give your son his first beer and drink one with him. He’ll love you for it later and your wife will appreciate the kiss. As for me, I’ll be fine. I know there’s something else out there waiting for us. I can’t explain it and don’t have enough ink to try. Just trust me. And in case you think that I’m watching you read this right now, don’t flatter yourself; I trust there are better things to do in the afterlife than watch the living read mediocre writing.
Hug the boy. Love your wife. Tell the rest of the family ‘so long’. Listen for the whistles from what few trains are left in the world. I’ll be in the messages they send reminding you to keep the hope alive. And to dream.
For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Kurt challenged me with “Suicide note.” and I challenged Crosshavenharpist with “Tell a story about the passage of time from the perspective of an old clock.”
Sir @ February 16, 2012