Duct tape, one 15 foot rubber hose, Yamazaki whiskey, and a steak burrito from Chipotle, extra hot sauce. He wasn’t doing this on an empty stomach. It wasn’t a long list for such a permanent solution. He thought of adding more to it, but couldn’t find the justification. The more he thought about a short list, the more fitting it seemed. A short list, a short life, for the short end of the stick that he was given. But no melodrama, not tonight. He had promised himself that. He had spent his whole life crying out and beating his chest against the unfairness, the injustice. And for the first and last time, since he was taking the coward’s way out, at least he would do it with a little dignity.
He opened the bottle first. Poured four fingers and tossed in a cube of ice. He thought of picking out another more traditional whiskey, but Yamazaki held in it the deepest flavor of nostalgia to him, the richest lingering of regret. The burn was smooth and clean and painless. He didn’t want a harsh drink, just something easy and intoxicating to help it all go down.
Next he started in on the burrito. He had thought of other things to dine on for his last meal, but in the end chose Chipotle. As much as he enjoyed so many other dishes, this is what seemed most appropriate for the occasion. It was what he had probably eaten the most of in his life, what he craved when he was famished, what his dreams rested on when he was far away in lands that offered no serviceable burritos. It was so simple, so satisfying, so complete, a package wrapped in a soft, warm tortilla. He was surprised by his hunger this night. He was expecting not to have much of an appetite, but he devoured the whole burrito before he even realized it was gone.
Well, down to business. He went out to his car with the hose and the duct tape. He didn’t really know how this was supposed to work. He assumed just the duct tape and the hose would be enough to get the job done. He assumed many things. He put the hose into the exhaust pipe. It was a little thin. He hoped that wouldn’t be a problem. He figured that if he used enough duct tape to seal the hose to the exhaust pipe, with no places for the fumes to leak out, it should work. He used a quarter of the roll.
Next he ran the hose to the driver’s side window. It was long enough, with just a little room to spare. When the cashier at the hardware store had asked him what kind of project he was working on, he just answered, “Fixing something that’s been broken for a long time.”
He went back inside to pour another glass of whiskey, six fingers this time. He wanted to make sure everything was in its place. The note he left was sealed on the counter. Inside was a will of sorts. He had very little to leave behind, but he wanted to make sure certain sentimental items went to his family, and his few friends. The note was not long. He had spent so much of his life writing, he felt futile writing a drawn out suicide note. But he did make sure to leave a thorough, unmistakable grievance with his former publisher, letting them know that this was mostly their doing.
He went out to the car, slumped into the driver’s seat and placed his glass of whiskey and the bottle on the dashboard. He put on a mix that he had made earlier in the week. On another occasion it would have been a truly sublime creation, a compilation of his favorite songs from the last 32 years. Anyone in his generation would have listened to the mix and wept, laughed, raged, and sung along with their hearts spilling out. But this night it was a funeral dirge.
He took a deep draught of whiskey and let the loss of words drown him. His stories, the words yet unwritten, the words already on paper, but without an eye to read them, stillborn. He had so many sagas to share, so many wondrous worlds, but no one would ever know. He never found a home for his words, never found an audience. And at 32, he had decided that it had been long enough. If he hadn’t found a way to share his works then they were either not good enough, or the world was not fair enough to allow him his voice. He had set a deadline on himself, and this was it.
He had been picked up by a publisher, no one quite as grandiose as he had dreamed, but big enough, a stepping stone. When they pulled out on him at the last minute, well that was when he knew. There was no place for him or his writing in this world. Maybe the next.
Just then his phone rang. He forgot that he had kept it in his pocket. He was getting so tired now, so removed. He picked it up and answered without looking at the number.
“Hello,” he slurred.
“Mr. Nielson? This is Drake, with Broken Jar Publishing. How are ya?”
“Suurrree,” he mumbled.
“Listen, you sound busy, but I just wanted to tell you, we got things cleared up with accounting and we found a place for your book in next year’s catalogue.”
“Mr. Nielson? I’m sure you’re very busy. I have to go. More calls to make. But we’ll be in touch. Congratulations again, Mr. Nielson. Sorry about the confusion. Well, you take care.”
He dropped the phone. He reached for the door handle, but he was so weak, so tired. He couldn’t gather enough strength to open the door. He fell asleep then, and put the period on his last sentence.