Author: J. A. Tyler
Location: Ft. Collins, Colorado
J. A. Tyler has published recently in Word Riot, Underground Voices, Feathertale, Ramble Underground, and other publications. He is also founding editor of Mud Luscious. See more at www.aboutjatyler.com.
Harold Went to Heaven
The night Harold killed himself was warm and humid. Sticky air invaded. But clear-headed Harold did what had to be done. And this time he did it right.
Harold’s last attempt involved Drano. It had tasted blue if that was at all possible and he’d passed out after two or three quick pulls from the plastic bottle. His landlord found him a few hours later colorful with puke and stinking like a clear drain. She’d only come because his rent was four weeks past. Otherwise, the fever might have had a chance to do its job.
She talked to him about it later too. Her big lady stink following her around like cats and dogs. She said he should think about counseling. Or a better drinking habit. It was wonderful for Harold to have such friends.
People had come from all over to check on him. They brought gifts and hugged with that little extra pitying squeeze. And Harold was stuck in a tightly-wrapped hospital bed of stained white sheets and bleach scents watching the IV drip and hearing dirty relatives sniffle and cough and infect everyone with merciless stories.
Harold worked a machinery line at a composition plant. They made gears and shafts and various internal parts. He spent the majority of his days lining up weak metal with heat-forged tips that would rotate to skim layers from layers. It ground away the excess unwanted while Harold stood with hands deep in lab coat pockets wondering if the denim jeans he wore were made in a sweatshop in India. Lunch was baloney and cheese tortilla chips and generic soda. The afternoon break was seventy-five cent vending machine peanuts and calls home to check the empty answering machine. Punching out just meant sitting at home rather than standing at work.
He could have stormed the bars gone back to school called up old friends in the middle of the night reeking of beer. But he didn’t want to. He knew everything that would make his life different. But Harold didn’t want different. He wanted an end. He had no love to offer. He had no peace to contribute. He could not give. And the world was a mess. So he wanted out. Simple.
But Harold had stumbled on Drano and landed in an employer-demanded rehab class. Suicide survivors jammed full of whining and painted with unskilled tattoos. Strangers telling him how to recover while the echoes of family still rolled in his head like breaking waves.
So on a sweating summer night after a particularly disengaging and boredom-filled class of scars and tales, Harold decided to try again. It was not lost on him: Suicide survivors driving a man to try again. He chuckled as his rusted white Oldsmobile banged up the driveway.
And Harold did it right this time. He pounded an economy-size bottle of aspirin with a slim brown bottle of hydrogen peroxide slit his wrists both horizontally and vertically and kicked the toaster straight into the tub. The lights went out and the bathroom fan couldn’t suck the stench away fast enough.
Harold went to Heaven.
It was like riding a subway of light. Clouds rushed by smelling of rain and ocean salts. Blue to purple to black to silver to gold and finally to shimmering translucent frothy white. Heaven.
Harold was seated at a giant circle of glass. He panned a variety of feet calm arms muscles growing up past hems of white ropes to manicured nails and headless relaxed shoulders. No faces hair or features. Just light. A soft charming glow radiating from shoulder to shoulder.
They were talking. It was about him. He listened.
In a rattle of languages they spanned his entire life. From birth to the day before to the toaster and the razor blades and the hydrogen peroxide and the aspirin. They spoke quickly and quietly and without breath.
Harold listened on.
They were divulging the most wonderful secrets now. They were talking about what caused cancer and how it could be cured. About skin color and why it was the way it was. About violence and where it stemmed from in the brain and why it was necessary and how it could be put to better use. About genius and how it worked. About world hunger natural disasters and diseases. About space travel and pollution and Einstein’s brain. About how big the universe was and how small human beings were and how meaningless death was. About everything. Every little detail and every gigantic concept. Everything that was anything and all that was in-between. All questions answered. All mysteries explained.
And then they stopped. And the silence swept through Harold like a cool autumn breeze calling snow. A chill deep down and out of place amidst this peaceful blushing white.
In a calm voice and for the first time they talked directly to Harold. And like a Greek chorus they handed out his fate in unison.
He was not to stay here. He was headed elsewhere. It was not a long journey and it had already started and that was the cold creeping up his back. He was to suffer knowing that everything had a purpose and everything was malleable. How he had been unapproachable with change and opposed to love. He couldn’t attend Heaven. Not because he had committed suicide but because he had been unwilling to love or evoke change. All that was left was his lack of action.
Harold was looking at a black landscape bearing no definition. He was alone. It was dark. He was not standing. He was not seated. He couldn’t feel anything nor was there anything to feel. There was no need to breathe or to blink and there was no pulse in his body. It was pure depthless boundless black.
The landlady called the police this time instead of using her master key. Her pug nose caught a whiff of something rotten and she didn’t want any more trouble than was necessary. They called the time of death immediately. And then they brought a body bag up the steps.
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