12-4 fiction

The Center for Literate Values ~ Defending the Western tradition of responsible individualism, disciplined freedom, tasteful creativity, common sense, and faith in a supreme moral being.

 

P R A E S I D I U M

A Common-Sense Journal of Literary and Cultural Analysis

12.4 (Fall 2012)

 

short story

prae-202

courtesy of artrenewal.org

 

Something to Be Done

Or Amit

One morning, Karl J. woke up and decided to kill himself. He wasn’t dying of anything and he had a good job, a good wife, and a nice house. There was nothing in particular that was bothering him; he simply decided it was the right thing to do.

After he finished his morning ablutions, Karl J. entered the kitchen, where his wife Arlene was making breakfast.

“Good morning, Karl,” she greeted him, “would you like butter on your pancakes?”

“Good morning, Arlene. No butter, thank you. By the way, I’m going to kill myself today.”

“OK, honey, but don’t forget to take out the trash before you go to work,” replied the wife.

“Did she not hear me?” wondered Karl. He decided to try gain. “Honey, I said I was going to kill myself today.”

“If it’s fine by you, it’s fine by me, darling,” replied Arlene as she was spreading cream cheese on a large toasted bagel.

Karl J. finished his breakfast and drove to work. He was working for Estragon Enterprises, a corporation that makes something that benefits humanity somehow. They even had a nice slogan about it, but Karl J. forgot what it was. He sat in his cubicle and began leafing through a folder someone had left on his desk.

Jameson, his boss, entered Karl J.’s cubicle and announced that a staff meeting would take place at two o’clock.

As Jameson was about to leave, Karl J. sprung from his chair.

“Jameson, I have something to tell you. I decided to commit suicide today, so I won’t be coming in tomorrow.”

“That’s kind of short notice, isn’t it?” replied Jameson, slightly irritated.

“Well, I’m sorry, but I just made that decision today.”

“Oh, well, make sure all your files are in order before you leave today, and leave a forwarding address with human resources,” ordered Jameson and darted out of the cubicle before Karl J. could add anything.

Karl J. was a tad hurt. After all, he’d been working there for twenty years, and Jameson had been his boss for the last twelve. Couldn’t he have found something more to say?

Karl J. finished most of his duties by noon and was heading out to lunch with his best friend Holtz. As he was sitting at the restaurant waiting for Holtz to arrive, Karl J. pondered his wife’s and Jameson’s responses to his announcement. Did they simply not care? Perhaps they just didn’t take him seriously. But why shouldn’t they? He’d never announced suicide before. He wondered how Holtz would react to the news.

Holtz arrived, twenty minutes late as usual, and ordered himself a chicken salad and grapefruit juice. After their standard discussion of sports, politics, current events, and the ever unchanging situation at work, Karl J. decided it was time.

“Holtz, I’m going to kill myself today,” he announced.

Holtz lifted his head from his salad and looked Karl J. straight in the eye. His face showed intrigue, curiosity, and perhaps even mild excitement. 

“Really? What an interesting development! What brought that about?” asked Holtz.

“I don’t know, it just seems like it’s time.”

Holt was incredulous. “You don’t know? How can you not know? You have to have a good reason. Doing it without reason just seems… irrational.”

“It’s not like there’s one thing. It’s not like there’s anything. It’s just… enough.”

“I don’t know, buddy. I’d come up with a good reason first if I were you. You only get to do this once, and you want to make it special.”

They finished their lunch and went back to work. At five, Karl J. clocked out and took a walk around town. He stopped by a public park and watched children play. The children seemed happy, but were they really? Or were they just too childish to know they aren’t? He couldn’t remember whether he had a happy childhood or not, and he couldn’t decide whether he’d go back to being a child if he could.

He strolled down the city’s busy rush hour streets. Cars and people were buzzing around him, going somewhere, moving, advancing towards some goal, some destination, some place preferable to where they were a moment ago.

Where was he going? What was his destination? For a moment he almost forgot, but then he remembered: he was going home, to kill himself.   

Arlene was out with her girlfriends for their weekly girls’ night out, so Karl J. had the place to himself. “It’s better that way,” he thought, “suicide is something one must do by oneself.”

He entered the bedroom, went to his nightstand, and pulled out the loaded revolver he kept for self-defense. He put the muzzle to his lower jaw and wrapped his index finger around the trigger. He took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and resigned himself to the inevitable.

The room was silent. The air was still. The time has come. 

“Oh, what difference would it make?!” he exclaimed angrily a few seconds later—or perhaps it was a few hours later? He put the revolver back in his nightstand, went to the living room, and turned the television on.    

 

Mr. Amit has done postgraduate work in Mathematics at Boston College.  His first short story was published in Praesidium 11.2, and his essay on behalf of reading scientific classics appeared in 12.2 (Spring 2012).