Lately, I’ve been writing some stories that are much much less than 1000 words long.
This one is a macabre little one called ‘Three Versions of His Own Mock-Suicide’
THREE VERSIONS OF HIS OWN MOCK SUICIDE
His wife discovered him lying in a tub full of red water. She shrieked when she saw his tongue hanging out the side of his mouth and his eyes rolled back in his head.
“That bastard has finally done it!” she wailed, and the sobs bubbled out of her mouth so dramatically that he had to giggle. His eyes rolled back down into their proper place and he gave her a cheeky grin.
The consequences were severe, of course. She didn’t speak to him for three weeks. He was half-convinced that every meal she slammed down in front of him would be laced with cyanide. And so he didn’t show her the tape. (His wife had been so distraught that she hadn’t noticed the video camera peeking out of the towel-rack; the camera was aimed right at her face, recording her reaction to her husband’s fake suicide.) If she finds the tape, he thought, it’ll really mean the end of me.
One day they were sitting on the couch, him reading the paper, her watching Wheel of Fortune, when she finally spoke: “You’re a real arsehole, you know that, right?” The tone of her voice forgave him, and he knew what he had to say, “I know, Marie, I know.”
He did it again, this time with a rope. He made a noose and hung it from the rafters in the basement when his wife was out shopping. He rigged up another rope as a harness and looped it around his legs and waist. Putting on a long coat to conceal his handiwork, he strung himself up and, with a laugh, kicked the chair out from under his feet. The video camera’s red light blinked as he swung from the rafters.
He could hear her upstairs. First the groceries dropped on the floor, then: “Bernie! Bernie!” Her footsteps slowly got louder above his head until finally, the basement door creaked open; he was so excited he could barely stay still.
She still screamed when she saw him hanging, (you can imagine that even though she knew the sight in front of her could be yet another cruel joke, it would still come as quite a shock.) She screamed, but it was a scream full of anger with no traces of grief to be found. He wasn’t expecting her to hit him, but she did, she punched him hard as she could in the stomach: “If you’re not dead right now, I will friggin’ kill you myself!”
She ran up the stairs, bawling. At the stop, she turned around, “Good luck getting yourself down, arsehole!” and slammed the door. He eventually wiggled himself down. Marie frantically banged around upstairs and he made his way up only to watch her pack up her suitcase.
Two weeks later, she moved back in. He assumed it was because she had always been a forgiving soul, even though the truth was that her timing was just as good as his. They resumed their old life and lived through mostly silent days for another few weeks. She found the tapes and watched them, while he was out at a doctor’s appointment, and for the first time in her life felt truly shocked. She prayed the rest of the morning, asking for strength, when what she really wanted was courage.
He got home to find the tapes on the counter.
“Marie, I can explain… It’s for an-”
She simply said “No,” and something in her voice surprised the both of them. Suddenly, she knew she’d figured out the rules of this game that he had invented and played for sixty years.
It was like something out of a spaghetti western: if that pesky video camera had been there, it would have zoomed in first on her determined eyes, and second on his frightened ones. Quicker than most sixty-five-year-old women even think of moving, Marie had the knife out of the drawer and into his stomach.
She watched him drop to the floor.
“Call an ambulance, Marie, for chrissakes!”
She picked up the phone and dialed 911. He assumed once more that it was her forgiving soul at work ––
“Hello?! I just got home and I found my husband on the floor, he’s stabbing himself, oh God, I think he’s trying to kill himself, please help!!”
The ambulance arrived in a timely fashion. He was slipping in and out of consciousness. As the paramedics loaded him in the back of the ambulance, Marie climbed in with them. She took a hold of his hand, and he looked up at her. But she wasn’t looking at him, she was looking at the paramedic to make sure his back was turned. It was.
Marie leaned right over to whisper in his ear: she giggled and then winked.
The sirens drowned out his terrified whimpers.
There would be a new game.