Godraw, CC 3.0
Source: Godraw, CC 3.0

Here is the latest of my short-short stories that are composites of real-life events with psychological or practical implications.

He had achieved his dream of making a middle-class living as a play director. Yes, he had to live in Buffalo but there, he was in-demand as a director for semi-professional plays.

But starting in his 60s, demand for him declined such that by age 74, he had to fill his time as a model at the art school, a witness for weddings at the justice of the peace, and as a claque: someone the director plants in the audience to laugh and applaud loudly to get the audience to do so.

He also spent a lot of time thinking about The Big Issues:

Is it just to give everyone the same level of health care, whether or not they pay into the system or even whether they’re in the U.S. legally? Is balance or contribution the key to the life well-led? And most recently, should he kill himself?

You see, he has cancer, stage 4, and while he has insurance to cover most of the expenses, that Big Thinker part of him asks if it’s fair to society to use up so many resources to keep him alive, especially because he’s weak and often in pain?

So he bought a Smith & Wesson because he heard that shooting yourself in the temple is the most foolproof and quickest way.

One day, in a moment of idealism and, okay, more pain than he had yet experienced, he pulled the gun from the cabinet, climbed into bed, threw back a shot of scotch, put on Samuel Barber’s Adagio, pointed the gun at his temple. and put down the gun.

He wrote in his journal,

It’s easy to say what you should do. It’s a lot harder to do it. And it’s not just about offing yourself. We say we’re going to be loving but so often we’re not. We say we’re going to eat less and a meal later, we’re porking out. We say we’ll stop procrastinating and of course we don’t. So weak are we.

But I know I should kill myself. All my life I’ve talked about how we must, as individuals, sacrifice for the common good: be willing to take the extra time to use mass transit to do our part to stop global warming, pay our full fair share of taxes, volunteer our time to help the less fortunate, and so on. And here I am, an old dying man with crappy quality of life and little left in me to contribute, yet I’m sucking up probably a million dollars of precious health care resources.

A week later, he had a worse pain episode than before, gulped two shots of whiskey, pulled out his gun, and put it to his head again. This time, he started to pull back the trigger, his hand shook, violently, and he put the gun down.

Two days later, he had an even worse pain jag, and this one wouldn't subside. Assisted suicide is illegal in New York, so he Googled until he found the names of California doctors who routinely help terminal patients end it. And he took an Uber to the airport.

 Dr. Nemko’s nine books, including his just-published Modern Fables: short-short stories with life lessons are available. You can reach career and personal coach Marty Nemko at mnemko@comcast.net

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