the suicide

I had just buried a woman I had lived with
for three years
was between jobs
my teeth rotting in my mouth
(I burned away the pain with aspirin and
beer)

I was sitting on the broken couch
watching evening change into night
when the phone rang

it was Morrie.

“yes, Morrie?”

“listen, Mark’s here.   he says he’s got to
see you!   he says he’s going to commit
suicide!”

“put him on…”

“no, he can’t talk, he’s over the
edge…”

I stepped on a passing roach.
“give me your father,” I told him.

Bernie took the wire.
“listen, Bernie,” I said, “what’s this
bullshit about Mark?”

“it’s true! he said that if you don’t
get over here he’s going to kill himself!
he needs help, Hank!”

“you think he’s really going to
do it?”

“I wouldn’t kid about a thing like
this!”

“it’s a long way to San Berdo…”

“it’s only 50 miles! you can make it
in 45 minutes.”

“all right, Bernie…”

I finished my beer, walked out to my
12 year old car.
it started and I got it on the
freeway.

it was a long, drab stupid ride.

Mark was one of those people who
always insisted that a friendship
existed
no matter how much effort you
exerted to
stay away from him.

I finally pulled in front of the
house.
I got out of the car, knocked.

Morrie answered the door.
he had a head-tic.
when something upset him his
head started jumping.

it was jumping all about in
the doorway.
“Mark’s been staying with us,”
he said, “for a couple of
weeks.”

I walked in.

Mark was sitting on the couch
holding a beer.
he smiled at me.
he was dressed in Bernie’s
silk bathrobe.

“where’s your father?”   I asked
Morrie.

“he went to sleep.   he went to
bed.   he isn’t feeling
good.”

“it’s only 7:30 p.m.”

“he isn’t feeling good.”

I sat down.   there was a fire going
in the fireplace.

“how about a beer?” Morrie asked,
his head jumping.

“sure.   where’s your mother?”

“she’s not home.”

Mark cleared his voice.   then, in his
sonorous and pompous voice he began: about
his writing: he was into incest, he had
written over 75 novels, he had a new
agent, he’d been over to see her that
afternoon.   she had a swimming pool.   they
had had a swim together in her pool.   she
was a looker with great connections.  she
realized that his writing was exceptional.
she was going to
put him over and…

I closed out the voice as he went on.
he wore a scarf under the silken
bathrobe.

I drained my beer and Morrie jumped up,
head bobbing, and got me another.

then I heard Mark’s voice again: “your
writing reminds me a great deal of my
own…”

Morrie gave me the beer and I took a
good hit and looked into the fire.   a
piece of wood cracked in the moment, a
red spark broke off and shot up, fell
back.

it was nice. it was nice and
reasonable.

“…I’d like you to read a section from
my new novel…  do you have that blue
folder, Morrie?”

Morrie had it.   he placed it on my
lap.
I opened it up, went to the first page
and began reading…

Mark couldn’t write, never could.
I read on, my teeth beginning to ache
again, I asked Morrie,

“you got any whiskey?”

Morrie went for it as Mark sat straight
up in his silken robe wondering how I would
ever get out of praising him for those words
placed before me…

I would find a way of letting him down
easy
without lying about it.

the whiskey came and I gulped it down
and went on reading

drinking
watching the fire

Morrie’s head leaping

why do the weary never know   how
wearisome they are?
or do they?

I read on, hopeless-
ly.

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