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What do dogs dream of? by Donn

© Donn

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Chapter One
White Lights, Black Hearts


Most people don’t know the difference between something dreadful, and something dreadfully funny. Show them a photo of a hanging man, and they see an awful, unexplainable sadness. But when things go wrong, it’s hilarious, like rock stars who accidentally hang themselves trying to get a better orgasm, or fat guys who break the rafter and collapse the house, or people who don’t tie the knot properly and just end up with rope burn and brain damage.

Suicide just isn’t that easy. It turns out that for every person who succeeds, twenty-five people have tried and failed. Slitting the wrists is usually the first attempt, and works only six percent of the time. People have blown half their head off with a gun but survived with a stutter; there are people who have jumped from not high enough and ended as comatose paraplegics, and people who have eaten rat poison and survived with a liver transplant.

In the middle is an array of amateur methods, which usually don’t work but cause extreme pain, like swallowing bleach, or stabbing your chest. Three out of ten people who set fire to themselves recover, over half the people who cut their own throat don’t die, and two in ten hangings survive …there was even a person who drove head-on into a semi-trailer and lived on as a double amputee.

So be careful. Don’t be spontaneous. Work out whether you actually want to kill yourself, and don’t change your mind halfway through. You definitely don’t want to wake in hospital unable to finish the job.

Steven Scott, Surviving the Apocalypse, Prologue



Poor Margery.

She didn’t have to use the gun. She could have just called me the f-word a few times, and the c-word that she liked, and I would have played along, acted sorry, and begged for her mercy. That’s the way our marriage worked.

Not this time, though. I was still adjusting my sorry-face when she pointed the gun.

Stupid Margery.

Obviously I didn’t give her the cancer. She gave it to herself. The cancer had been inside her for years, decades, slowly feeding off the growing rage she’d been building all this time.

Ahhhhh, relax. Breathe and relax.

Drowning is supposed to be easy when you know how to let go. But just as I reach that silent place, on the edge of the deep sea, I see her body going over the railing and my mind screams but it’s wasn’t my fault and suddenly I'm angry again, arcing up again at her stupidity.

Funny what thoughts come crashing in when you're trying to die. The closest I can get is the large waves that crash against a headland, throwing spray into the air and sucking life from the rocks, then a moment of anxious peace, waiting for the next one, then it comes, another giant thought, and all that mindless energy means nothing. It just leaves you unchanged, thinking things that are useless and grey and terribly angry.

Lesson 1: It is impossible to drown in a placid lake when you're angry. I needed to be hopeless, helpless, completely relaxed, so I could sink without struggle into the dark gloom of the lake. I close my eyes and slow my breathing, but all I can see is Margery going head first over the railing, screaming words I couldn’t quite catch. I think she said you fucking #$%&! with a sort of Doppler effect, so the c-bomb became longer as she tumbled headlong to the ground, ending with an abrupt animal grunt as she hit the rocks.

Whummpfft.

It is a pretty nasty sound, listening to your wife die, even when you were planning to kill her.

I heard another siren and looked back; a new set of blue-red flashing lights appeared on the road around the lake front. I paused for a moment, tried to second guess their thoughts. I remembered blood in the kitchen, a trail over the wooden deck, blood wherever she touched. They’d find her soon enough, once they started waving their flashlights around.

I started swimming again, slowly. The moon was a crescent sliver, low on the horizon, it had looked delicate, almost enticing as I walked down to the water to wash the blood off my hands, but as I stared at the shimmer something strong and weird settled over me. Like, this is the end, give it up, surrender. But it wasn’t the cops I decided to surrender to, it was something much bigger, something out there amongst the stars, something that I hoped was my God.

I laughed, mirthless; God of Failure, the Great Inflictor, come to my side, carry me home.

I laughed out laugh, a strangled, sobbed laugh, and just kept walking into the lake, and when it got deep enough I started to swim, and when I looked back I knew there was no return, and nowhere to go, and nothing left to lose.

You gave me this cancer!! You fucking #$%&!

For a moment I felt like laughing, it was so absurd. But when I looked out to the darkness, the funny side disappears. Where to?

Straight down, please. I wasn't going back. The handcuffs, the arrest, the humiliation, the court case, and the endless explanations, but it was the headlines that would hurt most.

'Olympic marksman shoots dying wife in eye, throws her from deck.'

What options? None and none. I couldn't outrun anything – there was just one road out of this valley, in every other direction was 100 kilometres of forest and lake and mountain range. And even if I escaped, what was the point? Go on the run, join the struggle for survival like the rest of the human race? They’d trace my bank accounts and block everything. I would have no money, no assets, no skills. With the economy tanking and politics getting nasty, I’d be a another nameless, anonymous pauper on the streets, walking alongside all the other homeless and hopeless unemployed, living from one minor heist to another, never stopping for more than a few days.

I tried to think it through, but I was still furious with Margery. She was always doing this, forcing bad situations on me that just seemed to get worse. I sighed, and rolled onto my back, stretched out my arms, and floated.

Small choices start when we're small, like the parents we get, the first friends we make, or the first love we have. Every day, little choices, except one day, there’s a single lock-in choice, the one you don’t see, the one you can’t reverse - you don't know it at the time, but everything else just follows, like dominoes falling in a line.

All tumble down, like Margery.

I tried to explain this to the therapist. We married on the rebound – both of us for the worst possible reasons – and in almost no time we hated each other. No biggie, I thought, it can be undone.

But it’s not like that. Sure, we make small choices every day, and we think we can unmake them if they’re wrong, like returning the stale bread to the supermarket. Except there’s some things you can’t take back, bad things you can’t unfuck, like the atom bomb or climate change.

Imagine; our biggest brain created the biggest bomb, which tells you something about humans. Give us a chance and we’ll fuck the planet, just watch us and wonder.

I rolled over and looked to the stars. 400 billion twinkling, teeming stars filled with pristine other worlds and unlimited dimensions.
What an amazing universe I’ll be leaving.

The thought saddened me, temporarily. Was there something I might miss, something important that I should stay alive for? After a moment of utter blankness, I realised there was nothing I could think of. I closed my eyes and wondered about dying.

Drowning was supposed to be easy, and quite gentle. A television show had interviewed people who had survived different ways of dying - the most terrifying death was a crocodile, then a shark, then a bushfire. But drowning was way down the list, so peaceful it was almost meditational.

I'd almost drowned twice before, in big surfs off the beaches on the north coast, but I was young then and filled with terror, and I’d had a will to survive. I remember going under, gasping for air and finding panic, pushed so far down, rolling and tumbling, coming back up and being hit by the next giant wave. Over and over, and after a while, there’s nothing left to swim with. That’s when luck cut in and God reached down and I found myself touching sand, and I thought, Fuck! I’m gonna make it. I became a Christian for a little while after that.

A river of water has flowed under my bridge since then, and a lot of times I nearly died again. Car smashes, electrocutions, more drowning, a rotten appendix, a drug overdose. You get sort of used to it, but this one was the last. I was determined.

2

In the near distance, a chug-boat gurgled slowly across the water, with a weak fishing light that cast a small yellow glow around the boat. A sturdy man stood upright, holding the tiller loosely, watching ahead for the logs that spent years in the lake, washing from end to end, until a storm threw them up high enough onto the shore, where they stayed until the next big storm dragged them back under.

I shivered. It was getting cold. I looked back at the shoreline, and saw the police lights flashing thin white lines along the beach. They would have found Margery by now, and followed my footprints. Would they come looking in a boat? The boatsheds were locked, but they could drag a rowboat down from under the house, if they found the oars.

They wouldn’t do that. Police don’t go searching in rowboats. Anyway, by the time they got organised, it would be pitch black out here.

A big pool of blackness, enough room to hide, enough time to die. I went back to a slow paddle, heading down-lake, away from the village.

Relaax …

I breathed in and out, just floating, and small ripples ebbed away from my chest. If you’d asked me sixty minutes ago, I would have said I was an OK human. Generous, reasonable, intelligent, and donated to Red Cross, $100 a year. But the therapist - the special therapist that Margery found – she was adamant that I was the opposite; no empathy, an immature, malformed self, unable to feel compassion, definitely narcissist, definitely needs therapy. It’s all in the report she backhanded to Margery.

I sighed again, bubbling the water in my mouth like I used to in the bath when I was young. It was comforting.

The way I saw it, it was the therapist who needed repair. She was tall and stooped-thin and flattened morose, and when she spoke she was full of spite and long words like responsibility. She wanted me to take responsibility for what I’d done, responsibility for who I was, responsibility for changing myself to be better.

I hated her, and she hated me. But she was half right in some of the things she said. When people were in pain, I stood to one side, awkwardly looking on. I didn’t want to touch them, didn’t want them clutching me. I didn’t want to listen while people moaned in pain. Even the thought of pain switched my empathy to zero.

I got this cancer because of you, Margery had screamed tonight. I nearly laughed, it was so preposterous that I caused her cancer, but that was so utterly typical of our marriage. I’d been planning the perfect murder for six months, something that could never bounce back, and now Margery has killed herself and I’m on the run for murder I didn’t commit.

3

I rolled on my back, and looked at the stars. More stars than all the sands in all the beaches, more galaxies than infinity, unthinkable worlds teeming with copies of our civilisation, with countless variations of ourselves, in places we cannot imagine, far, far away.

It was discussed on the radio as we travelled home from the oncologist tonight. There's a multitude of dimensions, all with different realities. It was incredible, when I thought of it like that. 400 billion stars, 400 billion choices, and all of them led here, an ant under the shoe of eternity.

Reach down, God, I’m drowning, save me.

I could go back, hand myself in, try to explain. But they wouldn't understand. They wouldn’t believe that she'd accidentally shot herself in the eye, then tripped and fallen from the deck to the rocks below. I came into the kitchen, she was pointing my air-pistol, you gave me this cancer she screamed, I saw her finger tighten and I spontaneously jerked the plastic Coke bottle in front of my face.

Pfft! Like a muffled pop. The plastic just bends in, then explodes the lightweight air-slug back out again.

The next second she was screaming. Screaming so loud. I didn't see it happen, but I felt the solid little pop of the slug on the plastic, then she screamed. The air-slug had bounced back and hit her in the eye.

And then she'd shot again, but missed, and I'd started running. And she'd followed, red rage in her remaining eye as I ran out the veranda door to the steps down to the lake.

Why did I run? No easy answer. Actually there is. I did what I always did - just disappear for a few hours. With her eye in agony, I thought she'd lose interest in me. So I ran down the steps, two at a time, with her screams of rage right behind me.

And then past me. I heard her voice screaming past, a fear-scream, and I saw her heavy body tumbling over the railing, so close, I could almost have grabbed her. With one eye full of blood and the other full of hate, she tripped from the first step and went over the railing. So close, I could have grabbed her, but I didn’t. I looked down, saw her crumpled up and lying so still, she's just unconscious I thought, she'll be fine.

I called out her name as I ran down the stairs, Margery, Margery, but it was all so cemetery quiet.

I went slower then, six inches of cold dread sliding inside. This would be a mess to sort out. I hate it when things fuck up and need explaining, when things look so bad and you're the one they'll blame. And in the back of your mind you’re thinking, damn, the takeaway Indian is going cold.

I got down on my knees and cradled her head, and my hand came away slippery wet. I sat her up slightly, and felt again, and the dread turned into panic. She'd hit her head just near the spine, and it was squishy-soft where her skull used to be. I thought of all those sensitive nerves coming out of her spine, and realised that Margery was actually, really dead.

I laid her back down gently, and thought, what a fuckup. It looks like I've shot her in the eye then pushed her off the deck. I had not the slightest shred of evidence to back up my story. I was starting to get really, really pissed at her.

I went up into the house and called the ambulance and told them what had happened, and they were oddly silent. After I hung up, I went down to search for the air pistol. It would have her blood-prints on it, and the prints would show she was the shooter.

In the distance I saw the first blue/red flashing light, and the siren came faintly on the breeze, and I sort of internally shrugged and gave up searching and went to the lake edge to wash the blood off. Perhaps it was the moon shimmer, maybe I’d run out of options, but things just went weird. I walked in to my knees, then to my waist, and decided I wasn't going to be around, not here, not anywhere. Just disappear.

A white light streaked across the sky, then a faint sonic boom, like faraway thunder, rolled across the hills. It left me with an uneasy feeling as I turned back to swim.

I'm reliving my childhood, I thought, I’m looking back down a long telescope into the past. Except all I could see was myself sitting silent and unnoticed in the slatted closet door, watching my mother shuffle past.

So, what now? Keep swimming, get exhausted, slip under. That was the plan, but I had no idea how hard it was. Not the swimming, so much, as the drowning. The lake was so calm I could float on the surface, and I did that for a while, but the thoughts kept tumbling.

Four hundred billion stars up there, an infinity of opportunities, and I had to end up down here, trying to drown. I was starting to repeat myself.

I lay on my back and closed my eyes, trying to calm down. Let go, let go, let go. I chanted it in a rhythmic way, trying to let go, but all

I could see was Margery flying past. You gave me this cancer, over and over until I'd slap at the black water in sheer frustration.

I tried swallowing water, breathing it in, standing upright and just trying to sink, lying face down and sucking the water, I tried all the ways I could think of. But as soon as I could feel it slipping away, I'd be thrust back upward, gasping and retching and watching Margery somersault.

Whoever said drowning was easy obviously hasn't tried it.

4

Boom-boom, boom-boom, boom-boom.

Lying on my back, looking at the stars, floating so gently, the water covers your ears, all you can hear is your heart. Black below, black above, and as Margery loved to taunt me, it was all black inside.

Doctor (gently): Sorry, Margery, it’s confirmed. It’s metastasized.

Margery (turning to me): You stupid fucking #$*^. You’ve murdered me. You caused this cancer. You fucking #$%&!

Me: Margery, I’m sorry …

(Margery rakes her nails across my face)

Me: Arrgghhh

Margery: Get in the car. I’m divorcing you. Your father was right. You are deformed. You %$@# fucking #$*^ sucking %&*%.

That was pretty much our life. She raged, I disengaged, and I spent most of my time dreaming of ways to kill her.

I drove home in stony silence, and listened as she alternatively wept and whined about dying, then became enraged and attacked. What a fuckup I was, a failure and a fool. Over and over and over, until I switched on the radio and wondered if I was in the right universe.

“We should get a second opinion,” I said hopefully, but she flared again.

“Fuck you,” she said, “and fuck your opinions. I can see it in the scans, it’s everywhere.”

I shrugged, and said nothing; I remember calculating the number of messed up nights we had left. One hundred and eighty, more or less, the doctor said. No need for the murder anymore, I thought, I’ll sell the business, retire to the country, and settle down in comfort. It was a pleasant thought.

“You’re smiling,” she screamed again, and with a slashing swipe she raked her nail right over the first set of gouges. I almost blacked out from the pain.

Arrgghh, I moaned loudly. I looked angrily across at her; she was now smiling, as if it was a game, trying to see who can hurt each other the most. It was classic Margery, and she never stopped hurting until I gave in.

I sighed and turned back to the road. It was narrower now – we were on the long bushland stretch leading down to the lake.
I didn’t see the animal – it just appeared, a greywhite blur bounding from the bush and I swerved but the kangaroo hit straight into the left headlight and blood spattered across the windscreen.

“You %$@# fucking #$*,” she screamed at me again, “something else you’ve killed.” I switched on the wipers and sprayed some water and for a moment, I wished it had been Margery.

We pulled into the driveway, she got out of the car and slammed it so hard, then I'd followed her distantly inside, thinking, what a messed up night, six months of this will be impossible.

But then there she was, pointing my air-pistol in my face, wavering, shaking, enraged. She fired and it hit the plastic Coke bottle and it bounced back in her eye, and now I'm floating around, trying to chill out enough to drown.

Sometime during the night I started hallucinating, though I didn’t know at the time. I thought I was finally dying and I was pleased there was no pain. I saw a small pod of dolphins rise smoothly from the water, big animals and utterly gracious, gliding with sparkling silver trails, swimming slowly past me into the silence. I thought they were guides to take me to the afterworld. They were beautiful, and exquisitely crafted, they gave a sense of the universe as they swam slowly around, curious and comforting.

I started to sink, smoothly, chilled at last, pulled down by a gentle hand. It was tremendously black, and I felt myself drowning. I was flooded with happiness, and my mind went beautifully blank.

You gave me this $#@& cancer you fucking #$%&!

Margery reared in front of me, an inch from my face in the cold darkness of the lake, and I was terrified. She was on the other side, waiting for me! I pushed upwards again, vomiting water and sucking in air, and I lay there floating, heart pounding.

How was she crossing back over? Soon she would be on a cold steel bench somewhere, awaiting dissection, and I wished I could feel something sad. But all I could feel was relief. It was uncharitable, I knew that, but all I could feel was relief, like the day you walk out of prison after a life sentence.

I rolled over and put my face under water. Absolute silence, looking down into absolute black. Maybe this is what death was like. In the absolute silence, I could still hear Margery wailing. Then I remembered - it was our anniversary tonight, and I had completely forgotten.

Arrrghh! I rolled over again, choking on water, screaming into the air. Margery, I screamed, why have you done this? But it was dead quiet.

I sighed. It was deeply annoying, when I thought about it. I really didn’t deserve it.

5

Let me tell you about Margie, because I have to tell someone. Margery was a wonderful woman if you only wanted sex. It was the single thing we had in common.

But even that soured, soured badly. Within a few weeks it had become kinky, and then slightly perverted, then quite weird. And then we started to rip each other apart.

Before sex, and after sex, we argued about everything. Sometimes we disagreed during sex, but we still kept going. Nearly every night, especially when she fuelled-up with cocaine.

When we made sex, she’d complain that I did it the wrong way and I was shaped all wrong, then afterwards she’d tell me she hated sex because she never reached orgasm. When she cooked, I hated it, when I cooked, she wouldn’t eat it. We couldn’t watch the same TV because she hated what I liked, and I found her habits nauseating.

But nearly every night she’d sniff a line and she’d be back again, ripping her nails across my skin so the sheets were blood-red the next morning.

Why did we stay together? There’s no easy answer. I have asked myself a million times, and even asked her one rainy, stormy night, but neither of us could give a single reason, except sex.

SCENE: Sitting on the deck on a Sunday morning. I have been down to the jetty café and raised coffee and croissants. Life is good, the sun shines, the lake sparkles, in every possible way it is a perfect day. I start to read out an article in the newspaper.

Me: “The stock market has crashed again. They say we are about to have another GFC. They are predicting a global crash.”

Margery looked up from her book. “There’s too many people on welfare,” she said, “they are leeching society to death.” She was always complaining about the taxes she paid.

Me: “They didn’t cause this crash. It’s the opposite. The billionaires have caused it, just like the first one. The own the world and they are driving the rest of us to extinction.”

She: “Don’t be stupid. Who cares what they own. They are the ones who will save us. They deserve everything they get.”

I grind my teeth in sheer frustration. Anything I say she argues with. I read snippets from the article.

Me: “We’ve been tricked. They told us we needed more food to feed the hungry, instead there never was any food shortage – our technology has converted the entire globe into a massive farm for feeding humans which just keep expanding and all other animals are being driven to extinction.

She: “Really? All that in a single sentence.”

Me: (still reading) “And that the climate is collapsing, the animals are dying and the billionaires have managed to cancel out Darwin’s evolution, because their technology completely overwhelms nature. They control the world, but the world is out of their control.”

Margery walked to the window and looked down at the lake. A cool wind was driving small white waves onto the lake shoreline.
“Who wrote that article? A greenie?” It was her favourite insult.

Me: (still reading) “One hundred years ago there were slightly over a billion of us, now we are seven billion, and that is the limit. Women around the globe are not having babies because they have seen the future and don't want children.”

Margery: “That’s stupid. The men have all turned gay.”

Me: (still reading) “There’s actually a collapse in population. Countries need migrants just to remain afloat. Migration and population decline and inequality and climate change. The perfect storm.”

I folded the paper noisily, and I saw her eyes flinch.

Margery: “You almost sound happy if it all collapsed and millions were killed and the world as we know it disappeared.”

Me: “That’s not the point. The reality is, it will happen. And it will happen because of the greed of the billionaires.”

She: “You’re just jealous. Besides, if there is a collapse, they will create a better world than the one we have now. There’s too many poor people. I think a collapse would solve everything.”

Me: “Poor people are created by the rich. Inequality creates poverty. It’s bloody obvious.”

She (screaming): “I don’t know why you read that stuff. It’s all fake news. The world is not collapsing and the weather is wonderful.” She opened the window and pointed to the cloudless blue sky, and swept her arm majestically to show the climate was perfect.

She: “If carbon causes this sort of weather, maybe we should have more of it.” She started singing a child’s lullaby to show how happy she was.

Me (shouting over the singing): “I can’t believe I married you,” I shook my head angrily, because she’d hit a hotspot. “You are the peak combination of stupidity meets ignorance.” I know I was shouting because my words were confused.

She stopped singing and smiled nastily.

“So you think I’m not trying hard to have a child, huh? You would say that, you blame me for all your failures …” She reached over and flicked my groin with her middle finger, “especially this little failure.”

If I think back, this is the exact point I decided to kill her. We hated each other to an art-form, and I realised that if I didn’t get her first, she’d do it to me. I became hyper vigilant. I spent hours in the rowboat, drifting, looking at the night sky and dreaming of new methods of murder, ways that would be undetectable.

Ironic, of course, that the cancer got her first. I sighed again, and stretched my arms out, flat and wide, and tried to doze.

But it was impossible. All I could see was Margery’s cancer scans, then her fingers raking my face, then her bloodied eye, then her screaming somersault, then her body on the rocks, over and over, like a fast-motion video stuck on repeat. I opened my eyes and gazed at the stars; so many opportunities, so many chances, and they all led me to here.

And after a lifetime of wondering, I realised that this is my destiny. No greatness or recognition or even some good memories, just a slow-grinding circular staircase of downward steps until I stepped into my grave. What a wonderful destiny it turned out to be.

Sometime near dawn, I dreamed that Margery and I were lying in our honeymoon bed, and she was warm and open and I slipped deep inside. It was when we were new and each sex was like a different sunset, each kiss was a promise, and each love was impossibly precious. But somewhere along the curve, I realised that each kiss was an invasion, her trillion microbes trying to colonise my body; and each sex was simply an inducement to do what she wanted.

It was a depressing thought. I stretched out again; my leg was cramping and I pushed it out straight and I waited till the spasm faded.
We had our honeymoon at my father's farm, mainly to get it fixed up for sale, because he was fading, and I didn’t want to be around him when he died. It was simply beyond me to care, and besides, it was gross, the incessant moans and the red-flecked spittle and the smell of the dying.

Many things lived on the farm, and sometimes they died, and none of the other animals cared. A fallen calf simply stays fallen; the other cows just walked on by, the kangaroos stood and stared, and the goannas lay waiting for it to die. I got to thinking that, in the entirety of nature, we were the only ones who cared, humans I mean.

I chanced upon the calf lying patiently on the road. It was about half sized for its age, and I’d seen it faltering over the days before, on its knees trying to eat the hay, dragging its rear legs, walking bad. The other cows had simply moved on to the upper paddocks, and the calf got about halfway. There was a legion of insects and animals just waiting for it to die, and it just lay there, staring at me dumbly.

Strange what kicks in. Big brown eyes look straight into your soul. If I couldn’t help, then what was I good for? So I wrestled the calf onto the back of the trailer – 80 kilograms of moaning – and carried it back to the house.

But every morning it was back on its side, I’d roll it back onto its knees to get it up, then walk it to water. One morning, it just wouldn’t get up, so I brought the water to him. All the while he looked at me. Big eyes of fear, gradually they became big eyes of pleading. Maybe he understood that I cared.

A few mornings later he was covered with blowflies. I got insect spray and emptied the can, and watched a million small maggots come tumbling out, choking on the spray. I guess that’s when I knew.

Later that afternoon, in the warming spring sun, the calf died, pleading for a few moments more, but no. We walked off the farm the next day, just got in the car, and gave the farm keys to the agent in town. We stopped overnight at the house by the lake, and we had the first of many things – the first argument, the first time I saw her snort cocaine, and the first hate-sex we had on the balcony. I wanted the night to last forever.

But then she whispered to my ear her dreadful secret, and I lay there, barely breathing as I realised the deception. She sat above me and dreamily whispered it’s only business Joey, over and over and over; it was the end of our honeymoon and the end of my naiveté; the dominoes had tumbled, we were locked together in a snarling, grinding embrace. That’s when I learnt that you can undo the knots and unwind the wire, but each foot forward can’t be walked backwards. Not anymore. You just go forward, knowing it’ll hurt.

Another light streaked overhead, long and high and floating, like it was in a different world. I rolled over again, and started a slow stroke forward into the darkness, following the lights. Maybe I’ll find Jesus, I thought.

The sky began lightening and I was dog tired. The light wind had died and the lake was perfect still, like a dead calm ocean that mirrors the universe. I lay on my back again, watched the morning stars. Something will happen, I thought. I can’t stay here forever. Eventually I'd have to go down.

I closed my eyes and went back to chanting let go, let go, let go. But all I could see was Margery going over the railing, her last obscene scream turning to terror as she plummeted.

“You fucking #$%&! she screamed at my face. It was a long, drawn-out c-bomb that wouldn’t leave my mind.

I sighed, and started a slow, slow paddle. For 40 years I’ve managed without guilt, now it’s started up on me, mixing every thought in a turbulent washing pool of ammonia memories.

The therapist was right. It’s a fucking mess up where I am.



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