For Download (and the best reading experience): Easy on Them (PDF)
“Easy on Them”
By William Burcher
It was a cloudy day, and cool – mid March in Colorado, when a day’s passage could bring snow, rain, or a seventy-five degree glory. It was somewhere in the middle of all of these extremes, with elements of all three settling into a steady albeit unhappy union of grey and mediocrity.
Despite the extremity of what he was about to do he felt resolute. And he didn’t think it would be all that extreme anyway – not for him at least. His one apprehension was the gun, and the gun’s … abilities. It was old, and it was only a .25 but he didn’t have the money to buy another one. Things were tight (he supposed that things, the day, his decision, might be different if they weren’t. Tight.) and he didn’t even have a credit card anymore. He could steal one or maybe find some more drastic, more dramatic means but that didn’t seem right. Today was his day, about him, and he didn’t want to bring anyone into it that he didn’t need to. He certainly didn’t want to cause problems for anyone. He’d always been puzzled by people who felt the need to bring others into their own demise. He’d always been a loner, kept to himself. It just felt better that way. Why involve someone else? Why add a needless complexity to a thing?
He’d thought it through and decided that it was good, his plan, the arrangements – they were good. The plastic bag, it was sealed; the papers inside plainly visible and fully protected from the inevitable – defilement. There might not be any after all (defilement). It might be clean. It might be easy. That’s what he was going for. Easy was good. Easy for the people that would deal with the aftermath. He supposed there’d be cops involved. That was ok. He didn’t mind cops. They were hard working people, he thought. Perhaps a little more high strung than most, a little more prone to problems with the bottle, but the run-ins he’d had over the years had mostly turned out fair. Even handed. He didn’t want to give them more work than necessary.
He pulled on his red jacket, his favorite, the one he’d found at the Salvation Army a few months ago. It had been a lucky jacket with a green tag (on a green tag day) and he’d gotten it for a cool five bucks. Simple. Clean. Cheap. Functional. That’s what it came down to, he thought. Sometimes that was as good as things got. He glanced over briefly at the 2×4’s stacked together in the corner of his apartment, and at the small hole bore just a few inches into the pine. He wished he could get a bigger gun, for chrissakes. He’d test-fired it a few nights ago – when the neighbor’s TV had been up real loud, just to make sure it still worked. This was the only loose end, the only real remaining question mark. Well, whatever. Just make it count. Make it go where it needs to go. Only get one, he thought.
He made a slow pass through the apartment, making sure all the lights were out and the thermostat turned down (why waste?); and shuffled over to the small table next to the big chair placed strategically in front of the television set. It stopped working last week, the color first turning into a kind of green, before morphing into a strange, psychedelic purple and then finally refusing to turn on altogether. He was fully aware that the TV had been it, the “last straw” so to speak. He recognized how pathetic that was but a thing (especially a thing of one’s life, of one’s being, of one’s thought and feeling) is not changed merely by the recognition of a fact – and he figured that now with the TV gone, with no money, with things the way they were – now was as good a time as any. The winter had been endless, cold and dry. He’d always been prone to a darkness, a lethargy and over the last decade a numbness too. There were times for some things, and sometimes time for another thing, and now was the time for this thing.
He opened the drawer and pulled out the little .25 that his brother had left him when he hanged himself. Telling, he thought, that he didn’t actually use the gun. Again with the gun. A bead of sweat ran down his right temple, tickling him a little. I’m anxious, he told himself. I’m nervous. I’m afraid. Well only of this goddamn little thing, he said in his mind as he placed it into the right pocket of his red jacket. He put on his favorite hat (the one that said “Chavez Trucking” on it in yellow lettering) and opened the thin front door, stepping out in the grey air still chill with morning.
He thought that it was strange how unaffected by things he was right now. He would have thought a few months ago (well no … let’s be real … a few years ago) that a man in his position would see things differently, maybe seeing more beauty, more color in the objects of the world around him today – but there was none of that. The same brown bush was in front of his door, dormant and dead-looking with the season and the concrete-soil, thrust up through a mound of grey landscaping rock set upon black landscaping plastic torn in places and poking between the rocks. There were the burnt nubs of brown and faded orange cigarette butts strewn about the cracked pavement of the walkway. There was a bit of dog shit here and there too. And about the shadows of the apartment building was a bit of melted and then re-frozen snow, left over from a storm last week. As he walked down the way he turned back and saw his unit, with the lawn chair in front of the door and the steel bucket he’d used to spit his chew in, and the faded outline of the number “3” next to the door, a ghost of a raised, stylized unit number long ago gone or stolen or merely rotten and faded into oblivion. “From dust to dust”, he thought.
Everything this morning was grey. Except for the brown. There was brown too. The hills were brown. In the distance the air over Denver was brown. The dirt on the streets and in the parking lot was brown. The mounds of plowed snow were even brown. Brown. And grey. The colors of dust. From dust to dust.
He took out his keys (too many of them for all that he owned) and unlocked the driver’s door of his red and rusted Nissan pickup. He got in and set the papers in the clear plastic on the passenger seat. The truck was very clean. It was sterile as it always had been. He took a deep breath feeling the heave of his chest and his gut – feeling the pressure in his abdomen and in his legs before starting the Nissan. It took a bit longer than he liked (one more thing that he would have to pay for eventually) but after a few moments of the engine turned, sputtered and coughed and the smell of gasoline began to seep into the truck’s small cabin. He put it in gear and with the shriek of a water pump about to seize he backed out of his oil-stained parking space and drove out of the lot. It was a short drive, the town not that big and as he approached his turn he felt the tickle, the itch of a bead of sweat again rolling down his right temple.
Goddammit. Should have a bigger gun. But there won’t be any mess at least. Well, in case there was that’s how come he placed his Last Will and Testament in the plastic. Make it easy, he muttered. He made a slow right turn, signaling, before turning right again into the parking lot of the county Coroner’s office. He circled the lot slowly once, trying to locate the intake bay and found a parking spot under a small leafless brown tree 25 feet from the loading dock. He turned the engine off, put it in gear, set the parking brake and thought that he’d been a good man for making it easy on them. But there was no sense in dwelling on a thing like that, not now. No, now’s a time for only one thing and there’s no sense in putting it off any longer. Goddamn I hope this .25’s enough.