Kenny and the Upside

Flash Fiction Challenge 100 – Day 93

Photo by Bubble Pop on UNSPLASH.

“What the fuck did you say to me? An upside? If you value our friendship at all, you better explain yourself, and I mean now.”

I might’ve chosen a better moment, I suppose. As Kenny’s youngest sister, Tina, is not ready to hear this.

She grows impatient with my silence.

“Care to explain to me what you meant?” she says.

It’s too late to make some lame excuse about misspeaking at this point. I’ve already committed. Once again, my mouth has drawn me into a conflict I would have rather not had.

But I do understand what Kenny was going through. Not his illness, of course, but I’ve wrestled with the black dogs of depression for my entire life.

“Look, Tina, I meant no disrespect to him, he was my best friend in high school, and certainly no offense was intended for you. I got only mad love for you, girl,” I say as placatingly as I can.

I need to develop some impulse control, I guess. Today wasn’t the day. The funeral was only four days ago, a rainy, dreary Monday in southern Illinois.

The thing is, I do understand because I was there. I was depressed. I had thought about it just as Kenny, Tina’s brother, had with his macabre double-suicide. The man shot himself as he stood precariously perched in the tree, a rope around his neck connecting him to another branch just above.

Kenny didn’t trust a single method to deliver him from the fate in store for him, a protracted, long, and painful death from AIDs. That was the early days, way back in the 1980s. So Kenny had chosen not one but two ways for his exit. The 38 caliber revolver was found at the base of the tree.

He was so worried about the unlikely chances of surviving the gunshot through his temple that he secured himself to the tree with a thick length of rope.

The rope, Kenny’s backup plan, was still wound snugly around his neck. The hangman’s knot precisely realized as if Kenny had spent hours practicing it before. He had.

She is looking even angrier now. I better speak soon, or she will get up and leave me here alone in this sad and dark bar.

“Okay. I will try to explain.”

She says nothing to this.

I better speak soon.

“Well?” she says. Her patience is almost out, I can tell. I know Tina, and I recognize the signs.

“You know I was depressed once, right?”

I don’t wait for an answer to this – this isn’t that kind of conversation.

“Well, I considered a plan very similar to Kenny’s. A gun, but I had got my hands on some Hydrocodone pills as well. I planned to swallow a fistful then shoot myself. I figure, better safe than sorry.”

Her eyes widen at this; this is something she didn’t know.

Not many folks knew everything about everyone in the days before the internet.

“Go on,” she says.

If I’m not mistaken, there is less acid in her voice now.

“Well, and again can I just say how sorry I am that…,”

“Get to the point!” she shouts at me. Several of the customers in the dimly lit bar stare at us with feigned interest.

“The point is this. Feeling suicidal is awful. It’s the worst. To feel so badly about yourself that you would crush your own sister’s spirit because living hurt too much? No. Feeling suicidal is the absolute worst.”

I know Tina is an atheist. I would label her an agnostic, but she calls herself an atheist.


Her anger is back, and ready to smash her beer bottle over my head.

“And nothing. Neither of us believes in heaven or hell or souls. The thing is this, your brother is gone, and he no longer feels suicidal.”

For several seconds Tina says nothing after she lowers her eyes to her beer. There will still be many long, hard days for her ahead. I see that. But I also see her shoulders relax, her jaw tension visibly dissipate.

She is still undone, distraught, crushed by her brother’s selfish exit. But she sees the truth in my words also. She can tell what I say is true. Feeling suicidal is the worst.

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