Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2012 v11n1
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Small-Town Suicide

2:30 a.m. and I am sleeping.
Or else 2:30 a.m. and I am doing something
meaningless on the computer: looking at photos
of old friends or playing online checkers
with somebody from Bangkok.
Just down the road, 2:30 a.m., my neighbor
Ted laid down on his bed, covered his face
with a pillow, and raised his .38 special up
to his head, pulled the trigger and ended it all.
I heard somebody else say it was a .22.
I heard somebody else say it was a 9mm.
The neighbor woman across the street is the first
to give me the news, at the mailboxes.
She can’t believe it, and somewhere underneath
her story I think she thinks his wife murdered him.
We kind of fear what we know we’re capable of.
Ted’s boys, just in for the weekend, came over
to her house the next morning, and asked
if they could use her fire pit to burn the mattresses.
So much blood, someone said. That’s evidence,
someone said. We all just sit around and talk about it.
The truth is I didn’t know him very well.
Even after living here years, the only time
I’d ever talked to him was two weeks ago,
when I was out walking with the dog, headed up
to the cemetery, he stopped me, and introduced
himself, told me how bad he was with names,
and showed me a burn mark on his leg
where he’d gotten drunk and rolled the muffler
of his four-wheeler on top of him.
It’s good to know you, we both said.
Roosters bobbed in the background.
The wife just had to have them, he said.
The neighbor woman said his wife was a real bitch.
Someone else said she must be so sad right now.
He hoped nobody would mind the noise,
and I remember telling him how much I like
hearing the sound of crowing in the morning.
Melvin, the widowed diabetic across the street,
drives by, stops, and says You just never know
what a man gets to thinking when he gets
so depressed. I know he’s been there, too,
all alone and cold on a winter’s night.
Someone else said he was a good man.
Someone else said he always seemed so happy.
His front yard was filled with a thousand
little lawn ornaments. It was like walking
into some truck stop coffee shop off the interstate.
There was a tiny bluebird I always looked at,
and sometimes even thought about stealing,
just for something to hold on my walks.
I’m not sure now if I’m glad I never took it.  

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