by Tim Simmons
“Hey, you guys. I’m here. I made it,” Marty huffed as he slackened his pace to a halt, his breath hovering in the chilly night air. He had arrived at the club’s secret meeting place. The moon peeked around thick October clouds, casting cold shadows all around.
“Listen, I know I let you all down last time and it’s been eating at me ever since, but I’m here now.” With a grimace on his face, Marty ran the fingers of both hands through his bountiful blonde hair. “I’ve been thinking it over so hear me out!”
“This vow we made...” Marty began. He walked a few steps away then turned suddenly. “I’m telling you guys... I know what we promised, but... but I just can’t go through with it,” he confessed. He stood still for a moment but no one replied.
“Rachel, you always understood me.” Marty walked closer to her. “I’ll be honest with you. I’m afraid to die. I don’t want to die.” Rachel remained silent. Marty turned from Rachel and took a few steps toward his left to stand in front of Greg. He stared at the ground for a moment then looked up.
“This is just a cop-out, Greg. Sure, there’s no suffering, but what about love? What about accomplishment? What about that fleeting moment when you rise above it all to stand above the crowd and know that you conquered?”
Greg made no reply. It was their way ever since they had formed the club three years ago when they were in the eighth grade. Anyone could speak and say what they wanted, but no one could interrupt after the signal was given: Hear me out! The three of them always felt that it was more civilized than the normal screaming and yelling and interrupting method employed by most people. Marty continued his monologue.
“I know we agreed that life is basically meaningless and full of injustice and needless suffering but why can’t we overcome these things? We’re just giving up. No backbone. It’s the loser’s way out.”
He rubbed his hands together trying to warm them. He could feel the weight of the gun in his coat pocket, but he tried to ignore it. “I say we should meet life’s challenges head on, and no matter how much we get beaten up along the way, we never give up. We go down with the ship!”
A cold wind brushed past Marty, causing him to shiver. He glanced up at the moon, which seemed to Marty like a judge listening intently to his argument.
Marty knew that even now he was fighting one of life’s challenges. In fact, all three of them had come from unfortunate situations. Greg lost his mother to drug abuse, and Rachel had been molested — by her own father. Marty thought about his own life and the problems that seemed to follow him no matter how fast he ran or how well he hid.
But he’d made a promise, and he knew that only losers broke their promises. God knows he’d been given nothing but broken promises at home, and he didn’t want to be like his father — the abusive alcoholic who promised to repent after each hangover. The abusive alcoholic... who beat his wife — Marty’s mother. The monster who...
Marty shook the images from his mind and tried to compose his thoughts.
“It... it doesn’t have to end this way, guys. We can change our minds. We have free will. Life is sacred and who are we to decide when to end it?” The pale moon shifted behind a murky cloud, darkening the night.
“Life is about overcoming. Life is about suffering. Suffering makes us stronger.” Marty was pacing back and forth now. “I know I made a promise with you guys but... ”
He walked away from them and holding his face in his hands, he broke down. He cried for some time then turned toward them and wiped his eyes. He walked up to them and said, “I am finished.” It was the signal that they could speak now, but they didn’t say a word.
Marty began to weep again, whispering, “I am finished,” over and over. When his tears had subsided, Marty sat down on the ground and leaned his back against Rachel’s tombstone. The moon crept from behind a thick patch of clouds, and a solitary gunshot echoed across the graveyard.
Copyright © 2008 by Tim Simmons