Suicide no. 36: The Death of Gary Elshire
–by Derek Alan Wilkinson
I’m forty-one. There isn’t a bar in this town or a bitch of sister that isn’t tired of my face. I’ve watched everything here rot: from the leaves of the trees to the hopes and dreams of everything and everyone that stayed in this run-down shit hole.
So, there you have it: Welcome to Nowhere, Kentucky.
“That’s my name, Gary Elshire” I told the cop who pulled me over that morning, swearing I was drunk, even though I hadn’t had a drink in six months. That’s how people around here, including the local police, remembered me, though.
“Have you had any priors?” The patrolman sounded like he was just reciting something he probably learned less than a few weeks ago at that stupid fucking academy for city cops. I’ll bet he made less than I did welding the beams to that church they spent two years working on: the one that ran out of funding and never got finished. They ran out of money, and I was out of work for awhile after.
“Yeah, I screwed a sixteen-year-old back in my twenties. A long time ago, if you ask me.” The officer glared at me, unimpressed, and slightly more pissed off at my lackadaisical nature than at the fact that I’d been caught doing sixty in a forty-five.
“Yeah, I know. And that time you got busted with that eight ball. And then…” he trailed off. “Well, let’s just say I know you, Mr. Elshire. And I don’t care much for you, or your shitty attitude.” The officer’s disgust grew as the loudness of his voice did. “Where the fuck are you headed, anyway?”
“South.” I said calmly enough to at least make the Barney Fife-looking little bastard think I was growing a small ounce of respect for him. “I’m headed as far south as a tank of gas can get me. And I don’t plan on coming back.”
“Why you skipping town? You do something else illegal?” He took a pace back, and I saw his grip on that pistol of his get just an inch tighter.
“Honestly,” I said with as much dignity I could muster, “you said it yourself: You don’t like me. Hell, I don’t even like me. My three sisters sure as shit don’t like me, and I think we’d all be better off if I just left and never came back.”
“Hey, watch your language.” Mister Policeman stated himself unusually calmly for what I’m used to when swearing around a cop, and just kind of looked at me for a second—trying to decipher whether I was full of shit or not, and turned his gaze to the back seat of my ’88 Buick—eying my duffel bag.
“Sit tight. Give me a minute. Don’t even think about driving off, numb-nuts!”
When he went back to his car, radioed his boss, found out I was clean, and came back to my vehicle, he gave me my final warning:
“I’ll tell you what: Since you plan on leaving, and never coming back, I’ll just let you off with a warning this time. Just don’t let me see you again—here, or ever.”
I paused, “For what it’s worth, you’ve got my word on that.”
Hours passed, and I drove the speed limit until I was twenty miles outside of Atlanta, where I stopped to piss: wondering what I should call myself whenever I do make new friends.
That was five years ago. I go by “Lee” now, short for my shitty middle name, Leonard. The people at that Baptist church I go to are pretty friendly. They don’t know that I don’t believe in God any more than I do Santa Claus, but they rarely ask. I go have dinner with the Jones’s every Thursday, with their two daughters, Kate and Rebecca. We shoot the shit—but I don’t use words like “shit” around any of these people. They may believe in horse shit, but I’ve got respect for them.
They’re the salt of the earth.
I haven’t heard any word from anyone back home, and I take comfort in that. My sisters could be dead for all I know. But I realize now, that, even before I got pulled over that morning—when I sat in my apartment, about to be evicted, with a .45 revolver in my mouth, that I don’t have to be Gary Elshire anymore, but I don’t have to kill him, either—you don’t have to kill yourself to die.
As far as I’m concerned, that man, Gary, is already dead, and everybody’s better off now that “Lee” took his place.
Inspired by The Daily Post’s Weekly Writing Challenge: http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/03/17/writing-challenge-names/