The trend was comparable to layering Day-Glo socks or buying Spin Doctors albums. Embarrassing, but, hey, there it is, a good idea at the time. They found a guy at the top of the bridge who had gotten so drunk he passed out and choked on his own vomit. The clerk sold him the vodka a few hours earlier. Suicide hotlines say not to take any threat of self-harm lightly, but what was there to say? The clerk told him not to do it and the guy said, “Don’t you think I thought about that already?” They answer all questions with questions. That’s what answers have become at that point: more questions.
The next ones almost happened. Some guy shot his wife and felt terrible enough about it to tell everything to the random clerk, who would have recognized the wife as the woman who came in looking like a jumper, but ended up bailing on the plan after buying a bag of generic barbeque chips, eating half of them at the top of the bridge, and then walking home. It doesn’t matter what the clerk asked him, but here’s what the guy said back: Shouldn’t my aim be better? More questions. He bought a hot dog off the roller and started heading up the hill, where the cops cut him off about halfway up. He told them he didn’t care what happened and then he set his hot dog on the ground, kept calling to it like it was a real dog. “Not much for fetch. But stay? Hot damn.” The clerk got the confession and the police got the apathy. It’s how the Midwest works.
They took him to the jail before he could jump. His wife came to see him when she got out of the hospital. She was dirtier than he was and even more unimpressed with his aim. “Way to blow it, William Tell. All I wanted was to die.”
He said, “Didn’t William Tell hit his target?”
“Can’t I just die already?” she asked a guard at the jail. The guard gave a straight answer like the living are known to do, and told her, “No.”
The jumps petered out after a dozen more, but nobody really felt better. It just didn’t seem like a viable option to anyone anymore. The clerk was especially confused. All those last meals of Fun Dip and Funyuns. He began going home each night and eating baked potatoes slathered in butter with dollops of sour cream speckled considerably with salt and pepper. He grilled thick rib-eye steaks and New York strips and put bacon on almost everything, zested citrus fruit on everything else. It was so easy to do that one thing right, to lie down in a casket with your gut heavier than gravity.
Some girl came in sometime near the end of everything and bought a Whatchamacallit and a yo-yo. “Know any tricks?” the clerk asked her, pointing to the yo-yo, a Duncan Imperial Butterfly that had been sitting on the shelf for years.
Her eyes were puffy and red from crying and her cheekbone was swollen on the right side of her face. She had a hairline fracture around the base of her eye-socket. The doctor asked her where it hurt earlier on in the day and she pointed to her heart and said here. “Why would I buy a yo-yo at a gas station if I already knew enough about them to do tricks?” She dumped her change into the penny tray and walked out the door, winding the yo-yo tight with the smell of juniper and chocolate buzzing off her tongue.
Chloe Caldwell, much like a John Cheever story, is from a small town in upstate New York. Her musical crush is Will Sheff of Okkervil River. Her writing is often hyper-sexual and intense, and, if I can say so myself, she's quite the emotional little firecracker. Her first book, the essay collection Legs Get Led Astray, will be released in the spring of next year by Future Tense Books. In the meantime, you can keep up with her at her website and her weekly "Love & Music" column at The Faster Times. She ran the site Sleep.Snort.Fuck. where I had an essay accepted for publication around the time things fell apart over there. The archives are still up, though, so get reading. Chloe was really nice when I wrote to her, so I'm glad it wasn't in person, because girls make me nervous and I most likely wouldn't have had access to a chemistry notebook with which to cover up my unsightly erection. In our correspondence, I had to go back and delete the "DeVille" I kept compulsively writing after the "CC" I used to address her.
Become a fan of Our Band Could Be Your Lit on Facebook.
Contribute your own story to Our Band Could Be Your Lit.
Next week: A story based on "Love" by John Coltrane, as suggested by musician Steve Marion of Delicate Steve.
Click the button below to submit this story to the StumbleUpon search engine.