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Black Swan Song

Every one wants to go out like the finale in a fireworks show.

But in the Gutter, just wanting something doesn't make it happen.

Black Swan Song by Peter Beckstrom



For someone so shrewd, Francis had a foolish plan to get the attention he was due: kill himself. Not one for the fervor of religion, Francis knew he would be unavailable to enjoy the attention his death would rouse.  Nevertheless, he would enjoy this final, perverse snub while still above ground.  In every office, one person is singled-out from the others to project their frustrations upon.  Francis was this person.  They projected by ignoring.  For Francis, being ignored was worse than being insulted.  His coworkers did not harbor a malicious hatred toward him, no, it was an aloof kind of a simmered resentment.  Francis was the type to share each triumph, discover every flaw, and know something about everything. 

Francis bore crooked lips (the result of a glass blowing mishap at fat-kid summer camp) that gave him the appearance of grinning even when he was not; he fought the gravity of his obesity with good posture, and; he wore pinstriped, tailored suits the same way an angrily tossed brick would wear broken glass.  Francis advertised for attention—unsuccessfully—because he was above asking for it.  It would be on his terms or not at all.

Despite his many irritating idiosyncrasies, Francis gleamed through in his thoughtful, studied approach to his workload; when filing taxes for his neighbor, the yoga instructor, without charge, and; when bringing garbage to the curb for his elderly landlord each week.  What people did not know—and Francis did not advertise—was his hobby: he collected suicide notes.  Of everything we say or write— in the entirety of our lives—no words entice more attention than our first and last.
              
A suicidal person’s concern is not the variety of stationary to pen their final thoughts upon, but simply to write them down.  Consequently, they are written on whatever is within arm’s reach: crumpled napkins, a torn label from a square of Jack Daniels, or even the back of an electrical bill.  When Francis decided to bestow his final kiss to the gum-dotted pavement beneath the top floor of his building, he would leave not only his own note, but also every note in his collection.
Francis made this decision shortly after Thursday’s bi-weekly meeting. He’d arrived early (foregoing his 10:15 snickerdoodle/Sudoku break) with a yellow legal pad and two blue, crystal Bic pens (one of them was nearly spent and he feared it may run dry at any time).  Francis slid his mass into the chair opposite to the door of the conference room.  One-by-one they entered and one-by-one, deftly—like flies dodging a swatter—they avoided eye contact.

Crestfallen, Francis spent the remainder of the meeting scratching at the yellow pad with the tip of his blue pen hoping it would run dry so he could ceremoniously uncap his extra (this would surely gain an involuntary glance).  The ink flowed without interruption. Thursday’s bi-weekly ended.  Everyone filed out. This had been the final wrong for a man whom things just went wrong too many times.

Francis flipped back five pages on the legal pad (his pen scratching had marred the overlying pages) and wrote his final words. Those words were as forgettable as they were profound. It was a worthy addition to his collection, the capstone of a seasoned suicide scholar.
              
The following morning, sobbing, his face pumping sweat and tears into the aqueduct creases plowed into his cheeks, Francis carried a ream of mismatched paper bound in a pale, green rubber band down the central aisle of cubicle row.  It was his collection of suicide notes and on the top was his. The rubber band—taut and saddled by what it contained—had lost its’ color and now resembled the snot channeling down Francis’s slack jowls. For one so burdened, it would be the last thing he would carry.  Francis scraped his feet across the beige Berber in an attempt to garner a glance, a nod, a sneeze, anything to assure he was worth a mere scintilla of headspace. Nothing. Alone, he took an elevator to the building’s crown.
              
At the lip of the crown, quivering, never to be ignored again, Francis wheeled the ream of suicide notes into the space over the busy avenue below.  Absorbed in the solemnity of his act, he had forgotten to remove the rubber band.  The notes threaded through the moon roof of a Range Rover scudding west over the avenue, the glass yielding with a pop and peppering the driver with crumbs of tempered glass. The Rover’s tires hissed as they slithered to a stop along the asphalt.  The driver exited, and snapping a hand salute over her eyes, squinted upwards.  A crowd begins with a single, attentive person thought Francis—relieved. 


Peter Beckstrom is a writer masquerading as a law student because he has concluded that writing does not pay nearly well enough to support his bibliophilic tendencies, woodworking, nor monthly repairs to his Dodge. If inclined, you can find more of his work at O-Dark-Thirty and DogzPlot amongst other journals.