This was one of the first short stories that I had “published” – meaning that it was accepted and read aloud on stage by the Liar’s League in London, England, in April, 2010. So I thought I had a hot one that would get quick acceptance in an e-zine or magazine. In fact it took two more years before it was accepted by the BWG Writers Roundtable in March 2012. So goes the life of a fiction writer.
Note: This story handles some delicate issues in an indelicate manner – with bad words, too boot – You’ve been warned!
Hanging With the Neighbors
He was standing on a short stepladder, facing me. The expression on his face said Piss off, this is none of your business. One end of the rope was secured to the overhead garage beam. The other end formed an expert hangman’s noose around his neck.
He kicked away the stepladder just as I stepped through the door.
I surged forward and managed to wrap both arms around his legs to lift up as he hit the end of the rope. There was a sharp jerk and a heavy grunt but I pushed upward with all my strength.
“You OK?” I asked.
I could tell he was alive. We had a delicate balance, me carrying the brunt of his weight, his neck straining hard against the taught rope. I couldn’t raise my head high enough to see his face. In fact, I was talking into his crotch. There was a long moment of silence , then, “What… the fuck… do you… think you’re doing?”
“What the fuck do you think I’m doing?”
“Don’t bother to say thanks.”
“I hope…you’re… not …a pervert.”
“I feel you getting a hard on, I’ll drop you. That a deal?”
“This is a mistake.”
“Hanging yourself, or my stopping you from hanging yourself?”
“Just had a change of mind ?”
“How you gonna get me down?”
I hadn’t given that any thought up to this moment. I was too busy trying to just hold him up. I glanced around the garage. The stepladder out of reach and there was nothing within six feet of us.
“You got a knife on you?” His voice was a hoarse whisper.
“I have a Swiss Army knife, but it’s at home.”
“What if I lift you up? You put your feet on my shoulders, then you can reach the beam to untie the rope.”
“I got a rope cinched tight around my neck and you want me to balance on your shoulders to reach the beam?”
“OK. I’ll lift a little to put some slack in the rope, then you use your thumbs to loosen the knot. Maybe you can pull the noose up and off?”
I pushed up as I high as I could and he inserted his thumbs inside the noose, but the shift in weight made me lose balance and lurch backwards. He gagged with a loud squawk, his eyes popping out like huge marbles as the noose cinched even tighter.
“My… fucking… thumbs… are caught… under the noose!”
“I guess that eliminates trying to reach the beam?”
“This… really… hurts.”
“You were going to hang yourself and you didn’t think it would hurt?”
“I thought… it was… going …to be… a little quicker… than this.”
“Why not sleeping pills? Or gas yourself in your car?”
“I’m… flat broke. Didn’t… want… to waste… a hundred bucks… on fancy sleeping pills… just to kill… myself. And… my car…repo’d… last week.”
I shifted my arms, trying to avoid a cramp.
“Be… careful…will ya?”
“I guess you’re not Catholic?”
“…the fuck… has that… got to do… with anything?”
“Catholics think you go to hell when you commit suicide.”
“I’m about… to die here… and you’re… worrying… about me… going to hell?”
“Sorry I mentioned it.”
“Then…why the hell… bring it up?”
“Just making conversation while we figure out what to do. Why you doing it in Chuck’s garage, anyway?”
“Chuck…away… for the weekend…Had no where else…to go. Why…you here?”
“Chuck said I could use his hedge trimmer. Just get it out of the garage while he’s away.”
“You…friend of… Chuck’s…too? Surprised… we haven’t… met.”
“Just lucky up to now, I guess.”
“What the… hell… does that… mean?”
“Your friend’s away and you hang yourself in his garage? He comes home and finds you hanging. He’s in shock but has to get you down, call the police, explain who you are, then clean up the mess. Who the hell would want to be your friend?”
“Schmuck… deserves this. Got me …into this.”
A ring tone went off over my head. “You gotta cell phone?”
“Who’s ever calling can help us out for chrissakes!”
“You… gonna reach…it? My thumbs…trapped upside… my neck!”
Pure sarcasm. He knew damn well that I couldn’t reach it. The ringing stopped.
“ Probably… the bitch…anyway.”
“That what this is all about?”
“I am… flat as… broke. Lost my job…Bitch says… we ain’t… got a… future …together. No place… to go… except…end of this rope.”
“She sounds a bit shallow.:
“You…a marriage… counselor?”
“If you were in love, you could work it out.”
“Thank you… Dr. Phil…She doesn’t… work…Just a housewife…Her old man …barely… has a pot… to piss in…Wouldn’t get… a dime… if she divorced him.”
“Neighbor…. Chuck… introduced us…Thought we… would be… a real match. …So he deserves to… find me here…stretched out… in his garage… Ruin his day.”
“Does she know you’re this depressed?”
“Saundra… only worries… about herself.”
“yeah…Saundra…Only worries about… herself….No money…no honey…And I ain’t got… no money.”
I shrugged my shoulders, lifting his legs a few more inches, “I don’t think we’re going to make it.”
“What?,,, We’re… not going… to make it? What…does…that mean?”
“I can’t see any way out of this and I am getting tired of holding you up.”
“You…going… to drop me… just like that?”
I dropped him. He bounced and gurgled and danced in the air and turned blue and purple, his eyes bugging out again, then fell silent.
I spent a few minutes looking for Chuck’s hedge trimmer before leaving the garage. I giggled on the way out about Chuck finding his buddy hanging in the garage. How he was going to explain about the thumbs caught up under the noose?
But I was anxious to get home. I couldn’t wait to tell my wife, Saundra, about finding her boyfriend hanging in Chuck’s garage.