As it turned out though, it wasn't even really that difficult. And when Doctor Burke did notify his own physicians pertaining to Pat's suicidal condition as promised, well, it was like he had placed a 'HELP WANTED' sign on his old buddy's chest. Enter Chuck, the affable African American male nurse who prowled the graveyard shift every other night.
"Hey, Pat?" Chuck said. "I heard you was lookin' to off yourself. Is that right?"
Pat grinned. But then his tone turned deadly serious. "You know anyone who wants to make a quick fifty grand?"
Pat marveled at the way Chuck's sinewy biceps bulged as he dialed the phone number. Muscles which actually worked. What a strange concept that was to him these days. Chuck held the receiver up to Pat's ear. He instructed his accountant to draft up a check for fifty thousand dollars.
"What the Hell for, Pat? You're not even out of the hospital yet, are you?" The voice on the other end of the line asked.
"I'm not really in the mood for questions today Randy. Just have one of the board members sign it, and send it over here right away."
The next day the check arrived, packed in a 8 1/2 by 11 envelope which said 'FeDex' on the side of it. Then, and this was the part that Pat loved, one of the doctors, who was supposed to participating in his suicide watch, readily signed for it. He did not ask Pat what was inside. He did not even offer to open it up. Which Pat thought was downright rude, himself being a quad and all. Pat did not even have to use his ready made excuse about a real estate deal.
The next evening Chuck ripped open the colored cardboard container and fished around inside it. He stared at the check's dollar amount in awe. Pat said, "You can put anyone's name on there that you like, Chuck." Chuck just continued to stare at the valuable piece of paper. "If I were you, I'd try and disguise it somehow. Though some legitimate business or charity. If you know someone like that you can trust for a cut." Chuck didn't seem to be listening. Of course it had occurred to Pat that whoever cashed that check would come under considerable scrutiny from authorities. They would be anxious to find out why someone had supplied a quadrapeligic with cyanide, mixed with just a dash of Cherry Coke for flavor, and complete with a convenient ready to suck straw. He didn't know if this threat had dawned on Chuck and Co. and he really didn't care. Subconsciously, he thought that maybe he wanted these idiots to get caught. They were going to murder him after all. Perhaps that's why he'd given them a check instead of just dreaming up an excuse to have someone bring him over the cash. Either way, it wouldn't make much difference to him. He would be long gone by then.
"All right!" Chuck said finally. While still holding up the document. "My main man. Gonna be sorry to see you go, though." Pat blinked. "Somebody be bringin' you your juice soon." Chuck said through a hangman's smile.
"Well I'm sure it won't be Anita Bryant." Pat quipped. Keeping in tone with his ill humor.
"Haa!" The muscular Chuck snickered, before countering with a wisecrack of his own. "It's not just for breakfast anymore."
He walked out with the check and that was the last Pat ever saw of the sculpted Chuck. He wasn't worried that the big man wouldn't go through with it. With himself gone, that would just be one less person who knew about the grisly mission. No, soon one of Chuck's secret agents, who would probably be just some bumbling orderly, some weak drone barely beginning to grasp at the reality that he or she did not possess the charisma or the steady hand needed to practice medicine. So instead they would bring him the ticket he so desperately needed to punch. Then he would make the Reverend Jim Jones and the ghosts of Guyana puke green with envy. At least they had the chance to swig their poison swill. He was going to take his medicine like a real man: through the straw.
Pat had never really contemplated the afterlife before now. He had always felt that he was still young enough that he could avoid any theories on the subject. So much for that aloofness now. He'd been baptized and raised as a Catholic. Tom had been right about that much. But Anna and he hadn't really been practicing. He personally hadn't been to church in over a year. And honestly couldn't remember the last time he'd been to confession. It was not that he didn't believe in Jesus, Mary, or the Saints. It was more like he just didn't have any spare time for them. He was not pompous enough to imagine that he could ever enter into Heaven. "A camel has a better chance of passing through the eye of a needle then a rich man has of entering into the Kingdom." Wasn't that phrase in the Bible somewhere? He was sure he'd heard some similar line before. And he was rich. He'd always been wealthy. His father had owned three shopping centers for Christ's sakes. But would that really be enough to keep him from basking in Paradise? Maybe not. But if he were to be judged by his actions alone, he may hit a snag there too.
Pat had known this wacky, raving anarchist in College, Paul. God, he hadn't thought about that guy in years. Anyway, Paul contended that anyone who aspired to the acquisition of material possessions was a practicing Satanist. He said this concept was one of the cornerstones of the Black Bible. Under this assumption, they may as well just reserve Pat a suite overlooking the Styx River right now. All his married life Anna and he had strove to garner Worldly Riches. The finest and most expensive cars, homes, properties, jewels, vacations, you name it. They had even been ruthless in their quest for the attainment of these luxuries, often stepping on the faces of their peers, demonstrating a brash form of one-up-man-ship. Wouldn't this gluttony be a worse sin than suicide? Would a human being's soul really be kicked off the bridge just for killing themselves? How, and by whom would all this be determined? Would God have time to piously oversee each individual case? Or did these celestial beings operate under the same time and space continuum? Would there be some sort of trial or procedure in front of the Pearly Gates? With Saint Peter dressed in a snow white judge's robe, sitting on a sparkling marble bench which glimmered like salt. As a lifetime of sins were projected for the benign jury like a slideshow. The accused squirming like a schoolgirl who has to urinate seven minutes before the period bell, averting his glance from the rated NC- 17 movie on the screen. Then Saint Thomas pulls a golden lever and flushes the floor. Condemning the guilty to tumble down a circle slide to the abyss below. That whole scenario just seemed a might grandiose to him.
But the most important question was one which he had heard posed on the radio, by a Southern Evangelist while Pat had been driving through the State of Georgia: "Would a loving God really condemn his poor misbegotten subjects to eternal fire just for not manifesting his will on Earth?" You're God Damn right he would! That was the one undeniable fact that Pat was sure about.
Actually, it was difficult for Pat to envision the tar pits of Hell in any kind of literal sense. He wondered if he would be a speeding wraith, flying down to some fuzzy dream world? Or would it all seem as rich and clear as a typical trip to your local Wendy's hamburger chain? If you just looked at the stereotypes alone, they were outlandish, outrageous and larger then the the life that had just ended.
Take the Devil himself. There you have a man, a fallen angel, or a demon if you like. He holds a pitchfork. Has red skin. Horns on his head. A tail with a spade at the tip, and he lives at the center of the Earth. Plus, as a punishment to all wayfarers who may have strayed from God's pious path, or accidently shattered the tablets of his precious commandments, he runs around tossing hot coals on peoples asses and deep frying their privates. Wasn't it all kind of absurd? "The greatest deception that Lucifer ever perpetrated onto mankind was to make them believe that he does not exist." That was not the exact words. But he was sure that he had heard that saying somewhere. Had he fallen under this clandestine misconception?
Ah, he'd heard all that Atheist bullshit. After death, there is nothing. Just an eternity of black emptiness. A permanent and peaceful unconscious sleep. This scenario was particularly appealing to him, although, unfortunately for his tormented psych, he did not believe this could be true. He was forced to subscribe to the axiom that once the brain was suffocated and the heart arrested, yes, the body would surly give in to decay and rot. But the celestial energy which had enlightened that mind could never completely die. The individual human soul or spirit, the force which commandeered all thought, should have to whimsically rise or fall, depending on the righteousness or the wickedness demonstrated by the flesh capsule it was forced to abandon. Simply evaporating into a tranquil void just did not work as a plausible explanation the way he dreamt it.
Anyway, he'd find out soon enough. He'd read somewhere once that human beings who were suffering from suicidal depression, often felt a titanic sense of relief when they decided on a definite mandate to end their own lives. No, not some half-hearted, attention craving 'cry for help' with a hand full of pills in their mouth, and the rest spilled beside the bed. But a thorough concrete plan. A blind date with the Grim Reaper. Where friends or family members would later recall, after the fact of course, that the symptoms of their bleak condition would lesson and their mood would substantially improve in their last days. Like the weight of a tractor trailer being lifted from their exhausted shoulders. Safe in the knowledge that all their sadness and misery would be exorcised in one agonizing ejaculation of the soul. Pried free from the body like milk suddenly punched from the tin by a rusty and revolting steel can opener. To hang in the air momentarily like smoke from an unfiltered cigarette. Only to fly far away into the sky like a helium balloon some wee child had lost their tiny grip on.
Pat certainly felt that he fell into this category. He was intoxicated with relief. For the first time since the accident, he figured on getting a good night's sleep. He would have lain his head down, but of course, it was already down. So instead, he simply closed his eyes.
The coldness of the water was a shock to Pat's toes. The wind had been so warm as they'd rode out on the boat, the remarkable view of the Maui coastline taking their breath away. While the churning turquoise waves rushed up to meet the runny mascara sunrise, Pat mounted the ladder. Which was really not much more than a tangle of knotted ropes. Now he was entirely submerged in the salt water. The cumbersome and heavy 'Ocean Walk' helmet suddenly felt as light as soft music in the waltzing waves. The Sea water came right up to his chin and then stopped, halted by the air pressure just as the instructor had claimed. There really was no way that he could look up with the clumsy apparatus weighing down his brain, but he sensed that Anna was right above him on the rope ladder. The sunlight which had freckled the surface began to lose reception as they descended into the waxy blankets of the depths.
His bare feet met the coarse sand of the sea bed, and once again he was shocked by the sharp sensation of the ocean floor. It was as if millions of miniscule shavings of glass, copper and metal were stinging his heels. He stepped away from the rope ladder, his actions impeded by the thickness of the salt water. Like someone trying to escape from a predator in a dream, only to wake up in the tangled death grip of a king sized comforter.
They had placed some little stepping stones throughout the diving area, along with some phony native statues and other fake artifacts to entertain the tourists. But Pat could not be too upset by their wasted efforts, even as shards of the artificial began to wear through. There was too much natural beauty, that could not be mimicked, to offset their unnatural array. The lava red coral and green rocks which sprouted sharp barnacles. The walking crabs and scooting sea snails who frequented the otherworldly plant life. Sights which could not be tainted by attempts to commercialize them.
Anna had stepped off the rope ladder now, and her long dark hair jutted out from underneath the border of the helmet. The strands swam in directions all their own like the dim purple tentacles of some stunning, living octopus, before settling in the waves like the stillness before a photograph. She had a huge smile on her comely face, which was magnified all the more by the hard plastic visor. This made her head look as if it were on a thirteen inch television. The unintentional special effect made her teeth seem even brighter. Until they burned as white as as a polar fire. Or the purest pearl pried from the mouth of some unsuspecting clam. Victimized by any self respecting, tanned Lanai islander.
Pat suddenly caught a glance of quickness out of the corner of his eye. It startled him briefly before he realized that it only one of the scuba divers giving him a thumbs up sign. He returned the gesture as practiced back on the dock. This indicated that he could breath OK. Even though they had been assured that there were no sharks in the Bay, he still kept hearing the theme from 'Jaws' in his head. And he halfway expected to look over and see a Great White as big as a pickup truck at any moment. After Anna had also flashed the silent thumb message, the frog man headed for the surface. Which was really only about twelve or thirteen feet away, since they were being allowed a ridiculous berth in accordance with safety. But hey, they were amateurs and it was fun.
Anna was holding something in her hand. As she swam closer to him, Pat could see that it looked like a water bottle. He wondered why she would need a canteen since they were under the Ocean? Then she tilted the cylinder sideways and some tiny chunks of soaked bread squirted out. They hung in the Tropical aqua like popcorn in a radically slowed frame. It was such a stunted suspension for the deluged croutons that it would have been magic had they been standing in their customary oxygen.
Anna's gorgeous smile lit the deep, as she twirled in a slow circle, emptying the contents of the bottle. The heavy H2O gracing her with the control of a ballerina. Suddenly, during a great rush of color, Pat realized what it was she had been doing. Hundreds of small fish surrounded her in a quickening dervish of Honolulu hues, devouring the torn food she had sprayed out for them. They looked as if they had been painted with the roasting spittle of a volcano, a lava coating which had cooled down to many fresh shades unknown to the untrained eye. Bronze, coral, teal, mahogany, flamingo pink, zebra, tan and mint, purple and peach. All of these colors had eyes. They could duck, dart and pursue. They rose and circled Anna's lovely form like dollars in one of those game show wind machines. Pat stepped towards his new wife and tried to catch one. But the creatures swam away from him like they were on fast forward, while Pat felt as if he were moving in slow motion. The tiny life forms had instantly endeared themselves to him. He admired their natural decoration and fluttering chutzpah. Anna's smile beamed at him through the clear murk. The fish celebrated her like animated confetti. Pat wanted to move closer to her. To be with her. But the heavy salt water would not let him move his arms and legs. It was as thick as syrup. But the water it was.... it was as.. he tried to... thick as syrup... the water it was as thick as syrup ... it was as ... couldn't move ... can't move... the water was as ....
Well, Tom was right about another thing: the crap sure did hurt going down the old funnel. It didn't really taste all that bad when it first hit the tongue. Or even as it soaked into the taste buds. Certainly no worse than the worthless tonics and elephant sized pills the callous nurses had been cramming down his throat. In reality, his lethal waiter was not an orderly. In fact he did not seem to be associated with the hospital at all. Evidently Chuck had gone outside the building to find his delivery boy. Not bad thinking. Maybe the simpletons would get away with his money after all. But Pat still didn't think so. There would just be too many lose ends to cover. And he was still confident that the perpetrators would spend the rest of their lives, or at least many years, in prison.
The kid was very skinny. And he looked much too young to be completely bald on top. He walked in and glared at Pat with sagging eyes. His face did not do a very god job of masking a neurotic nature. A questioning look wrinkled his prematurely old forehead. He acted like he wasn't sure if he had the right room. Or if he was embarrassed to ask Pat if he was the man who wanted to kill himself. But before Pat could answer the speculation in the courier's eyes the kid said. " I think this is for you."
Pat noticed for the first time that he was wearing rubber gloves. The hit nerd propped a 32-ounce 'Wendy's Old Fashioned Hamburgers' thermos onto Pat's still chest. Then, with his covered hands shaking, he guided the straw in between the invalid's parched lips. Then without saying another word, he hastily walked out of the hospital room. Pat never saw him or anyone else again.
To be concluded ...