Lee woke on a Monday. His hands shook while he tried brushing his teeth. He cursed silently and intellectually and sat. He cursed the thought of never being able to sit still for his constant hand-shaking. His heart could not rest, nor his mind. He sat and thought while he shook in silence with the sound of the shaking and the sound of his furious shaking-mind always turning and never resting. He thought about how he would shake all week and wake up the next Monday with the same pain-frustration and mind-shaking and unrelenting body-shaking. Thoughts of living another week in shaking and another week without stillness of body or mind or soul. Thoughts of another week of doctor visits and medication. Thoughts of careless curse-smiles and unanswered questions and unease. Lee despised the thought of next Monday.
Lee felt trapped in shaking, shaking bones.
He collected important items in his room in Ziploc bags. Readings, writings. Farm information. Money and stock market game-money information. He organized into bags. He put bags in dresser drawers. He shook in pain of hand and pain of mind. He stopped to think but only thought of next Monday. He continued shaking.
Lee grabbed wallet with no money or card-money or any nourishment. Wallet only contained identification with an index card of numbers to call. The wallet was also placed in a Ziploc bag before it was placed in his breast pocket. He found a piece of notebook paper and pen and an envelope.
He sat down at the dining room table as for a meal. He wrote to Shirley a letter.
Dear Shirley, you have been a perfect wife to me. I am unable to perform basic tasks like brushing my teeth and tying my shoes. I am no longer in control of my body. I refuse to live in this state that has been forced upon me. Love, Lee.
He used simple words inspired by complex minds and war-worlds and strategy-drawn decisions and childhood spent locked out of houses without food and day-hunger and being traded between parents like pets and honor-tradition and disappointment, explanation, evaluation, promotion, and self-taught mind-intelligence and wonder of life-questions and God-conversations and open-eye prayers, learned-love aspirations and strong wills and water-eyes and tearless cries and smiles and grandchildren and never-dreams of Yellow Trees, fantasy, castles, kingdoms, knighthood, and farms and heat and cold and rain and money and earnings and no-control and belly-shaking and body-shaking and mind-shaking and shaking. Simple words signed and sealed in an envelope for Shirley and left in the kitchen for her eyes to see. Eyes weary from time and a life of love and a Monday of work.
Lee loaded his pistol and left. But he mostly shook and he had shaken while writing the letter. He left behind small sloppy child-handwriting as evidence of his devolution. But mostly his mind shook.
He walked through the neighborhood the same way he walked with the dog. He realized he had forgotten to say goodbye to the dog. He turned to go back then stopped. He decided he didn’t need to go back—there were a thousand, thousand dogs that he would never speak to, let alone say goodbye to. He passed dogs while he walked and past signs of images of faces of fathers and mothers and dead wives and grandchildren. Faces disappointed and hurting. Faces laughing, mocking. Faces with eyes watched Lee as he moved through the world to a large bush behind the tennis courts. He thought himself a martyr. He felt guilty or nothing at all. He looked around. No one was around except the faces with eyes and without voices. He felt alone. Faces began to disappear. He felt silence except for the sound of finger-skin constant-rubbing while his hands shook. He felt alone and he was now actually alone.
He decided he wanted to be happy. He thought of Shirley. But he thought of being with Shirley next Monday and he died.
He did not pray, for he did not know a God. He did not speak, his mind shook and his hands shook. But he did think of eternity and he asked questions. He asked questions that he had asked before. Questions answered in answer-books over years of intellect. Questions still to be answered. He was frustrated. Lee felt excited to find answers. Mostly, he wished to no longer shake in body or in mind.
He cried fearless, tearless cries through failing eyes, shaking eyes, and never spoke. He didn’t think of love or things he didn’t know. Only rest. Only stillness. He didn’t smile, but he thought of stillness while he thought and cried and shook. His mind shook and hand shook and he entered a shake-chaos like wind. He continued thinking and shaking and thinking about shaking and thinking about shaking Monday and shaking for an eternity and he wanted stillness and he needed stillness and he needed peace and to stop his mind-shaking and stop his body-shaking and his mind and body shook and his eyes were mad. He disregarded strategy. He put the barrel under his chin and his hand shook. He was still.
Families and adults without children heard sound and made easy talk-jokes about hunting season and muskrats chewing through pontoon boat wires. Children didn’t hear sound.
After a few hours, Lee’s body stiffened in the burnt-grass and tangerine-mud behind the tennis courts.
Image by Jonny Lindner from Pixabay
5 thoughts on “Lee by Cooper Woodham”
An honest bit of work. One can easily see how a person with what sounds like Parkinson’s would want to end it, even though, if given a choice, would remain alive.
Death isn’t to be feared; the hideous afflictions that preceed it are the true monsters.
Like any sentimental fool, I wanted him not to do it: What a terror to wake up in eternity shaking. That would be a Shaking Hell: that’s a song by Sonic Youth. I like the language, it is highly idiosyncratic, even sounds like a non-English speaker narrating, perhaps a native-Yiddish speaker. I like idiosyncratic; in this age of styleless stuff turned out by writing workshops it’s good to see personality in writing. Thanks
I think that’s why Robin Williams killed himself, he had Parkinson’s disease. Very intense inner mind reveal. “He left behind small sloppy child handwriting,” very vivid line that shows his “devolution.” He needed stillness… that’s what stood out for me. It sounded like he wasn’t shaking enough to drop the gun, and decided to end it before that time came.
I always thought that Cancer was our total nightmare but Parkinson’s, Dementia and MND are up there.
We get a helluva lot of stories around this type of subject matter and it is a credit to your story that we have chosen this one.
All the very best.
(adjective of your choice) Minds sometimes think alike. My guy in “Final Frontier” had kidney failure and liver cancer, loved his wife, and went out with fetanyl and brandy where his body wouldn’t be found. Looks like I can’t submit it to LS now.
Hugh says these stories are common. I suppose there isn’t anything radically new..