All Stories, General Fiction

The Final Frontier by Doug Hawley

Sally got home from her nature guide conference after being gone for a week.  She was surprised to see an envelope with her name on it in Duke’s handwriting propped up on the phone.  He used to send her little love notes, but with his recent problems, he had dropped the habit.  Could he finally have some good news?

“Sally, there is no way to make this easy.  I’ll be dead when you get this.”

After the first line, Sally sat down and started to cry.  It was five minutes before she could resume reading while still sniffling.

“I didn’t tell you how painful and humiliating the first dialysis was.  You may think that I had some hope of getting a kidney transplant.  I was able to keep other health problems from you that ensured that I wouldn’t be around long.  I also have liver cancer.  No idea why I bothered with dialysis, I won’t be around long, so why keep hurting when the end is near?”

“You were too good to tell me ‘I told you so’, but I certainly deserved it.  Every time you tried to keep me from smoking, drinking and overeating, I fought you.  The hacking and coughing, the blood in the urine, there was nothing that I wouldn’t ignore.  It is all on me.”

“Besides trying to protect me from myself, you were so good to me in so many ways.  When the DMV wanted to pull my driver’s license, you went to bat for me to keep my license.  When I wanted to invest half of our money in my crazy brother-in-law’s get rich scheme, you talked me out of it.   You saved me from having the crap beat out of me by the neighbor that hated the loud music I played in the backyard.  Eddie forgave a lot for your scrumptious apple pie.”

“If you knew how dire my situation was, you probably would have wanted a few more weeks together, but you know what a whining baby I am.  I would have been miserable, and I would have made your life miserable.  That is why I’ve been on my best behavior the last few weeks.  No whining about your hair or the time you spend on the phone.  Finally, I’m acting as I should have all the time that we have been married, so I hope that I get a few points.”

“You shouldn’t have to deal with the grim details.  I will take a bus out to the Gorge and get off somewhere, and then climb up, avoiding trails as much as possible.  Do you remember I wondered if there was any place in Oregon no one had ever set foot?  I hope to find such a place where I’ll never be found.  I was able to get enough fetanyl to kill me.  Remember how much better I felt at emergency when I got it in the IV?  I hope that and the brandy I’m taking will get me a feel-good passage to oblivion.”

“I loved you since we met.  You deserved better than me.”

Sally dried her eyes and burned the note.  If Duke’s idea was to disappear without a trace, she would do her best to honor his wish.  She would report him missing with no idea what had happened to him.

Doug Hawley


4 thoughts on “The Final Frontier by Doug Hawley”

  1. Doug–

    You were able to do this simply, with taste, no sentimentality. When I first saw this I had to wonder why Sally would leave her sick husband alone for a week. Then I got the idea that she knew at some level…Not specifically, but had the general idea. It’s a brave and risky little piece that might ring true with a not surprising amount of people. Well done.


  2. Hi Doug,
    I quite like how this plays with our ideas of him being selfless / selfish. The perception changes a few times whilst going through the story.
    I also liked that there was no mention of insurance which in a way could have taken this somewhere else. Now that could have been interesting but I prefer to be left with the changing ideas of him being selfish or not.
    The way that it was left meant that depending where this was set, he’d be declared legally dead after whatever time had passed. That also gives us something to consider.
    I suppose clarity and expression depends on the person, so I’m happy to accept any take on a suicide note.
    As interesting as you are my fine friend!!


  3. About insurance and suicide – I worked as an actuary. We followed the correct use of insurance – get it for something needed. In our (Doug & Sharon) case, when we didn’t need insurance to get by, we dropped ours years ago. I assumed the fictional couple had none. A different, earlier version of the story had no mention of wife burning note. Insurance payment after suicide depends on rules within a given USA state. Usually payment will be made if the suicide occurs long after the insurance is purchased. If the couple got a large policy shortly before death there probably would have been an investigation. The comments here showed the story could have gone a different way, but I had no intention of fraud. Thanks.

    The specifics here are not about me, but generally this is a love note to my editor. She has put up with me much as Sally put up with Duke.

    I mentioned this to Leila or someone. When I wrote the story four years ago, LS had just run a similar story, so I held off on submitting it here until recently.

    Liked by 1 person

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