All Stories, General Fiction

Requiescat in Pace by Bill Huey

Patrick Mulcahy awoke with a start after a night of fitful sleep. It was Monday, October 23, and this was the week he would die. On Thursday, October 28, at 3p.m., Patrick Mulcahy, 62 years and six months, would depart this life.

This doleful fact had come to him in a dream, but Pat had always had a knack for prediction, especially for death. He wasn’t a shaman or a mystic, but his gift was prediction. This made many people wary of him, but others flocked to him for predictions about sports, elections, and even the weather.

Being certain of the time and day of his death had its advantages, because it happened soon enough for Pat to enjoy a full life. His work as an actuarial consultant furnished him with both ample time and income, and Pat visited every major league ballpark in the United States. He went to spring training for his beloved Red Sox every spring, and even went to Cuba for the historic game in 2016, as a guest of David Ortiz.

So on the appointed day, Pat went to his usual watering hole, The Corner Bar, and said to Mickey the bartender, “Mickey, I’ll be here for around three hours, then I’ll be leaving for good, so bring me a burger with cheddar and onion rings, plus a PBR and a shot of Jameson.”

Mickey, who had seen and heard it all, cocked his head quizzically. “Leaving for good?”

“Right,” Pat said, pulling a fat envelope out of his windbreaker pocket. “This is a thousand bucks. Keep the Jameson coming, and buy a round for everybody until it’s gone.”

The drinks arrived first.  Pat took as long pull of the beer, smacking his foam-covered lips as he exhaled. Ah, there was nothing like that first taste of a cold beer. Then he knocked back the whiskey. Things were improving.

Mickey sidled over and placed an elbow on the bar, his signal that he wanted parley. “Are you okay, Pat?”

“Sure, now that I’ve had the appetizer,” Pat said, patting the cigarettes in his jacket that he knew he couldn’t smoke.

“Well, that ‘leaving for good’ comment kind of got my attention. What did you mean?”

“Mickey, we’ve known each other—what, 30 years? I don’t want to alarm you, but I don’t want to surprise you, either. I’m going to die today at 3p.m., and I’m going to do it right here.”

Mickey put another shot of Jameson in front of Pat and poured one for himself.

“Pat, I’ve never heard you talk crazy, not even in your cups. How do you know this?”

“I’ve know the date and the time for years, Mick. The only thing I get to choose is the place, and I chose here. I don’t want to die alone at home and stink up the place before anyone finds me.”

“This is nuts, Pat. Nobody knows exactly when they’re going to die, unless they’re on death row.”

“Well, I do. So be prepared to call 911 right after three, and you can probably have me cleared out and the place squared away before happy hour starts.”

The burger arrived along with the crisp onion rings, and Pat dug in like a man having his—well,  last meal. He looked around. The bar was beginning to fill up: Some regulars he recognized, a group of girls, a pair of self-aware hipsters drinking flavored seltzer.

Pat had already decided that he wouldn’t review his life or anything. He had done that thousands of times, and it was what it was: American, solitary except for a few women who didn’t last very long, mostly uneventful. No, for these final few hours Pat would be in the moment, engaging and funny, talking sports and politics the way these barflies loved to do.

At exactly the stroke of one on the big round clock above the carved oak bar, a girl came in. There was only one seat left—next to Pat—and she said, “Anyone here? Mind if I slide in?”

Pat just motioned toward the seat of the chair, smiling. He was getting buzzed, and she was so stunning he couldn’t speak. The girl ordered a shot of Jameson, and when it came Pat motioned to Mickey to put it on his tab.

“You don’t have to do that,” the girl said quickly, unsmiling.

“All Jameson is on me today,” Pat said, raising his glass in a toast.

“Is today special, like your birthday or something?

“Yes, it’s a special day,” Pat said. He didn’t want to spook her; she was too beautiful to scare away.

They began talking about Irish whiskies they had tasted, then moved on to movies, books, the neighborhood, politics and even touched on religion, which made Pat the lapsed Catholic uneasy. Pat glanced up at the clock. An hour had vanished in what seemed like ten minutes.

Just the way it always happens, Pat thought. Meet a girl you could talk to for weeks on end, and you’ve got less than an hour.

“This’ll have to be the last round,” he announced.

“You going somewhere? I thought we were really getting to know one another,” she said, twirling the ends of her hair in the universal signal.

“No, but you are,” Pat said, looking her directly in the eye.

“What are you saying? That I’ve had enough? Or you’ve had enough of me?”

“No, I’m not saying either of those things. But something is going to happen, and you really need to be out of here by 2:30.”

“Are we going to be hit by a meteor?” she said, arching one perfect eyebrow and parting her lips in a slight smile.

“No, I am going to die at 3p.m.”

“You’re going to off yourself? Is that why you’re pounding the Jameson?”

“No, but I am going to die. I don’t know how, but I will. I’ve known this for years.”

Long silence. Sips of Jameson. “I guess if we all knew when we were going to die we’d live our lives differently,” she offered tentatively.

“Probably. I know I changed the way I lived. Less postponement or planning and more immediacy. More impulse, spur-of-the moment choices.

“Yeah, I’m still trying to grow out of that. Weird, huh?”

“Life itself is weird. I think human life must be some kind of experiment. For example, I know there is a less than 1.5 percent probability of my dying within a year, yet here I am about to die in less than an hour.”

“Are you really that sure?”

“Absolutely. So drink up; it’s almost 2:30.”

They clinked glasses and knocked back the whiskey. Then she leaned forward, grabbed his neck and kissed him full on the lips. And then she left without a word.

Pat had never learned her name, nor she his. Perhaps she was a spirit guide, or just a random girl off the street. He fell into a reverie about who she was, where she was from, her likes and dislikes—some of which he knew—and, most of all, those full lips he had kissed. She had given him something: a sense that he was really alive.

Pat looked up at the clock. By God, it was almost five minutes past three! Maybe it’s not true. Maybe I’ll see her again. He slid off the barstool and headed for the door, aiming to smoke a cigarette outside.

He never made it to the door. Pat staggered, went down on one knee, and was dead when he hit the floor.

Hours later, when the commotion and the talk had died down and the drink from Pat’s bequest was flowing, Mickey poured himself one and looked up at the clock.

“That clock was always a little fast,” he said

Bill Huey

Image by Gino Crescoli from Pixabay 

10 thoughts on “Requiescat in Pace by Bill Huey”

  1. Bill
    Really enjoyed this.. It was great not to have figured this one out early–but looking back it could have ended only one way–yet having the clock on “bar time” was a fine little twist at the end.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a story that makes one feel grateful about not knowing one’s check-out time from this life. It’s a weight that could crush the strongest soul. But here’s this man choosing the place and also enjoying the last few hours with drinks, banter, and generosity. The way hope is built up towards the end and the sneaky twist that wipes it away is a brilliant example of destiny flipping the middle finger. Witty, intense, and reassuring. A strange combination. Great writing!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Hi Bill,
    I thought this was well written and it held my interest.
    You do wonder throughout if he is going to die.
    I quite liked that it was all about the time in the bar and there was little mention of past, regrets etc.
    Another way on looking at this after reading Terveen’s comments is watch the film ‘Big Fish’.
    …I really don’t know which way I think on the knowing!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I can relate. Former actuary wrote “Die” about a man who calculated (this was science) that he would die when his styrofoam cup of hearing aide batteries filed up the cup. I’m about 70%-80% now. There’s another about a similar topic appeared here “Half”.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Well, you never know when someone or something will show up to make you want to live, even for an actuarial consultant and ballpark visitor. Pat said he knew for years about his demise, he should’ve adopted his generous carefree persona earlier, he could have had a better time. Who knows how many beautiful women would have come in off the street or out of the blue! Good ending!


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