This bit of fiction has potential suicide triggers.
Hank “Saggy Nuts” McGill wiped his forehead with his bandana and spit on the ground.
“It’s too damn sultry,” he grumbled to his dog Ralph, who looked slowly up at him in response from his place on the old wooden porch of the farmhouse. It was a dog day afternoon and Ralph was too old and lazy to do much more than occasionally sniff the humid air.
“I should’ve sold this place years ago,” he said regretfully, adding his gritty voice to the sound of silence that surrounded him. Since Mildred left him, taking the two kids with her, the property had been as silent as a tomb for 25 years.
A tomb. Well, old “Saggy Nuts” wouldn’t be missed all that much.
Hank took one last look at his loyal dog Ralph, now fast asleep, his old paws kicking like he was chasing a raccoon back in his youthful puppy days.
“Goodbye, old fella. Thanks for staying with me, boy. Even though I’m a rotten son of a bitch,” he laughed to himself, although really, it wasn’t funny at all.
Ralph’s nose twitched, his left eyelid fluttered and then he started snoring. He was 105 years old in dog years, his last days would be spent taking as many naps as possible.
Hank started walking towards the barn, which was now in complete disarray after a few seasons of inattention. All of the animals were gone, sold off to other farms that were still functioning. The ground was covered in dirty hay and what appeared to be cat turds, although there hadn’t been a cat on the McGill farm since the kids were little.
The cat feces made him stop for a second, thinking back to the youngest, his daughter Pearl. Why, she’d be in her late 20’s by now, he thought to himself, his eyes starting to mist over. How she always loved the animals, the goats, chickens, pigs and especially those mice chasing cats.
Never one to be overly sentimental, Hank shook off the memory of his long gone daughter and carried on with his plan. He had marked the calendar months ago. Today was the day and there was no turning back. All of his business was in order, so there was no real reason to hesitate.
The highest beam in the barn already had a noose hanging there. He had climbed up a few months ago in preparation for this day, nobody could ever say that Hank “Saggy Nuts” McGill wasn’t a few steps ahead of everyone else. Even as a schoolboy, Hank always had this homework done and his papers organized, although he was never destined to be a scholar.
His father was the one who gave him a reality check at aged 8.
“Put those books down, son. You’re a McGill. All this will be yours someday.”
“Well, hot damn, ain’t I the luckiest son of a bitch,” Hank whispered, grabbing the ladder that he had used to place the noose right after the last snow of the winter season.
He climbed up slowly, deliberately. As ready as he was for this moment, there was something that he couldn’t pinpoint making him nervous, not the peaceful feeling that he’d been hoping for.
At 66 years old, Hank was still a healthy man who had lived a clean life, unless you count the fact that he drank bourbon like it was water. He hadn’t even touched the stuff until after Mildred left with the kids.
Randy had to be at least in his lower 30’s by now, he realized. He might even have grandkids, who the hell knows? He pictured little children with his nose running up to him in the yard, calling out grandpa as he picked them all up one at a time, a giant smile on his unshaven face.
“None of that matters now,” he whispered, as he put the noose around his neck.
“They found him hanging in his barn,” Flo the waitress divulged to her patrons. She shook her head sadly. “He was the nicest, a true gentleman. He’d come in here every Saturday morning, order three pancakes and a black coffee. Extra syrup.”
Pete Holden took a sip of his coffee. “That he was. I still don’t understand to this day why his wife up and left him.”
Al Peterson wiped his chin. “And what kind of woman takes the kids and just disappears?”
They were all silent for a moment, thinking various thoughts, the kind that people think when something tragic happens.
“They found his old dog on the porch, poor thing was waitin’ on him to come home,” Flo said. “The paramedic adopted him, isn’t that sweet?”
“People sure do come together in a crisis,” Al responded, taking the last bite of his toast.
Pete finished his coffee, while Flo, on autopilot, filled his mug back up.
“Well,” he said,” I think old Saggy Nuts finally cracked. He was never the same after his family left and he started drinking. The farm was his hell, he hated it. But he was also loyal. I went to school with Hank, he was a smart kid, but his dad put the kibosh on that real quick.”
Flo couldn’t help herself. “Why did people call him Saggy Nuts?”
“You should have seen them, then you’d understand. Let’s just say that teenage boys in the locker room are not always nice,” Pete explained.
Despite the sadness that they all felt, the three chuckled. Humor is an integral part of staying sane.
A man in his early 30’s stood in front of the old McGill barn, his pregnant wife standing uncomfortably next to him.
“It’s so damn sultry,” she complained, shifting her weight to her other hip.
“Yes, it was always really humid here,” her slightly dazed husband said. “This is where my dad…”
“I hope you’re tearing it down Randy, it’s creepy.”
Randy McGill flexed his broad shoulders.
“No, I’m going to fix it up, just like my dad had it when I was a kid.”
“I’ll be in the farmhouse. The one that you’re completely remodeling or I’m going to live with my parents.”
Randy watched her walk away, like a pissed off penguin, then turned to look back at the dilapidated barn where his estranged father had taken his life.
It was all his now.
He was going to do the right thing and bring this farm back to life. His sister was dead, in a car accident when she was 18. His mother, not surprisingly, hadn’t been in the will.
She had taken him and his sister to a commune in Southern California. Each day had passed into the next, until he couldn’t even picture his father’s face anymore.
“I’m sorry,” Randy said, wiping tears from his eyes. “I should have come home sooner.”
“Daddy, I found a cat!”
His daughter was running towards him, holding a black cat that looked like he might have fleas.
“So you did, honey. It needs to stay outside for now, okay? Put him down until we can clean him up.”
“Okay, I’m gonna name it after grandpa.”
“Hello, Hank the cat,” Randy said, to his joyful 5-year old daughter and a filthy, mysterious barn cat.
He noticed that she had his father’s nose.
“He says hello back, daddy.”
“But Leah, remember what I told you? Grandpa is…well, he died.”
“He’s right next to me, daddy. He smiling. He says that he’s happy we’re here now.”
Randy squinted hard at his daughter. But all he saw was a precocious little girl standing in front of him, with a bit of dirty straw in her hair.
“Tell him I’m glad.”
Leah giggled. “He knows, daddy.”
Then she saw something that interested her and skipped away, leaving Randy with a weird, yet pleasant chill down his spine.