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Before I get started talking about what I did, and why I did, what I did, I need to explain that Harold was no prize. He retired from John Deere because he couldn’t get along with the guy who worked next to him on the line. Not the supervisor, mind you, but the guy next to him. Harold is a bit overweight and balding and overly sensitive about both. The new guy whom he trained and who worked next to him on the line had been teasing him a bit, or as Harold said, “giving me shit all night.” Harold worked the night shift.

It was stupid to let some schmuck get on his nerves, which is what I told him right before he gave up. His retirement checks weren’t going to be anywhere near the amount of his paychecks and the difference had to be made up somewhere, but Harold wasn’t worried. He didn’t pay the bills, I did, and I think he assumed everything would proceed as usual, only now he could sit in the recliner all day watching television until 6:00 when he sat up to eat his dinner atop a TV tray. I, however, was finished.

Although it’s technically possible, even though I’m dead, for me to return to the basement and check to see if my neck was broken or if I just strangled, but why would I? I’d tied a firm knot; climbed on the kitchen stool that I’d lugged down the basement stairs, and jumped. It’s done and as far as I can tell there are no residual effects.  Now that I’m here I’m getting along pretty well, all things considered. When I was alive I thought the worst aspect of dying would be arriving here and not have all my questions answered. Unfortunately, I was pretty much correct. No one here has all the answers, at least the ones I wanted to know, like who really shot Kennedy, where’s Big Foot, and is anything they say on Ancient Aliens true. Nobody here knows.

            Another thing. I have no regrets. I thought I’d regret killing myself or not leaving a note or feel guilty throughout eternity or something momentous and horrifying. Again, I was wrong. No regrets, no recriminations, no guilt, and can I get an amen on that one. I’ve been here a while now, although time and seemingly space are relative as Einstein would agree, and no I haven’t met him. Even though I haven’t quite figured out the where, what, and why of things, their importance has begun to lag. In fact, they’ve quickly become entirely unimportant.

            But here’s the “kicker” as they say. Apparently the marriage contract Harold and I signed some thirty-two years ago is still valid. All that verbiage about “until death us do part,” turns out to be bullshit. The way the folks on this side read it, I had an obligation to take care of Harold until he died, and I shirked my obligation by going first by knocking myself off. Suicide isn’t the issue here. No one cares about when or how you got here, but knowingly shirking your contractual responsibilities on that side causes more trouble on this side than you can imagine. Since it wasn’t “technically” my time, I’m still responsible for my contractual agreements—Harold is my contractual agreement.

            Ironically Harold’s mother is here despite all indications to the contrary. Worst of all, she’s just as ornery, difficult, and condescending as she was when she was alive. When she showed up, the first words she said was, “Where’s Harold?” When I told her he was still living, probably asleep in his recliner at this very moment with the TV blaring, she said, “figures. I told him not to marry you, and here you are without him.” Thankfully she wandered away without another word, and I haven’t heard from her since. However, nothing changes my obligation. I can either supply sufficient evidence to show that Harold caused me to kill myself, that a divorce was in process, or I could find a new wife “to love, cherish, and obey” Harold “until death.” Another woman. Fat chance.

            “This is ridiculous,” I argued. “There must be some caveats to this idiotic rule,” to which I was told I could wait until Harold arrived on this side and all would be well. “Time is relative,” I countered.

            “Remember that,” the little welcome group said as they fled their separate ways.

            “But I’m dead,” I shouted to absolutely no one. I couldn’t find Harold a new wife if I were still alive and bought one. As ridiculous as that sounded, it has been done, hasn’t it? I decided I’d have to check in on Harold.

It didn’t take long for me to locate him asleep in his recliner in front of the television. I noted that he’d exchanged the metal TV tray for a wooden one. Progress.

“Harold,” I whispered, watching for a reaction.

Immediately he sat forward staring at me. “What are you doing here?” he asked.

“You can see me?”

“What do you want,” he continued, now groping his way out of the chair, knocking over an empty coffee cup perched on the edge of the TV tray.

“Get out of my house,” he yelled.

Then, just as I was prepared to explain myself, I felt a sharp tingling and a tug as someone walked straight through me, holding a gun pointed at Harold. As the gun fired, I was knocked back to where I’d come from. Harold was now standing beside me.

            “What happened?” he asked as he turned to me, recognition on his face.

            “You got shot,” I said. “Who was that?”

            “I think it was Gloria’s husband,” he muttered.

            “Gloria?” I asked. “Gloria, from across the street, Gloria?”

            “The same,” Harold said.

            “Tell me you weren’t sleeping with Gloria,” I said.

            “It’s a long story,” he said, “besides, aren’t you dead?”

            “It’s relative, Harold, it’s all relative.”

End

BIO: Pat Tyrer is a writer and lover of literature who hikes the canyons of West Texas watching birds when the sun is up and star gazing when it’s not. She writes and publishes poetry, essays, and short fiction, most recently in Literary Hatchet, Plum Tree Tavern, Bewildering Stories, and Haunted Waters Press.

 

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