Reflections Upon My Death

Submitted into Contest #97 in response to: Start your story with an unexpected knock on a window.... view prompt

8 comments

Fiction

The last sound I heard in life was a soft thump on a window. And I’m glad.


If I was a better man, maybe I could say that I wish it had turned out differently, that if I had to die it should have been surrounded by my children, or laying chest to chest with my sweetheart, and maybe if I had planned for Tuesday to be my last day on Earth I could have arranged for it to happen that way, but I can’t change the facts now.


Life happens, that’s what I always tried to explain to Kathy; life just happens and we’re along for the ride and what can you do, but go along with it? You do what you do, the universe does, in some ways, dictate it, and you can’t be held responsible.


I tried to tell her that, on Tuesday afternoon, as she examined my bloody leg. It wasn’t my fault I’d got caught up in barbed wire, I saw something valuable and went after it. That’s my nature, and I’m going to do what I’m going to do, and yes, maybe there are consequences to my actions, but if I don’t follow my gut, then I’m not living. To which Kathy replied that once again, I was being irresponsible and not thinking about the kids who depended on us.


I do think about them. All the time. The insinuation that I don’t is just... well, it’s beyond frustrating, it’s insulting. Even now, the memory of her saying that—and it wasn’t the first time—makes me see red. It’s so emasculating to be accused of being a poor provider, when I got hurt trying to do exactly that: provide. So, I try to explain that, in the calmest way I possibly can under the circumstances, and she snips back that I’m doing that thing where I get mad because she’s mad and I have no right to be mad, and I just. Lose. It.


I have to leave when I get like that, because I don’t want to hurt her or anyone else, so I just go. I’m not sure how many miles I traveled, but the wind in my face always helps clear my head, so I kept going faster and faster. The trees were a green blur as I weaved through them, following the snaking path of the road.


She just doesn’t get it…but she used to. I remember when our relationship began, and it wasn’t too long ago, she and I would go on adventures together and she never tried to tell me to deny my instincts. No, she even liked my instincts, I swear, she thought it was sexy that I went after what I wanted. See, I have no inhibition. Really, I don’t, and when Kathy saw me dance, she laughed, but she liked it. There were lots of guys going after Kathy, and she chose me.


And then, like a stereotypical woman, once we did the deed, she wanted to change me. Have you heard that Faith Hill song, “A Baby Changes Everything?” Well, Miss Hill, try having FOUR babies. At the same time. One night Kathy is a hot young chick, and we’re dancing, and things are spicy in the bedroom, if you catch my drift, and then the next day we’re expecting, and it’s “Trevor, don’t be out late,” “Trevor, be careful,” “Trevor, you’re a father now.”


Don’t get me wrong, I love being a dad, I really do. I fell in love with their scrawny, wrinkly bodies the first time I saw them and they just get cuter every day. I just didn’t think that becoming a parent would mean my relationship with Kathy would fall apart. I love her too, deep down, but she’s become such a nag. I don’t know how to bring back the spark, since everything she used to love about me she now hates.


That’s what was going through my head, as I cruised faster and faster, willing the wind to blow the confused angry thoughts away. It was sort of working. I was calming down at least, as I left the forest and began zooming through a subdivision. I was going too fast for a residential area, and I knew it was dangerous, but I couldn’t bring myself to slow down. I needed the speed. I needed to feel reckless, to feel like myself, before I had to go home and be Mr. Stuffy-Respectable-Responsible-Father-of-Four.


And that’s when I saw it: a gigantic chandelier. It must have been three feet tall and it was hanging in this great big entryway and I had to have it. I knew Kathy would be screaming at me that I have to change my ways but that chandelier was throwing the most insane light reflections all over the walls and it was mesmerizing. I needed to have it, and I decided that if I couldn’t carry the whole thing out I could just take a piece. I could just unhook one strand of crystal and no one would even miss it. Maybe I could hide it, so Kathy wouldn’t know.


In hindsight, I know, it wasn’t worth dying over. I should be more penitent, I should, now that I’m gone, feel more tenderness toward Kathy, but…I’ m just not sorry. Maybe that’s how it works when you die—you’re just stuck with the thoughts and feelings you had in life, just before you crumpled into a heap and floated away from your corpse. At least that’s been the case for me. Because I keep turning the events over in my mind, telling myself I could have done things differently and my kids wouldn’t be crying, and Kathy wouldn’t be wondering what happened to me, and that the chandelier wasn’t worth it, but I can’t change my mind. I would have done it all over again.


I flew toward the chandelier as fast as I possibly could. I only realized my error an inch before I hit the glass, because I glimpsed my own reflection: head bowed, eyes fierce and determined. My beak struck the window first, and the force pushed my head down into my chest. The top of my head made contact with the pane, followed by my right wing, which snapped cleanly in half. I tumbled from the sky, breaking my left wing and my back upon impact with the ground.


Dying didn’t really hurt, I just felt an odd sensation as my soul peeled itself from the inside of my body, like a scab separating from a wound. As I floated up, I saw the owner of the chandelier lean out the window over my broken body and say, “Ah, poor little thing.”


And even now, even though I should know he’s right and I died for nothing, I feel righteous indignation. How dare that guy patronize me. If it weren’t for that half inch of glass, I’d have shown him. I would have taken his chandelier apart piece by piece and built my own personal mansion out of it. Then he’d be the sorry one.


No regrets.

June 11, 2021 06:54

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8 comments

Cathryn V
20:17 Jun 15, 2021

hi Rachel, Well, the reveal at the end clarified a lot! i kept wondering how he was cruising and weaving…like is he running? riding a motorcycle? I love surprise endings. but in this story, without clarity around the protagonist, it felt a little bit like I’d been tricked. i read your note about quick submission… and i can relate!

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07:32 Jun 16, 2021

Cathryn, First of all, thank you so much for taking the time to read my submission, but especially for the comment. It means a lot to me. I'd love it if you would expand on the idea of being 'tricked' by the ending...I certainly was hoping for a pleasant surprise, maybe one that made you laugh or made you want to reread for clues. How would you improve it?

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Cathryn V
17:58 Jun 16, 2021

Hi Rachel, Please understand that i’m not a writing teacher and any ideas i have may not be shared by others. In my writing group, mine is often the odd opinion. i reread the story a few times. The third sentence introduces the character as a man. There’s something called an unreliable narrator and this would be an example of it. the story is funny when i think of this bird having love life similarities to humans. I wonder if you try avoiding specific details that can’t be interpreted any other way than that this is a human… For example,...

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07:22 Jul 29, 2021

Cathryn, My apologies as I've just realized I responded to this in my head weeks ago and never in real life! First of all, I think anyone who is a reader is entitled to an opinion and as I write for readers, yours is as good as any! I thank you for your honest critique. I think you're right that the words "man" and "children" may be too human. It's so hard to walk the line without completely giving it away, but I appreciate your feedback about being the feeling of being tricked. I read a mystery once that made me so mad at the end because t...

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Cathryn V
16:53 Jul 29, 2021

Hi Rachel, I’m glad you could relate to my point! Have a great rest of your day. Happy writing!

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Andrea Magee
11:29 Sep 02, 2021

I loved reading this story! I hade a kool-aid grin on my face once I figured out that Trevor was a bird! Nice spin on the prompt.

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05:23 Sep 11, 2021

Thanks, Andrea! I've never written a "twist" story like this before, and it was fun!

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07:30 Jun 11, 2021

I'm trying to force myself to write and submit stories even when I don't have hours to edit them...so this is a rush job. All critiques are welcome and appreciated!

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