7th Annual Short Short Story Competition Winners – Second-place


By Kristene Perron

I didn’t die. I wanted to die, or I thought I did. Aspirin. Who kills themselves with aspirin? So like me. So almost. "Choose your weapon!" Hmmm, let’s see…gun? Messy. Rope? Never could tie a decent knot. Razor? Does anyone even make straight razors anymore? Sleeping pills? I’ve never had problems sleeping but…I do have some aspirin. It will be slow, yes, but (light bulb moment) painless. What a brilliant idea! How has no one thought of this before? Death by painkiller.

So here I am hunched over a bucket staring at what used to be a bowl of Shreddies, a McChicken, large fries, and seventy-eight aspirin. The irony is that I could really use one of them little suckers right now. My gut aches from chucking and my head is ready to blow.

I could use that razor too. Note for future reference: always shave legs prior to suicide attempt. Because you never know.

The Tsk-ers arrive to check on my progress, gauged, I’m guessing, by the level of brown goo in the bucket. "You’re doing great. Tsk tsk, I just don’t know why a girl as young and pretty as you would want to do that. Tsk tsk."

Pretty? Lady have you seen my legs? They’re like two mutant caterpillars. The Tsk-ers, they just say stuff Ôcause they have to say stuff. I feel sorry for them. I don’t have the heart to tell them that on aspirin number seventy-eight I realized my mistake. There were at least twelve more in the bottle but I’d really lost interest in the whole killing myself idea by then. You’d think that the body could easily pass a few stupid aspirin wouldn’t you?

"Your parents will be here any minute, sweety." The oldest Tsk-er rubs my shoulder, a gesture of sympathy that triggers another round of intestinal gymnastics.

My parents! Oh god, oh crap, oh no. I forgot all about them. Of course they called my parents, despite my specific request for them to not, under any circumstances, call my parents. It’s bad enough with the Tsk-ers and Doctor Serious; my parents are going to blow this whole thing out of proportion. Couldn’t they just let me finish my puking and go home?

And here they come, cue the dramatic music. Mom still has her hair net on from the bakery. For the love of god, the woman is even going to embarrass me in the emergency ward. Dad’s expression has changed from polite indifference to angry indifference, as demonstrated by the twenty degree rise of his left eyebrow. He’s out of control today.

Mom is having a reactor meltdown.

"Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, how could you do this to me, Janie? Blah, blah, good parents, blah blah. Blah, sniffle, sniffle, blah, do our best, blah, blah. What did we do so wrong, blah, blah, blah…" and so it goes.

I try to still my undulating intestines at least until Mom has finished her monologue and Dad says his generic, eight word sentence but whatever was in that foul syrup Doctor Serious gave me is some mighty potent stuff. I hurl. This time it feels like my stomach lining is going to come out too. Nothing much is coming out now though. My head wants to split in half down the middle and I’m sweating like I’ve run a marathon.

Looking up I see Mom is no longer crying but Dad is. Actual tears are coming out of his eyes. It’s like…like that advent calendar they bought me one Christmas when I pulled open the first square expecting the same lame, old picture of an elf or something but found a poinsettia shaped chocolate instead. No, maybe not quite the same. The calendar was a good surprise. You shouldn’t feel happy when you make your Dad cry.

In two steps he is right beside me, now he’s kissing the top of my head, I feel tear drops on my scalp. My throat feels hot and tight. What do I say to him? I want to tell him I love him, as corny as that might sound, but my body lurches forward and I’m throwing up again. He rubs my back as I hunch over the bucket between my legs. His hand is so sturdy. I’d eat a thousand aspirins to feel that hand on my back every day.

The Tsk-er is back with Doctor Serious. Dad straightens up and wipes his eyes. They tell them the story in Medical Talk. They speak like I’m not even in the room. I’m not. I’m watching them on a movie. Hit fast forward, make their mouths move faster and faster. Make their motions comical, especially Mom’s constant sniffing and blowing, sniffing and blowing.

But I want to rewind. Go back to Dad’s head on top of mine. Just that moment and press PAUSE.

In their fast-forward language I hear them explain that I’ll be fine. Fine enough to go home in about half an hour even though I’ll probably be sick most of the night. "…no permanent damage…" I could have told them that. Mom reassures them that this is totally unexpected, that I am a good girl, a good student. What are they supposed to say to that? "She is? Quick Nurse Tsk check her charts! Ah ha, yes, our mistake. This is no suicide case; this girl must have food poisoning. Silly us, we totally forgot to check if she was a good student. Can you ever forgive us?"

Five minutes has passed and nothing has come up from the depths, thank you Jesus. My hair is flat from sweat, my legs are furry, my breath smells like egg farts, and my stomach aches like the day I took a ball in the stomach during kickball, but I’m feeling slightly better. My bucket is half full and I interrupt the Grown-Up Conference to ask the Tsk-er if she could get me a new one. She pulls the bucket away and hands me a cardboard tray instead; it’s not much bigger than the kind they give you with your fish and chips at Lumberman’s Arch. I hope the hurling is over.

Don’t think of fish and chips, don’t think of fish and chips, don’t think…ugh… too late. Most of the brown slime is in the tray but I’m going to need a new sheet.

Doctor Serious and the Tsk-er are gone and Dad has left to fetch someone to help clean me up. Mom descends like a vulture on fresh roadkill.

"Why, Janie? Why?" Sniffing and blowing, sniffing and blowing.

Ah, Mom, please don’t ask me that. You know, I can’t even answer that one because I don’t really know. I didn’t really want to die but you’ll never believe that. What did I want? Well, for Shawn not to break up with me two days before summer break for starters or at least for the pain of it to go away. For people to like me, I wanted that. For them to like me without me having to look perfect and act perfect to achieve that. For you to love me even if I don’t get straight A’s, for Dad to put his head on my head and rub my back without me being in a hospital bed.

Mom is disintegrating and I’m helpless to stop it. Like the sand castle I built too close to the shore one summer at White Rock beach. Waves, tears, I can’t fight them.

I want things to be easier. You never told me sixteen was going to be so hard. I guess I wouldn’t have believed you anyway but, come to think of it, you’ve never told me anything much. You tell me lots of stuff but not that I can use; like what to say when the first guy you’ve ever had sex with tells you he doesn’t want to see you anymore, he likes someone else. You’ve never told me what to do when your heart is in a million pieces.

"I don’t know. I’m sorry. I…" Her shaking head stops me. This is just the kind of attitude she expects from me. I wanted to tell her I love her.

"You could have died," she says through her tears.

"But I didn’t," I say through mine.


1. Kathleen Latham, Westwood, Mass.: "3:57 (Night Vision)"
2. Kristene Perron, Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada: "Attempted"
3. Elizabeth Monroe (aka Max Wiley), Ashland, Va.: "Five Minutes After an Earthquake"
4. Benjamin Gleisser, Lakewood, Ohio: "Twitch"
5. Scott Merrow, Albuquerque, N.M.: "The Good Mother"

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