The Refrigerator of a Man Who’s about to Kill Himself
[Trigger warnings: suicide, dysfunction]
Willhelm Frederickson was 47 years of age. He had lost his husband in a sledding accident and his two daughters to some cult over in mainland Europe. He still kept pictures of the family around, but at the moment all the framed photographs faced downward or kissed the wall, as he did not want them to see him crying so much.
Sometimes, despite him never acknowledging it, and despite how it had been more than seven years since he saw them last, he received mail from them. He referred to those letters as ransom notes, and it always took him more than a week to read them; some time ago he’d lost almost all the emotions of this ritual but he still kept it up.
It went: decide not to read the damn letter, because he knew it would bring out the dark thoughts from the dismal parts of his mind. Throw them into the trash. Wait two or three days with a feeling of anxiety constantly tugging at his sleeves and his collar, eventually grab the wretched letters from the trash just before the garbage truck arrives. Leave them in a cupboard, somewhere ‘easy to forget’ among a million other papers and envelopes. Wake up crying in the middle of the night a few days later, make a mess out of all his personal letters, looking everywhere but where he knows the letters are, hoping to tire himself out. When dawn arrives, read the letters several times over and get the gun out from the closet.
Willhelm kept it in a shoe box, because the thought was that he would wear it one day.
Generally, the ransom notes came three times a year. This year, the first one came two weeks before winter solstice. He hadn’t been expecting it, but the ritual took over the steering wheel. He suspected that his subconscious protected him somehow, with the ritual. Prepared him for the blows, pulled the gun away from his temples, shielded him from the worst of the impact.
He could never write a suicide letter. First, he didn’t have anybody to address it to, second, he didn’t know what to say. “I am overcome by such strong emotion that it is time to end my life now, goodbye”? “Signed, Willhelm Frederickson”? No, that was altogether too suspicious. No police officer, inspecting the corpse of Willhelm, would say, “oh, this is just a regular suicide, the man had nothing to live for and thus he died. Case closed, good work everybody.”
Willhelm’s death would be mystifying. Because he had friends, and he had a job – he drew three different comic strips for newspapers all over the country. He lived comfortably. And, worst of all, he had food in his fridge.
“Does this look like to you, Greg,” the police officer of his mind’s invention said, pointing at the uneaten ham, “like the refrigerator of a man who’s about to kill himself?”
The answer was, of course, no. No, officer Pebbleston, you’ve stumbled onto a mystery here – let us investigate.
Willhelm couldn’t have that. So today, he would cook the ham, and eat it all. He’d need potatoes with it, and a bottle of good white wine. Why on Earth had he bought such a big ham, though? He wasn’t having any friends over. He cursed himself, muttered and complained, but he went to the store to get potatoes and wine. There was a deal, where you could buy two bottles of the wine he liked, for the price of one. It wasn’t a good wine, by anyone’s standards, but his husband had taught him to like it.
With the shoe box on the table, Willhelm ate until he felt his stomach bulge, and threw the rest of the food – not too much, definitely below the ‘leftovers’ threshold, he thought, and put what was left of the wine bottle he’d opened back in the fridge.
Fuck, Willhelm thought, eloquently, staring at what was in his fridge now. Anybody who knew him, and there would be many that the police could talk to, knew that wine was all symbolic to him.
“In light of that information, Greg,” said the imaginary policeman, “this does not at all look like such a refrigerator, does it?”
And so the treadmill turned, until he put the shoe box away in the closet again.
I’m glad this story was recommended in another persons comments on the W&A site.
Willhelm’s struggle to evade his ritualistic process of self torture, which he inevitably desires, was thought provoking. The mental check list of problems which would turn his death into an investigation gave the sense that he was stalling for time. Till the box was away, till a loved one could empathise, till he had the courage? Very powerful with so few words.
Thank you, Barry.
I’m glad you like the story, your reading is pretty much entirely like I intended it to be read. :)
What is the W&A site, if I may ask? Where’d you hear of this? Can’t recall such an acronym.
I want to comment but I think I’m too boring to do so. So I will just say this; Evanesce. Because it the best word I know of, and being a verb it’s better than its longer friend the noun, and someone ruined that word by naming a band after it. It’s something life does.