'Try, try, try again,' they say. Hmm... What a Character contest, May 2021.
|His view of the world narrowed, locked firmly on the road ahead; his eyes somewhat widened, as if to increase their focus. Perspiration broke from his forehead, trickling down his sideburns into his beard. Nils was barely aware of the wetness all the way down his spine; not with his back pushed hard into the driver’s seat. He didn’t realise the tightness of his grip on the steering wheel until his fingernails all but pierced the base of his palms.
This time, he thought desperately. I won’t fail this time. I WON’T! In his last conscious moment, the Stobie pole lit up by his headlights, its steel supports and concrete infill, blotted out all else before the moment of impact.Thick white clouds surrounded him, supported his weightless body. Floating? Drifting… somewhere. Heaven, he wondered, smiling with supreme satisfaction. There IS something after Death. They were wrong, those who doubted. And his mind drifted along with his body (or whatever it was he had now)—Bitch! he suddenly thought with deep satisfaction. That’ll goddamn teach you to run off… with an OLDER man!
“Mr. Jensen. Nils? Can you hear me, dear?” Nils didn’t mean to frown, but the voice was an irritation to his idyllic flotation. Go away, leave me alone. I’m happy at last, can’t you see? He’d said that out loud, hadn’t he? But no, the voice persisted until he realised he would have to answer. I thought heavenly voices would be more sweet and tuneful, lilting - uhrr, something like that. And Nils struggled through countless layers of gauzy veils to open his eyes and respond
The next words brought complete wakefulness, cruel consciousness of the reality surrounding him. The smell of antiseptic and medicines - a hospital? He couldn’t move his head, but he could roll his eyes around and see he was indeed in a hospital room—a hospital bed. And the voice came from a white-uniformed young thing with a cap on her head. A nurse! And she was telling him he was lucky to be alive. Lucky? NO… NO!
In the days of recuperation that followed, Nils would learn he was considered incredibly lucky to have only received concussion and severe bruising from the terrible accident that had written off his car—now suitable only for crushing in the wrecker’s yard where it waited its turn. “But how did I survive? Why?” he asked, and when they told him he’d forgotten to put on his seatbelt and was thrown clear, he screamed inwardly, NO-O-O-O-O!
For him, the only good thing to come out of this attempt was the assumption of mechanical failure of the vehicle. Accordingly, he missed out on another stint in the mental institution. Phew, don’t know if I could’ve survived another ‘vacation’ at THAT hell-hole. And then laughed at the irony. That first time, he’d tried to end it all by shooting himself.
It was when the gun laws were still fairly lax, and he’d been able to buy his weapon without arousing suspicion. In the comfort of his home, he’d arranged himself comfortably in his favourite chair, pointed the muzzle beneath his chin and with a huge intake of breath, pulled the trigger.
The one thing he hadn’t considered (dammit!) was that his arms were a tad short for the job, messing up his aim, and causing the bullet to come out again just under his nose. Sadly, that left a considerable hole in his face, despite lengthy surgery and painful skin grafts from other unmentionable parts of his body. Even more painful to swallow, the errant bullet smashed his quasi-chandelier overhead light and left a nasty hole in the ceiling of his Lounge room, as well.
It’s hopeless, Nils thought as he recovered. A person can’t seriously kill himself in this vast land, Australia. As soon as I’m out of here, I’m going back to Denmark to get it all over with. That’s where I was born, and maybe the message is - that’s where I must die. The thought of having an answer at last to his continuing dilemma sustained and strengthened his resolve and his supposed repatriation and return to a ‘normal’ human being.
At the first moment, Nils got his passport, packed his bags, flew home and booked himself into the Presidential Suite of the Copenhagen Hilton. Might as well go out in style, he reasoned, and went out briefly to the local Retravision store and bought the required electrical plug, wiring and wire strippers for his next and hopefully, final, attempt, assuring staff he was a sparky on holidays, about to return to his day job.
Nils briefly considered ordering up a feast for his last meal, reasoning he would never have to pay for it, but strangely, he seemed to have lost his appetite. So instead, he ran himself a luxurious spa bath, tipped in double the amount of Hilton-provided bottles of bath luxuries for aroma and bubbles. Just as he subsided under the bubbles, holding the live wires high above his head (carefully planned to go in last), there was a monumental power break!
I’ve burnt all my bridges… AGAIN, Nils thought, remembering all the bills he hadn’t paid. In desperation, he decided to drown himself, and slid beneath the foaming water. At least I’ll smell good when they find me, was his last thought. But no. Fate had other plans for our ‘not-so-nifty-Nils’. A waiter arrived with a bottle of Champagne in an ice bucket — ‘Compliments of the Management’. Hearing the final gurgles of the unlucky man, the waiter rescued Nils and kept him alive until the ambulance arrived to whisk him off to hospital.
While there, being treated for a critical case of over-abundant air inhalation (apparently it was the double dose of Hilton-provided-ultra-special bubble bath solution that did it), resulting in a rather nasty case of pneumonia; exhaustive tests revealed he had Cancer, and they gave him just two months to live. Now wait right there a minute, Nils thought. It was one thing when I was in control, choosing Life or Death as the mood took me. But this? It just doesn’t ‘sit’ right!
He discovered his nurse felt great sympathy and empathy for him. She was also a devout Jehovah’s Witness, which gave Nils something else to think about. He figured he’d surely burnt his bridges in the prayer department, having begged constantly for the opposite of most people who chose Life. So, figuring he had nothing too much to lose, he sang the song:-
Nursie, come over here and hold my hand
Nursie, there’s something I can’t understand
‘Round my heart I’ve got a funny pain
Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh! Now it’s coming on again
It turned out that was only indigestion, but nonetheless, the kind nurse promised to ask her whole congregation to pray for him, and they did: all six Jehovah’s Witnesses there were in Denmark. Maybe their prayers were answered, despite this one man’s world record of failing so successfully so many times. No-one will ever know for sure, but it definitely appeared to be divine intervention, when Nils died at last - fifty nine and a half days later, of a Vitamin C overdose.
Author’s Note: Readers may think my imagination has gone over the top with this one. They are wrong. Much of this truly happened - many, many years ago. I have simply stitched quite a deal of creative embroidery around the edges!
Author’s ‘nother Note: A Stobie pole is a South Australia invention from 1924, created because of a lack of tall (and strong) enough timber for poles to carry electrical wires across the country. A Stobie pole is a power line pole made of two steel joists held apart by a slab of concrete… a rather nasty obstacle to meet head-on in a dark alley (or even a well-lit street!)