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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Emotional · #914885
A story about a man who struggles with the financial difficulties of life.

The phone was still dead when Walter arrived home. He had taken his lunch hour to go by the phone company to pay his bill. The lady had told him it would be turned on in a couple of hours, but five hours later it was still a lifeless piece of plastic. Walter was grateful that he did not have to listen to the incessant ringing as his other creditors called with their threatening messages about past due bills and repossession.

He and Vivian had chosen to give their daughter a big Christmas this year and had let the bills go for the month; now the collectors for December’s bills were harassing them. The lack of ringing and numerous messages on their answering machine were welcome. However, they also could not call anyone in case of an emergency and decided that the phone would be the first bill they would pay.

Walter believed that his wife and daughter deserved a better life than they currently had. No one should have to live payday to payday. Walter had spent 20 years in the Navy and had decided to keep the insurance policy for $250,000 once he got out. He was glad that every time he took a loan or got a credit card that he always chose the insurance policy that said that if he died, the debt would be null and void. Today when his wife arrived home from her job she would find that all of her money problems were solved. He figured that once she got the money from the insurance company, she could move out of the rat hole apartment that they lived in. His wife and daughter could move to a much better place.

“Money may not buy you happiness, but the lack of it sure can make life miserable,” Walter mumbled to himself as he ran his fingers through his close-cut black hair.

He parked his car two blocks from his house so the repossession men would not find it, then walked home, laying the newspaper he had picked up along the way on the kitchen table when he got there. Typically, he would have sat down on the couch and checked the lottery numbers against his ticket, but today he opened the other bag he had brought in with him. Inside the bag were four boxes of “Perk Up.” Perk ups were the caffeine pills he had taken while in the Navy that had helped him make it through many late nights; now he was going to use them to kill himself. Walter had been diagnosed with a heart condition just before getting out of the Navy and was told to avoid things like caffeine so that it would not put so much stress on his heart.

He opened each of the four boxes and pulled out the 24 tablets that were inside each. As he sat piling up the tablets he read on the box that each tablet contained 200 mg of caffeine and was equal to 2 cups of coffee. He reasoned that 96 of these pills, crushed up and put into a glass of water, would speed his heart up well beyond its capability. He would then have a heart attack and Vivian would be able to collect the insurance.

After emptying all the boxes, he took them out back and put them in the dumpster that served his apartment complex. He came back into the apartment and started crushing the pills. Once he had them all crushed, he poured the powder into a large glass of water.

He would take all precautions to make sure that his death looked like a heart attack and not a suicide; no note to his wife, the pill boxes destroyed. Once he drank the liquid, he would wash and put away the glass that would bring his death to him. As long as there was no reason to suspect a suicide, Vivian would be able to get the insurance money right away.

The liquid tasted awful as he drank it. He drank another glass of water to wash the taste out of his mouth. Then he washed and put the glass back in the tiny cabinet. He washed the spoon he had crushed the pills with and put it away. He sat on the couch and looked at the pictures of his wife and daughter as he waited for the fatal mixture to do its job. Moments later, he could feel his heart start to race. He checked his pulse. 20 beats per 10 seconds, it was up to 120. He could feel the caffeine going through his system and felt like he was going to be sick, but forced the feeling to subside as he continued to sit on the couch. 30 beats in 10 seconds, now his pulse was up to 180. His Navy doctors had told him not to let his heart rate get up over 200 when he was working out. They said that it could easily cause a heart attack. Now he was counting 40 beats in 10 seconds, he was well above the 200 mark now. He could feel his heart hammering in his chest and knew it would only be a matter of time before the heart attack happened.

“What am I doing?” Walter said aloud as the knowledge that he had actually taken an overdose that would kill him finally sank in. He stood up from the couch and started to head for the door. He could go to the neighbor and use their phone to call an ambulance. As he stood, he could feel his heart pumping faster and faster and sweat was breaking out on his forehead.

The phone rang and startled Walter, the heart attack soon followed. The pain in his chest was excruciating and he clutched his chest as he fell forward onto the floor. This is what he had set out to do; this was his solution for his family’s financial problems. The phone rang three more times before the answering machine picked up. As Walter lay on the floor dying, he expected to hear one of the many creditors on the phone telling him some bill was past due. Instead, he heard Vivian’s voice on the line.

“Walter? Are you there? Have you looked at the lottery numbers today? WE WON! We finally hit the big one! Three million dollars! WE WON! I am picking up Chastity now and we will be home soon. Don’t lose that ticket! We need it! Walter? You should be home by now. Maybe you went by and paid the phone bill after work. I have been trying to call here for the last hour and it just now got turned back on! I love you, honey, and am glad we kept playing the lottery! I will be home soon!”

Walter struggled to reach the phone but the pain in his chest was rendering him incapable of movement and all he could do was lie on the floor grasping for the phone. Just before the darkness overtook him he looked at the picture of his wife and daughter. The phone rang again, but Walter never heard the creditor threaten him with repossession.

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