GOODBYE, CRUEL WORLD
By Margi Desmond
Bitsy Creech balanced on the stepstool, fastened the noose tightly around her neck, jumped…and landed on her feet.
“What the hell?” She gazed up at the ceiling fan to which she had tied the rope and realized it was too long. Getting psyched up to commit suicide takes a lot out of a person and Bitsy felt both emotionally exhausted and depressed. She loosened the noose from her neck and plopped upon her couch.
“I can’t even do this right,” she said to no one in particular. Gazing at the photograph on the coffee table brought tears to her eyes — a colorful eight-by-ten image of her ex-boyfriend, Buck, at the Ramseur Onion Festival. He had won the onion eating contest, earning him the title of Onion King, and drank enough cheap keg beer to get blitzed out of his mind and vomit all over the back seat of her car on the hour-long ride home. But what else, really, could she expect from a thirty-seven-year-old data entry clerk who still lived in his parents’ basement and played World of Wizardry, Elves, and Maidens with pasty, zit-riddled teenage dorks online every Saturday night? What was worse? That he broke up with her? How sad was that? She clutched a throw pillow with both hands and screamed into it so the neighbors wouldn’t hear her distress. She could not go on like this. Her life was a shambles. No hope of love or happiness in the future. After shortening the rope hanging from the living room ceiling fan, she stood on the stepstool, fastened the noose around her neck, and jumped again.
The fan ripped out of the ceiling and bonked her on the head as she crumpled to the floor. “Son of a bitch, cheap-ass apartment,” she thought before passing out from a concussion.
Eventually, her ringing cell phone woke her. Bitsy possessed one friend, Fawn, an irritating, middle-aged divorcée who only called Bitsy when nobody else was available or when Fawn wanted a ride to the airport. Bitsy allowed the call to go to voicemail as she stumbled from the debris of ceiling drywall, wires, and fan blades on the floor. The side of her head throbbed and blood gushed from a cut. She hurried to the bathroom and the image staring back at her reminded her of Carrie after the prom’s pig blood incident. The sight of her own blood made Bitsy woozy so she carefully dropped to her knees and huddled in a fetal position on the bathroom floor mat. “I’ll just lay here for a moment or two.”
* * *
Pounding on the door wakened Bitsy for a second time. She groggily pulled herself up from the bathroom floor by clutching the side of the bathtub. The room spun. Using the wall to balance herself, she teetered to the door and looked through the peephole. Fawn stood fidgeting, dressed in the “party garb” outfit she always wore on a manhunt — low-rise skinny jeans and a tight, revealing spaghetti strapped shirt she continuously had to pull down in an effort to cover her mushroom top. She accessorized the getup with every bit of jewelry — mostly costume — she’d accumulated in her forty years on earth.
“Hey girl,” Fawn said as she pushed past Bitsy. A scented cloud of drug store perfume popular in the 1980’s accompanied her. “I tried to call but you didn’t answer.”
Bitsy closed the door and followed Fawn into the living room. “Good golly miss molly, what happened here?” Fawn pointed a long, red acrylic nail-tipped finger to the fan and debris from the ceiling. She turned her gaze to Bitsy. “You’re a wreck.” She sat on the sofa and grabbed a pack of cigarettes from her purse.
Bitsy sat beside her only friend, tears welling in her eyes, as she started to explain, “I’ve been depressed and —”
“Will you be a sweetheart and fetch me a lighter?” Fawn rummaged in her purse. “I can’t seem to find mine.”
Bitsy shuffled to her kitchen and grabbed a candle lighter from a drawer. “Here you go,” she said, sitting on the couch again.
Fawn pulled out a joint hidden in the cigarette pack and lit up. She took a long toke. Holding the smoke in, she asked, “Why do you have blood all over your face? Did you hit your head?” She blew the smoke across the room, away from Bitsy, who never smoked pot.
“Well, as I was saying —”
“You have any beer?” Fawn took another toke.
“No. So anyway —”
“What about a soda?” Fawn walked into the kitchen and peered into Bitsy’s refrigerator. “Damn girl, you don’t have anything in here.”
“Money’s been sort of tight since I got laid off from the call center. In fact —”
“That’s okay. We won’t be here for long anyway.” Fawn returned to her spot on the couch. “That’s why I called earlier. You need to clean yourself up. There’s a party at O’Neal’s Pub. Dollar drafts. Time to meet some men!”
“Fawn, I really —”
“Go, get ready.” Fawn shoved Bitsy toward the bedroom.
“But my head really hurts.”
“The least you can do is drive me there.”
“I’m not sure I should drive. My head —”
“You can’t expect me to. I just smoked a joint, silly!”
Bitsy washed the blood from her face, pulled her hair back, and dressed in a long-sleeved red sweater and black pencil skirt. As she emerged from her bedroom, Fawn said, “You look like Olive Oyl,” and laughed herself into a coughing fit. Bitsy’s mouth fell open and Fawn gave her a hug. “I’m sorry, hon, you look fine. The pot. You know, it gives me the chuckles.” She followed Bitsy to the car, giggling the entire way. Bitsy started the car as Fawn tottered in stilettos to the passenger’s side. “Ugh. It smells like vomit in here.”
Though Buck was out of Bitsy’s life, his scent still lingered.
* * *
The blaring music and roar of the crowd inside O’Neals Pub exacerbated Bitsy’s headache. Per typical Fawn behavior, she insisted Bitsy come in for “a second” but disappeared as soon as she latched onto a guy. Bitsy struggled through the crowd and squirmed between two men standing at the bar. Before leaving the apartment, she’d dug change from between the couch cushions and the bottoms of a couple purses in her closet and collected just enough for one cheap beer. The busty redheaded bartender seemed intent on satisfying the male patron’s needs and repeatedly ignored Bitsy when she signaled for a beer. She’d decided to give up and drive home when the man to her right yelled, “Sasha, serve this poor gal a beer!” The bartender looked at Bitsy, and asked, “What you want?”
“A draft, please.” The money had grown sweaty in Bitsy’s hand and she started to pile it up on the bar. Bartender Sasha slapped a cardboard coaster in front of Bitsy and placed a red Solo cup of draft beer on it.
“Put that on my tab,” the guy said, pointing to Bitsy’s drink.
She turned to him and smiled. “Thanks.”
“Huh?” He placed a hand to his ear.
“I said ‘thanks’!”
“Come here,” he said and led her to an outside patio. He pulled out a chair at a tiny table for two and signaled for her to sit. Bitsy stared at him as he took a seat across from her. Dark hair, dark eyes, maybe of Italian or Greek descent? Definitely cute. “It’s much better out here, don’t you think?”
“Yes.” She nodded. “It’s pretty crowded and loud inside.” She took a sip of her beer and set the cup beside his cup on the small table.
“You look really familiar.”
Bitsy shuddered, remembering Fawn’s “Olive Oyl” comment. “Did you ever watch Popeye the Sailor cartoons?”
“I’m Joe.” He extended his hand. “Nice to meet you.”
“Short for Elizabeth?”
Bitsy smiled. “Yeah, how’d you know? It’s pretty old fashioned.” She took another sip of beer. If she got a little buzzed it might be easier to talk to him. She placed the cup down and smoothed her skirt.
“I’ve a great aunt named Bitsy.”
“See, I told you. It’s an old lady’s name.” She took another sip. “Mother and Father named me after my grandmother but nicknamed me ‘Bitsy’ because I was a preemie and have always been skinny.”
Joe dug in his back pocket. “I think it’s cute. Like you.”
Bitsy blushed. Joe opened a can of smokeless tobacco and placed a wad between his cheek and gum. His lip protruding, he continued, “So what do you do for a living, Bitsy?”
“I was a customer service rep for an online insurance agency until last week.”
“Got laid off.”
“Sucks.” He grabbed a cup and spat juice into it. Bitsy cringed, but he was still way cuter than Buck, the basement-dwelling Onion King.
“I’m an IT consultant. I can keep a lookout and see if any of my clients have job openings, if you want.” He spat into his cup again.
“That would be great,” Bitsy felt the first twinge of hope in months. She finished her cup of beer. Buck waved to the cocktail waitress and held up two fingers, indicating he wanted a couple more drafts.
The beers arrived, Bitsy got tipsy, and Joe delighted her with fun stories of when he’d lived in Europe the year after he graduated from college. All was well…until a blonde bombshell sauntered up to the table.
“Joe, OMG, it’s been, like, forever.” She leaned down to give him a hug, exposing gigantic breasts, one with a tattoo of a red rose on it.
Joe eyeballed the cleavage inches from his face. “Rose, this is my new friend, Bitsy.”
Bitsy opened her mouth to say hello, but Rose turned her back and called to her friends, “Girls, come over here. I want to introduce you to a dear friend!”
Bitsy watched as four more girls with long, flowing hair, glowing complexions, and perfect bodies clad in tight mini dresses strode to the table. Her heart sunk to her stomach and marinated in a hellish acid of misery while the girls preened over Joe.
Melancholic Bitsy grabbed her cup and took a huge gulp. Milliseconds after she’d swallowed, she realized her horrific error. She’d grabbed Joe’s spit cup by mistake. She threw the cup down, grabbed her throat, and gagged. Everyone focused attention on Bitsy right before she projectile-vomited spit-cup juice and beer across the patio. People scattered, yelled, and laughed. A quick few recorded the scene on their smartphones and immediately posted the revolting footage to online social networks. Wiping her mouth with the back of her hand, Bitsy sat up and looked directly into Joe’s shocked face, surrounded by all the pretty girls and their grossed-out expressions.
* * *
“Omigod! Omigod! Kill me now! Kill me now! Crap! Crap! Crap!” Bitsy screamed from behind the wheel as she zoomed home from the bar. She screeched into a parking spot, ran to her front door, and slammed it behind her, determined that she’d never face the world ever, ever again. She glanced at the ceiling fan mess on the floor with bitter despair. She ran to the bathroom and turned on the bathtub spigot. After taking all her clothes off, she sat in the bathtub, determined to end her pain once and for all. She grabbed her leg razor and tried to pry the blade loose, but it held fast. She scraped it along her wrist, but nothing happened. She cried hysterically. “Why? Why? Help me end it all! Pleeeeeease!” She climbed out of the bathtub and ran to the kitchen. Once she’d grabbed a knife, she started to run back to the bathroom; her dripping body slipped on the slick tile and she fell, cracking her head on the floor, and reopening the gash from earlier in the day. A vision of all the disgusted people watching her hurl on O’Neal’s patio flashed through her mind, and she stood, determined to finish this gruesome task. Sitting in the warm water, she took the knife and sliced across her wrist. The sight of blood made her light headed and she passed out.
Hours later, Bitsy awoke, freezing. She’d sliced her wrist at the incorrect angle and while it did bleed a little bit, the wound clotted. Meanwhile, the cheap, poorly fitting drain stopper failed to do its job and the tub water drained away. There she lay, cold and naked in a dry bathtub, head throbbing from the combined effects of multiple concussions and cheap draft beer.
Bitsy rummaged through the medicine cabinet looking for something to quell the throbbing in her head. An old bottle of antidepressants grabbed her attention. Her physician had prescribed the medication months ago when Bitsy presented symptoms of depression during an annual physical. She’d taken a couple of the pills, but all they did was make her sleepy so she discontinued taking them. She opened the bottle and downed its entire contents, chewing them like candy. They tasted like poison, but she didn’t care. Satisfied this method would work, she climbed in bed and hunkered down for eternal sleep.
* * *
Two days later the phone rang. Bitsy rolled over and checked the bedside alarm clock. The digital reading indicated it was six o’clock in the evening. Without thinking, she grabbed the phone and croaked, “Hello?”
A masculine voice asked, “May I please speak to Bitsy Creech?”
“You are.” She sat up in the bed and tried to remember what happened. “I mean, I am. I’m Bitsy. You are talking to Bitsy Creech.”
The voice on the line laughed. “Bitsy, it’s Joe from O’Neals.”
“Huh?” Someone was playing a joke on her.
“How are you feeling?”
She felt that familiar sinking feeling once again. “What do you care?” She started to hang up, but hesitated.
“I am so sorry about what happened. When Rose and I dated in college the same thing happened to her and she broke up with me. She wouldn’t even talk to me for months after she…well, you know…grabbed the wrong —”
“Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!” Bitsy fought her gag reflex.
“Just listen. You hauled ass out of there before I could stop you. Rose really let me have it. She was so pissed. Said I deserved to die alone because I refused to learn from my mistakes. Please, please Bitsy, give me a chance to make it up to you.”
“How’d you get my number?” She was still skeptical.
“That piece of work you came to the bar with, what’s her name, Farrah?”
“Yeah, Fawn. I found her and she gave it to me.”
“Really? She didn’t try to hook up with you?”
“Of course she did, but she’s not my type.”
“If you dated Rose, then I’m not your type either.”
“Rose was a fun college party girl. You’re the serious, long-term type.”
Bitsy was thankful she was still in bed because that last comment would have made her knees buckle and she probably would have hit her head again.
“So how about tomorrow I pick you up at seven o’clock and we go on a real date.”
“I gave up tobacco.”
Bitsy grinned. “Okay.”
* * *
After a day of shopping for just the right outfit to dazzle Joe, Bitsy cleaned up her apartment. Wires from the fan still hung exposed from the hole in the ceiling, but she’d cleaned up the rest of the mess. She sipped a small glass of chardonnay to take the edge off her nerves and paced around her apartment in anticipation of her date. Finally, her bad luck streak had ended. A relationship with a cute guy who may also be able to hook her up with a job prospect gave her something to live for. She put on her ear buds, blasted music, and danced around the apartment in joyous hope. Meanwhile…
* * *
“Goodbye, cruel world,” Gonzo Santiago said before inserting the gun into his mouth. He pulled the trigger, but the gun jammed. “Damn! Nothing’s easy.” The online for-profit school he’d run was being investigated by the feds and his inevitable incarceration was just around the corner. His wife warned him that investing in a franchise of the University of Harvard University College sounded shady, but he’d ignored her. By the time he’d realized he was managing the front for a Czechoslovakian mob money-laundering site, he was screwed. If the feds didn’t get him, the mobsters would. He unloaded the bullets, blew into the gun’s crevices, reloaded, and BAM!
* * *
After a thorough examination of the crime scene, Detective Padgett turned to the responding officers and his partner, Detective Chase. “Looks like a pretty cut and dry situation to me.”
“She looks familiar to me,” Chase said to Padgett.
“Olive Oyl?” Padgett straightened his necktie.
“Yeah, but I feel like I’ve seen her somewhere else recently.” Chase shrugged his shoulders. “Nevermind. Tell me what you think happened.”
Padgett puffed out his chest and paced to and fro. “It appears the occupant of A5 was cleaning his firearm and accidentally shot a round, which penetrated the wall separating units A5 and A6 and continued its path until making contact with the deceased’s cranial cavity, resulting in her immediate death.” Padgett removed his glasses, huffed on them, and proceeded to clean the lenses. “I’m confident the county coroner will back up my theory.”
“Fine work, partner.” Chase patted his partner on the back. “What do you say to a little celebration? O’Neals Pub has two for one drafts tonight. Might meet some hot chicks.”
Padgett winced. “No thanks. I heard a few days ago some dumb idiot projectile puked all over the patio. Not my scene, thank you.”
“Oh yeah, I saw that on U-Boob.” Chase grabbed his smartphone and his fingers went to work. “Here,” he held the screen so they could both view the video. “It’s hilarious.”
Margi Desmond has written more than 100 articles and short stories. She’s a member of the Mystery Writers of America, serves as a selector and judge for the annual Colorado Book Awards, and serves as a judge for the annual Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence. Margi’s website is available at http://www.margidesmond.com or check out her Facebook Author Page.
This is Ms. Desmond's seventh story to be published on omdb! online. "Home Sweet Gnome" (March, 2012), "Till Death Do They Part" (November, 2012), “Big Brother" (January, 2013), "Oblivious" (July, 2013), and "Going PostAll" (July, 2014). She also contributed "iMurder" to our "Solve-it-Yourself" Mini-Mysteries.
Copyright © 2014 Margi Desmond. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of the author is prohibited. OMDB! and OMDB! logos are trademarks of Over My Dead Body!
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