Malcolm Steadman had scrambled eggs for breakfast. Yeah, he had them scrambled alright.
The early morning air was still from anxiety, the leaves of the trees refused to rustle, to make the wrong move. Everything around Malcolm was passively intent on not provoking him. Under a familiar tree in a nice park, Malcolm sat. He was a raw nerve, reacting physically to every sound, no matter how muted, like it was violence. His heart raced to stay ahead of the dread that was now swallowing him. It could not. The constant ticker tape commentary that was his consciousness fed him every piece of doubt and criticism at its disposal.
It was too late for that. The decision had been made. If everything is predetermined than this was just a small intermission. He opened his gun case.
Malcolm was under the same tree that he had called home for so long. It was the only home that he could return to. Darkness still lay in the sky. At least he would be concealed. The case open with a click and Malcolm examined the rifle that he had no experience with. He fumbled with it as he awkwardly loaded it, then held it under his arm. He felt the weight of his backpack and was reassured that his “tools” were still inside. It was time to find Garry.
Malcolm left the case on the ground. He made his trek over to Garry’s bus stop.
The walk was slow. The streets were empty. Malcolm could not tell if the gooseflesh that spread across his arms were the result of the chilled air, or of the grim act in front of him.
He saw the bus stop.
The colorful and childlike mural inside of it was still intact; a stark contrast to the grimy addict that took residence within. Garry’s slender body hung over the plastic bench in every direction, he slept with his mouth open.
Malcolm cleared his throat. Nothing. He cleared it again, louder this time. Garry rested unmoved. “Garry!” Malcolm shouted close to the man’s face.
Garry’s eyes opened. A faint smile cut across his face while eyes arrested with drowsiness opened. He looked up at Malcolm, pleased to see him. “‘Sup Mal—” he said before seeing the rifle, then instantly scurried upright and against the back of the bus stop. “…What’s that for?” he asked, his voice shaken with terror.
He had practiced this. In his mind’s eye, Malcolm saw himself holding the rifle with ease and menace. He saw himself looking down at the Iscariot and in a deep voice returning any of Garry’s remarks with deadly wit. “To put an end to things,” he saw himself saying with dark shadows cutting across his face.
This is not at all what happened.
“You’ll find out,” he said instead with no confidence. He was as equally confused as Garry as to why he put the emphasis on find. He then took off his backpack, dropped it to the ground, and kicked it toward Garry, meaning the action to be dramatic. It was not. The action nearly caused him to drop the rifle, and it took Malcolm longer than it should have to regain his composure. “Open it,” he said, pointing the gun straight at Garry’s head.
Garry slowly moved to the backpack and kept his eyes on Malcolm as he did so. Confusion and hurt had found their place on his face, more so than fear. He unzipped the top and fished inside. With both hands, he pulled out an icepick and a bottle of hydrogen peroxide.
“Listen, Garry,” Malcolm said to a man who had his full attention. “I helped you, helped you more than I ever should have. I took you in, despite the danger to my lease, I bailed you out and took you to your child, if you hadn’t been an ass I would have helped you out with anything on top of that.” Malcolm’s hands were shaking, the weight of the rifle felt burdensome. “I lost my home, lost my identity, and even if I can climb back up in society, even if I can scrap and climb my way back, I will never see it the same. I can’t go back, Garry. I can’t keep doing this.” Tears threatened the corner of his eyes. “Here’s the thing: there does not need to be an I, there doesn’t need to be a me.”
Garry was as still as the anxious air. “What are you saying Mal?” he asked, hurt still scarred across his face. “Is this a murder-suicide thing?”
Malcolm took a step back. He let the barrel drop. He began to pace with manic energy. “No!” he said, “What? Um, no.” Then pointed the barrel at Garry once more. He took a deep breath. “I’m in pain Garry. Just like you, I’m in pain. And just like you, I’m a coward.” This did little to alleviate Garry’s murder-suicide suspicion.
“I’m not a coward,” Garry said in monotoned scorn.
“YES YOU ARE!” Malcolm yelled. “You’re too afraid of the pain that quitting will cause you, you are too afraid of what the future might bring, you are too afraid to be a father. You, more than anyone else I have ever met are afraid of failure.” Malcolm lowered the barrel. “You don’t try, you don’t attempt, you are too afraid of failure, and you know what? I’m the biggest failure there ever was. I fail all of the time. Get the fuck over it!” The two looked at each other in desperate silence. Malcolm broke it. “You are probably going to fail if you try, but then you try again. Fail once more? Keep trying!” He clutched the rifle tensely. “You are a coward. That ends tonight.”
A light breeze rustled the leaves above them.
Malcolm released a deep breath.
“I’m in pain,” Malcolm said. “All of the time I wake up and find that the foundations of my world are poorly built or rotten. I can’t get through a god damn Eggo waffle without thinking about the futileness of it all! Determinism! Entropy! I can’t take it Garry!” Both men were crying. The streets remained empty. “My consciousness, my inner commentary, because that’s all it is Garry, is cruel. It is so cruel. And the thing is, I will do just fine without it! I can put together a puzzle blackout drunk, I can barely do that sober and lucid. Malcolm Steadman doesn’t need me, doesn’t need the commentary.” Malcolm put his finger on the trigger. “I’m in pain Garry. I helped you. It’s time to help me.” Malcolm wiped away his tears. “Open that bottle.”
“…What for?” Garry answered with hesitation.
“It’s called a transorbital lobotomy,” Malcolm stated with patience. “It’s brutal and barbaric and it works. I want you to open that bottle of hydrogen peroxide, then I want you to dip that icepick in it for a minute. Then I want you to let it dry.” Malcolm shifted his weight, his arm felt weak from carrying his rifle. “Then I want you to take that icepick and jam it under my eye and scramble my brain.”
“What?!” Garry protested. “Mal, no I can’t that’s—”
“Don’t argue with me Garry! You owe me and there is no way that I can do this my self. I consent, Garry. I consent knowing what it will do to me. You take that icepick and you dip it—”
“No Mal!” Garry cried in desperation. “Come on dude, no! I’m sorry, okay? I’ll do anything else, just don’t make me—”
Malcolm aimed his rifle between Garry’s eyes. Right between fuck and authority. There was no reason why those words didn’t deserve a new period between them. “My existential terror must end, Garry. Do it.”
The rustling had stopped. The wind held its breath. Garry slowly stood up, he opened the bottle and placed the icepick inside.
“Hold still,” he said.
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