F3, Cycle 99: Fortune or Misfortune?
Prompt: Tell us a story about a character facing the end of something–a job, a relationship, their sanity… What is actually ending can be whatever your imagination dreams up, but also let us know how it turns out for him or her. Give us some type of ending (pun intended).
Genre: Whatever lights your fire.
Word Limit: 1,500 words.
A Moratorium on Life
He couldn’t stop thinking about what the gypsy had told him. Death. The tarot card “Death” had kept popping up. It didn’t matter which way you shuffled, cut or split the deck, the outcome was always the same.
“The card doesn’t necessarily mean physical death,” she explained. “What it usually symbolizes is a loss of something–a transition–an ending.”
If he’d only known just how ‘death’ would find him.
He’d never taken that sort of thing seriously. But now, sitting on the bunk in the cell he had to admit – she had seen it coming. Well, maybe she hadn’t seen this exactly. But she knew something was coming.
‘Death’ usually meant a box. One of wood with a nice veneer, which makes no sense since it’s only going to be covered with dirt. Cushions on the inside to keep you comfortable for eternity. Or a smaller one filled with the ashes of what you once were. Dust to dust; back to the earth. Until you were interred in an overpriced urn.
No. His ‘death’ found him in a box of concrete. Cinderblocks surrounded him. There was one window; he wasn’t sure which direction it opened to. Was it north or West? One of those two. But all he could see were trees and an A/C unit through the glass and wire mesh. He could see a few stars, but not enough to identify which direction the window looked out upon.
Then he had a big glass door that opened to a well-lit hallway. In the morning they would wheel a cart with a TV on it in front of the door. After they slid the tray for breakfast he would be allowed to watch several hours of broadcast news. Then there would be several hours of judge shows after lunch.
Yeah, this was death all right.
He was dead and in his box. But instead of being dressed in his best suit he was wearing an orange jumpsuit. It was great to have to take your shirt off and slide it down your legs when you had to take a dump.
People died all the time from dope, but usually they weren’t sent to purgatory.
That’s what this was. It made him wonder why the gypsy fortune teller had been so spooked. Obviously she hadn’t had a vision of hell in the tarot deck. He was just somewhere waiting. Waiting for sentencing. He imagined it was like what happened when you died. You went in front of a judge and pled your case. But the judge already knew what your sentence was.
4 grams of heroin. He was pretty sure that was a 4th or 5th degree felony, which meant 6-18 months.
Felony. That meant he wouldn’t be in a cushy little city jail like this with a room all to himself. That meant prison. He didn’t like the thought of that.
So yes, in a way he was dead. He wouldn’t be doing a lot of things for a while. He’d be eating and sleeping and shitting in a big brick building with a bunch of criminals. No ladies, no parties, no weekend visits from his kids.
It would be a short death at least. Considerably shorter than eternity any way you looked at it. Maybe it could just be called a moratorium on life.
But then what about when he got out? Would the bank hold his job for that long? Would they want him back? Would anyone want a convicted heroin addict as a financial consultant? He doubted it. He supposed it was probably time he started looking into other lines of work. Maybe he could be a garbage collector.
That would be a step up from what he was now. Now he was just garbage.
Maybe they’d go light on him. Maybe he’d be sent to a rehab. That would be good. He didn’t think he was an addict. It was only a weekend thing with him. He just liked to party on Friday and Saturday nights. He’d grab a few friends and hookers and head to a motel room. He was just looking for good times. He never hurt anybody because of it. He never sold it. He only snorted it, he never shot it.
Yet it had still killed him. He had still gotten caught. And now here he was on his death-bunk. Waiting for them to close the lid and put him in the dirt.
The damn gypsy. If only she’d been more specific. Maybe he’d have known what to stay away from. He should have known to stay away from it though. There was never a good way to end a heroin addiction. He would have either ended up dead on the floor in that motel room.
In a way it was good that he ended up here. He was still in a lot of trouble. His life would be changing. He’d be losing his job, his money and his status. Yes, this was a loss of something–a transition. This was an ending.
Soon his ex-wife would bring the kids buy to see him and say goodbye. His parents might show up and his mother would cry. Maybe a few of his friends would write to him to say that he got a raw deal and the system was fucked.
And then they would close the lid and the judge would through the first shovelful of dirt over him.