Bart had sworn to himself he wouldn’t do this. He said he would go through the whole process legally and leave no mess. He had even checked on flights to The Netherlands and contacted the Levenseindekliniek. The clinic had told him that Dutch law required that he have a Dutch doctor as his regular physician in order to use their services. Bart contacted three doctors in Delft and began arrangements to sign up as a regular patient with one of them. The university city of about a hundred thousand people housed a friend of Bart’s who said she would be happy to have him stay in her spare bedroom for a few weeks. The various clinics told Bart that two or three weeks should be sufficient to establish his legitimacy as a regular patient of the local doctor. If the doctor would provide the necessary drugs and venue, Bart’s pain could come to an end there. If the doctor declined, the Levenseindekliniek could then step in and help Bart end his suffering. The trip to The Netherlands didn’t come cheap, but the cost was comparable to that of a lawyer to do the paperwork for an amicable divorce. As a widow, Janna wouldn’t have to deal with any messy legal details, and she and Alvin could occupy the house that once was hers and Bart’s. Consciously pain-averse, Bart intended to carry out his plan, to bring his hurting to an end, in that neat, tidy, and painless manner—but his agony had become too great. Bart ached when Janna, his wife of twenty-three years, fell in love with a fellow in town, but the pain was manageable. Except for the first few weeks, she didn’t hide her infatuation for Alvin. She told Bart about her feelings for Alvin but told Bart she loved him, too. Janna said she felt torn and confused. She said she knew Bart loved her and she didn’t want to hurt him. For the first two or three months, she spent her days with Alvin and came home to Bart and the children every night. Then, she spent a night at Alvin’s place in town once every couple of weeks for a month or two, then two nights. Bart suffered crushing pain, but it didn’t overwhelm him as long as he knew Janna was coming home. He hoped she would outgrow her infatuation with Alvin, would see that she belonged with Bart, if only she had enough time. Janna did not have the patience to give herself time to see how her new relationship would develop. Yesterday, she had packed most of her personal belongings and left to move in with Alvin. Bart spent the night hiding his anguish and his weeping from the children. Late in the morning, Bart drove to town and bought two high quality matte knives at a stationery store, a combat knife at a sporting goods store, and a quart of cheap gin at a liquor store. Bart pretty much never drank hard liquor, preferring a beer or two or maybe a glass of red wine. He knew he needed an anaesthetic, though, and knew alcohol could help in a pinch. When he got home, Bart backed his pickup into its usual place and loaded his new acquisitions into his old external-frame Kelty backpack. He also threw in a black plastic trash bag and four F-clamps from his workshop. With everything packed and ready to go, Bart called his children together. He told them collectively and individually that he loved them. He told them he had to go away and wasn’t sure when he could come back. Then he told his eldest, seventeen-year-old Bonnie, to drive the others into town and straight to Alvin’s and deliver them to their mother. Bonnie objected, but Bart made it clear that she had no choice. Unaccustomed to receiving orders from her father, Bonnie hesitated a moment but saw something in his eyes that made her do as she was told. Once Bonnie’s car had disappeared down the steep driveway, Bart shouldered his backpack and began walking, first to the fence line, then through the next-door neighbor’s vacant property, and across the next neighbor’s property to the foot of the first of the peaks that flanked the valley to the east, south, and west. He walked up and around the peak to a ridge that connected it with another peak to the southwest, traversed the second peak and continued along a ridge in that direction. Where that ridge “T’d” into another ridge, Bart turned left and headed southeast into the wilderness. When he found a pleasant glade far from the nearest trail, he unslung his backpack and leaned it against a large tree. Bart spent only five minutes resting and enjoying the environment of the little clearing, then began removing tools from his pack. With the F-clamps, he secured the combat knife to a smaller tree, setting the point a little below sternum height and angling up between twenty and thirty degrees. Once he felt satisfied the knife was secure and properly positioned, he removed the matte knives from their packaging, which he put in the rubbish bag. He set the bottle of gin beside his backpack and set the rubbish bag in the top compartment and standing open at the top. After checking that everything was in order, Bart sat beside another large tree and leaned back against the bole. He opened the bottle of gin and took a long drink. He sat quietly, looking around the glade, until he began to feel the effect of the alcohol. He then took another long drink, leaving the bottle a little less than half full, then put the cap on the bottle and placed it in the rubbish bag in his backpack. Keeping his chin down to avoid muscles obscuring his carotids, Bart slashed the matte knives deeply into his neck as he lunged forward to drive the combat knife into his heart.
Bio: Harlan Yarbrough began writing short stories only thirteen months ago, Harlan has been a published writer and editor since the 1980s—writing reviews and feature articles (and, later, a regular column) for The Broadside, a national music and arts magazine based in New England. Subsequently, I wrote a syndicated newspaper column on English usage and word origins for twelve years and later edited the Siskiyou Journal and other publications. In the months since Harlan began writing short stories, Harlan's short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in the Galway Review, Indiana Voice Journal, Red Fez, Veronica, and other periodicals. Harlan is a citizen of the United States, but currently lives in New Zealand.