And The Boys Became Men

Notes: 1986 was when this was written, but the recent trial of a football player has finally made it seem au courant. by Hart Williams (c) 1986

They did not mean to do it: The parents -- reared in war, and American expansion, and competition -- did not mean to raise them up, and feed and clothe them better than any generation previous in the history of Mankind. But they did. And the poor boys, more powerful than any creature had a right to be, came to manhood more ignorant of the consequences of power than any before them.
His name was Lawrence on his driver's license -- a California number with a Polaroid of him in a Hawaiian shirt and a tan -but everyone who knew him as a person, and not a number or address called him Larry.

Larry was thirty when he met Pamela. She was a redhead, with class and brains, and a temper. But Larry liked the temper. She wasn't a pushover. She was going somewhere, and at thirty -- if you're unmarried, and unfocused-- going somewhere is very important.

Thirty was when Larry felt that panic setting in. Thirty was the birthday when Larry cried on the phone to a friend (actually cried, which he hadn't done in years): "I'm thirty and I haven't done anything with my life," Larry said.

Pamela and Larry were married.

Two years later, Thompson sifted through the remains, looking for clues. Something that would explain why it had happened. If not for the parents, at least for the wife. Thompson was the sort of man who quietly goes looking and looking for something until he finds it. And what Thompson wanted was an explanation.

The coroner's report read that Lawrence Bond had died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Cause of death was listed as suicide. The note was the problem. Thompson couldn't figure out what it meant ....

When he was young, Larry was a guard. He wanted one of the glamor positions -- quarterback, except he couldn't throw, or running back, except he wasn't big or fast enough, or even end, where they might throw you the ball, except he wasn't tall enough. They made him a guard.

Since it was still schoolyard fight days, it was an open invitation for your worst enemy to beat on you, and bloody your nose -- if he could get away with it -- and Larry suffered through football.

In high school, it was coming together. He only had to hit guys from other towns, and a certain feral anger would fill Larry with adrenaline. And with his shoulder pads, and his arm-pads, and his taped wrists, he would spend a glorious Friday night kicking the bloody shit out of defensive lineman. Larry was voted allstate when he was a senior.

But it was a small school, and Larry's preparation wasn't that hot, so his entrance scores weren't very high, and he went to junior college nearby, and played football for a year before dropping out.

And then came an offer from his best friend to go partners with him in an auto repair shop, and Larry saved enough money to afford the State University.

Through four years of hard work, he acquired an engineering degree, and was recruited by a firm from California. He skidded for six years, taking his pay, buying furniture, a stereo, a car, a new car, and a sportscar. He discovered credit cards, social bars, and singles. There were a few torrid romances. Many casual ones, and no thoughts of marriage until he met Pamela.

It was the wording, Thompson decided. Short, terse, almost businesslike. As though suicide were just another appointment. The words themselves were written in clear, even strokes, in soft engineer's pencil. The spacing was regular, even. Thompson had never seen a suicide note like it before. Usually, the writing is nearly illegible -- in the case of the hysterical suicides--or heavy and terse-with the depressive suicides -- or even, in the case of Manics, controlled and even, but with heavy pressure, as though the pencil was a bomb ready to explode.

The paper was crisp, ruled legal paper, hardly wrinkled or deformed from sweat or from nervous folding. In its own strange way, the note was a piece of art. But it was the words themselves that confused Thompson.

The last thing Larry thought about before the end was odd, incongruous. Death is that way. He remembered a scene from long ago, when two boys -- boys he was scared to death of in school -- started beating up on his younger brother. Larry had kicked the shit out of them, and he felt happy.
The coroner's report failed to note the "look of Peace" on Larry's face that the autopsy assistants noticed and commented on.



"Guess he must have had some kind of problems."

"Why's that?"

"His face is almost peaceful. You know, happy."

"What's left of it, at least."

Epistemology, Thompson thought. We never really know anyone else's world. We just pretend we do.

There was only the lunch hour to work on this, now, since the case was essentially closed. Still, he had to sign the final report before accounting could cut a check to the widow. It was about a tenth of what it would have been, had Larry run his car over a cliff. Perhaps a fifth of what it would have been had Larry died of medical complications, an operation, or sudden illness. Still, the check would run five even figures, and should pay most of the outstanding estate debts.

Thank god there weren't any children, Thompson thought. +++ And Pamela, who loved him. The words grieved her, but there was still anger, and rage, and fury at his cowardice, leaving her, that way.

Her girlfriend didn't help. For three weeks, she had been living away from Larry. After the last time, it was too much. And then he had gone and put a pistol to his temple. Weak men committed suicide, Pamela thought. Larry was anything but a weak man.

The court clerk was somewhat pleased at Larry's death. It was not a real thing, or she would never have been so callous. But the Defendant was "deceased" and that was one more case off the docket. Before she threw the last of the paperwork into the folder such old cases were filed in, she noted the charges: "Felonious Assault."

"One less wife-beater in the world," she sighed. "Thank god."

It was time to sign the order for the check, and close the case, Thompson decided. The wording of the note would always remain a mystery. Yawning a lunchtime sigh, he signed the order, and put the papers back into the packet for filing.

He xeroxed the note though, and threw it in the wastepaper basket a week later. It read: "If I were a smaller man, I'd probably be alive today."

Height: 6'5"

Weight: 225

Hair: Brown

Eyes: Blue

Identifiable markings and/or tattoos: None

_ from the Death Certificate

Larry's parents held the funeral in his hometown. Pamela was present. None of them understood why Larry shot himself.

Larry really didn't either.


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