It was a good day. I felt it as I walked out of the liquor store, brown paper bag under my arm; the first time I’d been near a bottle of booze in fifteen years. It felt good, in a sick sort of way; like a kid stealing a double chocolate chip cookie from the jar. Only this was grown up stuff, Mr Daniels was my liquid sugar fix.
I slipped my shades down over my eyes as I walked across the parking lot to the drug store. It didn’t take more than five minutes to get my prescription filled. In the car, I emptied the contents into the larger jar I’d dumped all the other pills in before I’d left the apartment. There was quite the selection. Acetaminophen, Ibuprofen, Temazepam, some other sleeping pills I couldn’t remember the name of, and for some added colour, Benadryl. It had taken me six months to get my collection to this stage. Over five hundred assorted, over the counter narcotics; a rainbow of afterlife delights.
I didn’t think I’d need them all, unless for some unfathomable reason I’d mysteriously developed the constitution of an elephant. I wanted enough though to ensure my exit, and for it to be as painless as possible. Pain isn’t my thing.
I turned the key of the old Mustang. It roared into life, had never sounded sweeter. It rumbled for a few seconds then settled down to a steady throbbing, the exhaust popping every few seconds. I loved that sound.
I fastened my seat belt, adjusted my glasses so they sat just right on the bridge of my nose, and slipped the car into gear. The sun flashed off the store windows in the plaza as I turned onto the main road. It was just visible over the treetops, and cast a bright orange glow through the wind-shield lighting up the car’s interior like an amusement arcade.
I had the driver’s window all the way down, the sound of Terry Jacks’ Seasons in the Sun echoing off the houses on main street as I drove by. It was a good day. One of those days you want to last forever but you know isn’t going to. The kind of day you want to squeeze every last drop of joy out of, in case it’s a long time until you see another.
The drive out to the cove was uneventful. The only sound was the birds singing in the trees, in accompaniment to my poor and loud taste in sixties music. The road was virtually empty of traffic, just as I’d planned. There wouldn’t be many people, if any, out at the cove.
As the car crested the last hill before the steep drop down to the parking lot, I got a familiar whiff of the sea air. I closed my eyes for no more than a second and breathed in deeply, relishing the aroma. It was good to live by the sea.
I pulled into the almost empty lot just as a car was leaving. I took the space they vacated. It was as though they were leaving just so I could park. I took it to be divine intervention; everything going my way. It was a good day. That is, until I saw the empty car parked at the other end of the lot. Okay, what was that doing there? I expected to be alone. I’d planned it that way. No one else should be here, only me. Well at least there was no one in it. Maybe they’d gone off on the trail for a walk. They probably wouldn’t even notice me when they came back.
I picked my stuff up off the seat and got out of the car, leaving the keys in the ignition, and set off down the rough path to the shoreline. The sea was breaking on the rocks, spray flying in the air. It was rough out there, just the way I liked it. As I climbed over the wooden guard rails, past the warning signs and onto the rocks, I thought I saw movement down at the water’s edge. No, I thought, I couldn’t have. Who’d be stupid enough to be that close to the water with the sea being as high as it was today? Then I saw it again. Yes, there was something moving.
I strained to see what was out there as I stumbled over the uneven black boulders that made up this stretch of coastline. It was a person. The recognition instantly made me angry. There shouldn’t be anyone out there. That was my spot, where I was meant to be. I began to move faster, trying to negotiate the wet, black rocks, while keeping my eye on whoever the idiot was who had spoiled my perfect day.
By the time I’d reached the point where the waves were breaking, as near to the water as I could safely get, I was just in time to see the person, a woman, climb up on a particularly large rock, the one I’d chosen weeks ago as mine, and without any warning jump into the raging sea. Shit!
I half ran, half crawled over the few remaining rocks and climbed onto the boulder where she’d been standing a moment earlier. I whipped off my jacket and the bottle of Jack Daniels fell out of my pocket and splashed into the water. Fuck! I dropped my jacket on the rocks and scanned the surface of the sea, looking for the woman. A few seconds passed and then she popped up, spluttering and gasping for breath between two large waves.
I don’t know what I was thinking but I leapt off that same boulder, and as I hit the water I was instantly chilled to the bone. I managed to half swim, half float out to where she was thrashing about in distress. She was screaming but I couldn’t hear a thing over the crashing waves. I grabbed hold of her shoulder, twisted around a gave her a shove toward shore. She looked shocked and utterly surprised to see me. I can’t say I’d have been any different under the circumstances.
That was the last I saw of her. I remember being slammed under the water by a giant wave, and then I must have hit my head on a rock. Everything went black. I woke up here on the cliff top, wet as a dish rag but feeling as warm as toast. It was then that I saw it. I laughed my ass off. There it was, tumbling along just below the surface of the grey, green water like a rag doll, the body of yours truly, one Frank James, formerly of Kilbride, Newfoundland; the newest resident of Davy Jones’ Locker.
It was a shock, I can tell you. Me, a ghost. The funny thing is, that woman got out of there alive and she said a guy had given his life to save her. They called me a hero. Said I must have been one hell of a man to do that. I guess they never found my jacket or the jar of pills. Life’s funny like that, isn’t it? Tell you what though, death can be a whole lot funnier, and damn ironic too.