The Bummer Speeds Up

“He woke up most days before dawn.  Two sleeping dog faces near his head.  The three bodies formed a breathing blanket that stretched over the mountains and the snow and up to the northern climes.  The fire was down to coals and the room was icy.  He could see the red glow reflect off the breath of the dogs.  He could see his own face in the coals.  It looked troubled, like most faces burning in a fire.

Usually, he felt good enough at the beginning of the day, but after a few hours the depression set in and the interconnections of life on Earth weighed down upon him.  He would often think of his wife and daughter.  Dead was not a very difficult word for him to say.  It never had been.  The two women had found pleasure in the small things of life, even as humanity had become increasingly overwhelmed with dictatorial politics, collapsing economies, and bitterly divided societies.  The pandemic had been the final missing piece of the puzzle and now the ecology of the world was exploding.  He was waiting for the magnetic storm that would put everyone out of their misery.

The air was almost unbreathable.  The forests, what was left of them, were nearly always burning.  Even during what used to be called “winter.”  Those who could travel, had mostly moved above the 49th parallel or to the higher elevations of the mountains due to the extreme heat and flooding.  The seas had taken most of the coastal cities and land.  Wars and massive refugee movements had sweep through many regions and thus far, the planet’s population had dropped by about four billion, but who was counting anymore? No one cared.  The game was over and the rats were huddling in smaller and smaller boxes.”

I wrote this last night after I learned that a dear friend had tried to kill herself.  Deeply depressed, she put a gun to her head and pulled the trigger.  She missed, but managed to cover her body in blood.  How does one “miss” at that range?  I remember when Kurt Cobain killed himself, the sheriff said something to the effect, “Well, he used a shotgun.  This was not a cry for help.” 

During the 1930’s there was an increase in European suicides.  Many Jews, progressives, LGBTQs, liberals, and communists took their own lives because of the Fascists and their hatred and insanity. It seemed hopeless for many as Hitler built the camps and moved inexorably toward the Final Solution.  Today I had a long conversation with a teacher of Italian.  She is retired, living in Brooklyn.  She sometimes gets depressed and has had a number of difficulties in her life.  We talked about how 1 out of 100 deaths in the world is from suicide.  That amounts to 700,000 lonely people and is more than breast cancer, AIDs, malaria, homicides, and war.  It is on the increase in the Americas, while falling in other parts of the planet.  It was as if our conversation came from the script of a science fiction movie.  We were talking rationally and casually about the end of the world and how different variables were coming together which seemed to mean we were running out of time.  She agreed, to a certain extent, but wanted to remain positive and find joy in the smallest of moments as long as she was alive.

Tonight, I will take a walk through my little Mexican town.  I will try to see what she is referring to and drive from my mind the vision of my friend and the end of Act Three.   

9 thoughts on “The Bummer Speeds Up

  1. Duke, one of your finer pieces. Caught just now me getting off the tractor and drinking some lemonade. Hot humid Pineywoods day and reasons to be cheery and reasons not. Trying to embrace the idea you are what you pretend to be – choosing optimism, I guess, at an old age is the best path to delay the inevitable.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Duke, some of your writing shimmers in the corners of my brain like moonlight; I feel what you’re saying, even though I don’t know or understand the particulars. This piece hits like a strobe. Very strong indeed, but painful stuff. I hope your friend gets help and begins to feel less depressed. Depression’s a bitch.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Well done Duke. I think your line ” She wanted to remain positive and find joy in the smallest amount of moments as long as she was alive ” drives home your message .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it is all speeding up. Faster than we had thought. The California Dream is over, along with the romance of coming-of-age, the drama of youth. As a 20-something told me a few weeks ago … what’s the use. Duke


  4. I’ve found most dystopian tales to not ultimately be about hopelessness. Some end that way, historically early tales, mostly. The latest crop, by latest I mean the last 40 years, seem to use End-Times as a means to wash the slate clean. And in this, end up being tales of hope. Humanity 2.0. We’ll get it right this time. (Little do they realize, End-Times is not a choice.)

    I respect all suicide victims. Giving them the benefit of doubt, weighing the scales of misery & joy—knowing the ultimate answer, opting for early retirement takes courage.

    I argue daily with my DNA. As you can tell, it always wins.


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