Carol, my wife and I were at Fred and Dorothy's house. It was Friday and we were getting kinda polluted. I had just sold my company to some idiot conglomerate for twice its worth. We were celebrating. Carol wasn't drinking so she could drive. Dorothy was out of it, as usual. Fred and I are talking about profound things to the best of our inebriated ability. Funny, haven't remembered this conversation until just now.
Anyway, Fred got this strange look on his face and said, "ALS." I gave him a look and he repeated it, "ALS, I'm deathly afraid of ALS. It is a disease. The one that killed Lou Gherig. I can't handle the thought of losing all control of my muscles." I laughed, Fred is my best friend, a doctor, my doctor in fact. So, i figured he must be talking shop or something. Hey, I'd been talking shop almost incessantly while negotiating the sale of my business.
He was. After describing the symptoms of the condition, he said, "I'm deathly afraid of dying of something like that. Ted, put a bullet in my brain if I ever contract ALS." I mumbled something and took a gulp of my drink.
The conversation turned to various diseases and the suffering in this world. Sort of quietly, Fred asked, "Ted, what are you afraid of dying of?"
"Cancer. Definately. I don't want to waste away to nothing. I don't want to spend the last years nauseous from radiation treatments and having those chemotherapy poisons pumped into me. And then there's the pain."
We went on to discuss other stuff and i didn't give it another thought.
About three months later, i felt a gnawing ache in my gut. It didn't go away. Got an appointment to see Fred. He took blood, and examined me. The whole nine yards. He joked that it was probably an ulcer or something.
The tests came back a few days later. It was cancer. Fred said it had started in the lungs and spread through my lymph nodes to my stomach. Fred sent the lab results to another doctor, a specialist and they were confirmed.
It looked terminal, but with an aggressive regimen of treatment. I might go into remission. Or i might spend the next six months of my life sick to my stomach, feeling worse than dead, just to die anyway.
I didn't want to die. But i am going to die anyway. Why not be in control? I mean, didn't Hemmingway commit suicide simply to avoid growing old. It wasn't like he had Cancer or something. I've got an excuse, right?
I was thinking this way when I happened upon a back issue of Time magazine laying on the coffee table. Carol had been reading it, and when she saw me, she'd closed it abruptly and left the room crying.
Flipping thru it, I saw why Carol was crying. Big photo spread on Dr. John Manoogian, the euthanasia guy. I read it and heard the typical whining from the pro-lifers and wished i could change places with one of them. To see if they'd say the same thing in my shoes.
A thought occured. I wrote down the number of the guy's lawyer. Decided to call.
I didn't tell Carol of the visit, she had been doing a lot of crying lately. I figured this would set her off. But she didn't seem surprised when i announced a day-trip to Minnesota.
Anyway, the doctor said that taking control of my death was only rational. And that he'd provide me with information which would empower me to do whatever i decided. I got a checklist of things to buy and a description of how to use them.
I went home and told Fred. He tried to talk me out of it at first. But he knew me well enough to know that once i had decided something for myself, there was shaking it. I asked Fred if he'd help. He agreed. Carol was with me, and I didn't quite catch her immediate reation, it only lasted a second, and then she buried her face in her hands. Started crying again.
Tonight we went out for a "celebration." We had a nice meal. For once, Carol didn't complain about my eating red meat and butter. I climaxed the meal with a toast to my friends and a flippant reference to celebrating my "Last Supper."
Fred picked up a bottle of champaign and we headed back to the rental van. We drove out to a secluded spot. Fred held the video camera and I explained why i was ending my life and added some legalese to make sure nothing would reflect badly on Fred or anybody.
Fred gave me a glass of champaign and a pill to calm me down. I was trembling. The drink and pill didn't take long to kick in.
I put a plastic bag over my head secured the bottom of the bag with some duct tape. The plastic bag is pretty sturdy, Fred picked it up. It has a small plastic tube duct taped thru a hole in the top.
The tube runs down to a filter to neutralize acid fumes and into a jar half-full of sulpheric acid. I poured in a premeasured amount of formic acid into the mix. I closed the jar and slumped back. The pills were really kicking in now.
By the time I finished this, i could hardly move my arms. I sat back to wait.
What's this? Fred and Carol are refilling their glasses. Their eyes are shining. Carol is kissing Fred with a passion I haven't experienced in years. Fred is running his hand up my wife's dress right in front of me! I try to get up. I can't move. The gas from the bottle is filling the bag over my head.
Fred and Carol pause for a second to utter the last words I'll ever hear, "So long, sucker. Too bad nobody will ever know that those lab results weren't yours." They're starting to get undressed...