In Search of Better Stories

Death at the Manor: The First Four

(Reflections on Fate)

I knew them only for a few months
One lost his mind and wandered off
The frosty wind and driving rain
Sucked the life from his tiny frame.

Another with a heart condition but didn’t care
“Three days sober, you must be
To run the heart test effectively.”
He smiled his crooked smile on grizzled face.
“Since eight, have I been drinking without a break.”
He laughed to whom we couldn’t tell.
“No drinking? — go to hell!”

Not long after, we found him.
Collapsed in the hall
Bottle clutched to his breast.
Desperately we pounded on his chest.
But eternal slumber had come.
The bottle’s unforgiving work is done.

A third man hunched over and bent
Open sores, cigarette burns, and eyes swollen shut.
Only 57 years old? How could that be?
My guess put him at 93!

I’ve read about the firebombs that flattened Dresden.
I know the carnage caused to Hiroshima.
This man’s body a human reflection of those shattered cities.
Self-inflicted bombs destroying the streets of his frame one by one.

He was not without help; the parade of health care workers that came to his door was endless.
All good-hearted, all wanted to lend a hand.
With violent infective, he shot them all way.
“Let me burn!”
And so he did.
Finally, mercifully, it was over.

There is one more headed to the morgue this holiday season
He got his toe tagged for a similar reason.
The log sheets piled high on my desk with his every infraction.
Violence, disruptions, nakedness and filth.
“Continued unacceptable behaviour will affect your tenancy,” we warned.
He listened, amended his ways.
For two whole weeks
A delightful transformation.

But old habits are not easily broken.
A moment of weakness.
An itch to be scratched.
Fentanyl will do the trick.
Too much! Too much! Too much!
His body revolts as it crumples and contorts in the back alley
Time is up.

These four didn’t get a fair start.
To research their line.
I doubt little what I would find.

Family love a myth; abuse the norm.
Rejection, violence, a life of thorns.
A bottle, a drug, a wayward vice, at least it’s something nice.
Who can blame them?

Must I conclude it was their destiny to die in misery?
For every one that pulls himself out of a rotten start
A hundred others stumble at the gate.
Handcuffed by a shitty fate.

It’s true; we are like turtles hatched at various points along the beach.
Some of us emerge with great delight.
A clear and short path to foamy surf
Others come forth in great despair.
Predators everywhere.
Impossible odds for success
Nothing left but suffering and death.

It’s right to grieve for those who never seem to catch a break.
But to chalk it up to cruel fate?
That’s a big mistake.

“Destiny,” “inevitability,” language like this should stop.
It’s garbage, rubbish, rot.
No matter how it seems
I will not submit to inklings of fate.
tis the seed of despair and apathy, I will cast it far from me.

It’s better to keep the flickering candles of faith, hope, and love lit.
Their glow will draw some from the darkness of their loosening fate.
Some will overcome the odds, and we shall celebrate.

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