THE SUICIDER’S CLUB
By JACK TOM
Every Tuesday night at 7 pm they would go into the bar area of Applebee’s, sit down at the same table and order drinks from a waitress. They had a fairly exclusive club that had been started years before by the infamous Stuart Brady and Virinia Jacobs. They were the first ones, the original members of the Suicider’s Club. They established the rules and promoted membership and charged dues which were very minimal.
Then, one year after they had formed the club, they killed themselves in exactly the ways they proclaimed they would. Stuart shot himself in the head with a .357 Ruger and Virginia hung herself from a rafter in her attic.
During the year before they had killed themselves, Stuart and Virginia had grown the club to a regular membership of seven or eight people. Often times members would quit and decide to go on living, but some of the men and women would see it through and fulfill their promise to themselves and to the club, that being that within one year of their first meeting, they go through with a successful suicide. Some members would only be in the club for a few months or weeks even before pulling the trigger or slashing their wrists, but other members would wait it out to the last day and leave their final meeting with a graceful smile.
On one occasion a man named Maxwell Field heard about the club and went to his first meeting and as soon as the meeting was finished he went home and drove a steak knife into his heart and bled to death on his kitchen floor. He had been that inspired.
So, one by one, the members would either quit or kill themselves off and new members would join and only the club itself would live on. As was decided by Stuart and Virginia, the longest attending member of the club would lead the meetings unless he or she chose to relinquish the duty to the next senior member and on down the line.
On this Tuesday night a middle-aged woman named Wanda Springer was the senior-most member. She was short and just thinner than chubby with curly brown hair and a pleasant way about her. She had been leading the meetings for nearly four months.
People showed up and ordered drinks and mingled and this week there were no new members introduced. Wanda took attendance and after it seemed everyone who should be there was there, she began.
“Well, thank you all for coming to tonight’s meeting. Let’s toast to that.”
All the members raised their glasses and clinked them together and took small sips or big gulps from their drinks.
“First off, I’d like to announce to anybody that hasn’t already heard, Harold Smalls took his own life this past Sunday evening. He was in his late sixties and he brought much joy and laughter to this club. His cause of death was not released in the paper but if Harold went the way he told us he would, he swallowed twenty-three of his prescribed 20 mg Valiums and quickly but calmly drank down six Woodford Reserve manhattans. No cherries. Harold had been a member for nearly five months and he will certainly be missed.”
The members sat around the table for a few minutes and shared stories about Harold and clinked glasses and said things like, “to Harold, for doing what he wanted to do.”
“All right, Suiciders,” began Wanda. “Tonight we’re going to talk about the etiquette of the suicide note. We’ll cover questions such as who to include, average lengths, where it should be left, etc. Afterwards, we’ll have open discussion in which each member will have the opportunity to express their thoughts and ideas about the subject. And please always remember, this club is meant to be a club of friends with like minds, and aside from simple statutes that Stuart and Virginia set up, there are no rules regarding any topics we discuss. They are just simple, how should I say it, brainstorms.”
Wanda pulled out a folder from her briefcase and began to pass around copies of previous suicide notes left by past club members or strangers whose notes had come into her hands. Along with the papers she handed a little purse around the table and club members put in a dollar or two or three if they were feeling generous. When it came back to her, Wanda returned the purse to her briefcase.
“Please review these and then take a look at the handout. The first and foremost question on this subject is, “whether or not to leave a suicide note.”
The members nodded and glimpsed the sheets of paper and skimmed the words.
“Now, there are a great many reasons why a person may choose to end his or her own life, but most of those reasons can fall into two categories, one much bigger than the other.”
“Many of us are here tonight because we are depressed, lonely, angry or just plain sick and tired of living. We want to leave this world because we don’t want to go on living in it. This is the majority of suiciders.”
There were nods and “uh-huhs” and “mm hmmps” and one of the younger members, Steven Stinson, even said, “righto.”
“But a small percentage of us kill ourselves for a completely different reason. We commit suicide in order to live longer.
Any person taken out of this world prematurely is more likely to be remembered in the hearts and minds of his or her friends and family, and this is sometimes magnified if the man or woman brings on their own death. In killing themselves, they consider that, in a way, at least in the memory of others, they will live forever.”
“Now, if you regard yourself a member of the first group, leaving a suicide note is optional because a note is like a final farewell, the last effort you made while living. But the members of the first group are not obsessed with being remembered or celebrated.
As the great comedian George Carlin said, and excuse my language, ‘the truth of it is, a lot of people just want to get the fuck outta here.’ So nobody should feel it is absolutely necessary, if you believe yourself to be a member of the first group, to leave a note at all.”
There were murmurs and nods of agreement amongst the group and Steven Stinson said aloud, “that does make a lot of sense.”
“But if think yourself to have the characteristics of the second group, which, it should be said, is in no way inferior or superior to the first, it is almost certainly necessary for you to leave a note, no matter how long or short. It will be the thing that your family and friends will read over and over and remark as the last thing you did on this earth.”
Wanda carried on and went from topic to topic, speaking with quiet but stern authority about ideal lengths, subjects to cover, last words, etc. Occasionally she glanced around the table at people’s glasses and when she deemed it fit, the group took a break to order more drinks or use the rest rooms.
After she’d finished her discourse there was a question and answer session which led into something more like a conversation but words never became heated and everybody was quite genial to one another.
Towards the end of the meeting the members were mingling amongst themselves and Wanda could be seen having a calm chat with the man next to her, John Strutts. He was the second-most senior member, having heard about the club through Wanda and having joined it only a week after her.
“So, John,” Wanda began in a hushed voice. “This will have been my last time leading the meeting. I’m going to do it this tonight. My time is up. My husband is out of town with the kids and I’m going to use muscle relaxants pills and go in my sleep. I would like to die peacefully and I can’t imagine any way more peaceful than that.”
John gulped and his face revealed a sad but reverential acceptance. He’d known Wanda for nearly a year now and in that time he’d come to like her quite a bit.
“So,” Wanda continued, low and business-like. “You must take my briefcase with you tonight when you leave because you will be the new oldest member of the Suicider’s Club. The torch is in your hands, or the knife,” she said, cracking a joke which John Strutts had seldom heard her do. “And I’m sure you will do just fine. Besides,” she said, smiling again, “it’s only one week, right?”
John nodded and turned to face Wanda. Their eyes met and he noticed a kind of wise expression on her face, like she’d already seen what would soon be coming next.
“Wanda,” he said, very sincerely. “Thank you for the opportunity to join this sacred club. Thank you for everything you’ve done and if there is an afterlife or heaven or anything like that, I look forward to seeing you there.”
A tear began to form in Wanda’s eye but she dabbed it with her finger and pretended to be getting something out of her eyelid. She stood up and pushed in her chair and the members quickly noticed and became silent because they too were aware of what the date signified to Wanda.
“Dear friends,” she said. “I wish you all the best of luck with your life and death endeavors. It’s been a pleasure getting to know you all and share with you all throughout the past year. Please spread the word about this club and until that chosen day, enjoy your lives to the fullest. All right, good bye.”
The members mumbled their farewells and clapped quietly as she walked through the restaurant and out the door. John Strutts reached into the briefcase and retrieved the purse that Wanda had passed around earlier. As was customary on a senior member’s last day, his or her tab of four or five drinks was paid using the collections of previous members’ dues.
After sorting out the drink tab, the members said their goodbyes to each other and went on their separate ways. John Strutts remained seated long after the others had left. He began to go through the contents of the briefcase, sifting through typed papers and hand-written notes. Since he would be leading the next week’s meeting, he figured he might as well get a head start on the planning.