I reach for the .38 hidden behind a book, then think, Why bother? He’ll just buy another.
My dad said once, or maybe twice, that when the day comes he plans to seize the moment, like the dark side of carpe diem.
And when it does, he chooses the day by design, my father, the 85-year-old inventor. He reaches for the .38 behind the book on the plain wooden shelf.
He chooses his date and time—before first light on Pearl Harbor Day, December 7, a date with three meanings in his life. Since I know its significance, he probably thinks: My daughter will understand. I won’t even need a note.
My doorbell rings when it’s still dark, and I find a police officer waiting on my porch. He hands me a square of paper. “You’ll need to phone this number,” he says, looking away. “It’s the coroner’s office.”
Someone picks up the phone on the other end and asks if I can come to my father’s place, since they need a positive ID.
Now I am inside his triplex, and my eyes are swollen as I stand in the living room and stare at the closed kitchen door.
They spare me the worst, showing me a Polaroid, with its shiny white border like so many in the family album. But this photo is not like the others. I crumple into Dad’s worn chair.
The assistant coroner says softly, “You would be surprised how many men all over L.A. County make this choice.”
It hardly helps to know.
She tells me a police procedure is involved, so it will be a while before I can claim his ashes at Hunter Perez Mortuary. “Do you want to keep the gun?” she asks.
“You keep it,” I say. “Make it sleep forever.”
Story by Allene Symons
Artwork by James Baldini
Published in Book by Authors: North Long Beach Anthology, 2009