This is the first short story I ever wrote, at about the age of 15. As you will plainly see, my priorities haven’t changed very much over the ensuing 32 years.
David Engstein had had it with life. He made the decision on a Wednesday morning. As fitting a day as any to make such a decision. Laying in bed, he observed the room. The cruel room. Every single day, this room brought the monotony of reality into existence at exactly the same time — 6:35 a.m. Day after day after day…of course, there were two days each week when the room waited a few hours to fill David’s head with the incredible existential melancholy, but it was relatively always the same.
Anyway, to get back on track, this particular Wednesday morning, David Engstein’s mind flooded instantly with drab visions of the work day at the sound of the alarm. The seven hour amnesia was over and he became very aware. Visions of his wife (who always woke up an hour earlier and arrived home an hour later giving her the inalienable right to complain to her husband about her hectic day at the office for two extra hours), his bosses (it seemed everyone at the firm was his superior), his kids (typical Jewish spoiled brats), and his…car?…splattered all over the inner wall of his cranium. As he dug inside his ear with the index finger of his right hand to wipe off his skull, it suddenly hit him — it was so simple! Why hadn’t he thought of it before? Barely able to suppress a grin, he ran to his door with all the excitement of a two year old receiving a new toy, and then…then…he locked it! What a feeling came over him! It was as if he had been released from prison after spending his whole life there. Suddenly the room became beautiful — incredibly beautiful. He jumped up and down. He jumped horizontally. He jumped diagonally. He lay on the bare, wooden floor. He rolled over. He rolled under. He climbed. It was like being born again! That’s how he would look upon this day, this extraordinary Wednesday, as the day he was born again. He put his thumb in his mouth for effect and laughed out loud.
He flung himself on the beautiful unmade bed (imagine, 7:05 in the morning, and the bed still unmade!) and began to think. Now that he had made this decision, how was everyone going to react? His wife would probably want a divorce. Little things always affected her dramatically. Just because her husband became a hermit, she would want a divorce. Women. But it was alright. He didn’t need her anymore.
His boss would most likely fire him (or at least refuse him a raise). His mother might disown him. His father likewise. Well, maybe not. His father was dead. His kids…his kids…his eyes filled with tears at the thought of his children. They were such assholes.
That settled it! He was never going to open that bedroom door again. David Engstein sat wallowing in pride, self-respect and joy at the wonderful life-changing decision he had made. A new feeling came over him. No, this wasn’t a new feeling. It was an old one. A very old one. He suddenly became practical and opened his door, padding down the hallway to the bathroom.
In his previous life (as he now referred to it), some of his most relaxing and philosophical moments were spent while urinating. It was one of the few waking situations in which no one bothered you. He had very much enjoyed urinating in his previous life. He certainly didn’t want to give it up now, so he decided to construct a john in his room. He ran to the garage and retrieved his tool box. It just so happened he had all the right materials and know-how to build a beautiful porcelain toilet directly adjacent to his bed. What luck!
Nutrition and entertainment also crossed his mind. He moved the refrigerator into his room. He took the television and his son’s comic book collection.
After he completed all his chores, he once again locked the door. This time, he also locked the windows for added security. Again, he jumped and climbed and laughed and rolled. This was something he had never felt before…complete bliss.
He took a wild interest in all the ordinary features of his room. The lamp, the dresser, the walls. He studied them for hours, never tiring of the new facets of his imagination they set off.
Then at 7:00 p.m., it happened. His wife came home. David panicked as he heard her walk in the front door. A resolute look came over him. He would not argue with her. He would just come right out with it and tell her of his plans to remain locked in the room for the remainder of his life. He heard her gasp when she noticed the refrigerator was gone. Quickly, he took up a pen and scrawled a note explaining everything and pushed it under the door. She came running frantically down the hall towards the room, and David was startled by an ear-shattering crash followed by a whimper of pain. His wife had tripped on the note and broken her ankle.
What was he to do? If he was to help her, it would require his opening the door and spoiling all his plans. He would just stay right where he was. David Engstein had no need of female companionship any longer, he thought to himself.
She began screaming. Suddenly, her eyes fell on the note which lay on the floor. She read it aloud:
It was nice being your betrothed. It is nicer without you, though. I am staying in this room till the end of my days. Don’t bother doing my laundry anymore.
P.S. Sorry about your ankle.
She was incredulous.
“David, you’ve gone insane! Get out here immediately! My ankle is broken, come out and call an ambulance — then I’m calling my attorney.”
“Sorry, Hun?! What has come over you? Have you gone mad?”
“I can’t come out. I’ve made a big decision. Besides, Love Boat is on in 10 minutes and Robert Reed is the guest star.”
“You took the TV?”
“Yes, now goodbye…I’m tired of speaking.”
She began pounding furiously on the door.
“Is there a problem, Honey? Listen, you’d better crawl over to the phone and call someone about that ankle.”
He heard his wife mutter something to the effect of “Oy vay”. It was the last time he ever heard her speak. She died on her way to the phone.
A half hour later, his children arrived home. His oldest son, Ryan, came to the bedroom door.
“I think Mom is dead or something.”
“Oh really? Listen, Ryan, could you do me a big favor?”
“I’m going to send out a few hundred bucks through the crack at the bottom of the door. I want you to take care of Mom’s funeral and burial. If there’s any money left over, get a couple of Big Macs for you and your brother and sister, okay?”
“And also, I’m going to be staying in my room for quite some time. Would it be too much trouble to ask you and your brother and sister to stay with Grandma and Grandpa until you can all afford an apartment of your own?”
“No, Dad, no problem.”
“Thanks, Ryan. Give my love to Jay and Melissa.”
It was done. He had now informed everyone of his decision. He was ready to begin his new hassle-free life. He began by falling asleep.
A shrill alarm sounded.
David Engstein had had it with life. He made the decision on a Thursday morning. As fitting a day as any to make such a decision. Laying in bed, he observed the room. The cruel room. Every single day, this room brought the monotony of reality into existence at exactly the same time — 6:35 a.m. Day after day after day……