For Lack of Ink by Jhonelle Johnson

Martin’s wife has recently left him. So recently, in fact, that their lawyers are just now getting acquainted and the pungency of her expensive perfume lingers in the master bathroom. He has never used that bathroom.

Martin is in his study. His study is a study in razor edges, dustless corners and neat blank space. His desk is precision, in perfect position before the window. The window is set exactly in the middle of the wall. It is night beyond the window, and the stainless steel lamp in the upper right hand corner of the desk sheds unflattering light across the folds in Martin’s throat and the shining globe of his half-bald head. martin is sitting in his plush and stainless leather chair, his secret throne, selecting with purpose a key from his key ring, a drawer from his desk, a keyhole for the ke ring. He clicks open the drawer. It squeaks. Martin winces.

Martin’s plump, moist fingers pincer-grip a thin manila folder. E extracts the folder like a jeweler does a gem. The folder is labeld at the side with a typed strip set in a green plastic tab: NOTES. The heading of the first file in the folder :

Date		: 09/07/2009
Attempt#	: 1
Method		: Carbon monoxide poisoning
Result		: Car refused to start. Iginition problem. Attempt 

The second file, and so forth:

Date		: 09/13/2009
Attempt#	: 2
Method		: Self-induced motor vehicle crash
Result		: Car totaled. Left arm broken. Right leg broken. Three 
ribs broken. Collarbone broken. Whiplash. Insurance company wormed out of payment. Attempt postponed
Date		: 09/27/09
Attempt#	: 3
Method		: Russian roulette
Result		: Gun was not real. Dealer stiffed me. Unable to contact 
her. Attempt postponed
Date		: 10/11/2009
Attempt#	: 4
Method		: Hanging
Result		: Rope unable to support weight. Sprained ankle. Injured 
tailbone. Insurance company suspicious. Attempt postponed

Martin turns carefully to the sheets in the back, already labeld with Date, Attempt, Method and Result. These are blank. He fills In:

Date		: 10/15/09
Attempt#	: 5
Method		: Assortment of expired pills
Result		: 

Martin writes in a stilted script, his fountain pen scratching against the heavy paper in slow, tight strokes: PERSONAL NOTE.

There is approximately a 72 – 85% chance that the pills I consumed at 12:30 am – exactly ten minutes ago – will kill me, so, for the sake of order, I would prefer to have this written, Just In Case. I am aware that this is, in fact, not in accordance with my usual documentation format. Nevertheless, I feel the circumstances warrant a more emotional rendition of my state of mind at the time of the event. Not only has Gwendolyn left me, but she has had the nerve to do so with, of all people, the local kindergarten teacher. I do not understand this, as we have no children. How did this happen? Where did they meet? I believe it would be beneficial to make a note of my emotional state of being, and so I will be transcribing this reaction to create an apprpriately dramatic suicide note, which I will then clutch as I die, and with which I will be discovered. I had, unfortunately neglected this aspect of my previous attempts.

Martin lays aside the pen and reaches into his steel shell briefcase, removing from his ordered paperwork innards one sheet of paper folded into a small, crisp square. He unfolds it, smoothes it. The paper is covered in geometrically perfect scribbles, notes in bullets. He re-reads the notes, lamplight glinting off the square lenses of his glasses. He takes from his briefcase his laptop, opens. Glances at the folded plane of notes. Starts typing.

To Gwendolyn,

You fat, fat whore – and not just fat in the literal, physical sense, not just in the fleshy folds of flab rolling over the elastic waistband of your couture sweats like a graceless waterfall. No – fat in the mind, fat in the heart, you jiggle with apathy! Your trendy gigolo will soon grow tired of hauling your greedy ass about, carrying it on his aching back as I’ve had to do all these long, sweaty years. That ass, that ass, that ever-spreading ass! It was fine in the beginning: pert, heart-shaped and bouncing, the perfect balance of firm and fleshy, and half the reason I married you. But then it grew complacent, parking itself on the couch, on the poolside deck chairs, on salon tanning beds and pedicure thrones, all the while expanding, dimipling, sagging before my weary eyes. Your nails grew longer. Your patience grew shorter. Your hair grew thinner. Your wrinkles grew deeper.

Were you suffering from the illusion that I hadn’t noticed? Worse, were you suffering from the illusion that you were standing still in time, that I was the only one suffering from ‘middle aged spread,’ as you so kindly, so graciously pointed out as you packed that glaring yellow shell suitcase with all the clingy clothes you charged to MY credit card? Where you? Were you? Well surprise Gwyneth, Gwendolyn, Gwyn, however you sign your name at the club these days. You too are growing old. You too are spreading middle agedly. Your fiery new lover will soon grow disgusted with your unbecoming folds and crevices, and sail on to newer, fresher prey. How did you become entangled with the likes of him? Where you conducting your clandestine affair in the sacred halls of learning? Did he stand before the little ones with the reek of fornication still upon him? Have you no shame? Has he no pension?

Martin blinks once, twice, and pauses to rub his eyes too hard with the pale heels of his hands. When his hands fall back down to the keys, he is squinting.

“Odd,” he types. “The keys are attempting, in various order, to scramble themselves and form strange, fanciful little squiggles like so many little white worms. It is unfortunate then, that I need not reference the letters on the keyboard, having taught myself to touch type that year when even those hot short accounting studs were being fired. Still, the manifestation of the more visually debilitating effects of the pills indicates that I have underestimated the speed of my digestive system and overestimated the amount of time I have left to me.”

In conclusion: To you, Gwendolyn, I leave the third fingers of each hand, pointing upwards as you have been unable to get a certain part of my anatomy to do for fifteen years. Screw the will – take whatever the hell you want; I’m still paying for most of it, so all I’m really leaving you is a visit from the repo man, ha ha!

Martin lifts his hands from the keyboard with a dramatic flourish, eyes victorious behind his glasses, then guides the mouse to the button marked ‘Print.’ The printer makes industrious chugging noises beside him, and he rolls his throne towards it, pushing with the squeaky heels of his shoes. Martin is humming something tuneless in time to the printer, until he grasps the first sheet in his hand and realizes it is blank, save for a few faint grey lines across its surface. Martin flips the paper over, then peers into the printer’s empty may, noting with an expression of alarm the blinking orange exclamation point atop its console. It is telling him that he has no ink. The ink supply depleted. The printer lacks ink.

Martin feeds the blank page to his shredder, then swiftly removes the ink cartriges. He shakes them, the fat on his chest and foreardms wobbling violently with the effort. He feeds the them back to into the printer’s mouth, but with no better results. The lines on the next batch of papers are only a lighter shade of grey. Martin’s face slowly becomes a curious shade of purple, and he extracts the cartridges again, this time with greater force, and grips them like dice in one wet, pudgy palm.

“Damn,” he mumbles quietly. His eyes start left and right, and he glances over his shoulder at the window behind him. “Shit!” he says this time, slightly louder with a growing conviction. “Shit! Fuck!” He springs from the chair with a wobble and flings open the window. “Goddamn the motherfucking printer, running out of motherfucking ink!” With one overhead motion, he hurls the offending cartridges into the night, then stands perfectly still, listening for the sound of them striking the earth, or the shocked gasp of a neighbor. Neither is forthcoming. Martin carefully swings the window shut and slumps down once more into his chair. He heaves a heavy sigh and reaches into the bottom drawer of the desk, the big, deep one, and and his hand re-emerges with a sheet of neon green paper. With his fountain pen, he scratches unto it, ‘Check laptop for note.’ The pen’s ink bleeds through the paper, forming feathered branches like the lines around Gwendolyn’s mouth. Martin caps the pen, places it in his briefcase. He resumes typing.

To whoever finds this, please replace my ink cartridges and print three (3) copies of this note: one for Gwendolyn, one for my lawyer – because that sone of a bitch always had a morbid sense of humor – and for me to take to the grave. In the even that tomorrow morning does not find me alive, I bid you all farewell!

Martin re-reads it, then deletes the last line. He replaces the NOTES folder in the upper drawer and locks it. He closes the briefcase and squares the laptop to sit parallel to the edge of the desk. He pauses, reconsiders, and pushes it with the tip of his finger so that it now sits at the fifteen degree angle. He suppresses his nervous smile and removes his glasses, placing them at a jaunty angle on the desk to his left. The neon green paper he positions on his laptop’s keyboard. Then Martin slumps dramatically against the desk. His breathing is deep and regular.

This short story was written by one of my friends and former co-workers, Jhonelle Johnson, a little while back and was published here with her permission.


3 thoughts on “For Lack of Ink by Jhonelle Johnson

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