Happy Story

text by Joseph Grantham


I work at a bookstore.
For a while, everyone at work thought I was going to kill myself.
I thought so too.
They started placing bets.
 I felt left out.
“I bet a hundred bucks I’ll be dead by Thanksgiving,” I told them.
“That’s not fair,” they said. “You’re the one in control.”
They had a point.
We were in the break room.
We were listening to current events on the radio.
There was another terrorist attack.
A seven year old was exploded.
Others were, too, but hers was the explosion that made us sick.
“You really gonna kill yourself?” Bill asked.
“I wouldn’t put it past me,” I said.
“All right then,” Bill said, addressing the group. He rubbed his hands together. “Let’s place bets on how he goes about offing himself.”
There were so many ways I could do it.
It was like choosing a breakfast cereal.
How do you choose?
I could jump off of something.
It would have to be high.
I could tie a rope around my neck, attach that to something, and then jump off of something else.
It wouldn’t have to be too high.
“He’s thinking about all the ways he could do it,” Frank said. “You can always tell. His eyes glaze over.”
I was obsessed with something.
But I didn’t know what it was.
I didn’t want to die.
I wanted to be dead.
Or maybe I didn’t.
I wanted something that I didn’t, and couldn’t, understand, being that I was alive.

That night I got a phone call.
I was in bed, half-asleep.
My nonexistent wife was asleep somewhere else in the world.
So the phone call didn’t wake her up.
I picked up the phone from the bedside table.
I said, “Hello?”
“What kind of haircut do you have?”
It was a man’s voice or a maybe a boy’s.
It’s hard to tell sometimes.
“Gray,” I told him.
“I thought you said color.”
“I said ‘kind’.”
I sat up in bed.
“Who is this?”

And then you have to go to work the next morning.
After a phone call like that.
“I got the craziest phone call last night,” I told the guys at work.
“Was it about your haircut?” Frank asked.
“Yeah, how’d you know?” I said. “Was that you?”
“Nope, it was my son. He’s been doing that lately. He called Bill the other night.”
“Asked me the same thing, about the haircut,” Bill said. “Woke up my wife.”
Bill shook his head.
Frank shrugged.
“Doctor says it’s kind of like how some people sleepwalk. But instead of sleepwalking, Davy calls people up and asks ‘em about their haircut.”
“So he’s sleep calling?” I asked.        
“No, he’s wide awake. It’s just sort of his thing.”
Sometimes there’s no such thing as mystery.

Thanksgiving came quicker than I expected.
People were buying turkeys and watching football.
People were lecturing other people about Native Americans and fuck Christopher Columbus.
And I hadn’t killed myself yet.
I hadn’t given it much thought.

Christmas came and I realized something.
I was happy.
Drinking only tea and enjoying my mornings.
I’d go out on the porch.
I was alone and I’d probably stay that way.
But I love books, I love reading them, they’re enough for me.
Sometimes things happen and I get scared.
I get scared because I don’t want anything to get in the way of my happiness.
Like, a few weeks ago, really it was only last week, I had a cancer scare.
And by that I mean I thought I had cancer.
There were lumps.
But I went to a doctor, got everything checked out.
He felt my nodes.
The lymph ones.
Turns out I’m okay.
I’m okay with a lot of things.
I’m okay with being ugly.
I’m okay with having what looks to be a strong jawline from the front, and a weak one from the sides.
I don’t have a choice.
I’m okay with meeting women online and then meeting up with them in person, disappointing them.
And everyday I think I’m going to get fired from my job at the bookstore.
And everyday, when I get home from my job at the bookstore, I stick an invisible gun in my mouth and blow out my invisible brains all over the walls of my kitchen.
But I’m okay.
Doing fine.