My Story (Edited) by Dean Kuch
Non-Fiction Writing Contest contest entry
The Master's Plan
At times, I can still remember that metallic taste— a taste much like one's own blood— as I stuck the muzzle of dad's pistol in my mouth. Occasionally, I still catch a hint of the metallic scent of gun oil and metal the weapon gave off in such close proximity to my tonsils. When it happens, I clench my teeth tightly and close my eyes. It is a reminder of everything that I could have lost, and how thankful I am that I did not go through with it.
It was 1985. I had just gone through a bitter divorce and had lost both of my sons in a very nastily contested custody battle. I moved back in with my parents, tail between my legs, and wallowed in self- pity and hatred for months thereafter. Finally, I'd had enough. I waited one day for my parents to go to work, took one of my father's pistols out of his room, then resolved to take my life. I didn't care what it would do to my folks when they found me. I didn't think about an eternity in hell. I wasn't worried how my two sons would react when they heard that their father had shot himself in the head. My only thoughts and concerns at that time were focused entirely on me and the misery I felt.
I just wanted it all to stop.
After several hours of deliberation and reflection, I loaded the weapon (my father never kept a loaded weapon in our home), and faced the window in the den of my parents' home. Finally, I steeled myself, placing the cold metal muzzle of the .357 magnum in my mouth.
Before I could pull the hammer back, there came a knocking on the door of the den. It was my Dad, who had decided to return home for an early lunch.
"Son...are you awake?," he inquired.
I quickly tossed the pistol beneath the sleeper sofa.
"Yeah, Dad. I'm awake."
"Okay, good. I came home for lunch and was wondering if you would do me a favor later today." I found this to be extremely odd at the time. My father never came home for lunch.
"What do you need, Dad?," I asked, trying in vain to hide the sarcastic tone of my voice.
"My knees are hurting pretty bad today. I noticed when I left for work this morning that the grass was getting a little tall," Dad continued. "So, son, I was hoping I could get you to cut it today, if you would?"
Why this?— Why now?, I thought to myself. But, I reluctantly agreed to cut the grass, promising him it would be done before he returned home from work around six that evening.
You need to understand something about my parent's yard. It is filled with all sorts of obstacles, ornate rocks and edgings; and it is about 3/4 of an acre. It was late August and the temperature outside was peaking towards one hundred degrees.
I knew this was going to take a while.
I was dreading every last second of it.
Pulling the push mower out of the garage, I checked the gas and oil levels, then pushed it out to the edge of the front lawn. The heat was so stifling and oppressive, I could barely breathe. I surveyed the lawn, made a mental plan of attack, then pulled the rope to start the mower. After coughing once and belching out a wisp of black smoke, the growl of the motor came to life. I had been so hoping that the thing wouldn't start. It did start, however, purring as smoothly as a sleeping lion. That's another thing about my father; he always went with the best lawn equipment available. Bargain Barn specials would never do. His lawn was his baby, his source of pride, and I knew I'd better have the task of cutting the grass completed before he returned home.
I was about thirty minutes into the chore, sweating profusely from every imaginable orifice on my body, when the skies began to turn noticeably darker. A slight breeze began stirring the poplars and maple trees in our lawn. The relentless sun peeked less frequently out from behind ominous-looking thunderheads the further I progressed.
About an hour into my task, I decided to take a bit of a break, get something cold to drink and rest for a while. Self preservation was far from the reasoning for wetting my parched palate. I planned to be stone-cold dead in about an hour anyhow. No, it was something— else, something— intangible that made me take pause. It was the darkening conditions of sky partially, sure. But, there was more to it than that. I just couldn't quite put my finger on it.
I decided on a cold glass of ice water from the fridge, with a bologna sandwich. After I had eaten, I trudged back into the garage to retrieve the gas can I knew my father kept there. The damn mower had been coughing and sputtering slightly right before I shut it off, so I assumed it was low on fuel. As I entered the garage, I switched on the little portable transistor radio my dad kept on a hook on the pegboard. Maybe some music would put a spark in my giddy-up, I reasoned. I filled the mower with gasoline,then turned the radio up as loud as its tinny sounding speakers could muster.
...'72 degrees now in the Gem City. Tornado watches have been issued by the National Weather Service for the following counties...'
The MC's voice droned on in the background.
I immediately switched the radio back off. I cared very little about tornado watches just then, but the temperature the radio announcer had mentioned did intrigue me. It was nearly one hundred degrees when I started this afternoon. Seventy-two? Had I heard that right?
The clouds, far more menacing and darkly hued than before, came rolling in like filthy cotton balls across a blackboard.
A Monkey Wrench in the Machinery
As the weather situation quickly deteriorated, I found myself rushing to complete my assigned chore. I didn't have to do this, I reasoned. I would be dead as soon as I got it done and got back to my original task, the one my father so unexpectedly interrupted. The more I thought about it, the faster I worked, and I was nearly done when the first ominous thunderclaps rumbled off in the distance. There was no lightning yet, but I knew it wouldn't be long. I sure as hell did not want to be outside, in the rain, with lightning crackling across the heavens.
The faster I worked, the darker and more deadly the appearance of the skies became. I could sense the smell of ozone and rain in the air.
I was nearly running now, my pace quickening to outpace the torrential downpour I knew was only a few minutes away. I had completed the entire front yard, both areas on each side of our home, and now concentrated entirely on the largest, most obstructed portion of the lawn, the back yard. Looking back, I can not say with all certainty why it was so crucial for me to get this done, but it was. It was the last promise I would ever make to my father.
I wanted to keep it.
It was as if God Himself were trying to complicate everything, make my efforts far more difficult than they should have been. I think that was the prevailing motivation for me. It was me against Him, and I was not going to let Him beat me down again. I felt, at that time in my life, He had beaten me down enough, and this was one war of wills that I was not prepared to lose. Oh, yes; it was me against the 'Big Man Upstairs'.
For once, just once...I wanted Him to lose.
I was three quarters of the way finished with the backyard, when the first cool raindrop plopped down upon my sun-scorched pate. I moved more quickly, spurned on by the realization that the coming storm was finally here. The air was charged with an electric energy, and strong winds had kicked in now. Hard, steady winds came seemingly out of nowhere. I literally found myself freezing as my sweat- soaked body came under siege by their ferocity. I looked up at the obfuscating skies and screamed.
"You and me, buddy, you and me! You want me to quit, don't you? You want be to just give up, tuck and run as you've always seen me do in the past, huh? Well, I've got news for you, buddy-boy, I have a couple of swipes left to get this damn yard done, and I don't care if you unleash a twister from Hades. I am not going to quit this time. You are not going to win this round, I guarantee you that pal. I can assure you of that!"
I never missed a step as I issued that challenge to my creator. Looking back now, I am probably lucky that an expertly aimed lightning strike did not come booming down from beneath those roiling, billowing clouds overhead, turning me into a pile of smoldering cinders where I stood. But there was no such lightening strike, no doom from the hands of God. There was only more wind and a steady sprinkling of rain.
I find it embarrassing now as I reflect back to that day— the way in which I had chastised my God with such an outburst. I also realize that, although I got the lawn done in record time, I had not won the battle.
He had simply let me win.
He had motivated me to get busy living, or get busy dying. Now that my promise to my dad to get the yard mowed was complete, there was nothing standing in my way to prevent me from finishing what I'd started that morning.
Or so I thought.
I made my way around to the front of the house, then opened the garage. A smug smile and confident stride accompanied me along the way. Pausing briefly, I looked out over the landscape, marveling at what I had accomplished in such a short amount of time. The familiar odors of freshly cut grass, dampened earth and an impending downpouring of rain wafted up all around me. My senses were heightened to an almost euphoric state. I resumed my trek to the garage, pushing the Craftsman mower ahead of me. Grabbing the garden hose, I leaned it up against the side of our house, aimed the nozzle attached to the end, and turned on the outdoor spigot.
You must understand something about my father. He does nothing half way. He never had up until that point, and I can humbly assure you that he remains the same to this very day. With dad, a job was incomplete until you finished the small details. It was protocol that, at our house, when you cut the grass, that was only a portion of the job's completion. You were responsible for cleaning up the tools you had used, sweeping the cuttings off of the driveway, from the back patio, hauling the bagged grass out to the curb (oh yes, you used the bagger when you cut dad's yard), and clearing the drainage grate along the front sidewalk. "It's the small details that make a job complete," he would always tell me.
He still abides by that motto today.
I hosed off the mower, did all the other aforementioned expected tasks, then began to push it into the garage. I no sooner crossed the threshold, when the skies burst open and let loose their pent-up fury. Sheets of torrential rain washed down in waves. Blinding flashes of bluish lightning cascaded vertically across the gray skies. After pushing the Craftsman into its assigned space, I turned to watch Nature's wrath unleashed upon the world, a wrath that I was nearly caught up in. I thought immediately about the gun awaiting my return beneath the LazyBoy sleeper in the spare bedroom upstairs.
It was then that I heard... the voice.
I would not sit here and try to convince you that I've been a saint since I heard it. "It", how else can I pair mere words to such a thing; an incorporeal voice that resonated deep within my soul? An utterance which had no earthy reason for being there, one I felt more than heard. I will only say with certainty that hearing this—voice— changed me in ways I can't explain. A change came over me that day which was all encompassing, immediate and final. I know I've not been the same person since the incident. All of the hatred I had been harboring down deep in my core, all of the regret and pain I had nurtured for so long was instantly washed away, much like the many grass clippings that were swept away and into the sewers by the torrential rains that day.
Gone in an instant. 'POOF!"
It would be unfair for me to bring you this far along and not tell you what it said to me, so I will attempt to do my very best. Oh, I haven't forgotten, you need not worry about that. I will never forget it. I simply can't put into words the feelings I was experiencing at the time, not easily. I pray I do it justice...
"Dean, there will be many obstacles in your life." ( I instantly thought of our lawn...)
"The way will become cloudy, unclear at times." ( I remembered those clear, pristine blue skies when I began, and how they looked as I had finished..)
"And much rain shall fall." ( I had only to look at the sheeting rain that fell then, just outside the door...)
"But I shall make a way for you" ( I thought of the sweltering heat in the beginning, then, how the winds quickly cooled and refreshed my body as I worked faster and faster...)
"And, my son, you will overcome it all." ( My son? Did He just say, My son?...)
I whirled around as if I'd been slapped across the face. The hair on the nape of my neck stood at attention as the unseen force that made it's presence known there to me that day. The air became electrified, crackling with the tart scent of ozone. Everything became brighter and more refined, as clear as the most brilliant diamond. I dropped to my knees, and I prayed. I prayed like my life depended upon that prayer. I felt compelled to weep like a newborn as I did so. I was not in a temple. Not a church, nor a tabernacle, not a mosque---I was in a garage, replete with oil stained concrete floors, tool boxes, and discarded children's toys and what-nots from days gone by. My breathing quickened, my heart beat raced; the organ threatening to jack hammer it's way from beneath my heaving rib cage. A peaceful coolness washed over me, almost as soon as it had begun. The aura that the entity had generated when present was gone.
That's it. Five short, succinct phrases, words whispered over my right shoulder; into my ear so deftly and deeply that it felt as if they had permeated the very fabric of my soul and became a part of me.
I believe now, that's just precisely what they did. They merged with my essence, became a lasting part of who I am, of the man I have become today. I am sure you all have your own personal religious convictions. You may be an agnostic, or an atheist. Maybe you are into New Age Scientology or cult worship. I am not here telling you this story to be the judge of you, nor anything that you may or may not believe. My sole purpose is to relay to you my experience, what I believe it to be.
God came to me that day in that tiny, cluttered garage. He gave me a gift; a gift to put down on paper and into words, in black and white, if you will, stories, both imagined and true. I have verbally relayed to very few my experiences that day. Contemplating killing yourself; copping out on everyone and everything by snuffing your own life out as easily as you would a dwindling match, is not something to be very proud of. But, you see, that is precisely the point of this story. I am not dead. I met an absolutely amazing woman nearly twenty-one years ago, got married, had a son with her, and witnessed the birth of my only daughter in 1996. I have so many friends and family members who support me and care deeply for me, far too many for me to list here. Have I known pain and hardship since that day? Sure, of course I have. Everyone does at one time or another. But the beauty I have witnessed, the good I've seen? It far outweighs all the bad.
So why am I telling you all of this? I felt compelled to put this story down, finally, in written form—see how it goes. I felt I had to—
Maybe you yourself are contemplating suicide? I couldn't possibly know. However, I can tell you this...
Look at all of the beauty I would have missed out on had I went through with the deed. The birth of my first and only daughter. Meeting my current wife of twenty years, along with all of the splendor and beauty she brings into my life every single day. Meeting you good people— here.
That to me, in and of itself, makes sharing this with you all the more worthwhile.
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