The Walking Dead

The following is my response to today’s Daily Writing Prompt: “A bobblehead collector is talked out of suicide by a member of his collection.”

Saul burst into his home office and slammed the door so hard that all of the bobbleheads, occupying the nine shelves of the three bookcases lining the wall opposite of his desk, began wagging their heads. Although he was no longer crying, his labored breathing and high-pitched whines made it clear he could start up again at any moment. He paced in front of the door, pressing his hands against his cheeks until they turned white. He gripped his hair and tugged, wagging his head like one of the figures on his shelves.

Then he thought of something that stopped him altogether. He went to his desk, covered with papers and books, including Home-Based Business for Dummies, and pushed his swivel chair aside. He knelt down and opened the bottom right drawer. His face lifted when he saw what was inside. A weak smile appeared on his lips. He lifted out a long, black pistol, gripped tightly in both hands. His face was resolute. He held the pistol in front of his face to inspect it, pulled back the slide to load it, placed it under his chin, sucked in breath and—

“You need to reconsider,” said someone behind Saul. It was a coarse, calm voice, a voice that was both familiar and foreign.

Saul stopped crying, wiped his eyes and nose with his sleeve, then spun around to see who had spoken. There was only the shelves of bobbleheads. “Who said that?”

“Killing yourself, you need to reconsider,” the voice said.

Saul’s eyes widened. He looked at the bottom shelf of the middle bookcase and saw that one bobblehead was not looking straight ahead like the others. It was officer Rick Grimes from AMC’s The Walking Dead. His head was tilted back, looking up at Saul through hooded, narrowed eyes under the wide brim of a brown sheriff’s hat. He had a severe expression on his stubbled face and his hand gripped a poorly painted revolver at his side.

“Rick?” Saul said.

The bobblehead looked down, shook his head, then looked back into Saul’s face. “Yeah, it’s me,” he said, his lips not moving. “I don’t know if you’re looking at me with what? Surprise? Sadness? I’m just telling you how it is. You need to reconsider.”

Saul wiped the snot from his nose. He let his head hang down as his face flushed. “I’m just so tired and confused. I just can’t deal with it anymore.”

“Feels like there’s a lot of that going around. But whatever ‘it’ is, we all carry it.”

“I’m just not equipped to handle life anymore. I’m not a happy person, Rick. And the only thing that kept me going was the hope that I could make this business work, that I could make a better life for my family. But I can’t. I failed. The investors don’t want anything to do with me. They said there is no market for my idea, that it’s ‘underdeveloped.’”

“People out there are always looking for an angle, looking to play on your weakness. It didn’t work out, so what? You need to pull yourself together, not apart. What about Annie?”

“She’ll be sad for a while… But sooner or later she’ll realize how much of a loser I am and she will be relieved that she has the opportunity to find someone else while she’s still relatively young. I’m just an idiot. An idiot! I’ve just wasted six months of my life, of my wife’s life, put her through all that stress, put financial strain on my family, and for what? What do I have? My biggest accomplishment in life is this damned bobblehead collection.”

“You believe that? I’ll stay down here, we’ll talk as long as you want, but you forget about this killing yourself stuff. So it didn’t work out, so it was just another pipe dream. Maybe I—maybe I’m just fooling myself, but that doesn’t mean you should give up. We’ve all done the worst kinds of things just to survive. I killed my best friend for Christ’s sake! But I’m not sorry for what I’ve done, because it’s in the past, because I’ve changed. You can still come back. You’re not too far gone. You get to come back… And I know you can change.”

Saul sat back on his heels, slowly turning the gun over on his lap. “My wife says that I should take this opportunity to pursue my television blog, but how can I do that when Annie works fifty hours a week? I couldn’t live with myself knowing that watching T.V. and messing around on the computer is my only contribution. She says to find a way to make money at it, but obviously, I’m a horrible business person. I just want my family to be safe, to have some security, and I want to provide it myself.”

“Now, I need you to hear what I’m about to say. You are not safe. You need to fight for everything you get. You need to contribute to your family, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do that with your blog. You have the opportunity, right now, to focus your time and energy on the thing that will make you happy. Don’t throw that away because of guilt from the past, or the fear of the future. That guilt, that fear, they’ll try to use you. They’ll try to kill you. But you are not going to let that happen, because you are a strong man, you want to live, for yourself and for your family. Now you think about today—only today. You do what you need to do, and after that: what happens, happens.”

Saul looked down at the pistol. He took a long, slow breath. He threw his head back and let all the air flow out of him. He felt lighter then, like something had gone, something had changed. He was full of an energy, ready to get started on something new. There was a soft knock on the door.

“Saul? Saul are you okay?”

Saul looked back to Rick, his painted face looking forward, like nothing had ever happened. But Saul thought he could see Rick giving him the slightest of nods. Saul dropped the clip into one hand, emptied the chamber, then replaced the pistol in his desk drawer. “I’m going to be just fine, Annie,” Saul said, “Just fine. I’m just thinking over what we talked about. I’m going to do whatever it takes to make it work.”

“That’s great news, honey,” Annie said through the door. Saul could tell she had been crying. “I’m sorry we got into it. I’m trying to make this better for you. I need to go to work. I’ll leave you to it. I really meant what I said. I love you. I just want you to be happy.”

Saul could hear Annie leave. “I love you too,” he said, more to himself than his wife. Saul got to his feet, went to the middle bookcase, and picked up Rick Grimes. He swept his arm across his desk, knocking the papers and books to the floor. He placed the bobblehead next to his keyboard, sat down, woke up his computer, and started typing. Now and then, he would stop typing, look down at Rick, tap his oversized head, and smile.






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