Word Count 1,165
This short story was written for Terry, an acquaintance of mine from work who, for reasons unknown, chose to end his life. It is seen through Johnny’s eyes.
Johnny Lancer sighed as he neatly folded the note and placed it in the envelope, for he felt it was all he could do. All anyone could do. But at least the small gesture made him feel better. He carefully addressed the envelope, ensuring his handwriting was neat and legible. ‘Mrs. Brooks, Shannon Ranch, Green River, California’. He hoped the short note of sympathy would reach its intended recipient.
As he glued the envelope shut, Johnny realized how little he really knew about Terry Brooks; he didn’t even know his wife’s first name to write on the envelope. But even though Terry was just an acquaintance, one he had known for only five months, the news of his untimely death by his own hand left the former gunfighter in a state of disbelief.
And it was a feeling he had never known before.
In his former profession as a gunfighter, Johnny was no stranger to death. Especially violent deaths. But as he thought back, he had never known anyone who had taken their own life, and he had known some desperate souls. And even at his lowest point, he had never considered ending his. Maybe it was because he had a strong inner strength, or maybe it was because something told him to hold on, that something. . .or someone. . was waiting for him.
So he couldn’t understand why someone like Terry would choose to end his life so violently, for he seemed to have it all: good looks, an education, a wife and young family, and a successful accounting career. Young Brooks had dabbled with cattle as a sideline, so when he expressed an interest in joining the Cattleman’s Association, he was encouraged to apply.
Through the monthly meetings of the Association that Murdoch Lancer had dragged his younger son to, Johnny found Terry to be an intelligent, articulate young man who seemed to have it all together. He asked pertinent questions and was deemed to be a future leader of the community.
But obviously, something in his life was very wrong. . . .
Johnny’s minor dealings with Terry had always been pleasant, and a few months earlier, both had attended a Leadership Conference in Spanish Wells. Terry had attended by choice; Johnny had attended because his father told him to. But Terry had made the meeting enjoyable and fun, and the two enjoyed a camaraderie that day.
When an opening arose for a permanent position in the Association, Terry, as next in line, was unanimously appointed by the members. He was sent the acceptance letter to sign, and returned it, in person, to Murdoch, who acted as the Association’s membership chairman. Johnny arrived at the ranch for lunch, and heard his father having a cheerful, lively conversation with someone in the great room.
“Who’s Murdoch talking to?” he asked.
“I don’t know, someone named Terry,” Teresa replied.
Johnny smiled, and went into the great room and greeted Terry. The three conversed for a minutes, then Terry advised he had to get home as he was awaiting a new addition to the family. He laughed as he told Murdoch and Johnny his dog was expecting puppies any day, and his family was anxious.
It was the end of August. And the last time Johnny saw Terry.
Johnny was away on business when the Association had their September meeting, and honestly, he hadn’t thought a thing about it. Or about Terry.
But two weeks after that meeting, Mr. Higgins from the Association came and talked privately with Murdoch. When he left, Murdoch gruffly called for his sons.
“What did we. . .I. . .do now?” Johnny asked, concerned.
“Johnny. . .nothing,” Murdoch softly said, lowering his head. Then he told them that a week earlier, Terry Brooks had taken his own life, with a gun to his head. He was found by his wife and buried the next day. The death was kept private, and Mr. Higgins was asked by the widow to inform the members of the Association.
Johnny didn’t feel sadness or loss. But disbelief. That someone so young, so vibrant, with so much going for him, had made the decision to end his life. He thought back and wondered if maybe there was a sign he should of seen; a secret cry for help. But honestly, Johnny sensed nothing. Terry had been a meticulous individual and was a bit fidgety, but those were hardly reasons to be concerned about his well-being.
The Association had discussed whether to send a letter of sympathy to his wife, but they decided against it. Since everything was kept hush-hush, obviously the wishes of the family, the Association more or less decided that members, if they chose, could send notes individually.
Johnny knew his father hadn’t sent any condolence note. Not that he didn’t care; it was just that unless someone was a close friend or relative, Murdoch Lancer didn’t get involved.
But it had been a few weeks, and Terry had been on Johnny’s mind. Perhaps it was because when he was going through applications to fill Terry’s position, he came across the application that Terry had filled out, so neatly, that told about his superior education, his experiences, and his ideas for the Association’s future.
And again the disbelief that someone so vital had chosen to throw everything away, and leave behind loved ones with guilt and sadness, hit Johnny right in the heart.
So he decided to send a letter to Mrs. Brooks, just to let her know that he had been proud to know Terry, and that his few months as a member of the Association had made a difference.
As Johnny slowly rode into town to mail his letter, he suddenly thought about how some people enter your lives like a cold, strong wind, knocking you to the ground with an impact that takes your breath away, then leaving your life as quickly and forcefully as they came.
Then there are other people who enter your life like a gentle breeze, you hardly notice their presence as you go about your life, but their quietness and easy manner nonetheless fills your heart.
Terry was like that gentle breeze. He was just there one day, like everyone else, living and breathing and taking in life. Then he was gone. . . .with no warning, no explanation, leaving those behind to ponder if maybe something could have been done.
Johnny wondered if, in time, the memory of Terry would drift from his mind, and he knew it probably would. After all, life goes on. . .with new people to meet, new places to go, and new life experiences to enjoy and learn from.
But as Johnny felt a gentle breeze caress his face, he realized that Terry would always be with him, urging him not to forget. And he hoped that wherever Terry now rested, he would find the one thing that had eluded him in life. . . .
Thank you for reading this little story. Writing it helped me express my feelings about a life event that until now, I had no experience with. And even though Terry was an acquaintance, his passing moved me nonetheless.
And for the record, Terry was his real first name; Brooks is fictitious.
Thanks again for your understanding with this story.
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