Francis Koop, a father of two, realized he was a dead man at precisely 6:10 PM on September the 21st, 2014. The feeling that his death was imminent, struck him the way indigestion strikes during breakfast at one of those chrome diners. At breakfast, at a chrome diner, the victim promptly sets down his coffee and slides his omelet toward the center of the table; sets a desperate gaze, begs for eye contact with the waitress. He needn’t ask: check, please. The waitress knows. When the feeling that his death was imminent popped up, he was sitting lakeside at a picnic table watching his children’s children push one-another off the dock, yelling and carrying on, the way children’s children are known to play. Sixty-six, he thought to himself, I’d have put money on having at least another 10 years. He sighed for his career cut short.
His daughter Joan, was debating the purchase of a new vehicle. Something with all-wheel drive, but not so hard on the environment. She was very motherly, he thought, even to the environment. She’d take his death visibly hard. Her pain would be visceral, he knew. She was the expressive type, who would double over when laughing or respond audibly to powerful scenes in crowded movie theaters. Her husband wouldn’t be much help in the grieving process. He was sort of a closed off fellow, but he came from financially successful stock. In Francis’ estimation, he was cut from Grade B husband material; he lacked certain tools, but so did most.
His son Roman would take it in stride. He’d appear to have expected it all along, because in a way he had. He was the type who always made sure to worry about things in advance, so that when things inevitably soured in any given situation, the emotional toll would already be paid in full. In this way, he was always on top of his emotional finances. He would drink heavily (and alone, probably) and cry silently, but for the family, he would be stoic and exhibit a dark humor as a means of deflection when necessary. His wife would wonder and prod him at times: what’s wrong with you? This would be the most difficult thing for his son. He smiled to himself and thought a concerned wife was good problem to have and was happy his son had found that.
His eyes welled momentarily, thanking heaven for bestowing the same upon him: a concerned, caring wife. Abby Koop. She would fall to pieces. She would consider it unjust, but would ultimately devote herself fully to her hobbies, to her book club, to baking. She would give herself over to long morning walks and boxes of wine. She would be okay and was too young still and too beautiful yet to not remarry. He became jealous of the next man who would have her and who would sit at this cabin, at this picnic table, with these dragonflies, with his wife; using his remaining performance enhancing prescription medication. Francis Koop hoped the next man would be taking nitrates for chest pain.
Francis sat there with his death on his mind, reviewing game film, poring over a lifetime of memories, playing them like unmarked VHS tapes, fast-forwarding to good parts, skipping over the bullshit. He had had sex with 11 women. He had never fucked a teenager. When he was 17 he started fooling around with one of his old babysitters, 22. They messed around on and off until she married at 25. He was in college and found women his own age then, skipping over the chance to fuck a teenager. He told himself that it wasn’t that big of a regret or anything that mattered, but here he was addressing it in his final hours. Damn, he thought. But he’d still had fun. Many good lays. Abby, when he’d first met her, before her ass sagged. She still had large nipples that he considered amazing.
He should have traveled more, but everyone should travel more, always. That should be all one does if possible, but it isn’t, he figured. He’d seen most of the states, at least, if he counted driving through them. Gone to a late night taping in New York City. Seen live musicians, comedians, plays. He had read many of the American classics in addition to numerous war porn page turners. He was computer literate and used a smart phone, more than he could say for some of his similarly aged friends and acquaintances.
He never murdered anyone. That was an urge he’d avoided. He had cheated on Abby for a couple years. He wasn’t proud of that, but was happy the affair hadn’t led anywhere or destroyed anything the way it rightfully could or should have.
The kids were getting the shivers as the clouds rolled in and ran up to the cabin to dry off. Joan was saying they should go in and get a bite to eat and grabbing the pitcher of raspberry iced tea. Francis thought about letting her leave and dying right there, but decided he wanted a little more time and asked that she help him up. He reached his hand out to her free hand and they pulled at each other until finally he put his legs into it and stood up from the table. That’s the last time I’ll stand up, he thought, so I had better find a comfortable place to sit.
They walked to the cabin, talking about how the weather had turned and how it looked like rain and he breathed deep and smelled that indeed the rain was coming and could not be held back. And thought that rain ruining a sunny day is a small price to pay for that smell. He smelled it again and fought back tears, knowing the game would be called early on account of inclement weather.
When he entered the cabin, little Jessica rolled off of his recliner and plopped on the ground with a thud, saying Grandpa could have his chair. She was the cutest and most polite little child he had ever seen and he was not being sentimental, it was just so (even if she did have the grace of say, an errantly thrown bowling ball).
He slid into his chair and smiled. The sky groaned outside and began to pour a hard rain that sounded violent like hail. Roman came over with the newspaper and started talking baseball, but Francis couldn’t focus on the conversations in the moment. He was too busy remembering Roman as a five year old child, playing with his plastic bat and plastic ball, calling the game like it was the World Series. He could see him now in the back yard. Throwing up the ball, saying, here’s the pitch, swinging the bat around wildly and missing, saying, strike one. Throwing it up again, saying strike two. Throwing it up again, saying… strike two. Throwing it up again, saying… strike two. Throwing it up and making contact. He gets underneath it and it goes approximately 8 feet up in the air and 3 feet in front of him, saying… It’s a home run! Roman Koop is the hero with a home run! There’s a memory he doesn’t want to leave, a memory he’d like to take with if it could be negotiated.
It’s dark out and the weekend is almost over and Francis knows he can’t stand to say goodbye, but implores his children and his grand children to come over to his chair and give him hugs and kisses. They file out of the house wearing foam fingers, hoping to avoid traffic and Abby starts the dishwasher. At precisely 9:07 PM on September the 21st, 2014 Francis Koop, a father of two, breathes his last breath while the local news anchor fumbles over a transition between stories. The last thoughts he has are of Abby’s big nipples and how he’s okay with the fact that he never fucked a teenager.