Final Frontier

Sally got home from her nature guide conference after being gone for a week. She was surprised to see an envelope with her name on it in Duke’s handwriting propped up on the phone. He used to send her little love notes, but with his recent problems, he had dropped the habit. Could he finally have some good news?

“Sally, there is no way to make this easy. I’ll be dead when you get this.”

After the first line, Sally sat down and started to cry. It was five minutes before she could resume reading while still sniffling.

“I didn’t tell you how painful and humiliating the first dialysis was. You may think that I had some hope of getting a kidney transplant. I was able to keep other health problems from you that ensured that I wouldn’t be around long. I also have liver cancer. No idea why I bothered with dialysis, I won’t be around long, so why keep hurting when the end is near?”

“You were too good to tell me ‘I told you so’, but I certainly deserved it. Every time you tried to keep me from smoking, drinking and overeating, I fought you. The hacking and coughing, the blood in the urine, there was nothing that I wouldn’t ignore. It is all on me.”

“Besides trying to protect me from myself, you were so good to me in so many ways. When the DMV wanted to pull my driver’s license, you went to bat for me to keep my license. When I wanted to invest half of our money in my crazy brother-in-law’s get rich scheme, you talked me out of it. You saved me from having the crap beat out of me by the neighbor that hated the loud music I played in the backyard. Eddie forgave a lot for your scrumptious apple pie.”

“If you knew how dire my situation was, you probably would have wanted a few more weeks together, but you know what a whining baby I am. I would have been miserable, and I would have made your life miserable. That is why I’ve been on my best behavior the last few weeks. No whining about your hair or the time you spend on the phone. Finally, I’m acting as I should have all the time that we have been married, so I hope that I get a few points.”

“You shouldn’t have to deal with the grim details. I will take a bus out to the Gorge and get off somewhere, and then climb up, avoiding trails as much as possible. Do you remember I wondered if there was any place in Oregon no one had ever set foot? I hope to find such a place where I’ll never be found. I was able to get enough fetanyl to kill me. Remember how much better I felt at emergency when I got it in the IV? I hope that and the brandy I’m taking will get me a feel-good passage to oblivion.”

“I loved you since we met. You deserved better than me.”

Sally dried her eyes and burned the note. If Duke’s idea was to disappear without a trace, she would do her best to honor his wish. She would report him missing with no idea what had happened to him.

Appeared in Soft Cartel with a slightly shorter ending.

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