The Final Question
Brooks Sterritt

What will my final question be? Why not suicide? Who has asked the same before? Beckett? Bernhard? Who invented depression? When will the shiny-shoed man in my dreams stop tapping his umbrella?
Why are cigarettes so expensive? Why is medicine? Why did my wife leave? If I had known a year earlier, could I have prevented it? Why did the cashier look ready to call security when I tried to make small talk? Why can't I tell what anyone is thinking? Why can't I control my thoughts? Why did that song on the supermarket loudspeaker make me sweat so? Why did a windblown newspaper in the street appear blank except for a single, troubling instruction? Who said, "Kill God, kill your parents, kill yourself?" Isn't that a Buddhist teaching? Isn't it legal to kill your wife as punishment for adultery in certain countries? Why are all of those countries very hot?

Why do people stare and look away when I notice? Why did the young man walking his dog nod in my direction like he knew what I knew, and then pretend not to understand? Why did he make me force it out of him? Why wouldn't his little dog stop yelling, at first? Why did it never occur to me that the word "cuckold," with minor alterations, yields not only "cluck" and "cock," but also "cuckoo?"

Could I have persuaded the jury with a different argument? How can they hold me accountable after I explained the Lacanian position—that the authentic self is an illusion? Can I survive in here? Out there? For how long? Is this really the final question?

Brooks Sterritt is an editor at Redivider. He's had stories in Barrelhouse, Word Riot, Dogzplot and others.

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Detail of photo on main page courtesy of D. Sharon Pruitt.

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