I’ve written a lot of stories about death. Woody Allen and I have a lot in common. He tended to write flash fiction too, before it was common. I particularly like the story he wrote about the two sisters, one living in Los Angeles, the other in New York. They were so close, that once when the LA sister took a bath, the NY sister mysteriously got clean.


Run For Your Life


The doctor had explained that it would be sudden. The cancer would not cause much trouble until it ate into a major blood vessel, and then he would bleed to death as quickly as if he were shot. Kurt was not familiar with death. He’d been too young to contemplate his own demise, until now anyway. At first, he tried to extend his life intellectually. If he took the rest of his days and divided them into hours, divided the hours into minutes, the minutes into seconds, the seconds into milliseconds and on and on, he would have an infinite amount of life left. But contemplating higher math didn’t distract him for long. It was at an appointment with an oncologist, who kept looking at the ceiling, the floor, almost never making eye contact that Kurt realized that what he didn’t want was to die in a hospital amidst the smells of death and the patronizing attitudes of his friends, relatives, doctors.

“Well, I’m not going to just sit around and wait for the goddamn thing to get me,” he’d said, “I’m going to kill it first!” And so, Kurt set out to kill his cancer. Bungee jumping off the Golden Gate hadn’t done it, but had landed him in the San Francisco city jail for the night, that didn’t kill him either. So, the next day he went downtown to Dudley Perkins Harley-Davidson and bought a big black bike, a sleek one, decked himself out in leather, a large hunting knife and rode south, sans helmet, really fast. The Pacific Coast Highway was as rugged as any stretch of road in the U.S. At multiple vistas along his journey he thought: “this would be a good place to do it,” but Kurt was not one to take a dive, even in a match played against himself.

He made it, alive, to East LA. “Not even a goddamn ticket,” he swore, “I must be living right,” and he laughed so uncontrollably that he almost crashed the bike. Cruising the barrio, he found what he wanted. He pulled the bike up onto the sidewalk, leaned it roughly against a lamppost ten feet from as surly a group of gangbangers as had ever held up the side of a building. He swaggered over to the group, fingering the hilt of his knife.

“Hey, seister, you got plans to visit your amigo Diablo?” said one of the pack and they all snickered.

Kurt’s smile took two or three seconds to fully form as he stopped a few paces from them. He looked each of the half dozen gang-bangers in the eye in turn then spat, hitting as many of their stunned faces as he could with one giant lugey. He turned and ran for his life. Twenty minutes later, huffing and puffing between sips of an iced tea at a 7-Eleven, he never felt so alive.

A few days of scuba diving with blue sharks off Catalina Island and one bar fight later had landed him in Marana AZ and the icy metal floor of a Cessna 185 as it nonchalantly proceeded with its climb to 3,500 feet. He’d spent the morning taking a beginning skydiving class. The three other guys that he’d been grouped with had lisped, giggled, winked and patted each other throughout the course as if they were a live action dictionary demonstrating the word: stereotype. He couldn’t decide what was worse — knowing that he had only a few months to live or the possibility that he might die in the presence of these caricatures he had somehow been ordained to spend the day with.

As he peered out the open door of the small plane, Kurt’s inner thoughts and the verbalized ones of the guys he was squeezed in with were similar — I am not leaving this goddamn plane. Funny how he could still feel fear in the midst of his chess game with death.

The jump instructor called out: “ready,” and pointed to one of the others. The man hesitantly climbed out the door holding the wing strut and standing on the wheel strut. He eyed the static-line that would open his chute automatically when he jumped, looked in at the group, his arms visibly shaking. He let go, “Fucccck,” trailing him out the door. That sealed the deal. There was no way in this life or beyond that Kurt would let these guys show him up for bravery. He moved out onto the wheel strut when prompted, holding the two ends of the static-line that he had covertly severed, the division hidden by his left hand. Without a word he let the slipstream pull him from the plane, the choice of oblivion now resting in the ripcord of his left hand.