Sunday, November 11th, 2001 | 12:53
The Commoner's Guide To Suicide (pt.1)

From Matthew Good's manifestos: The Commoner's Guide To Suicide

Step One: Life is like bread. It's great at first and as time passes it gets harder.

Eli was very quiet. And by quiet I mean that he never spoke, not that he was soft spoken. In fact, Eli didn't utter a word to another living thing until he was almost seven years old. And he did so only to get the attention of a dog so that it didn't get hit by an oncoming car. There are events in every life that shape our individuality. If that dog had heard Eli in time it probably would have gotten out of the road. As it happened, the dog didn't hear him. And Eli didn't speak again until he was seventeen. What was the point.

Eli Lemski was one of those outer rim kids that went undetected by social radar. Raised by his father, an obsessive - compulsive aeronautical engineer, Eli spent most his childhood sitting in various rooms starring at things. By the time he was twenty-one there wasn't one millimeter of any of those rooms that he hadn't spent fourteen hours looking at without moving. This, of course, made him one of the most observant people of all time. And though Eli would spend most of his early life searching for his one true worldly gift, it always escaped him that his power of observation was it. The downside to that, of course, is that it only pays if you decide to count cards at Blackjack tables. His alternative, as it turned out, was much worse.

Due to the fact that Mr. Lemski worked mostly on military contracts, Eli and his father spent a great deal of time moving from one place to another. And as Eli's speech problem became worse it didn't make a lot of sense to Mr. Lemski for Eli to attend regular schools. Being the egotist that he was he assumed that his son had inherited his intellect and wouldn't need to waste his time being dragged down by slower kids. So Eli went to school via the mail. And, to his father's dismay, it became clear that he was not the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree. So Eli squeaked through his scholastic life and received his high school diploma in a large manila envelope. And although the water damage to that envelope had turned most of the diploma into a runny mess, Eli was still able to make out the two most important words on it. And those were Eli Lemski.

As this story's narrator (and a participant), I always found it strange that a man like Leo Lemski (PHD), would have the gall to think his son just as brilliant as himself and yet allow him to get an education by correspondence. When I first met Mr. Lemski I realized immediately that this was the kind of man that could care less whether or not Eli did anything at all with his life. Leo was so self absorbed that he rarely spoke to his son, let alone giving a damn whether or not he excelled scholastically. But he used to love using Eli's mediocrity as an excuse to blow off steam. And due to the fact that Eli never raised his voice in his own defense it just made it all the easier. Either Leo or Eli were big men. They were slight, gangly creatures with sunken eyes and hands that seemed too large for their arms. But unlike his father, Eli was not an awkward person. He was graceful and moved as though he was trying to elude some force that constantly stalked him. That was the first thing I noticed about him when we first met. That and the fact that he could shoot as if he were the god of marksmen come to earth. And that's where I come into it. I was the one that took Eli to the shooting range that afternoon when we were both twenty-one. My father, unlike Leo Lemski, was not an engineering genius. My dad was a test pilot. And before he was killed he worked with Leo on a couple of projects for the airforce. That's how I came to meet Eli. One morning my dad asked me if I would take Eli with me to the shooting range as a favor to Leo. I was staying with my dad during spring break and was due back at college a couple of days later. So, since the base was just as boring as every other airbase in the world, I figured it couldn't hurt. My dad warned me that Eli didn't talk much but I wasn't prepared for what I'd find when I met him. Of all the people in this world and out of it, Eli Lemski only chose to talk to two of them. Myself and his mother, Irene. The difference being that I was alive at the time and Irene hadn't been for almost nineteen years.

Now let me clear something up before you start to get the wrong impression. Even though I was taking Eli to a shooting range I was not a proponent of firearms. To tell you the truth if I had my way they'd all be melted down and turned into blue-steel candleholders. During my four years at Stanford an ex-girlfriend of mine was killed by a guy at a house party. He thought the gun wasn't loaded and started waving it around. Unfortunately when he got to the 'bang-bang you're dead part' the barrel just happened to be pointing at her head. So she's dead, I spent a couple years in therapy, and he did some time for involuntary manslaughter (exactly nine months, two weeks, and twenty-seven days). Sometimes having an influential father and good lawyers can get you out of anything. It doesn't matter than the gun wasn't registered or that he was stoned on cocaine at the time. Forget all that. They protested that it was all just a big accident and why ruin the boy's life. Well, I'm sure they'd see it differently if it had been their daughter on the other end. So let's just say that I was never all that fond of guns. Even before the 'accident' I never could stand them. But growing up in a military family you have little choice as a boy. If your father wants you to learn to shoot then you shut the hell up and you do it. Because sometimes the fear you have of disappointing your father is stronger than your convictions. So I did what I always did. I went and shot off some rounds at the range so the good-o'-boys down there could tell my dad that I'd done it. And on that particular occasion I just so happened to bring along a treat from them. Eli Lemski.

You know how there are some things that when certain people do them they just seem right? It's like driving or cooking or having sex. Eli Lemski was a natural marksman. He could hit anything at any range as long as the weapon could perform the task. The day that I picked him up I was initially a little peeved at my old man for making me do it. Eli was dressed in the same thing that he was always dressed in. A white button-up short sleeve shirt, dark brown pants, and old leather shoes. His hair was parted on the side and pasted to his head as if he'd bathed in motor oil, and his glasses were far too big for his face. But put a gun in that boy's hands and it's like watching God creating the universe. When we got to the range he just followed me in and watched as I squeezed off a few rounds from a 45. I offered him the gun and he meagerly stepped to the line and shot off five rounds right on top of each other without so much as blinking. His body didn't even seem to move. The flurry of reports brought over some of the regulars and we just stood there and watched him fire clip after clip. All afternoon he hit nothing but chests and heads.

So that was my first encounter with Eli Lemski. After I finished the semester at Stanford I returned to Texas in the summer of 1982 and spent a great deal of time with Eli. I even got him to talk to me a little. But that summer was the last time that I would see him for almost five years. The next time we'd run into each other would be in a Manhattan alleyway. I was puking and Eli, well, Eli was working.

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