by William Masters
Ever since Damon Edward Albert Dawson III, CPL, US Army, DOB 1989, (awarded the Afghanistan Campaign Medal and the Good Conduct Medal), returned from his second tour of duty, he could not leave his apartment without a list.
Checklists had become mandatory for survival at the front: inspect the tires on the Humvee prior to leaving for patrol; confirm a full gas tank; refill any missing supplies to First-Aid Kit; reload any missing ammunition; test personal communication devices; confirm the current password of the day: Alpha, Tango, Whiskey. Or was it Papa, Yankee, Zulu?
Before Damon left his apartment, he compiled a To Do list: get oil change (use discount coupon); return books and DVD’s to library; shop at Trader Joe’s (chocolate covered pretzel sticks, snickers ice cream bars, half gallon of chocolate milk, red meat); get lab work done before tomorrow’s therapy session at the VA Medical Center.
The next day, returning to the parking lot after his weekly Veterans’ medical appointment, his eyes automatically checked the tires for flats, the windshield for cracks, and the fenders for damage after which he ran an X-ray probe underneath his car to search for any kind of explosive device.
Only then did he enter the vehicle and turn the key in the ignition. He exited the busy parking lot checking and rechecking all mirrors and the car’s blind spot.
After returning home and parking the car, Damon carried the groceries up the two flights of stairs to his apartment. Staring suspiciously at the doorknob of his apartment, his pulse quickened. Tiny beads of perspiration dripped down his forehead and ran down his cheeks as he unlocked the door. Tightening his grip on the bag of groceries, he stealthily eye-balled the hall for any foreign obstacles before crossing the threshold.
Safely inside, Damon sat down on a kitchen chair. He reached for a nearby dish towel to pat the perspiration from his forehead and remained seated until his respiration returned to normal before he rose from the chair to put away his groceries.
Whenever anyone good-naturedly mocked his reliance on lists, Damon responded like an old fashioned, frock-coated preacher reciting the gospel to his Sunday morning congregation.
“Lists are the cornerstone of culture and artifact. Think Ten Commandments. Remember Homer’s catalogs of ships in the Iliad: (28 contingents accounting for a total of 1186 ships); forces led by Agamemnon, from Mycenae and Corinth: one hundred ships; forces from Pylos led by Nestor: ninety ships; the Athenians: fifty ships, together with twelve ships of Salamis led by Ajax the Great, et cetera and so forth.
“Lists create order, inspire confidence and provide safety. Think of the all the handwritten lists on refrigerator doors, in shirt pockets, inside handbags; lists pinned to bulletin boards and scribbled on post-it notes. Life without lists remains an impossibility.”
He checked his phone. “You have no messages.”
Overcome with fatigue, Damon hit the sack without removing his boots. With eyes-wide-shut, he inventoried the women he had slept with since returning home: Alice, Betty, Janet, Lindsey, Lois, Rebecca, Regina, Susan. Every one of them a fixer-upper. Donations. Charity sex. None had returned his calls. He wondered whether or not he had fertilized any zygotes that became babies (Billy, Eddy, Jimmy, Johnny, Jordy, Rickey, Sammy, Tommy) before a D&C had snuffed out a potential life.
Did any of those partners remember him? Why had none returned his calls?
Avoiding speculation, he moved his mind from his bedroom and shifted his attention to a television screen. A game show, What’s My Luck? began. His eyes locked onto a proscenium. A red velvet curtain parted revealing the complete depth of the stage and three doors painted white and numbered: Door 1. Door 2. Door 3.
“I choose door number three,” Damon shouted.
A smiling Alice appeared from the wings and opened door number three to reveal a casket with a black-matte finish.
“You have chosen well,” she said.
From plastic containers of pills on his night table, Damon emptied four blue, three yellow, two white and five green into a cup on his bedside table. He opened a thermos of water and washed down the pills. Then he changed positions from his side to his back, stretched his six-foot two-inch frame out flat on his bed, and snapped the top button of his shirt closed. Within minutes, the drugs took effect, gradually slowing his respiration and heartbeat until both stopped.