It was the one thing he coveted the most.
"Boy, I could really use some death right now," he muttered to himself.
From that day forward, Fred Dumbly was known as "The Death Coveter." His entrances into restaurants and other public facilities in town were marked with stares and whispers.
"Is he the one daddy? Is that him?"
"Look away son. Don't speak of him."
"I SAID NO, BILLY."
Such were typical dialogues when Dumbly entered a room.
"Hey guys!" said Dumbly upon entering his favorite bar Bar None and slapping a couple of guys on the back.
The men sitting at the bar were friends of his... or so he thought.
"Two beers, please!" said Fred.
"Two beers comin' right up!" yelled the bartender, Bart.
"Hey Bart," said Fred. "What's your last name? Is it... ender?" And he laughed and laughed, an extremely obnoxious laugh. The man next to him, whose name was McFee, rolled his eyes.
Fred continued to laugh, looking from McFee to the man on his other side as he did so, hoping they would join in the hilarity.
"All right, cut it out," snapped Bart, as he filled two mugs full of his finest lager.
"This is some great lager!" shouted Fred as he downed a mug in one gulp.
"Holy cow!" cried McFee, his eyes wide with amazement. "You downed that whole mug in one gulp! How did you do that?"
"Well," said Fred, putting his mug down and starting in on one of his innumerable stories. "Back in the day, the kids used to call me 'Gulp.' I was always Gulp Dumbly. The one-gulp wonder. I'm surprised you guys haven't heard about me."
"Can it," said Bart, looking cross. "We're in no mood for your wild stories, Dumbly."
Dumbly went silent, except for downing his other mug in one swift gulp. The rest of the bar patrons slurped their alcoholic beverages. On the television set, the Dodgers were up to bat against the White Sox.
As it turns out, Dumbly was only putting on a happy face. The laughter, the wild and possibly bogus stories from childhood… it was all meant to draw attention away from one thing.
“So Gulp,” said Mike, one of the other men at the bar. “I hear you’re pretty good with a flyswatter.”
Dumbly perked up at this. “Boy, am I!” he shouted with exuberance. And he launched into a story about that one time he took down 79 flies at the Alabama State Fair in 1993.
“Don’t encourage him, Mike,” said Bart, visibly annoyed as usual.
“I’m gonna die,” said Fred, abruptly and without warning.
The other bar patrons stared at Fred in disbelief, their mouths open.
“Ah, don’t say that,” said Uriah, the man on the other side of Fred. “You’ve got a long life ahead of you, Fred.” He put his hand on Fred’s shoulder, and gave him two firm squeezes.
“Well, can’t say I won’t miss you Uriah,” said Fred, smiling that old signature smile. “You always did know how to bring the old signature smile to my face.”
Uriah shed a tear. Then Bart wiped tears from his eyes. It wasn’t long after that that sniffles were heard constantly from every person in the room.
Everyone… except a man in the corner, wearing a dark suit and sunglasses.
Just then, a beautiful radiant light appeared from the ceiling. And a beautiful golden staircase. The people looked up at the staircase, which led up into the sky, towards the brilliant blazing sun. Angels were singing.
“Goodbye, everyone!” yelled Fred. “I must be going now!” He gave a friendly wave.
The men at the bar all waved, tears streaming down their cheeks.
“And you, Bart,” said Fred, turning to Bart. “You gave me all those beers. I owe you my life. How can I ever repay you?”
“This one’s on me, Fred!” said Bart, and he stuck out his hand. Fred shook it firmly.
Then Fred turned and looked up the staircase. The time had come.
“Goodbye everyone!” he called out again.
“Goodbye Fred!” came the reply in unison.
But not all in unison. The man in the corner began to stand. He had an earpiece in his right ear, which he pressed firmly to his ear and muttered something.
Fred took the first step, and said to himself triumphantly, “Well, here I go.”
He had taken another two steps when someone had flown through the air and latched onto his foot.
Fred stumbled and fell. The man in the dark suit had has hands wrapped around his ankle, and was pulling him back to earth.
“Get off!” cried Fred, and with his other foot delivered a swift kick to the man’s face. The kick broke the man’s sunglasses. But he still held tight. A couple of the bar patrons jumped on the man’s back and grabbed at his face. But with inhuman strength, he threw them all off. Several bodies flew over the bar and crashed into the glass cabinet.
“You will not die!” cried the man in the dark suit.
“Shut!” yelled Fred, struggling to free his leg from the man’s grasp. He kicked the man’s face again. Yet he retained his grasp on Fred’s ankle, and continued to pull him down the stairs. But Fred was not about to go quietly. Into his pants pocket he thrust his hand, and pulled out... no, it couldn’t be… a flyswatter.
With a stunning realization, the men in the bar knew that Fred Dumbly was no liar. He was the man they all thought he wasn’t. He was the man he wanted them to think he was but they didn’t think he was. But it was really more that he wanted them to know who he was but they didn’t think he was.
He was Fred “The One Gulp Wonder” Dumbly.
With a fury never known by anyone to wield a flyswatter, Fred Dumbly attacked his assailant. A flyswat to the eye. A flyswat to the chin. Fred Dumbly screamed in rage as he attacked. He was no longer a man. He was a monster. With each swat, some different bone in the man’s face snapped. Blood splattered the heavenly staircase. His grip loosened on Fred’s ankle. Fred turned and sprinted up the staircase. His friends at the bar cheered in triumph.
“No!” cried the man. “No! No no no no no!” He attempted to chase him, but stumbled around wildly. Fred Dumbly had flyswatted him so much that his eyeballs had popped out. Now he was blinder than an old blind person.
Blind… to the truth.
Blind because he would never know the great secret that Fred Dumbly had chosen to keep hidden all these years.
Blind because he had no eyeballs.
But also metaphorically blind because the great secret that Fred Dumbly knew, a secret that would have changed the world forever, a secret that would’ve changed the very destiny of the human race, was climbing up the heavenly staircase with him, a secret sought after for decades by the world’s foremost authorities on secrets, a secret that men would’ve eaten their own small intestines to know, not only their small intestines, but their small intestines filled with sulphuric acid. So that they would be eating their own intestines while their faces were being eaten away by sulphuric acid. All for the great secret.
Fred, having put a solid 50 feet between him and his assailant, turned around and laughed. The man shook his fist. “DUMBLYYYYYY!” he shouted, fury in his voice.
“Good work, kid,” said Bart to himself, grinning, as his bar patrons cheered and slapped each other on their backs. “Good work.”