“The Will to Live,” by Pavelle Wesser

Oct 20th, 2009 | By | Category: Prose

Doctor Will stared into the darkness beyond his office window. It was two o’clock in the morning but he just had to call her. He snatched up the receiver and dialed, waiting several rings before she picked up.

“Gladys,” he said, “we need to talk.”

“At two o’clock in the morning?”

“I’m leaving Agnes for you.”

“Have you told her yet?”

“No, I wanted to tell you first.”

“How can I believe you when you’ve said this sort of thing before, Will?”

“Tonight is different, Gladys. I was lying in bed and my thoughts were driving me insane. Agnes woke up and asked me what was wrong. I told her I had an emergency at the hospital, then I came to my office to think. I love you, Gladys.”

She coughed. “Will, remember I told you about my old boyfriend, Don?”

“I don’t care about him.”

“Don started calling me, claiming that he couldn’t live without me.”

“Forget that idiot.”

“He asked me to marry him.”

“Surely, you’d never consider such a ridiculous proposal.”

“I am. I did. I accepted his marriage offer.”

Will gasped.  “Gladys, how could you?”

“I thought I was wasting my life on a married man.  Besides, I feel good about my decision, Will.”


“Will? What’s wrong?  Are you going to hurt yourself?”

“Am I going to hurt myself?”

“Don’t repeat what I say. Answer me, Will.”

“Fine. No, Gladys, I’m not going to hurt myself; I am going to kill myself.”

He slammed down the receiver and slumped over on his desk. With his eyes closed and his head pounding, he took himself back in time. He’d attended an Ivy League college and had gone on to a top medical school. He’d married a pretty girl and had built up a successful medical practice. Then the problems had started; the only problem was that they’d all been inside his head. He wasn’t happy. It was a simple and as complicated as that. His life had become one long, tedious chore. Only Gladys had broken his cycle of misery.

Three loud knocks on the door interrupted his thoughts.

“Who is it?” He called out.

The door flew open and a man stumbled in wearing rumpled pajamas. His hair was unruly and his expression wild.

“Hey Doc!”  He plopped himself into the chair opposite Will’s desk.

“Pete, what are you doing here?”

“I was out for a stroll and noticed your lights on. I figured we could chit chat.”

Will cursed himself for not locking the door. “You can’t just barge in here, Pete.”

Pete stared at him with haunted eyes. “The pain is getting worse, Doc.”

“We discussed this during your last appointment. Pain marks the progression of your disease.”

Pete wrung his hands together. “This ain’t no life, Doc. It’s a living death.”

“You have to be strong for your family, Pete.”

“I got none. My wife and I recently divorced. At first, I was relieved, but then I started to understand that all them years, I’d seen her like the kitchen wallpaper, something faded and old in the background of my life. I was wrong.”

“Go home and get some sleep, Pete.”

Pete started to cry.  “Tonight I was lying in bed, thinking, and suddenly I couldn’t take it no more. I ran from the apartment in my pajamas. I never stopped until I saw your lights. Then I says to myself, ‘Me and Doc awake at this crazy hour is destiny.  We gotta’ talk.”

Will leaned forward. “You need to be evaluated by a psychiatrist, Pete. I’ll give you someone’s name.” Will began scribbling in a notepad.

“Don’t bother, Doc.”

Will looked up and stiffened. “What’s that in your hand?”

“What do you think?” Pete was pointing a gun at his own head.

“You’re not thinking of killing yourself right here in my office, are you, Pete?”

“Of course I am.”

Will stood. “Pete, you cannot kill yourself here.”

“Is all you care about your office, Doc?”

“Killing yourself anywhere is not advisable, Pete.”

“It’s the easiest way out,” Pete cocked his pistol.

“Don’t do this, Pete.”

Pete’s eyes were empty. “Good bye, Doc.”

Will leaped forward and grabbed at the gun just as it went off. The blast threw him against the wall, where he remained, stunned. When the smoke cleared, he saw the gun lying at an angle from what was left of Pete’s head. As Will stood paralyzed with horror, the door flew open and Gladys charged in, flanked by four police officers. She stopped, her mouth opening in horror.

“Will, oh my God!”

He looked up. “Gladys! I…”

Her eyes filled with hatred. “I knew you didn’t have the guts to kill yourself but just in case, I called the police. Now I see that in your weakness, you killed this poor, innocent man. Oh, Lord, have mercy.” She choked out a sob and shoved a fist into her mouth.

“Gladys, you’re wrong. I was just about to take an overdose of prescription medication when he barged in, ranting and raving. I tried to help him. I swear!”

The police officers trained their guns on him. “Raise your hands above your head, Mister.”

Will, who had contemplated suicide only moments before, now obeyed the officers on pain of death. As they handcuffed him, he stared at Gladys.

“The truth of my innocence is out there, Gladys, even if you never believe me.”


Three years into Will’s incarceration, Pete appeared to him in his dreams.

“If you’re willing to die, Doc, I can take you to the truth.”

“I died on the day I didn’t kill you, Pete.”

“You may as well have. Your life ain’t nothing but a living death. Come with me, Doc.”

“You fill me with a cold comfort, Pete. Let’s go.”

As Will departed his life, he glanced one last time upon the world of shadows and lies before looking up to welcome the truth.

The End


Pavelle Wesser’s writing has appeared in various online publications. Her interests include travelling, cooking, reading, writing fiction and taking care of her dogs. When she is not engaged in the aforementioned activities, she can be found teaching English at various locations in and around New Haven, Connecticut.

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