“What Hamlet Said,” by Sameer Saklani

Apr 20th, 2012 | By | Category: Fiction, Prose

I answered the phone and he said, “I’m going to do it, Sandini. I’m going to kill myself.”

And I said, “Who is this?”

He informed me that it was Ernest. Knowing it was Ernest, I responded, “No, don’t do that, Ernest.”

But Ernest was an obstinate man, there was no dissuading him. In the past I’d told him that it was silly to go sky-diving. Ernest went sky-diving. I told him he shouldn’t involve himself with a boxer’s ex-woman. Ernest courted, bed, and left that woman. I told him to be wary of the mercury levels in fish. Ernest’s breath always reeked of fish. In retrospect, I believe Ernest may have been suicidal longer than I had expected.

Ernest kept on insisting that he would do the deed. Knowing nothing good was on television on a Sunday night, I told him, “Hold on, I’ll be right over.”

“Why? You want to discover my corpse?” said Ernest.

“No, not at all,” I said.

“Then what? You actually want to see me end it?”

“What? No, Ernest, just wait. I’m leaving.”

I hung up and began to put on my shoes. Libby emerged from her bedroom in a white cotton robe, with her hair tied up and her reading glasses on. She was immersed in a book.

“What’re you reading?” I asked.

“Shakespeare,” she answered, elaborating no more.

“Go on…” I said.

She took her eyes off of me and back onto the page.

“I mean tell me which play. I spent eight years studying literature; I think it’s safe for you to mention the specific name.”

Hamlet,” she answered.

“What do you think so far?” I said.

“I think he should have done it.”

“Done what?”

“I think Hamlet should have killed Cladius as immediately as possible.”

“And then what?”

“What do you mean ‘and then what’?”

“What would the other four acts be about?”

“Why do you ask such inane hypotheticals?” she said, dismissing my query.

I grabbed my coat and reached for the door.

“Where are you going?” she asked.

Thinking the entire thing too gloomy and depressing, I answered, “Oh, nowhere. I’ll be right back.”

“Are you having an affair?” she asked suddenly.

“What, no, not at all. I’ll be right back.”

I was out, with the door almost closed behind me, when I stuck my head back in.

“Wait, are you?” I asked her.

“No, not even a little,” she said.

“Okay, yes, well that’s nice.”

And with that I really left.


I knocked on the door about forty-five minutes later. I had considered driving faster but there was no sense in endangering the lives of multiple people in order to save one. Either way, I hoped Ernest had not committed for life to death. Depending on the method, I may have been entirely too late or catching the last few minutes.

I waited for a reply and then knocked again.

Before becoming too worried, I heard him yell, “Open.”

I opened and entered. To my initial surprise, his quaint apartment was still in order. Then I realized that suicidal persons weren’t necessarily known to trash their homes in a violent rage. They were meek and mopey people so, fittingly, I found Ernest sitting in his loveseat with his head hanging low. I sat on the coach across from him.

I wasn’t sure of what to say at first. I thought my presence alone would be enough of a consolation. But then I noticed that he began to become peeved that I wouldn’t announce my business.

“How are you doing, Ernest?” I asked.

“Fine. I’m going to kill myself,” he said.

“Don’t do that. It isn’t worth it,” I said, quite lamely.

“Not very original,” he criticized.

“Neither is killing yourself,” I retorted. I felt rather proud of my witticism, and then quickly realized it was no time to be feeling proud of my witticisms.

“Prove to me it isn’t worth it,” said Ernest.

“Well…” I said, “I wouldn’t do it.”

“Of course you wouldn’t do it,” he said, “why the hell would you do it? This isn’t about you. I take insulin for my diabetes, doesn’t mean you’ve got to. Christ, shit, Sandini, what the hell are you thinking?”

“My god…” I said, taken aback.

“What else is there for me?” he asked.

I tried to think of any friends, family, or lovers he had.

“Well…there’s alcohol. Have you tried that?”

He shook his head.

“Well, maybe start drinking. I mean, god, it sounds awful,” I continued, “but there is that…”

“Doesn’t interest me,” said Ernest. “It seems to only be delaying the inevitable.”

“I once had a girlfriend who claimed that everything we did was to delay or distract from killing ourselves. She was a bit of a pessimist. She also once posited that the world was simply a poor, running watercolor done by a crippled God. Lord, what an odd woman…”

I saw Ernest’s head droop lower.

“Listen, Ernest, Libby has a psychiatrist whom she speaks really highly of,” I told him. “She says he really penetrates the soul. Would you like me to get his information for you?”

“Rarely, if ever, have I enjoyed being penetrated,” answered Ernest.

“Well, there’s got to be something that’ll get you out of this despondency. Anything, Ernest, just let me know, and I’ll try my best.”

“Libby,” he said.

“You want to talk to Libby? Sure, sure, I’ll give her a call and she’ll be right over.”

“No,” he said, “you go home and tell her to come here.”

“Okay, let’s think of something else.”

“Face it,” said Ernest, “I’ve got nothing. I don’t even have friends, and those are some of the easiest things to get.”

“I’m your friend,” I reassured. “We’ll spend more time together, I promise.”

“Really?” he said, a tinge of optimism in his voice.

“Of course!”

“You think we’ll open our own business?” he asked, like an eager prospector.

“What? Uh, yes, sure, our business: Sandini & Ernest.

“Or Earnest & Sandini,” he suggested.

“No, no, of course not,” I said.

“Yeah, there’s no way we’d be able to sell scarves in this climate anyway,” he said, trailing off.

After learning of Ernest’s peculiar dream of opening a winter haberdashery, I didn’t have much else to say. We sat silent and still, so silent that I wished that Ernest would keep a loud clock in his apartment. But while sitting so quiet, and being able to think so lucidly, I had a thought. I remembered just how stubborn Ernest was.

“Well, Ernest, it seems like you’re really going to do this,” I said.

Ernest sat with his head down, making no reply.

“So I think I’ll be going now,” I continued. “You know what? I’m in the mood for a bagel.”

“A bagel?” asked Ernest, raising his head, slightly incredulous.

“Yes, a bagel. Know where I can get a good bagel?”

“Well…there’s the place on Henderson…”

“Henderson? There’s no bagel place on Henderson,” I told him.

“What are you talking about? Of course there is, I’ve eaten there often. They’ve got the best bagels in the city.”

“There is no bagel place on Henderson. The closest bagel place around here is on Rosetta, and that’s twenty miles away.”

“There is a bagel shop on Henderson, right across the street from the bail bondsman and next to the used book store!” he shouted.

“What? No, no, that’s a coffee shop you’re thinking of.”

“That is a bagel shop, you imbecile!” he said, rising to his feet in fury.

“You are simply an idiot, Ernest,” I said, also rising. “There is no bagel shop on Henderson, and I am willing to place a wager of one-hundred dollars.”

“Sounds like a bet,” accepted Ernest.

“Okay, fine,” I said. “I’ll be back here tomorrow. If you can produce a bagel from this alleged bagel shop, I’ll hand over a hundred dollars.”

“I guess I’ll see you tomorrow then,” he said.

With the bet made, I left Ernest’s apartment, hearing him slam the door behind me, still irked by my ignorance. I knew I would be back tomorrow and also a hundred dollars poorer.


Sameer Saklani says: “The Supervillain is constantly copied, rarely replicated! Step right up and witness his histrionics, his swift gesticulations, his brilliant ballyhoo! He is the liquid Lothario! The charismatic Casanova! The amoral Adonis! Extra, Extra! Man lands on Moon and discovers Supervillain has been greater all along! He is the vanguard of verse, the Raja of writing, the tsar of the typewriter! The Supervillain currently resides in Tampa, FL and works as a wordsmith, huckster, jester, pugilist, and philanderer. Ladies and Gentlemen, you can contact him at ssaklani@mail.usf.edu for whatever intellectual or loose reasons. I would prefer the Gentlemen to be intellectuals and the Ladies to be loose.”

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