On a Whim


“Never let laundry be an excuse for not living your life!”  I heard from my bathroom.

“What?”  I said turning from my computer screen.

“Never let laundry be an excuse for not living your life!”  The voice repeated.

“What the hell does that have to do with anything?”

The door to my bathroom burst open and out stormed Eddie Fredericks with a Kurt Vonnegut paperback in his hand.  Eddie Freddy.  That’s what they called him.  It started as a way to tease him in grade school and the name just stuck.

He only read Vonnegut when he was in the bathroom.  He only read anything when he was in the bathroom.

“I’ve got a new philosophy, man.”  He said flopping down on my unmade twin bed that was probably about as comfortable as a cot in some army camp.

“I don’t really have time to hear it, Eddie.”

“Forget that!  You’ve got all the time in the world.  Don’t be a slave to anything, man.  Especially not to laundry.  Next time you tell me you can’t do something because you have to do laundry, I’ll give you some clean clothes to wear!”

I rolled my eyes and went back to my screen.  I was one thesis away from graduating college and this low life idiot was trying to tell me how to live?  I didn’t think so.

“Seriously.  I’ve been thinking a lot about stuff, man.  Life’s too short.  I’ve decided I want to go out on a whim.”

“A limb?”  I corrected him.

“No.  I know what I’m talking about.  A whim.  Do things on a whim.  Go out on a whim.  Cool, huh?”

“Yeah, if you’re completely out of your mind.”  I laughed.

“Whatever, man.  You’ll see.”

The very next day, Eddie started practicing his new “philosophy.”  I was starting to think that it just involved him doing crazy things for attention.  He sold his car and bought a bike.  He quit his job at the local burger place and decided to just do contract jobs wherever he could find them.

Eddie had flunked out of college two years ago and his mother was perfectly happy with having him live in her basement because he kept up with the lawn and maintenance around the house.  At least it was quiet where he lived.  My tiny bottom floor studio apartment was starting to take its toll on me.  Every time the guy above me dropped his shampoo in the shower, I heard it.  It sounded like he dropped an extremely heavy barbell and he did it a lot.

I ran into Eddie at the coffee shop.  He was standing out front with a cardboard sign that said, “Will Dance For Dollars”.

“Eddie.”  I just stared at him.

“What, man?  I’ve always wanted to do this.  I’ve made three bucks so far and it’s only been an hour!”

“When are you going to stop?  What’s the point of all of this?”  He was starting to drive me as crazy as he already was.

“I told you.  I’ve decided to just do what I want to do.  No holds barred.”  He grinned.  “You should try it too, Daniel.  It’ll change your life.”

“Sure it will.”

I left him to go order my latte and almost spit it out when I saw him doing the running man for three giggling middle school girls through the glass.

Eddie took up the didgeridoo.  He started playing it at the local nursing home on Sundays.  I couldn’t believe that they were actually eating it up as entertainment.  I figured the entire home was probably deaf.  I had just graduated and was starting an internship at a bigwig newspaper downtown.  I gave myself six months and I would be able to afford a nice condo.  Eddie showed up at my graduation party wearing nothing but paint.  Two more years went by and I was still kissing my idiot of an editor’s behind trying to get somewhere.  I was twenty-six.  I had a condo.  I had a great girlfriend.  But I hated my life.  I felt like I didn’t know what the heck I was doing and my best friend was a guy who I had to bail out of jail two weeks ago for streaking across a golf course in broad daylight.

“You know you owe me your life.”  I told him as I drove him back to his mom’s house.

He was still laughing hysterically.

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”  He said.

I wanted to punch him.

Four months later, Eddie was killed riding his bike.  Some idiot ran a red light and in an instant Eddie was gone.  He was dressed in a clown’s wig and bright red nose to match.  I covered the story, which was the most heartbreaking thing I ever had to do in my life.  Eddie’s mother asked me to say a few words at his funeral and I spent nearly two whole days trying to come up with something.  As much as the guy made me want to admit him to the psych ward on a daily basis, I still loved him.  He was my best friend and I didn’t know which words could possibly justify who he really was.

I asked Mrs. Fredericks if she didn’t mind me poking around the basement for a bit.  She happily agreed.

“That’s a good way to say goodbye.”  She said with tears in her eyes.

I lay down on Eddie’s bed and stared at the ceiling.  He had a poster of a scantily clad Christina Aguilera staring down at him every night.  That depressed me.  As far as I knew, Eddie had never dated a girl in his life.  I thought about the fact that he may have died never being in love with a woman and then realized that I was probably insane for even thinking things like that when my best friend was dead.

I poked around his desk and in a few drawers but didn’t find much that was of interest.  Finally, I opened up a box under his bed.  I found a spiral notebook that had “On a Whim” written on the cover of it.  Eddie had taken the time to write down all of the principles of his “philosophy” and even gave detailed journal entries of the things he planned to do and what he had already done.  I laughed.  I cried.  I missed that crazy guy.  The last entry he wrote was dated the day he died.

“I’m going to bike over to Dan’s place dressed as a clown today.  His girlfriend will probably flip out.  At least she laughs at me though.  Dan doesn’t really do that anymore.  I think my next adventure is getting him to at least go out on a whim, just once.  Maybe I’ll get him REALLY drunk first.  Well, gotta go!  Clown Bike’s waiting!”

I broke down into a huge heaping mess on Eddie’s floor.  Why couldn’t I see what he was trying to show me all along?  It didn’t really matter that Eddie had a series of dead end jobs.  It didn’t matter that the whole town thought he was out of his mind.  Eddie was happy and as much as I tried to pretend that I was, I wasn’t.  I had fear holding me back from just up and leaving my job and taking on freelancing.  I had been advised to many times and I couldn’t listen to it.  Stability ruled my life and I realized that I didn’t want it to anymore.  I grabbed the journal and drove home.

That night, I composed a eulogy in honor of my best friend using quotes from Eddie’s journal as a guideline.  I now understood what Eddie was doing with his life and what he meant by going out on a whim.  And although it was hard, I actually laughed a little bit at the fact that he did indeed, go out on a whim with his death.

After the funeral, the next day, I called up my boss and told him I quit.

“What do you mean, you quit?”  He was furious.

“I quit.”

“And, why, may I ask?”

“Call it a whim.”  I responded.

“A whim???  What do you mean a WHIM?!?!?”  I could imagine his face getting redder than it had ever been all of the other times he yelled at me.

“Yeah.”  I said.  “A whim.”

Then I hung up feeling better than I ever had in my entire life.


© Jennifer Patino (2007)

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