Last Shot

a Short Tale of the Absurdity of Life and Death

Today is the perfect day to die.

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Last Shot

Today is the perfect day to die.

Bernard is the type of man that accomplishes all that he sets out to—and easily. He's intelligent, hardworking, and completely unfamiliar with failure. His only complaint—the singular source of the inner anger bubbling within him—is that no one else in the world recognizes that.

It's time to force them to.

Bernard's had enough. Enough of the complete absence of respect in his life, of being looked down upon, of being the only person in the world—it seems—who truly sees the reality of his life and what he deserves acknowledgment for. In fact, that recognition is way overdue. And that makes Bernard's blood boil.

Today is just like any other day; Bernard has planned and prepared for every aspect. His heated rage stews just under the surface, just more fuel for the fire. He will accomplish this one goal as he has all others. Another success, his ultimate success. And he'll have made his blissful escape.

The final statement will be Bernard's. At last. The perfection of the execution of this one, final achievement will be undeniable. Bernard will be free of this ridiculous world—passing calmly from his lifetime of frustration—and the world will realize its significant loss.

They won't be able to take away—or look away from—what he's about to do.

If he succeeds. But of course, he will. Why wouldn't he? He always has.

He's dead set on killing himself, as many times as it takes.

One two-toned capsule, aligned perfectly with all the rest, finished the masterpiece: a veritable rainbow of multi-hued sleeping pills all in a row. Bernard leaned back to teeter on the back legs of his dining chair and admire his unintentional artwork with a drunken smirk.

Everything was in alignment, all carefully planned and calculated to issue a quick and mostly painless death. Bernard would never invest less concentration and attention to detail in his suicide than he did, in every moment, in his life.

The chair creaking under his weight slammed firmly onto the tile floor, resting quietly again on all fours, as the anger returned.

The setup was finished; the hard work was over. There was nothing left to do but die.

Bernard closed his eyes and allowed his rage to consume him, treating himself to the immense delight of festering in his dedication to each and every reason why his life should end here and now. And there were a lot of them.

The world was a despicable place filled with endless atrocities—most of them directed at Bernard. He was a perfect man—he was sure of it—in an undeniably imperfect world. He was the only one who put every care into every personal action, committed his full time and attention to his work, doted dutifully on his relationship partners, and actually gave a crap. And he was never, ever recognized for it.

Bernard couldn't recall when he last heard a thank-you or received a proverbial pat on the back. He was certain he'd never been granted a promotion or even an extra day off. There were no plaques nor certificates hanging on his walls to confirm his efforts or prove his worth. Never an accolade or commendation. Not so much as a gracious smile or an aptly firm and respectful handshake.

Any man in a similar position would ultimately come to the same conclusion: an ungrateful world and unrecognized life was not fit for a man with such self-imposed standards.

He couldn't live like the rest of them—couldn't stand to pretend he was one of them—so, there was no point in living with them.

The decision to end it all was easy, every bit as matter-of-fact as Bernard's process of preparing for it.

Months of deliberating the full array of suicidal options were a joy. Weeks researching the precise formula for concocting a suitably precise death were surprisingly pleasurable. The days leading up to the carefully selected date on the calendar were positively blissful.

Bernard had discovered the immense sense of peace delivered by determining one's own end.

And he was sure as hell going to savor the last few minutes of it.

The second hand on the clock looming overhead on the kitchen wall ticked more loudly than ever before, its precision and pronouncement honoring the meticulousness of Bernard's final project.

Every variable had been taken into account to ensure a timely and flawless cessation of all of his bodily organs: his mass and weight, physical health, alcohol intake, the dependability of his digestive processes, desired outcome, the combination of a carefully selected variety of pharmaceuticals with their own effects, doses, and amount all factored.

It was time.

Bernard swallowed down his unvoiced goodbyes to the full lifetime of people, places, events, jobs, romantic relationships long gone cold, and general heinousness of the world as he knew it—with four fingers of vodka. What remained in the bottle set carefully on the table at the end of the colorful, audaciously cheery formation of pills promised the end—for Bernard—was officially near. ....

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Editorial Reviews

Readers Favorite 5 Star SealLast Shot: A Short Tale of the Absurdity of Life and Death is a contemporary fiction short story written by Justine Avery. Bernard was a precise and orderly man who was sick and tired of the world. He felt unappreciated and scorned by people who were not fit to be considered his peers. He finally came to the conclusion that the solution would be a precise and orderly suicide. It would be a simple thing to accomplish once he had researched his method and quantified the ingredients that would go into the alcohol and drug cocktail that would usher him into his long-deserved peace. He measured out his beloved vodka, organized the capsules, caplets and tablets into an aesthetically pleasing design, and set out to engineer his death. After consuming the alcohol and pills, he left his kitchen for the last time and, entering the bedroom, lay down upon his bed which had been made with military precision. This was the way he would go out of this existence, with precision and deliberation.

Justine Avery’s darkly comedic short story, Last Shot: A Short Tale of the Absurdity of Life and Death, grabs the reader’s attention with the first lines as Bernard revels in his grotesque enjoyment of his premeditated demise. This is a taut and well-written story that transports you into the mind of this bitter and disillusioned man, and you can’t help but chuckle at the ineptness of Bernard’s efforts to be the master of his fate. But, as you suppress that uncharitable snicker, there’s a deeply uncomfortable feeling that remains; a sense that something’s seriously wrong in this world Bernard inhabits that he should have gotten so deeply led astray, and it makes you pause and think. And that’s the hallmark of a powerful and compelling short story. Last Shot is highly recommended.

I very much enjoyed all of this author's books ... she's a master of grabbing the reader and pulling them into the story.  I enjoyed Last Shot the best.  Bernard reminded me of my ex-husband: I'm the best and nobody gets it.  Funny but also disturbing.


Reader Reviews

2500 years ago, the Buddha warned us that desire creates suffering. Justine Avery's darkly comic story "Last Shot" illustrates that principle in several ways.

Avery views her suicidal anti-hero "Bernard" with a wry, gimlet eye. "The world was a despicable place filled with endless atrocities" -- true, perhaps, but the author adds, "most of them directed at Bernard." His motives are those of an adolescent: he's not appreciated, so he's taking the ball and going home. The world will have to suffer without him. But he won't be missed. Because he's not appreciated. So he'll make the world pay by leaving it. Et cetera. The circular, buzzing logic of a suicide, which is to say, no logic at all. Pain and anger there may be, but usually very little logic.

What he *wants* is recognition; what he's too immature to realize is that no one promised any of us rose gardens. So he suffers. Immature or not, Bernard goes about his suicidal plan with loony-tune precision: Avery demonstrates not only the logic of a suicide but the determination, almost vengeful in its methodical planning, of how one might attempt it. No item too small to be overlooked.

Unfortunately for Bernard, Avery tends to write fantasy with a pointed moral in mind -- in the Rod Serling manner -- which means that things don't quite work out for him as he had so meticulously planned. Not once, but several times. What starts grimly becomes more comic after each failure, especially as we recognize that Bernard may not want to be dead so much as die *perfectly*, as planned by himself. Again: wanting, desire. Ego.

The final sequence, which I won't spoil, shows a shift in Bernard's motivations but, once again, desire will create unexpected suffering ... and will give him what he actually did not want, after all.

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the highest rate of suicides in the U.S. are among White men aged between 45 and 64. The reasons tend to be major financial setbacks, loss of loved ones who gave meaning and comfort to life, and, probably most common, bad health. Avery's anti-hero seems younger than this demo, and the perils of aging I listed above haven't hit him. Her point seems to be the wastefulness of the cup-is-half-empty philosophy, and the anguish caused by wanting all the wrong things. I'm not so sure any of us are in a position to judge an individual's very private decision on when to check out of this world -- for example, am I going to pass judgment on a 58-year-old widower with diabetes who has lost his job? Of course not. But the Bernards of the world -- and there are too many -- are the saddest cases of all.

5 out of 5 -- thought-provoking. Brave, too, in the sense that the subject is an uncomfortable one for many. But good writers tackle uncomfortable subjects -- it's why we need them.

Really enjoyable short story. Pace and style of the early Stephen King shorts with dark humour and strong observational narrative to link back to everyday life. Read it and you'll see what I mean.

Quick, interesting read

This was a good, quick read. I found myself flipping quickly through the pages, however I also found myself able to predict what would happen next. I also found myself wishing I had more information at times, but perhaps that's also what makes it so interesting. Overall, if you're looking for a quick book that will keep you turning the pages to see what happens next, grab this one!

Breathtaking

Um, I'm kind of speechless right now. The whole book was a fun roller-coaster of emotions, it was funny, sad, ironic, and everything in between. The ending was crafted in an unpredictably predictable way that just made it all the most fun. In the end, despite the dark topic this book revolved around, reading it was just that: fun. Loved every moment of it.

Bernard is an ambitious yet clumsy problem solver with one goal in mind, death. On his quest to put an end to all of his problems, he faces a never ending strand of problems. The hilarious, dark humor of Avery shows Bernard's anger and depression basically eating its own tail until it's gone and he essentially gives up on giving up.

Yet, of course life has the last laugh in this book.

I found this to be an entertaining and thought provoking short read.

I felt like the ending was a little too ridiculous though.

Morbid But Maybe Some People Can Relate

For someone who took such dedication and pride in accomplishing everything they've done, every single moment of their life, it seemed a bit morbid for one to want to end their life. Understanding that this world doesn't offer much praise or recognition for a job well done, you can start to feel sorry for Bernard as you're viewing things from his perspective. With all his planning to not accomplish this particular task, to only realize maybe life is worth living after all. His new life he was actually looking forward to tolerating, just a shame for the way it ended.

This was a very intriguing read. I don't usually read books about attempted suicide, but this kept me reading. Bernard was ready to end his life, he put lots of time and effort into his plan. It was a quick reads with a lot out of it! The author did a fantastic job writing this short novel. I would've liked to read more about his past and relationships, more about him, but that's just my opinion. There was a very unexpected twist at the end!

Great read!!!

First off, great title. I think it does much to express the fantastical absurdity of the piece as well as the protagonist Bernard. The work goes through the many trials and tribulations of Bernard as he tries to commit suicide. At first, like many of the others I see in the comments section here, I disliked Bernard at first. I found him to have a bit of a God-complex. However, as I continued to read, I discovered that there was more to him than initially assumed. As far as language, the writer has a gift for blending the concise with the poetic. I found her prose enticing within itself and continued reading on that alone before growing attached to Bernard and his trials. Overall, very good read. Would recommend.

Not What I Expected!

When I purchased this short story I wasn't sure what I was getting in to, and I was pleasantly surprised!

Most of the time when it comes to short stories I have a hard time feeling like I know the character at all, but that was not the case this time around. Bernard, our main character here, is struggling with some obvious mental health issues and his struggle was obvious. Being on his journey through several failed suicide attempts felt legitimate and also made me sad for him. I think there were a few times I even questioned if he may have something like bipolar disorder. I was not at all prepared for the ending either! Quite a twist. I will definitely be reading more from Justine Avery!

I really wanted to like this novelette. Justine Avery has become a favorite of mine for short reads. They are typically well-written, quick stories that are welcomed breaks for me during the week. Each one tends to contain a plot twist (or several) and explore the irony, macabre, and dark nature of human life.

Sadly, this was my least favorite of Avery’s short stories. Although it is exceptionally written and you can feel the anger, resentment, and frustration that seeps from Bernard’s every pore, the ending was predictable. I had hoped Avery would take the ending in a different way, to blind-side me with a new take on irony, but this one was just not there for me.

That being said, this novelette warrants 4 stars based on the absolutely perfect delivery of character development. Avery’s ability to get a reader to connect with the emotional levels of her characters is not missed in this short story. Once again, she delivers a character whose frustration is palpable. The deep sense of resentment and anger at never having achieved recognition of any kind from any single person arises from the arrogance of a self-absorbed alcoholic who seems to feel unappreciated in all aspects of life. Perfect, he considers himself as he repeatedly fails to accomplish the one thing he believes will cause people to notice him. Bernard’s continual anger will swirl around you and envelop you in the folds of his irritation.

While this short tale was not my favorite, I would recommend it to anyone looking for a quick read. Avery does not disappoint in her writing style; this plot just didn’t work for me. It may for you.

A quick read, yes, but also a very good one. The Last Shot is the story of a man who has lived his life exactly how he wants, with impeccable perfection, yet without recognition or reward that he felt he deserved. When he decides to end it all, exactly how he wants, the universe has another idea. Ironic, well-written, wonderful flow, and thought-provoking. Definitely recommend it!

It is uncommon to see such an unlikable main character as Bernard and I appreciated it for its change in pace. Bernard is a character that is seemingly very full of himself, proud of the things he's done both in his work and personal lives. Because of this, I was a little shocked to read that he was so adamant to commit suicide. But then, mental illness exhibits itself in different ways in each person, so by the time we enter the novella and meet Bernard, we the reader have no detailed explanation as to why Bernard as reached this point.

The only letdown for me was the fact this book was billed as a mystery, thriller, and suspense novella. Unfortunately Last Shot was a novella that was not all that surprising to me. When I read the first few pages, I made a prediction about the ending of the novella that turned out to be correct. This novella has the elements of mysteries and thrillers, but it's not so mysterious and thrilling when the reader can predict the outcome after only a few pages.

It was still an interesting read. The writing style of the author was very sophisticated and it seemed, to me, that they had done their research about suicide methods, as well as the external and internal effects of suicidal thoughts and mental illness.

Loved It!

This book was amazing. The amount of intelligent linguistic phrases turn this novel into a thoroughly entertaining read. I love the way she writes, with such fluidity. A fluidity only broken up by the constant plot twists and ever-changing scenarios. These sometimes frustrating plot twists sometimes catch me wanting Bernard to go through with what he thought was right, because I wanted him to stop suffering.

So Good I wanted More....

This was a good, quick read. It starts right at the action - no chaser. As the story continued, I found myself wanting to know more about the character and how he ended here at this point making this decision. I am sure everyone fells like this at some point, but what really drove him to this actual point.

Also as the story continued, I realized the character would not make a clean break from life to death. His persistence should be commended but rarely does things end up the way we want them. His life was picture perfect in that analogy.

All in all, this was a great read that let me wanting more to the story.

In “Last Shot,” Bernard is the main character who has accomplished much in life in terms of career, status, and a finely tuned German car… But, he’s an unhappy soul. Anger and resentment reside in him—having festered for years. And now, Bernard has decided it’s time to put an end to the misery that is his existence. But, his attempts to nix himself do not go according to plan. Ultimately, it is his love of vodka that brings about his end—but not in a way one might guess…

“Last Shot” is a dark little read and a worth the buck ($). You may walk away feeling more upbeat and content with your own life!

Wow

Perfect bedtime story for myself. I read it right before bed. I felt sorry for Bernard. I wanted him to fail but that's me being selfish.

This isn't my first time reading from this author, but i'm always delightfully surprised. I can always relate to the characters and they just come to life.

This isn't the sort of short story I'd usually be drawn to. The writing was superb and the author's imagery created an environment that was rich with description. The story itself and subject matter was a bit biting in contrast. Like the rest of the author's work, its complete with unexpected twists and an air of mystery so I was in no way disappointed. The story revolves around the main character, Bernard, as he struggles with an obvious case of obsession and low self esteem despite his self-perceived successes. He's unappreciated and missing respect and the notoriety that he feels he deserves. He decides to take his own life as a metaphorical kiss-off to the word so everyone will finally know what they've failed to see and acknowledge. Author Justine Avery takes a very dark concept and delivers it with a sense of black comedy that I was not expecting, but very much appreciated. If you like short tales with a twist, you'll love "Last Shot: (a Short Tale of the Absurdity of Life and Death)" by Justine Avery.

Bernard is hellbent on success. He's never felt the sting of failure. Bernard is…. angry. Why? Because no one respects him or recognizes his accomplishments. He's at his limit and decided that today's the day he peaks. He culminates in an act to confirm his perfection and make sure everyone around him is sorry that he's gone and finally understand how important he was in his inevitable absence. "Last Shot" by Justine Avery is a superbly written short novella that will leave you speechless with it's dark humor, twisting tale and shocking surprises. I loved this story and will be looking forward to reading more from this author.

What a great experience it is to discover a new voice! This was my first read of Justine Avery and I'm thrilled that she has other titles available. Read 'Last Shot' and you'll carry Bernard with you for the foreseeable future. A wonderful read.

Concise and powerful!

In this short story, the author describes the life of a man whose strivings go unnoticed. After years of not being appreciated, Bernard finally makes a selfish decision. This short tale reveals how meaningless life is without acceptance. Within the pages of this piece is an invaluable moral. We all have experienced the way it feels to plead for attention and not receive the recognition that is necessary to fuel our self-esteem. Finally, the main character understands that life’s major celebrations do not come in the form of accolades or compliments but having appreciation for the life that is simply given.

Masterfully this was written. Within the content of very few pages, one’s life can change. The understanding that life is to be celebrated by everyone dwelling this earth despite whoever joins in on your party is key to experiencing joy. Justine Avery captures the life of the character with gripping familiarity. Easily the audience can understand the character’s circumstance and identify with the struggle which is all too common. If you are ready for an exciting read that will prompt introspection, check this book out!

This was a short but captivating read. The author managed to create a story that revolves around death without an extremely somber tone but was rather light and with a bit of dark humor. It was not overly wordy, but described pertinent information in the perfect amount of detail. While illustrating an angry man with unrequited narcissism, I was compelled to empathize rather than judge. This was the first book I've read by Justine Avery, but I am very inclined to seek out more.

Short but very insightful.

Sad...but very true story about what goes on in our society everyday. There is urgent need to show the people we meet everyday that they deserve to live.

PLOT TWIST....I was not expecting that!

This short story was a great read. I don't want to spoil the book for someone who looks forward to reading it, but just know, the book is awesome. If you are into the thriller/mystery genre, you will LOVE this story. Once I started reading, I couldn't stop. Bernard was meticulous in every aspect of his life. Such carefully thought out plans - with the hopes for the perfect execution. I needed to know what Bernard was going to attempt next. This story kept me intrigued from the first "failed attempt". The story was so detailed, I painted pictures in my mind - it felt like I was watching a movie. The ending?? PLOT TWIST....I was not expecting that! To find out what happened, give this book a try!

Dark and Dramatic

I found ‘Last Shot’ too dark and depressing for my taste. At 67 years of age it is beneficial to keep my preverbal glass half full at all times. I do have to admit that the author’s masterful intense description of the situation was too believable and quickly pulled me into the head of this subject making me very uncomfortable. This was a rough walk in someone else's shoes. I am thankful that I have never suffered from the depression that so many of my peers struggle with on a daily bases.

Last Shot chronicles the unintentionally prolonged suicide attempt of a man named Bernard, just as the summary said, but it is surprisingly creative for its subject and its length. There's a sort of dark humor about the whole incident, for one thing, a sort of morbid slapstick wherein a man's careful plans (for suicide) steadily fall apart and he...well, he remains alive and unhurt. Bernard is an incredibly arrogant and incredibly lonely human being, and those two traits are clearly intertwined, one way or the other, as becomes clear during the short story's climax-- which is strangely heartrending in its banal madness. There is a lot of very modern pain in Bernard's plight and the ending fits, even if it isn't satisfying in a conventional manner.

The story develops layers of emotion and connects the reader strongly to the character. In a very short period, feelings undulate from sorrow to anger and relief to grief.

Last shot is a peak into the mind of a troubled man with a desire to free himself from the physical world. Bernard's meticulous planning and preparation for his own self-inflicted death oddly provided more him more enjoyment than his daily existence. However, his failed attempts reveal the stark pain in his life. Life's unrelenting grasp almost mocks his efforts. Bernard seeks to affect his own fate and yet is constantly shown his lack of control. If clarity is ever managed in life, it is not guaranteed for long.

Wow, I Wasn't Expecting That!

Without knowing anything about Bernard we are immediately immersed in his world of self-destruction, and his attempt at suicide. Why? We don't know, and it's slightly frustrating and yet humorous at the same time. Although we do not know the backstory around this character, I was immediately hooked. This book is a fast read with a sharp twist, and a thought-provoking moral to it.

For me, a five star book must hit a range of emotions. While this novella didn't elicit strong emotions, making me cry or laugh out loud, it was nevertheless a gripping read that I do recommend.

This was a great, short read. I was drawn in from the very first line. The story seems to absorb you and keep you guessing. The author uses a little dark humor and irony that you can not help but enjoy. While following the main character Bernard, through failed suicide attempts, I found myself smiling at the amusing reasons things went wrong for him. From beginning to end Benard's luck, or lack there of, remains. This is truly an excellently written novella.

Last Shot was a very interesting, thought provoking read. I have never personally read anything like it. Since the story is about a man trying to commit suicide, it makes you think about your own internal happiness and struggles and whether you could ever relate to Bernard. The story takes you on an emotional journey with Bernard, even though the story is very short, which is quite an accomplishment!

Last Shot was an interesting read. I did not really like Bernard, but did not wish for him to be successful in his quest either. The author was very detailed in her writing, leaving very little to the imagination. Definitely worth a read!

Interesting & Quick Read!

When I started Last Shot, I wasn't expecting a whole lot. This isn't my usual genre, and I don't "love" novellas; so it was a heck of a surprise!

The story follows a man named Bernard through his suicide attempts - intriguing, right? At first, I was very hesitant. The main character, Bernard was very unlikable. He even goes so far as to proclaim himself perfect! That really angered me at first, but I think the author was trying to show the many sides of depression, anger and suicide through him. Towards the end, I was even beginning to think that he was bipolar - there are several layers to the character & his predicament. I found him to be harshly identifiable, because I could understand him and his problems but it didn't make me like his character any more.

The book is written in third person, which I found to be very helpful in forging a connection with the main character in such a short time. I would like to say that it is a bit hard to get into at first, but you get used to it after a short time. It's a very unique writing style! You start out thinking that things will happen one way, and towards the end there was a twist that just made the story for me! It was so unexpected! I'm not going to tell you because of spoilers, but it was such a shock!

I found Last Shot to be an interesting read that quickly and efficiently showed many types of mental illness and how they can affect anyone. It showed alcoholism, depression, and anger. It also showed how the perception and judgment of the people around us can affect how we feel about ourselves. I would recommend Last Shot to anyone who wants a quick and interesting read.

Very good book. Loved to read about Bernard's struggle. You are able to really connect with his story. Lots of plot twists. The dark humor was great. Defiantly a page turner. Lots of little details and great writing. Can't wait to read more of Justine Avery's book, I'm hooked now!

As usual a very good story, although a sad subject there was also humour.

Justine Avery has remarkable insight into human nature. Last Shot is a compelling study of what happens when the human mind is possessed by feelings of alienation and lack of appreciation. Her character, Bernard, is a case in point. To top it off, he is a perfectionist. But his perfection goes haywire -- it turns toward self destruction and proving that his conclusions were right all along. But, surprise, surprise, as "perfect" and "right" as he is, he can't pull it off. I'll leave it to you to discover what "it" is and how "it" turns out in the end. It's a real doozie and a great read.

We all have moments of despare . Don't plan anything in those moments. They surly add to the chaos. There is a cloud behind evey rainbow lurking to fulfill your wish just not the way you wanted

The Last Shot is a great read that keeps you wondering from page to page whether or not Bernard, the main character, will accomplish his gruesome goal. Most of us know someone with traits similar to Bernard which makes the story all the more interesting. The author's vivid descriptions, of even the minutest details, helps to place the reader in the scene with Bernard.

An extremely enjoyable read which had me gripped from the very beginning! Absolutely loved the book, suited my sense of humor right down to the ground and had me grinning at the tale of the poor guy all the way through. Seems a bit mean of me to enjoy his demise but what can I say, I did. Great descriptive tale that had you there alongside him throughout his tragic time. My only citicism, left me wanting more!

Poor Bernard....the world is against him and his job never gives him any accolades. There are no 'attaboys' anywhere in his life. He has the perfect solution for his meaningless life. Or, so he thinks!

Interesting development at the end of this one. I don't like saying 'Poor Bernard' again but it certainly fits this ending.

A wonderful short story. Truly imaginative and well crafted. Highly recommended.

A brilliant short story of one man's determined efforts to commit suicide. The subject matter may appear a little macabre but the writing is effortlessly descriptive and puts the reader right into Bernard's mind and before realising what's happening you're willing him to succeed in his mission.