Get Your Affairs in Order

Get Your Affairs in Order

The Goldfarb Chronicles and Other Stories

The second last thing Goldfarb had to do before killing himself was cancel his TV Cooking Channel subscription.

Goldfarb was not dying from a fatal disease so he did not have a silver-haired doctor kneel at his bedside and gently suggest he get his affairs in order.

He had to figure it out on his own.

He did not have much in the way of affairs—neither financial nor of the heart—to sort out. Had he had, well, then it would have been a little less likely that he would be killing himself.

He made a list. And dutifully crossed out items once completed.

This was his list:

1. Acquire sleeping pills
2. Get a haircut
3. Clean fridge
4. Cut toenails
5. Cancel hydro
6. Cancel the newspaper
7. Go to bank
8. Donate money to charity
9. Write suicide note
10. Cancel Cooking Channel subscription
11. Burn list

Goldfarb had ordered the Cooking Channel for Amanda. Well, that wasn’t technically true. Lewberg had ordered it for him for Amanda one morning after being too drunk to drive himself home after a poker game. Goldfarb had woken to find Lewberg on the couch, in his boxers, a bowl of Lucky Charms on his lap, watching an episode of Cake Masters. “I ordered you the Cooking Channel,” he said, not looking up from his cereal. “$7.99 a month.” 

“$7.99 a month?!”

“Worth every penny dude. Amanda loves this shit. You are going to thank me.”

It was true. Amanda did love that shit.

She loved to bake. He had bought her a chef’s hat and they had both posted pictures of her wearing the hat, her face plastered with flour, looking like a mime.

Amanda had left three years ago and Goldfarb had not gotten around to cancelling it. In part, although he did not cook nor bake at all, because the shows both amused and relaxed him. In part, they reminded him of Amanda. And, maybe, some part of him thought she might one day come back.

He didn’t know who would find his newly hair-cut, toenail-clipped body, but whoever it was, he didn’t want he or, heaven forbid, she, flipping through the high-number channels and finding Gordon Ramsey firing some hapless amateur chef.

Wow, can’t believe Goldfarb paid $7.99 a month for that, hoping Amanda might come back. How pathetic.

No, that would not do.

Goldfarb was pathetic, but he didn’t need the world knowing how much.

He had to cancel it before killing himself.

But, hoping against hope, he put it on the bottom of his to-do list.

Just in case.

He started tackling his list on February 1st. In his mind, he had Valentine’s Day as his target date. It had just the right amount of pathos and irony and would give him plenty of time.

The sleeping pills were easy.

“Doc, I can’t sleep.”

“Have you tried warm milk and counting sheep?”

“Doesn’t work.”

“Try washing one of these pills down with the warm milk. Don’t take more than one.”

Scratched the first item off the list.

He decided to eschew his regular barber shop—he felt a pang of disloyalty to Joe—for a downtown hair salon. Scalp massage, gel, the whole nine yards. Big tips for everyone. Didn’t have much, but whatever he had he couldn’t take it with him.

The fridge didn’t take long.

‘Harold Goldfarb was found dead today of an apparent suicide. He is survived by 14 bottles of Paul Newman salad dressing.’

No. That would not do.

He threw out all but one bottle of salad dressing and all but one of the eight bottles of BBQ sauce.

The milk was good until, until—he checked the carton—good until the 14th. Perfect. Too perfect. Although Goldfarb wasn’t about to drink the milk up until the expiration date. He wasn’t an animal. He would just stop eating cereal a couple of days before.

His toenails seemed fine and he wondered why he included it on his list. At number 3 no less. Maybe he meant his fingernails? No, he bit his nails and they were cut to the quick. He examined his toes again.

Well, maybe the left big toe could use a trim. He went to the bathroom and chose one of his eight different pairs of toenail clippers. He couldn’t find anything to cut his nails one day and so went to Amazon and bought eight different kinds.

He put his foot on the coffee table—would kill a guest if he did that. Fucking Lewberg did it all the time—and deftly positioned the clipper around the protruding nail.


The nail flew as if blasted from a cannon. It was nowhere to be found. Goldfarb went on his hands and knees and scoured the carpet below the coffee table but the clipped nail was missing in action. Goldfarb ordinarily couldn’t live with the thought of an errant nail on his carpet. But he wasn’t planning on living.

Then he went back to the medicine cabinet, retrieved the other nail clippers, and threw them in the trash.

Survived by eight pairs of nail clippers.

No. That would not do.

Then Goldfarb realized he would have to clean out his medicine cabinet too, so he added it to the list.

But “11. Clean out medicine cabinet” made no sense if 10 was “Burn list.”

So Goldfarb made a new list.

It looked like this:

1. Acquire sleeping pills
2. Get haircut
3. Clean fridge
4. Cut toenails
5. Clean out medicine cabinet
6. Cancel hydro
7. Cancel newspaper
8. Close down back account
9. Give money to charity
10. Write suicide note
11. Cancel Cooking Channel
12. Burn list

He then crossed off numbers 1, 2, 3 and 4.

He went back to his medicine cabinet. There really wasn’t anything all that embarrassing in there. Band-aids, antiseptic cream, expired antibiotics. Tylenol, Advil, Bayer Aspirin, Aleve. Some expired codeine from when he had a tooth extracted, expired cough syrup, old cough drops. And his newly acquired bottle of sleeping pills. Goldfarb decided that throwing out the medicine would make it seem like he had gotten rid of stuff he would be embarrassed about. What would that be? Viagra? He never tried it. Not saying he couldn’t have used it. But Goldfarb was convinced he was one of the guys who would—if your erection lasts longer than 4-hour guys—and he would end up in emergency being treated by a former blind date female doctor.

No. That would not do.

So Goldfarb left the medicine cabinet exactly how it was. Although he did throw out the old cough drops because they looked disgusting.

Then he crossed the item off his list even though he hadn’t really completed it. But he wasn’t in the mood to make a new list.

Goldfarb knew that going to the bank and donating to charity came after cancelling hydro and the newspapers, but he really felt like going out for some fresh air, so he moved them up on the list. He could have made a new list but he was now well past that.

The bank was walking distance and he brought a sweater even though he did not put it on. Goldfarb liked to do his banking in person. No online banking or ATMs for him. He stood in line, filled out forms, and made small talk with the tellers.

He was hoping to get Grace. She would sometimes tease him about his beard. As close to flirting as he got to these days. But Grace was helping an old lady with a, no lie, shopping bag full of pennies she wanted rolled up in the roll-up machine. Grace gave him a conspiratorial smile as he walked to the window next to her where he was greeted by Fernando.

“Good afternoon, sir. How can I help you?”

Fernando knew his name. He had been in dozens of times. And although he favored Grace—sometimes cagily moving places in line in order to get served by her—Fernando had seen him many times.

“Hi, Fernando. I would like to make a money order for $2500. Made out to the Henry Street Mission.”

The Henry Street Mission was a homeless shelter he sometimes passed if he took the long way back from the bank. On a nice day when he wanted the exercise. It was also another reason why he wanted to be served by Grace. She would have made a big deal about his generosity. But Fernando showed no emotion. “Sign here. And here. Is that Henry with a Y?” No, it’s Henri with an I. It is a homeless shelter in Paris.

But Goldfarb didn’t say that.

The $2500 left him with about $200 left in his account. He took out $150 in cash and left $50 behind.

‘The deceased was found with a little over $100 in his pockets.’

He waved at Grace when he left but she did not look up from the penny-rolling machine.

The lady at the homeless shelter was kind—“We will put this to good use”—but Goldfarb didn’t get the glow and jolt he had anticipated. It’s not like he expected a marching band or anything but the experience left him, he didn’t know.


He walked home and was turning the key when he realized he had left his sweater at the shelter. Well, he guessed it would be put to good use. Back home, he continued on his list.

Hydro and the newspaper were cancelled in a matter of minutes—yes, they could stop providing electricity and newspapers on February 15—no problem, thank you, no thank you— and now Goldfarb found himself with only three items left on his list—one of which, burning the list, would literally only take a few seconds—and one, the suicide note, he had already written in his head—with over a week to go.

Should he move up his date?

He was pretty set on February 14.

Goldfarb decided that he would first cancel his Cooking Channel TV subscription and then he would play it by ear.

He found the 1-800 number and got the recording:

“For Cable TV, press 1, for phone, press 2, for internet, press 3.”
He pressed 1.
“Press 1 for technical support, 2 for—”
Goldfarb pressed 1.

His cable provider was experiencing longer than usual wait times.

His wait time was:
44 minutes.

He switched his phone to speaker.

Then he turned on his TV and turned it on to the Cooking Channel.

44 minutes.

The Mighty Greek Chef was making spanakopita.

Goldfarb clicked on the mute button.

52 minutes later, Goldfarb heard a voice.

“Technical support. Brenda speaking. How can I be of service?”

“Hi, Brenda. How are you?” Goldfarb always tried to be affable.

“I am fine. Thank you for asking. Can I ask for your name?”

“Harold Goldfarb.”


Goldfarb recited his address.

“Thank you, Mr. Goldfarb. For security purposes, can you give me the password for this account?”

Goldfarb thought about it.

“I don’t think there is a password.”

“I’m afraid there is.”

“I’m sorry, but I really don’t know.”

“Ah. That could be a problem.”

Goldfarb used a bunch of similar passwords for his pin numbers and various other accounts and although he was planning on killing himself within the week, he was still not comfortable giving Brenda any of them.

“I don’t suppose there is some sort of clue?”

“Let me check.”

“Yes. Here we go.”

“Favorite childhood pet.”

Goldfarb had never had a pet.

“Brenda. I’m not trying to be difficult, but I didn’t have a pet growing up, and I don't have a pet now. There is no chance I would have ever used that as a clue.”

“That’s sad.”

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s sad you never had a pet. They make great companions.”

“Brenda. I fear we are at an impasse. What do you propose we do?”

“I could transfer you to my supervisor. Would you like that?”

“Yes. Yes, I would.” And then it hit him.


Fucking Lewberg.

Lewberg had a pet growing up.

“You know what, Brenda? It’s okay. Let me call you back.”

Lewberg answered on the first ring.

“Goldfarb sonovabitch. It’s great to hear from you. And lucky too. Am going to be in town next month. Is it okay if I crash at your place?”

“Of course, Lewberg. Be my guest. Knock yourself out. Hey, Lewberg. Quick question. What was the name of your dog growing up?”

“My dog?”


“What the fuck?”

“The name, Lewberg. What was the name?”

“Ranger. It was Ranger. Killed by a car. I loved that fucking dog.”

“Okay, Lewberg. Thanks. See you next month.”

Although he wouldn’t.

Because he would be dead.

Cable TV, phone, internet.

Cable TV. Press 1.
Press 1 for technical support.
Longer than usual wait times.
64 minutes.

How to make the perfect five-minute omelette.

“Technical support, Roger speaking.”
“Hi, Roger.”
He didn’t ask him how he was.
“I wonder if you could help me with something.”
“Of course. Can I ask your name?”
“Harold Goldfarb.”
Goldfarb recited his address.
“Thank you, Mr. Goldfarb. Now for security purposes, can you give me the password associated with this account?”
Goldfarb was ready this time.
“Okay. Perfect. How can I help you?”

“I would like to remove one of the channels I subscribe to.”

“Is it not working?”

“It is working fine. But I just don’t want it anymore.”

“I see. I’m afraid I can’t help you. I can fix it if it isn’t working. But if it is working and you want to remove it from your package, you have to do it through customer service.”

“You can’t do it?”

“I’m afraid not.”

“Oh, Jesus.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Um. Okay. No problem. Can you transfer me to customer service?”

“I can but it won't help you. They are now closed. You can try them tomorrow between 9:00 and 5:00.”

“You aren’t available 24/7?”

“Technical service, yes. Customer service, no.”

“Okay. Got it.”

“Is there anything else I can help you with?”

“Well, you haven’t helped me with anything.” But Goldfarb didn’t actually say that. Instead he said bye and hung up.

The next day Goldfarb decided that everyone would be trying customer service at 9:00, so he waited until noon to call.

Cable TV. Press 1.
Press 2 for customer service.
Longer than usual wait times.
72 minutes.
“Customer service, Roger speaking.”
“Hi, Roger. Didn’t we speak yesterday?”
“I’m not sure. I speak to a lot of people.”
“Yesterday were you working technical support?”
“No. I work customer service.”
“Ah, sorry. Must have been a different Roger. My bad.”
“It is quite alright.”
“Your name?”

Goldfarb went through it all complete with Ranger the dog.

“Splendid. How can I help you?”

“I would like to remove a TV station from my subscription package.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. Let me pull up your account. Okay. I see. You have a basic package. I can upgrade you to a Premium package for only pennies more a month.”

“Thanks, Roger, but I only just want to cancel the one station.”

“HBO, Showtime, hundreds of movies a month.”

“I really don’t watch a lot of TV. I travel a lot. I just want to cancel this one subscription.”

“You travel. Perfect. You can get upgraded to cable on the go for free. You can watch HBO from anywhere in the world. My favorite is The Sopranos. A real shame about James Gandolfini.”

“Yes. A real shame. Great actor. Roger, I just want to cancel this one subscription. Can you help me?”

“Of course, Mr. Goldfarb. I am customer service. Helping people is what I do. Okay. Now let me see. Okay, I see. Ah, the Cooking Channel. Very good. You want to cancel it?”

“Yes please.”

“You were not pleased with it? It shows here you have had it for many years.”

“Right. Yes. It was great. It was fine. I just don’t want it anymore. Can you just cancel it?”

“Mr. Goldfarb, here is what I am prepared to do. I don’t even have authorization for this. I am going to reduce your price from $7.99/month to $4.99/month. How’s that for a crazy deal?”

“Roger. I appreciate it. I really do. But I just want to cancel it.”

“$4.99. That is such a bargain.”

“I understand, Roger. But I just want to cancel it.”

“Okay, Mr. Goldfarb.”

Roger sounded as if Goldfarb had just broken up with him.

Roger, I think we should just be friends.

“Okay, Mr. Goldfarb. Cancelled. You won’t see a charge in your March statement.”

“That’s great, Roger. Thank you very much. I really appreciate it.”

“It is my pleasure. I am customer service. That is what I do.”

“One question, Roger. When will it actually go off the air? Because I am still seeing it.”

“You are watching the Cooking Channel now?”

Yes, Emeril is making a soufflé.

“Yes, Roger. I just have it on to check. And I can still see it. When will it go off?”

“End of the month.”

“End of the month?”


“Roger. I want it cancelled now. Can you turn it off now?”

“You have paid until the end of the month. It is February. February is a short month.”

“Roger. Can’t you just turn it off now? I want it cancelled now even though I have paid for the entire month.”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Goldfarb. It gets turned off at the end of the month. Enjoy it. February has Valentine’s Day. It is for lovers.”

“Now is there anything else I can do to help you?”

“You haven’t helped me with anything.” But Goldfarb didn’t say that.

February 14th was not going to work. It would not do. He called hydro and changed the turn-off date to February 28. He didn’t bother to reinstate the newspaper. He would do without for two weeks. Then he went to the grocery store and bought fresh groceries and new milk. He had enough money to last him until the end of the month.

He made a new list:
1. Clean fridge
2. Burn list

When February 28 rolled around, Goldfarb was feeling pretty pleased with himself. He had planned a very good suicide. He had cleaned his fridge. He had written a pithy and concise suicide note. He had cancelled what he needed to cancel. Okay, delayed a couple of weeks, but that was just a hiccup. And, best of all, he had gotten all of his affairs in order.

He dressed in the suit he had worn to his sister’s wedding. Although truthfully, the only suit he owned. With the bottle of sleeping pills in hand—minus the one he had used last night after having trouble falling asleep the night before he planned to kill himself—and a bottle of Johnny Walker. But not Johnny Walker black. After all, that would be a waste.

Goldfarb took a sip of the scotch. Mediocre. He should have gone with the black. What had he been thinking. Last drink ever and you choose a middling scotch.

Jesus, Goldfarb.

He went to the TV and turned it to the Cooking Channel. Cajun BBQ Cook-Off. It would be turned off tomorrow.

Maybe by midnight.

Probably by midnight.

Goldfarb decided to wait until midnight. Better to be sure.

At 12:01 he turned on the TV.

Cajun BBQ.

At 12:34 he turned it on again.

More Cajun BBQ.

Goldfarb took one more sleeping pill from his bottle and went to bed.

He wasn’t happy.

His affairs were not in order.

Goldfarb slept in until 10:21 am.

He had to hand it to the pharmaceutical companies. Those sleeping pills worked damn good.

And he had slept through the night. Not getting up once to pee.

Goldfarb had not slept through the night since the Carter administration.

He made himself a coffee and walked over to the den and turned on the TV.

The Cooking Channel was showing Julie and Julia.

Jesus fuck!

Cable TV.
Customer service.
Press 2.
22 minutes.
Not bad.

But the coffee had kicked in. He needed a bathroom break. 22 minutes. Should be enough time but Goldfarb hung up.
Went to the bathroom.
Took six minutes.
Jesus, Goldfarb. Get a grip.

Cable TV.
Customer service.
Press 2.
58 minutes.
Jesus fucking christ!
“Customer service, Roger speaking.”
“Roger. It’s Harold Goldfarb.”
“Name please.”
“Roger. It is Harold. We spoke a few weeks ago.”
“Name please.”
“Harold Goldfarb.”

After Goldfarb sputtered out Ranger, Roger said, “Splendid, Mr. Goldfarb. How can I help you?”

“Roger. Do you see on my file that I cancelled the Cooking Channel?”

“Let me take a quick looksie.”

“Hmm. Yes. Cooking Channel. Cancelled Feb 28. It won’t appear on your March charges.”

“Roger. It is March 1st.”

“Is it March 1st where you are?”

“Yes. March 1st.”

“Well the station was supposed to be cancelled on Feb 28 and here it is on March 1st and I am watching the Julia Child biopic. Julie and Julia.”

“You are watching it now?”


“Meryl Streep was wonderful in that. Such an amazing actress.”

“Roger. Roger. Why is the Cooking Channel still showing on my TV?”

“Great news, Mr. Goldfarb. I got you a free month. No charge.”

“I don’t want a free month, Roger.”

“I want to cancel.”

“You don’t understand, Mr. Goldfarb. It is free. No charges will appear.”

“Please cancel.”

“But it is free.”

“Please cancel it.”

“Okay, Mr. Goldfarb. It is cancelled.”

“Right now?”

“End of the month,” Roger replied sheepishly.

“Roger. Please do not give me another free month. Please promise me that you will turn it off at midnight on March 31st.”

“I give you my word, Mr. Goldfarb. I am in customer service.”

Goldfarb heard a beep on his phone. He was getting another call. “Roger, I have to go.”

“Okay, goodbye, Mr. Goldfarb.”

Goldfarb took the other line.

“Harold Goldfarb,” he answered.

“Mr. Goldfarb, it is Andrew Higgins over here at hydro customer service. Am terribly sorry. We had a crew scheduled to disconnect your service today, but they are backed up and won’t be able to get there tomorrow. I hope it’s not too much of an inconvenience.”

“No. It’s fine. Actually, I wonder if I might cancel.”

“You want to cancel?”

“Yes. Is that possible?”

“Of course. It is usually a $250 change fee but I am going to waive it because the crew was late.

“Okay. Thank you very much. I really appreciate it.”

Goldfarb hung up and reassessed his situation.

He had no food in the fridge and only $50 in the bank

On the other hand, he had electricity and a free month of the Cooking Channel. And Lewberg was going to drop by. Lewberg was always good for a laugh. Things were looking up.

He went to the kitchen and found a box of matches. Over the sink he burned his suicide note and his ‘to-do’ list.

He then made a new list:
1. Flush sleeping pills down the toilet
2. Burn list