Last Shot

A Short Tale of the Absurdity of Life and Death

Fiction - Suspense
23 Pages
Reviewed on 01/30/2016
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

Justine Avery is an award-winning author of stories large and small for all. Born in the American Midwest and raised all over the world, she is inherently an explorer, duly fascinated by everything around her and excitedly noting the stories that abound all around. As an avid reader of all genres, she weaves her own stories among them all. She has a predilection for writing speculative fiction and story twists and surprises she can’t even predict herself.

Avery has either lived in or explored all 50 states of the union, over 36 countries, and all but one continent; she lost count after moving 30-some times before the age of 20. She’s intentionally jumped out of airplanes and off the highest bungee jump in New Zealand, scuba dived unintentionally with sharks, designed websites, intranets, and technical manuals, bartered with indigenous Panamanians, welded automobile frames, observed at the Bujinkan Hombu Dojo in Noba, Japan, and masterminded prosperous internet businesses—to name a few adventures. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree that life has never required, and at age 28, she sold everything she owned and quit corporate life—and her final "job"—to freelance and travel the world as she always dreamed of. And she’s never looked back.

She currently lives near Los Angeles with her husband, British film director Devon Avery, and their three adopted children: Becks, Sam, and Lia. She writes from wherever her curiosity takes her.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite

Last 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.

Gary B

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. Ms Avery chooses to cap off this tale with an ironic twist, which serves as the perfect ending to this story.

Chief, USN Ret...VT Town

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.

Well done to this author for the twist at the end.

Most highly recommended. Any more on the horizon?


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!

R Gibbs

Feel sorry for Bernard. interesting twist to the tale. Enjoyed this little story.

Mr W Gibbs

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

The Ed

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.

Last Shot is a story well worth reading if you enjoy short stories and, despite the subject, would appeal to more than those with darker thoughts in their mind.

Loretta M. Siani

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.

Mr A S Mackie

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.

Glenn L. Nottingham

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.