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Mark Brooks

[To Mark Brooks’ index]

The Jump

That last gust of wind had almost done it, and way too soon at that! Here he stood on the ledge of a high-rise looking out over the city, and that gust just about took him down. The fall itself wasn’t the problem; in fact, the fall was the reason he was standing out here. He just didn’t want it to happen at the wrong time. He had heard more times than he could count about how “timing is everything.” They had harped and harped at him about timing for years. For once in his life he was going to get the timing right. No one else was going to ruin it for him this time. Now, it was his show and no one else’s. Not even God’s.

If he hadn’t been so preoccupied with his jumbled thoughts, the view from 30 stories up would have been spectacular. Romantic couples would have paid good money to have the view he had tonight. But his thoughts were spinning and hard to control. In fact, if he had been in his “normal” mind he would have laughed at the irony of comparing himself perched on that thin little ledge to Satan’s temptation of Jesus on the mountain top. His “normal” mind had been missing in action for a long, long time; and he wasn’t Jesus, that was for sure. So, the beautiful city lights spread out below his feet were completely wasted on him. All he could focus on was the crowd below. Oh yeah, they had gathered down there to look up and point at the latest city spectacle as soon as the spotlight first hit him. “Funny how a fire truck and some flashing lights are sure to draw a crowd,” he thought. Some of them were yelling and waving their arms for him to jump, to get it over with. At least that’s what he figured, but he was too far up to hear them. Well, he was going to give them a show all right! But, on his terms.

“Don’t bring out the street cleaners just yet,” he muttered, “they’ll have enough to do in a little bit.” He leaned forward just a tad to get a look at where he would end up. The spectators down below had actually started cheering when they saw him lean out and look down. Cynicism was his strong suit, so he wasn’t really surprised. “I know what you’re here for you bloodsuckers,” he shouted, “just want to see the latest freak show, do ya?” Of course, no one could hear him, not even God. They and He were all too far away. There were cameras everywhere down there. Some using their own lights, and some benefiting from the big spotlight that had drawn the crowd. There were even a few gawkers trying to take photographs with regular 35 mm cameras, or maybe those were binoculars, he couldn’t be sure. Anyway, he sure had their attention! And he was going to keep it for a while too.

He pressed his back against the façace of the building, his arms were spread out with his palms flat against the brick. He took two halting steps to the left, about a foot closer to the window. He had no intention of going back in, he just wanted to play with the mob a little bit. “It’s kind of like foreplay,” he thought, “makes it last longer, and makes the climax better.” The crowd looked especially agitated now, like they were worried he wasn’t going to jump. They were waving their arms, and jumping up and down. Some had cupped their hands around their mouths while they shouted up at him. “Oh, don’t worry you sick ghouls,” he shouted back, “I’m gonna do it!” He lifted his right foot up and held it out over the ledge. The crowd broke into a loud prolonged cheer that he could hear. He laughed out loud as he put his foot back on the ledge. A wave of excitement and goose bumps washed over him from his feet to the crown of his head. He had them eating out of his hand, and he loved it.

“Today is a good day to die,” he thought, remembering the old samurai saying. Of course, the samurai had meant that they had no regrets. They had lived life fully, and if death came today, so be it. But, he regretted plenty, and if death came today, he could at least escape the self-recrimination. “No time like the present,” he said, trying to summon up some courage. It was as simple as taking a step, any two year old could do it. He lifted his food and stepped off the ledge just like casually stepping off his patio. Suddenly, it quit being a game. The sheer terror made him unable to even gulp for breath. Air roared past his ears drowning out any sound. From deep within him a scream involuntarily erupted as if Vesuvius itself had exploded in his gut. His pulse hammered at his temples. The air tore open his eyelids with miniscule particles of spent hydrocarbons, and his eyes filled with tears. Now deaf and blind, he tipped forward as he fell, diving head first toward the street below. His arms and legs flailed, as though through some consciousness of their own they wanted to save themselves.

The day at the office had finally ended. It had been a very busy and trying day. On her way out, she said goodbye to Sally the receptionist. “Bye, Allison,” Sally had said, “see you tomorrow.” Allison went out the office door and down the hall to the elevator. Of all the employees in the office Sally was the one she liked the best. Allison didn’t really know why she liked Sally, she just did. If she had been asked why, she couldn’t have given an objective logical reason. It was one of those inexplicable subjective things, like why some people like okra, and so many others don’t. “Come to think of it,” she said to herself, “not many people like Sally either.” Then her brain made one of those illogical serendipitous connections: Maybe the only people that like Sally are the same ones that like okra. She chuckled at the pure silliness of that thought. While she was enjoying the moment, the elevator door opened. Allison stepped in. No one else was on the elevator, she liked it that way. After an even normal day at the office she preferred to ride the elevator down to the lobby alone. But, after today, well…it was one of those unexpected treasures to be alone in the elevator. To top it off, the elevator didn’t even stop until it reached the lobby. She walked across the lobby, and stepped into the still moving revolving door. Her timing had been right on! She didn’t even have to adjust her stride to step into the pie shaped third of the door that seemed to want her for a passenger. “Wow,” she thought, “I’m on a roll!”

She started walking to the parking garage that daily committed a legalized form of extortion, when she heard what sounded like a crowd of people yelling and shouting. The sound came from up ahead of her, so she followed it to see what was happening. “Probably some Anti-abortion and Pro-abortion groups demonstrating and counter-demonstrating,” she thought. Whatever it was must be just around the next corner. Turning the corner, Allison saw a mass of people about two blocks away packed into the narrow concrete valley formed by the high-rises lining both sides of the street. They were yelling and waving their arms, but at what she couldn’t discern. She slowly walked closer and closer to the scene, feeling that combination of fear and curiosity that made her heart beat faster. She wanted to run away, and run closer, both that the same time. It was like that time she had witnessed a car crash, and had stopped on the highway to help. The blood and smell and groans had repulsed her, but she couldn’t turn away. She had been utterly fascinated with it!

As she drew up to the outer edges of the crowd, she saw that they were pointing and yelling at a man standing on a ledge of one of the high-rises. He looked like he was threatening to jump. He started edging toward a window on his left causing the yelling and jeering to intensify. “They want him to jump,” Allison said incredulously. “Yeah, isn’t it great?” the guy next to her said, “This is better than WWF, man!” She would have sworn the guy next to her was Chris Farley, if she hadn’t known that Farley was already dead from his own demons. The Farley look-alike had the same wild-eyed insane look and the same obese, flabby belly that Farley did. “Jump you yellow-bellied chickenshit!” Farley #2 shouted at the top of his lungs. The man on the ledge lifted his right foot, and the mob began cheering, trying to get him to jump. He put his foot back down, and paused as if changing his mind. Then almost casually he stepped off the ledge, and began his hideous descent. Allison’s hand flew up to her mouth. “Oh, my God…Oh, no…no…no,” she said as she started to shake uncontrollably. She bent over, hands still at her mouth, wailing and violently shaking. She fainted on the spot.

Falling past the 5th floor, he rolled another quarter turn, then in a moment of triumph, landed perfectly on the air bag. The boxes underneath the bag collapsed on themselves, cushioning his fall even more. It had been exquisitely performed! The stunt team surged to the air bag. After a moment they gave the thumbs up sign; the crowd and crew broke into a grand cheer. The director gave a sigh of relief, and yelled, “Cut!”

[To Mark Brooks’ index]

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