Friday, March 31, 2023

2 Minutes. Go!

Maybe I'm too hard on myself. Maybe not hard enough. These were the thoughts I was thinking, standing in the wind, hundreds of feet above the water, ready to jump. I wasn't necessarily suicidal. I was drunk. I was at the stage of maudlin drunkenness where you think, "Wouldn't it be epic if I jumped off this cliff. Maybe I would die. Maybe I could part the water cleanly. Probably die. But if I didn't..."

One way or another, it would make something happen. And that's what I needed. I needed to decide something and fucking act on it for once. I needed to see what would happen...there was only one way to find out. 

But what if I didn't die. Didn't cleanly cleave the water. Perfect 10. What if I had to spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair wanting to live, but hampered by my own drunken folly. 

Fuck it. Just jump. 

And then I heard an owl in the trees asking who? It made me laugh.

Who? It's me Mr. Owl. 


Just some guy. No consequence. 


Who will it hurt? Too many people, but...


People who love me. People who are used to seeing me. People who will notice a hole cut out of their lives. 


Who? I think I am? Good question. Certainly not David Foster Wallace. No one will buy my books if I die. Not that anyone buys them now. But I could write more. Better ones. 


I shook my head clear, surprised to find that there were tears in my eyes. I blinked, and they fell. The owl took off with the silence of a ghost and swooped by, silhouetted against the moon. And then it was gone. Off into the inky black. Off to do the things owls need to do. So, I decided to do the thing humans need to do...I turned around and walked back to the car. Grateful for the night. Grateful for being hard to kill. Grateful for owls and silent signs. Grateful for the ones keeping me tethered. 


  1. (This space reserved for Mader comments.)

  2. Part 1

    It was twenty-one days in solitary before Harold was allowed visitors again. The first was that momzer attorney Goldstein, who had no helpful advice for him. Sit tight. What the hell was that? Good, bad, the not knowing was driving him crazy. Either he got off, or got fingered for ordering the hits. And the other stuff. The goniff they fished out of the East River had it coming, was all he had to say about it. But the waiting? Sometimes he prayed for a shiv in the shower, or to just not wake up one morning.

    “You talked to Lola?” Harold asked.

    Goldstein made that face again. Like there was more to the story he couldn’t tell, and that the “more to the story” was bad news.

    “Tell me, for fuck’s sake,” Harold said. “I got shut in a goddamn box for defending her, the least you can do is tell me if you’ve talked. Did she try to visit while I was in there?”

    No answer from the stone face across the table. The stone tablet upon which was carved his future. “I haven’t”—Goldstein paused, appearing to give his words serious contemplation, then his shoulders sagged—“there’s been no word, at least in my office.”

    Red flashed across Harold’s mind. “Of course not. Fucking disloyal bitch.” The last word, punctuated with a slap against the wooden table, was loud enough to bring a guard to the door. Goldstein waved the guard off with a stiff smile.

    “Forget about her,” the attorney said as the guard withdrew. There was that trick with his hand again, as if with one stroke he could erase her from Harold’s memory. Her smile. Her pretty eyes. How she could make the bad things in his world disappear, at least for a while. All those soft curves— “Harold. You can’t think about that now. Focus on your defense.”

    “I thought that was your job.” Harold smirked. “That’s what I pay you the big simoleons for, right?”

    “Well. Yes. But you have to do your part, too. An outburst like that in front of the jury will harm your case. You have to learn some self-control.”

    “I got self-control!”

    Goldstein gave him a level stare and a raised brow.

    “Okay,” Harold said, softer. “I’ll control myself. I just… I just want to see her so bad.”

    “If and when that happens depends on your behavior.” The attorney rose, nodded at Harold, knocked on the door for the guard. “But I’ll see what I can do on my end.”

    1. Part 2

      A day passed. A week. Two. Three. No Lola. He’d stopped asking if anyone was on the list for him. Until one day a guard said there was a Miss Kaminsky here to see him.


      His heart sped up. He got to his feet, straightened his uniform, fixed his hair in the clouded steel mirror bolted to the wall of his cell.

      But the woman waiting for him wasn’t his blond beauty. He hardly even thought of her as a woman, Lola’s sister Miriam. Lola clearly got the looks in the family. Miriam was a skinny thing with mouse-brown hair and small eyes too close together, which made it feel like she was always staring at him with ball-shriveling hatred. Or she really was, but he couldn’t care less at this point. Was Lola okay? Did something happen to her?

      He barely got a chance to sit down and ready the words before she said, “She ain’t coming.”

      “What? Why? She all right?”

      Miriam gave him a mean smile. “She’s fine. She just ain’t coming.”

      His fist itched. He’d never hit a woman, but he would gladly make an exception in Miriam’s case. But no doubt he’d get sent back to the box, so he took a deep breath and remembered Goldstein’s advice. “She told you to say that?”

      “Yeah. She said she don’t wanna see you no more.”

      “Huh?” He’d given her a diamond ring. A damn big rock. They were going to get married. She said she would wait for him. “I don’t believe you. You’re just tryin’ to make trouble.”

      “You’re the trouble.” She scraped back her chair and stood. “And I don’t wanna see you no more either.”

      The red flowed back into his vision. He got to his feet, staring her down…but then caught sight of the approaching guard. Control yourself, he thought. Miriam ain’t worth it, he thought.

      So he sat. She walked away. And he still sat.

      “Time to go, Mr. Weissman.”

      “Uh. What?”

      “Mr. Weissman.” The guard showed a pair of cuffs. “Time to go back now.”

      And Harold went.

  3. Doug studied the parapet beside him. It was much the same as usual. Cigarette butts. Bubble gum. The obligatory used condom. He wondered about any couple who'd choose to visit this soulless car park for their intimate minutes together. Maybe a husband and his illicit mistress. Or a younger couple without any place to go. And there’d be even fewer reasons for anyone to come here at this time of the morning unless they specifically required anonymity and secrecy to help them carry out their plans.

    He'd planned to be here. And he had plans requiring stealth and privacy. He’d allocated a whole hour on his calendar, leaving the rest of his week free. If he followed through tonight, he’d be doing nothing for the next three days, followed by an eternity of being dead twenty-four hours a day.

    It was a Tuesday. The third Tuesday this month. And it was the second February he’d lived in Manchester, although calling it living was a lie. He worked himself to exhaustion sixty-eight hours a week, then did it over again, spending the time between his periods of paid activity in a nihilistic semi-coma.

    He ate, slept, and then he worked again, his conscious hours a blur. His existence was a habit he knew he was too much of a coward to bring to an end. But he still came here every Tuesday at 04:30 am.

    In a few months, at this time, it would be getting light, and there could be a chance he'd be seen. A streetcleaner, a taxi driver, or a police officer on their beat. People with a regular routine: people who might have seen him here before, standing here with his toes curled up inside his boots, trying to keep his balance.

    He didn’t plan to be doing this for very much longer. Another month or two at the most, although everyone changing the clocks might buy him another week or two, his determination to succeed tempered by his desire to not get caught.

    His car would still be warm, less than twenty feet from where he was standing. If he turned now, he’d be able to see it, with its green pine tree air freshener hanging from its interior mirror. He’d left a half-used packet of cigarettes on the front passenger seat, and the all-night radio DJ on the local graveyard show would be waiting to greet him when he turned the key to begin his journey home.

    Kelly Marine. That was his name. He’d made his way to the city after several unpaid positions on hospital radio shows, finally debuting as a paid presenter on the local analogue station in October.

    He was piss-poor and had the habit of dropping into a series of characters' voices whenever the numbers of his callers stalled, the promise of his presence in the car an added reason for anyone standing on a ledge to step forward with few doubts about the decision they’d made.


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