Anthony Miller — an original short story

Anthony Miller
by T. K. Jones

“I’m going to kill myself… today!” the man atop the tall building declared into the megaphone at no one in particular. This was everyone’s cue to do something to show that they were caring and compassionate. That they were, in fact, human. But they did nothing. They just stood on the street below and watched this little man, way up there. And they waited. The people gathered together forming a crowd.

The distressed man, Anthony Miller, was a 47-year-old divorced father of two self-absorbed, apathetic teenagers. So, essentially, two normal American teenagers. His ex-wife, Gladys, was squeezing him for all he had. Gladys got the house so he had to move back in with his elderly parents and the kids, understandably, didn’t want to stay with him or their grandparents. So she got to keep the kids. Well, they were supposed to be with their father on the weekends but they never wanted to stay over. So they never did. Gladys even took the dog, which she didn’t even like, just to spite him. Just to win. The wife always wins. That’s what he learned from this whole mess. The wife, no matter how wrong or evil, always wins.

Anthony Miller has had it! When the news chopper circled around him, the camera zoomed in for a clearer shot of his frantic face. Yes, that was Anthony Miller, alright.

His boss, Roxy Lee, a no-nonsense, middle-aged woman, rang up the local police department to ID him. “His name is Anthony Miller and he works for IntelliGroup but, uh, don’t let that get out in the media. We don’t want to be associated with this…” her voice trailed off. This thing. This fiasco. This humiliating farce.

She was watching the local news in her office when she saw the breaking news footage of her most unassuming, longtime employee. After which she first jumped up and ran out of her office, racing between the endless clusters of cubicles. She finally reached Anthony’s cubicle to find his seat unoccupied and his desk neatly organized. His screensaver was active. He wasn’t scheduled to get off work for another hour. “If you think I’m paying you to do this–!” she muttered under her breath.

Carol, a young new intern was staring out the large window. “Oh my God!” she gasped loudly, like someone who had just won a sweepstake, and spun around to see if she got anyone’s attention. She hoped that all eyes were on her.

“What?” Roxy asked as she rushed towards the large window.

“Look at the crowd down there! What’s going on? Are they looking at us?” Carol asked. She waved down to the crowd enthusiastically, her large breasts jiggled back and forth under her silky red blouse. Her flesh clapping back and forth like a Newton’s cradle. She giggled like the stupid little girl she still was inside.

“Get back to work!” Roxy barked at her in her typical ear-shattering way, just as other employees were beginning to make their way towards the window. Everyone flinched and scurried back to their seats. Carol jumped. Instead of heading to her cubicle, she ran out of the large office space, her face burning red with prickly tears spilling from her heavily made up eyes.

It was just then that Roxy realized that Anthony was on top of that very building. Now IntelliGroup would be entangled in this pathetic story, no matter what she demanded. She strained her brain to recall if she even saw Anthony that day. If she even noticed him. Maybe in the elevator? Or in the break room, perhaps?

Anthony was wearing a backpack, out of which he pulled a roll of bright blue duct tape he stole from the supply room before making his way up to the roof. No one took notice of him then. No one ever did. With the blue tape, he marked a box around him, the fourth side being the edge of the roof. No one was allowed to cross the blue line. The negotiator was the first person to get up to the roof. As he began to speak, Anthony interrupted him. Forgetting his megaphone, he shouted so he could be heard. It was windy up there and he had to compete with the rapid whooshing and flapping sounds. “Don’t go past the blue line!”

“OK!” the negotiator gave him two thumbs up. He kept his hands raised. “I’m unarmed! My name is Dale Marr. What’s your name?”

Anthony’s face twisted in a state of vexation. “You idiot! I know you know my name!”

“That’s fine, Anthony. So what’s goin’ on? What are your demands?” Dale mouthed every syllable in an exaggerated way. How one might speak to a mentally retarded child. Anthony couldn’t shake the feeling that he was being mocked, even though logically he knew that was nonsense.

“I’m – not – re – tar- ded! O – K?” Anthony mimicked Dale nervously. The tips of Anthony’s ears burned with frustration. He shifted uncomfortably on his feet which were perspiring like never before. “I want my kids and my ex-wife to come up here RIGHT NOW!”

Someone below was holding a radio tuned in to a simulcast of a local news station broadcast so the crowd could listen to the breaking news report. Another anonymous spectator in the audience ordered a few pizzas and the boxes were passed around. By then, the mood had become quite festive and many seemed to forget the reason all these strangers had gathered there in the first place. “If only we had some popcorn and soda!” Everyone laughed. Jolly good fun.

“What you’re looking at is not a party, though it may appear that way, on the street below where one Anthony Miller is threatening to jump off that very building,” the announcer explained. “He has on a backpack that some suspect might be a bomb.”

The wave of laughter rose up into the air and reached Anthony’s ear. Quite unexpected, this jovial laughter. He saw the activity down below and asked Dale what the hell was going on down there. Dale didn’t have the faintest idea what was transpiring down below and gave no satisfactory response. Anthony was uneasy. Sweat rolled down his temples. This was not what he was hoping for.

Gladys and his two kids arrived, trudging up to the negotiator who gestured at them, as if to say, “Look Anthony! Your family’s here to see you.” They looked bored and lazy. Looking like they’d rather be somewhere else. Doing something else. With someone else. Arms crossed. Eyes rolling. Hateful glances and glares. None of them had anything to say to him. He waited long enough. They had their chance. And missed it.

“OK, that’s it! I’m really gonna do it now. I’m gonna jump!” Anthony stepped right up to the ledge, still facing Dale and his family.

“It appears that Anthony Miller is about to take a leap off the building. It seems negotiations have not gone well. If you have children in the room, we advise they leave immediately. This does not look good,” the announcer’s voice crackled from the small, black battery-powered radio.

The crowd below fell silent.

A tall, burly teenage boy with a mass of curly brown ringlets started to chant through a mouthful of half-chewed pizza, “Jump! Jump! Jump! Jump!” Others soon joined in. First in a low, apprehensive whisper. Then in a thunderous chorus. “JUMP! JUMP! JUMP! JUMP!”

Anthony looked over his shoulder down at the crowd. They want me to jump? Is that what they really want? He turned back to see how his two children reacted. He was hoping for some sympathy. Some empathy. The bored non-expressions on their faces hadn’t changed. Gladys smirked, her hateful eyes glittering with hope for a new tomorrow. A tomorrow with no Anthony Miller. Dale stared at him intensely, a look of straining constipation on his shiny face. Is Dale really the only one who cares about me? This negotiator who’s never encountered me until today?

Anthony spun around, stretched out his hands like Jesus on the cross, exposing large, wet pit stains on his powder-blue collared shirt under the straps of his backpack. He leapt off as dramatically as he could muster.

“Anthony Miller has jumped! There’s just no way he can survive this!” the newscaster announced excitedly. “That’s a twelve-story building!”

Anthony immediately realized what he had done and that he could not take it back. He reached back and pulled on the cord of what turned out to be, not a bomb strapped to his back, but a parachute.

“Amazing! He’s wearing a parachute, folks. I’ve never seen anything like this!” the newscaster spoke rapidly. “What is he thinking?”

“Maybe it’s a stunt,” Sunshine Carter, the other newscaster mused. “You know? I think they call it viral marketing. I wonder what he’s selling. Maybe parachutes?” She was not very bright. She started her career as a swim suit model. One wonders how she landed this job.

As Anthony slowly wafted down towards the street below, he spun around slowly and came face to face with his boss, Roxy, who was still standing at the large window facing the street.

“You’re fired!” she screamed out the window. “FIRED!”

Anthony flipped her the bird and grinned stupidly.

The crowd below did not get what they expected: a good, gory ending. Anthony Miller would land safely enough, but the crowd below rushed him. He laughed hysterically. Some threw pizza at him. Some ripped at his backpack and his clothes. Clumps of hair were ripped out at the roots. His uncontrollable laughter continued.

Others stomped him. Stomped him.

And stomped him.

Until the laughter finally stopped.

Copyright © 2015 T. K. Jones

Empty Pockets and Desperation – an original short story

This is a short story submitted to the 2015 One Throne Magazine contest. The first and last sentence (italicized) were provided by the magazine. You were given 24 hours to write a story of up to 1000 words.


Empty Pockets and Desperation

by T. K. Jones

They laid the train tracks back to front and this caused a great deal of confusion – you’d think you were on the train to New York and arrived in Kinshasa, or to Shanghai and found yourself lost in Istanbul. You couldn’t even tell your family or friends you’d be back in a few days. Would you? How could you know? Or that’s what I heard anyway. But I thought it was some new and ridiculous urban legend. The news wasn’t talking about people that hopped on the train and went missing. If this was the case, why weren’t people avoiding the trains? Many still rode them and didn’t appear the least bit apprehensive. I soon forgot the stories. Lost in my own work of fiction.

A year later, after I heard the rumors about space bending trains and oddly placed tracks, I hopped on a train in Boston to get to New York for an important meeting with Tom, my new literary agent. All those people are in fancy pants New York City with their angular haircuts and shiny skyscrapers. I had a manuscript to sell and a desperate need for money. Meaning I couldn’t afford a plane ticket plus cab fare, let alone round trip, in case the deal fell through. And I couldn’t drive there because my car was in such bad shape that it wouldn’t last the five hour drive to New York.

This was my first time on the trains heading out-of-state. I had a whole seating area to myself. There were only three others in my train car. As the train sped forward on the tracks, I saw the cityscape of Boston turn into a glittering rainbow blur. I couldn’t make a thing out. We must have been travelling very fast. And in just a short time, the train slowed down in a snowy landscape. It wasn’t New York.

The dreary train station had signs in Cyrillic. It might as well have been Chinese. I couldn’t read any of it. I ended up in Vladivostok according to the Russian-accented voice over the intercom. Impossible! But apparently true. I saw the weary, snow-slapped Eurasian faces all around me. Staring at me in my insufficient suit. I ran for a phone and managed after many failed attempts to call Tom in Manhattan.

“Tom, I’m in Siberia! I don’t know how I got here,” I practically whimpered into the phone. I really didn’t have a way to get back home. I had no significant amount of money on me. Not even a credit card. I left home with it but it must have been stolen by a pickpocket, somewhere en route.

“How could you not know?” Tom was upset. I could hear the editor curtly excuse herself from his office. She had other engagements and didn’t appreciate having her time wasted.

“Please, explain this to her!” I begged him.

“Explain what? Were you gonna fly here or drive or what?” Tom asked.

“No,” I closed my eyes to picture what happened. “I went on the train to New York. But somehow I ended up in Siberia!”

“Did you get off the train and end up on an airplane?” Tom sounded skeptical.

“No! I’m on the platform. The train’s still sitting right here.”

Tom sighed and shook his head. “Okay, well that deal fell through but there are other publishers out there. So tell me again what your stories about.” Tom represented many clients and hadn’t the vaguest memory of my story.

On the phone I described to him the premise of the story. It was about a man who hopped a train to get to another city, only he ended up in a completely different country!

Just then, I wondered why I couldn’t simply call Tom the way I was doing right now, only from home. He said the publishers and editors wanted to see and interact with the writer to see if they could sell them to the public. I told him I didn’t think that was a very fair way to do business, prejudicial in fact. He told me to save it. He wasn’t in the mood. And that’s just the way publishing is.

After a brief pause, Tom let out a strange sound that jarred me. I nearly dropped the receiver. “Do you realize what powers you have?”

“Powers? No, I’m feeling pretty powerless actually.” A crushing wave of fatigue momentarily drowned out the fear and anxiety I was suffering.

“Your story came true. Do you know what that means?”

I’d never heard Tom sound so excited. It perked me up right away. “Tell me!”

“You can write yourself back here!” Tom laughed hysterically. He was laughing at the absurdity of it all. His cackling made it sound as if he’d lost his mind. After catching his breath he added, “Write another story where you get your crazy butt over here.” Tom burst out into an uncontrollable laughter again.

I wasn’t sure if he was serious or not but it seemed to make sense. Why not? I had nothing else I could do. On the back of my manuscript pages I wrote a new story in pencil. Scribbling frantically. Only I didn’t write the character into New York. I wrote him back to Boston. Back where he began. There was no way I could sit still in Tom’s office and sell my story after a day like this.

I marked the last sentence with a bold period. And with that I found myself stepping off the train, not remembering that I had stepped back onto it in the first place. The sky was a charcoal gray and the air sagged with rain. A loud clap of thunder made me jump. I turned to face the train. The strange, impossible train. Or maybe it was the tracks that were strange. I looked down. Rain dripping from the rusty gutters made a curtain between the platform and the tracks.

Copyright © 2015 T. K. Jones. All Rights Reserved.

A Sheltered Life – an original poem

A Sheltered Life
by T. K. Jones

“She needs friends,” the mother says.
“But I don’t think she wants friends.”
She takes another long drag from her Virginia Slims
Not realizing it was largely her own fault
that her daughter had no friends.
No, not a single one
Always caged up in the apartment
Overprotected
A sheltered childhood
Preteen years of dwindling invitations
To the beach or to the mall
Not that anyone ever had any money to spend
“I can’t.”
“I’m not allowed to.”
She’d sigh, half whimpering, into the phone.
“She won’t let me go.”

The girl becomes strange.
Stranger than before.
A stranger now
A stranger stranger.
Some days not responding, or even acknowledging
Anyone or anything
A catatonic state.
Other days speaking in riddles and rhymes
In a low, ethereal voice much like a weeping cello

“She doesn’t have any friends,” her mother would tell everyone
as a matter-of-factly at family gatherings,
Leaving out the part about when her daughter was just a child
and asked if she would ever get married
The mother’s reply was, “No.
I’m the only friend you’ve got in this world.”
Destined for spinsterhood
An Emily Dickinson life.
An Emily Dickinson death.

Copyright © 2015 T. K. Jones

Becoming Nick Drake

Here’s a piece I wrote that I actually really like. It was rejected by Indiana Review, though. I will share it here:

Becoming Nick Drake
by T. K. Jones

She played Nick Drake’s “Day is Done” on her outdated laptop. On loop. Mouthing the parts she knew. Even after all this time, she didn’t know all the lyrics. Her fingers jumped on the fast guitar licks which were sparsely sprinkled throughout the song.

As she mouthed the words that came through her clunky Sony headphones, single syllables occasionally escaped from her throat, sounding like a deaf person speaking. Half muted. A moan. It embarrassed her. She was alone in her room but always looked over her shoulders. She would shake her head. Chuckle at herself. No one there.

Sometimes she got so caught up in the song, she became Nick Drake. In a music video or performing on stage. This was even more dangerous, as she would make faces so full of emotion. Going for long stretches of time losing touch with reality. She didn’t want people to see her lip-synching and making melodramatic  faces as she sat at an intersection so she switched to talk radio for drives. Angry, shouting conservatives. Rude lawyers hanging up on nervous callers. Financial analysts quoting Bible verses.

How could she drive safely if she had to make such fast transitions from air-guitar to air-cello and back to air-guitar? How could she listen to her mother in the passenger seat? Her mother had a habit of starting her nostalgic storytelling at the most inopportune times. While someone else was in the middle of a sentence. As an interesting bit of news came on TV.

She needed only to look in the mirror to remind herself that she wasn’t a long-deceased, broody Englishman with a soulful voice. Such a shame.

Driving alone one day, she purposefully crashed her car. A suicide labeled an accident. Leaving her mother one more story to interrupt people with.

(300 words)

Copyright © 2015 T. K. Jones

Disappearing Act – original 100 word flash fiction

Here’s yet another story that was just rejected by 100WordStories. Enjoy. (The rule is it has to be exactly 100 words.)

Disappearing Act
by T. K. Jones

I was back visiting the city where he lives. I don’t know why he stopped contacting me. A year and two months ago. So imagine my surprise when I was in Trader Joe’s and see him. He’s not alone.

He’s with his two kids and a woman. It’s not his ex-wife. I’ve seen photos of her. This woman’s slim. She’s smiling. They’re all smiling. He refused to tell his kids I even existed. I didn’t realize how long I was staring at them.

He looks up. Spots me. His face falls. He slightly nods a greeting. Eyes pleading: Don’t approach!

Copyright © 2015 T. K. Jones. All Rights Reserved.

Why Two Chairs? — an original poem

I wrote a paradelle poem. I think by looking at the poem you can figure out the form. I learned about this form from Poetic Asides in the current issue of WD.

“Why Two Chairs?”
by T. K. Jones

Waited all week for a thunderstorm.
Waited all week for a thunderstorm.
I love gardening in the rain.
I love gardening in the rain.
Gardening, I waited for love in the rain.
A thunderstorm all week.

Some people wait all their lives for love.
Some people wait all their lives for love.
There just can not be someone for everyone.
There just can not be someone for everyone.
Some people can just wait for someone all their lives.
There be not love for everyone.

Would it not be sad to live and die alone?
Would it not be sad to live and die alone?
Wondering why you bought two chairs for the table.
Wondering why you bought two chairs for the table.
Live to die alone. Two sad chairs and wondering why.
Would it not be for the table you bought?

Some people love their lives, for love. For everyone can not wait
All week, all alone, I waited. There would be sad rain
In the thunderstorm, wondering why not. You bought a table for someone,
the two chairs just for it. To be, live and die gardening.

Copyright © 2015. T. K. Jones. All Rights Reserved.

Part 2: Fibonacci Poetry

Here are 4 more Fibonacci poems I’ve written:

“A Reason for Mermaids. A Season for Drowning.”

Sea
of
Mermaids
Sinking Ships
with beautiful songs
No one will save you from drowning.


“What is it That I Want?”

Love
Hate
Wanting
Something more
But how do I get
What I’m not even sure about?


“So This is Dying”

Life
Death
Falling
The abyss
with its gaping mouth
I see no ledge to hang on to.


“Easy to Forget”

Hi.
My
name is
Terri Jones.
Just kidding. You’ll forget me soon.

Part 1: Fibonacci Poetry

What is a “Fibonacci poem?” It’s a poem that has 6 lines and follows this certain pattern:

Line 1: 1 syllable
Line 2: 1 syllable
Line 3: 2 syllables
Line 4: 3 syllables
Line 5: 5 syllables
Line 6: 8 syllables


Here are three Fibonacci poems I’ve written:

“With Age — Understanding”

One
day
I will
understand
why things are this way
and why things didn’t turn out right.


“Lord Bacon: concealed poet”

Will
is
a Fraud.
Sir Francis Bacon,
He is the poet and playwright.


“It’s One or the Other”

Black
White
No Gray
In between
There is no middle
No maybe. No uncertainty.


Why don’t you give it a go? It’s pretty easy… and addicting. I’ve written a bunch of these and will be posing them in installments!

100WordStory Photo Prompt: Van Gogh and the Wise Sunflower

(Note: I submitted this piece for 100 Word Story‘s June ’15 photo prompt. I’ve included the photo below. I guess you could call this my dedication to Vinvent Vang Gogh and a sarcastic commentary on art criticism and fame in the art world.)

Van Gogh and the Wise Sunflower

by T. K. Jones

100wordstory-photo-prompt-june-2015

Photo credit: Kris Williams

“Did you know that the sky is a pool, where lights can swim? Paint what you see,” the sunflower urged Vincent Van Gogh. “Though none will care while you are here amongst the living.”

“You don’t need to remind me of my failures,” Van Gogh groaned. He sucked the tip of his paintbrush.

“Don’t waste your paints on your sad, hungry mouth. You’ve so much to give,” assured the sunflower.

Vincent squinted at the synchronized swimming of yellow and white streaking against the blue backdrop. He took liberties that would be much appreciated. Only after he was dead and buried.

© June 2015, T. K. Jones