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