Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Flash Fiction Friday: "No Way Out"

This week's Flash Fiction Friday challenge involves music, and my story this week is called "No Way Out".

It was the only way out. Sherry and the kids are gone, the bank is up my ass about the mortgage, the car needs brakes, and springs, and Lynnie needs asthma medicine, and every job short of fry cook is "not a match for my skills". Everything is fine, until suddenly it isn't- you're late one day, and then another, and then another, and you start to worry. You worry, and you can't sleep, and then you oversleep, and then you're late again. There's screaming, and fighting, and less sleep, and less performance, and on and on and on.

I pulled over to the side, putting my hazards on after a passing car honked at me. "Want the car, buddy? Take it," I thought bitterly. You couldn't get very close to the bridge, probably because they don't want you to do what I am about to do. So I parked, left the keys, and started walking across. The rain swollen river rushed and roared under my feet. I knew it wasn't far enough to do the job, but I figured the current and the cold would do what I needed it to do.

There's a weird kind of peace that came over me Saturday when I decided this was the way to go. I started making extravagant promises.

"Sure," I told the guy from Chase. "I'll get the money together by Tuesday. Not a problem. Yes, I'll absolutely call you. No problem."

"Absolutely," I told Sherry. "I'll take the kids next weekend. Not a problem at all."

"Certainly, I'll mail you that resume," I told the headhunter. "Just let me print it out."

I got to the middle. I knew, in my middle of the night torture sessions, that I had to get out there quick, because someone would notice and try to intervene. I didn't want to talk about it- there wasn't any other way forward. Sherry? Well, she's just going to have to figure things out. Sorry. I've done what I can, and I've taken all I can take.

There was an inner barrier, about chest high, with a second one beyond that. After that second one, just the terrible, empty air. I kicked one leg up, then brought the other one up and over, and all there was between me and the water was a smooth, silver rail. I felt like a clock was ticking. I only had a couple of minutes before someone noticed me. I had the nagging feeling there should be some ceremony.

I heard a distant saxophone playing. Perfect, I thought.

Someone was playing on a rooftop nearby. It was coming from behind me, so I couldn't tell who it was, but I knew the sound. I listened to it swoop and soar on the wind. Somebody whose roommate was sick of them playing, maybe, or perhaps just someone who just felt like making something beautiful and putting it out there. I didn't know all the music the anonymous troubadour was playing, but I recognized elements of it. It seemed like they were trying phrases from pop records like "Darkness on the Edge of Town" and "52nd Street", combined with meandering, wandering slow solos. A player in a cover band, perhaps, getting warmed up.
As I feared, I felt my nerve melting away. My heart rate slowed, and I really listened. Something perfect and beautiful, as ephemeral as snow, seemingly being played just for me. I stood and I waited. I tried to picture the fall, the rushing air and the smack when I hit the water. Would it knock me out? Would I have to go through the torture of drowning?

The music kept coming. I could feel the eyes of the drivers on the bridge behind me. I didn't look like I belonged, and people were noticing. I thought I heard a siren starting towards the bridge. The music kept coming, flowing and echoing amid the rushed grinding of cars across the bridge.

I felt like my feet decided before I did. As I began the walk back to the car, I wondered how much dinner I could get for the $4.75 I had in my pocket.

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