Leapin' Lethargy by Andrew Call


Inspired by Writing Prompt One Hundred and Thirteen: The window stood open and all I had to do was jump.

Pickled between inevitable pain and ambiguous salvation, most people choose to fly. Faith in a foxhole for the avid atheist kind of stuff. In that brief limbo, the desperation to escape one’s burning building overcomes any dread of cannonballing out the open window. Those who don’t leap often regret stepping back from the edge as they burn, and those who take the plunge are afforded what luxury there is in imagining a colorful splat during freefall. Whenever my window cracked and gave me an opening, I was apt to jump.

“Jump, ya chick’n shit! She’s watching you.” Sid Madison got me to jump at age eight with a jab from the school pool.

“Jump or he’ll kill you!” An unnamed husband with fire in his soul got me to jump buck naked from a two-story balcony at nineteen.

“Jump and I’ll find you!” Nineteen. Same unnamed husband. Fire in the soul. You get the picture.
“How high, sir?!” as I jumped for freedom in Basic.

After two tours, I jumped into law enforcement to escape PTSD. Before I retired, I jumped into marriage, through divorce hoops, around a triple bypass, and over the bottle. Lord, did I jump. Vivid hope for a colorful splat smudged and now abstract.

Here I was again, standing on the edge.

From inside the car, the rain on the windshield made my bowels burn. Or maybe that was the IBS. Of all the days, of all places. I looked out and up through squinted eyes. Retiring hadn’t gotten me anywhere, and divorce hadn’t allowed me the peace of mind I’d expected. Didn’t move far enough away from those flames. Three years, half of what I owned, one younger asshole taking my place in my ex-wife’s bed, a move across town…by all means I’d gotten pretty far. In what direction, God only knew.  Paint-by-numbers with Dhali holding the brush.

And here I am, outside my old apartment building, looking up at my old window. Ex-detective Richard Pascal, back on the case. I opened the car door and stepped out into the rain.

~

“Rich, I know I shouldn’t have called, but I didn’t want to call the actual cops.”

My ex-wife Janine stood in the open doorway of our old apartment. Twenty-four floors up, three doors down, the framed entrance separating us.  I’d refused to go inside and a small puddle dripped to life around my feet.  I listened as Janine told me how the new guy had imploded after she dropped the pregnancy bomb. Really, Jan? Pregnant? How he’d trashed the apartment and stormed out.  He was on the roof.  Misery loves company, I thought. Here I come, buddy.

“I’ll talk to him, Jan. Stay here.”  She closed the door and I took the stairs. 

The door reading ROOF ACCESS whipped open with the wind. I stood inside and squinted through the sheets of rain as they danced, making out the timid-looking bastard against the edge of the roof. He was sitting with his back on the cement ledge. His eyes darted up at the noise, and the rain blasted me in the face as I stepped out. What was his name? Jim? Jan and Jim?

The rain was so thick it felt like I was standing under a hose, but I wasn’t thinking about the rain. In that moment, drenched and emotionally drained, I shut off. Or turned on. My little wind-up key finally breaking.

“It was like he wasn’t really there,” Jim would tell Channel 4 later. “He looked at me but didn’t see me.”

I was empty.  There was nothing left, and I knew it. I strode the distance to the roof’s waist-high cement guard and turned my empty gaze on Jim, his hair matted to his face and eyes puckered to fight back the rain.

“Hell of a day.” I zoned out into the middle distance, not looking at anything in particular.  Jim slumped into the gravel roof and started to sob. What a sad excuse of a man, I thought. A piss-poor replacement.  “If you came up here to jump, maybe you should.” 

I felt the rain like fire on my neck. Burning. Building. Unbearable.

My heels scraped back in a featherweight pendulum, the ledge pressed against my waist, and I rolled forward into one last lethargic leap. 


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