What goes down must come.., p.1
What Goes Down Must Come Up
Michael W. Turner
Copyright 2013 Michael W. Turner
Table of Contents
Marcus looked up at the sign marked "Employees Only" and hesitated for a moment. He tried the door knob, and it turned. He smirked and shook his head in disbelief. "It is meant to be," he said to himself. It was around 4:00 AM and forty-five degrees, but the cold air was no match for the warm blood racing through his veins.
He opened the door and was startled by the cool fall breeze that broke through his light-brown pea coat and ripped through his cotton pajamas. The putrid odor of stale urine entered his nostrils as he looked toward a flight of stairs. He put his right hand on a banister and felt the rusted paint chips prick his fingers. He savored the feeling for a brief moment, took a few deep breaths, and began his ascent.
Marcus was in his mid-forties, but he didn't look it. At first glance, it looked like he was in his early thirties. He was small in stature and had a slight curve to his upper-back which caused his head to protrude in front of his body.
Marcus could feel the gentle movement of the ground beneath his feet as he traveled flight after flight. He stopped a few times to catch his breath, so it took close to twenty minutes to reach the very last flight of steps. He thought of his days in high school when he had to take the PE exam, and how challenging it had been to do chin-ups and run a mile under ten minutes. It had left him totally exhausted then, and he felt the same way now. He stood hunched over with his hands on his thighs, gasping for air. As he regained his breath, he stood upright and looked ahead to another door: the final door.
Once again, the door was not locked. He opened it, and that cold familiar breeze ran through his coat once more. He squinted as he was temporarily blinded by a bright security light that was mounted in an opposite corner about ten feet above him. As his eyes adjusted to the contrast between the bright light and the dark morning, he realized that he was not alone.
There was another man standing in front of him on a stone platform that was about twelve feet long and ten feet wide enclosed by four stone walls which stood about three feet tall. He looked to be in his mid-sixties with his receding hairline, messy gray hair, and unkempt beard. He was dressed in a black trench coat, a button-down white shirt with a few stains on it, and a pair of gray slacks. He whirled around in shock at the sound of the creaky metal door opening, and he hoisted himself onto the ledge of the wall furthest from the door. He sat on top of it with his feet dangling in the air. "Don't try and stop me!" he yelled. "You come any closer, and I'm going to jump!"
"Whoa, whoa, whoa?just hold on a minute. I'm not a cop or anything like that," Marcus said, frozen in place.
"You're not, huh? Then why are you on top of this bridge?"
"I'm here for the same reason you are."
The gray-haired man hopped off the ledge and back onto the platform of the suspension tower. He looked down nearly 300 feet to the water below as he fumbled for a cigar in his coat pocket. He lit it with a match, inhaled deeply, and exhaled with a trembling breath. "Of all the bridges in Brooklyn, you had to jump off mine. What are the odds?"
Marcus felt the same way he had felt on his wedding day - startled and confused. Coming to the bridge was a hard decision, and he had known that the process of jumping was not going to be an easy one. He didn't expect to have any company, and he didn't want an audience of any type. But now this older man stood before him, and he had no idea what to think or what to say. He was hesitant, but he spoke. "So why are you here? I mean, I know why you're here. I guess what I'm trying to ask?"
"Look, kid, a long-winded conversation will not make this any easier. You can trust me on that one. When it comes to something like this, you don't want to think too much. You just want to get it done." He looked down at his hand and stared at his cigar. He shook his head and tossed it over the bridge. "You see that, kid? That there was a mistake - tasting that cigar. I should have never done that because now I'm thinking that is the last cigar that I'm going to enjoy. It makes it so much harder." His eyes began to water, but he had a scowl on his face. "Well go ahead, kid. Enough with this shit. Jump!"
"Me? Why don't you go first?"
"Fine! You know what? I will." The older man took off his shoes and coat, and set them aside. Then he looked over the wall into the water and said, "See you on the other side, kid."
"Wait, wait!" Marcus screamed, as he ran over and grabbed the older man's shoulder.
"Hey, what's the matter with you, kid? I already told you that the conversation is over."
"?but, I don't even know your name."
"Are you nuts?"
"Yes, and so are you." Marcus broke his eye contact with the man. He had always been the type of person who avoided conflict. "I imagine you would have to be a little nuts to jump off a bridge."
The older man jerked his shoulder out of Marcus's grasp and turned toward him. He stood nose to nose with Marcus, and shoved his finger in Marcus's face. "You listen to me, you little prick. I may be a lot of things, but 'nuts' isn't one of them."
"Fine. You're not nuts," Marcus said as he took a few steps back. "Can you tell me what your name is now?"
The gray-haired man ground his teeth together, and reluctantly said, "It's Roger."
"I don't care," Roger said with disdain.
Marcus felt there had to be some reason why he and Roger were on that bridge together. It was too uncanny to be a mere coincidence. Many thoughts raced through Marcus's mind. Had his wife sent this man to stop him from committing suicide? Then again, how would she have known that he was going to commit suicide? He had moved out of his home a week ago, and he had been staying at motel. She hadn't reached out to him one time since he had left. His curiosity was definitely piqued. "Why are you here?" he asked.
"Again with this shit?"
Marcus stared at him intently and responded, "Yes."
"Fine! Alright then, kid! You want to hear my story. I'll tell you!" Roger walked away from the wall and back to the door. He leaned against the frame, and took a deep breath. "Guys like me don't deserve to live, kid. It's really just that simple."
"That's not much of a story," Marcus said.
Roger rolled his eyes at Marcus and switched his weight to his other foot. "Just give me a fucking moment, will ya?"
Marcus threw his hands up apologetically. "Sorry."
Roger paused for moment to gather his thoughts and relieve some tension. "I used to have a family until I fucked it up. I used to have a pretty good job, but I messed that up too. I had a wife who loved me and a son who despised me, but he had every right to."
"Why does your son despise you?"
"He doesn't despise me anymore."
"You just told me he did."
"Clean your ears, kid, or go back to school. What I told you is that he despised me. Past tense. Ya get it kid? Past tense, because he's dead. He's been dead for about 15 years now!" Roger yelled.
"How did he die?"
"He died overdosing on my drugs. I used to be junkie, and one night he got into my stash and overdosed. My wife committed suicide some months later, and that's how I make a very long story short."
"I still don't get it. You said you used to be a junkie, so now you're clean. That's a good thing isn't it?"
The wind began to pick up, and the water crashed into pillars of the bridge. Marcus crossed his arms across his chest in an attempt to stay warm.
Roger raised his voice over the howling winds as he spoke. "Not really, kid. All my son ever wanted was for his
"No! Don't you want to hear my story?"
"Not really, kid."
"Please! Just give me a moment! Please!"
Roger jumped back onto the platform and rushed over to Marcus with balled fists.
"Damn it! What the hell is the matter with you, kid? Why can't you just leave me be!"
Marcus raised his hands to defend against the impending attack. Roger stopped inches away from Marcus and looked down at his fists. He opened his hands and unclenched his jaw.
"My wife used to whine like that. I couldn't stand it. One time I almost beat her to death. I'm sorry, kid. I didn't mean to rush you like that." He shook his head, took a seat on the ground, and rested his back against the cold stone wall opposite from Marcus. "Go ahead, kid. I'm listening now, but don't take all day."
Marcus crossed his arms to try to shield himself against the cold. Then he walked over to Roger and sat down. The stone ground was cold on Marcus's bottom, so he fidgeted and raised himself up just enough to slide his coattail in between the ground and his thin pajamas. "Thanks," he said to Roger as he tried to form a half-hearted smile. "I used to be a teacher. I thought I was a pretty good one, but I guess my students didn't think so. The kids were always disruptive and threw things at me when my back was turned. Anyway, I wound up getting laid off about a year ago. I'm sure you've heard about all the cutbacks to schools here in the city?"
"Yeah, Of course I have."
"Well?I was no exception."
"I'm sorry to hear that, kid, but certainly there's something else you can be doing for work until you get another teaching gig?"
"Yeah, I've tried to apply for other jobs, and I've had interviews, but no one will hire me because I'm over-qualified," Marcus said.
"I see?damn shame," Roger said as he stood up. "Well, kid, that's not all that bad. Your story sounds like half of the population in America. In other words, it doesn't sound like it's worth killing yourself over."
Marcus gritted his teeth and darted up from the ground as car horns sounded below. Their loud volume dimmed as the cars moved along the bridge.
"Don't do that," Marcus said.
"Minimize my problem, like it isn't important, or act like it's nothing to get upset about."
"I have to be honest with you. It doesn't seem like anything that is worth ending your life over."
"Oh yeah. That's what you think, huh?"
"Yeah, that's right," Roger replied.
"You haven't even heard the whole story."
Roger turned and hoisted himself up the wall. "I don't have time to. I need to end this now."
Marcus thinks back to a week ago when he returned home early from a trip he had taken upstate to visit relatives. He had noticed a familiar car in his driveway. When he opened his front door, he had been shocked to see his wife straddling his brother on the sofa. "My son hates me, and my wife cheats on me. No one respects me!" He shouted at Roger's back. A tear fell from his eye. "That's why I want to end it all. The people I care about the most don't view me as a man: my colleagues, my students, none of them."
Roger jumped back onto the platform. "Stop being such a pansy, kid! You have the power to change all of that!"
"Oh, what do you know? You're just as fucked up as I am," Marcus said as he wiped the tears from his face.
Roger took a few steps towards Marcus, and said, "I know that I don't put up with people disrespecting me. All you need is to have a little confidence in yourself. Just speak up when someone disrespects you."
"Is it that easy?" Marcus asked sarcastically.
"It sure is, you little girl," Roger said as he shoved Marcus.
The wind whistled like a steam engine as it raced through the tower and over the turbulent water below.
"Hey. What's your problem?" Marcus shouted.
"You're my problem. Here I am trying to escape, and instead I have to listen to a sob story coming from a spineless weasel."
"I'll be the weasel, and you can be the pathetic junkie!" Marcus yelled.
"Don't you talk to me like that you little punk!" Roger shoved him again.
"Hey! Don't put your hands on me again!"
"Is the weasel starting to grow a set?" Roger asked as he laughed. "Give me a break, kid," he said as he shoved him a couple of more times.
Before the next push was dealt, Marcus swung for Roger's face and connected. Roger staggered back, and one of his legs went upward as he almost toppled over the wall. Marcus rushed over and grabbed him before he fell over. Marcus nearly went over himself, but was able to steady his footing while he pulled Roger into a bear hug. Both men stumbled to the ground.
"Why couldn't you just let me go? I wanna go anyway," Roger said.
"No. I couldn't do that."
"Why not, kid?"
"I may be a coward, but I'm no murderer. I let you go, then that would mean I killed you."
Roger laid there on the cold concrete for a few moments. He stumbled as he rose due to his shaking hands. He looked over to the wall, but stayed in his place. Marcus sat up and wrapped his arms around his legs with his knees to his chest.
Roger rubbed his jaw and said, "You should skip being a teacher and become a cage fighter, kid."
Marcus looked up at Roger with watery eyes, and said "I'm so sorry. I shouldn't have done that."
"You see that, kid. You have this bleeding heart for everything. I was bullying you. I was trying to hurt you emotionally, and I did. I didn't expect you to snap."
"Why would you do that?"
"Because it makes me feel better when other people feel bad. Misery loves company. Ya get it, kid?"
"I guess so. That's not a very good way to live," Marcus replied.
"I understand that, and that's why I'm here. I'm no good to anyone. I'm a plague."
Marcus took a seat next to Roger and said, "You're not a plague; you're an asshole. There's definitely a difference."
Roger smirked. "It's not the first time I heard that."
"There's good in you. I can tell."
"I thought you were a teacher, kid, not a priest."
"Just hear me out. OK?"
"Yeah, yeah, yeah. Go ahead," Roger said as he turned away from Marcus.
Marcus tilted his head to the side and rested his chin on his hand. "If you were all bad, you wouldn't be here."
"Stop talking in riddles, kid. I'm not Batman."
"You feel guilty, and that means you have morals. I don't think plagues have morals."
Roger stood up and waved Marcus off. "Give me a break. I'm just fed up with life. I ruined mine, and there's no fixing it."
The familiar cold wind roared through the tower, making the hair on each man's head dance. Marcus stood up and looked Roger in the eye and said, "It can be fixed."
Roger clenched his jaw and balled his fist. "God damn it! We both came up here for the same damn reason. And instead we're reflecting on life like two old ladies!"
Marcus put his hands up in defensive manner. "I know, but just relax for second," he said.
Roger shook his head in disgust. "What now? You have another revelation? Just say it!"
"Before I came here, I thought that my son would be better off without me, so I figured if I were gone, he would model himself after someone else."
"That's some great logic, kid. Guess that's why you're a teacher and not a rocket scientist," Roger said sarcastically.
"Anyway, I'm realizing that if I want him to be a better man, then all I have to do is become a better man myself."
"No, wait! You shouldn't do this!" Marcus yelled.
"Give me a break, kid. Why shouldn't I?" Roger stared into river, and watched the waves slam into pillars below. The sun started to rise, and Roger looked up into the sky as the light started to peek through the clouds.
"Because you saved me," Marcus said. "If you weren't here, I would already be dead. Even if your wife and son's deaths were your fault, you can make it better by saving others."
"I'm no psychologist. I can't offer any help."
"You keep saying that, but you already have. Like it or not, you just did some good."
Roger turns and looks at Marcus with a tear running down his face, and says, "Maybe I did?maybe I did."
At that moment, the door squealed loudly and burst open. A uniformed policeman barged onto the small platform. "Hey, what are you doing here?" shouted the police officer with a deep voice and a thick Brooklyn accent.
Roger and Marcus were both startled by the loud intrusion. Marcus watched in horror as he saw Roger's leg wobble beneath him. Roger tried balancing himself, but the strong winds pushed him forward. His arms flailed wildly, and Marcus rushed over to the ledge with out-stretched arms. He grabbed the bottom of Roger's coat as he fell over the wall, which caused Roger's body to act like a wrecking ball and smack into the stone wall. Marcus listened to the thud of Roger's head as it hit the wall.
"I gotcha. Just hold on."
Roger's head and body went limp as blood poured from a wound on the back of his head. The dead weight was too much for Marcus, and he screamed out in pain as his shoulder dislocated from its socket.
"I can't hold him!" he yelled.
The police officer rushed over to the wall, but the coat had already slipped from Marcus's grasp and Roger fell to the cold water below. Marcus watched as Roger hit the water like a missile, and a tear fell for the man who just saved his life.
Thank you so much for reading my very first published short story. There are more that are being edited, so please be sure to check for future material from me, Michael W. Turner.
What Goes Down Must Come Up by Michael W. Turner / Thrillers & Crime have rating 3.2 out of 5 / Based on35 votes