a short story by Karol Lagodzki
I let go of the ledge when my fingers give up. I know what this means, but the rock hurts too much and the edges have now cut off the circulation in my fingertips enough that, between the one and the other, I have decided to let the future Julie worry about what happens at the bottom. This was a stupid game to play just to make Mark sweat. “Go to hell,” he said. I’m not sure about that. I have never been religious. Hell, Heaven, those things have little meaning, but if my feet slip, I’ll finally get to bust out of purgatory.
“Give me your hand,” I hear a serious and urgent voice, with just a note of anger mixed into the bouquet. Mark’s head clears the top of the rock, and he peers down to the shelf. “We can fix this.”
“Only room for one here,” I say, and it’s true. The protrusion in the two hundred feet of vertical rock is no larger than a clipboard. My hands have found new, more comfortable cracks for purchase, and I stand looking up into his face. “There is always only room for one,” I tell him and blink. Crap, there are drops of something wet in my eyes.
A loud whistle pierces the air, and I look straight down to the crowd which had gathered to see this number. The great Julie Staffaroni and her leap to the death, proclaimed the hundreds of posters pasted all over town. An exaggeration; my assistant, Julio the Strongman, has always caught me—I trust him with my life. I wave and blow kisses to the crowd. Must treat them right. Build the suspense. I fake a slip and one of my feet sends a shower of pebbles to the bottom. I’m sure there were screams; at my height, I hear a general susurration of a large and expectant crowd.
“Julie,” comes the familiar voice from up above. Mark? “Julie, please look up and take my hand.” I shake my head: who the hell is Julio?
“Do you love me?” I ask once my eyes meet his.
“I do, of course I do. We’ve been married for sixteen years.”
“Seventeen,” I say, unsure why.
“That’s right, seventeen,” says a two-foot-tall figure with pastel-painted wings who somehow managed to perch right by my left foot. “Fucking unbelievable, isn’t it? And he’s got the fucking date on the inside of his wedding band.”
I give my guardian angel a smile. I nod. I rub my eyes and my wrist comes off wet. What the hell is wrong with these eyes? “You are so right,” I say.
“You should jump,” he says. “Trust Julio.” I nod.
I look down and see Julio in the middle of a clear circle carved into the cabbage patch of upturned heads. I know that, as usual, my aim will be true. He looks up, and his chiseled, sideburned face splits in a confident grin.
“Julie,” a man’s hand swings down toward me, but he’s at least a foot short of my head. “Honey, I’ve got your meds in the car.”
I think he sounds nice, whoever he is. What the hell, I’ll blow him a kiss too.
“Watch me jump!”
Copyright © 2016 Karol Lagodzki. All Rights Reserved.