Chris has written more than 300 flash fiction/short stories. Working Vacation was 21st out of 6,700 in the 2016 Writer's Digest competition.
Jacomo: Flash Fiction, Read by the Author
The screams from the office seem distant, as though they’re emanating from a different dimension. The pop-pop-pop of the gun is surreal, so fantastically out of place in the monotonous setting of accountants. For the moment, I’m out of the way of the bullets that are ricocheting off the floor, splintering wood, penetrating flesh, lungs, hearts. I watched friend after friend cut down by a man who just a few days ago was my friend as well.
Our boss let one of the accountants go last Friday after a long pattern of serious bookkeeping errors. The one who was terminated is named Jacomo. Who gives their kid a name like that? We call him Jack. Behind his back, a few call him Jack Off.
I know Jack hadn’t been sleeping well. I suspect he was sleeping less than he told me. If you’re getting four hours of sleep every night, you don’t buy a gun and mow down your coworkers and friends. If you’re getting no sleep per night, maybe you’ll do that and then blow your own head off.
It’s quiet inside. Too quiet. If he was gone, the survivors would be calling the police and helping the injured, but I don’t hear anything. He’s still in there, I’m sure of it. I could peek around the corner, but if he sees me, I’m screwed.
I’m afraid of heights. I may not have a true phobia, but a guy named vertigo is doing his best to spin me off this ledge to my death thirty stories down. Damned if I stay out here, damned if I try to get back inside and damned if I don’t need a cigarette right now.
The argument with my wife last night ended with a kiss this morning before we each left for work. I can still smell the lavender soap she uses when she showers. At least she knows I really do love her. But that son-of-a-bitch has no right to take my life and screw up my wife’s life, my daughter’s life. I’ve got to live, damn it. I’ve got to get home to my family.
Someone is by the window. What if it’s Jack? What if he’s going to check to see if anyone was stupid enough to crawl out onto the ledge where there would be no place to hide? It’s a man. He’s sobbing. My friend Stephen is trying to climb out the window like I did. There’s room on the other side if he can make it. He sees me, and I point to the other side of the window. He nods his head and the back of it explodes. Blood and brains splatter the window casing and out into the air to fall to the pavement below. He sags across the sill like a rug over a clothesline.
The screams resume which tells Jack who’s still alive and where. I know this because he’s shooting again. There’s Janice’s voice. She’s the life of the office, the one who plans all the parties for birthdays and holidays. Please, Janice, just shut the hell up and hide. Another pop, and Janice is cut off mid scream.
Somebody pulls Stephen’s body off the window sill. Who is it? Someone else willing to gamble on the fifty-fifty odds? A head and shoulders emerge. It’s Jack. Sirens wail in the distance. He’s climbing out the window. Is this his idea of an escape? He set the gun on the sill and is climbing out onto the ledge.
He still hasn’t seen me. I kick at the gun and miss. I try again. Another miss. He’s standing up on the other side of the window, bending down to get the gun. He reaches. This time I kick too hard. Oh god, I’m leaning out, falling away from the building. I grab for the window frame and my fingers find the groove the window slides through. I swing outward, then back and hug the corner where the window is set into the wall.
Jack is on one knee, scooting closer and closer to the gun that is now at my feet. I kick again, and the gun slides off the ledge. Jack grabs it out of the air. He has to turn the gun around to use it, and I kick yet again. My foot strikes jack in the head. He falls outward, but his hand catches the window frame opposite the one I’m hugging. He has a single hand grip. His arm is fully extended so that he’s leaning away from the building, bent at the waist, with both feet planted on the outer edge of the concrete ledge.
“Why, Jack? Why are you doing this?”
“It’s a going away party, Dave. Goodbye Jack the jack off. I’m sure you’ve heard by now that I’m not coming back to work. They fired me, and I at least deserve a going away party like everybody else gets when they leave. Don’t you think it’s fair that I have a chance to say goodbye to all my friends? And now it’s time for me to say goodbye to you.”
Jack raises the gun and points it at my head. He slips a finger over the trigger and squeezes. I swing my leg one more time. The shot goes wide and misses its mark, but not by much. The kick sends him off the ledge. The kick from the gunshot, not from me. No, not from me. Jack’s scream lingers, then ends abruptly.
Hands grab me, pull me down and in. I’m off the ledge, finally off that damned ledge. The scene inside is too much. I fall to my knees and weep. The officers give me a few moments, then one puts his hand on my shoulder and speaks up.
“Did he jump, or did he fall?”
I ponder the simple question. “It was the kick from the gunshot,” I say. I’ll keep telling myself that. The policeman seems to believe it, why shouldn’t I?