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Flash Fiction: "Jacomo," Read on Video by the Author

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.

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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.

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“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?

Comments

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 03, 2018:

Good night, then. No George toupee. But keep an eye out for my Trump "Quality mane".

Suzie from Carson City on December 03, 2018:

Yes, Stop! LOL...I'm not sending you a picture of my hands! And don't even think about taking a picture of yourself in a George Toupee!

Enough! It's way past my bed time....LOL

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 03, 2018:

I can do puffy shirts, but I'm sorry, no soft cheeses. Ok, I'll stop. Except for the photo of your hands.

Suzie from Carson City on December 03, 2018:

OH!! The girl with the "man hands" LMAO! Duh! You're right, I'm a bit slow tonight. I wasn't thinking "Seinfeld.".....you brat! Maybe you'd like to hear my voice? I could be a "Low Talker."......LOL....OMG! I just imagined Jerry in that "puffy shirt!" You've started something now, Chris!!

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 03, 2018:

Come on Paula, It's from Seinfeld.....

Suzie from Carson City on December 03, 2018:

My hands? Well, That's a first!! LOL Gotta think about that. What evil are you up to, Chris?! Obviously Some one else needs to take the picture. We'll see if I can fulfill your request.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 03, 2018:

Let them talk. I need more spice in my life. By the way, I own the complete Seinfeld collection. I do have one related request. Could you provide a photo of your hands? I'm just curious about something.

Suzie from Carson City on December 02, 2018:

Chris LOL!! and you make me laugh too!! You just boosted yourself to slot # 1.....although Wesman cracked me up earlier today on his latest guitar series edition, A Seinfeld fan?? Oh God...a true Seinfeld fanatic! I will actually pull up YouTube videos of episodes when my mood is off-kilter and I want to snap out of it! If I'm feeling especially ornery, I watch the bloopers. That show was one-of-a-kind and I honestly don't think it can ever be equaled. Hel-LO Newman......LOL

You certainly could have fooled me that vocal dramatization does not come naturally to you, but OK, if you say so.

Listen Mr. Mills....it may appear to the public that we're actually "flirting." If you can come up with some creative way for us to disguise our sinister chats, like a special code or something...let me know!! God forbid we become the stuff of community gossip!! Oh my! LOL

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 02, 2018:

Paula, I think I could tell you a thing or two about elevated heart rate and respiration after reading your comment. I'm glad you enjoyed the video.

Now, as for this Wesman fellow and somebody named Blue. Not sure how I would respond to Blue. But Wesman would definitely get the Jerry Seinfeld style greeting of, Hello, Wesman. If you aren't a Seinfeld fan, you won't get it.

Making those videos is time consuming, but I learned a bit about reading to a listening audience. Being dramatic does not come natural to me.

Tell you what. Pick any story of mine and request it in video format with me reading. I'll deliver.

Suzie from Carson City on December 02, 2018:

Whew!! Heart rate and respiration elevated considerably. I love that you have saved me from a 15-minutes aerobic routine. Actually, Chris, I'm taking slow, deep breaths attempting to calm myself. This fabulous flash fiction would not be one to read just prior to bedtime. Brilliantly told.

I'm so glad I finally wandered over to your site to experience you voicing your story. What a dramatic (& "sexy") voice you have, Chris. and you're even cuter in video than in your still photo. You do realize what this means, don't you? I have yet another online heartthrob Fantasy Man. Don't panic. You needn't do a thing. It just means that Wesman and Blue have some serious competition. You'll all receive the same amount of attention and adoration from me. LOL. OH, I have such fun here at HP!.....You can read me a story any ole time, cutey!.......Peace, Paula

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on January 30, 2017:

Luke, thanks for the info. I will check out your short story tomorrow. Looking forward to it.

JourneyHolm on January 30, 2017:

Chris, my work computer has imovie, so that's typically what I use. I think audio would definitely be easier. I tried what you did and found myself so subconscious about my appearance that it distracted from my purpose. Also, the story is about the characters and not necessarily us, so that was also a distraction for my audience.

I'm not sure about Quicktime, but I think a slide show could work. I bet you can convert it into a video somehow. Google can teach you that. You'd just have to get the timing down.

I am going to post a short story I wrote tomorrow. I made a video for it too. Check it out if you get a chance. Good luck and keep up the good work!

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on January 30, 2017:

Luke, I appreciate that input very much. I have been thinking about doing audio only, but I think your idea of a photo would work just fine. I hate working with the video, actually. I have to do so many retakes just because I made a face that wasn't pleasant or something was hanging out of my nose. I'll give it a try. Any suggestions on how to get the photo and the audio together? Can I do it on QuickTime? Maybe a slide show even.

JourneyHolm on January 30, 2017:

Great job! Do you know how to edit your videos? Might I suggest supplanting pictures in lieu of your face when reading the story online? In my opinion, it would be more entertaining. Your face is nice and all, just a bit distracting when trying to focus on the words. Regardless, great job! Keep making those videos!

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on August 21, 2016:

Thanks Ann. You will catch up. I'm doing a lot of reading in the NYCM form, so writing is taking a back seat right now. I did publish a poem this morning. I don't do that very often. Thanks for the comments.

Ann Carr from SW England on August 21, 2016:

Realistic to a T, Chris. I thought about all the real-life situations of such things which seem to happen more and more these days. Great idea to use the 'office party' reference.

I haven't run the video yet as I like to comment on my interpretation first (bit like reading a book before I watch the film).

You have a great knack of setting scenes and this is crystal clear - I almost had vertigo!

I have so many of your stories to catch upon but I'll get there.

Ann

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on August 09, 2016:

Shauna, thanks for the valuable feedback on the reading of the story. I have to decide if it's worth the time to record. I could also put them on YouTube.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on August 09, 2016:

Chris, I think this story is well-written. Lots of tension and I had no problem picturing the scene.

That said, I've never been a fan of audio books. I prefer to "hear" what's going on by using my own interpretation based on how the words resonate with me. If a piece is written well, my imagination takes over and runs the film in my head. It's for the same reason I rarely watch choreographed music videos. More times than not, I prefer my interpretation of the song over what the artist wants us to see.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on August 08, 2016:

Deb, thank you. and regarding your comment about the question by the officer, jgshorebird also pointed that out. I'll probably change that part slightly. It is a good observation. thanks

Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on August 07, 2016:

Superb work! However, only a police officer that knew you personally could ever get away with a question like that.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on July 24, 2016:

Shyron, Thanks for your comment. I responded two days ago, but I see that it didn't go through. I do appreciate your visit.

Shyron E Shenko from Texas on July 22, 2016:

Wow Chris, this is to fantastic. I don't know what is wrong with HP, this is exceptional, I think they hired people who not only can't write but, ones who can't hear or read.

Blessings dear friend

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on July 20, 2016:

johnmariow, Thank you for that enthusiastic response. I appreciate you taking time to read the story and respond.

johnmariow on July 20, 2016:

An 'edge of your seat' thriller that almost has the reader speed reading to find out what happens. Excellent!

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on July 20, 2016:

manatita, yes it is sort of humorous, I suppose. They did say it was discovered by a person, not a software program. I was instructed to make changes to bring it in line with HP standards, but they didn't say what standard I failed to reach.

manatita44 from london on July 20, 2016:

Sometimes they tell you, sometimes I feel that they use some kind of moderator. I had a situation once where my work kept being rejected. Taking out things didn't help, but all was well when I removed a simple word, might have been 'breast' or something related to the body. Funny eh?

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on July 20, 2016:

manatita, I appreciate all that you said. I won't turn down an offer to edit. That would be excellent. I always appreciate the insights you pass on, especially when you offer suggestions for improvement. Thank you.

Regarding the video. I had to pull it, although I worked very hard on it. HP has some problem with this story. They have not told me what the problem is, so I can only guess. In the original, I used a nick name for the killer. His name was Jacomo and I used a nick name that in real life someone would have used in this situation. I removed that reference and asked for ads to be restored and for my story to be featured. I have never had an unfeatured hub. It is now featured, but ads have not been restored. The video still has the nick name I referred to. I haven't figured out how to edit that out. I would like to put the video back up. If it wasn't the nick name, then the problem has to be the violence, but I don't think it is any worse here than in some of my other stories. So I am at a loss about what is wrong with this story.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on July 20, 2016:

Ruby, thank you for the feedback on the intensity. That is what I wanted, psychological suffering that anticipated what might happen. Thanks for reading and for the feedback.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on July 20, 2016:

Eric, I was going for more of a psychological struggle in which the POV character saw and heard the horrible things. I hope I achieved that at least a little. Thanks for reading and for the feedback.

manatita44 from london on July 20, 2016:

Me again. I can't see the video, but know I agree with Ruby in another mail, I believe. When the story is that good, it is always better to read it, and oh, do not worry about some comments here. You're not a policeman, just telling a great Flash! Peace.

manatita44 from london on July 20, 2016:

My reply has disappeared. I hate to lose the moment. Now I have to make it up, I feel.

Awesome and awe-inspiring. What a great piece of Flash. Very well woven and told so well!

If you need editing, then let me know. I mean with your book. I figure you are miles better than some of the books I read. That ambiguous touch at the end (deliberate?) Ha ha. Don't tell me. A feat of real genius! Thanks for a superb piece of Flash. Much Love, Bro.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on July 20, 2016:

This was so surreal. I felt like I was on that ledge, I kid you not! Your writing was so intense. This scenario could happen anytime, anyplace. Great piece of writing!!!

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on July 20, 2016:

You bridge a gap between what we see on TV and the stark reality of our times. The fear, the racing mind and the hope to live. Only seconds to live an entire lifetime.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on July 19, 2016:

Venkat, thanks for reading and commenting

Venkatachari M from Hyderabad, India on July 19, 2016:

Very good and interesting story.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on July 18, 2016:

jgshorebird. Excellent observation. I have no law enforcement background, but I'm surprised I didn't have at least a little red flag pop up about that. Thanks for reading and for the comment.

jgshorebird on July 18, 2016:

Another good story, but one thing I noticed coming from a law enforcement perspective -- and that is the cop should not ask leading questions. Just "what happened." My opinion. The video lends it more power and lets the reader know the emotion behind the words.

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