WIM Week 2: The Ugly Duck Draft
Here is my final self-edited version.
Waiting to Jump
By R. Lee Fryar
Kenny was waiting for Batlady to jump. If she did, he would, too. It would never happen.
She was an out-of-date picture on the wall. He was an accountant for Regen Corp., soiled with as much dirt as upper management, toiling in their shit division. He’d expected to work there for the rest of his career. Today, his career was over.
He hung over the keyboard, reading his death sentence for the second time.
Kenneth Oden. Fired.
His morning coffee chilled in his stomach. He’d been copied on by mistake, but there was no mistake about his name in the spreadsheet. Two seconds too long—a quick log-in attempt confirmed his suspicions. Access denied. He was locked out. He’d have to jump.
Surreptitiously, he glanced around the open office at his fellow shit-shovelers, but they were all buried in their own piles. They ignored him. On the walls, the framed inspirational posters he’d mocked for years mocked him back. To the west, a mountaineer frozen on the side of Everest reminded him he didn’t have the guts to do it. To the east, a grim-faced peloton of bikers threatened to run him over if he tried. And to the north, Batlady posed on her perch in the sky, torch aloft, face cold and desperate in the wind, as indecisive as he. He fingered an empty thumb drive. He should have filled the damned thing when the Feds talked to him the week before. He didn’t have a choice now—no more than his lady on the edge. They’d nailed her feet to her fate, like they’d nailed him by numbers to a crime he couldn’t escape.
Kenny returned by the dingy light of the streetlamps to make his leap. He told the security guard the cardboard box was for documents he needed to work a long weekend at home. They let him in. The news he’d been canned hadn’t made it down to the grunts yet. But in the box, he carried his death—a tightly sealed plastic gas can. He was an accountant, not an anarchist. Homemade bombs weren’t in his arsenal.
Heart thudding in his ears, he ascended to the ninth floor. Images of his childhood raced through his mind—cold days on the farm helping his father with the sheep, warm days digging the garden with his mother. Numbers had earned him a better life. Now they’d killed him.
Batlady cut her eyes at him as he walked in. She looked so lifelike, he suspected whoever shot the picture of the petite woman in the batwing cape had actually imprisoned her soul. He sat at his desk, not bothering with his computer. He’d come for one thing, and one thing alone. He opened the gas can. The fumes escaped with a desperate gasp, but he couldn’t escape his mistakes. He’d burn the building, and his life with it.
He raised his unlit match like a torch. “Well, lady? It’s time.”
She jumped. Her cape became her tattered wings, her feet flamed, trailing blood like streamers. She was screaming. He couldn’t hear it. The glass stopped the noise. But her ceramic face broke with fear, her poise shattered forever by the kind of desperation that drives a woman or man off the ledge of their life.
Kenny couldn’t bear that look. He raced across the room, tore the picture off the wall, and smashed the glass on the nearest desk.
“Grab on, I’ll catch you!” He thrust his arms into the picture.
She hurtled past him in an eternity of clouds and blue, flailing, shrieking his name. Wind whipped his hair back. He thought he’d lost her. Then a weight on the end of his wrists jerked him forward. The shriek became a terrified whimper.
“Don’t let go,” she gasped. “Please. Don’t let go of me.”
“Can you climb?”
“If you help me.”
Pulling upward, he dragged her to the edge of the frame. She cried when her bleeding feet raked over the broken shards of her life.
They left the building together. Kenny carried the gas can in one hand. His lady held the other, leaning against him for support, limping. His shoes were too big for her, but she walked bravely, a faint smile painted on her ageless face. In the folds of her cloak she carried the thumb drive with all his files. She’d been trapped behind the glass for a long time. There was little about him, and Regan Corp., that she didn’t know. She’d been watching him for years.
At the trial, no one knew who the mysterious Batlady was. Kenny didn’t tell. In the eyes of the law, she was a secretary, and he was just an accountant who brought down a corrupt corporation.
Now, they live together on a farm in Oregon. Kenny farms organic vegetables and raises hair sheep. The numbers game that once imprisoned him supports his dream. Batlady cards wool, spins her own thread, and weaves batwing capes for those who would change their look, and possibly their lives.
Kenny calls her Lady Fate. She laughs, and says he can call her whatever he wants since he saved her. He knows the truth. She saved him.
Total time on this project so far: 6.8 hours over the whole time period
Final Word Count at this point: 875 words
My first draft went up almost five days after I penned it, and the redrafting and revising took place over the weekend. I took Sunday off to draft Flipping and relax by the river, and did the bulk of my revisions to the piece on Tuesday. This revision has been done since Tuesday evening.
10 minutes initial draft
135 minutes redrafting
240 minutes revising (This was probably closer to 120, but I was in the middle of BBQ at the time, and not keeping an eye on the clock.)