WIM Week 3: CP round
Part 3: 3rd Draft
After processing feedback and thinking through the changes, here is my story incorporating feedback and brainstorming.
Waiting to Jump
By R. Lee Fryar
Kenny was waiting for Batlady to jump. When she did, he would, too.
It would never happen. She was a painting among the motivational posters on the walls of Regen Corp’s accounting division. He was an accountant, soiled in as much shit as upper management because he had a gift. Kenny could make auditors believe anything he said. With a little finesse he could work the same sleight-of-mind on anyone. Like the flustered, red-faced junior accountant working his way across the room right now.
Kenneth Oden. Fired.
His morning coffee chilled in his stomach. He’d recommended layoffs, and it was company policy to kill the messenger. HR had made the mistake, copying him on, but there was no mistake about his name in the email cached on his phone. First time he’d ever been glad for the ineptitude of a department that smelled like cheese puffs and body odor. In minutes, he and his life-in-a-box would be out of the building. He fingered the thumb drive in his pocket. Should have given the damned thing to the Feds last week when they’d invited him to squeal.
He glanced around the cramped office at his fellow shit-shovelers, but they were busy with their own piles. The motivational posters mocked him. To the west, a mountaineer dangling from Everest reminded him he couldn’t do it. To the east, a peloton of bikers threatened to run him over if he tried. On the north wall, Batlady watched him with the eyes of a woman who understood his position. Facing her future, she gazed out across an abyss, torch in hand, nailed to her perch, frozen in the kind of despairing truth that leaves no room for emotions. Kenny understood the look. He felt it breeding on his own face as he accompanied his junior accountant to the door, accepted his condolences, and then calmly swiped the man’s keycard.
He’d jump, but he’d come back by night to do it. No one else needed to know. Not like he was saving lives after all.
Kenny returned by the dingy light of the streetlamps to fire himself. The alternative was waiting for the firing squad to do it. He told the security guard the cardboard box was for a few things he’d left behind. The man believed him. People always did. In the box, Kenny carried his death—a tightly sealed gas can.
Ascending by elevator 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. At least that was honest work. Lying paid better, but now those lies would kill him.
Batlady cut her eyes at him as he walked in. Sometimes he thought whoever painted the petite woman in the batwing cape had actually imprisoned her soul. He’d once asked a fellow manager what the painting was worth. It was painted by an accountant, the man said, a former controller. What did he think? Kenny knew better than to say what he thought. It was the only authentic thing in the place. He loved truth when he saw it, even pinned like a dead butterfly to a card.
He sat at his desk and opened the gas can. The fumes escaped with a desperate gasp. Only one person in the world would witness his redemption and understand it.
He raised his unlit match like a torch. “Well, my lady?”
She jumped. Her cape became tattered wings, her feet trailed blood like streamers. She was screaming. He couldn’t hear it. The glass stopped the noise. But her face broke with fear, her poise shattered forever by the kind of desperation that drives a person off the ledge of their life. She tumbled end over end in an eternity of blue. No bottom. No sudden stop to end it all. Forever freefall.
Kenny couldn’t bear it. 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, flailing, shrieking his name. He thought he’d lost her. Then she tumbled past again, top of the frame to the bottom. A sudden weight on the end of his wrists jerked him forward. Her shriek became a terrified whimper.
“Don’t let go,” she said in a tight voice. “Kenny, please.”
“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 prison.
“Why did you wait so long?” he asked. “I would have jumped sooner.”
She stared up at him, weary, windblown, almost as jaded as he. “I was waiting for you,” she said.
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 face. No one stopped them. The cloak had disguised her before; now it was big enough for them both. In the folds, she carried the thumb drive with the files he already had. As for the rest, she knew it all. SEC undercover work was a bitch, but she’d been a controller at the company before. Regan Corp. was doomed from the moment Kenny came to work for them. She loved integrity when she saw it, even trapped under filthy lies.
Now, they live together on a farm in Oregon. Kenny grows organic vegetables and raises sheep. He’ll never lie for his living again. Batlady cards wool, spins thread, and weaves batwing capes for those who would change their look, and possibly their lives. Kenny still calls her Batlady. She says he can call her whatever he wants. He saved her.
He knows the truth. She saved him.
Time to process the feedback and brainstorm—30 minutes on finding the consensus remarks, and closer to 60 minutes of brainstorming, which mostly involved letting those ideas percolate while I was working on another story. I usually work on multiple projects at the same time. It’s efficient for me, and makes me happy.
Time to rewrite: 180 minutes
Time to edit that revision to final: 30 minutes
Total: 300 minutes.