2019 Ironology Challenge #6 – October 4, 2018

2019 Ironology

Challenge #6

October 4, 2018

Deadline is Thursday, October 25, 2018 at 00:01 AM MDT

1000 word limit

All submissions will be posted on the website, without the authors names.

Authors names will be added after voting is complete.

Send your submission to Brian via FB Messenger.

No email submissions will be accepted.

Only the first five submissions received are eligible for the anthology.

To vote, send the title to the story you liked best to Brian via FB Messenger.

Prompt:

Must use all four prompts

A war letter from a soldier to her/his parents
Malaria
A tragedy (cannot be the malaria)
An ocean

Precipice

Richard Russell

 

“With the wind whipping the grasses to and fro, teary-eyed Private Ben Harrison shivered violently as he gazed over the precipice at the vast ocean below.  There was just one more thing he had to do.  He leaned against a rock and began to write.

“Dear Mom and Dad, I know you’ll never see this, but here it is.  The Army was supposed to make a man out of me, but in my very first battle, I cowered shamefully while others fought and died. Ostracized by the survivors, I ran away.  I took to the ocean and drifted at sea until I came to this uninhabited island.  Now I’m dying of malaria and starvation. There is no point in dragging this out. There is no hope for me.  Please forgive me.  Ben.”

Ben rolled the note, placed it in a bottle, sealed it and threw it off the cliff into the ocean. “God forgive me,”  Ben pleaded as he leaned out over the cliff and plunged to his death.  No sooner had his body dashed upon the rocks than a ship came around the island into view and sounded its horn.  If only ….

The lights in the auditorium faded to black and the stage curtain came down.  Cheers and applause from the audience swelled until the curtain was raised again, revealing the entire cast lined up to take their bows. The audience jumped to its feet. Mary, who played Ben’s mother, noticed that Jack, who played Ben, wasn’t present during the curtain call.  When the rest of the cast had gone to their dressing rooms, she looked around and found Jack huddled behind a stage prop.  His nose was red, eyes watery.

“Jack?  What’s matter? Are you all right?”

Jack turned away. ”They didn’t show up again, did they?!”

Mary reluctantly replied, “No, Jack.  They didn’t.”

She paused then forced a smile. “Hey!  You did a great job, Jack.  You nailed it.”

Jack mumbled, “Oh, I don’t know.”

Mary inquired sheepishly, “Are you coming to the cast party?”

“No. I’ve got things to do. You go on.”

“Okay then.” Mary hesitantly turned and walked away.

Uneasy with concern for him, she paused at the auditorium doors to look back.

Shaking her head, she left.

The dressing room was empty when Jack left the stage. He looked around.  It was dark and quiet, like his life.  He knew they had all gone out to celebrate the last performance. Why didn’t he accept Mary’s invitation? He didn’t have anything to do. Well, he wasn’t a very interesting person.  He also wasn’t very likable. Social situations were always so …. awkward. No, staying home alone was the right choice; less risky.

Stepping out of the elevator on the tenth-floor of his apartment building, he slowly walked down the corridor to his place. He went in and closed the door. In the quiet, dark living room, he poured himself a drink and stepped out onto the balcony.  Like a vast ocean teaming with life, city lights stretched out for miles.  “Water, water, everywhere, but not a drop to drink,” he muttered, hearing the sound of traffic wash over the landscape below.

The play was over and his parents never came to see it.  A cold, lonely feeling of rejection crept over him.  It could be months before another play would bring the cast back together.  He went to the railing and looked down.  It probably wouldn’t hurt.  All he had to do was lean out a little further.

There was just one thing he needed to do first.

Jack took out paper and pencil.

“Dear Mom and Dad, I’m sorry I’ve disappointed you. You were hoping I would make something of myself, but here I am, ‘Goofing around, playing actor, wasting my life.’  I know you don’t approve of me or my choices.  I looked for you everynight, hoping you’d show, but you didn’t come. You couldn’t even come just to support me!  I guess I’m an embarrassment to you.  I’m not even that good at acting…. or anything I do.  I’m just not good enough for you or anybody else. Please forgive me. Jack.”

Jack folded the note into an airplane and tossed it off the balcony into the vast ocean of humanity below. Climbing over the guard rail, Jack held on with one hand and leaned out.  At the moment he was about to let go he paused.

“What am I doing?  I’m not that guy.  I’m me, and if my parents don’t like me for that, then So What?!  I like me. Besides, in the play there was a ship.

I’m holding out for the ship.”  He climbed back over the railing.

The doorbell rang; Jack raised an eyebrow, then went and opened the front door.  It was Mary, Bart, Sam, Carly and some of the others.

“Jack!”  Mary exclaimed, “You’re just sitting around alone in the dark, aren’t you!”

“Well, not at the moment.”

Sam announced, “We came to get you!”

Jack’s coping mechanism kicked in, “What? No, I don’t feel like …”

Bart put his hand on Jack’s shoulder. “We’renotleaving this apartment without you.”

Jack and Bart made eye contact.

Then Jack looked up.

Everyone was still, looking at him intently. They weren’t laughing.

Carly added, “We’re real sorry about your parents.”

Mary punched Carly and gave her  “the evil eye.”

Jack smiled and shook his head.  “Mary! It’s okay.  I’m movin’ past that.  So …….. Where are we going?”

“Pizza!” someone shouted.

“Chinese!” said another, but someone else blurted,

“No! MSG is bad for you!”

For a second, Jack felt like an objective observer of this strange, but pleasant scene happening in his living room; then he returned to the conversation and made a bold move. “Hamburgers?”

At that, Bart added, “And beer!”

There arose a general consensus of approval and they all filed out to the elevator.  Jack closed the door behind him leaving his dark empty apartment with the breeze blowing the curtains at the patio door to the balcony.

 

 

 

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