Every now and then I come across a piece of my writing and it makes me think I could make a go of it. Don’t read anything into this passage. I wrote it in early 2019, probably in the middle of the night. It’s just a little sample.
He leaned over the iron railing and spat. He stared after his glistening drop of spittle for a moment and then returned to sit beside Ralph on the boulder.
“They say a few people have died up here,” he said.
“Yeah?” Ralph tilted his hat to block the glare of the sunset.
“Spurned lovers, accidents.
“One of ‘em was a fairly young woman, though,” he nodded toward the railing. “She’s the reason they put that up.”
Ralph edged up the brim of his hat slightly so he could see Elam’s face dead on.
“She came up here with her husband and their dog. Some people say it was a yellow Lab. Other people say it was a poodle. People’s memories, Well, they get foggy.”
“Did her husband push her?”
Elam cocked an eyebrow at Ralph. “No, now listen. I’ll never tell you this story again.”
Ralph sat back, chastened.
“It was the dog. That dog was skittish and stayed a healthy distance from the edge. He was half-blind too, though. Got spooked easy.”
Ralph shook his head and clucked his tongue for good measure, as if to say the woman should have known better than to take a blind dog to the canyon.
“The dog was old, but this woman kept him going with every penny she had, because that dog had belonged to her daughter.
“Her daughter was dead, you see.”
“I can’t imagine,” Ralph shook his head. He closed his eyes for a moment, thinking of his own lot of six children.
“While the woman was looking out over the lip there, something ran across the gravel—a rat, a squirrel. Who knows anymore.
“Anyway, the dog started barking and spinning this away and that away. He ran into the woman as she was turning to come and settle him.”
Ralph tensed his body and squinched his face as if to avoid seeing the disaster to come.
“She tried to keep upright, but it soon became clear she would not regain her balance. She was wearing Keds or sandals, I heard. Nothing to grip with. Her husband tried to grab for her, but he couldn’t get to her in time. She began to fall.”
“That’s awful!” Ralph said.
“Yes,” murmured Elam. “But the really awful and remarkable thing came next.”
“If you notice over that edge, there are a lot of outcroppings on the way down, to about 6 feet out from the lip. You’d have to kick yourself out from the side to clear all of this, pretty hard, too. Otherwise, you would break bones as you hit each ledge or crag on the way down this wall, but you’d still be alive when your body began that last steep drop.”
Ralph rubbed at the back of his neck, its tiny hair standing on end.
“What I’m saying is that this woman kicked away from that lip, like it was all planned. Like she’d just been waiting for her cue. A moment of surprise and then determination.”
Ralph looked puzzled. “So are you saying it was a suicide?”
“What I’m sayin is,” he chuffed out the s. “That she was waiting for just that kind of moment, that gravel, that lip, that dog…something so it wouldn’t be suicide.”
He looked out toward the thin ray of orange along the horizon.
“I’m sayin that when Death dared to show his face, that woman laughed and looked him in the eye. She shook his goddamned hand.”