A Fall on Clover Fields
“I’ve been thinking, Steve.” Glenn Howard said to the man standing in front of him at the printer who was barely paying attention. “I think I want to try skydiving.”
The man, still waiting for his pages to flow their way down the offramp of the printer, grunted a sort of acknowledgment. He had 15 more reports to write otherwise he wouldn’t meet his quote for the week. And if he didn’t meet his quota for the week, then he might not be considered for promotion. And if he wasn’t considered for promotion, he might not ever be promoted. And if he was never promoted, he might not end up ever getting a new quota to fill for his next consideration of promotion. In short, he was busy.
“I’m serious, Steve. You know that feeling you get after jumping off a diving board? That nice dip in your stomach where it all feels elated for a moment? The adrenaline rush as you fall towards freedom? I’m going to give it a shot.”
The man received his papers and brushed past Glenn with a slight polite murmur of “That’s nice, Greg.”
Glenn didn’t acknowledge the brief comment of either disrespect or blatant apathy; he’d become callous to such things. When you work in an office for long enough your mind begins to feel blank on the matters of your coworkers, or the busted office printer, or the coffee that tastes just a little too bitter. His milquetoast life was just that. Climbing a ladder of promotions towards a job he couldn’t consider, much less look forward to. He’d reached the sort of apex of apathetic melancholy earlier that week, where he’d spent an entire workday doing nothing but staring at a blank screen. A pit, he’d decided, was what he felt like. Empty and dim, only the slightest visages of light making their way down.
But earlier this morning as he stared at his computer, his hands had absentmindedly begun to chatter over his keys. They typed out many things before hitting the magnifying glass icon to search. First, it was simply “qwertyuiop” which popped up a distant UrbanDictionary page written by a soul likely as bored as himself. He hit delete and continued to type, next it was a simple “what should I do” which revealed a scattered bunch of slightly depressing pages on the quite popular human sport of not caring. Eventually, he arrived at a link to a video, the thumbnail of a cliff on the fourth page of search results. Skydiving.
Glenn wasn’t an adrenaline junkie, not by a long shot. His hobbies were more of the calm variety: TV and books. He’d never considered something so risky, so inclement, so… free. But instantly it seemed to appeal; his fingers had flown across the keyboard in a test to find more of this intoxicating sport. Videos, images, simple guides, and instructional manuals. Even warnings against it, speaking of how risky a sport it could be. He made up his mind just sitting there: he would do it. Speaking to Steve at the copier was merely a formality, he’d already decided.
Guides and articles that he read provided all he needed to get started over the coming week. He considered phoning his family to see their opinions on the matter, but eventually decided against it: they’d simply worry too much, and Glenn didn’t care for that sort of thing. The further his family was kept away from the situation, the better.
The location he chose for his first jump was one of beauty: an old building just on the edge of town overlooking a field of late-spring clover. He scouted it before and found the door to the roof unlocked, almost as if an invitation. Clear skies, minimal wind, and just the tiniest tinge of humidity. A perfect day for a jump. Days earlier he’d labored over a parachute on the kitchen table in his tiny apartment, fueled by Chinese takeout and pure desire. For the first time in Glenn’s life, he felt driven, serene. When the day came, he wandered to the building in a haze. The stairwell on the way up seemed to last hours and hours until he reached the top. The scenery seemed to glance off his eyes in easy reflections. He glanced around, checking his pockets as he’d read to, made sure his parachute was ready, zipped the pockets on his windbreaker…
And then Glenn jumped.
Elation and purity, terrified happiness stretched thin and strong across his body in waves, his stomach upside-down but so peaceful among the fall. It seemed to last for an eternity, floating there inside his mind. But what comes up must come down, and in a fraction of a millisecond Glenn made up his mind to accept the fall. He felt his parachute on his person and readied himself. He imagined the ground rushing towards him with closed eyes as he felt the wind deep within his ears. And…!
Whatever Glenn was expecting to happen, it wasn’t to land midair. Flopping to his stomach, he stared down through the air in which he lay to the street below, where the traffic had seemed to stop. An odd experience, to see something below oneself and not be plummeting rapidly towards it. His hands felt odd like they were touching nothing at all. Yet Glenn didn’t fall. Curious.
“Hey, dude. Why are you laying there on the air?” Came a voice from slightly above and behind him. It was a question that Glenn had to repeat to himself to come close to answering. Why was he laying here? His original plan was to jump, to feel elation and the rush of a fall. But now he was lying face down on the air a few feet from the edge.
“I was trying to jump,” Glenn answered, still incredulous
“Why aren’t I falling?”
“Doesn’t seem like you made it very far.”
“How am I laying here?” Glenn responded, a bit annoyed.
“Jeez, push-y. Well, it’s not all about you. Suppose you ask me the same question. Just doesn’t seem to be happening today. Just isn’t a day for falling. And in that sort, I’d suggest you pick yourself up. It’s unsanitary, laying there where folks walk.”
Glenn rose slowly from the air, standing back up and brushing off his jacket. Looking around, he saw the building for which he’d jumped only a moment ago, just a couple of feet from where he’d lain on the air. Turning once more he saw a fellow sitting on a metal folding chair, eating what appeared to be a small bag of chips and staring off to the sunset over the rolling expanse of the city.
“Nice view, eh?” Said the man between mouthfuls of chips. “Can’t beat the sunset”
“Yeah… I guess. “
“So… What are you? Some kind of adrenaline junkie? I mean, that building seems a bit too low to be parachuting off.”
“Something like that, I guess.” Glenn patted his pocket instinctively.
“I get it, dude. Sometimes you just want some cheap thrills. Or maybe just a quick change, I guess.” He motioned to a chair alongside his own “Take a load off if you want. Seems like it’s been a long day.”
Glenn walked slowly over, staring down at the street below where a small crowd had begun to form. He sat down.
“Looks like they’re watching the sunset down there, too,” said Glenn, still peering down.
“Beautiful day for it.” Responded the man.
“You know, I live for these kinds of times. Well, the rises too. Just something beautiful ‘bout watching it all happen.”
“What about you, then? Sunset or sunrise?”
Something about the question made Glenn a little angry, as though it were a challenge of some sort. Maybe it was the phrasing, but maybe it was something else. The timing, he supposed. The timing was all off. And wasn’t he supposed to be doing something, right now? Falling? He rose from his chair, it creaking as he lifted himself off of it.
“Where you headed, Glenn?” Asked the man, closing the bag with a slight crinkle and wiping the crumbs from the stringy beard around his mouth.
“I’m supposed to be falling.” He responded, not returning the gaze he felt on his back.
“Bit late for that, I’m afraid. Seems you already did.”
“Sorry?” He turned to find the man standing, staring at him from beneath a shaggy mess of white hair. The chair was gone, as were the chips. His mouth opened for a moment before he spoke, his eyes piercing.
“I said you already fell.” The man stood alone on top of the world as silence remained. “You aren’t here yet though. I know because I am, I thank you and myself for that. But I asked you a question, Glenn, and I expect an answer”
Glenn opened his mouth to speak, but he wasn’t there. Nobody was. Just the open air and the sound of ambulance sirens over the city night.
Miles Eschmann is a junior level English major at SIUE. He prefers to spend his time existing, but sometimes chooses to pursue other endeavors. He is working to better himself as a writer and as a student and hopes to pursue his masters in the future.