Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Bob Johnson Being Pushed Out of a Helicopter, by Jude Hardin

Up today is Bob Johnson. Rather, Bob Johnson is down today. If you want to read the previous stories, see:

Bob Johnson Being Pushed Out of a Helicopter, by Jude Hardin

“Say, isn’t that Bob Johnson being pushed out of a helicopter?”

“Why, yes. I believe that is Bob Johnson being pushed out of a helicopter. And...Oh, my word. He’s naked!”

Bob Johnson can’t actually hear what the people on the ground are saying, of course, because of the distance, the engine noise, his own screams, and--most recently--the wind whistling in his ears. He can see them, though, pointing skyward, and can imagine what they’re saying, and the astonishment (or perhaps amusement) on their faces. He envies them as he plummets, as he frantically climbs a phantom ladder back to the relative safety of the airship, because they have one thing that he does not, and that one thing is time.

Bob figures he has about five seconds until impact.

This is not happening. It’s only a dream, one of those dreams about falling where you always wake up right before you texture the hot pavement with splintered bone and pulverized flesh, right before you’re reduced to a ghastly blob of human soup that has to be scraped off with a shovel. This is not happening...

They say your entire life flashes in front of your eyes in the moments preceding death, but they lie. There’s only one thing flashing in front of Bob Johnson’s eyes now, and it’s something he’d rather forget. It’s the reason for his current predicament, jittering through his brain like an old black and white newsreel.

The narrator for this newsreel has a familiar timbre. Distinctive. Dynamic. Comforting. It’s that guy. That sixteen-millimeter voiceover legend everyone of a certain age has heard a thousand times. Bob can’t remember his name, but considers him a dear old friend nonetheless.

Four seconds until impact.

“And here’s Bob,” the narrator says.

We see Bob sitting at a table in a fancy downtown restaurant called Yellowjacket’s. Soft jazz. White tablecloth. Candlelight. Bottle of wine. The waiter is wearing a tuxedo with, of course, a yellow jacket. Bob is gazing into the eyes of a beautiful young woman with long blond hair. Bob and the woman are having a conversation, but we only hear the narrator.

“It seems Bob is quite infatuated with this pretty young thing, and she with him. There’s only one problem: Bob is married, and his wife, suspicious because he has to stay late at the office so frequently, has hired a private investigator to follow him. Uh-Oh, there’s the private eye now!”

We see a man in a dark suit sitting at the bar. He has a digital camcorder the size of a credit card, and he’s inconspicuously recording the couple as they dine.

“Interesting,” says the narrator. “And, believe you me, things get even more interesting later.”

Now we see Bob and the woman in bed, on top of the covers, kissing, caressing. They still have their clothes on, but we get the impression that that won’t be the case much longer. Bob reaches to switch off the bedside lamp, and we see a listening device--a bug--on the inside of the lampshade.

“Clever! Now Bob’s wife will have some audio to go with the video. All that’ll sure come in handy in divorce court. But wait a minute. Someone’s knocking on the door. Uh-oh. These guys look serious...”

As is customary with sixteen-millimeter, the film breaks right before the most exciting part. Bob hears it flapping impotently against the projector’s spool, and the screen goes bright white except for some super-magnified hairs and dust particles.

Three seconds until impact.

Since when is adultery a capital offense? Come on! Don’t you think having me thrown out of a helicopter is just a wee bit extreme? I don’t deserve this...

Bob can actually hear cries of horror coming from people on the ground now. He cups his hands over his genitals, embarrassed by his nakedness.

Two seconds until impact.

Please, just give me one more chance. I’ll be good. I swear. I’ll stop drinking and smoking and cursing and fornicating...

Then Bob sees her, his wife, standing on the ground pointing upward at him. She’s smiling, and she’s sporting a new tattoo on her right wrist. It looks to be a professional job, one word, written in black. D...A...Bob can’t quite make it out.

One second until impact.

Okay, this is it. I’m a goner. Finished. Kaput. It’s been a good life, but it’s over...

Bob speeds toward the gritty asphalt like a supersonic missile now, and microseconds before he augers in he’s finally able to read his wife’s tattoo. The word doesn’t start with D-A after all. It’s B...U...



The giant rubber band attached to Bob’s ankle rebounds just in time, and Bob is snatched back toward the heavens.

Woohoo! I’m going to live. It was all just a nasty joke to teach me a lesson. Haha!

Bob swings like a pendulum for a few seconds, and then comes to a rest. He’s ecstatic, ready to put all this behind him and start living life to the fullest. Sure, she’ll probably still divorce him, but that’s okay. At least he’ll still have Darla...

As Bob starts thinking about resuming intimacy with the pretty young blond, his wife pulls a .357 out of her purse and unloads it into his chest.

This is not happening…


Melanie Avila said...

I love this! Using the old-time movie announcer to show what's going through his mind is such a cool technique, making the modern bungee-jumping even more unexpected.

"And believe you me" is one of my favorite phrases. :)

LurkerMonkey said...

I think it's funny ... the threads that are cropping up. You and Mark both tried to decipher the tattoo and gave it meaning. You'll see, but I did something else the same as you (beside that).

I liked the detachment the narrator brings--there's a cool dark humor there.

I had a question, though. How would Bob not know that he was attached to a bungee cord? Since much of this is from his own POV, wouldn't he be aware of the cord?

Lastly, I'm a big collector of first sentences, and I love yours.

Jude Hardin said...

Melanie: Thanks! Yeah, I can just imagine that old voice saying and believe you me...

I like to play around with things like that, so glad you liked it.

Jon: I don't know. I tend to think there are a lot of things you wouldn't notice if you were being pushed out of a helicopter, LOL! Thanks regarding the first sentence. :)

Erica Orloff said...

Of course it stretches the imagination so much that he could read the tattoo and all . . . and I'm not a fan of omnicience to that degree--BUT . . . the wryness of this story, the absurdity . . . worked!

Jude Hardin said...

Thanks, Erica. Yeah, that's pretty much what I was going for--over-the-top absurdity.

Mark Terry said...

I'm with Erica, basically in that from a technical point of view I didn't like the shifting perspectives. On the other hand, the VOICE was awesome and hell, the damned thing works, which is what counts in the end.

Jude Hardin said...

Thanks Mark. Actually, I meant for it all to be from Bob's POV. It's him seeing the black-and-white newsreel, him hearing the narrator's voice etc.