Friday, June 3, 2011

Bathroom Monologue: Up High

“Hey, I said no more people! You saw what happened to the last guy.”

“Actually, I didn’t.”

“I’ll jump if you come any closer.”

“I’m not coming closer.”

“You can’t talk me down, man. I just need to be alone. I can’t think today.”

“I’m not here to talk you down.”

“Neither was the last guy, and he grabbed my shirt after a minute. You want to fall like him?”

“Not really. Did he die?”

“No, they’ve got a balloon tarp down there. You come closer, and I’ll make sure we miss it.”

“They’ve got a what?”

“Lame act. Back off.”

“Are you thinking of jumping?”

“I came up here to think, damn it. Let me finish a thought and I’ll tell you what it was. I’d probably have gone home by now if you idiots didn’t keep interrupting.”

“Surprising a guy like you has trouble getting people to leave him alone.”

“You suck at this.”

“I’m really not up here to help you.”

“Uh-huh. Back off.”

“If you wanted to die you could swallow a bunch of pills or blow your brains out. You think about those before you came up here?”

“I came up here to think!”

“I’d worry. If the pills just fried an unnecessary part of my brain, or the bullet paralyzed me. Off the top of a building, though? That’s as close to a sure thing as you get. Liquefy you on impact. Probably doesn’t even hurt.”

“Is this part of some method they teach you in police camp?”

“You know what’s funny?”


“I’m really not a cop. I was thinking of jumping off here today.”

“Oh, bullshit.”

“No lie. I work in human resources on the 7th floor. Been firing people all year. Hard not to think of killing myself, hearing a hundred people hang up those phones for the last time.”


“Want my card?”

“You come near me and I’ll jump.”

“You won’t. You know, I’m kind of mad at you.”

“What the Hell, man?”

“I punched out, said goodnight, and went to the bathroom instead of my car. Counted the tiles until the floor cleared out. Figured I’d come up here, no one would interrupt, and I’d step off into Heaven. Except when I left the bathroom there were cops everywhere. I came up to avoid them, and here you are, dragging half the city to break my fall.”

“You’re nuts.”

“I’m going to sit here. If you don’t like it, move over. We’ve got the whole roof.”


“That is weird. Looks like a parachute. They want to catch you on that?”

“Maybe. I don’t care. I’m not going to use it anyway.”

“What’s going on?”

“Sitting on a ledge, man.”

“Trouble at home? Wife cheating on you? Can’t find a wife? Blue balls?”

“It’s got nothing to do with women.”

“Fired? Can’t find a job? I can relate, after a fashion.”


“So you were fired?”

“I’ve been unemployed since college.”

“Is that why you’re on my roof?”

“No. I told you, I can’t think.”

“What are you thinking about?”

“No, asshole. I can’t think. I can’t finish a thought in this city. I hear the clock in the hall ticking. The hands moving. The heating system groans. Somebody’s always got a TV on somewhere if you listen carefully enough, and I can’t stop listening. Cars in the road outside. Somebody’s stereo. Shrill horns. The wind and weather. Planes overhead. Sometimes rats in the crawlspace. Conversations! I hate conversations. Somebody is always talking thanks to fucking cell-phones. What’s worse than being distracted by a couple yakking outside your window? One of them giving you half the story. They pour noise on you down there.”

“That seems reasonable.”

“Please, shut up.”

“You came up here for a little quiet?”

“Not just a little. No rustling clothes. No denim scraping on the brick. No breathing. I don’t want to hear you breathe. Can you do that?”

“I’ve got an idea.”

“You’re not going to jump, are you? Because I don’t want them saying I pushed you. I’ll get enough crap for the other guy.”

“No. It’s a better idea.”

“Which is?”

“I’ll show you.”


  1. The lengths we'd go to for a bit of peace and quiet! I really enjoyed this story, the pace kept me sucked in and both characters each had their own distinct voice.

  2. OK. Who's gonna make the "It's Raining Men" joke? Oh, I guess I will.

  3. I too enjoyed this tale, I sorta guessed that the other guy was a jumper, but now I'm wondering what happened in the end, did he jump and take the other guy with him? Oh I just gotta know John!

  4. Ever since Terry Bison I've wanted to write a dialogue-only story, but never discoverd a conversation worthy of no other actions.
    Congratulations on writing one.

  5. of all the high rise buildings in this town, you gotta pick this one. Nice concept, well executed (as it were).

    marc nash

  6. Well done, John. I'm sure the guy will have plenty to think about now. Though he better do it quick. The ending reminds me of the story you wrote about the guy falling to the earth and all the thoughts that went through his head. I enjoyed this one.

  7. I'm guessing they'll have about (does some quick calculations) 9.5 seconds to finish their conversation.

    Nice dialogue piece.

  8. This flash reminded me of Hemmingway's Hills like White Elephants. Not only because they were pretty much all dialog, but the terseness of the conversation was really there and present.

    I really liked it

  9. Very real… but I can’t help wondering, what is the HR guy’s idea? And why can’t the ledge-sitter hitchhike out to the country?

    Tim… sick. In a very funny way!

  10. The dialogue flowed well in this, and had quite a few chuckle-worthy moments. The ending was abrupt but well done. Excellent story, as always!

  11. Dominic, glad all the necessary elements clicked for you, Dominic. Thank you for hopping in first!

    Tim, yeah, you can be the first. However, there should be a competition for the best. The prize... I'll tell that person what actually happened when the duo went quiet.

    Helen, maybe I'll tell you if you beat Tim in the contest. So you thought the interloper was a real jumper. Do you think he still wants to jump at the end of the story?

    Peggy, all-dialogue stories have gotten a lot easier for me in the last two years. They can be fun experiments. My #fridayflash for next week may be another, but far sillier than this.

    Marc, is that a subtle vote for the double-tumble ending?

    Stephen, so you think he tackled them both over the edge? Or did something else connect it to the falling story?

    Tony, as opposed to Marc, a full-on vote for the double-tumble ending.

    Michael, I'll take a Hemingway comparison on all-dialogue. He wrote with such constraints accidentally

    Mr. FAR, as far as the HR guy's plan, I can't tell you unless you win, and would rather you guessed. As far as the non-jumper's not going to the country, it's a valid question.

    Eric, so you read more humor than despair or suspense?

  12. I can imagine this acted out on stage! Great back and forth, and the frustration of the rooftop squatter really came through.

  13. The HR guy totally pushed the other guy off the ledge, then went home.
    Firing people at work, firing them off the ledge, what's the diff, right?
    This was awesome, John. Loved it to, ahem, pieces.
    Suddenly I'm craving a smoothie.

  14. I too have fantasised about an all dialogue story. I really enjoyed this, I think it worked very well.

  15. I think the HR guy pushed ledge-sitter off the ledge and followed him down. Excellent story!

  16. Show vs tell. Always the way to go. #GOLface

  17. Great characters John! This reminds me of Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon - remember when he talked the jumper down by just being a lunatic himself?
    Fun stuff!

  18. What connected the stories was the guy sitting on the ledge wanted to "think" and I remembered all the thoughts that went through the other guy's mind before he became one with the earth. My guess is your guy sitting here will have at least one good thought flash through his mind before he hits the tarp. As Tony points out, though, he better make it quick.

  19. Matt, I'd be happy to have this one played out if a duo with a stage wanted to try it. That could be pretty neat. My intended ending might mean a little less, though.

    Cathy, you think he'll drown his guilt in homicide? It's a step up, rather than a fall down.

    Emma, will you try one of your own now?

    Sonia, it seems like a popular guess today.

    Danni, is that a sick dig on me for a story in which I could only have characters tell you things?

    Deanna, I can see that comparison. I adore Lethal Weapon.

    Stephen, oh, I get it. Almost funny how the one got more thoughts than he wanted.

  20. Good story John, leaving everyone with food for thought.

    My guess is that the HR guy produced a pistol and popped himself.

  21. Great stuff as always. I'm not sure what they did at the end, but I like musing on it...

  22. I'm with Tony on how I read the ending. They're both going down.

    I was in awe of the dialogue-only method, too. Great stuff!

  23. I couldn't help thinking of Lethal Weapon while I was reading this. That was your intention, right?

  24. Very well executed dialogue, John. I don't even need references to understand who's speaking and it grabbed my attention from the beginning. Although differently from the others I didn't like much the ending (too curious to learn what really happened!) it certainly has an appeal. Excellent one!

  25. Steve, now guns are showing up?

    Virginia, have any theories from your musing?

    Chuck, another vote for the double-tumble. So many folks seem to be disregarding that he said he wouldn't jump. I guess "tackle" is a different verb?

    Icy, the second Lethal Weapon question. Now I sort of wish it had been in mind.

    Mari, sorry you didn't like the ambiguity of the ending. I may spoil it if we hit a certain number of comments.

  26. I vote for the double-entendre ending.

    I liked the back-and-forth of the voices. This week we had a suicide a couple blocks from where I live where a man walked out into the bay and drowned himself. So it got me thinking about the calming essence of waves lapping as one contemplates the "jump".

  27. You know what john I think the interloper pushed the other guy off and then said he tried to save him.

  28. I think they fall in love and live happily ever after.

  29. Love the way you've constructed these two characters so well without any names or exposition. Very nicely done.

  30. Oh, no, please don't misunderstand me. I loved the whole flash. I'm just so curious! :P

  31. Nice banter back and forth. Constant noise can make you a little crazy. This has definately got me wondering what is going to happen next.

  32. Aidan, I can't imagine drowning oneself. Was he stranded down in the water? Sounds awful.

    Helen, a lot of ill votes against the interloper.

    Judge, my new favorite guess. I welcome you.

    Lee-Ann, thanks! The dialogue experiments can be very edifying.

    Mari, okay, I promise you're not misunderstood now. Thanks for coming back to clarify!

    Lara, do you have a theory? The field is still open!

  33. I am not even going to hazard a guess; I enjoyed the construction of the narrative. The action flowed so well through the dialogue - great learning experience on my part. Well taught.
    Adam B @revhappiness

  34. Fantastic job in this diaglogue piece. Gripped me from start to finish. Didn't see so much humour here as a build-up to something. It feels like a build-up to the guy's rant about his discontent about the city. "They pour noise on you down there." (killer line)

    I don't see the 'double tumble'. Feels more like a 'to be continued' with the guy being talked down.

    Nice job here, sir.

  35. This was very engaging... the explosion of possibilities that could come after "I'll show you" was powerful! Thanks for this one, John!

  36. Nope, haven't a clue. I loved this, though. The dialogue was great - terrific back-and-forth between the two characters.

    So, when ya gonna write the next piece?

  37. This was great. And I really want to know how it ends. Will you divulge at some point?

  38. The all-dialogue story is great John, to include all the detail you need in dialogue is a skill you have mastered.
    I have a feeling these guys are one and the same person. And he didn't take his medication today. Am I right? Am I?

  39. Adam, can't blame you for not guessing, even if I'd have appreciated an outlandish wager. Thanks so much for the kind words.

    Alan, so you think there's no ending at all? Most people do seem to think it continues after the final lines, though why wouldn't they speak if there was violence?

    Max, hey, thanks for reading it!

    KjM and Henrietta, you want me to write the ending? But the ending's right there! I may cave and explain it on Thursday.

    Scribbler, it gives me warm fuzzies to get feedback like that. There was a time when I couldn't dialogue worth a damn. If it can entertain on its own now, well, sheesh. Thanks!


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