The Golden Parachute: A Serial Short in Two Flashes. Part Two

What’s news?

Ever notice how many of Stephen King's characters are writers?

– I had a guest appearance and giveaway at the blog Books, Biscuits and Tea last Saturday.  It was a short excerpt from my very first blog post  “Why do I like to write horror stories?” (which was admittedly probably too long).  The excerpt only addresses the horror aspect of my writing.  The giveaway for my book is still in progress until 11/05.  To view the post and enter the giveaway, click here.

– Speaking of giveaways, I’m pleased to announce the three winners of The Imaginings from the Coffin Hop.  They are:

Penelope Crowe

David Ewald

Nora B. Peevy

(*Note: you didn’t need your own blog to enter, but it just so happens that all three of my winners do.  Clicking on their names will take you their sites)

What does the future hold?

The next two Fridays will be interviews.  Next week’s will be one conducted with me.  The Friday after that will be conducted by me.  “Seven Questions with Author Jonathan Allen.”

But without further ado…

I knew exactly where I wanted this story to go, but as I sat down to finish it, I struggled.  Mostly because of the length restrictions I had set for myself by promising to conclude it for you, my three faithful readers, this week.

When I first started writing part II, I found myself at almost 900 words before I even had Jarom and Mary out of the park.  As you’ll see, there’s much more that needed to happen after they left the park.  So I cut about 500 words, figuring that would give me enough room to finish the story in this one flash.

(I even debated seeing how patient you all would be if I decided to extend this to three parts, but I figured I better stick to my word.)

Even with more cuts that would follow, I still ran a little long, but I hope you will forgive me this minor transgression once you see how the story ends.

And NOW without further ado…

The Golden Parachute: A Serial Short in Two Flashes.

Part II

Halloween Day

Even with all of the costumes Jarom and Mary saw on their way from Zuccotti Park to join the others outside of Taninger’s building, Jarom still thought he felt more tension in the air today.

Or maybe he was just projecting.

Three nights earlier he had promised Mary that he would stick around, but after the snow storm that hit over the weekend and no sign of improvement in his sleeping arrangements, Jarom was ready to split.

Mary had just started talking about Derek again when Jarom cut her off.  “I think I’m going to head back tomorrow.  You can to catch a ride with Stephanie right?”

“If that’s what you want to do,” Mary said.  She didn’t look at him, but her tone spoke volumes.

“It’s not what I want to do.”  Jarom said, convinced that this wasn’t necessarily a lie.  “It’s just that-”

“Whoa, look at that!” Mary interrupted.  She pointed over to the building where Taninger worked.  The front section of the building on the street level was entirely tinted glass, and on the other side of the glass stood a tall figure in a black hooded robe.  The figure stood far enough back from the tinted glass and wore the hood low enough that Jarom couldn’t make out a face.  And he held a scythe at his side.

Jarom shivered as he remembered the incident a few nights back in the park, the night before the snow storm hit.  Even though he knew it was crazy– after all, Grim Reaper costumes were a dime a dozen– he still had a feeling that this was the same person he’d seen in the park.

“Hey, Derek!” Mary shouted.  She grabbed Jarom’s arm and dragged him along to join the others.  Derek was dressed as the tycoon from the Monopoly board game, and he held a sign that read “Reinstate Glass-Steagall”  Jarom still didn’t know what that was supposed to mean, but he wasn’t about to ask.

“I think today might be the day they get him,” Derek said.

“Really?” Mary asked.  “You think that’s why that guy’s in there?  Wouldn’t he have to be an employee?  That doesn’t make much sense.”

“Let’s get a little closer,” Derek said.  They started weaving through the masked protestors toward the building.  The hooded figure started moving forward as well.

The closer the three of them got to the front of the crowd, the closer the other walked toward the glass.  Finally Jarom could make out the face, or rather the mask under the hood.  It was a skull decorated in the style of the Spanish calaveras, and it seemed to be watching them approach specifically.

Then the figure reached into his robes and took out a piece of grease-spotted cardboard with two words written in black marker: Jarom Myers

Jarom gasped, and stopped moving.  Mary stopped pulling on him when she saw the sign.  Derek turned around.  “Hey man, that’s you, right?”

“Yeah,” Jarom snapped.  “My name is Jarom Myers in case you had forgotten.”

“Looks like someone wants to see you.”

“Why the hell would he want to see me?  That could be any Jarom Myers.”

As if in response, the figure smacked the cardboard up against the glass and tapped on the glass with the scythe.  Yeah, definitely looking at them.

“Why me?” Jarom asked.

“Who knows, man?” Derek said.  “But who cares?  Maybe you’ll get to talk to Taninger himself.  This is your chance to get in there and say your piece.  It’ll be great publicity.”

“But I don’t…” Jarom started.  Then he saw the look in Mary’s eyes.  “I… I don’t know how I’ll be able to control my temper.”

“You can do it,” Derek said.

Jarom took one last look at Mary, smoothed out his t-shirt and started forward.  As he neared the building, the figure inside turned and walked back to an open elevator.  Jarom tried to keep his hand steady as he opened the doors.  Cheers erupted behind him, and he walked taller through the lobby and onto the elevator.

Then the elevator closed.  And everything went black.

* * *

Jarom came to on the floor of the elevator.  Alone.  The figure was gone.  “What the-”

The elevator doors slid open, and he looked out into the empty lobby.  He quickly stood and had to steady himself.  He felt dizzy and exhausted.

Did somebody drug me? he wondered.  Was this just a big joke?

He stepped out of the elevator and headed for the exit.  The crowd was quiet outside, and no one was really paying attention to the building.

How long was I gone?

He spotted Mary and Derek as he stepped through the glass doors onto the sidewalk.  “Hey, Mary!”  He started towards her, but the look of disgust on her face when she saw him stopped him.

She pointed at him.  “There’s the corporate pig!” she yelled.  Suddenly all eyes were on Jarom, and they all looked angry.  More people started shouting.  He turned to see who else was coming out of the building, and in the process he caught his reflection in the glass doors.  Except it wasn’t his reflection.  He saw some old guy, like in his fifties, and he wore an expensive suit.  He reached up to touch the glass, to try to break the spell, and saw a watch that looked like it could’ve paid for his college.

Something red exploded on the glass next to him.  A tomato thrown from the crowd.  Jarom spun around as more garbage was thrown at him.  “Wait!” he cried out.  “I’m one of you!”

“You’re one all right,” someone shouted.  “One percent.”

That’s when the cops moved in, and Jarom made a run for it through the chaos.  He ran until he was out of breath, then dodged down an alley.  The alley was empty except for a man staggering toward him with a bottle.

“Lester!” Jarom said.  “I need your help.”

“Taninger,” Lester slurred.  “You bastard.  I’m gonna’ kill you.”  He smashed his bottle against the brick and advanced on Jarom with the broken piece.

“No wait, Lester,” Jarom said, starting to back away. “It’s me.  It’s-”  He caught his foot and fell backwards, cracking his head on the ground.  The last thing he saw was Lester standing over him with the glass shard.

* * *

When the cops showed up, Mary made a dash, but once things settled down, she made her way back to Taninger’s building.  After three hours, there had still been no sign of Jarom.  And there was that weird incident with Taninger himself.  Mary had seen him run off.  She briefly wondered if he was trying to escape prosecution or something.  She hoped they got him.

Just as she was walking up, she saw Jarom coming out of the glass building, met by cheers from the small group who had reassembled.  But Jarom just stared at them, looking confused.  Then he turned and looked at himself in the reflection of the glass doors.  When he turned back around, he was smiling.

Mary broke ranks and ran over to hug him.  He looked surprised by her actions.

“Oh, Jarom,” she said, “are you okay?  What happened in there?  Did you hear about Taninger?”

“I’m not…” Jarom started.  “I’m not who you think I am.  I don’t believe in any of this nonsense.  And I’m going home.”

Mary backed away from him, stunned.

“And you should, too,” he continued.  Then he addressed the crowd.  “You all should!  What do you think you are going to accomplish here?  Don’t you get it?  Do you really expect things to change?”  The crowd went silent.  “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.  There will always be golden parachutes, even for those who have failed their country.  When the plane is on fire, you take the deal.  Don’t try to pretend you wouldn’t do the same thing.”

Mary could only shake her head in disbelief.  She knew Jarom wasn’t as into the cause as she was, but she hadn’t expected this.

Jarom looked directly at her.  “And there will always be ways for powerful men to escape having to face the consequences of their actions.”  He started laughing and turned away from her.  The crowd parted in shock to let him through, closing up behind him as left, but Mary could still hear his laughter fading into the distance.

The End.

What do I want from you?

As you may recall from last week, I am planning on submitting this for consideration into an anthology.  As I mentioned in the introduction this week, there is already considerable material waiting to be picked back up from the cutting room (read: living room) floor, but now that the story is over, I would love to know if there are any areas you would want to know more about.  Or any other suggestions for that matter.

And don’t forget to check back next Friday for an interview with yours truly.

16 thoughts on “The Golden Parachute: A Serial Short in Two Flashes. Part Two

  1. I liked the ending; I didn’t see that coming.
    I do have two minor suggestions:
    “Even with all of the costumes Jarom and Mary saw on their way …” I was a little confused on the costumes reference, Halloween or something else?
    “The last thing he saw was Lester standing over him with the glass shard.” You might want to consider turning “standing” into a stronger word like looming. I think the sentence needs more menace.

    Anyway that’s my input.
    By the way did you get the download coupons I sent for your Coffin Hop prize? I sent them to you over on (my email was being a bit temperamental that day so it was the easiest way).

    1. A.F., thanks for the comments. I really struggled with the first sentence (mostly because there were about 500 more words before it that got cut 🙂 And I like your point about “looming.” A much better choice. I actually have a little more to that “final” scene that I will be adding, but I didn’t think about “standing.”

      I’ll check my Ning account. I’m sure it’s there. Thanks so much for the coupons. And for stopping by. Hope you have a good weekend.

  2. Paul. I did read part one last week, but didn’t comment. I wanted to read it all first because I thought part one was mostly exposition with a nice teaser at the end. I liked this story though it didn’t seem as strong as your other short fiction. I think your edits to shorten the story made it all a little disjointed. The jump from the night of the storm to entering the building had me a little confused. Hope this helps some. I know it’s somewhat vague.

    1. Thanks, Kodi. I can understand your sentiments/. I felt like I rushed (for lack of a better word) the story a little to get everything into this one post. While I was pleased that it got to “the action” sooner, I feel like I lost something of the character side of the story. I already have about 1000 more words on this one. I’ll have to share it with you when I’ve got it all put together. Thanks again.

  3. Very nice twist at the end, Paul! As far as wanting to know more, I would love to understand the relationship of The Reaper to the body swap. I am having to make it up in my mind that the ‘corporate pig’ was involved in some dark arts that gave him his power, money, and the new body, but I’m making that up myself to fill in blanks. I would also like to know why Jarom was picked to be the one; the fact that he saw The Reaper before the night of the swap seems to indicate a deliberate choice on The Reaper’s part, but again, just guessing. For an ultra-short story, this one has a good amount of detail, but those details just make me wish that it could be a full length short!

    Them’s my humble two cents!

    1. Thanks, Aniko. Interesting comments. I had made a connection between the body-swap, but hadn’t thought that perhaps the “dark arts” also gave Taninger his power in the first place. My original intention for this piece (the longer version at least) was to have a tete-a-tete between Jarom and Taninger, but then I kind of liked that he just blacks out in the elevator. I still plan on extending the scene into the elevator just a little more, but I think I’ll leave the rest to the reader’s imagination.

      Glad you got to check out Part II. Hope you’re having a good weekend.

  4. I liked the story and the mood and the message about big Wall Street greed 🙂 I think when you have to cut out so much (which I think in the comments to others you said as much) it really makes it hard to blend it all back up and smooth it out. The only thing that confused me was when the new Jarom came out, he acted just as confused as the new Taninger, at least at first…I wasn’t sure how the reaper fit into the story either. I hope this helps!! Its a good story!!

    1. Thanks, Erik. And interesting point about the ending. I had a different version of the ending that involved Taninger saying something along the lines of “A second chance” upon seeing himself. I meant it to be that he wasn’t exactly sure how it would happened (or even if it would work) until that moment that he sees himself. I’ll have to think on this point… okay, actually I just took a break from writing this reply to jot down a couple ideas that might help this. Thanks so much for bringing it to my attention.

  5. Julie Ewton Bishop 11/05/2011 — 5:58 pm

    Hey Paul. I’m just what you called “an old fashioned reader”. The story definitely created a purpose for reading. However, the snowstorm is hard to visualize. The setting went from three days before Halloween to Halloween with the mention of a snowstorm that took place over the weekend. It’s probably tho that I live in the south and our idea of a snowstorm is definitely different so don’t listen to me….Lol!

    1. Thanks, Julie. I appreciate your comments, and yes, I remember the Georgia “snowstorms.” This was one of the trickier parts of this story was that I set a fictional piece in a factual world, so I had to work around real-life events (even the simple fact of finding out whether or not tents were still being permitted in Zuccotti Park). I can see what you’re saying about the weather. I think I have the hints of the weather before the weekend, but I’ll make sure there are still hints of it in this second part, as well. Thanks again.

  6. Thanks for stopping by my blog today, Paul. Wow, you are generous with your giveaways right now. That’s awesome. Going to check out your guest post now.

    1. Thanks, Kelly. And I enjoy visiting your blog. You have some interesting material over there. Glad to have come across you via Book Blogs. Hope you have a good week.

  7. Hey, Paul. It took me a while to get back, but I finally did. Very interesting story. I love that I didn’t see the swap coming. I think I love everything except why the Grim Reaper was involved. Does the longer version create a link between Taninger and the reaper (I like Aniko’s dark arts idea), or are we to realize that Taninger is simply lucky to have been aided?
    Forgive me if I simply missed it. I’m read your story while sitting in the living room, listening to Brahms on the headphones in order to drown out the noise of the family and the tv. *grins*


    1. Jimmy, thanks for the comments. And I appreciate what you’ve said about the grim reaper character. I think what I was going for is that Taninger created some sort of pact or sold his soul or did something along those lines. So yes, the dark arts side of things. But you’re right in that I haven’t been specific. I think that’s the flash element. I’ll be sure to lead the reader a little more in the final version. Thanks again for stopping back by.

  8. Paul, this is an outstanding short story – I loved it! You broadsided me with the twist ending, and although I know you were trying to stay within the flash word count, I actually prefer how you handled the transformation. Letting the reader wonder what transpired in the elevator made it even more compelling for me.

    1. Thank, Hope. I’m curious. I just finished expanding the story (I was originally going to submit it for the Horror for Good anthology, but they were only looking for previously unpublished works because they are trying to go for a Stoker award. It turns out that since I posted it on my blog, that counts as previously published). Anyway, most of my expansions were in the middle of the second act (about the time he gets on the elevator). After your comments, I’d be interested to know if you would like to read it and see what you think. I could format it for whatever e-reader you have.

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