From Castlebar - County Mayo -

Original Fiction
Proper procedure
By Colman Glynn
4, Mar 2004 - 07:57

Proper procedure

Joe sat on the concrete seat perched at the edge of the cliff top. One of the many thoughts running through his mind was who had put the seat there. It was not exactly a safe place to sit. Why was he thinking of safety at this point? The action he was trying to focus on did not embrace safety. He was vaguely aware that the tide was coming in. The sound of the waves was a dim reality, like background music to a much more important event

His thoughts seemed to wander with each wave that lashed against the cliff, making its own distinctive noise, followed by the sucking sound, of the foam rushing out to sea again. That project he was working on would be needed by the weekend; would it hurt; how can you be alone with hundreds of people; had he paid his mortgage; would it be over quickly; was it a sin? What was a sin, what was the other side?

It was getting darker and a wet mist had settled in, realising he was cold he shook himself. What does it matter whether I am cold or not he thought? Should he leave a note and to whom? Leaving notes is just a silly gesture, a grandiose statement of what might have been. To apportion the blame for his actions, while gallantly forgiving everybody freeing them of their guilt. The fact was there wasn't anybody to leave a note to. It was not as if nobody cared, no, he just could not think of anybody to leave it to. Why should he burden anybody with his problems or indeed how could he explain his actions. This vacuum of friends galvanized his decision. It was time to go.


He stood up, took off his jacket and after folding it neatly placed it on the seat. Should he walk to the edge and jump, or run at it and with one final act jump into the abbess? I will run at it, he thought, that way there can be no more hesitations. By now the mist had turned to a downpour, taking a few steps back, he readied himself to run. From the corner of his eye he saw the silhouette of a person, standing on the cliff edge just up from him.

Without thinking he shouted, "don't do it" and ran towards the person. Stopping just a yard short from the person he repeated himself this time in a much lower tone "don’t do it." In the fading light it was hard to determine the sex of the person in front of him, but judging by the frail build it was probably a woman. Without turning around a female voice asked him "why not?" Why not indeed what right had he to stop a person doing what he was about to do a moment ago.

Then for a moment he was angry, this person had interfered, stopped him. If she had not appeared everything would be over by now. How dare she! It had taken him years, to arrive, at the point he was at just a few moments ago and now…. Nothing. Looking at this person’s back, thinking why had this selfish person obstructed his final act. Should he push her into the sea and deprive her of her last voluntary act. It would take just one push and it would be over, then jump after her and no more worries.

But what worries did Joe have that had brought him here tonight? Joe it would appear did not have any worries or for that matter any obvious problems. He had a job, which he was good at, too bloody good in fact, because it presented him with no challenge. There were plenty of work colleagues, they were kind people and often asked him to join them. But he had no interest in golf or rugby. He had a house, which was neat and tidy, too neat he thought but it was something to do. That is my problem I am bored, bored, bored, I am fed up looking at life down a long dark tunnel. I just want out, peace, oblivion, nothingness, whatever, just out of this.

"Why not " she asked again, startling him out of his thoughts, "can you give me one reason as to why I should not jump over this cliff now?" "Because I was here first," he mumbled. The shoulders of the person in front of him sagged and she turned slowly around to face him. The woman was about forty years; she had a thin pale face. Her eyes were dull and lifeless, her short hair, now soaking wet, by the rain, was plastered to the side of her head, making her look thinner. Putting her hands on her hips and taking a defensive stand, she looked up at him.

" What! What do you mean you were here first," she asked " is there a sign here someplace that says queue from this end? Is there some etiquette or ritual that one has to observe here before jumping off this bloody cliff?" He looked at her, like a child looking at his mother after being scolded for being bold. "I am sorry " he said " but I was here first and your presence stopped me."

"Well why don't you go back to where you were and I will give you a slow hand clap while you launch yourself into oblivion. Then I can jump in after you and we can both act as fish food" she retorted. " Jumping off a cliff is not very dignified, we are both going to be a broken bloody mess at the bottom."

Joe hadn't considered this, the realistic result of his action, not that it would matter. It would be somebody else's problem for a change. In any case it will not happen now, the moment has gone and in truth he had lost his nerve. The woman took a deep breath, clinched her fists tightly until her knuckles were white from the pressure and looking at him straight in the face she asked "Do you have any idea just how much time I have spent convincing myself that this was the right thing to do? But you had to intervene and now you have blown it." "Yes, yes I do actually" he replied "It has taken me a lifetime to get here, I don’t think it took you quiet that long."

Somehow they had reached the concrete seat where he had sat. Picking up his jacket he placed it over her shoulders. "Thanks" she said pulling the jacket tightly around her. It could have been a greatcoat it was so big on her frail body. It had been a long time since anybody had shown her kindness. Giving her something without any obvious ulterior motive was defiantly not the norm.

What drove this man to be here, she wondered. He looks like a kind person really and when he had stopped her it was not for any selfish reason; but it would have been easier though if he had left her alone. It would have been all over by now, but like him she felt the moment had passed.

She wondered if he had family, was it because of them that he was here. She had family once: family unit consisting of husband, wife and children. Well almost children, she was pregnant with their first child when the accident happened. They rushed her to the nearest hospital but she miscarried. Her husband arrived that evening, no flowers, no chocolates and no sympathy. He stood at the end of her bed for a moment; with an angry and accusing voice shouted "you killed my baby". He turned and walked out of the hospital and out of her life.

Sara [that was her name] had been on the move since, walking, no fixed abode, and no direction: just existing from job to job and town to town. Then, for the first time in years, when she planned to take a decisive action, this man had stopped her. She realised that he was staring at out to sea absently. He had a kind face and she could see a tear drop in his eye.

" Why did you take your jacket off? " she asked, "It is new and I suppose I did not want to dirty it," he replied sheepishly. She burst out laughing, first a slow nervous laugh then into a loud and infectious laugh and soon he was laughing with her. As she laughed he could see the life returning to her eyes. "We must be mad "she said between burst of laughter "two idiots, standing in the pouring rain, on top of a cliff, arguing as to who has the right to jump off first."

Taking his hand in hers she said, "Come the sea must have its sacrifice." They walked back to the cliff edge, stooping she picked up a wreath of flowers that had been left beside the concrete seat and threw them over the edge. It broke up on impact and the waves carried the individual flowers and petals out to sea. Then, as if prearranged, they turned away from the sea and walked back to his car.

© Copyright 2004 by Castlebar - County Mayo -