Lucky

04/29/24

The locals called it Suicide Bridge because of all the jumpers. He liked the Monongatawny Bridge anyway for its stone trusses and the old-growth pine forest on the riverbanks.

This jumper was middle-aged. Sad-looking. Well, she would be. But this was sadness etched into a face over decades. A body broken by years of hard work.

She stood on the parapet, arms hugging the guardrail. Waiting for courage or for someone to stop her? Little chance of the latter at three a.m.

But she was in luck tonight. He walked slowly out of the shadows, not wanting to spook her. Calm, not rushing. He stood still once she noticed him, and still he waited after that.

Finally, chin quivering, she shouted, “Don’t try to stop me.”

“Why would I do that? If this is what you want.”

She reacted to the quiet strength in his voice. Tears began to fall. This was always a good sign. She was letting some of that pent-up emotion out by crying instead of jumping. Long experience told him to keep quiet, let her cry.

But still he watched her, letting her bathe in the warmth of his brown eyes, the humorous lines around them.

He saw the moment when her hands slightly relaxed their grip on the guardrail. The crucial moment. He had to get it right.

“Tell me about it,” he said.

“There’s nothing to say.”

“I know that’s not true. You could tell me plenty.”

“No!”

“Just start.”

And she did. The story poured out of her. He took it all in, no judgment, just love. When she finished, she slumped, exhausted, grip on the guardrail loosening.

He went to her, put a strong arm around her waist, tenderly helped her climb over the railing.

She was shivering. He took her into his arms, gentle and respectful. He stroked her hair. Let her settle.

“I’ll give you a ride.”

This was always the tricky part. With luck, getting into his truck, she’d be too distraught to notice there wasn’t an inside door handle on the passenger side.

His house wasn’t far, and once he got her into the basement, no one would be able to hear her scream.

A couple days of pain, and then she’d go into the river. Just like she’d wanted.

~ fin ~

Susan office 2023

Susan Kuchinskas (she/her) produces content for technology companies and writes literary, crime, sci-fi and erotic fiction from the San Francisco Bay Area. Her two science fiction/detective novels, Chimera Catalyst and Singularity Syndrome, extrapolate from today’s bleeding-edge science. Her short stories have appeared in a variety of journals and zines, including Switchblade, Rock and a Hard Place, and Mystery Weekly. She loves reptiles, insects and mammals, about in that order, and she prefers bourbon to wine and Necco Wafers to chocolate. Find out more at kuchinskas.com.