A Not So Wonderful Life

James was depressed, to say the least. His business was failing. He’d hung up on four bill collectors today. It didn’t matter to them what time of year it was. They wanted their money now. He had just enough money left in the bank to pay his employees. At least they could have a good Christmas.

When he got home his wife was gone. There was a note on the table. “I can’t take it anymore. I have to get away.” That’s all it said.

So now, she’s left me too.

Jimmy left the house and trudged down the street to Frank’s Tap. He downed three whiskeys in a row. Then sipped the next two while he thought about his problems and how to deal with them. There was only one way. He finished the fifth whiskey and left. As he was heading out the door someone said, “Hey, Jimmy, Merry Christmas.”

“Yeah, whatever,” Jimmy mumbled back.

He walked slowly down the street toward the bridge over the river. He didn’t really want to do this, but it was the best thing to do. At least there’d be the insurance money, that was the best Chrismas present he could give his wife and kids.

When he got to the bridge. It was snowing, “Perfect,’ he thought, “A white Christmas.”

He climbed up on the railing and looked down at the water swirling below. Just then a man walked up and stopped behind him. Jimmy stood there, balancing himself against the winter wind, waiting.

“You gonna jump?” the man asked.

“Why would you want to know?”

“Cause I ain’t never seen anybody jump off of this bridge before.”

“But you’ve seen people jump off of other things?” Jimmy asked.

“Oh yeah, sure have,” the man said. “My little brother jumped off the garage roof when he was nine. Broke his leg, he did. Said it hurt like hell. Sprained an ankle, too.”

“So, you’re going to try to talk me out of jumping,” Jimmy said.

“Oh no, not at all,” the man said. “I ain’t never seen anybody jump off of a bridge and I’d like to see what happens, how big a splash you’ll make and all.”

“You’re an angel, aren’t you?”

“Me? Well, I go to church every now and then, but that’s mostly for the donuts after. I work down at the window factory. Ain’t nobody ever thought I was any kind of angel before.”

Jimmy looked out over the river. Along the shore, he could see some of the houses lit up with their Christmas decorations. “Now, I’ll have to jump,” Jimmy thought.

“Hey mister,” the man said, “I don’t suppose you’ve got any money in your wallet. Hate to see you jump with a wallet full of cash.”

“My wallet? Oh my gosh, my wallet,” Jimmy said. “I left it on the bar.”

He jumped off the railing, landed on the sidewalk and ran back toward the bar. As he faded in the distance the man on the bridge shrugged his shoulders and disappeared.