Flash Fiction: Ladder by Jihoon Park

100. I have jumped off the corporate ladder.
99. The executives watch me fall for a moment before resuming their bare-knuckle boxing on the rooftop.
98. My secretary throws me my morning coffee through his window.
97. The mug misses me, but I manage to catch a few drops in my mouth.
96. In the window below I see O’ Brien stabbing Clarkson with a trident, blood splattering all over his suit.
95. A well-deserved promotion.
94. The most dangerous poison is the feeling of achievement, a quote by a great business mogul.
93. I look out to the city skyline.
92. I see my favorite hot dog man on the street below.
91. He points to a wiener in his hand, and then at me, signaling that he will throw me one, on the house, of course.
90. I have horrible stomach ulcers, years of eating human bones (garlic stir-fry) have finally caught up with me.
89. I politely decline the hot dog, making an X with my forearms.
88. The hot dog man is a beacon of light in this city.
87. If not a businessman, I would like to have been a hot dog man, beloved by all.
86. Some people are not as friendly.
85. A group of young men and women picket signs and yell at me.
84. “Murderer!”
83. “Fascist!”
82. “Dumb piece of shit!”
81. I have committed atrocious sins.
80. People pause on the streets to watch me fall.
79. They shield their eyes from the sunlit glare of our office building.
78. Some say the building radiates heat throughout the city, an oppressive swelter that makes people meek, makes people addicted to pornography and pills, makes people grind their teeth against the street signs.
77. I see our high-rise window cleaner on his scaffold.
76. I want to thank him for his service, but I have already fallen past him.
75. I have never bothered to talk to him.
74. My father was a high-rise window cleaner.
73. An honest, hardworking man.
72. One building down is another falling man.
71. A rival corporation, but our relationship is nice and professional.
70. We’ve played squash together.
69. “Morning Bill, how’s the wife?” I ask.
68. “Good. Very good. How’s little Dick? His SATs are coming up!”
67. “Studying hard. Good lad. Real good lad. Well, I’ll catch you later.”
66. “Sure thing.”
65. I slept with his wife.
64. Always look for the fool in the deal, another inspirational quote.
63. Kayla, our Chief Recruitment Officer, calls out to me through a window a few floors below.
62. She is giving a tour to the new interns.
61. They are not much older than my own little Dick, dressed in suits too large for them and suckling at the teat of a tranquilized lioness.
60. He’s not so little anymore, he’ll be a man soon.
59. All our interns drink lioness milk to improve their bone density.
58. The interns with the highest bone densities are employed full-time, the rest become feral and are shot.
57. The city suffers from a pandemic of calcium deficiency.
56. “This is our CEO, say hi everyone!” says Kayla.
55. The interns wave.
54. I wave back and give a smile just as I fall past their floor.
53. Appearances are everything.
52. A reporter shows up, falling beside me.
51. “How do you sleep at night?” she asks.
50. “I have made many mistakes, reckless mistakes of a younger man. My corporation and I still stand for all the good in the world. I ask the people of this city to have faith in us.”
49. “Fuck you.”
48. The reporter opens an umbrella and floats away.
47. The vertigo is aggravating my stomach ulcers.
46. The wind resistance on my tie constricts my throat.
45. I try loosening it, but the full Windsor knot is too secure.
44. MacArthur, who I founded the company with twenty-five years ago, hung himself with the same knot.
43. “We do not deserve this world. We have committed atrocious sins,” he once said.
42. I married his wife.
41. My little Dick is a monument to all the things wrong and unfair in life.
40. Some nights I cannot bear to face him.
39. The value of an idea lies in the using of it, a quote by an esteemed businessman and thief.
38. In a window I see Hutchinson, our morality officer, leading a group of cubicle workers through a yoga session.
37. “Stretch your arms up! Stretch your ambitions, your potential!” he says.
36. Our cubicle workers have it good here; they cook, play music, drink and dance, pray, get married, and make little cubicle babies.
35. Cubicle babies are born every day and our productivity soars.
34. I see a cat on a window ledge.
33. How did it get up so high?
32. Tenacity!
31. Ruthlessness!
30. The force of destiny!
29. The jeering from the crowd below grows louder.
28. “Stupid motherfucker!”
27. “Pig!”
26. Many great people have jumped off the ladder: Faust, Willy Loman, Ma Barker, Thomas Edison, Genghis Khan, John D. Rockefeller, Henry Ford, among countless others.
25. For a successful jump, one must have a good reason beyond fame, fortune, martyrdom, or clinical depression.
24. Stomach ulcers is not a good reason.
23. One must be pure of heart.
22. The bones of those who jumped are piled on the pavement below me.
21. Scrawny, calcium-deficient orphans are fighting stray dogs for the bones.
20. A sacred grave.
19. The Legend of the Steel-Headed Man: The Steel-Headed Man, having climbed the ladder, having sucked the juices from life, unsatisfied with the delicate husk that remained, jumped from the ladder. He did not look back at the rungs of the ladder or reminisce about his life. He only longed for the ground below, for his steel head to burst open and finally relieve his life-long migraine. But his steel head only left a perfect imprint of his face on the road. Realizing he was cursed, he walked into the ocean and never returned.
18. That imprint on the road, the face of our prophet.
17. It has long since been covered with asphalt and concrete.
16. But it’s down there somewhere.
15. The mortician awaits me on the street, eager to turn a profit from my body.
14. Leave my body be, let my bones become a symbol!
13. Symbols are all over the city.
12. They are on billboards, on bagel toppings, in newspapers, etched into the seats of our trains and buses with car keys.
11. They push us off rooftops.
10. What are symbols for?
9. Ah, solving that question, brings the priest and the doctor, in their long coats, running over the fields.
8. We keep our poets locked up in the dungeon.
7. We feed them gravel.
6. We harvest their words for our blogs, our brochures, our technical manuals.
5. Philip Larkin, having just escaped, stands where I hope to land, holding a halberd to skewer me with.
4. He smiles, revealing his brittle teeth.
3. Success is not final, failure is not fatal.
2. I have committed atrocious sins, I do not deserve this world.
1. But then again, neither does he.

Jihoon Park’s fiction is forthcoming or published in Storm Cellar, The Forge Literary Magazine, Atticus Review, and elsewhere. He is currently a MFA student at George Mason University. He is from San Jose, California.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s