Late April 2011 I discovered http://StoryADay.org and the project that is to write 31 stories in 31 days. Anyone who knows me or follows this blog, knows how passionate I am about short stories so my clichéd eyes lit up at this new marvel. And just a few days later there I was, breathing life into new characters. This went on to become (with some editing of course) my 31-story collection eBook Story A Day May 2011.
And here we are a year later doing it all over again. Today’s prompt was to write a story where the protagonist is a hero, so here is my 974-worder with a very unconventional hero(ine).
In His Shoes
Looking out through the office window, Elle pictured herself in Tom’s shoes then told herself off when saw the image of her size fives comically floating around in his elevens. She didn’t know he was elevens, of course, being a colleague, but he was tall, and tall men usually had big feet. She smuggled a laugh remembering what big feet implied but harking back to previous boyfriends she figured it was a lie made up by a man who should have had very small feet.
Not the time to joke, she told herself as she watched Tom wobble. Now was the time to have small feet, hers balancing on the ledge instead of his. She wanted to get nearer, to speak to him, but the MD, Steve, had told them to keep back.
She wondered who had made Tom go out there. It was always a ‘who’, rarely a ‘what’. A spurned love, crippling debt caused by a spurned love. She didn’t know Tom that well so couldn’t recall any mention of a love, spurned or otherwise.
Someone next to her was crying. Turning round she spotted Hayley, the Accounts Assistant sobbing into a wad of tissues, mascara running down her face. She couldn’t imagine her and Tom being an item and knew how easily Hayley burst into tears; a missing cat, broken arm, missed appointment, none of them hers. Steve was consoling her, or trying to, her wailing getting louder and looking at Tom, Elle saw this was making him more nervous.
With Steve distracted, Elle knew this was her chance, so casually walked towards the open window and leaned out, just a little. “Hi, Tom.”
Tom screamed and clung on to the metal window edging. Behind her, Hayley screamed.
“Sorry,” Elle whispered.
Tom said nothing.
“Hi, Tom,” Elle repeated, this time somewhat quieter.
“Can I ask a silly question?”
“Please go back inside.”
“I prefer it out here.”
“So do I.”
“This silly question…”
“I know what you’re going to ask. What am I doing out here.”
“No, that wasn’t it. I can see what you’re doing.”
“OK, why then.”
“And your answer is…”
“Because I’ve had enough.”
“Elle, please go back inside. This was supposed to be quick and before anyone got to work but…”
“You can’t do it.”
“I will. I’ll jump.”
“But you haven’t yet.”
“You’re not helping.”
“OK. I’ll go back in…”
“The police will be shortly.”
“Wouldn’t it be better to come inside before they do? Say it’s all been a big mistake.”
“They’d arrest me.”
“The two other options open to you would be worse.”
“Still being out here when they do arrive or being splat when they do.”
“Don’t say that.”
“You’re on a fifth storey ledge with nothing but concrete to break your fall. How did you think you’d end up?”
“I didn’t think…”
“It just seemed like…”
“The right thing to do?”
Tom nodded again.
Tom shrugged then screamed as his right foot slipped sideways, his shoe falling to the ground with a sickening thud.
“See, that could have been you,” Elle said, then wondered whether it was the right thing to say. Seeing Tom was now struggling to balance in his socked right foot said, “Take your sock off, there’s no grip.”
“You’ll fall if you don’t.”
“I can’t bend down.”
“I’ll go and get your shoe then.”
“No! Don’t leave me.”
“I’ll send someone else.”
Tom shook his head, gently, both hands gripping to the window edges. “I’ll just stay still.”
“You can’t do that forever.”
“Then we’ll have to come up with a plan B. What size shoes do you take?”
“OK. Back in a tick.”
But Elle had disappeared.
“Steve. What size shoes do you take?”
“I need your right one.”
“OK,” Steve said and handed Elle his right shoe.
“Tom. Put this on, it’s going to be a bit big but wiggle your foot to the front for grip.”
“I can’t move.”
“It’s fine. Your right foot’s on the ledge. Just hold on tighter and lift your foot up a little. I’ll lean out, position it and you put your foot it.”
“This is crazy.”
“Yes, it is but not as crazy as you coming out here in the first place.”
“I never knew you were such a bossy boots.”
“When the situation demands it, now lift.”
Tom lifted his foot, Elle hovered the shoe underneath it and Tom wedged his foot to the front of the shoe. Keeping hold of the window frames, he shuffled along the ledge until he reached the window. He slowly bent down so Elle could grab his jacket and pull him into the office where their colleagues crowded round them, all talking, one crying, at once. Steve then took charge and lead Tom and Elle to his office.
After prolonged questioning by Steve and the police, and a check-up at hospital, Tom was released into Elle’s care and it wasn’t long before she found out that the size debate really wasn’t true.
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Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are weekly episodes, usually released Monday mornings UK time, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.