View Full Version : Jeff Doesn't Do Well on His Own [Short Story - 1400 words]

March 26th, 2013, 04:56 AM
The plump, shiny bubble of latex made its way through the crisp, October morning air like a drunken fish through the ocean. It flew aimlessly, shooting in different directions at sporadic intervals for uncertain distances, only to change course moments later. It was still no more than twenty feet off the hard, dead, autumn grass of the lawns below. It was casting the image of the world’s largest black tadpole upon the many front yards as it went. Ascension continued, and now leaves of hues ranging from the rich orange of a pumpkin to the shocking yellow of a school bus accompanied the flight. They danced around their inorganic colleague like a shield of color as the wind guided everything along. Some of the leaves disappeared while others joined the flock. Some of them hovered more closely to the rotund outsider while others kept their distance.

Soon a pair of geese came up alongside the mid-air party, flapping their wings more frequently than usual to keep up with the wind’s pace. They decided reasonably quickly that they didn't like this stranger in their domain, and dove at it, attempting to knock it out of the jet stream it was so keen on remaining in with its leafy friends. Again and again they attacked, ascended, re-positioned and zoomed again at the intruder with their efforts proving remarkably impotent due to their inability to locate their target from in between the constantly shifting shield of colorful leaves. Eventually, the winged assailants gave up on their crusade, allowing the spherical devil to continue its campaign through their airspace. Almost as soon as the birds had gone from the area, the harsh wind ceased, no longer propelling anything anymore, and was replaced by a soft, yet constant breeze. This was for the best, as the wind had no longer been continuing its upward trend, and running parallel to the Earth becomes quite a bore after a while. The leaves slowly, one-by-one, fell out of the heavens, leaving the balloon to continue its inexorable, vertical march to the clouds, now assisted by naught but the helium which took up most of its composition.

Up, up, up. Things were looking good for the little red orb. It’s biological brethren who had been turned into temporary, rubbery figures of birds and butterflies long ago would be jealous of the accomplishments it had made today. As it went up, up, up, another object was on its way down, down, down. It was a feather of the brightest, lightest, whitest shade of white imaginable. The feather was immediately attracted to the upward-moving red aviator. The static forces pressing the two together were nearly immediate, as the feather came to rest atop the crown of the sphere. The ascent continued like this for some time, improbably quickening in pace somehow since the meeting with the feather. Very close now was the pair to the ultimate goal: the clouds.

Had the ruby-colored sack of imprisoned gas been graced with the gift of sight, it would've seen that it was just about to make contact with a very small cloud; the smallest of the big, big clouds; the smallest of the big, big, dark, grey clouds. Suddenly, a second attack was launched, this time by Mother Nature herself. A bullet of water came speeding out of the sky and collided with the couple. The air taxi jostled violently and, as quickly and softly as the feather had come to a rest, it stumbled off the unbalanced top, and fell out of the sky. Just as the leafy friends had done, the feather now left the balloon alone and vulnerable. But this was good, of course. The feather had probably been holding back progress. It had been tying the balloon down. Now, the balloon was free…

BOOM! There was a blinding flash of the brightest, whitest, lightest light it was possible to conjure streaking across the sky, accompanied by the loudest noise nature could muster. Millions upon millions of liquid sniper rounds were fired downward, smacking and exploding on the traveler’s surface. Downward, it fell into an abyssal, watery Hell. It was descending at rates that its ascension campaign had not even hoped to reach. The integrity of the sphere was questioned on an almost millisecond-by-millisecond basis. The wind kicked back in, but it was not a good wind; it was now more volatile than the derailed wannabe meteorologist had ever experienced before. The Heaven explorer was now back at its familiar twenty foot altitude, but in a totally unfamiliar place. Trees and other trees surrounded by trees upon trees all encompassed by trees. This was all that lay before it. Whipping around like a drunken fish as it had not half a day ago, it continued its path toward the forest below.

Just as it narrowly missed being stabbed by a particularly sharp branch on its way through the canopy, the wind ceased yet again. The rain, save for residual drops from storm-soaked leaves, ceased at almost the same time. The storm had passed, but the damage was done. There was no way the airspace tourist could make progress like that ever again. There wasn't even a snowball’s chance in Hell that perfect winds like that would ever come along again, not in this round ball of Helium’s lifetime, anyway. For a few hours, the balloon ambled through the maze of trunks, limbs, branches, and foliage, guided by nothing but the light breeze which had guided it through its loneliest of times. But this could not last forever, that much was evident. Helium was escaping rapidly, probably as a result of a pinprick which had probably been inflicted some time during the storm. Down, down, down. Things were looking awful for the now even littler red orb. He was about to know what his brethren who’d been left, unsculpted as simple snakes and earthworms felt like, held against the green earth with no hopes of ever knowing the freedom of flight. As it went down, down, down, it seemed as if something else was coming up, up, up. It was a pile of leaves – THE pile of leaves, surely. What other reason could there be for this happenstance? The leaves’ inorganic colleague was now rejoining them at the end of its life, and they embraced it into their pile with open arms, gently cushioning its landing. As it landed, one could make out through the wet envelope tightly tied to the red aviator’s base, a one-sided letter written on an index card. The envelope had become virtually transparent:

“To whomever may find this:

My name is Jeff, and I am about to die. I live under Weller’s Bridge in a community of other homeless people. I just wanted to write this in the hopes that somebody may find it, and perhaps learn something from my story, because I wasn't always like this. Throughout my life I have been bullied by bullies and saved by my friends; I have abandoned those friends. I have sought success in business while by being selfish and shortsighted. I have loved, and I have had my love taken from me by the very entity I believed was guiding me on my way to success. I have collapsed; I have fallen from grace; I have been to the highest of the highs and, almost immediately afterward: the lowest of lows. And the thing that I have come to grips with now, as I sit here at the ripe-old age of 56 is this: Jeff doesn't do well on his own. I don’t know how to function without other people in my life, and nobody should have to suffer a life of isolation like that even if it means achieving your goals and getting all that you desire. If you have all the riches in the world and nobody to share it with, it’s pointless; those riches are meaningless; those dollars are false promises of a happy life you will never live. You’re stuck in an empty, 40-room mansion with nobody but yourself to sit there and think, day in and day out, about what an incredibly miserable person you are and how much you wish you hadn't thrown away the only people, the only person, whom ever meant anything to you. So just remember, whoever you may be:

Humans don’t do well on their own. Cherish your friends, your family, your peers, and your lovers. At the very least, do more than I did.


This is my first thread on here. As a warning (now that you've read it) I'm very much aware that I could've messed up tense somewhere, not used a reflexive pronoun when I should've, or any other number of mistakes. Please, let me know, I'm working on that kind of stuff.

Additionally, I'm not sure if I should have a sentence or two introducing the envelope earlier on in the story. Is the mention of it too jarring and out-of-nowhere?

March 27th, 2013, 06:09 PM
The envelope appears in the right place. The whole lyrical description comes back down to earth. That works.

Places to improve? Several. One, get the physics right. You have the balloon twenty feet off the ground, then at goose cruising altitude, then at the jet stream. If I read the account properly, the balloon goes up to the clouds, then a storm drives it back down under the trees; it pops, and falls to the ground. Make sure you have the right things happening at the right altitudes, using the right words. For example, at 20 feet, on a partly cloudly day with rain threatening, a little balloon isn't going to cast any sort of shadow on the ground.

Speaking of word choice, some were jarring for me. For example, we have a balloon in flight, so the aquatic references feel out of place. Something more windy and ethereal, maybe. And it's a balloon, so why the strange descriptions? A ruby bag of imprisoned gas doesn't add anything and it actually sounds sort of jarring. I wanted to be straining upward into the happy sky with the happy balloon. I didn't want to think of it in terms of latex and gas. You want your symbol to be consistent, yes?

Finally, the last paragraph needs work, though I'm sure you know this. Somehow it has to sound desperate, resigned ... deflated? ... without sounding peevish or self-pitying. This guy is checking out of the human race but he wants to offer some sage advice for the rest of it. Maybe it should sound more loving and less self-centered? I dunno. Conceptually, though, it does work.

March 27th, 2013, 11:23 PM
I think I tried to go a bit too far in some places. Like I tried to only refer to it by its actual name (a balloon) after it was left alone, i.e. when the leaves go away and when the feather goes away. So, all the other times I referred to it I tried to use different non-names like that (except for the end when I used the nonnames that I had in the beginning, just in reverse order to give the story some symbolic closure..... or something). Needless to say, I began to run out after a while.

As far as the physics of it all goes, I admit that I used some of the atmospheric terms a bit loosely, and figured I would have to go back in after a while to make sure some of those made sense. I'll look into them.

Finally, yeah, I understand about the end. While I'd like to keep it fairly close to what it is now, lots of it does seem to focus on him and be a bit biographical when he's supposed to be attempting to be imparting his life knowledge onto someone. And, ironically (yet not unexpectedly) it never reaches anyone in that world, so I should probably make the advice given better so that the irony of it all makes a bit more sense being in the story.