Man on the Ledge

I went onto the balcony with my coffee, even though I had an ulcer. I’m afraid of heights.

The sunrise was beautiful. I wish I could’ve seen it.

In the corner of my eye I saw a bird but it was Mr. Aldermaston, from 2142. He was standing on the ledge between our balconies.

“Don’t jump!” I said. I’d seen that on television.

Mr. Aldermaston’s palms were spread out as wide as palms could spread against the wall. I could see him breathing. He was wearing his bowler hat. And a beige suit.

“Are you alright?”

He kept breathing, at least.

“Do you want me to call Emergency?”

Mr. Aldermaston shook his head.

I was worried that it would get windier.

It did.

A gush of wind blew Mr. Aldermaston’s hat off. We both watched it fall. It fell for about 21 seconds.

I looked at my watch. It was 8:30.

“I have to go to work,” I said.

* * *

When I got home, I went straight back out there. Mr. Aldermaston was still on the ledge. He had on the same bowler hat. I guess it was a different one.

The sunset was beautiful. Probably.

“Is there anything I can do for you?”

He didn’t answer.

“Would anything make your life better?”

He didn’t answer.

“Would you like some coffee?”

He nodded.

When I sat the coffee on the ledge, I accidentally looked down. I backed away from the railing.

Mr. Aldermaston edged towards the coffee. Exactly half-way between the balconies is a gargoyle. He had to manoeuvre over that.

“I forgot to ask if you take cream.”

He seemed to be drinking it anyway.

* * *

The next morning, Mr. Aldermaston was sitting on the gargoyle. He was wearing a different beige suit. I was pretty sure.

It was easier getting the coffee to him, now. I put cream in it, just in case.

I didn’t say anything to Mr. Aldermaston because I didn’t really see the point.

“It’s a nice sunrise,” I said, imagining that it was.

* * *

I went for a walk.

I was walking back. I saw a bird outside the apartment, only it was Mr. Aldermaston’s bowler hat. I picked it up.

Mr. Aldermaston landed in front of me. 

I wasn’t so much shocked that he jumped, though I was. He bounced at least five feet in the air.

I dropped the hat.

* * *

Mr. Aldermaston survived. He disappeared for a long time. When he came back to his apartment, he was in an electric wheelchair.

I see him on his balcony some mornings, in his chair, with his coffee.

We smile. We nod our heads, sometimes. Watching the buildings that block the skyline.

Rolli is a writer and cartoonist from Regina. His most recent story collection, I Am Currently Working on a Novel, was long-listed for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award and shortlisted for the High Plains Book Award. As a regular contributor to The Walrus, Rolli produces an original short story and cartoon every week for @rolliwrites