a tale by Len Kuntz
They started throwing themselves off high places—buildings and bridges. In-flight airplanes would have worked if the windows opened. Some sought out old redwood trees. Grain silos. Cliffs with craggy boulder-laced bottoms.
It was all quite bloody.
There wasn’t an answer for it. No solution. It became so common that it was not unusual to be walking to work one day and narrowly escape your own decimation as a zooming teenager or granny slammed through the cement like so much cheese cloth and spaghetti.
And so the living learned to look up when they went strolling. They learned to pay attention.
Theories had it being God’s boredom with inertia and the general blandness of the universe. Others naturally blamed Satan. Some said it was this or that nation, a terrorist plot, but even across the ocean, jihadists plunged to their death with a regularity that became almost predictable.
With so much mayhem and suicide occurring, the economy flourished. Coffin makers, urn makers, street sweepers, pastors and gravediggers all had a field day. There were job openings aplenty if a person wasn’t too picky.
My younger brother believed in monsters. I said, “Why monsters when we’re all dealing with this?”
Davey was also a fan of telekinesis and mind control. I was skeptical of this until one afternoon I saw him hypnotize a hamster and make it hula hoop with our dead mother’s wristwatch.
Davey believed a solitary person had masterminded all this self-inflicted death. He called the evil nemesis Big Jelly. Davey’s imagination was brilliant He took nerdiness to a whole new threshold, days of working on computer circuitry with nothing but a Phillips screwdriver and electrical tape. He listened to old Burt Bacharach records and built microscopic boats inside of lab beakers using toothpicks as pliers.
And he doodled. He doodled often.
He drew an image of Big Jelly. In the rendering, Big Jelly resembled a mud slide with Asian-looking eyes. Somehow a pair of Wayfarer sunglasses stayed on the noseless blob’s face.
He created an entire cartoon series.
Big Jelly worked from a gazebo atop some Mongolian mountain, eating fried chicken and punching his keyboard with the greasy drumstick bones. With a laptop, he pulled up random faces on the social networking site and sent out oodles of friend requests. People were always so curious about his unusual cartoon Profile picture that they always accepted his offer of friendship.
Soon after, Big Jelly peppered them with depressing mood setters like snippets from the NY Times about ravaging hurricanes, melting glaciers, decimated rain forests, murder rates for their hometown and sometimes Cliff Notes from “The Bell Jar” with the added message, “I read this and thought of you!” All this gloomy propaganda reminded people that the world had gone mad, that life wasn’t worth living for. Then Davey gave Big Jelly some of his telekinetic powers of persuasion. At a Chinese restaurant, for instance, a soon-to-be victim might see an image of Big Jelly’s face warbling in their egg flower soup, chanting, “It’s time you got out of this hell hole.” To wit, the person would speak back to the soup, “Time for what, Big Jelly?” The answer would be written on their fortune cookie slip of paper: “Go someplace high up and jump. It’s the only way. Do it right now!”
The rest was messy, although melodious.
Chuckle from Big Jelly.
Slurp of a gluey chicken wing.
More keystroke punching.
The cartoon strips caught on. It was like an uncontainable forest fire. People became luridly fascinated by my brother’s creation. They started to believe Big Jelly was real and not a figment of Davey’s fiendish imagination. They wondered who among them would be next to cash in their chips. They wanted to know if it was possible to “unfriend” Big Jelly from the social networking site, but there was no relief.
Even newscasters and their entire contingent of cameramen were taking dives off the Aurora Bridge, the London Bridge, any bridge really, shouting, “Take that, Big Jelly!”
Some strong-willed people demanded my brother’s head on a platter, but Davey holed up in a seedy apartment, pretending he was a heroin user or brokedown novelist.
It took some coaxing to get him to come to the door when I knocked. When I squealed that my appendix had just burst, Davey bit the bait.
I’d been working out for just this moment, bench-pressing paint cans in the garage, tossing a zillion boomerangs to stray dogs. Also I had rehearsed the scene so many times in my mind that when it actually did happen, it was familiar, like tasting my own backwash.
I hooked Davey’s wrist first, then his elbow and flung him hard—boomerang practice had paid off.
The railing caught him at the hip. Sound of bone breaking, sound of skin ripping. Davey yelped, but his momentum could not be foiled and he tumbled topsy-turvy in the air.
Was it a messy landing? Of course. Did I feel bad about it? No way. The applause from all the people I’d invited for verification purposes was louder than a platoon of drunken sailors.
I took a bow. Little hairs prickled on the back of my neck, right about where I’d tattooed my new nickname, the one I’d given myself: Big Jelly.
Now it’s me who does the sketching. I’m not half bad either.
I like the brutal stuff: a screw driver plunged through the forehead; self-inflicted hangings with barbwire nooses; milkshakes mixed with chunks of glass.
And I figure I’m going to start with the intellectuals first—poets and novelists. Get them off their high horses, always putting us comic book junkies down. It’s going to fun, but it’s going to be bloody. And don’t think I can’t see you reading this, because I’ve got a pencil in hand and your time is just about up.