Jeremiah had come to the end of the road. Standing fifteen stories up, head literally in the low flying clouds, he stared down at all the people who wouldn't miss him and at a world that had nothing left to offer him. The night was perfect for his dramatic end. As an actor, he appreciated the dramatic intensity of the distant lightning flashes and heaven's promise of a flood of water soon to come.

A single bird was perched nearby, also on the ledge. It leapt off and spread its wings. Jeremiah imagined himself, soon to be joining the bird in flight, except that his would be a kamikaze spiral to the sidewalk. Always a fan of dark comedy, he chuckled. There was a certain sense of power that came with knowing he controlled his own fate, in life and in death.

Just weeks ago, it hadn't been like this. He was amazed at how quickly life had slammed on the brakes and kicked into reverse. He'd lost that shitty job at the hour-photo place, not that he really liked it anyway, but it had paid the bills. The auditions he had lined up had all led nowhere, leaving him frustrated and discouraged as usual. Then, the kicker had come in the unexpected passing of his mother. She'd just upped and died without even giving him a warning. It was just here one day, gone the next. That solid anchor of a woman had grounded him, and now, without her, he just couldn't keep his feet on the ground anymore. Maybe that's why he was here, about to jump. He was ready to join her, in a place where hopes weren't deflated like all the balloons not bought at the county fair. Of course his mother had been a brazen atheist, as was he, but he liked to think there was somewhere nice waiting for the both of them. He thought maybe he did believe in God after all, even if it was his own deity that he'd cobbled together over the years from bits and pieces of all sorts of different dogma he'd picked up here and there. He was one of those flavor-of-the-month guys when it came to religion, and most everything for that matter. Even his sexuality wasn't safe from the ever-shifting winds of change. All this confusion only added to the hopelessly bleak outlook he'd taken up as of late, one that had led him here, to the fifteenth story of some crappy office building, home to paper pushers by day and unstable, suicidal screwups by night.

It was possible that he was being dramatic about all of this—he was an actor after all—but his emotions had crowded out the ability to be reasonable now, and with just one little step forward…


"Push, Celia, push!"

"Oh my God, babe. I can see his head…"

"Almost there, Celia."

She remembered the bright lights, all the excited faces, and the pain—the pain most of all. Now it was dark and she was alone. Celia lay on her uncomfortable hospital bed and watched the ceiling.

This moment, the one that every girl dreams of alongside getting married and owning their first pony, was not how she had pictured it would be. Somewhere in her stupid mind she had thought she would meet the man of her dreams, they would marry, wait a few years, and then have their first child together. They would raise the child together, maybe have another, and she would be blissfully happy. Instead she'd gotten knocked up at the all too young age of nineteen and rushed into a marriage with a man she knew she did not love.

When she'd first found out, that her life was no longer just her own, she had panicked. She'd blamed it on Derek, the father, and he hadn't taken that well. It wasn't that he wasn't a good guy, it was just that he was too young and immature to know how to deal with all of this. She didn't blame him now, looking back. She had been afraid to raise a baby alone and had convinced him to marry her. They'd gone to the courthouse a few weeks later and made their union official in the eyes of the state of Louisiana.

Somewhere in all of this craziness Celia had decided that it would be best for the baby and for its parents to give it up for adoption. Having grown up in the Bible Belt, the values instilled in her as a child would not allow her to even entertain the idea of having an abortion. So they had found a woman to take the child—a young Asian lady who was afraid of being intimate with a man, but desperately wanted a child. She had been there tonight in the room as Celia had given birth to the child that no longer belonged to her.

Celia thought it wouldn't be so hard, but who had she been kidding? The moment that baby had left her she had realized how much she wanted to keep it. For those few moments afterwards she had been all smiles, the perfectly happy mother, but her choices had quickly come crashing back to the forefront and reminded her of the reality of the situation. Derek had been there, and though he pretended to be excited, she had seen that relief in his eyes the moment she had suggested adoption. It was easy for him to be happy about the whole thing, she thought, when you knew it would all be over in just a few minutes, and then he could go back to playing X-Box and shooting hoops with the boys.

Now she tossed restlessly in the shadows of the blackened room and choked on the sobs that wouldn't stop. This wasn't supposed to be where she was at nineteen. She should be out with her friends, drinking and dancing and not giving a shit about the cares of the world. That was for later, when you got older and grew up. It was funny how quickly friends dropped off the face of the earth when she had traded in her dancing shoes for maternity wear and her booze for peanut butter and pickles. Celia realized how alone she was in all of this for the first time, and it scared her senseless. Her husband was just there, a boy who still led his own life with her somewhere in the background. Her mother was supportive, yes, but she knew that she had disspointed her. Her father—well he hadn't been very thrilled. He had yelled at her and piled on all sorts of guilt. Celia knew they were both shaking their heads in disappointment, and even the comfort they tried to offer was laced with drops of their poisonous morality that she'd sworn off when she'd left home two years ago. Even the little Asian woman, whose name she remembered being Suzie, could care less for her troubles. She only wanted Celia's baby, or what had been Celia's baby before she had signed it off to a stranger.

Somewhere in the hospital that baby was sleeping, amidst rows of other newborns, and he would never know who his true mother was. He wouldn't even forget her, because to forget you first have to know. That thought toppled her already unstable tower of emotions. She peeled the sheets off her, damp with sweat, and ran to the bathroom. Down on her knees, draped over the commode, she vomited everything she had in her and then some.

For the once popular high school cheerleader, always the center of attention and the life of the party, the reality of being so utterly alone was worse than anything Celia had ever felt. Her fleet had set sail, with proud Captain Celia at the helm, in control of everything. Then this storm had come at her, out of nowhere, and when the waters had settled she found herself sailing solo across an ocean littered with debris and the dead.

Flushing down the product of her anxiety, Celia took a look in the mirror.

"You can turn this all around, Celia. You can turn it all around. You can turn it all around." She often found comfort in chanting something over and over again, as if that thought was a reality. If she said it enough times, it would be real. She would have this situation figured out and she would be happy again. It worked a little, if only just enough to allow her to sleep for a few hours.


He had his best Ralph Lauren Polo and khaki shorts on, a cooler of beer packed, and his best clubs in the trunk when the chest pain hit him. This would turn out to be the second time this month alone that Bert Conroy would have to cancel his afternoon of golf because of his health.

With his wife out shopping he was alone in their two story, five bedroom home, of which only one room was occupied. He got himself a glass of water, popped some pills, and sat down.

"Dammit," he cursed, glaring out at the sun streaked lawn and hating God for making the day so beautiful. He would have been far less angry if there had been flash floods and tornado warnings. Then he could blame that for ruining his day and not his age. He laughed, bitterly, and wondered when he'd become that old man he had always tried so hard to get away from. He supposed you could only plow through life feeling invincible for so long before all that living caught up to you.

The inevitability of it all didn't make dealing with it any easier.

Bert took out his cell phone, priding himself momentarily on the fact that unlike most 'old fogies' he was at least somewhat technologically savvy. He made a call to his buddy Mike explaining that he had come down with a nasty bug, and his wife was insisting he stay in.

"You know these women, worrying we'll catch our death around every corner. If I want to get fed tonight I'd best obey. You know how it goes."

After hanging up he didn't move from his favorite wing-backed leather chair in his study, but sat and stared at his feet with the intensity he might have given to a college football game or a steak cooking on the grill. How much time Bert wasted in his trance he wasn't sure. Time had a funny way of blurring and disfiguring itself so that he couldn't tell night from day sometimes. He looked up at his desk, at the pictures framed and lined up neatly. His favorite was of him, his wife, and their two kids.

That picture was special to him, but it always made him feel sad. His son Jim was a Lawyer now, with a wife of his own and a little baby on the way. He was everything a father could want in a child. The other one in the picture, his little girl….

Bert opened up his desk drawer and pulled out a small black book, jammed full of all the numbers he'd collected over the years. He flipped through until he found the number he'd been looking for, and pulling out his phone he dialed it up. A few rings passed before a perky female voice picked up on the other side.

"Mason Detective Services, Jaima speaking."

"Put me on with Mr. Mason, please."

He turned the family portrait away from him. He didn't like the way it looked back at him sometimes. Sure it was just a photo, but some believe that a photograph steals the soul of those it captures and freezes in time. Bert didn't believe in all that hooplah, but he still felt that pictures had a strange power in them. They could reach right through you and bring out the best or the worst—and right now it was digging up all his guilt. Bert didn't like that.

"Mason speaking."

"Yeah. It's me, Bert Conroy. I need you to try again. One more time."


"The soldier's pole has fallen; young boys and girls are level now with men; the odds is gone, and there is nothing left remarkable beneath the visiting moon." This quote, which Jeremiah rattled off exquisitely, was from a play he had been in the year before-Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra. He had been an understudy for Antony, but had ended up not performing at all. His memory was a trap for every bit of knowledge that fell in it, and he still remembered almost every line from that play. He didn't care if it fit his situation or not because it fit the mood. It bowed out his already tensed emotional state, and he felt that he himself had become on of those classic tragic characters. This was the grand finale, where all the audience sat muted, waiting to see what would happen next. That sense of power came surging back to him again as he realized he was both the writer and the actor of this drama.

Jeremiah's throat was so dry it hurt to swallow. He took another good look down below him. His stomach was cramping.

"The Cowardly Lion." That's what his mother had nicknamed him, and for good reason. Afraid of bugs, afraid of the dark, afraid of trying new things, afraid of social situations, and hell, afraid of just about everything. When people saw Jeremiah act they were always taken aback, voicing their surprise that such a shy boy could break out of his shell up there on a stage in front of so many people. It didn't surprise Jeremiah. It made perfect sense. When he put on someone else's face he didn't have to worry about what people thought of him, because just for a couple of hours he was someone else. He could parade around in a new pair of shoes and throw everything else out the window.

Jeremiah had been on the roof for over three hours now, trying to fling himself off. Now, as the streets began to thin out and the city plunged deeper into night, he began to understand that he couldn't do this. He had felt sure this was what he wanted today, but who knew what he'd feel tomorrow. Did he have some sort of medical condition? He hated the shrink, though.

So the Cowardly Lion took a step back, putting distance between him and the ledge.

"What a sucky climax…" He fell down on the busted up concrete and let his head fall between his legs. His shoulders shook as he let it all flow out of him. He put the actor away and was just Jeremiah, pure and raw.


"What can I do for you, maam?" An unfamiliar nurse entered into Celia's room just minutes after she had paged.

"Oh I, umn, needed help using the bathroom. I can't seem to walk very well…"

The woman smiled briefly, "I think I can do that. Here grab my arm."

Celia took hold of the woman, nodding appreciation, and allowed herself to be guided into the restroom. Her eyes stung when the fluorescent light was flipped on.

"I'll just be waiting outside."


The nurse turned to leave, Celia took a deep breath, and she rushed at the woman, slamming her into the wall. It happened in a chaotic blur. She found herself picking up a flower vase, full of carnations from her mother, and slamming it across the top of the woman's head. They say a mother has uncanny strength, especially when it comes to protecting their children. That's what she was doing.

The nurse was knocked unconscious. Celia hoped she would be okay, and she felt horrible for what she had done. There was no time to worry over that though, and she quickly began stripping off the woman's clothes and putting them on herself. Nurse Celia—she had wanted to go to college and major in nursing. Now this was the closest she would get, she thought. Things change.

This baby was hers, not Suzie's. It was hers and she was going to make sure he grew up knowing who his real mother was.

Out of her room and into the hallway, Nurse Celia began searching for her child.


Bert sat across the table from Mason, each man with a cup of coffee in his hand. In between them sat a manila folder marked with a case number.

"You gonna open it Bert or do you want me to just spell it out for you?"

He was boring holes through the folder with his eyes, imagining all the different things that could be inside. Another dead-end, or maybe, just maybe, papers saying they had found his daughter and she was doing just great. Maybe she was the owner of her own business now, like a little flower shop or something. She'd always loved flowers.

"Well?" The detective pushed him for an answer.

Bert looked up, "I'll look." He took the folder and slid it closer to him. He inhaled deeply, then exhaled. When he finally opened it he only looked it over for a few seconds before shutting it again and then sliding it away from him.

"That's not what I wanted to see."

Mason looked sympathetically at his client, "The only reason I had any luck this time was because her dental records matched your daughters. I'm sorry."

This was not how Bert had wanted his search to end. It wasn't supposed to turn out this way. He was supposed to be able to hold his little girl again and apologize for being a crummy father. Then she would forgive him. They'd be happy.

"It was a car wreck. That's what killed her. She was going by the alias Suzanne, which explains why it was hard finding her…"

"Just leave me alone, Mason. I'm sorry—thank you—but go."

"Right after I give you this," He held out a piece of paper, "This is the number and address of her son, your grandson. You should get I touch with him." The detective stood and took his coat. As he passed by to leave he placed a firm hand on Bert's shoulder, "I'm sorry it turned out like this, Bert. Thanks for the coffee."

The paper in his hand, with just a few lines scribbled down quickly in thick red ink, gave Bert just a little hope. He picked up his phone, but put it away. He didn't want to call. A letter would be better. He had a lot to say, and he needed to think it over. Too often he said things before thinking them through—and sometimes, as he knew now, you could never say you were sorry for words you never meant to say.


Jeremiah rode a cab home he thought he'd never ride in again and entered into a lobby he had figured he'd never see again. He checked the mail he wasn't supposed to have ever gotten and walked into the apartment he thought he'd seen the last of.

He sifted through the pile of junk mail and bills. Amidst all the crap he didn't want was a letter addressed to him from someone he'd never heard of.

"Bert Conroy…" The name didn't ring a bell. Maybe he owed the guy some money. Opening it he cut his finger and the pain made him realize he really was still alive. He hadn't jumped off the building and fallen into some sort of surreal dream full of the "what ifs."

There are various stages of surprise one can convey on stage: From subtle, like a killer in a murder mystery trying to hide his shock as someone gets closer to the truth, to the overdramatic, caricatured surprise, mouth dangling wide and eyes bulging from their sockets. As Jeremiah read the letter his face evolved from one end of this spectrum to the other.

He felt like he was in one of those TV shows, full of double agents and secret identities, and someone had just told him, "My name is not really Jim. It's Phobe. I'm really a woman. And I'm not from this planet."

His mother had some explaining to do, except that she was dead.

Jeremiah believed that everyone was connected somehow, by some giant, invisible web, and that every persons actions were a domino effect for about a million other people's lives, and so on and so forth. He had been born a scaredy cat for a reason, so that he could be here, right that very moment, reading that letter. That's what he believed, more than he'd believed anything else before.

He picked up the phone, not caring that it was the middle of the night, and dialed the number penned at the end of the letter. It rang five times before a man answered.




The bus rolled along, down the highway, and out of the city. Celia held her baby boy close to her, crushing him against her chest. Everything that had happened that night was already hazy. She hadn't acted with her mind, but her instinct. They had probably already figured out what had happened and were looking for her, but she wasn't going to stick around for them to find her. She would leave everything behind, just as she'd left that immature party girl on the side of the tracks nine months before. She was leaving her husband, and he'd probably be grateful, her parents, who would be sad at first, but would definitely get over it, and she was leaving Suzie, the Asian woman who would now be without a child for even longer. Celia should have felt bad, she thought, but she didn't. She was a new person these days and if that meant starting all over, so be it.

Looking down into the eyes of the child, she knew all of this was worth it. They would be happy together in their new life. Yep, blissfully happy. Just like she'd always dreamed—just in a different way.

Somewhere on the ride Celia realized her baby didn't have a name. There just hadn't been time to think about that until now.

"What do you like like, huh cutie? Maybe a Michael? No. How about Topher? I don't think so." She bit her lip and then smiled, "I know. I'm going to call you Jeremiah. Yeah, that's perfect. Jeremiah."