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The Five Ws

By Joshua Trent Brown



My mother was killed by someone committing suicide. Someone else. The details are difficult to explain simply, both verbally and in writing. There isn’t one sentence that really fulfills the meaning and weight and burden of what needs to be said. At least I don’t think there is. And I’ve tried plenty. But the human brain cannot allow one sentence to be incomplete. People are too curious. They ask questions to get at what you haven’t explained. The five Ws are taught in English class because we use them. Or we at least desire them.


Someone fell on my mom and killed her.

Is this a crude joke? An old timey fat joke?

My mom was crushed by someone falling from a building.

What? Why were they falling?

My mother was crushed by someone who jumped off of a building.

Where? Did they jump on purpose?

A man tried to commit suicide by jumping off of a building and he landed on my mom, crushing her.

Tried?


She was walking down 4th towards the intersection with Cameron. She had a Diet Coke in her right hand. She loved Diet Coke. She never had a sip of coffee, her whole life. She would just drink Diet Coke when she felt drowsy. She wore her favorite tracksuit. She was out for an afternoon exercise walk. That’s what she called them. And a baseball cap, she had on a Braves baseball cap. Her hair was in a ponytail sticking out of the baseball cap. She had her phone in her left hand, up to her ear.


A man jumped off a building to kill himself and landed on my mother, killing her.

What building? It must have been high?

A man leapt off the rooftop of the tallest bank tower in the city, in an attempt to kill himself, and landed on my mother instead of the concrete, killing her.

Is he still alive?


He is in jail, awaiting trial. He is in a wheelchair. His name is Tommy. I don’t ask him why he did it because it has nothing to do with my mom and I don’t care about the details of him that have nothing to do with her. He tells me he’s very sorry. Very slowly. He has brain damage. His words are painstaking and slurred. Most of the time we sit in silence. If I speak, it is often some veiled comment that is meant to be hurtful. I ask him if he knows that she hadn’t finished the drink in her hand yet. There was still some left in the can when the police and the medics got there. I ask him if he knows that he knocked the hair tie holding her ponytail clean off. I turn my face and point at the ponytail on my own head. I know that it looks just like her. I know that I look just like her. He just stares at me. I know then that I only want to punish him. But he probably didn’t notice the ponytail on the way down. I ask him if his eyes were closed. I ask him if he knows how the can landed straight up and not on its side.


A man named Tommy leapt off the rooftop of the tallest bank tower in town in an attempt to kill himself and landed on my mother instead of the concrete, killing her and only paralyzing himself.

Only?

A man named Tommy leapt off the rooftop of the tallest bank tower in town in an attempt to kill himself and landed on my mother instead of the concrete, killing her and paralyzing himself.

Oh my God. Are you okay?


I crack open a fresh Diet Coke and take a few sips. I sit it down on the coaster on my desk that has my mother’s name engraved on it. I lay my head down on my desk. I listen to the carbonation fizz and pop against the aluminum until I fall asleep. I wake up to the soda quiet, flat and warm.


I lift my head up and grab a piece of paper. I sketch out the five Ws.

Who – my mom and Tommy. What – death and falling? When, where. Why?

There is no room for me in this handful of categories. But I know that it is the only question left to answer.



 


Joshua Trent Brown is a short fiction writer from Raleigh, NC and a soon-to-be fiction editor at JAKE. He has previously been published in a handful of great lit mags and has work forthcoming in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Transients Magazine, Mythic Picnic, and Carolina Muse in 2024. Trent is also currently writing a novella about a complicated commune where stories are capital and technology is looming. But, more often than not, he's just on Twitter @TrentBWrites. Read more here.

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