The Only Way Is Up
The Businessman's Tale
Don't believe everything you see: TV, the movies, theatre – they've got it wrong.
It's easy. Nothing to it. The angst, the soul-searching – not necessary. Then there's
the method – they make it all seem so complicated, haphazard. Many choices but so
often prone to mishap and failure. OK, so occasionally one might look for a nice
touch here and there – go out in style, so to speak – but at least make sure you
go out. Then, finally, there's the timing: things can't get any worse; you're at
your lowest ebb; rock bottom. Don't be so stupid: If things can't get any worse there's
no point. Just sit tight – the only way is up. Really, if you mean business, truly
mean business not just playing to the crowd hoping for a bit of attention and sympathy,
if suicide is the solution then this is what really happens: the way, the truth and
Standing there on the Fifth Floor, the window ledge of the Fifth Floor, the time
seemed appropriate to look back, to try to establish what had brought him to such
lofty heights... 'Cos that's the method, you see: Jumping from a great height, not
necessarily five floors, three is usually enough, but better safe than sorry. Simplicity
itself and completely stress free. Take guns for instance, popularly seen as an effective
means of self -destruction – but why? Not always easy to come by for a start; they
don't sell 'em in my branch of Woolworth's anyway. And we all know that sometimes
guns misfire. I mean, what a let down: You finally steal yourself to pull the trigger,
no small test of nerve that, and you are rewarded with nothing more than a disappointing
little click. Very irritating. When finally, it does work of course – well, loud
bang like that could bring on a nasty headache.
Pills – that's another widely recognised means to the ultimate end. The trouble is
that instant death tends to prove elusive. It's time consuming and consequently,
however meticulous and methodical one's preparation, it is accompanied by a persistent
element of doubt and uncertainty. The stomach pains start, the cramps, the headaches
– but will it do the whole job? (Such is the extent of the resulting stress one might
easily suffer a fatal heart attack.) Then you lose consciousness – anything might
happen now: discovery... rushed to hospital... nick of time... back from the brink.
It's wonderful; a success. It's tragic; a farce. Anyway, where were we? The Window
\ledge... but first The Park...
An old man and a young man, father and son in fact, met, as they did every week at
this time, in a park. They greeted each other fondly, shook hands, exchanged news
of the week and settled down to business. The Old Man, whose time was rather more
his own, had arrived first and had warmed up with a preparatory game or two already.
They took their places at their usual table. The board was out; carefully they set
up the lovingly carved ebony and ivory chess pieces.
“I'm going to beat you this time!” the Young Man ventured.
“We'll see.” countered the Old Man.
* * *
It was a lovely day for it. Spring had sprung. Already the optimistic few could be
seen strolling, shorts and t-shirt clad – slightly incongruous against the wider
backdrop of pin-stripes and brief cases of which he too was usually a part but today
at least he could be seen as being different – if only someone were to look up. Not
for him the hustle and bustle of the streets below, not today. In fact, he felt that
when he did put in his unannounced and likely unexpected appearance, a space would
clear for his arrival. But there was no rush – he was unlikely to be disturbed. His
secretary had already brought in the coffee and he could hear her now at her desk
outside his office: arranging lunches, putting in orders for stationary, typing letters
and, he noted with a pleasing irony, checking for windows in his busy schedule.
He was not at his lowest ebb and was rather disappointed by this. The fact that things
could get worse upset him more than he cared to admit. It wasn't that he was frightened
just that he craved certainty. In fact, in some senses, ‘everything was not too bad.'
Indeed that was the problem, this rather limp excuse for a life he had: no triumphs,
no tragedies – just existence. He didn't like his job but then he didn't altogether
dislike it either – he just did it. He tried to remember when he'd actually made
an original decision. It seemed he'd just been put on the treadmill along with so
many others: school, university, job – he'd never noticed any turnings off this road;
maybe there weren't or maybe he was just too middle class to see them.
* * *
Back in the park the opening gambits were out of the way. The game proper, was in
progress. The previously jovial conversation and friendly rivalry had subsided and
now just the occasional mutter could be heard, betraying the seriousness of the situation.
* * *
It really was rather pleasant up there – the air was much clearer, polluted neither
by the ceaseless traffic nor by the petty concerns of those shuffling to and fro
far below. The sky was blue; the sun warm and yellow; the trees leafy and green –
he was almost happy. Up here the world was simple and beautiful in its simplicity.
Almost happy but then, not entirely unhappy – he just was. Even as he enjoyed the
day he felt mocked and betrayed by it: Whilst he wore this suit, worked in this office,
he was trapped; he couldn't just be happy with the natural world around him. He had
to 'achieve.' His appointed destiny was to work, to clinch deals; his happiness was
to be measured in the age of his car, the label in his clothes and the street he
lived in. He must be successful – that's what society told him – and then he would
be happy. It was official. But somewhere there was a half remembered belief that
he should be happy and then he would be successful – but no, that was just silly.
Someone said that Life's a game of chess. He needed to check the rules.
We are no other than a moving row
Of visionary shapes that come and go
Round with this Sun-illumin'd Lantern held
In Midnight by the Master of the Show;
Impotent pieces of the Game he plays
Upon this Chequer-board of Nights and Days;
Hither and thither moves and checks and slays;
And one by one back in the Closet lays.
But there was one rule they'd forgotten: Stale Mate. Here he was, same old daily
routine and it was utterly futile. He was tired. What would be left when he was gone?
What would his legacy be? Why was he even worried about the future? If only he could
relax, make the most of the now. Just have fun. But then the social conditioning
kicked in: it is one's duty to work hard for a successful career! No, it wasn't good
enough. He just found it all so tiresome; boring. That's not to say he NEVER had
fun but these good times seemed scant consolation for the tedium that was so often
his to endure. Then again perhaps the fault was his own. He wasn't known for his
enthusiasm, that was for sure. His life was a dull routine? Well it was about to
It is said that one only gets out of life what one puts in. He must make more effort.
Death, we are told, is the ultimate sacrifice – or to put it another way, the greatest
effort one could make. So the most we can hope for from life is death. A suicide
solution – what a lot we have to look forward to. He knew what he had to do.
* * *
The Old Man shook his head. This had never happened before and as the situation unfolded
before his eyes he could hardly believe what he saw. This was not a game. This was
humiliation. He looked desperately at the board – there was no escape. The Young
Man was smiling, he'd waited a long time for this day. There was nothing more the
Old Man could do. It was time to step down. Sadly he let the weight of his hand topple
the king. Somewhere in the city an unknown man fell to an unnoticed death as the
chess piece fell from the board.
ludus non nisi sanguineus
Unnoticed that is except by Rob. Rob intended to learn from this all too tangible
sign that he had been given. Rob was not going to be another statistic. He was going
to sort this out. Rob resigned and then the hopelessness of his situation really
(continued in Get Knotted)