The crowd in the atrium was growing and now included some uniformed security guys and two Trenton cops. One of the cops was on his two-way, probably calling Morelli to tell him I was involved in yet another disaster. A cameraman and his assistant joined the crowd.
Were on television, I told Pickle.
Pickle looked down, waved at the camera, and everyone cheered.
This is getting too weird, I told Pickle. Im leaving.
You cant leave. If you leave, Ill jump.
I dont care, remember?
Of course you care. Youll be responsible for my death.
Oh no. No, no, no. I wagged my finger at him. That wont work with me. I grew up in the Burg. I was raised Catholic. I know guilt in and out. The first thirty years of my life were ruled by guilt. Not that guilt is an entirely bad thing. But youre not going to lay it on me. Whether you live or die is your choice. I have nothing to do with it. Im not taking responsibility for the state of the pot roast anymore.
Every Friday Im expected for dinner at my parents house. Every Friday my mom makes pot roast. If Im late, the pot roast cooks too long and gets dry, and its all my fault.
And its not my fault!
Of course its your fault. You were late. They were nice enough to make a pot roast for you. Then they were nice enough to hold dinner for you even though it meant ruining the pot roast. Boy, you should learn some manners.
My cell phone rang again. It was my Grandma Mazur. She lives with my mom and dad. She moved in when Grandpa Mazur sailed off in a heaven-bound gravy boat. Youre on television, she said. I was trying to find Judge Judy, and you popped up. They said you were breaking news. Are you trying to rescue that guy on the railing, or are you trying to get him to jump?
In the beginning I was trying to rescue him, I said. But Im starting to change my mind.
I gotta go now, Grandma said. I gotta call Ruth Biablocki and tell her youre on television. Shes always going on about her granddaughter and how shes got that good job at the bank. Well lets see her top this one. Her granddaughter dont get on television!
What are you so depressed about that you want to jump off this balcony? I asked Pickle. Jumping to your death is pretty severe.
My life sucks! My wife left me and took everything, including my clothes and my dog. I got fired from my job and had to go to work in a shoe store. I have no money, so I had to move back home and live with my mother. And I got caught whacking off in a multiplex. Could it possibly get any worse?
You have your health.
I think Im getting a cold. I have a huge oozing cold sore!
My phone rang again.
Cupcake, Morelli said. I dont like finding you in a hotel with another guy.
I looked down and saw Morelli standing next to Lula. Hes a jumper, I told Morelli.
Yeah, Morelli said. I can see that. Whats the story?
He got caught whacking off in the multiplex and doesnt want to go to jail.
He wont get a lot of jail time for that, Morelli said. Maybe a couple weekends or community service. Its not a big deal. Everyone whacks off in t he multiplex.
I relayed the message to Pickle.
Its not just jail, Pickle said. Its me. Im a loser. Morelli was still on the phone. Now what?
Excerpted from Twelve Sharp, copyright (c) 2006, Janet Ivanovich. Reproduced with permission of the publisher, St. Martin's Press. All rights reserved.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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