In March of 2009, 21 students in my online Digital Storytelling class at Empire State College created a collective story on Twitter. Here are the results.
Their title, post project: Our Collective Story of Gerard, Francesca, Jimmy, Paul and Don Phillip
On a cold spring day, with the kind of strong breeze that sends shivers down your spine. Sun rays peeking out b’twn clouds
It was a dark and stormy night.
TV just went out. Did he forget to pay cable, who cares? The moonless sky seems out of place – must of went down before 12
Gerard kicked a couple of beer caps out of his path as he made his way to the fridge for another.
The old wooden floor creaked in annoyance adding to his confusion over missing cable and moon. He yanked on ancient fridge-
it seemed stuck shut – he tugged again with more effort, the vacuum holding the door shut released, it slowly swung open
The glare from the one bare bulb that lit the inside made him wince as he reached past the week old Chinese.
his screen, Blank. Morning? Rays dart in past shades. Was there something there last night? Did something need to be done…
Days and nights blend together, no beginning, no end. Something had to give. Would it be today?
He must be trying to tell me something, do I need to know it today? Surely, I rather wait for the call from Gerard.
he slammed the fridge door shut, frustrated at being out of beer. He began pacing the room, impatiently awaiting the call
frustrated at being out of beer. He began pacing the room, impatiently awaiting the call. The Phone rang. It was Gerald.
He lights a cigarette. Whenever he talked on the phone he smoked. Not seeing an ashtray he flicked the ashes into an empty
can. Gerald had bad news. Infuriated, he crushed and threw his Budweiser against the wall. The deal fell through.
What do you mean! I tried not to sound let down – it was obvious. Did they give you a reason, after all that work?
Since dinner at Tang’s Pavilion last week, I had been hoping to escape from here. No deal Francesca and I are …
booked on the next flight out of here. I know that this was a plot against me. A new venture awaits me in..
Miami. I have a few contacts that owe me, I’m sure I can call in a favor or two. I’ll have to look up Jimmy, I haven’t..
…seen him in years and he owes me big time. Hope he’s not put off by the legality of things.
Although, even if he is, I’ll be sure to remind him of Vegas in ’97. Now where are my keys I need to pick up Francesca.
After much time searching, I finally found the keys exactly where I left them; on the table underneath my….
wallet. We must go now! I can’t risk him changing his mind. This opportunity is……
not to be passed up. Oh how I have missed her. I haven’t seen Francesca since …
Gryffindor coffee mug. Hmmm I wonder who turned it over, I could have sworn there was still coffee in it. It must be . .
…my mind playing tricks on me again. Too much stress, too little sleep can…
trying to tell me something. I distinctly remember a lingering coffee scent on her when we last parted.
that argument yesterday, when she knocked over the coffee mug on my tax forms. I need to sleep, the stress of missing her
has me wide eyed. I need to lay off the java!
too bad it’s so darn good and Francesca always buys the coffee in bulk so the kitchen cabinets are always stocked
2 hours ’til flight time. Gerard tossed the mug in the sink, grabbed his keys and headed out the door.
Where is Francesca? Did you leave her behind? You can’t do that. Her condition will only get worse and you will be to blame
She is here with me now. We are about to board the plane for Miami. Her condition causes me to…..
…drink even more. She’s pathetic with her mannerism. Perhaps it’s being an “artist” as she describes herself…
His G1 buzzes, a new message. His EYES widen in nervousness – “G & F coming, not since ’97, whoa that ruled a JAG to..”
memories, wow WE were there together. Do you remember Francesca, the way it was?
years you will even want more of this emotional pain?
He sat motionless, mind reeling. He had to pull himself together.. doing too much at once was beginning to confuse him.
me over. Night falls….
and darkness envelopes the city. As I wait for the cash I realize I have yet to secure a place to stay or food to…
and OF COURSE, a storm breaks in, what luck? I need to stop being so negative. Where’s that phone, I’m calling again…
Swell the storm is interfering with my cell service, now there’s no funds, food, refuge or communication, I should never
have gotten myself into this mess to begin with. I am wet, broke and Francesca is in tears. We’ll have to wait out the…
the storm. We have no money. Didn’t get Mrs. McKinley’s account, Francesa’s ex husband is rich. Kidnap her for ransom? Or..
“..we just hang here at the taxi stand and wait for Jimmy. I’m calling in part 1 of that debt.” Gerard scowled, wet & angry
He may not put up the ransom! We may be forced to…
pause, ponder, think it out… Where is this going?
resort to desperate measures here, and I’d rather not. But what now? What if Jimmy’s even in on the whole thing?
“Looks like we’ll find out.” Francesca pointed at Jimmy’s approaching Mercedes. Looks like Jimmy had moved up in the world.
It was possible they’d have to resort to desperate measures. What if Jimmy was in on the whole thing?
Francesca and Gerard sat in back, as I got in the car, I saw the look on Jimmy’s face, he was scared, he’s not in on it…
either way, I am glad I brought along my lil ceramic Glock 9mm insurance policy. Then we will see who want to play with
Jimmy’s nervousness was a relief. Or a better feeling than if he’d been overly confident – as if on the other side.
Still, I’m glad I have my Glock. Jimmy can be slick at times.
As Jimmy got out of his Mercedes, I noticed the butt end of a gun sticking out of his coat. Looks like he came prepared.
Jimmy pulled the Mercedes away from the curb and onto the highway.
we pulled off the first exit and took a side road which led down an abandoned path to a deserted beach. The waves crashed..
rhythmically against the rocks. The tide was coming in and the salty sweet smell of the sea permeated the air
Jimmy and walked along the shoreline while Gerard and Francesca stayed behind. I asked him, “Who did this to me, Jimmy?”
“It’s hard to be sure, but I don’t see your partner here as worried as you are. I mean, where is Paul anyway?”
I didn’t like the tone of his question. Something was off, not quite right.
I sensed deceit all around me. I was confused. A giant wave came crashing inward and before I knew it…
Francesca was having a crisis right there on the back seat. She changed so much since ’97, she became permeable we have…
no time for this now, Jimmy has confronted me and she is so unstable. Gerard needs to step up and calm her down!
Jimmy shatters my thoughts and barks, “So where is Paul and does he know Gerald is in town with….”?
Francesca. Why did that bitch go back to the car anyway? We have business to attend to here. Gerard do something with her
What do you expect me to do, just take out my 9mm!? We’ve long past those days. She’s been doing this too long. Oh, I need
to find her high dose sleeping pills. The pills knock her out for hours. We need to talk business before
we meet with Don Philip. So Pills, 9mm, dig a hole and dump her in it, I don’t care what you do just shut her the hell up.
Gerard took his advice and taking Francesca by the waist guided her toward the beach house. She could use some sleep.
Frankly, we all could. Maybe then we could figure out how the hell we ended up
here. Once inside Gerard started to think differently. Could he really get away with doing her in and forgetting about
here. “We are running out of time. We only have a few days to redeem ourselves”, said Jimmy.
Paul was my college roommate, after school I helped him out of a jam, Paul was a scammer, I swore that was it, but somehow
..here I was thinking of pulling a job with him again. Was I crazy? Gerard looked at Francesca’s sleeping form and sighed.
She is so beautiful. Guilt began to settle within him. Was he solely responsible for her condition or was it …
all the drugs she used to take. She took experimentation to a whole ‘nother level…hallucenigens. Was she
still getting high, or did the years struggling to kick the habit finally pay off. It hard to tell but I certainly hope..
even aware of the “role” she played in this twisted mess. Was it better
to allow her to escape reality (it certainly was easier), or should I have
have stayed with her and helped her to get the help she really needed? Maybe I’m just as self absorbed as those
to blame those blokes she hangs out with? Maybe it isn’t her who is a mess, maybe it is me. Afterall look at this bloody
“Mr. Philip, I‘ve know you for years now. Trust me don’t go alone” – Harold is right, he has seen me through some tough…
T-shirt and these ragged jeans. Man, I can’t remember when I had a nice suit hanging in my closest. Well, at lease there is
Meeting Monday w/ rich Mr. Philip. My, no OUR golden parachute. No more on the lamb… D&G threads in the closet, 3 squares..
a day. Maybe even some of good cigars. But, tonight I just really want to
look ahead and have hope for a better future. I want to be there for Francesca and
and my family. Wow, like the frog in pot of hot water, slowly boiling to death, that’s prob. why I never noticed how fast
our lives were spiraling out of control. Now all of our eggs are in this one basket, we have this one chance to
illicit and corrupt as it may be, to turn the tides and enjoy a better way of living. Hopefully all will go as planned and
someday soon this will all just be a bad memory.
Jimmy thought to himself. They forget Don Philip was a Marielito exiles who would quickly cut them into tiny pieces for fail
for failing to complies with the rules. He knew he might find himself in more trouble. What was left to cash in? The book
The book has already been thrown out and no one here is playing by the rules and who gives a *#@*. It is now time to
move on and follow our plan regardless of the consequences. The next step will be to…
Figure out a plan to acquire some money, and fast. Francesca would be awake soon, and quite possibly flying off the handle.
Will she be willing to acquire cash at any cost regardless of any potential legal or moral conflicts she has? We shall..
We Shall see, if she flies off the handle again . . . Gerard looked at his Glock then at the sleeping Francesca. If it must
happen, I will tie her up until it is all over. Whatever gets the job done so we can put this all in the past.
Someday she will understand. I will MAKE her understand. I am doing this for her, for us……
Then I can take Francesca home and we can forget we were ever in this god awful place. Gerard left to find Jimmy.
Gerard walked down the steps to the beach to find Paul arguing with Jimmy, as Jimmy turned toward Gerard, Paul drew his gun
“Get out of here Ger,” Paul said, but as he turned Jimmy snatched the gun. A shot fired, blood splattered. Who was hit?
Nooooo Screamed Gerard, It was Francesca, she had woken up and was following behind Gerard without his knowledge. Gerard
…turned to see Francesca, her hands over her mouth, covering a silent scream. The gun had misfired, Paul’s hand hung limp
Everyone turned and stared in Paul’s direction, momentarily shocked into speechlessness given the sudden turn of events.
Within a moments time, Paul rushed Gerard, clearly blaming him for what transpired. Francesca continued to bleed from…
her shoulder. As Paul rushed Gerard, Jimmy was able to trip Paul to the ground and kick his gun out of reach. Gerard knelt
…and leaning over Paul grabbed him by the neck.
“It was you” Gerard exclaimed, “the entire time!” Gerard’s hands steadily closed tighter and tighter around the stunned…
Paul. He choked him harder and harder and as Paul gasped for air, he suddenly stopped. “What am I doing,” he said. Then
Gerard he moved away from Paul who was still struggling for breath. Gerard’s hands were bright red and trembling as
he stared at them and then at Paul. However, Gerard quickly realized he had given in to his anger so quickly that
he forgotten Francesca. Gerard frantically turned around to see Francesca bleeding heavily from the shoulder wound and
She was awake, and alert. “Why didn’t I know who you are? I thought I knew you and now I know that you
“You, never stopped the gambling. That’s what the money is about? I could’ve, might die out here over a game?” She yelled
“you are the reason for my anxiety !! All this chaos, corruption and blood because of your ugly habit. I will…..”
never forgive you!. All this time, I felt guilty about what I was doing to YOU; I thought I was the one responsible for…
never be able to escape this tragic path until I either sever ties with you or kill you. Which would you prefer?”. She then
“our messed up relationship. Gerard, how did we end up like this?” Francesca swallowed hard as she grasped her shoulder.
Gerard went to comfort her, and check her wound. She pulled away. Barely audible he said, “I am so sorry” What was I to do
? We both know you’re unpredictable and that I had a bit of an addiction, we were going to work on these things together!
It’s never too late Francesca….you are my life! We learn from our mistakes. We must forgive each other and…..
find a way to get through this. It wouldn’t be the first time,” he said with a pleading smile. He didn’t want to lose her.
But he didn’t know how to change. He didn’t know how to fight for his life back not only for her, but himself. What was he
to do, he was losing her and once she found out he owed Don Philip a cool half million, what would happen then. Don Philip
“We can sell the house” Gerard pleaded; I don’t need it without you. Then we’ll go to the reunion concert and start over
. Sirens could be heard approaching from the west. Had someone reported the sound of gunfire? Everyone…
looked around trying to figure out the next move. They all realized that they better figure it out quick because
the sirens were getting louder and closer by the second. A look of desperation crossed Francesca’s and Gerard’s faces as
they looked at each other. Gerard understood that no explanations or excuses could cover up a bleeding gunshot wound.
I could run and get away. I would never see her again. NEVER, they will take her to the hospital. She won’t talk but she..
might die, thought Gerard. “Is life worth living without her?” Too late? 2 EMTs already running towards them with a ..
backboard and their bags. Besides Paul did the shooting at least we will get rid of him. There’s three witnesses to that but
I think we should get out of here quick and catch up with her later…she won’t get arrested and won’t rat on us…we…
better get out of here swiftly and leave them both figure it out. After all, Paul messed up and Francesca forced me to…
get involved in all of this. Whether this was the truth or not he was trying to decide in his head. He was brought back to
the many times he was betrayed by Paul and couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of anger. He wanted vengeance….
but he also wanted everything to go back to normal. Paul would surely be headed to jail after this fiasco, and Francesca..
…would bipolarize my world again. I have to escape this all.” Gerard closed his eyes and let Jimmy drive them away from
the scene of the crime, a sense of relief washing over him despite the extremely high speed at which they were traveling.
They turned the bend on the winding road and suddenly the veered out of control. Gerald yelled…..
“@#($*^% you idiot, you speed past a cop …” the police cars barricade the road. Guardrail approaching, what could we do…
We could give up to the police or we could take our chances, go over the guardrail – hopefully live and get away from
them…so that’s what we did, but we didn’t make it far…
before needing gas. Jimmy is so stingy, he never fills up the tank, damn it. I better get out and run on my own. Fast!
Jimmy seemed to know what he was thinking, and pulled a knife from his pocket. “Don’t forget, it’s just you and me now.”