The Broken Windows Theory – A Short Story

Hello, dear internet! The following short story is an experimental piece I wrote as a challenge to see if I could create a story without using traditional scenes. The entirety of the “story” is told through witness reports and a collection of e-mails. There is no action, the characters never interact directly, and the protagonist is dead. Enjoy!


The Broken Windows Theory

The Official Report
42-year old man plummets to death after falling from seven-story commercial building, impacting with car parked below. Police are investigating.


Jeff Geoffrey: Witness; Suspect

Hell, I’ve never met the guy before yesterday and you’re asking me if I had something against him? Well if I didn’t before, I sure as hell do now. The asshole landed on my brand new Roadster. If he were still alive, I’d sue his ass. Smashed the thing to fucking pieces. Man, it was electric. Does my insurance even cover this shit?

But yeah, so here’s what happened, and I swear to God this is the honest truth and let Him strike me down if I am lying to you right now. The guy’s secretary called me in for an interview, which I didn’t even apply for cause they know I’m the shit, right? They knew just from my name that I was the man for the job. And so I park my beautiful brand new shiny silver 2012 Tesla Roadster and go inside. This guy’s little architect firm is on the seventh floor so I walk all the way up, because I can’t find the goddamned elevator, and I mosey on over to the “Conference Room,” which takes forever to find, by the way, because nobody labels the goddamned rooms, and I knock and knock and he doesn’t answer so I knock again and finally he’s like, “come in!”

So I walk right on in and this guy is leaning out the window, with his arms outstretched. And he’s saying, wait, what kind of window? Damn, I don’t know, like those god-awful little ones with those little hinges on the top part, so you can only open them a little bit, you know, so you don’t fall out and smash up somebody’s brand new shiny 2012 Roadster. But yeah, so here’s the thing, he’s reaching out the window, which looks real funny, and he’s saying, “it’s so beautiful! It’s amazing!” and so I walk over and look out the window and I see he’s looking at my car and I’m like, fuck yeah that thing is beautiful, she’s a goddamned Roadster. And the guy’s leaning further and further and then suddenly it’s like, bam! The whole window, like the frame and all that shit, just snaps and falls right on out, and this guy falls right on out with it, and I’m watching and I’m like, damn, that guy just fell on my Roadster and my old man’s gonna kill me.

So like I said, sure I guess you could say I killed him with my super amazing beautiful car, but it’s not like I pushed him, and I’m sure as hell not the one who messed with that shitty-ass window. You wanna talk to someone, you talk to the guy I’m supposed to be replacing, cause he’s the one who’s pissed.


Phil Philips: Architect; Suspect

Okay, let me get this straight. You, an intelligent, educated individual, are under the impression that I, a remarkably sane and logical man, have killed my former boss, and that I have accomplished this by sneaking into the building and, with my expert window-breaking and situational awareness skills, proficiently crafted a situation where Gilbert would lean out of the exact window I had broken, with just the right amount of force, when he’s never even gone near a window before, let alone leaned out of one.

Do I need to explain why this is completely and utterly asinine? Well, okay, for starters, Gilbert is hardcore agoraphobic. He slept in his office, for Chrissakes! I am fairly confident that he never went home, and had been washing his hair in the men’s room.

I know this sounds a little strange, and believe me, it sounds strange to say it, but it’s just one of those things you get used to. Like a lazy eye, or a limp. Sure, he would cover all the windows in his office with blueprints and floor plans so he would never have to look outside, and he would have Francine order him his meals three times a day, and sure he had extra pairs of suits hanging on the door knob or slung over the back of his chair, but that was just Gilbert being Gilbert. It was never really a problem, you know. I mean, until Francine got married.

Okay, so I’m going to have to explain this a bit. Gilbert’s full name is “Gilbert Gilbertson” and my full name is “Phil Philips” and Francine’s name was “Francine Francis.” Starting to notice a pattern here? Gilbert loves it when your first name and your last name are the same; he gets off on that sort of thing.

But back to what I was saying. Francine had just gotten married, and so she was now “Francine Walker.” Gilbert threw a fit. He was saying, “you can’t work here with a name like that” and “you’d better change it back before I fire your ass!” I tried to calm him down; I told him, hey, sometimes things change. You have to move on. But Gilbert didn’t know how to move on. He was stuck, you know? I was being perfectly reasonable and Gilbert just continued to throw his little temper tantrum and finally he just exploded and told me not to come back anymore if I was going to keep “mouthing off.” So I went home.
No, I wasn’t “fired.” It was a mutual agreement. Was I upset? No. I mean, of course I was a little miffed about the whole ordeal, I mean, I’m a damn good architect. I practically built this company; Gilbert owes me. But would I kill him over it? No, of course not. I mean, sure I took a couple of staplers home with me, but that’s all. I mean, who doesn’t?

Anyways, if you want to talk to someone, you should talk to Francine. He always had a thing for her, and it wouldn’t be completely against reason to assume that she just couldn’t deal with it anymore.


Francine Walker: Secretary; Suspect

Yes, yes, yes it was me! I admit it! I killed Gilbert. It was all my fault! Oh God, I’m so sorry Gilbert. So so sorry. Oh God. Oh God, oh God, oh God, okay, okay, okay, here’s what happened.

I pulled into the parking lot yesterday at precisely 8:43 because it takes exactly seven minutes to park my car and walk to my desk, at which point it would be 8:50 and I would be ten minutes early for work which is punctually speaking, perfect. But yesterday some hotshot had parked in my spot, as if he owned the place, as if he could just park wherever he pleased because some people just don’t respect things like assigned parking stalls.

So then of course I had to park down the street or else I’d have to park in someone else’s assigned parking stall, and then they would have to park in someone else’s, and so on and so on and it would just be a parking nightmare. Then, of course, I was twenty-one minutes late when I got to my desk and missed a very important phone call from Robert, our janitor, about a certain defective window he had noticed last night. By the time I heard the voicemail and had filled out the necessary paperwork it was too late and Gilbert was already falling out the window and smashing up that hotshot’s car, which, if I may be so bold, is what I like to call karma. But of course Gilbert didn’t deserve that and had I made it to my desk on time and heard the message I would have right away filled out the necessary paperwork and personally handed it to Gilbert to be filed away in the proper filing cabinet, and he would have read the report and would have said, “oh Francine, it’s a good thing you showed this to me because I was about to stand awfully close that that very window! Oh, Francine, you’ve saved my life!”

And I know, I know, I know this is my fault because the other day I said, you know Gilbert, you know, you know going outside never killed anybody. And of course the first time he goes outside in years and he’s falling out the window. He was outside for maybe four seconds and then he was dead. How could this not be my fault, after saying a thing like that? But, you know, somebody had to say it, because Gilbert, he was just wasting his whole life away.

He really was a very funny man, and he used to get so shy when I brought him his reports and it was really very cute. He would say, “Oh Francine, I was wondering, if maybe you’d like to have coffee with me today,” and we would sit in his office together and drink coffee and really, it was really very sweet. But it couldn’t ever go any further than that and I would say, oh Gilbert, how could we ever be together if you won’t go outside? Would we build a movie theatre here in the office, would we walk down the hallway and throw shredded safety reports instead of confetti? Would we raise our children in the copy room? It was impossible, statistically speaking, and Gilbert refused to budge and so I found somebody else and Gilbert never even knew until I had to change my name.

He was really very stubborn about names, and it made things very hard, very hard especially when we needed to hire somebody new, because I would find the perfect applicant but Gilbert would say, “oh, but I don’t like their name. Maybe see if they could change it.” Isn’t that silly? See, he had a funny name and I suppose he wanted everybody else to have a funny name like him so he could create his own funny little world, where he never ever had to leave.

But I told him, I said he couldn’t live in Gilbert Gilbertson Land forever and that the world really is very beautiful outside, if only he’d take one teeny tiny step out into it, and so everything is really all my fault, unless, of course, you’re speaking in a legal sense, in which case I would direct you to speak with our janitor, because he did not fill out the necessary paperwork that one is obligated to fill out upon the discovery of a defective window and really, really I believe that is negligence.


Robert Robertson: Janitor

Why didn’t I fill out the necessary paperwork? Let me ask you something, because clearly you’re the expert on filling out necessary paperwork. So please tell me, in your expert opinion, how do you think I should go about completing the necessary paperwork, when the necessary paperwork is nowhere to be found?

It wasn’t just the papers that were missing, but all the pens and pencils and staplers, and everything that would in any way assist me in my necessary paperwork filling-out duties. In fact, the whole goddamned filing cabinet was gone. I figured they were renovating, because all the doorplates were missing too, and they hadn’t bothered to let me know.

So I called in bright and early, but of course nobody answered because nobody cares about what Robert has to say, and so I left a message instead. Honestly, you’re all lucky I even noticed the window was busted. Not everyone would notice something like that.The sealant had worn away and the frame had come loose. You’re lucky I even said anything at all, so don’t try to say I didn’t do my job.

Why didn’t I wake up Mr. Gilbertson? Because I’m not an idiot, that’s why. That man wasn’t quite right. He had a few screws loose. And by “a few,” I mean all of them. Sometimes I would hear him. He would be talking to himself. Talking to those little model house things. He’d say things like, “oh Margaret, I built this house just for you and your beautiful family. It’s next to the park so you can take your kids out to play.” Who the hell is Margaret? There is no Margaret. These weren’t real people, you understand. He made up little people with little families who lived normal little lives, and he’d pretend like he was building houses for them.

Of course I said something, but who wants to listen to Robert? Nobody, that’s who. I told Miss Francis and all she says is, “oh that’s just Gilbert.” And I tell Mr. Philips and he says, “oh, yeah, Gilbert is such a goddamned ass.” What am I supposed to do? I’m a janitor, not a psychologist.

But I’ll tell you one thing. Mr. Gilbertson, despite being a basket case, had an amazing attention to detail. I’ve seen him fiddling with his drawings and his models for hours and hours until everything was all spic and span and perfect. I mean, beyond perfect. Forgive my skepticism, but I’m finding it hard to believe that the man didn’t notice the broken window himself. I mean, if you’re going to talk to anyone, you’re going to have to talk to Mr. Gilbertson. I mean, of course, if he wasn’t dead.


E-Mail Records: Gilbert Gilbertson & Others; Possible Evidence

Date: Fri, 02 Aug 2013 18:04:15
From: “Gilbert Gilbertson” <>
To: “Phil Philips” <>
Subject: The Johnson Project

Hi Phil,

Just wanted to say thanks for taking over the Johnson Project for me. I know you’ve already got a lot on your plate right now. I appreciate it.



Date: Fri, 02 Aug 2013 18:32:11
From: “Phil Philips” <>
To: “Gilbert Gilbertson”
Subject: RE: The Johnson Project

Hey G-Man,

Don’t worry about it! We’ve all got our strengths. You just keep doing what you’re doing, and if things ever get out of hand again, I’m here for you. Hey, it’s my job after all. It would be unreasonable not to.

The Philinator


Date: Mon, 05 Aug 2013 12:16:48
From: “Phil Philips” <>
To: “Gilbert Gilbertson”
Subject: The Young Project


I just got off the phone with the Youngs. They want to meet in person to go over the new housing development plans for Gateway. But hey, don’t worry about a thing man. I’m pretty busy, but I’m sure I can squeeze this one in too.

I’ve got your back,
Fantastic Phil


Date: Mon, 05 Aug 2013 12:22:24
From: “Gilbert Gilbertson” <>
To: “Francine Francis” <>
Subject: A Minor Concern

Lady Franhawk,

I need to speak to you about a minor concern. Could you meet me in my office?

Oh, and bring coffee.

Grateful Gilbert


Date: Tues, 06 Aug 2013 17:14:34
From: “Gilbert Gilbertson” <>
To: “Phil Philips” <>
Subject: A New Client

Hey Freaky Phil,

I’ve picked up a new client today. Her name is Margaret Clemmings. She’s a single mother with two kids, but apparently her husband was pretty loaded. She wants a brand new custom house. Three stories. Next to a park and school, ideally.

Just giving you a heads up. She may contact you. Here’s her e-mail:

Glorious G


Date: Wed, 07 Aug 2013 09:03:45
To: “Phil Philips” <>
Subject: Delivery Status Notification (Failure)

Delivery to the following recipients failed:

–Forwarded Message Attachment–
Date: Wed, 07 Aug 2013 09:03:09
From: “Phil Philips” <>
To: “Margaret Clemmings” <>
Subject: A Small Change

Good Morning,

This is Phil Phillips from GG Architects. I am just writing to let you know that I will be taking over for Gilbert in regards to your project. Please direct all communication and files to this address.

Thank you very much, and I apologize for any inconvenience.


Date: Wed, 07 Aug 2013 09:12:34
From: “Francine Francis” <>
To: “Gilbert Gilbertson” <>
Subject: Name Change Request


I am requesting a name change for all company profiles and e-mail accounts. Please change to “Francine Walker” instead of “Francine Francis”.

Thank you dear,


Date: Wed, 07 Aug 2013 09:14:59
From: “Gilbert Gilbertson” <>
To: “Francine Francis” <>
Subject: RE: Name Change Request


My office.



Date: Wed, 07 Aug 2013 11:43:01
From: “Gilbert Gilbertson” <>
To: “Francine Francis” <>; “Phil Philips” <>
Subject: Emergency Holiday

We are having an emergency holiday today! Everyone go home.


Date: Thurs, 08 Aug 2013 08:52:51
From: “Francine Walker” <>
To: “Gilbert Gilbertson” <>
Subject: Sorry

Hey hun,

I know you’re upset sweetycakes. I probably should have told you earlier. I just didn’t want to disrupt your work. I know things have been stressful for you lately.

But hey, I’m always up for a coffee break!



Date: Thurs, 08 Aug 2013 09:43:07
From: “Phil Philips” <>
To: “Gilbert Gilbertson”
Subject: Wasssuup

Hey G-String,

Sorry about Francine, buddy. That is some crazy shit. Weren’t you guys dating? WTF?? She’s obviously a slut. You can do better. Hell, why is she even working here still?? I’d fire her ass.

I mean, what a crazy bitch! She was totally leading you on. Coffee dates in your office? Really? And haven’t you been saying you’d like to try getting out more? Doing shit for yourself? But she’s all like, oh I’ll take care of that shit for you. I bet she wanted to keep you trapped here while she’s out sleeping around and marrying whoever the hell she feels like. She’s an evil manipulative bitch!

Think about it,
Your Buddy Phil


Date: Thurs, 08 Aug 2013 09:47:12
To: “Phil Philips” <>
Subject: Delivery Status Notification (Failure)

Delivery to the following recipients failed:

–Forwarded Message Attachment–
Date: Wed, 07 Aug 2013 09:15:21
From: “Phil Philips” <>
To: “Margaret Clemmings” <>
Subject: A Small Change

Hello Margaret,

Please respond if you get this message. There seems to be some issues with our e-mail system.

Thank you,


Date: Thurs, 08 Aug 2013 09:50:43
To: “Phil Philips” <>
Subject: Delivery Status Notification (Failure)

Delivery to the following recipients failed:

–Forwarded Message Attachment–
Date: Wed, 07 Aug 2013 09:15:21
From: “Phil Philips” <>
To: “Margaret Clemmings” <>

Subject: WTF



Date: Thurs, 08 Aug 2013 09:55:03
To: “Phil Philips” <>
Subject: Delivery Status Notification (Failure)

Delivery to the following recipients failed:

–Forwarded Message Attachment–
Date: Wed, 07 Aug 2013 09:15:21
From: “Phil Philips” <>
To: “Francine Francis” <>
Subject: Security Issue

Hey Francine,

It appears that one of our clients sent us an infected AutoCAD file. All e-mails from the past three days need to be deleted from the ENTIRE network.

Also DO NOT open any of the e-mails. It may allow the virus to spread further.

Thank you,


Date: Thurs, 08 Aug 2013 11:12:35
From: “Gilbert Gilbertson” <>
To: “Phil Philips” <>
Subject: RE: Wasssuup

Phil, you’re fired.


Date: Thurs, 08 Aug 2013 15:32:09
From: “Gilbert Gilbertson” <>
To: “Francine Walker” <>
Subject: Replacement


The Philinator is out. Our super team needs a new hero.

I wonder if this is my fault? I mean, yeah he was stealing my clients and being a complete jackass, but maybe that was my fault too. He really was a damned good architect. We used to be like, Batman and Robin back in the day. Gilbert Gilbertson and Phil Philips – the amazing house designing duo! Now it’s like I’m Superman and he’s a lump of kryptonite. Or something.

Would this still have happened if I was normal??

Would you still have gotten married?

You don’t have to answer that. Anyways, I need a new sidekick.


Date: Fri, 09 Aug 2013 03:41:43
From: “Gilbert Gilbertson” <>
To: “Robert Robertson” <>
Subject: Dirty Windows

Good Evening Sir Robert,

Sorry to bother you. I don’t mean to be fussy. I just wanted to let you know that some of the windows in the Conference Room are a little dirty. Specifically, the third window on the bottom row along the east wall, and the two windows directly in the center of the south wall.

If you could find time to clean them, that would be great. It’s hard to see outside.

Thank you,


Date: Mon, 12 Aug 2013 13:11:46
From: “Francine Walker” <>
To: “Gilbert Gilbertson” <>
Subject: RE: Replacement

Hey Gillybean,

I think I’ve found someone you’ll like. Sorry it took so long. I’ve been having a hard time finding some of the paperwork. Could you look into that? Nothing is where it is supposed to be.

Anyways, I’ve called him in for an interview. I’ve asked him to come in tomorrow. Hopefully he accepts.

Thank you,
Frilly Fran


Date: Mon, 12 Aug 2013 17:26:48
From: “Jeff Geoffrey” <>
To: “Francine Walker” <>
Subject: RE: Job Opportunity

I am so the man for the job! You tell your boss to look out for me! He’ll know me when he sees me. I’ll be driving my 2012 Tesla Roadster, baby! And man, is it beautiful!

Jeff The Man


The Official Statement
Cause of death ruled to be accidental. General neglect likely a factor.


About Jessi

I love to create. I love to take things, break them apart, and remake them into something that they were never meant to be. Sometimes I use words; sometimes I don't. My blog is devoted to exploring storytelling in its various forms - from traditional, to experimental - and how creativity and storytelling can persist in everyday life. I am also fascinated by video gaming as a mixed-media art form, and would love to eventually develop my own indie game. I love to push the boundaries of what a "story" or a "game" can be. Twitter - @JessiTypesStuff
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2 Responses to The Broken Windows Theory – A Short Story

  1. This rocked 🙂 lots of character in these funny little characters. 🙂 and a truly cool and fresh way to tell a story! Respect

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jessi says:

      Hey Nate! Thank you for reading! (You are officially the coolest game developer ever.) And thank you for your comments; this story was really fun to write so I hope it was fun to read, too ^-^


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