Serial Sunday: “The Weight of Light”

categories: Cocktail Hour


[I know it’s not Sunday.  I was busy Sunday.  But today we inaugurate a new feature–an ongoing story offered 500 words at a time and written on the fly, so to speak.  Guarantee: I will never be more than one episode ahead of you.  I’m hoping it’ll come out unlike anything I’ve ever written, and won’t kill me.   And so, without further ado, episode one of “A Heavy Weight,” which I don’t know where it’s going.]


The Weight of Light

episode one

A Heavy Weight

Ted rushed up the stairs from the A-train at Columbus Circle with the crowd, a shuffling mass of humanity heading for work, as he was.  Ahead of him a man in a suit slipped and stumbled, caught himself, stood again, then fell.  The crowds just coursed around him, but Ted stopped.  The poor guy’s face was right on the cold cement and hardened gum and spittle.

“I’m all right,” the man said.

“You’re not,” Ted said.

“I’m not,” the man said.

“You’ve fallen.”

“Call Ellen, please,” the man said.  And his eye rolled back.

“Yes,” said Ted.  He cradled the man’s cheek off the cement in one hand as everyone else in the world hurried up the stairs past them, fished his phone out of his front jacket pocket with the other, placed it on the step, unlocked it with an awkward finger, then punched the right buttons: 9-1-1.  He touched speaker and the ringing seemed very loud.  A Hispanic voice, female, said, “What is the nature of your emergency?”

And Ted, always efficient, answered every question as the crowd from his train dwindled.  The stairs were almost empty now, and two more people had stopped, a black woman in a dashiki and a subway worker with a first-aid kit.  The woman murmured kindly to the victim, took over the cradling of his head.  The worker, admirably prepared, admirably trained, opened the kit, prepared a syringe, gave the guy a shot right in the neck, then helped Ted turn him on his back, began a clumsy administration of CPR.  The woman murmured in prayer; the worker pumped the victim’s chest; Ted held the victim’s legs up high per instructions.  Very nice shoes.

Surprisingly quickly, the EMTs were there, a tall bespectacled fellow in a St. Vincent’s jacket and a short woman dressed the same, but with a bright, leafy tattoo climbing her neck.  The woman took over the chest compressions from the worker as the tall EMT administered oxygen and thanked them all.  Ted kept holding the guy’s feet even as the woman in the dashiki removed the beautiful shoes.  A third EMT brought a stretcher down, and he and the tall fellow loaded the victim on it and carried him up the stairs while their colleague kept up her dogged work.  The subway worker followed them.  The black woman hugged Ted and he hugged her back, silently.  She smelled of cooking.  “Lord Jesus, help him,” she said.  She patted Ted’s shoulders, then handed him the guy’s shoes.  Probably they’d cost two thousand dollars: Ferrangamo.

The woman bustled down the steps to the squealing of a train arriving.  Ted climbed out into the sunshine, carrying the shoes.  The ambulance had already pulled out.  No sign of the subway worker.  He held the shoes and watched a long time.  And then he simply walked to his new office, all the new faces, all the pleasant smiles, found his desk over the gallery floor, put the shoes in one of the empty drawers in his desk, opened yesterday’s file on his huge new I-Mac, stared at the meaningless words and images and icons a long time, found himself weeping copiously, no one to tell.

He’d have to find Ellen.

  1. Cynthia writes:

    great story I like it

  2. Susanna writes:
  3. Susan Pearsall writes:

    You pulled me right in! Now, I can’t wait to read what happens next. This is a great idea– reviving serial fiction. Keep it coming, Bill. Also, many congrats on the bound copy of “LIfe Among Giants.” Looking forward to buying one and having it autographed next month.