Everyone stood at the window looking down at Harvey. He seemed to be flying. Harvey held out his arms and let them ruffle like two empty vacuum cleaner bags in the wind. As he moved closer to the earth, his arms took on weight, the air filling up space with his jacket.
It was not enough.
Everyone would have heard the splat if Harvey had not landed in the bushes and if the sound of the wind had not been so powerful twelve stories up. Everyone held on to the window’s edge, not wanting to fall. Everyone was uncertain what to do. No one had arrived at work yet except everyone. Everyone watched and waited. Harvey did not seem to be moving--only his jacket, unfurling in the wind.
Everyone backed away from the window and took out his or her cell phone. But he or she did not call emergency. Harvey had jumped voluntarily, as if he knew the result would not be death and he was now waiting below for everyone to come to him.
At the bushes, everyone found the jacket just as he or she had seen it from the office above--wanting to take off, like a bird whose boneless wings were too shapeless to effect flight.
“Harvey,” everyone called, but no one called back.
Everyone dialed emergency.
The jacket held on to a twig, pleading for someone to recover it before it was stolen by the wind.
“My coworker,” everyone said into the phone, “he jumped.” Everyone felt as if he or she had stood at the bushes looking at the jacket before. Everyone crawled into the shrubs. Perhaps, Harvey had slipped into them.
Everyone gave his or her location to the emergency operator.
“Is he alive?” the operator asked.
“I don’t know,” everyone said. “I can’t find him.”
The bushes held all the city’s trash of the past two hundred years: Styrofoam cups and Popsi Cola cans, giant chocolate bar wrappers and a program from the local playhouse for its updated production of a medieval play, a copy of Lestie’s Illustrated Newspaper and a rusting horseshoe.
Everyone was confused. So was the emergency operator.
Everyone stood up. He or she was at the center of the bushes, his or her head above them posing like a bowling ball on the top shelf at a bowling alley. The jacket was beside him or her, still gripping the twig. People everyone knew were entering the building--Alice and Sam, a person in a plaid jacket not unlike the one beside everyone in the bushes. Everyone turned to look at the jacket again.
It was gone.
Above everyone, the jacket floated. It appeared to be flying, up, up, up.
Everyone wants you to read the book on which he or she is working, a novel everyone is writing in order to find the meaning of life, with which everyone’s spouse ran off. But everyone has to finish the novel before everyone can know where the novel begins. In the meantime, there are all these distractions, such as the twelfth-floor window at the office building where everyone works out of which people or maybe just one person keeps jumping or falling--everyone isn’t sure--or everyone’s sexy coworker Sam, whom everyone is struggling valiantly against to keep from becoming a paramour. It’s kind of pitiful, actually, the way everyone keeps begging you to read, sending you e-mails, dropping it into conversation (“I have a book, you know?”), posting links to it on social-networking sites. Everyone figures that if he or she begs enough, you will break down and try it. Everyone is like a dog that way, watching you eat your dinner. The way you handle the dog is to push it away from the table, lock it outside the room. Sometimes, of course, you hand the dog a bite, an inch-sized bit of beef, and that is all everyone is asking for--a bite, that you read just the first line of his or her book. The problem is that you know everyone too well. If you read one line, everyone will beg you to read another. Just one more.
To start from the beginning of the novel, go here.