The Weight

The Weight

A Story by kickstart gal

Memories live with us, even when we are living around them.




The Weight

By J.G. Nicholson

      The wind hit Angela’s back like the cordial whisper of a Southern gentleman, but she knew without looking that no one was there. Alone by choice, she lived in a white clapboard home with a single bedroom and double clotheslines strung between a pair of the large oak trees that surrounded the lot. Modest and sometimes quite messy, the house brought a close comfort to her that she was too stubborn to admit she had missed in her former residence, which her husband Mitch teasingly referred to as their "Grande State House." There, she’d raised a family of callous, sandy-haired men who alternately consumed her very being and denied its very existence, with scarcely enough time in between for Angie to notice the passing of individual days. 

       At 57, Angie felt that she had lived enough life for someone well beyond her years. Most of her time had been spent as a housewife, raising three boys and executing a countless many of those hearty, high- gloss dinners that might have otherwise been found on the cover of Good Housekeeping. Still, Angie knew that her life meant much more than sons and suppertime, and that perhaps was why her tiny abode suited her so. Whatever life she had lived, or imagined for herself, must have seemed immeasurably greater inside those four cramped walls.

      Before, in the old house, she swore she felt the empty spaces mocking her. The door to Mitch Jr.’s old room creaked incessantly, providing Angie with the most communication she’d had with her eldest son in years. The kitchen drawers and cabinets were haunted by water-stained baseball cards belonging to her second son, Nate, whose obsession with the game led him to chasing a fly ball in to the front of a passing vehicle before his 12thbirthday. Yellowing maps plastered on the walls of Daren’s workspace made a laughing stock of Angie as she passed; despite having worn the printed fault lines thin, she still could not pinpoint where in the world her youngest might be. The whole house reeked of her husband’s tobacco habit, the thing that killed him. Even the grass outside seemed to tease Angie with its stubborn refusal to release the shape of Mitch Sr.’s truck, which she had sold two years before, to pay for his burial expenses.

       The new house smelled like fresh linen, and there were no lines in the grass. Even though she and Mitch hadn’t lived near a city in years, Angie still preferred to walk anywhere that she could. When she needed to head into town, she’d borrow her neighbor’s ancient Buick or hitch a ride with one of the blue-haired ladies from the Women’s Auxiliary. But besides those ladies, and the neighbor, Mr. Tom, Angie took no visitors in her new home. Instead, she kept a pot-bellied pig named Mortimer, whom she insisted was not a pet, but rather, an insurance policy, who could alert Mr. Tom if Angie should take a nasty fall, or wake her in the event of an undetectable fire.

       All in all, Angie thought she had a nice life in the new place. Even the messes felt like they had a purpose; it’s very difficult to lose things when you live alone, after all. The house was just as Angie wanted it: fresh flowers on the table, her needlepoint resting on the chair, a fancy satellite installed by Mr. Tom, who had even helped her program all of her favorite channels into the top of the list. The only thing that bothered her, besides that lonesome, teasing wind, was the closet outside of her bedroom. Its oak-paneled door had never closed since she moved in- not once. After many failed attempts to slam it shut, Angie had found the source of her problem: a large white box sat on the top shelf, jamming its oversized edge against the door. Angie decided that the box must have belonged to the previous tenant, and out of respect, had let it be.

      But after many months of bumping into the jutting door handle on her way to and from her bedroom, Angie felt it was time for the box to take up residence in the outside shed. After all, her cross-stitching skills had really taken off, and sooner or later she was going to need that closet space to store her projects.

 So, on a hot day in July, 1994, Angie set out to extract the box that had become such a sore point in her otherwise pleasant seclusion. Teetering on top of one of the wicker dining chairs Mr. Tom had helped her pick out from a yard sale in Burlington, the tiny woman reached up her calloused hands towards the top shelf and began to pry down the enormous box. Slowly, she inched it further off the shelf, holding her breath as she dug her toes into the slippers that kept her footing. At last, the box began to slide forward into her outstretched palms.

It was then that she felt that cold, familiar shiver down her back. A gust of wind blew through an open window, spooking Angie, catching her off-balance. Had the moments that followed not been so very brief, Angie might have marveled at just how little work it is to end such a long life- merely a slip, a shriek, a resounding THUNK! And the chair flew out beneath its owner, leaving Angie’s frail body crushed beneath the heavy white box.

       The following week, after Angie had missed two meetings of the Women’s Auxiliary and a planned trip to town with Mr. Tom, the kindly neighbor came to call upon his lady friend. A very hungry Mortimer followed him in through the unlocked door and quickly located a half-eaten bag of chips next to the sleeper sofa. When Mr. Tom found Angie’s body lying next to the hallway closet, he was struck first by the realization that the clean linen smell in Angie’s home had somehow lingered, despite the presence of a decomposing corpse. The open window, facing a clothesline hung heavy with freshly-laundered sheets, had hidden the smell.

      While he stood in the hallway awaiting the arrival of the sheriff’s deputy, Mr. Tom at last took notice of the thing which had been the demise of his dear friend. The heavy white box, lid ajar after the fall, stood atop Angie’s broken body like a proud champion, a predator emboldened by the chase. Inside the box lay a number of oddly-collected artifacts: water-stained baseball cards, an empty pack of Marlboros, a world Atlas from the year 1972. From the top of the heap, Mr. Tom picked out a large black book, out of which fell a single picture - a family of three sandy-haired boys, a man with smoke-stained teeth, and a woman with Angela’s eyes.

     Curious, Mr. Tom began to thumb through the book, which he quickly determined to be Angie’s diary, beginning some five or six years previous. The scrawling cursive pen covered page after page with anecdotes from Angie’s past - fond memories of Nathan’s first t-ball game, a three-page recollection of the day that Daren won first place in a county-wide Geography competition, a tearful account of the last time she saw her oldest son. On one page Angie had taped the backside of an empty cigarette package, with a circle around the Surgeon General’s warning. On the last page, scribbled in the bottom corner in clear haste, was Angie's final message:

     “If I don’t get out of this house, it’s going to do me in. The weight of it all…the memories… it’s crushing me.”

       When the coroner signed Angie’s death certificate, the cause listed was a fractured vertebrae, caused by a fall. At the funeral, the ladies from the Women’s Auxiliary mourned the tragic accident while one stone-faced man sat silent, his hands sliding nervously through thick hair the color of a golden beach. Mr. Tom stood in the back, thinking of a heavy white box now stored in his attic. As he watched them lower Angie’s body into the ground, he felt a familiar, linen-scented wind against his back and wondered if he, too, would one day fall victim to the crushing weight of memory.

© 2014 kickstart gal

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What an intriguing tale. The first line was a great hook and it held me on the line to the very last word. A great story!

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 12 Years Ago

The sheer gravity of this story is a black hole - sucking the reader in. Its atmosphere inescapable. That first line was absolutely stellar by the way. This is technically solid, descriptive and in parts wrenchingly emotional. It creates a darkness more chilling than any horror fluff found here at the cafe. IMPRESSIVE!

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 12 Years Ago

A full circle of emotion here!
Great work hon!

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 12 Years Ago

You are an amazing storyteller. The piece was entertaining through and through. The ending was superb. My hat is off to you. WOW! After reading your work, I have a long way to go!

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 12 Years Ago

This is just wonderful! I enjoyed the entirety.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 12 Years Ago

The first line is one of the finest opening lines I've had the pleasure to read; it signals us that we are in for a true story as opposed to a punchline-driven piece. The wind is a nice, recurring device, and it's used judiciously. The detail and pacing are both very good. It's refreshing to read something that is content to be a tale told for its ownself as opposed to being a tool to beat us around the head and shoulders with a message.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 13 Years Ago

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6 Reviews
Shelved in 1 Library
Added on July 27, 2009
Last Updated on May 1, 2014
Tags: family, memoirs, drama, Southern literature
Previous Versions


kickstart gal
kickstart gal

Greenville, NC

I'm Jess. 34-year-old Sothern PsuedoBelle, mom to three future changemakers (and current members of the stinky-feet club), snarkmaster supreme, nagging ex-wife, occupational hazardess, hardcore Faulkn.. more..


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