For reasons having to do with great embarrassment and no small measure of sadness, two of the people in this accounting will be referred to only by their initials. A lot of people find that annoying, but then some people find an ice cream truck going by their house on a summer evening annoying.
It was at the age of thirty that C. first became aware of the weight of his head.
He’d always heard that it weighed somewhere around fifteen pounds, but for as much as, say, a fifteen pound dumbbell could give you an aerobic poke when used properly, you didn’t normally think of your head as a dumbbell.
Well, others might, but they’d be in a snarky mood.
That is, you just didn’t think of it as something you carried around like your newborn or a small bag of grass seed.
He supposed, too, that being aware of the weight of your head was a lot like having tinnitus. In a noisy world most people were able to ignore that condition most of the time. So, too, in a heavy world did most people pay little attention to the weighty things of their lives. Breasts and scrotums came to mind for C. and, of course, his head.
You had to wonder, though, how much a breast weighed, a 36 D cup, the size of C’s wife, J’s, breasts, or even a foot, a man’s size 10 EEE, which was C’s shoe size.
Obviously, medical practitioners knew the answers to all those questions, but C. wasn’t a medical practitioner so he didn’t. Nor would he ask his doctor these things since his doctor would ask if C. was feeling depressed again, which he wasn’t. In fact, he was feeling a bit excited that this line of inquiry might lead him to insights that would make his life better. Sometimes insights can do that.
Back to C’s heavy head.
He tried doing a modified push-up while laying his head on the scale, trying to guess if he was holding all of his weight off the scale except for his head. Naturally, he also found out that the only way he could read the scale was to take his head off of it, which gave his head a weight of zero.
So that told him nothing.
One morning he went to work and tried holding his head down with his chin on his chest to see if he could begin to sense the weight of it. He could, and his muscles ached. He was also told to go see Ted in Human Resources because his co-workers complained they’d never seen a man look so despondent.
“Don’t worry about it, Ted,” said C. “I’ve just become aware of the weight of my head lately and I’m trying to see where that takes me.”
“So you’re not sad?” said Ted.
“Not at all,” said C. “Just curious.”
“Maybe you shouldn’t be curious on company time,” said Ted.
Since C. worked for a newspaper he thought Ted’s request a little odd. It was like telling a scientist or a philosopher not to look into things.
Not long after C. became aware of the weight of his head, he began to feel the weight of his penis (which is why he is referred to here only as C.).
Women, he knew, and women he knew, often liked to talk about the size of a man’s penis, but he wondered if they ever thought about its weight. After all, a basketball player who was seven-foot five would be impressive, but not so much if he only weighed a hundred and ten pounds.
He didn’t think he could weigh his penis on his bathroom scale, so he went down to the last butcher shop in that part of the state to see if they could weigh his penis. The name of the butcher shop was Abattoir Emily, and it had quite a following among people who wondered if supermarket meat even came from animals anymore.
C. thought Abattoir Emily might have different sorts of scales for weighing things like beef hearts or sheep testicles or lamb’s eyes – small scales, not that he thought of his penis as being particularly small, but it was smaller than a rump roast or a whole pork loin, which was probably a relief to his petite wife, J.
“I have an unusual request,” said C. to the butcher whose name was Asa Manganese. Asa, by the way, didn’t mind having his real name used. He thought this whole thing was pretty goofy.
“Sorry,” said Asa Manganese. “I’m all out of duck kidneys.”
“Excuse me?” said C.
“Duck kidneys are what people almost always ask for when they tell me they have an unusual request. It’s not actually unusual to me. Cod lungs are unusual.”
“Do cod have lungs?” asked C.
“No they don’t, sir,” said Asa Manganese with a broad smile underneath what was easily the biggest mustache C. had ever seen.
“Oh,” said C. “Can you weigh my penis?”
“Are you going to sell it?” asked Asa Manganese.
“Are you saying you’d buy it?” said C.
“Possibly,” said Asa Manganese, “but I’d have to sell it as, oh I don’t know, sheep dick or donkey dong. State law, you know.”
“Of course,” said C.
“Why do you want to know how much it weighs?” asked Asa Manganese.
“I’m not sure,” said C. “I seem to be having a strange relationship with gravity these days.”
“That’s a downer,” said Asa Manganese.
“Yes, it is,” said C.
“That was a joke, sir,” said Asa Manganese. “I used to teach physics before I came into the family business.”
“I think I’d better go now,” said C.
Until he’d said it to Asa Manganese, C. hadn’t realized that gravity was in fact his problem. It was an uncooperative problem, too, and not open to discussion. As he’d done with a similar problem in the past (his former wife), he decided to talk to an attorney about it.
“Is it possible to sue gravity?” C. asked attorney Jim O’Hara. C. said we ought to use Attorney O’Hara’s name since C. had had to pay good money for the answers to his questions. “It’s becoming incredibly annoying.”
“There would have to be documents,” said Attorney O’Hara. “In a lawsuit there are always documents.”
“I understand,” said C.
“Gravity, however, has no address,” said Attorney O’Hara. “Where could we send a sheriff’s deputy to serve papers and get signatures?”
“Couldn’t you just mail them?” C. asked. “General Delivery? That sort of thing.”
“Gravity has no city, no state, no country. The envelope would be blank except for General Delivery. That would confuse the postal service.”
“That’s not a good idea,” said C.
“It is not a good idea,” said Attorney O’Hara.
Attorney O’Hara, after telling C. he would bill him by mail for this consultation, asked him if his stomach was acting up again.
“Not particularly,” said C., “other than that it’s heavy. I can feel the weight of it.”
“A lot of women say that when they’re pregnant,” said Attorney O’Hara.
“So you’re suggesting —?”
“I’m suggesting that you not sue nature,” said Attorney O’Hara, “the very core and essence of all that we are. There could be hard feelings and then we’d be in a real pickle. You know, you get gravity angry and the next thing you know you’ve lost all traction on the wheels of your car.”
C. felt grateful that Attorney O’Hara had taken him seriously, though he did have a suspicion that somewhere in all of that the attorney had been suppressing a bit of a laugh. Attorneys were such a serious bunch, but they could be lean on creativity if you hit them with a banana peel indented with the face of Woodrow Wilson or tried to tell them how an icy sidewalk had lifted right up out of the ground and broken your femur.
C. wondered how much Woodrow Wilson had weighed. He supposed it was a lot less now.
Though C. and his second wife, J., had always talked about everything, had wondered together about how many stars were in the sky or how many molecules were in a clitoris (one reason why J. did not want her name used here), he hadn’t wanted to bring this weight thing up because J. had just gone over a hundred and sixty pounds and no longer thought of herself as petite. C. assumed that a woman moving from petite to full-figured had to adjust a lot of deep thoughts.
One night, however, C. finally said it: “It’s the weight of the world, honeybits. Its made me glum and pensive.”
“Pensive?” said J. “You’ve never been pensive.”
J. was right about that, C. knew. He’d always been a man of action. During his construction days he’d pushed men around like they were ferrets in bumper cars, and even during a stint as a paper shuffler he’d shuffled papers faster than a small town card shark in an Irish casino. These days, at the newspaper, he pursued facts as though they were potato chips falling out of a bag.
“Anyway,” said J., “it is heavy. We know that, although I have no idea how you’d go about weighing the world. Definitely, you’d have to have some help.”
That night, in bed, after taking care of J. with his own wicked wand and, a few moments later, a three-battery JoyBoy, (another reason why J. did not want her name used), C. listened as J. said, her mind still at lavender and gentle breezes from the sexual activity, “A doctor weighed my breasts one time.”
“He did?” said C.
“Yes,” said J. “It seemed normal to me. He said he wanted a baseline so that he could tell later on if there were any untoward growths present.”
“Sounds suspicious,” said C.
“He was eventually indicted for making molds of women’s feet out of that stuff the dentist uses to make dentures.”
“Did he make a mold out of your feet?” C. asked.
“Not that I know of,” said J.
“It would be fun to have something like that,” said C. “Maybe turn it into a vase or a planter.”
“I believe he’s in prison now,” said J.
“Maybe I could extrapolate,” said C.
“Excuse me?” said J.
“You know, maybe cut off a toe or finger, figure what percentage of my weight it is, then determine how much the other parts weigh.”
“That sounds like science gone mad,” said J.
“Just a thought,” said C.
“Have you ever thought about the really hard questions?” asked J.
“What do you mean?”
“Like sadness,” said J. “How much does sadness weigh?”
“How much does sadness weigh?” said C.
C., of course, had never thought of that even though he was well aware of how heavily your emotions could weigh on you. It reminded him of how, at work, he could voice a complicated idea and someone would say, “Whew, C., that’s heavy.”
Thoughts, emotions, responsibilities, even behaviors, C. thought: He’s a little light on his feet could be a heavy blow to the wrong person. Or: The project’s yours, C., but it’s a pretty weighty responsibility.
C., naturally, knew about metaphors, and knew that a lot of life involved some things being other things or being like other things. For awhile he thought this whole train of problems might be all about words, but when a train, a real train and not just another train of problems, struck and killed J. at the crossing in town, C. had a heavy heart.
Since the tone of this piece has been somewhat jocular, that last statement, a hugely serious one, bears repeating.
A train struck and killed J. at the crossing in town.
And: C. had a heavy heart.
A very heavy heart.
She’d been guiding her second grade class across the tracks and saw the one boy – he’d done this before – squatting on the tracks to poop his pants. J. rescued the child from the oncoming train. She grabbed him and threw him so far to safety, his grateful parents said, they might have to get a new Zip code.
God, C. decided, had taken his pound of flesh, had taken, actually, many pounds of shapely and tasty womanly heft and put it on a diet no one ever survives.
A very heavy heart.
It felt to C. as though a pacemaker surgeon had made a mistake and opened his chest and put in a bag of Ready-Mix.
His chest felt as though it had just been made a part of Boulder, Colorado.
He wondered if his heart had been ripped out of him and replaced with a blacksmith’s anvil.
A very heavy heart, so much so that C. was not surprised one morning when he stepped on the bathroom scale naked and instead of the one-hundred and fifty-five pounds it had registered for years, he now weighed two-hundred and ten.
With great irony, C. decided, he had answered J.’s question. His sadness weighed fifty-five pounds.
G. K. Wuori is the author of over a hundred stories published throughout the world in the U.S., Japan, India, Germany, Spain, Algeria, Ireland, and Brazil. A Pushcart Prize winner and Illinois Arts Council Fellow, his work has appeared in such journals as The Gettysburg Review, The Missouri Review, The Barcelona Review, Shenandoah, The Kenyon Review, Prairie Schooner, StoryQuarterly, The Massachusetts Review, Mad Hatters Review, TriQuarterly, and Eclectica. His story collection, Nude In Tub, was a New Voices Award Nominee by the Quality Paperback Book Club and his novel, An American Outrage, was Foreword Magazine’s Book of the Year in fiction. His most recent publication is the novella, Now That I’m Ready To Tell You Everything. A new novella, Infidelity, is forthcoming from Main Street Rag Publishing. He is Associate Editor of the literary journal, Kippis, and currently lives in DeKalb, Illinois.