Erik Doughty

Every morning, the woman jogs through town wearing her marathon number from a past race. Her stomach is flat; collarbones straddle her neck in a side split. When she leaves the house, her husband says, “You make us mere mortals feel awful about ourselves,” which fills her with a sense of accomplishment.

One day, the woman jogs home carrying a scale she found at a yard sale. She jogs past her husband having breakfast, and into the bathroom, where she weighs herself: 300 pounds? She regrets spending even $2 on a broken scale. She steps off and back on. 300 pounds. She calls her husband, who weighs in at 164—an accurate measurement. They test other objects, all of which weigh exactly what they should.

“I’ve seen scales on TV that can detect your BMI, body fat, IQ, net worth,” her husband says. She doesn’t laugh. She weighs herself in every room, in every outfit, before and after every meal.

Weeks go by, and the woman runs faster and longer. Yet, her feet begin to thicken. She reaches for her ribs, but her fingers get stuck in the creases between folds of fat. After consulting a personal trainer and a dietician, neither can explain her weight gain. A PhD candidate characterizes her condition as “tragic but publishable.”

In the garage, the woman catches her husband throwing the scale away. She rips it from his hands. She is stronger than him now. Like a bird in its nest, she sits on top of the scale. “I’m not moving,” she says.

And there she sits for a month. Mornings, her husband brings her his famous bacon, egg, and avocado sandwich. He converts the garage into their living room, taping photographs to the garage door: them together atop a mountain, in a canoe, playing inflatable saxophones at her nephew’s bar mitzvah. He moves the television too, and at night, they open the garage doors and watch old movies. It reminds her of the drive-in theater—fireflies and humid love. Afterward, her husband washes her hair with a watering can. She smiles as the soap runs down her neck, feeling again like a young girl.

But she can hear him in the kitchen, on the phone with her mother or his father. He doesn’t want to call emergency yet. “She’s not some daytime TV special,” he shouts. The woman realizes that her husband is scared. That’s the only reason he ever raises his voice.

The next day, she dials the fire department. Sirens flicker and the neighbors congregate on their lawns. Her husband opens the garage door to the firemen. They introduce themselves and shake her hand. “It’s our pleasure, Miss.” The woman nearly blushes.

When they begin to lift her from the ground, there’s a moment when her entire weight lies in their arms, and she has the urge to dance. They thrust from their knees; the force propels her upward. She gathers herself, stands steady, but as she steps outside, a gust blows through. The neighbors start shouting. It’s the woman. She is no longer standing but floating towards the sky. Kicking her brawny legs, the woman swims in the wind’s current, elegant and buoyant above them all.

On the floor below, the scale remains, still registering 300 pounds. A fireman tries to pick it up, but it doesn’t move. Looking embarrassed, he asks for help but even four men struggle to carry it. The woman’s husband chases after her, beneath her, smiling. It is no use. She is light as the air, a kite just learning to fly.

Erik Doughty is an Asian American writer whose work has been published in Metazen, Annalemma, Flywheel Magazine, among others. He studies law and carries a notebook, air guitar, and inhaler with him wherever he goes. More of his stories can be found at erikdoughty.wordpress.com.