He went back to the hundreds of other images. Tiny, searing film
clips that ran through his mind as he watched himself fall to earth. The
amount of callous, unthinking, uncaring asininity he'd committed in his
life. The waste. A few years ago, a friend of Claire's died. A good
man, a family man, a volunteer and coach. Kids weeping uncontrollably at
the funeral. Overflowing church. Unfair, people said. But for Ted, who
would show? No one would utter the word unfair. They would wonder if they'd hit traffic after the service and what to make for dinner.
The decision was not spontaneous, he realized. It had been there all day. It had been there for weeks, in fact, during the whole nightmare. Now, falling, the image of it all so clear. Here was the answer to all that had happened. Ted had no intention of opening his chute.
What's not on the video, the one that would go viral later, what couldn't be there, was the feeling of instant relief Ted felt at his decision. He was tired of the shame. Tired of the deep sadness for the loss of his life. Of everything that had seemed to make sense and now didn't. He was tired of being afraid of what would happen next, of what other public embarrassment would come his way. He had lost something vital to the living process that he was unable to name.
He heard the lead-in in his head. Ted Grayson, the long-time anchor of the evening news, died today in an embarrassing skydiving accident on eastern Long Island. Sources say the disgraced former newsman may have taken his own life. He was 59. (brief pause) When we come back: peanuts. Are they the new super food?
No fingers now. Raymond made the motion to pull the chute. Raymond nodded. Ted nodded. Except then Ted did the one thing Raymond told him never to do. He pulled his arms in, aimed his head down, and suddenly he was Superman, heading toward the surface of the Earth so fast he couldn't take it in. He had no control over his body so he began to roll. Roll is the wrong word. It was, instead, what Raymond called a "death spin."
He was falling, in thin air. This line echoed in a distant place in his mind.
He couldn't seem to move his arms and legs. He was going to pass out in a matter of seconds. He didn't feel at all well. The mistake of it full force. The fear and regret, a primal scream inside that he needed to give voice to. But nothing came out. How perfect. How fitting, he thought. America's anchor man, unable to speak.
It's all there, on the GoPro. Ted's life, on video. Looking into the camera, asking, what happens next? What's the story?
Just keep watching.
We go live now to Ted Grayson in New York.
Two weeks earlier and Ted is in a foul mood.
"Ninety seconds, Ted."
It's Lou, in Ted's earpiece. Ted's executive producer, Lou Arno.
They were in the middle of a two-and-a-half-minute commercial break, 21 minutes into the broadcast. One story left.
"The Triangle package," Lou said. "Your lead-in, the pre-recorded piece. You'll have eight seconds on the back end coming off the story. You have copy. Not that you need it. It's almost like a real job."
Something about this last bit annoyed Ted. It was something Lou has said before, in his harmless Lou voice. But there was an edge to it. Or was Ted's bad mood filter adding the edge? He wasn't sure. Either way, it further unsettled his already stormy insides.
Ted reached for his cell phone under the desk. He checked emails, texts. There was one from Claire.
"In Bedford. Please stay in city. Might be best to speak through lawyers at this point. Also, happy birthday."
If that didn't say love what did? Ted thought. Twenty-eight years of marriage....
Join the Library's Online Book Clubs and start receiving chapters from popular books in your daily email. Every day, Monday through Friday, we'll send you a portion of a book that takes only five minutes to read. Each Monday we begin a new book and by Friday you will have the chance to read 2 or 3 chapters, enough to know if it's a book you want to finish. You can read a wide variety of books including fiction, nonfiction, romance, business, teen and mystery books. Just give us your email address and five minutes a day, and we'll give you an exciting world of reading.