Then as the moving air stilled completely, the curtains swinging back from the wall to hang free again, he saw the yellow sheet drop to the window ledge and slide over out of sight. He closes the door and turns to his desk to work again. His arms had begun to tremble from the steady strain of clinging to this narrow perch, and he did not know what to do now and was terribly frightened.
He simply could not do it. He saw the yellow sheet, dimly now in the darkness outside, lying on the ornamental ledge a yard below the window. He imagined himself describing it; it would make a good story at the office and, it occurred to him, would add a special interest and importance to his memorandum, which would do it no harm at all.
But as usual the window didn't budge, and he had to lower his hands and then shoot them hard upward to jolt the window open a few inches. From stacks of trade publications, gone over page by page in snatched half-hours at work and during evenings at home, he had copied facts, quotations, and figures onto that sheet.
If it broke, his fist smashing through, he was safe; he Contents of a dead mans packets cut himself badly, and probably would, but with his arm inside the room, he would be secure. He shouted again, experimentally, and then once more, but there was no answer.
He thought wonderingly of his fierce ambition and of the direction his life had taken; he thought of the hours he'd spent by himself, filling the yellow sheet that had brought him out here. A figure passed another of the windows and was immediately gone.
He tested his plan. The fingers of his left hand clawlike on the little stripping, he drew back his other fist until his body began teetering backward. And the barrier broke then and the fear of the awful height he stood on coursed through his nerves and muscles. Lifting a hand from the sill he took it from his mouth; the moistened corner parted from the paper, and he spat it out.
Taking the paper twist in his hand, he held it flame down, watching the flame crawl up the paper, till it flared bright.
For a moment, in the light from the living room, he stared wonderingly at the yellow sheet in his hand and then crushed it into the side pocket of his jacket.
Now, balanced easily and firmly, he stood on the ledge outside in the slight, chill breeze, eleven stories above the street, staring into his own lighted apartment, odd and different-seeming now. On a sudden impulse, he got to his feet, walked to the front closet, and took out an old tweed jacket; it would be cold outside.
Within a step or two, if he tried to move, he knew that he would stumble and fall. He was a tall, lean, dark-haired young man in a pullover sweater, who looked as though he had played not football, probably, but basketball in college.
He took a half dollar from his pocket and struck it against the pane, but without any hope that the glass would break and with very little disappointment when it did not.
The pane rattled, but he knew he'd been a long way from breaking it. He kissed her then and, for an instant, holding her close, smelling the perfume she had used, he was tempted to go with her; it was not actually true that he had to work tonight, though he very much wanted to.
He would literally run across the room, free to move as he liked, jumping on the floor, testing and reveling in its absolute security, letting the relief flood through him, draining the fear from his mind and body.
His right foot smashed into his left anklebone; he staggered sideways, began falling, and the claw of his hand cracked against glass and wood, slid down it, and his finger tips were pressed hard on the puttyless edging of his window.
It grew and swelled toward the moment of action, his nerves tautening.
His forehead was pressed directly into the corner against the cold bricks, and now he carefully lowered first one hand, then the other, perhaps a foot farther down, to the next indentation in the rows of bricks. And a violent instantaneous explosion of absolute terror roared through him.
And there they all lay in his own improvised shorthand--countless hours of work--out there on the ledge. Then his eyes widened, for nothing occurred to him. He simply turned to his desk, pulled the crumpled yellow sheet from his pocket, and laid it down where it had been, smoothing it out; then he absently laid a pencil across it to weight it down.
It was extremely likely, he knew, that he would faint, slump down along the wall, his face scraping, and then drop backward, a limp weight, out into nothing. For a moment he could not bring himself to lift his right foot from one ledge to the other; then he did it, and became aware of the harsh exhalation of air from his throat and realized that he was panting.
Paralyzed with the fear of death, it became impossible for Tom to walk back. And a violent instantaneous explosion of absolute terror roared through him. He actually would lie on the floor, rolling, clenching tufts of the rug in his hands.
During one slow step he tried keeping his eyes closed; it made him feel safer shutting him off a little from the fearful reality of where he was. There was one last thing he could try; he had been aware of it for some moments, refusing to think about it, but now he faced it. Then he knew that it was time to make the attempt.
To simply go out and get his paper was an easy task--he could be back here with it in less than two minutes--and he knew he wasn't deceiving himself. Contents of the Dead Man's Pockets. Jack Finney. At the little living-room desk Tom Benecke rolled two sheets of flimsy and a heavier top sheet, carbon paper sandwiched between them, into his portable.
The contents of the dead man’s pocket, which happens to be the yellow paper the protagonist retrieves from the ledge, is the predominant symbol in the story. It represents a wasted life and a life of work, among other things. “Contents of the Dead Man’s Pocket” is striking because its events take place in “real time.” In other words, the time it takes you to read the story roughly equals the time frame of the story itself.
Start studying Contents of a Dead Man's Pocket. Learn vocabulary, terms, and more with flashcards, games, and other study tools. Start studying Contents of a Dead Man's Pocket. Learn vocabulary, terms, and more with flashcards, games, and other study tools. “Contents of the Dead Man’s Pocket” is a short story by Jack Finney, originally published by both Good Housekeeping and Collier’s in The story is a suspenseful tale of a man who travels onto a precarious window ledge to retrieve the papers he believes will make his career.Contents of a dead mans packets