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Small Mediums at Large

The True Tale of a Family of Psychics

from Chapter 1    (page 1)

"Keep climbing," I holler down.
"Only two more flights to go! You can do it!"

The stairs are a great help. How can anyone be anxious or afraid if they're exhausted from climbing? Six flights are a humbling experience. Eighty-two black marble steps worn down from over a century of climbers.

Forty-six, forty-seven, forty-eight... She drags one foot across the landings. I feel my toes inside my shoe tracing the outline of the hall window, two large panes and the middle lock on the sash. Seventy-two, seventy-three, seventy-four... Chewing on my baby fingernail, I bite it off before she turns around the last flight and sees me standing there.

"How do you do this every day? I'm exhausted."

"Hello. I'm Terry. Come on in. Are you O.K.? Let me take your coat. Sit over here. Catch your breath."

"Hi, I'm Kate and I'm so out of shape."

She's head-to-toe Vogue magazine-- mid-twenties, small black dress, black leather knee-high boots, clunky silver jewelry-- a scent of fresh perfume and a quick smoke from the subway to my building. I look away, preferring to feel her presence rather than let those details influence me.

"Let me get you a glass of water." At the sink, with my back to her, I feel myself separate. It happens so fast, without trying. A part of me steps to the left, a duplicate me that moves as I do. One me converses normally, while the other me takes in the young woman. I start to be her. She has no idea.

"Body builders and dancers come to see me and even they have trouble with the stairs. It's not an easy climb, especially at ten o'clock in the morning. I only recently got a doorbell. For years the clients had to call from the pay phone on the corner, then I'd run down and open the door. Some days I'd climb over sixty flights. That's four thousand nine hundred twenty stairs almost every day. I'm sure I hold the world's record for stair climbing outside a gym."

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