“Flitcraft adjusted himself to beams falling, and then no more of them fell, and he adjusted himself to them not falling.”
The story of Flitcraft is probably the strangest interlude in The Maltese Falcon (a book that has some very strange interludes, to be sure). It’s a tale within a tale – Sam Spade has a moment alone with Brigid O’Shaughnessy and he tells her what amounts to a parable about an old case of his.
Essentially, Flitcraft was a very ordinary man living a very ordinary life, who one day just up and disappeared, “like a fist when you open your hand”. Flitcraft’s wife hired Sam to track him down. When he finally found Flitcraft, he found a man who was…a very ordinary man living a very ordinary life – a virtual duplicate of the life he had left behind. Sam asked him, “Why did you do that? Why did you leave everything you have, and then recreate it somewhere else?”
And Flitcraft told Sam about how he was walking past a construction site the morning of his disappearance. A girder beam fell from the site and nearly killed him – missed him by an inch. This close brush with death terrified him, and he bolted. Gradually, it dawned on Flitcraft that this was an isolated, bizarre incident and he resumed his ordinary life. By fleeing, he adjusted himself to the falling of beams, to the fact that life very well could end at any moment. But beams can’t fall forever from the sky – we are not in turmoil all the time. When he’d reached emotional equilibrium, he found himself adjusting to the beams not falling. To the everyday.
We generally return to a state of beams not falling. And as we do this, we are (like Flitcraft) in a different place than we were initially. The falling of beams causes movement, causes adjustment – and then things begin to seek their own levels.
I’m thinking about ebook pricing.