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The Diagnosisby Alan Lightman
Synopses & Reviews
ON THE SUBWAY
People must have been in a great hurry, for no one noticed anything wrong with Bill Chalmers as he dashed from his automobile one fine summer morning. Earnest and dressed in a blue cotton suit, he was immediately swept up by the mass of commuters also galloping from their cars toward the elevators and down to the trains of the Alewife Station, a cavernous structure of concrete and crisscrossed steel struts, one end of the Red Line through Boston. At the ground floor, Chalmers presented his pass and rushed through the turnstile. He was halfway down the stairs to the platform when he heard the taut string of electronic beeps and the doors began sliding on train Number One. A woman groaned. Another commuter, a tall nervous man with squeaky shoes, lunged ahead and ran alongside the train, shouting and slapping his magazine against the red paneled doors. But the train was already in motion, its steel wheels scraping and squealing so fiercely that several people had to turn up their head sets. The tall man swiveled and shot Chalmers an accusing stare, as if his lack of sufficient speed through the turnstile had caused a half-dozen people to miss their trains. What a jerk, Chalmers thought to himself and looked down at his watch. It was 8:22. Twenty-three minutes to his stop, a nine-minute walk to his building, two minutes on the elevator, and he'd be sitting at his desk by 9:00. Assuming the train on Track Two arrived and departed within four minutes, as it should. With some satisfaction he reminded himself that, unlike the ridiculously agitated man with the magazine, he had calculated his morning commute so that he could miss the first train and still arrive at the office on time. Abruptly, he began worrying that the train on Track Two might be late. Never had that happened when he'd missed train Number One, but it was certainly a possibility. Stroking his mustache, he continued down the stairs and looked again at his watch. He mustn't waste the four minutes. However, he slowed his descent to drop fifty cents into the cup of a homeless woman sprawled on the edge of the stairs. She looked disturbingly like his old piano teacher. "Thank you, kind sir," she said. "Please don't thank me," he answered, embarrassed. "I thank everyone who is more fortunate than me," she called to him as he hurried down to the platform. Waves of people flowed around him, jostling and crushing from all sides, shoving each other to gain an advantage for the next arriving train. Gulped down in seconds were muffins and rolls, hard-boiled eggs, bananas, coffee, and crackers. Some commuters tried to unfold newspapers in the cramped space but gave up and contented themselves with staring at the digital sign on the kiosk, where bits of news and the correct time scrolled by in bright glowing dots. The dozens of upturned faces were waxy and yellow beneath the underground fluorescent bulbs.
Even in that pale yellow light, if any of those waiting had looked carefully into Chalmers's eyes, they might have observed a faint petrifaction, a solidification, some sign that all was not well. But they did not, occupied with their own busy schedules and the marching dots on the sign. Chalmers himself felt perfectly fit, aside from the normal stresses and aches of a man just past forty, arguably overweight but by no means fat. He glanced at his watch, 8:23, and forged a path to
Businessman Bill Chalmers descends into a nightmare as he pursues a diagnosis for the strange illness--involving a bizarre memory loss and a strange numbness that gradually affects his entire body--that has affected him. By the author of Einstein's Dreams. 50,000 first printing.
From the bestselling author of Einstein's Dreams comes this harrowing tale of one man's struggle to cope in a wired world, even as his own biological wiring short-circuits. AsBoston's Red Line shuttles Bill Chalmers to work one summer morning, something extraordinary happens. Suddenly, he can't remember which stop is his, where he works, or even who he is. The only thing he canremember is his corporate motto: the maximum information in the minimum time.
Bill's memory returns, but a strange numbness afflicts him. As he attempts to find a diagnosis for hisdeteriorating illness, he descends into a nightmarish tangle of inconclusive results, his company's manic frenzy, and his family's disbelief. Ultimately, Bill discovers that he is fighting not just forhis body but also for his soul.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
About the Author
Alan Lightman lives in Boston.
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