man's feet dangling above a window outside a building

Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket

by Jack Finney
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What incident with the paper starts the conflict in "Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket"?

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The inciting incident of the plot of "Contents of the Dead Man's Pockets" occurs with the loss of the yellow worksheet on which Tom Benecke has been working in an effort to create a new grocery store display method.

This yellow sheet contains the work of long hours of research: fact, figures, and quotations--everything that he wants to use to make his proposal. Tom hopes to complete this proposal on the evening that he sends his wife to the movies without him. Then, he can re-examine what he has written over the weekend and submit it on Monday morning.

But, when he gets up to kiss his wife and hug her, telling her to enjoy herself, a draft is created that draws the yellow sheet out the window onto the eleventh floor ledge. It is with utter disbelief that Tom tries to comprehend what has actually happened. Hours and hours of work have floated out the window like a feather! Tom ponders all the consequences of the loss of this important sheet of yellow paper. For one thing, it could mean the difference of his name being only one of many on the payroll, or one that people in the company know.

And he knew he was going out there in the darkness, after the yellow sheet fifteen feet beyond his reach.

Tom goes to a closet and puts on a jacket; he knows that he needs to try to get to the paper quickly without thinking about it. But, things do not quite work out for Tom, who risks life and death for this yellow sheet.

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