Everyone wants you to read the book on which he or she is working, a novel everyone is writing in order to find the meaning of life, with which everyone’s spouse ran off. But everyone has to finish the novel before everyone can know where the novel begins. In the meantime, there are all these distractions, such as the twelfth-floor window at the office building where everyone works out of which people or maybe just one person keeps jumping or falling--everyone isn’t sure--or everyone’s sexy coworker Sam, whom everyone is struggling valiantly against to keep from becoming a paramour. It’s kind of pitiful, actually, the way everyone keeps begging you to read, sending you e-mails, dropping it into conversation (“I have a book, you know?”), posting links to it on social-networking sites. Everyone figures that if he or she begs enough, you will break down and try it. Everyone is like a dog that way, watching you eat your dinner. The way you handle the dog is to push it away from the table, lock it outside the room. Sometimes, of course, you hand the dog a bite, an inch-sized bit of beef, and that is all everyone is asking for--a bite, that you read just the first line of his or her book. The problem is that you know everyone too well. If you read one line, everyone will beg you to read another. Just one more.

To start from the beginning of the novel, go here.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Everyone Finishes a Novel and Thanks the Participants

Everyone thought she or he had finished the blog novel, but apparently another chapter remained. Everyone was uncertain what to do with it. After all, everyone was dead, at least as she or he had last left off.

That is when everyone’s former coworker J. D. leaned against the doorframe to everyone’s office, everyone’s dog on a leash in her or his hand, everyone her- or himself literally tied to her or his desk.

Everyone had not seen J. D. since J. D.’s expulsion from a window on another side of the floor, save inside other people. “J. D., you’re alive,” everyone expostulated.

“Every bit as much as you,” J. D. said. “Thanks, everyone, for writing the book and reading.”

“You read my book?” everyone asked, both surprised and ecstatic.

“In a manner of speaking,” J. D. said, “yes. That is, I wrote it.”

Everyone was confused. Everyone’s friend the Internet had talked about how readers were writers, but everyone rarely listened when the Internet went off on theoretical tangents. Everyone had wanted to find her or his identity, and instead the Internet had speculated on how everyone could be multiple people at once. The Internet had been little help throughout the course of writing the novel.

You wrote it?” everyone asked J. D.

“With others,” J. D. said. “Thanks.”

Everyone asked J. D. who she or he was thanking.

“The other readers, of course,” J. D. said. “This is the end of the novel, so it’s traditional that we acknowledge the participants at this point.”

“I thought we were dead,” everyone observed.

“Not as long as we are in this book,” said J. D. “As long as we are here, the story continues for as long as anyone wants to read it.”

“But Sam, the nurse, the germs, the window,” everyone protested, listing off recent events and characters.

“All part of the book,” J. D. said.

“Hello,” said Sam, coming into the frame. “How was I?” Sam asked. Sam was out of the scrubs everyone had last seen her or him in and was now wearing the plaid jacket that everyone had seen in the bushes at the base of their office building nearly a year ago.

“A bit inconsistent,” J. D. said, “but don’t worry. You’ll grow on people in subsequent readings.”

“You hope,” said Harvey, vacuum cleaner in hand. Harvey was a part-time janitor.

Everyone examined the straps across her or his body that kept everyone wedded to the desk. “You mean, I--” Everyone tore them off and stood. “I can go anywhere.”

“Within the trajectory of the book, yes,” said J. D.

Just then, everyone saw the meaning of life. The meaning of life was walking down the hall behind J. D. and Sam and Harvey at the door, cap in hand, sunglasses over eyes. Then everyone’s spouse passed. They were together.

“Was that?” everyone asked.

J. D. and Sam and Harvey nodded.

Everyone ran into the hall, but the meaning of life had already disappeared. Everyone ran after them.

And then, everyone saw it. It was the beginning of the novel. It was leaning against the window frame looking out, the window whose glass was missing. The beginning of the novel was smoking, the entire city before it. Everyone slowed, crouched. She or he wasn’t going to let the beginning of the novel get away. Everyone got down on her or his hands and knees, crawled. The beginning of the novel turned toward the hall, saw everyone. Everyone jumped.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Everyone Participates in a Medical Experiment

Everyone was in the hospital. The hospital looked like everyone’s office. The bed on which everyone lay appeared like everyone’s desk. The bed was bolted to the wall. Along another wall was a window that looked into the sky. Above everyone were shelves; below everyone, file cabinets.

The shelves held photos of John Quincy Adams in Hawaii. Everyone and his or her four children were in some of the photos, Star especially. One photo featured Journey eating a chocolate bar. Everyone hadn’t realized Journey had had chocolate when they’d gone to visit John Quincy Adams.

Everyone’s coworker and next-door officemate Sam carried a clipboard on which he or she wrote about everyone. Everyone had not been well.

“That is not it at all,” Sam said. “You are perfectly healthy.” Sam was wearing nurse’s scrubs.

Sam pulled out a vacuum cleaner nozzle. At one end was a stopper and at the other end a needle. “Dasney Amusement Park Malls is entering the medical field,” Sam explained. “All employees have a choice. They can receive a vaccine for a life-threatening disease to which Dasney is exposing its employees or they can be control subjects.”

“Not interested,” everyone said.

Sam dropped the needle on the floor. “Very well,” Sam said, stepping from the room. “Germ dissemination will begin in ten seconds.” Sam put a gas mask over his or her face and closed the door.

What everyone had meant by “not interested” was “not interested in participating.” Everyone had a family to feed. There was no good reason to make a perfectly healthy person sick. However, “nonparticipation” was not one of the choices. Everyone cried.

Sam watched everyone through the glass frame in the door.

Tiny microbes landed on everyone’s skin, crawled across it, entered the nostrils, the mouth, the ears, the buttocks, the eyes, the pores. Everyone cried some more.

The next thing everyone knew, the famous actor Clint Gabble was standing over him or her. Clint was wearing a cocktail dress, black and velvet. Across the rib cage was a set of lines that looked like bones. “Hello,” Clint Gabble said. “I’m Beth.”

Everyone knew Clint Gabble from the movies The Real Mr. Keen, Fifty-Two Ways to Blog about the Meaning of Life, and Everyman: The Movie. The last two featured everyone’s child Jody. Jody and Clint had gone waterskiing together. According to the Internet, Jody and Clint had become friends. Everyone had only met Clint Gabble twice before, once at a party everyone crashed and once at the production of Everyman. The last time had been the last time everyone had seen Jody; hence, it was natural for everyone to ask Clint about his or her child.

“Kindred’s dead,” Beth said. “We all have to stand on our own at the end.”

Everyone sighed. Everyone did not care for method acting but knew enough to play along. “I know, Beth,” everyone said, “but it’s been four weeks. Surely Jody has started another role.”

“I’m death,” Clint clarified. “Not Beth. Prepare to meet your maker.”

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Everyone Takes an Identity Test

Sometimes everyone felt as if she or he were a man, and other times, everyone felt as if she or he were a woman. Everyone asked the Internet if such feelings were common.

The Internet said it never worried about gender, but it was willing to provide everyone with some tests that might help her or him discover her or his identity.

Everyone asked whether the tests involved writing. Everyone wanted to know more about who she or he was but not enough to compose essays. Everyone was writing a blog novel, which was already more writing than everyone wanted to do.

The Internet said that a test with a writing sample was possible but would cost money. Knowing how poor everyone was, having lost $5092 to one of her or his children, the Internet suggested a selection of free multiple-choice tests.

Everyone chose a test that had a picture with every question. The questions asked things like, When you see this drawing, do you see a penis or a vagina? The drawing looked like an elongated peapod. Everyone was unsure which to select.

Everyone stood up from her or his desk and walked to the window. Everyone was in her or his office on the twelfth floor. The window looked out on downtown, where not long ago someone everyone knew had died by jumping or falling into the bushes below. Over the past year, everyone had lived with this person inside because the incident was one she or he could not let go of. In part, this was because everyone’s coworker Sam often raised it in conversation. In part, this was because everyone’s night and day thoughts often returned to the jump.

Everyone realized she or he had never really known the jumper.

Just as everyone had never really known the spouse who had left her or him.

Or their children.

Or her- or himself.

Who was everyone? everyone asked. How did she or he get here? There were simple answers to these questions: By car or by foot. A mix of various elements that also composed Sam and the building and the window. But what were those elements when one got beyond the individual particles? Why did they compound and unite as they did and from whence did they come and why? And was any of it real, and what did the “real” itself consist of?

Everyone sat back down at the computer and looked at the question. Everyone hovered the mouse over vagina or penis, penis or vagina. No third choice was provided.

“Could you give me a different test?” everyone asked the Internet.

Everyone always wanted something else, and the Internet was tired. “No,” the Internet said. “Pick one. It doesn’t matter which. Act!

Everyone tried to close the window on the computer. The mouse, however, refused to leave the frame. There were only two choices.

Everyone stood again and walked into the hall. Everyone walked to the other side of the building. The window from which the person had jumped was here, the person everyone had never really known, and it was open.

Everyone had stayed away from the window since the jump. But not today.

Everyone walked to its edge and looked. The sky seemed so clear that everyone could not figure out what was inside it. And then, below, everyone saw her- or himself gazing up.

Everyone’s heart stopped. It was scary to be so close to the perimeter. Everyone closed her or his eyes.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Everyone Crashes a Party

The news had traveled unbelievably fast, but such was how the world worked when the Internet was a close friend of yours. Everyone’s spouse and the meaning of life had left the party around five p.m. They had traveled in an exceptionally expensive Roles Roice convertible to an office building downtown. A restaurant with a special lounge that admitted only people who mattered resided on the top floor. The twelfth floor was where everyone’s office was. There, the news reports said, everyone’s spouse and the meaning of life had made a pact. The pact involved undying love for one another.

This news, had everyone heard it, would have depressed everyone. Everyone would have wanted to drink Popsi Cola but would have settled for Handsome Diet Cola because everyone was trying to lose weight in order to attract back his or her spouse.

This was why everyone kept rejecting the advances of his or her coworker Sam, even though Sam was hot and didn’t seem to care that everyone was not. Sam felt as if everyone shared a connection with him or her because their ex-coworker J. D. lived inside them. Sam had much affection for J. D., and everyone had come to have affection for him or her because J. D. was dead.

“Where is the meaning of life?” everyone asked the people at the party. The party was for people who mattered, and everyone had crashed it.

“Didn’t you hear?” the famous actress Gina Monrovia asked. She pointed at the television in the cabin of the boat where the party was. The television was atop a bar, where people who mattered sat drinking. Sam, wearing a risqué swimsuit, was among them, placing his or her hand on the knee of the person beside. Sam had a cocktail in the other hand and appeared to be drunk. Everyone wondered if it was because of him or her. They had come to the party together, but everyone had spent it looking for the meaning of life and his or her spouse. Sam had probably thought everyone was ignoring him or her, which everyone was, but that didn’t stop everyone from feeling jealous that Sam’s hand was on the knee of a person who mattered.

That’s when everyone saw the picture on the television. The picture showed everyone’s downtown office building. Blue lights strobed around it as if the party for people who mattered had moved from the boat to everyone’s building. The strobe lights were from police cars, and yellow ribbon ran between them.

“The meaning of life committed suicide,” Gina continued, “minutes ago. It’s all over the news.” Gina took a sip of Popsi Cola. The Popsi Cola was laced with bourbon. Gina was drunk. This was because Gina’s boyfriend Clint Gabble, another famous actor, had gotten up an hour earlier to visit the bathroom with a parent who had been hired to pretend to be everyone. Clint had been spending a lot of time with the cast of a local play that had been turned into a movie, and Gina rarely saw him anymore and was afraid that Clint was going to leave her the way everyone was leaving her right now to be closer to the television at the bar.

On the television was a replay. It showed the meaning of life in silhouette walking toward an open window on the twelfth floor of the building where everyone worked. The meaning of life stood for a moment looking down before the jump. The jump looked as if meaning were leaping out the emergency chute of an airplane--a little scared but not in a way that would have announced death.

On the ground now among the police cars, everyone saw the body covered in blue plastic.

Everyone wondered where his or her spouse was.

Around him or her the strobe lights reigned.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Everyone Tells a Story

Everyone could no longer count the times that someone had jumped from a window or been sucked up by a vacuum cleaner or visited the John Quincy Adams animatron at the Dasney Amusement Park Mall. Increasingly, with each chapter of the novel, everyone felt as if she or he were writing the same story over and over again. Everyone was tired. Everyone asked the Internet what the best way was to stay motivated when writing.

The Internet groaned. The Internet would answer the question, and then everyone would object and do as she or he wanted. The Internet felt as if its presence in everyone’s life was pointless, and it heavily considered shutting off. Still, the Internet had an uncontrollable impulse to showcase its knowledge. The Internet had an ego, after all, and if the Internet didn’t answer, it would never be able to tell everyone, “I told you so.”

“Don’t make your outline too exhaustive,” the Internet advised. “Know where you’re going in a general sense, but allow the vicissitudes of the moment to show you how. Don’t be too wedded to your planned ending. A story will sustain itself, and if you’re bored, it’s best to break. Lay the story down and pick it up somewhere else. Discover things you don’t know yet that will re-enliven the section where you left off.”

Everyone nodded, though the advice wasn’t helping. “What if at each section you end up in the same place?” everyone asked.

Everyone only has one story,” the Internet observed and laughed in a conceited manner. “That’s all most authors have--three or four if they’re lucky.” The Internet displayed a photograph of Edgar Allan Poe and under it a list of three basic outlines and the stories that fit within them. “This is how our friend Harvey created a website that, with a few A-B-C selections, lets readers write their own Poe story. In the end, after all, it’s the reader who writes the tale, so why, Harvey asked, not just skip the author?”

Everyone stared at the Poe photograph. The man seemed beset by the difficulty of writing new fiction also, the dark shadows under each eye, as if death was awaiting to take him before he’d had a chance to get even the beginning right. That is what everyone really needed, of course--a beginning. If only everyone could find the right beginning, she or he knew, everything else would fall in place, including the desire to continue.

“It doesn’t matter!” the Internet screamed when everyone asked again how to start. Every time, everyone returned to this basic question, and every time everyone ignored what the Internet had advised. “Readers will begin where they begin and finish where they finish. Few read a book all the way through or in chapter order, especially online. They pick it up, read about a party for people who matter on page 131. They skip to a chapter on metafiction and from there to another where a parade of dog walkers prevents the protagonist from meeting her or his idealized self or some dreamed-of romantic interest. Then the reader gets so flustered that she or he throws the book across the room and never returns, and for all intents and purposes, that is the book to her or him, what she or he actually read. Another reader starts at the place where the writer begins, then skips to the credits at the end, then plunges into a chapter about the performance of a medieval play and, gleaning all that she or he wishes to know, shuts the book with the intention of one day returning to the find the medieval play chapter is now unfindable, and instead, the book seems to be about social media marketing practices.”
“So you’re saying,” everyone asked, now suddenly excited, “that I need not just one beginning but one hundred.”

“Or a thousand,” the Internet said, “whatever the number of pages in your book, and an equal number of endings. Tag it, index it, if you wish, guide your reader into various possible readings you might prefer she or he try, but in the end, the reader is in charge, and you, as author, are subject to her or his whims.”

“That’s preposterous,” everyone said. Everyone stormed to the window next to her or his desk. Outside the family dog was barking. The kids must have let it out. Every night, it was the same.

Every day, everyone felt, she or he wrote the same story: wake up, work, sleep. Perhaps, the Internet was right. We all only had one story, and for most, that story had 70 x 365 beginnings and endings, give or take a few--or just one of each, depending on how one read.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Everyone Meets Death

The medieval play Everyman under the thespianship of everyone’s precociously talented oldest child, Jody, had become a one-man show, save for a cameo by Death at the end, played by the famous actor Clint Gabble. Initially, Jody had been hired to play only Kindred in the local production, but as other actors dropped out, Jody took on their roles as well: first, Knowledge; then, Good Deeds and Goods; eventually, Fellowship, Cousin, Confession, Beauty, Strength, Discretion, and Five-Wits; until finally Jody took on the lead role of Everyman as well.

Everyone went to see Jody when the play left the local theater and entered into production as a movie. Being that the set was in Jody’s high school gym, everyone did not have to travel far.

The set looked like a fifteenth-century vacuum cleaner bag would have looked--very gray, with dust everywhere. Lint hung from the ceiling and gathered around the room’s edges. Jody stood in the room’s center when he or she wasn’t changing costumes.

Everyone clapped for each of Jody’s entries and exits, until finally Jody returned as Good Deeds, proclaimed that “All earthly things are but vanity,” and promised to remain with Everyman to the grave. At this point, Jody changed costumes again and, after becoming Everyman, committed the character’s soul to the Lord. Here, everyone clapped the loudest he or she had during the production and laughed hard when Jody finished with a deathly long fart, a skill Jody had perfected years ago at home.

After the movie was shot, the play over, everyone went to see Jody in his or her trailer. The door was closed, so everyone knocked, but there was no answer.

Death walked by. Death was Clint Gabble wearing a black cape and black tights. “Can I help you?” Death asked.

Everyone explained that he or she was looking for his or her progeny, the great Jody.

“You mean Everyman?” Death asked.

“Yes,” everyone said, nodding.

“I thought you saw,” Death said. “Everyman is dead.”

“Right,” everyone said. “I mean Jody.”

“There is no Jody anymore,” Death said. “There is only Everyman, and Everyman is dead.”

Everyone grunted and knocked on the trailer door again. “Jody,” everyone called.

Death sighed. “Go ahead,” he said, pointing to the handle on the trailer’s door.

Everyone opened the door and entered. Jody lay in a bed in the entryway. “Jody?” everyone queried.

Jody did not answer.

Everyone stood over Jody, put a hand on Jody’s cheek. It was cold.

Everyone slapped it, gently at first, then harder.

“Everyman’s dead,” someone called out.

The someone was standing in the doorway. It was a man in a black suit with a beret and sunglasses--the director. “Method actors, you know?”

Everyone looked at his or her child and nodded. Everyone understood. Everyman was dead--and Kindred and Cousin and Fellowship and Beauty and Strength and all the rest of them.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Everyone Discusses Ways to Begin

Everyone still wasn’t satisfied with the beginning of the novel. Everyone had been working on the novel for over nine months, and everyone felt as if she or he was still floundering in midair, trying to catch the drawstring of a parachute.

The Internet recommended everyone study Italo Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler.

Everyone didn’t know it.

The Internet was astonished. “A metafictionist who has never heard of Calvino?”

Everyone grated at the term “metafictionist,” as if it were an accusation. Everyone did not write metafiction. Everyone was writing a blog novel that was not going as planned.

That, of course, was the problem. Everyone had had no plan--except success, and the latter had evaded her or him.

The Internet had warned everyone not to blog the novel--and certainly not to do so until everyone had finished the book. Everyone might want to make changes to earlier chapters, the Internet had advised, when she or he got to later ones.

The Internet had also told everyone that the surest way to know one’s beginning was to know one’s ending. The Internet had even advised starting at the end.

Everyone had not listened. This failure diminished everyone’s standing with the Internet. The Internet had once respected everyone; now the Internet thought everyone an idiot and gave her or him little of its time.

But today, the Internet was not very busy, so it allowed everyone’s inane queries.

Let’s read Calvino’s book together,” the Internet proposed.

Everyone agreed.

Unfortunately, the Internet was unable to procure a free copy of the work for everyone, so the two agreed to review first sentences only.

The book restarts ten times,” the Internet said, “each time introducing readers to a new novel and a new way to begin.”

Everyone had restarted forty-six times, and each and every start had been unsatisfactory. Multiple beginnings seemed like nothing worthy of praise, let alone examination. One good beginning was all any book demanded and all that everyone desired. But it seemed that no matter have many times everyone began again, everyone ended up with the same story.

Let’s look at the first book recounted,” the Internet said, “which is to say the book itself. It starts with the word ‘You,’ automatically giving the reader a stake by making her or him the protagonist.”

“I hate second person,” everyone said. “Inevitably, that forces someone to be some middle-aged dad or mom, when it might well be a fifteen-year-old girl. Talk about off-putting.”

The Internet didn’t bother to mention that the “you” in this case was most certainly everyone her- or himself, for the book’s plot started with the reading of the book itself. Such an objection, the Internet knew by now, would have been pointless.

The second chapter’s first sentence,” the Internet stated, before posing the next statement, “presents a set of images so absurd that they entice the reader further in as clouds attempt to block the passage.”

“Sounds intimidating,” everyone objected. “I find a familiar start more inviting, as if you were putting on an old jacket that you had as a child.”

“You used ‘you,’“ the Internet pointed out.

“I meant ‘you’ in a general generic sense,” everyone said.

“I think that’s Calvino’s intention also,” said the Internet, “at least at the start, until one becomes comfortable.”

“Fine,” everyone conceded, “the reader. As if the reader were putting on an old jacket.”

The Internet sighed. It had won the argument, but everyone would not give it the satisfaction.

The Internet skipped to the fourth chapter. “Here,” the Internet pointed out, “a first-person protagonist states that he or she is receiving dangerous statements, and naturally we as readers want to know what they are.”

“And from that, I’m supposed to learn what?” everyone asked.

Don’t tell your readers everything straight off,” the Internet said. “Hint. Make the reader work a bit.”

“Nothing means anything without context,” everyone objected. “I want to know where I am.”

The Internet read the first sentence of the next chapter. “This chapter begins with context,” the Internet conceded.

“The author is writing about some kind of totalitarian society,” everyone surmised.

“Quite probably,” the Internet agreed, “but even with the military vehicles and the propaganda slogans on the wall, we’re left wondering what exactly is happening.”

Everyone grunted. “You can’t possibly tell readers everything in the first sentence. Just because something isn’t said doesn’t mean the reader will be curious.”

“Didn’t you find the first sentence engaging?” the Internet asked.

Everyone shrugged her or his shoulders. “Mildly,” everyone said. The Internet’s points were too general. Everyone wanted help with her or his start specifically--Calvino’s work seemed a distraction.

The Internet moved to the next section’s first sentence. “Shocking, isn’t it?” asked the Internet, pointing to the decapitated head.

“Gross is what it is,” said everyone. “Some people would drop it like a hand they’d scooped up in a vacuum cleaner.”

The Internet put down Calvino’s book. There was no pleasing everyone.

And that, of course, was what everyone had failed to see. There was no way to please everyone. Everyone could start 982 times, and still everyone would not want to read on. Everyone needed to be concerned not with what everyone wanted but with what someone wanted, one twelve-year-old boy in an attic skimming his parent’s old textbooks or one middle-aged professor of geography. Capture just one reader’s mind, and you have made the reader into the creator of another world for which everyone has furnished merely a beginning.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Everyone Yearns for What Is Missing

Everyone asked his or her children where their sibling Jan was. The children were gathered around a vacuum cleaner on the twelfth floor of the office building where everyone worked.

The children were Jody, a sanctimonious thirteen-year-old with a penchant for fart jokes who had recently become a famous child actor; Star, the one-time ten-year-old with a heart of gold before he or she ripped it out; and Journey, an eight- or nine-year-old chocolate thief who had absconded from juvenile detention while awaiting trial. Jan was a six-year-old and very much like everyone’s spouse in that he or she was missing.

The children looked toward the windows when everyone asked. Two of them were open. The children had been commanded not to go near them.

Everyone ran to the open window on the left and looked down. Below was a plaid jacket lying atop the bushes along the side of the all-glass building. The jacket looked too large to be Jan’s, but everyone wasn’t sure. The spouse had bought the children many things everyone didn’t recognize.

“What was Jan wearing?” everyone asked.

The children shook their heads in ignorance.

Everyone looked down again at the jacket. Everyone would have preferred to be examining the vacuum cleaner, but it was already full, what with a hand--an adult hand--extruding from the bottom.

“We’ll have to go down now,” everyone said, “all of us. I can’t trust you.”

Jody wheeled the vacuum cleaner before him or her “in case it was needed,” he or she said, as the children followed everyone to the exit.

“Our children,” everyone heard his or her coworker Sam say from his or her office.

Everyone veered away, chose a different route. Everyone had not expected Sam in the office over the weekend. Everyone did not want the children to see Sam. Sam had a crush on everyone and often made untoward advances. Everyone wanted his or her departed spouse back and did not want complicating factors. Star would be heartless in a divorce hearing.

Everyone opened the door to the hall where the elevators resided.

“Hello there,” everyone heard Sam call. Everyone let the children go into the hall before him or her, then looked back. Sam stood in the doorway to his or her office decked in a bathrobe that was open, beneath which only Sam’s underwear showed. Everyone closed the hall door, pressed the down button on the elevator bank.

“Who was that?” Journey asked.

“The office paramour,” Star said. Jody nodded.

Everyone gave Star a disapproving look.

“What?” Jody scolded. “You think we don’t know?”

Outside, the children scurried down the sidewalk, Jody pushing the vacuum on its hind wheels. Journey rushed into the thicket. The plaid jacket sunk into the bush’s leaves.

Star, kicking at the branches, made his or her way into the bushes as well.

Everyone asked them to stop, to come out. And then everyone asked if they saw Jan.

The children laughed.

Jody abandoned the vacuum, took off all but his or her underwear, and dove into the thicket as well, as if it were swimming pool.

A light came on above. It was from the twelfth story, one of the open windows.

Everyone looked up. A body stood in silhouette looking down at everyone. Everyone couldn’t tell if it was Sam or Jan.

“Don’t jump,” everyone cried. “Please don’t jump.”

The silhouette jumped.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Everyone Discovers Peace through Imagination

The police arrived shortly afterward. Everyone’s child Journey had stolen $5092 of chocolate. Everyone refused to pay. Everyone had been through this before, and everyone was tired of covering for Journey’s addiction. It did not matter that Journey was only eight or nine years old. Everyone did not have $5092 to spend on chocolate.

Journey had been trapped by a giant glass bowl. The glass bowl was full of fifty-pound chocolate bars, of which Journey had eaten at least one. The bowl was in a candy store in the Dasney Amusement Park Mall, a shopping center modeled on Disneyland that featured all the standard Dasney characters attached to various Dasney stores: the Mudhutter’s Amazing Mobile Homes, Dallas in Wunderland’s Drinking Glasses, Yellow Snow’s Lemonade Concoctions, the Wacked Witch’s Flying Cleaning Appliances.

The bowl was narrower at the top than at the sides and difficult to escape, especially when the supply of chocolate bars was low, as it was now. Patrons pointed at Journey within it. One overhaul-clad boy put his nose to the glass and snorted like a pig. Another licked the glass as if the chocolate could be consumed by osmosis. A girl in a polka-dot dress jumped in place as if she might at any moment launch into the bowl herself. A man in a plaid jacket averted his eyes, embarrassed, remembering his own past childhood transgressions involving Fruit Polygon Cereal.

Neither Journey nor everyone noticed any of this. Everyone was in love with the Internet, so computers of any sort sent her or him into a swoon, and a computer made of popsicles sent everyone into a double-swoon, since everyone was on a diet.

For Journey, the chocolate bowl was a world not unlike the animatronic John Quincy Adams Hawaiian exhibit on the other side of the mall. There, patrons were asked to forget what had been and what was possible and instead live in the moment, as if it were the real. Jump out a window and fly, the Dasney Amusement Park Mall executives in charge of bad decisions might as well have proposed. Don’t worry about what’s below.

What’s below came for Journey as a person dressed as a red-mustachioed copper put clinks on her or him. Beside Journey, a person dressed as a woman with a matronly physique read the child her or his rights in an enthusiastic sing-song voice appropriate for a picture book reader. Around Journey, Pop Rawk grenades went off as people shifted their feet trying to get a look.

Everyone was one of them.

Five thousand ninety-two dollars was a lot of money everyone did not have and a lot of lesson Journey had failed to learn. Still, this was everyone’s darling, her or his offspring, and it was difficult to watch her or him disappear into the darkness of a vehicle decorated like a paddy wagon.

Everyone thought of the Internet that she or he loved so much. It was always telling everyone to let go, that attachments were keeping everyone from what she or he wanted, which was to find the end to the novel she or he was writing, the end that was also the beginning.

Everyone thought of John Quincy Adams on the other side of the mall, of the transcendence offered in robotics.

Everyone saw Journey melt before her or him as if everyone’s darling were merely an idea conveyed through an assemblage of metal and plastic. Everyone let go.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Everyone Starts Fresh

One of the more harrowing attempts everyone made to get rid of his or her darlings so that he or she could begin writing a novel per the Internet’s advice went something like this:

The storm came from nowhere. Everyone had written his or her blog post at the office during lunch. Now it was after midnight, and everyone was home, the children in bed, the dog sniffing everyone’s elbow, begging for the outdoors, where it could bark to be let back inside. Everyone wasn’t giving in, no matter how much the dog breathed on him or her. Everyone was waiting for the blog to post.

The Internet was being churlish, angry again that everyone had ignored its advice. The Internet hadn’t read what everyone had written. If it had, all would have been forgiven.

But because everyone had to wait so long for the Internet to respond, everyone reread what he or she had written, and as a result, the post was being transformed. If it did not react soon, the Internet would not see that its advice had been followed.

And then came the crash. It sounded as if everyone’s new $5092 vehicle had fallen from the sky and landed on everyone’s old vehicle with the peeling green paint and then a crane whisked both away and dropped them on the house. Indeed, at that moment, everyone saw the roof give way, the metal tear upward and off as if unzipped to reveal a spoiled sky. Raindrops fell onto everyone’s keyboard. The screen beaded up with spit.

The dog fled to a space under everyone’s coffee table. Books from everyone’s shelves rained into the room, as the shelves themselves rattled against the walls and then collapsed like giant sails atop the table where the dog had retreated.

“Help!” everyone heard in the wind.

Everyone rose, looking in the direction from which the yells seemed to be coming. Above everyone were his or her darlings: Jody, the sanctimonious now-thirteen-year-old with a penchant for fart jokes and a budding movie career; Star, the dead ten-year-old with a heart of gold and a desire to be famous; Journey, the now-nine-year-old lover of expensive chocolate; and Jan, the six-year-old whose presence was superfluous because of his or her lack of import to the story but whose near-constant absence paralleled everyone’s missing spouse. The children clung to the roof’s edge as it flapped in the wind. “Help us!” they cried.

Everyone was scared. Everyone did not know how to rescue the children. Everyone would have queried the Internet, who knew everything, but the Internet wasn’t talking. The Internet held grudges, everyone had discovered too late.

Everyone dived into the pile of books and crawled toward its apex. The summit, everyone estimated, was only five feet or so from the lowest point of the roof’s flapping, almost close enough to grab a child or to catch one willing to jump.

“Help!” the children cried.

Books slipped beneath everyone’s knees and feet. Each step seemed to drop everyone further from the crest. Below everyone, books fell and fell, a chasm growing beneath him or her. Everyone stood now, ran, moved as quickly as possible so as not to slide into the void.

Jan was the first to go. Everyone didn’t see him or her disappear. One minute he or she was there, and the next Jan was gone.

Next came Star. His or her hands could no longer hold on, and the wind ripped Star away like a chocolate wrapper tossed from a speeding car.

And then the roof itself went, carrying Jody and Journey, winging its way into the air.

Everyone cried melodramatically, “Noooooo!”

The wind ceased.

The books came to a stop. Everyone found him- or herself on his or her knees at the foot of the mountain, staring up at the black and wet sky. The rain became a drizzle.

Through the haze, everyone spied the computer.

Large, bold letters scrolled across the screen. The Internet was back. It was apologizing.

The dog emerged from its hovel, nuzzled everyone’s armpit.

I’m sorry,” the Internet posted. “Let’s start over.

Everyone wasn’t sure the past could be forgotten so easily. Everyone’s darlings were gone.

But what other choice did everyone have? The Internet, the dog, they were all that everyone had left.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Everyone Does the Dog Walk

The meaning of life had finally agreed to meet everyone. Meaning would come to the coffee shop on Skype three blocks from everyone’s office, the coffee shop at which everyone had once done a reading. The shop had windows that looked onto the world. The world the windows looked onto featured people walking with Popsi Cola cans in hand, people with places to go and things to become, like janitors and bloggers and keepers of vast amounts of marketing data that could be used to sell them stuff.

The meaning of life had once visited the coffee shop, along with other parts of downtown, one Saturday night when a convention of rich and successful and beautiful people was in town. The night had involved much Popsi Cola drinking and a number of comparisons of savings account totals and Q Quotients, and the meaning of life remembered it fondly, especially the part when all downtown’s inhabitants crowded into the back room of a bar for karaoke. The meaning of life’s rendition of “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Woof?” was so good that a music record company executive had offered the meaning of life a contract.

Everyone was to leave directly from work at her or his office, which was on the twelfth floor. The normal route involved the elevator, but on this day the elevator was shut for repair. Hence, everyone left work early to walk down the stairs.

To prepare for the meeting, everyone had purchased the meaning of life’s music album and borrowed earbuds and a music player from her or his child Star, who was dead and thus couldn’t say no. Everyone listened to the meaning of life’s album on the way down.

The meaning of life’s album was full of soothing sounds such as wind in trees, bird chirps, and ocean waves. At random intervals, the meaning of life joined in with soft, howling chants. Everyone had difficulty staying awake.

Everyone skipped to the next song, hoping for something less sleepy, which the meaning of life had anticipated, providing an all-out rocker full of angry barks that made everyone turn down the settings on the player for fear that the stairs would crack beneath her or him. Everyone looked around. The stairwell seemed to have remained structurally sound, for which everyone was relieved.

At the bottom of the stairs, everyone could have eaten $5092 worth of chocolate. Everyone was famished. Everyone wished the coffee shop was not three blocks away.

Everyone took out a napkin and wiped at her or his brow. Everyone was sweaty. Everyone needed to stick to her or his diet.

Everyone was afraid the meaning of life would walk away once everyone’s weight was no longer secret.

Everyone was wearing baggy clothes. Everyone was being circumspect. But baggy clothes were a lot of baggage for a long walk.

Everyone stepped into the street. The sidewalk was full. A coterie of dog walkers was passing. Everyone waited.

Everyone checked the time on her or his cell phone.

There were a lot of dogs to walk.

Everyone joined the procession, even though it was going the wrong way. Everyone switched back to the meaning of life’s first song. Everyone needed to be soothed.

At the next block, everyone took a right turn. Everyone planned to go around the block, take the long path to the coffee shop. Everyone had time if she or he hustled.

The long path involved an alley. The alley went between a karaoke bar and a movie theater. Everyone stepped into it with a confidence she or he had not felt in forty weeks. The meaning of life’s album was playing a song of self-assurance. The song had a stoic beat that insisted the listener march like a Great Dane through a swarm of kittens.

Everyone stopped.

A man with a dog stood in front of everyone. The dog was almost as large as everyone and had much longer teeth. Everyone shut off the music.

“You can’t go this way,” the man said. The dog snarled, jumped, fell back on its leash.

“But,” everyone countered, “there’s no other.”

The man shrugged his shoulders. “You’ll have to turn back.”

Everyone pulled out a cell phone as she or he rounded the building again. The dog walk continued. Everyone was late. Everyone dialed.

The meaning of life answered the phone. The meaning of life was waiting. In the background was a party. The party involved barking. The meaning of life had somewhere else to be--another party, on a boat. The boat left in twenty minutes. The meaning of life couldn’t wait.

Everyone tried to explain.

The meaning of life was very important and had lots to do. Perhaps they could try some other time. The meaning of life would call.

Everyone watched the dogs pass. Everyone was disappointed.

The man with the dog with long teeth came up behind everyone.

“Out now,” the man said to the dog. Everyone thought the man was talking to her or him.

Everyone joined the crowd. Everyone turned on the music player again, raised the volume, but all everyone could hear was barking.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Everyone Discovers an Author

Everyone asked various online book reviewers to blurb his or her blog novel even though the novel wasn’t finished. Everyone’s closest friend, the Internet, had suggested it. “All books get blurbs,” the Internet said. “Blurbs signal that the book is readable, which readers like.”

The only potential blurber who responded, however, was no one. Everyone thought he or she had heard of no one, but everyone wasn’t sure. Everyone even thought he or she had referenced no one a few times in his or her novel. Everyone was intrigued to know what no one had to say.

No one’s blurb came in an e-mail. The blurb read like this: “A magnificent work of metafiction. Everyone should read this. After all, everyone wrote it.”

The implication that everyone had never read his or her own written work bothered everyone, and everyone resented the blurb. Everyone had, of course, read his or her own blog a number of times--read it, in fact, more than anything else--but everyone had set the blog stats not to count his or her own hits. Anyone who reviewed blogs should have known.

“That’s why no one called your book metafiction,” the Internet pointed out. “No one was not making a claim that you never read the book. Rather, no one was pointing to the parallel between your choice of reading and writing. They are one and the same. Metafiction makes explicit the artifice of writing by inviting the reader to directly follow the creation of the story as it is brought into being.”

Everyone was dismayed. Everyone hated metafiction. Everyone had wanted to write a great story that would put readers at the edge of their seats. Instead, everyone had written a story that bore within it an ironic distance that would keep readers from believing it to be true.

Everyone had committed a travesty.

“Is it more true,” the Internet asked, waxing philosophical, “to ignore the creation of the story at hand, to pretend that there is no author bringing it into being, that the events are just happening?”

Everyone wasn’t sure what the Internet meant.

The Internet missed everyone’s coworker Harvey. Harvey had jumped out of a window and never returned. Harvey liked to discuss abstract ideas from theory, philosophy, and religion with the Internet. Everyone just wanted to know the meaning of life--concretely, in some personal manner, as if one could wander into a party on a boat and shake hands with it, have a drink with it, and suddenly be illuminated.

The Internet rattled off a list of metafictional works for everyone, rehashing their basic plot points, hoping the examples would clarify what the Internet was trying to say about truth. In Tristam Shandy, the Internet explained, a man attempts to write his autobiography but gets so distracted by the details of his story that he never even completes the story of his birth. Or take Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions, where the protagonist meets the author of the book in which he appears. Or Ernest Hemingway’s The Torrents of Spring, wherein chapters are given over to the author’s recounting of events from the past weekend that prevented him from completing the next chapter on time. Or Pale Fire, by that epitomal author of metafictional worlds, Vladimir Nabokov, in which the narrative consists of the annotations to a poem that constitutes the first half of the book. The poem’s meaning is, in part, brought to light by its first reader in the same way that subsequent readers will create further annotations and stories and meanings.

“So you’re saying that’s what I’m writing?” asked everyone.

“I’m saying,” the Internet said, “that that is all one ever writes or reads. We write the stories as we read them. The very choice to ignore this part of the storytelling process is itself an artifice with metafictional underpinnings--erasing the author so that the author must be found, or creating an author so that the real author is obfuscated, which is you, everyone, the reader!”

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Everyone Feels out of Place at Parties

Jody was at a party on a motor boat with the famous actor Clint Gabble. All the people who mattered were there--people such as Jody’s runaway parent and the meaning of life, Jody’s fake parent, Clint and Jody’s hair people, and Clint’s costar and girlfriend Gina. Jody’s defunct sibling Star was even there in spirit.

Jody’s runaway parent had been married to everyone but had given that up for the meaning of life. Now everyone’s former spouse was rich and successful and gorgeous.

Jody’s fake parent was an actor Jody had hired to pretend to be everyone in a more palatable form. Jody’s fake parent had been a member of a Greek organization in college and had ties to all of humanity but most especially to those who were career politicians or CEOs of multinational corporations, whom she or he tracked through newsfeeds provided by the Internet.

Everyone, by contrast, knew no one--or at best, the coworkers at her or his office. Everyone considered the Internet her or his closest friend. The Internet, however, had so many other friends that its relationship with everyone was perfunctory.

Jody’s fake parent sat in a circle that included Clint, Jody, Gina, everyone’s spouse, and the meaning of life. As they drank Popsi Cola, the fake parent talked about the time she or he had last had dinner with the president of a small European country. The president was a snob, the fake parent admitted, but also a lot of fun once she or he downed a few Popsis. The people at the table nodded. They knew the power of Popsi.

Everyone’s spouse and the meaning of life knew the power especially well. Everyone’s spouse raised an eyebrow. The meaning of life gestured to the right. “It’s been a pleasure,” everyone’s spouse announced, rising. “So nice to meet you again.” The spouse proffered a hand to the fake parent, who shook it.

“Don’t be a stranger,” said the fake parent.

The meaning of life and everyone’s spouse exited to the right. None of the people at the party paid attention. They were people who mattered and had little time to worry about others, except in regard to gossip.

“Why did you divorce?” Clint Gabble asked the fake parent.

“Jealousy,” the fake parent admitted. “We were both close to the meaning of life and couldn’t manage to balance the relationship, busy and successful people that we are.”

Gina nodded. “I understand,” she said. “I almost never see Clint anymore.”

Everyone’s officemate Sam stepped onto the boat wearing a swimsuit reserved for risqué movies. As an interloper on the scene, Sam understood that the only way to be considered rich, fit, and successful was to create a buzz--and that meant controversy.

Sam was at the party to find the meaning of life. With Sam was everyone. Everyone was there to meet all the people who mattered, but most especially her or his spouse.

“Where’s the meaning of life?” Sam demanded.

Everyone thought Sam a turn-on when she or he was demanding in a swimsuit.

“Let me handle this,” everyone told Sam. “Where’s the meaning of life?” asked everyone, mimicking Sam’s forcefulness in a superficial and unsatisfactory way.

Everyone noticed Clint Gabble sitting next to her or his child Jody.

Everyone swooned.

“May I sit?” everyone asked. “I’m very tired.”

Everyone sat.

Everyone wanted to appear as if she or he were used to the presence of famous people, yet everyone also wanted to gush over how much she or he had liked Clint’s movie The Real Mr. Keen. The movie had had lots of sex in it, and everyone had been turned on. Clint’s coworker--what was her name?--was a beautiful woman.

Everyone saw Gina next to Clint. It was the woman from the movie.

Sam ran a hand through her or his hair, but everyone did not notice.

“I liked your last movie a lot,” everyone noted. “You were really cool.”

“Thanks,” Clint Gabble said.

Jody gave everyone an evil eye.

The fake parent sighed, as if to begrudge the fawning fans people who mattered had to put up with.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Everyone Reads a Great Work of American Enterprise

Everyone had been invited to the reading by his or her child Star. Star was dead, but reading aloud to a live audience was something Star had great enthusiasm for, which was why everyone felt an obligation to appear. Everyone planned to read from his or her blog. The blog was about everyone’s search for the meaning of life after the death of his or her child Star, or the loss of his or her spouse or of his or her coworkers Harvey and J. D., or the disappearance of his or her child Jan, or the loss of $5092. Everyone wasn’t sure which. Everyone had lost a lot.

This explained why everyone was having trouble beginning. The blog was supposed to be a novel, though the Internet said it hardly qualified. The Internet was against everyone’s novel--because it was jealous, everyone imagined.

Everyone brought screen captures of the blog to the reading so that he or she would not have to depend on the Internet to supply a copy.

The reading was in a room on Skype that looked like a coffee shop. There were a couple of tables with chairs, three couches, a recliner, and a set of bookshelves that featured important works by important authors, such as Quacker Oats Cereal by the Popsi Cola Corporation, Busty Cooker’s Bakeware by the Genial Miles Corporation, and Wheet Thicks by the Kneebisko Corporation. Everyone was proud to be among such celebrated works of American enterprise, for nothing bespoke success like market share. Everyone hoped his or her blog would soon find a home among such works.

Everyone ordered a coffee and waited. The clerk ignored everyone, however, and that’s when everyone realized the coffee was self-serve, so everyone served. The coffee tasted homemade.

A chair sat in front of the shelves. The chair stared into a camera mounted on a computer. Everyone sat in it.

Four people had read before everyone. These people now sat on couches waiting for everyone to begin. Everyone expected more, so everyone waited.

The four people grew restless. One person stood up and stretched, then went outside, leaving the screen. Another went to make coffee.

Everyone realized he or she needed to begin before more disappeared. Everyone wasn’t sure where. The key, however, was to begin. That’s what the Internet would have said.

Everyone began.

Everyone opened the folder in which he or she had placed the printouts from the blog. Inside was everyone’s tax return from the previous year. Stapled to it was a letter from the IRS. The letter said everyone owed $5092. It said this boldly, in bold letters.

Everyone looked for the chapter “Everyone Starts a Blog.”

The next item in the folder was a letter from everyone’s coworker Sam. The letter threatened everyone with legal action if he or she continued to use Sam’s name on the blog.

Next was a bill from Star’s surgeon, asking for compensation for his or her heart of gold, and a bill from a window company, and an ad for a sedan from the Misery Beanz Corporation.

Another person rose from his or her seat and took hold of the jacket resting on its back. The person beside rose as well.

The person with the new cup of coffee took a deep gulp. “I’ll come with you,” the coffee drinker said.

The room was empty.

Everyone stared into the camera, looked down at his or her folder: a vacuum cleaner ad, a vet bill, a bill for a cemetery memorial.

Everyone looked back up at the camera and gave a wan smile.

Everyone began: “Account summary. Previous balance: $5092. Payments and credits . . .”

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Everyone Needs a Monument to Grieve

Journey had come upon the idea via the Internet. Journey had long regretted eating up everyone’s $5092 fortune in chocolate, and Journey wanted to make things right.

The Internet told Journey, who was only eight and thus required special care, in the highest, most condescending, and sing-song voice it could manage, that often when people do something that causes real harm, so much harm that the person or item can’t be replaced, people erect a memorial.

The Internet showed Journey photographs of cemeteries. The cemeteries featured mostly headstones. Journey liked most the cemeteries that had life-size reproductions of people and animals or fountains and pools into which one could drop one’s feet.

Journey’s favorite monument was a stone merry-go-round that rotated when one pushed on it. Said push would activate a water pump that spewed lemonade onto riders and, if one was seated at the proper height, directly into a rider’s mouth. The memorial was for a horse jockey who had died in a game of musical chairs played on saddles mounted on live horses sponsored by Minuet-Made Lemonade.

Journey decided to create a memorial to the $5092. Journey wanted to help everyone grieve for the $5092 in a healthy and productive manner.

The memorial featured fifty one-hundred-dollar bills, four twenties, a ten, and two ones. The currency was mounted atop a giant stone candy bowl, peaking out of it. The candy bowl was ten times the size of a human. Leaning up against it was a candy bar the size of a vacuum cleaner, and next to it was a life-size figurine of a child eying the candy greedily. The child was in the back seat of a car made of granite (fashioned to look like Laygos, the attachable bricks so popular with the under-ten crowd). The driver’s side door of the car was open and off its hinges so that people could curl up in the front seat when it was raining. But the focus of the monument really was the $5092, highlighted by lamps shining up from below and covered in gold plating made from the melted-down heart of a child. In fact, it was gold, which Journey had found in the back of everyone’s closet, that Journey used to pay for the memorial and for the spinner that twirled the money around atop the bowl and for the chocolate milk that came out of the top of the bowl on special occasions, special occasions such as this, the dedication, spewing down the bowl’s side like mud.

Journey stood in front of the bowl next to the candy bar, waiting for the chocolate to run down to where Journey was. The bowl was in the middle of the Dasney Amusement Park Mall. The prime location had been arranged at a discount by Sam, a friend of Journey who was acquainted with everyone and the mall.

“How do you like it?” Journey asked everyone.

Everyone was crying, no doubt, very moved.

Journey took a finger, ran it along the bowl, stuck it in her or his mouth.

Aw, chocolate!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Everyone Loses a Jacket

Everyone stood at the window looking down at Harvey. He seemed to be flying. Harvey held out his arms and let them ruffle like two empty vacuum cleaner bags in the wind. As he moved closer to the earth, his arms took on weight, the air filling up space with his jacket.

It was not enough.

Everyone would have heard the splat if Harvey had not landed in the bushes and if the sound of the wind had not been so powerful twelve stories up. Everyone held on to the window’s edge, not wanting to fall. Everyone was uncertain what to do. No one had arrived at work yet except everyone. Everyone watched and waited. Harvey did not seem to be moving--only his jacket, unfurling in the wind.

Everyone backed away from the window and took out his or her cell phone. But he or she did not call emergency. Harvey had jumped voluntarily, as if he knew the result would not be death and he was now waiting below for everyone to come to him.

At the bushes, everyone found the jacket just as he or she had seen it from the office above--wanting to take off, like a bird whose boneless wings were too shapeless to effect flight.

“Harvey,” everyone called, but no one called back.

Everyone dialed emergency.

The jacket held on to a twig, pleading for someone to recover it before it was stolen by the wind.

“My coworker,” everyone said into the phone, “he jumped.” Everyone felt as if he or she had stood at the bushes looking at the jacket before. Everyone crawled into the shrubs. Perhaps, Harvey had slipped into them.

Everyone gave his or her location to the emergency operator.

“Is he alive?” the operator asked.

“I don’t know,” everyone said. “I can’t find him.”

The bushes held all the city’s trash of the past two hundred years: Styrofoam cups and Popsi Cola cans, giant chocolate bar wrappers and a program from the local playhouse for its updated production of a medieval play, a copy of Lestie’s Illustrated Newspaper and a rusting horseshoe.

Everyone was confused. So was the emergency operator.

Everyone stood up. He or she was at the center of the bushes, his or her head above them posing like a bowling ball on the top shelf at a bowling alley. The jacket was beside him or her, still gripping the twig. People everyone knew were entering the building--Alice and Sam, a person in a plaid jacket not unlike the one beside everyone in the bushes. Everyone turned to look at the jacket again.

It was gone.

Above everyone, the jacket floated. It appeared to be flying, up, up, up.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Everyone Dithers over Whom to Ask for Advice

Everyone was having a crisis of confidence. Everyone had made the mistake of rereading her or his blog and had come to the conclusion that it was not as good as everyone had thought it was.

First was the problem that the novel everyone was posting started in the wrong place. I should have started with chapter 4, everyone ventured, being most intrigued from that entry on, but when everyone tried to do without the first three blog chapters, the novel did not make sense. Everyone could have rearranged the order of the chapters, but everyone had already posted them.

I told you so,” the Internet told everyone when she or he asked how to correct the problem. The Internet was out to prove a point, everyone surmised, and it wasn’t interested in helping. After all, if it did and everyone managed to salvage the novel, the Internet’s earlier directive not to blog one’s novel (at least not until one was finished writing it) would be proven wrong. The Internet had an ego, as everyone was finding out. This was an issue when the Internet was one’s closest friend and the one to whom one turned in times of need.

Others everyone might have called included her or his coworker J. D., who next to the Internet probably knew the most about everything, especially about rules, but everyone had not seen J. D. in months.

Harvey would have been a good coworker to query, if it were not for his deep relationship with the Internet. Everyone knew Harvey to be wise and spiritual, the way the Internet could be, which explained why Harvey talked so often with it. This close friendship, in turn, made everyone doubt that Harvey would be able to dispense useful advice, since the Internet more than likely would mention, if it had not already, everyone’s problem to Harvey with a gloating smirk, making Harvey leery to contradict something his good friend had said.

Everyone’s coworker Sam would have been an excellent resource, but he or she had a crush on everyone, mostly, it appeared now, because everyone reminded Sam of a time when J. D. had been more of a regular at the office. Everyone found Sam extremely attractive but mostly because Sam was of the opposite gender the way everyone’s spouse had been. And since everyone was still hoping to get that spouse back, using Sam for recommendations seemed imprudent.

Who everyone really wanted to talk with about the blog, however, was the meaning of life. The meaning of life was at the core of everyone’s dissatisfaction with the blog. Everyone knew the meaning of life read the blog. Everyone and the meaning of life talked on the phone nearly every night. But still, the meaning of life had neither proposed nor assented to an in-person rendezvous. Everyone was worried about her or his figure and had been dieting in anticipation of meeting, and yet everyone was beginning to think that the meaning of life was stringing her or him along. What sort of joy the meaning of life got out of this constant postponing everyone could not figure, but she or he hypothesized that it went back to the meaning of life’s love for hide-and-go-seek, a game everyone had thought people lost interest in by the age of ten.

Then, to make matters worse, last week everyone had found out that her or his child Jody had told the Internet that she or he was too embarrassed to let her or his friend, the famous actor Clint Gabble, meet everyone because everyone was so short of being successful. Jody pointed specifically at everyone’s blog novel. This shocked everyone not only because she or he had thought the blog an impressive work of art that had managed--if only recently--to grab the meaning of life’s attention but because everyone had thought, judging from the analytics the Internet constantly ran for everyone, that no one actually read her or his blog.

Everyone wasn’t sure which was worse--to have no one read it or to have people read it and be embarrassed by how bad it was.

Everyone gave in and called Sam.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Everyone Fakes Being a Parent

Jody was a famous actor now, and Star was jealous. Jody had parlayed the role of Kindred in a local play into a part in the movie Fifty-Two Ways to Blog about the Meaning of Life, starring the famous actor Clint Gabble. Star tore his or her heart out and died. Star had had a liking for Clint Gabble ever since he had started dating Gina Monrovia, with whom he had starred in the movie The Real Mr. Keen, mostly in the nude. Star had been too young to see the movie, but the Internet had shown Star nearly every clip available of the two lovers together in real life, and Star had wished his or her life to be the same.

Jody and Clint got along admirably. Clint invited Jody to watch television with him and Gina in his trailer while the makeup artist prepared their hair. The three of them watched the romantic film The Notbook, for which Clint had a soft spot, it being Gina’s favorite. Clint played tough roles in movies, but he was actually quite sensitive. That was why he had wanted so badly to play the real Mr. Keen. Plus, Clint liked sex.

Jody could relate. Being twelve years old, almost thirteen, Jody thought about sex constantly, even though he or she had never had it. In fact, Jody’s preoccupation with sex had been at the center of his or her portrayal of Kindred in the local play, Everyman, because after all, all kindred came from sex.

“I never thought of it that way,” Clint said.

Not long after that, Clint invited Jody to go waterskiing with him and Gina, and the three hung out all day on a motorboat drinking Popsi Colas and looking fit, which caused members of the opposite sex to buy up several popular magazines.

Clint had yet to meet the second of Jody’s parents, however, and Jody was nervous about it. Clint and Gina met one of the parents--everyone’s former spouse--out on the boat that day. Everyone’s spouse was known to drink Popsi Colas as well and regularly spent time on motorboats with fit and tan and beautiful people who were rich, successful, and famous, so he or she fit in well with Jody’s friends. Everyone’s spouse had long known Jody was bound for success: Jody had always been sanctimonious, and Hollywood people, the spouse noted, eat that up when the sanctimony runs in the correct activist direction.

Everyone, however, was something of a failure. Everyone had been blogging a novel for thirty-something weeks, and still no one was reading it. In the novel, everyone was looking for his or her spouse--or for the meaning of life, or both--when both were lying right here, on a motorboat in a body of water, easy to obtain access to, even as Jody and Clint and Gina had. Everyone had problems.

And that was Jody’s problem. He or she was worried how everyone would react when everyone met Clint. Everyone had not had dealings with rich and successful people in beautiful bodies, save for everyone’s spouse, before he or she had become successful, and all the people of the world who read the blog, which was no one, knew how that had gone.

Jody asked his or her friend the Internet for advice.

Hire an actor,” the Internet said. “Nothing says Clint and Gina have to meet both your parents or even a real one.”

Jody pondered this for a few seconds and found the advice flawless. The Internet knew everything, which was why it was so good at dispensing advice. Jody asked the Internet if it knew any good actors that Clint and Gina didn’t know, actors who could play a parent.

The Internet spilled out reams of names. The Internet knew all of humanity but most especially those who wanted to be someone else, as they were the ones who had the most dealings with the Internet and were thus the Internet’s closest friends.

Jody chose an actor in black-and-white because he or she looked old, the way his or her other parent did. The actor agreed to come to the marina to get on a boat with Jody and Clint. They would go waterskiing together and drink Popsi Cola.

Star, who was dead, was not happy about this.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Everyone’s Child Dies a Star

“Sam?” everyone heard Star say. Star was everyone’s second child. Sam was everyone’s coworker.

Everyone looked up from the bed. Star was standing in the doorway. Sam was not everyone’s spouse.

“I thought you were devoted to John Quincy Adams,” Star said.

“I am,” Sam insisted.

“It’s not what it looks like,” everyone said, putting feet on the floor and buttoning her or his shirt. “I came in to look at what was in the window.”

Star had tears in her or his eyes. “John Quincy Adams was inside you,” Star said.

“No,” Sam clarified. “J. D. is inside me. John Quincy Adams reminds me of J. D. John Quincy Adams is profound the way J. D. was. John Quincy Adams speaks of Hawaii the way J. D. used to.”

“I am devoted to my spouse,” everyone explained. “I would never--”

Star tugged at her or his chest, pulling the clothes away from her or his body, as if a vacuum cleaner hose were sucking at them.

“Please,” everyone said. “I’m sorry. I’m only human.” Everyone looked at the picture of her or his spouse on the shelf beside the bed. The spouse was gorgeous. She or he had been working out for a year before the photo was taken. Each muscle was perfectly toned. The workouts had occurred out of doors, and the spouse was well tanned. In her or his hand was a Popsi Cola, everyone’s favorite drink. The spouse was on a boat on an ocean or a lake. The sunlight cast a shadow onto the figure standing beside the spouse, also perfectly sculpted. How could everyone compete? And now this.

“This, this here,” Sam continued, trying to explain, “it’s just.” Sam bowed her or his head. Sam had not risen from the bed. Her or his robe stood open, advertising Sam’s flesh. Everyone realized that Sam was not only a constant source of temptation but also a paragon of gaudiness. No wonder everyone had fallen into Sam’s embrace.

“Everyone was there that day,” Sam said. “Everyone stood beside me in my grief. Our grief. I’d hoped--”

“Adams was out on that ocean for you,” Star yelled. “Adams went to paradise. Adams knows what love is, what it’s supposed to be.” Star was convulsing. She or he had more than a shirt in hand.

“Don’t,” everyone said. “Your heart. You’ll damage--”

But it was too late. Star had it in hand. It gleamed in front of Star under the fluorescents--gold covered in blood. Star threw it on the floor and collapsed.

“Star,” everyone cried. She or he knelt. Everyone and her or his spouse had devoted so much in medical expenses toward the child. She or he had always seemed the child most likely to become famous, given what was inside.

Sam covered her or him with the robe. “That was rather inconvenient,” Sam said. She or he stood, stooped beside everyone, put an arm around everyone’s shoulder. Together, they looked at the heart.

“I bet you could get $5092 for that,” Sam said.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Everyone Restarts a Diet

Everyone was getting serious about his or her diet--or was going to. Everyone had been talking with the meaning of life almost every night for two weeks, and it seemed inevitable that they would eventually meet. Everyone wanted to be ready.

The meaning of life had high standards. The meaning of life was rich. The meaning of life road on motorboats, had a docking area at the marina. The meaning of life hung out with tan and beautiful people. The meaning of life drank Popsi Cola interminably and yet did not have a gut, had in fact the abs of a model on the World Wide Web.

Everyone needed those abs. Everyone would have settled for a small tummy that fit into clothes from his or her freshman year of college. Everyone wasn’t even close. Everyone needed to start small--even just ten pounds might be enough for the meaning of life not to completely dismiss him or her.

Everyone was supposed to have started the diet after his or her wedding. Then after the first child. Then the second. Then the third. Then the fourth. Then after the spouse ran away.

Everyone switched to Handsome Cola, a diet brand. That is as far as everyone had gotten.

Everyone’s diet was going to consist of fourteen hundred calories per day maximum. Everyone was going to lose two to five pounds per week. Everyone was going to eat mounds of cottage cheese and Linkoln Log sets of carrots. Everyone was going to stick to roughage. There would be no chocolate, no hard candy, no alcohol, no buttered popcorn, no deep-fried, bread-battered chicken.

Everyone was making an adventure of food to stay motivated. Everyone sat in front of an apple sauce swamp. Inside it were celery soldiers. Everyone had a spoon to dig them out.

Outside, the dog was barking. The kids were yelling at one another about how life was unfair. The kids were very concerned about fairness. They would have made excellent public activists.

Everyone did not care about fairness. Everyone wished only that fairness worked to his or her advantage rather than disadvantage.

Everyone had told the meaning of life that he or she spent an hour at the gym each day after work. Everyone had lied. Everyone had made a narrative of lies, had sculpted an alternative lifestyle. In the unfairness everyone wished for the lies would come true as soon as they were spoken. “Today,” everyone said, “I used the elliptical machine. I used to be on a rowing team.”

“Your spouse never mentioned that,” the meaning of life said. “There are so many things about you that your spouse never told me.”

The spouse rarely talked about everyone, which meant the spouse rarely thought about everyone, was not missing everyone the way everyone was missing him or her. Everyone thought of the spouse in his or her swimsuit on a motorboat in the middle of a body of water, Popsi Cola in hand. Everyone’s heart stirred.

Everyone wanted the spouse back. Everyone was chagrined that outside of searching for the meaning of life everyone had done little these past nine months to improve him- or herself.

Everyone dove into the apple sauce, dug out a soldier, slipped the soldier into his or her mouth, and crunched. Everyone was on the way. Everyone felt better already.

A soldier had been rescued. Everyone deserved a reward. Rewards help motivation.

Everyone stood, went to the refrigerator, grabbed a Handsome Cola, two. A chocolate bar lay on the top shelf. Everyone took that too. The chocolate belonged to everyone’s child Journey. Everyone had paid a ridiculously extravagant sum for it, $5092. Everyone deserved the chocolate bar every bit as much as Journey. It was everyone’s money.

Everyone bit the chocolate bar.

Everyone gloried in his or her diet.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Everyone Seeks Clarity

Everyone had forged a habit of washing down the mirror in her or his office building restroom before work. The restroom was on the right as she or he came out of the elevators on the twelfth floor. She or he arrived twenty minutes early each day from the bus.

Everyone had started by using paper towels and water, which left droplets on the mirror and left everyone unsatisfied. Next came towels from home, but those left a layer of fuzz. After that, everyone brought window cleaner and a squeegee from home and some towels from the gas station, but that system left soap residue.

Everyone sometimes did janitorial work on weekends. That work, everyone realized, once she or he began cleaning the bathroom mirror before her or his regular job, was shoddy.

Everyone consulted with Harvey. Harvey worked in a cubicle on the same floor on the other side of the office building. On weekends, Harvey was everyone’s boss. Harvey had a view of a window that was so clean it appeared not to exist.

“How do you do it,” everyone asked, “make it look so transparent and real?”

“I knock it out,” Harvey said. “I open it, take the glass out of the way, and get rid of the reflection.”

Everyone began sitting cross-legged on the bathroom floor before work for ten to twenty minutes. Everyone stared at the mirror, meditated. Still, everyone could not find the clarity for which she or he was looking.

“You’re looking too hard,” Harvey told everyone when she or he asked about it. “You’re focused, but you’re focused on the wrong thing. You have to let clarity--meaning--come to you.”

Everyone sat on the floor and tried to look past the mirror. Everyone saw a person who had aged intolerably in the past year--wrinkles crinkling at the corners of the eyes and along the brow. Everyone was destined for obsolescence. Everyone needed a haircut, a new shirt or blouse--something that would stand out to coworkers, make others take notice of her or him.

Everyone had talked with meaning on the phone. Everyone had seen meaning conveyed to her or him in photographs. And yet, everyone still wasn’t sure what meaning was, was still unable to conjure meaning--get ahold of meaning--in the way that everyone imagined meaning to be.

“You’ve got to introduce me,” everyone told Harvey, finally, in desperation. Harvey knew the meaning of life. Harvey could call on the meaning of life virtually any time he wanted.

“I clean everything,” Harvey said. “Clear it, make the surface shine until I see only me--that is to say, the non-me.”

“I know,” everyone said. “That’s what I’ve been doing.”

“My method doesn’t work for all,” Harvey said. “You have to find your own way.”

Harvey walked to the window that was so clear it appeared to be open.

Everyone stood in his or her spot. Everyone was afraid of heights.

“Come here,” Harvey beckoned.

Everyone didn’t move.

Harvey returned, grabbed everyone just under the arms, his own arm around everyone’s body, and dragged everyone to the window. “Look,” Harvey said. “Look out there.”

Everyone did.

The city teemed beneath them--cars stopping for the light on the corner; people sitting on benches eating lunch, drinking Popsi Cola; others stopping to look in the windows of boutiques; a jacket wafting upward in the wind, then down, then away, to the right, out of view.

“That’s me,” Harvey said. “That’s you. That’s all of us.”

He relaxed his grip.

Everyone backed away.

Harvey did too. And then he jumped.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Everyone Waits for an Important Phone Call

Everyone and the meaning of life had arranged to have a phone call. The call was to come in two minutes. Everyone was nervous. Everyone was drinking water and eating carrots to pass the time, which was slow.

Everyone wanted a cola, but everyone had just finished one ten minutes ago, and everyone was supposed to be on a diet. Everyone, in fact, had finished not just one but one six-pack. Everyone had drunk Handsome Cola, a diet soda. Everyone was poor and trying to lose weight. Handsome Cola was cheap and low on calories and could be purchased from the market on the corner three blocks from everyone’s office. Thus, it was a constant temptation, especially when the workday was long and the window was open and the smell of Popsi Cola wafted in from the outdoor eateries below.

Handsome Cola was not Popsi Cola. Everyone preferred Popsi Cola, and so far as he or she could tell, the meaning of life preferred it also. In photographs on the meaning of life’s blog, beautiful people held cans of the cola at waist height as they stood on a motorboat in the middle of a body of water. But Popsi Cola was comparatively expensive and had a high calorie count.

Everyone was not at the office, however. Everyone was at home. The four kids were in bed for the night. Everyone was supposed to be posting an entry on his or her blog, but everyone was waiting for the phone call before he or she wrote the conclusion. Outside, the dog was barking. It was a medium-sized dog with matted hair. The children were very close to it, but only when everyone mentioned getting rid of it. Otherwise, the children ignored it, like now, or pushed it out the door so that it would not be in their way. The dog was irritating. Everyone bit a carrot.

Everyone asked the Internet why the call was taking so long to come. The Internet said that time seems to slow down at moments of great importance because more is being written into one’s brain’s memory so that one will be able to respond more efficiently when similar situations arise in the future. Everyone had asked the question rhetorically. Everyone wondered sometimes why he or she remained friends with the Internet. The Internet was rarely sympathetic and often shut down when everyone needed it most or gave stupid answers like this.

And then the phone rang.

Everyone jumped. The dog barked.

Everyone took a sip of water, another one, another. Everyone needed to pick up the receiver before the phone stopped ringing, but everyone was unsure what he or she was going to say after answering it. Everyone had been practicing for weeks--indeed, months--the lines, and yet everyone had still not learned them. In fact, everyone had not yet discovered them.

Outside the dog was still barking. The dog would keep everyone from being able to hear. Everyone needed to answer the phone.

Everyone did.

“Hello,” everyone said. The line was so simple, everyone could hardly believe he or she had been so nervous. A calm came over everyone. Everyone had answered the phone.

The voice on the phone asked if this was everyone. The voice sounded like that of a large person of another ethnicity. It was not at all what everyone had imagined.

“It is,” everyone said.

The voice laughed. “I bet you’re relieved,” the voice said, “after all this time, to talk to me. I bet you’ve been thinking a lot about me.”

Everyone agreed.

“Well,” the voice said, “you’re going to be thinking about me a lot more after I tell you this,” the voice said.

But alas, the dog came to the window, and its barks were not to be restrained.