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, February 28, 2016

Everyone Follows Advice

The Internet told everyone to start his or her novel at the end. Everyone had been asking and asking and asking the Internet where to start every day for eight weeks, and finally, the Internet had complied, shouting the answer at everyone over an advertisement for margaritas.

But everyone was still not satisfied. Everyone did not know the end, and asking everyone to know that seemed utterly absurd when everyone didn’t even know where the novel began, let alone what it was about.

“All you care about is your stupid blog novel,” the Internet continued, when everyone persisted with his or her absurd questions. “What about me?” the Internet asked. “When was the last time you asked about me, how I’m doing, told me you loved me?”

“But I do love you,” everyone said. “Everything I write,” everyone pointed out, “it’s for you.”

The Internet wasn’t satisfied.

The Internet went away, shut down, disappeared.

Everyone continued trying to talk with the Internet, clicking the mouse over and over, typing on the keyboard. Nothing. Everyone shut down the computer and restarted. The Internet didn’t care.

Everyone stood up, walked in a circle beside his or her desk. Everyone had been taking the Internet for granted, he or she had to admit. The Internet was always there for everyone, ready to answer any question. Everyone needed to do a better job of showing his or her appreciation.

But what could everyone do now? The Internet wouldn’t even talk with everyone.

“Internet’s off,” said Sam, everyone’s coworker, as everyone exited his or her office.

Everyone nodded.

Everyone hadn’t seen Sam in a couple of days. Everyone hadn’t seen anyone except for the four kids and the dog at home, and that only for a fleeting minute or two, for the last forty-eight hours. How could the Internet be jealous when everyone spent nearly all his or her day and night with it?

Sam stood up from his or her desk. Sam had the office next door to everyone.

Sam and everyone walked past Alice, another coworker.

“Internet’s off,” Alice said.

Sam and everyone nodded. Alice stood up from her desk, joined them.

Then came Pat and Max and K. and Morgan. The Internet was off. They had nothing to do.

They walked to the elevator, took it to the lobby.

Everyone decided to buy a Handsome Cola. Everyone was on a diet, and Handsome Cola had zero calories. Everyone would walk to the convenience store on the corner three blocks away, which would count as exercise. Sam thought that a good idea. So did Alice. And so did Pat and Max and K. and Morgan and all the others who had joined them. They would all walk to the convenience store and buy sodas.

Everyone wanted to explore new ideas as he or she was drinking the cola, come up with an ending--and by extension a beginning--show the Internet that he or she was listening to its advice, applying it. Everyone was a good friend.

But everyone couldn’t take the Internet’s advice because everyone couldn’t write. Everyone couldn’t write because everyone couldn’t think. Everyone couldn’t think because Sam and Alice and Pat and Max and K. and Morgan and all the others had decided to join him or her at the convenience store and they were talking.

They were talking about the Internet. They could not believe it, how the Internet could take off on them just like that. They’d thought they’d forged a solid connection. They’d been talking, corresponding, every day, for years, and now this. “You never really know a person,” they said. That’s what the Internet was teaching them--that everything you know about someone, or think you know, could be a lie.

And that’s when the beginning began to unfurl for everyone, as he or she was drinking Handsome Cola and listening to all the others talk. Everyone would write about what he or she had thought was known and had proven to be false. Everyone would write about love, about his or her departed spouse, about the meaning of life. Everyone would start here, at the convenience store, with his or her coworkers, talking about a mutual acquaintance, how they had been disappointed in love and friendship. Everyone would drink cola and become a writer. Everyone would blog.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Everyone Falls in Love

And then it happened--someone jumped or fell. Fell was more likely. Everyone did not know. Everyone had not been there. Everyone had been at her or his desk in her or his office on the twelfth floor doing tax returns while pretending to archive architectural details for the Dasney Amusement Park Malls, for whom everyone worked--this week, changes to the animatronic John Quincy Adams at the mall in the town in which everyone lived.

John Quincy Adams was not very popular. He had been settled on because some people did not like Ronald Reagan while other people did not like Bill Clinton. Dasney Amusement Park Malls was trying to galvanize interest, make the robotic John Quincy Adams relevant to people’s lives enough that they would want to listen to him speak. His voice predated audio recordings. No one knew much about him. He was exotic. This, the Dasney executives in charge of covering bad decisions had argued, should have made John Quincy Adams popular.

Now Dasney was putting John Quincy Adams in Hawaii, because many surveys said people love Hawaii. Having Adams speak presciently about the fiftieth state, the Dasney executives in charge of rendering bad decisions believed, seemed a spectacular thing for a robot to do.

Everyone heard a scream and a clank and clunk against metal. Everyone was uncertain which had come first or whether they had happened at the same time. Everyone was more focused on the response of her or his body--the sinking of the stomach, the quickening of the heart.

It had finally happened, everyone thought--people opening and closing and opening and closing that screen door all day every day for four weeks, and finally someone had fallen. The window was too large for opening and closing, the office too high up. “What an idiot,” everyone thought.

Everyone rushed to the open window but didn’t get too close. Everyone came for the spectacle, though everyone didn’t want to see it. Everyone felt sick. The other employees were there too, milling around, staring. Some stood on the ledge looking down--idiots all, everyone thought.

“Who was it?” everyone asked.

Others asked too.

“J. D.,” Sam told people. “It was J. D.” Sam was crying. Everyone had been trying to avoid Sam because she or he had a crush on everyone. But everyone had never seen Sam cry. Everyone was moved beyond sickness.

Others claimed J. D. also. J. D. spread through the office, became ubiquitous, a part of all employees’ souls. Everyone had never cared for J. D.--J. D. was too taken with budget numbers and was a know-it-all--but J. D. became part of everyone as well.

Everyone looked around for J. D. to make sure. Everyone did not see her or him. The supposition seemed possible, even likely.

Then Alice, poised at the window frame looking down, said, “It doesn’t look like J. D.”

Others looked for J. D. too, but J. D. was inside them, where she or he couldn’t be seen.

Everyone wanted to step to the window and look, confirm or deny what Alice had denoted. Everyone didn’t dare. That window was death waiting to happen. Everyone had four children to care for and a spouse who had run off that she or he hoped to cajole back.

“J. D. never wore shirts like that,” Alice continued.

“That’s not a shirt like that,” Pat said. “That’s J. D.’s jacket.” Pat had a penchant for fashion but was chronically near sighted. Everyone wasn’t sure what to believe.

“That’s a shirt,” Alice insisted. “Since when did J. D. have a plaid jacket?”

“J. D.,” Sam moaned, as if her or his heart were broken.

Everyone put her or his arm around Sam. Everyone couldn’t believe it. But J. D. was inside everyone, and everyone found her- or himself changing, transforming, becoming something loving and lovable. Everyone was scared.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Everyone Wants a New Start

Everyone was searching for a better beginning to his or her novel. Everyone, as per usual, asked his or her friend the Internet. The Internet knew a lot of stuff and was very wise, but it was also self-effacing. “Don’t believe everything that’s posted,” the Internet often told everyone, not wanting to be found a liar. Everyone wanted to believe everything, because they were friends, but this was difficult because the Internet often said things that were contradictory, as with the beginning of novels.

The Internet said to start at the beginning.

The Internet said you will never know the beginning unless you start, so just start.

The Internet said to start in the middle and cut the first four pages.

Everyone reread his or her first four pages. While everyone was not satisfied with their place at the beginning, they seemed needed. In fact, the longer everyone looked at them, the more everyone thought them the work of a genius.

Everyone could not cut them. They were his or her children: Jody, the sanctimonious twelve-year-old with his or her penchant for fart jokes; Star, the sensitive ten-year-old with a heart of literal gold, quite an expense at the time but luckily covered by insurance, given his or her life on the balance sheet; Journey, the rambunctious little dweeb, eight years of age, with a weakness for all things chocolate; and finally Jan, the six-year-old with the personality of everyone’s spouse, which is to say a missing personality, because everyone’s spouse had run away.

“You have to kill your darlings,” the Internet said, “if you want to write.”

The advice seemed nonsensical. Everyone was looking for a start, and if everyone sacrificed the darlings, what would he or she have left? The darlings were essential.

But the Internet was not to be persuaded. “The darlings will keep you from the end of the story and thus from the true beginning,” the Internet said. “Kill the darlings.”

Everyone cried as he or she moved the cursor across the keyboard. First Jody disappeared, then Star, then Journey, then Jan.

Everyone was alone. Except for the dog. The dog was in the third paragraph, breathing on everyone at the keyboard.

Save the dog, the Internet advised. “People love a good dog story.”

“Are you writing this or am I?” everyone asked.

The Internet didn’t answer. The Internet was miffed. Everyone had asked for the Internet’s advice, and the Internet had given it, and if everyone was going to get angry, then there was no reason for the Internet to waste its time.

Everyone was miffed too. Everyone wanted back his or her darlings. Everyone was crying inside and out. But the way of return had been expunged. This was the beginning.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Everyone Moonlights

Everyone had to take a second job. She or he needed to save money for a new car. Everyone had had money--$5092 worth of it -until one of everyone’s children had blown it on chocolate. Now everyone was living on whatever her or his regular employer Dasney doled out to her or him every two weeks, which was why everyone had agreed to this professional opportunity. The professional opportunity had been proffered to everyone through some surveys that everyone’s friend the Internet had given to everyone.

As it turned out, everyone’s coworker Harvey knew the Internet too, which the Internet and everyone discovered through the surveys. Harvey had a sideline job as a business professional. The business Harvey was a professional at was cleaning, and that was what everyone was now a professional at as well. Each weekend, everyone cleaned a new office building. This meant running old towels along the bottom of the window frames and over blinds, dropping wet bundles of string onto lunchroom floors, and vacuuming one’s way through a redundant maze of doors and door stops.

Everyone did not like the job, but everyone liked being paid one hundred dollars cash at the day’s end--tax free--because that was how Harvey rolled. (“Don’t tell the Internet, though,” Harvey warned, knowing their friend’s selective punctiliousness with regard to legalities.)

Everyone was on the sixth office down the sixth hallway of the sixth office building when the vacuum squealed and burned. Everyone was not religious, so everyone did not notice the prophetic congruence of the numbers, nor would everyone have understood their significance, except to know that they were supposed to mean something bad. Such information would have had to come from Harvey, but it could not, because Harvey was missing. That he was missing was a bad thing, but that, too, everyone could not know without Harvey pointing it out to everyone, which Harvey desperately wanted to do, because it hurt.

Everyone smelled and stared and listened to the vacuum. The vacuum was uncomfortable, but everyone did not know why. Everyone tried to turn the vacuum off and restart it so that everyone could take advantage of her or his professional opportunity, but the vacuum would not shut down.

Everyone turned her or his head in every direction, looking for Harvey. Harvey was not in the office.

Everyone walked to the hall, looked up and down it. Harvey was not in the hall. Everyone walked down it, to every place she or he had been.

Everyone could hear the squeal in offices five and four and three and two and one. Everyone could hear the squeal among the cubicles and in the kitchen and the bathroom. Everyone could hear the squeal everywhere.

Everyone began to panic.

The windows were moving inward as if the air outside were a paperweight. Everyone had never been under a paperweight. Everyone was having trouble identifying the safety procedures she or he should initiate.

And then everyone remembered the cord.

Everyone ran back to office six and pulled.

The office was on fire, however, and so was the vacuum. Everyone dashed between the two chairs and the table and the desk to save her- or himself.

Everyone had probably lost today’s one hundred dollars, perhaps the entire professional opportunity, and everyone was sad. Everyone needed the $5092 back for the new car.

Everyone wanted to salvage the situation.

Everyone found a water cooler in the kitchen. Everyone filled a paper cup, then another, and another.

Everyone abandoned the paper cups.

Everyone raised the bottle off its pedestal, lugged it to the office.

The fire did not abate.

Everyone stomped on its edges.

Harvey screamed.

Everyone turned to look at Harvey, but Harvey was not around.

“In here, lunkhead,” Harvey called.

Everyone looked for a closet, a place in which to hide.

“In here,” Harvey repeated.

And then, everyone saw the hand extruding from the bottom of the vacuum, the vacuum rising and falling beneath the burning bag.

“In here,” Harvey yelled. “In here.”