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.
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.