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, May 29, 2016

Everyone Is Uncertain about Dating

Sam asked everyone on a date. They were to go see John Quincy Adams speak at the local Dasney Amusement Park Mall. Everyone was nervous. Everyone did not want to go on a date. Everyone had not been on a date since her or his spouse had run away.

Everyone wanted the spouse back. Every night, everyone asked the Internet about the spouse’s whereabouts. The Internet knew the spouse well and was very informed about what the spouse was doing, which was enjoying life, because the spouse had found the meaning of it.

In the photographs the Internet showed everyone, the spouse looked fit and tan. In her or his right hand was a can of Popsi Cola, everyone’s favorite soda. The spouse’s hair had never looked better quaffed. The spouse stood next to other people, all of them equally spectacular. One of these people, everyone had gathered, was the meaning of life. Everyone could see the appeal. The meaning of life was fit and tan too--and rich and happy. Plus, the meaning of life had a boat and lots of jewelry.

Sam was a coworker with a kind heart and a crush. Sam complimented everyone ceaselessly about the things that made everyone mundane. “I like your shoes.” “You have great taste in paperweights.” “I think even the Eight Ball could not say a bad thing about you.”

Sam had been pestering everyone to go out with her or him since the spouse had left. At first, everyone thought Sam was simply trying to offer consolation. The fact that Sam continued to enter everyone’s office space five or six or seven times a day for months afterward, however, left everyone feeling Sam wanted more.

Then came hints: “Amateur wrestling. I would love to see that sometime.” “I bet you’re great with those four kids of yours--I’d love to be at your house one day to watch and learn.”

Then finally came outright invitations: “Let’s discuss the proposed procedures over coffee.” “Please come eat lunch at the pita place with me today. I want to know what someone else thinks of it.”

Everyone had turned down every invitation until the day of J. D.’s fall from a window on the twelfth floor of the building where their office was. That day, everyone felt a need for a new body, and when the Internet cut off communication for a few days later that month, everyone headed out for coffee with others, but most especially, almost exclusively, with Sam.

Now it was just them. The excuse Sam gave this time was that she or he had something important--something requiring long-windedness--to discuss regarding the John Quincy Adams exhibit. The exhibit was run by the company for which everyone and Sam worked, but they would be visiting it after hours, when the visitors were fewer.

Everyone and Sam sat down to listen to John Quincy Adams speak. John Quincy Adams was the sixth president of the United States. He had been dead for over a century. No one knew what he sounded like.

Everyone worried that Sam would put one of her or his arms around everyone, but Sam did not.

So everyone had nothing to worry about, except that now everyone felt awkward and wondered whether she or he should go first or whether she or he had misinterpreted the meaning of the outing.

Everyone and Sam already knew each other’s bodies. They had held them the day J. D. fell from the window. But the touching had been nonexistent since then.

Everyone examined Sam. Everyone felt certain that the outing could have been intended as a date. Sam was wearing black dress pants that accentuated her or his figure. She or he had left the upper portion of her or his torso exposed so that the gold necklace dangling from her or his chest accentuated its nakedness the way a closed window accentuates a room’s insideness. If the chest alone had could have drunk Popsi on a boat with meaning, it would have fit right in with everyone’s spouse. Sam’s chest was the epitome of her or his gender.

At the exhibit, John Quincy Adams spoke of Hawaii. He wanted it to be the fiftieth state and was perturbed that so many in Congress were lined up against it just because it was in the middle of nowhere and could not be gotten to by horse and carriage. Hawaii had beaches and volcanoes and beautiful vistas. And it had tourists--a lot of them--which meant tax revenue.

Sam was transfixed, as if a vacuum cleaner were sucking her or his face into Adams’s mouth.

Sam saw everyone watching.

“You see what I mean,” Sam said, “the way he talks, it reminds one of J. D., doesn’t it?”

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Everyone Faces a Dilemma

The body was face-down atop the bushes. Everyone walked toward it with certainty, as if he or she were recovering a vacuum cleaner hose needed to complete a custodial job. Everyone was amazed no one else had come for the body. Others had seen it fall--coworkers everyone knew and probably some passersby. The building from which the body had fallen was downtown. Hours had passed. There had been restaurant eaters and bar hoppers and moviegoers and bookstore fiends to contend with. A body shouldn’t have been able to lay atop the bushes so blithely without someone becoming upset.

The body had on a plaid jacket. Everyone had seen the jacket only a few times before. The jacket had been in everyone’s closet soon after everyone had gotten married. Everyone was uncertain whether the jacket belonged to his or her spouse or whether it was intended as a gift to him- or herself or whether it was in fact reserved for one of their eventual children. The jacket did not seem to fit within the parameters of everyone’s spouse’s usual tastes, and it certainly didn’t fit within the parameters of everyone’s.

And then the jacket disappeared.

That had been so long ago now that everyone was uncertain whether the jacket was real.

When everyone asked his or her spouse about the jacket, as everyone had a few times before the spouse had left everyone, the spouse denied its existence. “Why would I have such a thing?” the spouse had asked. “I hate plaid, and so do you.”

Everyone grabbed the jacket from atop the bushes, and the body slipped down into them. The jacket tore. Everyone had only a handful of it, as if everyone had pulled a handkerchief from the bushes’ pocket.

The bushes were thorny and full of poison. Everyone pondered whether to go in and, if so, how far. Everyone wondered if the body belonged to the person everyone thought it did. Everyone had concerns. Everyone pondered calling the authorities. Everyone wondered whether the authorities would have concerns and whether those concerns would involve everyone.

No one seemed to have noticed the body, and now it had disappeared into the bushes. The authorities might wonder how everyone had known it was there. The authorities might not believe everyone if everyone stated that he or she had seen it fall. So many others had seen it fall. So many others had been around and had passed it by, but no one had mentioned it. No one had called.

Everyone considered the act of calling an ethical dilemma. Everyone hated ethical dilemmas.

Everyone wished that he or she was at a computer so that everyone could contact the Internet regarding what to do.

Everyone did not recognize that the dilemma did not really involve ethics. Everyone’s reason for not calling the authorities was, in fact, cowardice. Everyone did not think about how if he or she could not risk calling about the body, everyone could not risk what was necessary to find the meaning of life, as he or she desired. If everyone had listened to his or her former coworker Harvey, everyone would have known that finding the meaning of life involved giving up one’s life.

Harvey would have told everyone that whether to call was not an ethical dilemma. Harvey knew a lot about ethics because religion and philosophy were what Harvey liked to talk about with the Internet. Harvey often mentioned religion and philosophy to everyone.

Harvey was a custodian. Harvey owned a vacuum cleaner. A vacuum cleaner could gather a body from the bushes. A vacuum cleaner could make a masterpiece of a mess.

Everyone did not have a vacuum cleaner at this moment.

Everyone wiped at his or her brow with the plaid handkerchief. Everyone did not go into the bushes. Everyone was uncertain whether the body was inside them. The handkerchief seemed like something everyone had seen in his or her closet soon after everyone had been married. Everyone’s spouse had denied the thing existed.

Everyone threw the handkerchief into the bushes.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Everyone Discovers Mystery

Everyone was not satisfied with the beginning of her or his novel. Once again, everyone asked the Internet for help. The Internet had already offered much advice on the subject. “Start at the end,” the Internet had told everyone, but everyone had disregarded that, since everyone didn’t know the end. “Kill your darlings,” the Internet had said, but everyone’s darlings refused to die. “Cut the first three pages,” the Internet instructed. “Start in the middle.” But the first three pages, everyone contended, contained essential information that readers would have to know in order to able to read on, so everyone left them in, though periodically unsatisfied with their quality.

Finally, exasperated, the Internet offered this: “Just start!”

Everyone had thought this a grand idea.

So everyone started.

But against the Internet’s advice, everyone posted the start of the novel to her or his blog. And now everyone had evidence that her or his beginning sucked, because no one was reading it--the beginning or the novel.

Everyone had not taken into account the dynamics of a blog. The Internet had, and it had mentioned those dynamics to everyone way back when. People read a blog from the most current entry; thus, they always start at the most-recent end, and because a blog is by nature unfinished, readers inevitably start in the middle. Everyone hadn’t thought of that, in fact refused to think of it when the Internet mentioned it. Had everyone thought of that, everyone would have been obsessing over the middle instead of over the beginning. Every middle was a new beginning, the Internet would have told her or him, begging readers to return to read again--from both the past and the future.

Instead, everyone had returned to the same question she or he had asked from the beginning: How to start?

Everyone’s goal was to find the meaning of life. Everyone wasn’t sure if the meaning of life read blogs, but chances were greater that the meaning of life would read one that had more readers than one that had fewer.

Everyone knew the meaning of life knew the Internet. Everyone had seen the meaning of life’s blog, which the meaning of life had given to the Internet. On that blog were photographs of gorgeous people with smiles and tans standing on a motorboat, cans of Popsi Cola in hand.

Everyone should have gleaned from the photographs that the meaning of life was all about action, doing something. The meaning of life had fully developed character, which is how it had managed to run off with everyone’s spouse. Everyone, by contrast, was a passive, no-name entity. No one could be certain exactly how old everyone was or whether everyone preferred the toilet seat up or down.

“What you need for your beginning,” the Internet suggested now, “is mystery. Readers love a good mystery. They want to know that something is about to happen but not to know what it is.”

The Internet often did this to everyone--made her or him think in new and profound ways. Everyone was very lucky to have the Internet as such a close personal friend that everyone could contact any time, day or night.

Everyone loved mystery. Mystery, everyone realized, is what made the meaning of life so intriguing. How do those people on the meaning of life’s boat stay so trim, everyone often wondered, when they drink so much soda? And why were they so happy and tan? And how did the meaning of life get so rich?

Everyone had been on a diet for thirty-two weeks and had managed only to gain twenty-two pounds, this despite not having had soda, not even diet soda, in nine weeks. Everyone had lost her or his life savings in a chocolate-buying fiasco. And everyone not only did not have a boat; everyone barely had a substantively working car.

What everyone needed to do with the beginning of her or his novel, she or he realized, was to promise to reveal the mystery behind the meaning of life. That would certainly attract everyone--and probably other people too, especially the meaning of life, since everyone loved being written about her- or himself and so probably did the meaning of life.

“Look at how successful and tan the meaning of life is,” everyone wrote now during her or his lunch with the intention of posting it that night on everyone’s blog. “I’m going to tell you how and why the meaning of life is this way and how you can find the meaning of life yourself.” Everyone sat back and stared at the words. Everyone felt satisfied.

Ah mystery!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Everyone Cleans the Office

While in the hospital, everyone came to the realization that everyone needed to write more about his or her children. What was the point, after all, of the children existing if everyone wasn’t putting them to use? By that, everyone was not suggesting that the kids should be slave labor. Everyone had no desire to be on the wrong side of the U.S. Civil War.

Rather, everyone was contemplating his or her novel in relation to character development. Everyone had asked the Internet about character, but the Internet had given him or her screens’ worth of fluff about faithfulness and trust and hard work. The real key to character, everyone had come to realize, was action. Characters had to do something.

“Characters have to live in the world,” the Internet said when everyone brought his or her new idea to the Internet’s attention. “Action is key.”

The Internet was not willing to admit it had been wrong. It never was. Everyone hated that about the Internet, which made everyone wonder sometimes why he or she and the Internet remained friends, especially since the Internet had a way of shutting down when everyone needed help.

But the focus in everyone’s blog today was not on the Internet. It was on the children: sanctimonious twelve-year-old Jody, who knew everything (too much time around the Internet, everyone surmised); ten-year-old Star, with his or her heart of gold; eight-year-old chocolate-addicted Journey; and six-year-old Jan, who reminded everyone so much of his or her spouse in that Jan seemed so often to be missing. Everyone was putting each of them to work today, cleaning the twelfth-floor office building where everyone performed his or her main job as an archivist.

Everyone was a little nervous. The building was made of glass, and children and glass did not mix well. Beyond that, one of the glass pieces on the twelfth floor was missing. Everyone warned his or her children to stay away from the windows, most especially the open one.

The children were to flush toilets in the bathroom until they seemed clean--sixteen, seventeen, eighteen times, whatever it took. They were to dust the computer terminals on Alice’s desk and Harvey’s and J. D.’s. They were to empty the trash in the break rooms and vacuum the common hallways. But they were not to go near the windows, and they were not to go into Sam’s office.

Sam had a crush on everyone, and everyone suspected that photographs of everyone might have become part of Sam’s decor. Not understanding the full context, the children might have taken such images as incriminating evidence against everyone and thus abet everyone’s spouse’s divorce suit against him or her. Everyone did not want to get divorced.

Jody worked hard on the carpet, directing Star’s and Journey’s paths as they stooped over the floor, peeling up bubble gum and dog poop, nail polish and hot glue, staples and sticky notes, with child-sized chisels. Jody was vacuuming, but not much was coming up. The bag was full, and the belt squealed against the rotating cylinder, smoking up the office in the same manner that everyone’s car had smoked when it first burst into flames while everyone was on the way downtown one night to inspect the office’s open twelfth-story window. The flames made the car difficult to drive, even more so than before when there was only the acrid smell of hairballs from the previous owner to contend with. Now smoke constantly poured from the engine into the cab and flames in the back window had to be periodically doused. Everyone couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps the vacuum had caught fire from the car.

But such was not the case. Jody stopped the vacuum when the high pitch of the belt squeal cracked loose a second window at the office. This window was next to the missing one, from which the children had been told to stay away, which they did.

“I think something is wrong,” said know-it-all Jody, bending over the vacuum that he or she now held on its side. “Something is in here.” Jody reached in and pulled back, nothing in hand, horror across his or her face.

Everyone came to look. A hand was sticking out from the bottom--not Jody’s.

“You klutz,” everyone said. “You need to be more careful.”

Everyone pulled at the hand. Just then, everyone heard a crash.

The second window was gone.

Journey and Star and Jody ran to it, looked out over the street.

Where was Jan? everyone wondered.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Everyone Visits the Hospital

Everyone needed $5092. Everyone was in the hospital. Everyone was wishing that back in chapter 2 everyone had not used the $5092 to pay for her or his child Journey’s chocolate fixation. In fact, everyone wished that she or he had never introduced children to the novel. The novel was about finding the meaning of life, but every time everyone needed to write something in relation to that, the children stormed in.

Everyone had contacted the meaning of life via e-mail and via a comment on the meaning of life’s blog, but there had been little progress beyond that, despite the Internet’s help. And now, everyone needed $5092 to pay a hospital bill, or the hospital would not let her or him leave. Everyone needed to contact the Internet, but the hospital would not let everyone do so, unless everyone paid a fee, because the Internet was not a blood relative.

Everyone called her or his oldest child Jody. Jody was twelve years old and had known the Internet the longest of everyone’s children. The Internet knew virtually all of humanity, as it did everyone’s offspring, excepting Jan, who was six. Everyone had not let Jan and the Internet meet. The Internet knew some shady people.

“Jody,” everyone said over the phone, “I need you to tell the Internet that I need $5092.”

Jody refused. She or he was working everyone’s second job for her or him and could not, at this moment, contact everyone’s friend.

Everyone was in the middle of the eighteenth chapter of her or his novel. Everyone could not wait. There were readers to satisfy.

Jody didn’t seem motivated to change her or his current state. One hundred dollars was involved, and being down $5092 and in the hospital, everyone could not pay the hundred dollars to make up for Jody’s lost time.

Everyone was scared the reader would stop here, and this would be the end of the novel, which was not how the Internet and everyone had planned it. Everyone was supposed to find the meaning of life. If the novel ended in the hospital, its beginning would not work.

The Internet had warned everyone about this, that everyone might get to chapter 18 and discover that the events in chapter 2 were all wrong and that everyone might want to change them. Everyone had not listened. The Internet had dithered about posting chapter 2 to everyone’s blog but in the end had acceded to everyone’s command. Everyone wished the Internet had failed to follow directions. Everyone cursed.

Everyone did not know the janitor was in the room. The janitor did not like cursing. The janitor watched religious movies with the Internet. The janitor was an ex-coworker of everyone’s named Harvey.

The reason everyone did not see Harvey was that Harvey was inside the vacuum cleaner. The vacuum cleaner was in the corner of the room, next to the visitors’ chair that was perennially empty. It was perennially empty because everyone did not have a car because everyone’s $5092 had been spent paying for everyone’s child Journey’s chocolate fixation and everyone’s children could not drive.

“Get me out of here,” Harvey yelled. Harvey was an unwitting visitor. The vacuum cleaner had traveled a long way to be here, and so had Harvey, but they had not traveled here for cursing.

Everyone thought her or his head was in the novel and that everyone had imagined Harvey’s voice.

“Harvey, is that you?” everyone asked, to be sure the voice wasn’t real.

To everyone’s surprise, Harvey acceded.

“Where are you?” everyone asked.

“In here, you lunkhead,” Harvey said. “In here.”

Everyone could not see Harvey. The room was very dark.

“In here,” Harvey repeated.

Everyone looked under the table beside the bed, under the television, next to the curtains, on top of the chair for the visitors, but no matter how long everyone looked, everyone could not see Harvey, and the room was getting darker. Everyone was going blind.

It was a dreadful end to the novel.