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?”
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.