Everyone needed to know where the body had come from, what the light was that everyone had seen behind it.
The lobby was dark as everyone strode through, the security guards defunct for the night, the food in the tiny café glowing ghostily under futile display lamps. The elevator bank was dead too, a graveyard of metal upright caskets. Everyone emptied her or his security card into its beckoning slot, watched the light switch from red to green, then stepped into the elevator and requested the twelfth floor.
Everyone found the twelfth floor lighted up as if a baseball game were being played at night, fluorescents beaming so brightly across cubicles that her or his eyes hurt.
“I’ve been expecting you,” everyone’s coworker Sam said, coming to the doorway of her or his office. Sam was barefoot, a sleeping robe encasing her or his frame.
Everyone had long known of Sam’s crush on her or him, but everyone had never thought Sam sexy in the way that everyone’s spouse had been. Everyone felt embarrassed and confused. Everyone wondered whether being alone with Sam made a difference or whether everyone’s perceptions had been wrong about Sam these many months. Either way, everyone at this moment found her- or himself wanting Sam with a desperation known only to toads that mate solely one day a year.
“Come,” Sam said, summoning everyone with the turn of her or his body, the flash of skin at the back of the shins too much for everyone to resist.
Sam’s modular desk had been transformed into a bed, sheets pulled down and ready for occupation. Above them, the romantic glow of a fire titillated on the computer. Sam sat down, pulled a champagne glass and bottle from the shelf beside the bed, and poured. She or he patted the bed for everyone.
Everyone looked around. Sam handed the wine to everyone, took another glass for her- or himself, and drank.
Everyone sat. Sam placed an arm around everyone and kissed her or his cheek. Everyone flinched. Sam laughed, pulled everyone into her- or himself.
“Don’t worry,” Sam said. “Your spouse isn’t coming back.”
Everyone studied the photograph on the shelf next to the wine bottle. Everyone’s spouse stood on a motorboat at night. Lights glinted off the water. The spouse was smiling, holding a can of Popsi Cola at waist height with her or his right hand. The spouse appeared fit and tan--better than everyone remembered the spouse looking. An arm was around the spouse, the flesh of a torso. The person beside everyone’s spouse wore shades and a baseball cap. Everyone knew this person. This person gave the spouse’s life meaning.
Sam pushed everyone down on the bed, wrapped her or his body around everyone’s, kissed everyone, began taking off clothes.
“We’ve got to find Jan,” everyone heard. “Everyone’s going to be angry at us if we don’t.”
“You’re the one who insisted on running the vacuum,” Star said. Star was everyone’s second child.
“You were told to stay away from the window,” Jody, everyone’s first, said.
“I did,” Star said.
“It was Jan’s decision,” everyone’s third, Journey, proffered.
Everyone pushed her- or himself up. Sam tugged.
“The children,” everyone said.
Sam stood, pulled off her or his robe, put her or his weight against everyone, slammed everyone into the mattress.
“Our children!” Sam insisted.
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.