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, August 28, 2016

Everyone Fakes Being a Parent

Jody was a famous actor now, and Star was jealous. Jody had parlayed the role of Kindred in a local play into a part in the movie Fifty-Two Ways to Blog about the Meaning of Life, starring the famous actor Clint Gabble. Star tore his or her heart out and died. Star had had a liking for Clint Gabble ever since he had started dating Gina Monrovia, with whom he had starred in the movie The Real Mr. Keen, mostly in the nude. Star had been too young to see the movie, but the Internet had shown Star nearly every clip available of the two lovers together in real life, and Star had wished his or her life to be the same.

Jody and Clint got along admirably. Clint invited Jody to watch television with him and Gina in his trailer while the makeup artist prepared their hair. The three of them watched the romantic film The Notbook, for which Clint had a soft spot, it being Gina’s favorite. Clint played tough roles in movies, but he was actually quite sensitive. That was why he had wanted so badly to play the real Mr. Keen. Plus, Clint liked sex.

Jody could relate. Being twelve years old, almost thirteen, Jody thought about sex constantly, even though he or she had never had it. In fact, Jody’s preoccupation with sex had been at the center of his or her portrayal of Kindred in the local play, Everyman, because after all, all kindred came from sex.

“I never thought of it that way,” Clint said.

Not long after that, Clint invited Jody to go waterskiing with him and Gina, and the three hung out all day on a motorboat drinking Popsi Colas and looking fit, which caused members of the opposite sex to buy up several popular magazines.

Clint had yet to meet the second of Jody’s parents, however, and Jody was nervous about it. Clint and Gina met one of the parents--everyone’s former spouse--out on the boat that day. Everyone’s spouse was known to drink Popsi Colas as well and regularly spent time on motorboats with fit and tan and beautiful people who were rich, successful, and famous, so he or she fit in well with Jody’s friends. Everyone’s spouse had long known Jody was bound for success: Jody had always been sanctimonious, and Hollywood people, the spouse noted, eat that up when the sanctimony runs in the correct activist direction.

Everyone, however, was something of a failure. Everyone had been blogging a novel for thirty-something weeks, and still no one was reading it. In the novel, everyone was looking for his or her spouse--or for the meaning of life, or both--when both were lying right here, on a motorboat in a body of water, easy to obtain access to, even as Jody and Clint and Gina had. Everyone had problems.

And that was Jody’s problem. He or she was worried how everyone would react when everyone met Clint. Everyone had not had dealings with rich and successful people in beautiful bodies, save for everyone’s spouse, before he or she had become successful, and all the people of the world who read the blog, which was no one, knew how that had gone.

Jody asked his or her friend the Internet for advice.

Hire an actor,” the Internet said. “Nothing says Clint and Gina have to meet both your parents or even a real one.”

Jody pondered this for a few seconds and found the advice flawless. The Internet knew everything, which was why it was so good at dispensing advice. Jody asked the Internet if it knew any good actors that Clint and Gina didn’t know, actors who could play a parent.

The Internet spilled out reams of names. The Internet knew all of humanity but most especially those who wanted to be someone else, as they were the ones who had the most dealings with the Internet and were thus the Internet’s closest friends.

Jody chose an actor in black-and-white because he or she looked old, the way his or her other parent did. The actor agreed to come to the marina to get on a boat with Jody and Clint. They would go waterskiing together and drink Popsi Cola.

Star, who was dead, was not happy about this.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Everyone’s Child Dies a Star

“Sam?” everyone heard Star say. Star was everyone’s second child. Sam was everyone’s coworker.

Everyone looked up from the bed. Star was standing in the doorway. Sam was not everyone’s spouse.

“I thought you were devoted to John Quincy Adams,” Star said.

“I am,” Sam insisted.

“It’s not what it looks like,” everyone said, putting feet on the floor and buttoning her or his shirt. “I came in to look at what was in the window.”

Star had tears in her or his eyes. “John Quincy Adams was inside you,” Star said.

“No,” Sam clarified. “J. D. is inside me. John Quincy Adams reminds me of J. D. John Quincy Adams is profound the way J. D. was. John Quincy Adams speaks of Hawaii the way J. D. used to.”

“I am devoted to my spouse,” everyone explained. “I would never--”

Star tugged at her or his chest, pulling the clothes away from her or his body, as if a vacuum cleaner hose were sucking at them.

“Please,” everyone said. “I’m sorry. I’m only human.” Everyone looked at the picture of her or his spouse on the shelf beside the bed. The spouse was gorgeous. She or he had been working out for a year before the photo was taken. Each muscle was perfectly toned. The workouts had occurred out of doors, and the spouse was well tanned. In her or his hand was a Popsi Cola, everyone’s favorite drink. The spouse was on a boat on an ocean or a lake. The sunlight cast a shadow onto the figure standing beside the spouse, also perfectly sculpted. How could everyone compete? And now this.

“This, this here,” Sam continued, trying to explain, “it’s just.” Sam bowed her or his head. Sam had not risen from the bed. Her or his robe stood open, advertising Sam’s flesh. Everyone realized that Sam was not only a constant source of temptation but also a paragon of gaudiness. No wonder everyone had fallen into Sam’s embrace.

“Everyone was there that day,” Sam said. “Everyone stood beside me in my grief. Our grief. I’d hoped--”

“Adams was out on that ocean for you,” Star yelled. “Adams went to paradise. Adams knows what love is, what it’s supposed to be.” Star was convulsing. She or he had more than a shirt in hand.

“Don’t,” everyone said. “Your heart. You’ll damage--”

But it was too late. Star had it in hand. It gleamed in front of Star under the fluorescents--gold covered in blood. Star threw it on the floor and collapsed.

“Star,” everyone cried. She or he knelt. Everyone and her or his spouse had devoted so much in medical expenses toward the child. She or he had always seemed the child most likely to become famous, given what was inside.

Sam covered her or him with the robe. “That was rather inconvenient,” Sam said. She or he stood, stooped beside everyone, put an arm around everyone’s shoulder. Together, they looked at the heart.

“I bet you could get $5092 for that,” Sam said.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Everyone Restarts a Diet

Everyone was getting serious about his or her diet--or was going to. Everyone had been talking with the meaning of life almost every night for two weeks, and it seemed inevitable that they would eventually meet. Everyone wanted to be ready.

The meaning of life had high standards. The meaning of life was rich. The meaning of life road on motorboats, had a docking area at the marina. The meaning of life hung out with tan and beautiful people. The meaning of life drank Popsi Cola interminably and yet did not have a gut, had in fact the abs of a model on the World Wide Web.

Everyone needed those abs. Everyone would have settled for a small tummy that fit into clothes from his or her freshman year of college. Everyone wasn’t even close. Everyone needed to start small--even just ten pounds might be enough for the meaning of life not to completely dismiss him or her.

Everyone was supposed to have started the diet after his or her wedding. Then after the first child. Then the second. Then the third. Then the fourth. Then after the spouse ran away.

Everyone switched to Handsome Cola, a diet brand. That is as far as everyone had gotten.

Everyone’s diet was going to consist of fourteen hundred calories per day maximum. Everyone was going to lose two to five pounds per week. Everyone was going to eat mounds of cottage cheese and Linkoln Log sets of carrots. Everyone was going to stick to roughage. There would be no chocolate, no hard candy, no alcohol, no buttered popcorn, no deep-fried, bread-battered chicken.

Everyone was making an adventure of food to stay motivated. Everyone sat in front of an apple sauce swamp. Inside it were celery soldiers. Everyone had a spoon to dig them out.

Outside, the dog was barking. The kids were yelling at one another about how life was unfair. The kids were very concerned about fairness. They would have made excellent public activists.

Everyone did not care about fairness. Everyone wished only that fairness worked to his or her advantage rather than disadvantage.

Everyone had told the meaning of life that he or she spent an hour at the gym each day after work. Everyone had lied. Everyone had made a narrative of lies, had sculpted an alternative lifestyle. In the unfairness everyone wished for the lies would come true as soon as they were spoken. “Today,” everyone said, “I used the elliptical machine. I used to be on a rowing team.”

“Your spouse never mentioned that,” the meaning of life said. “There are so many things about you that your spouse never told me.”

The spouse rarely talked about everyone, which meant the spouse rarely thought about everyone, was not missing everyone the way everyone was missing him or her. Everyone thought of the spouse in his or her swimsuit on a motorboat in the middle of a body of water, Popsi Cola in hand. Everyone’s heart stirred.

Everyone wanted the spouse back. Everyone was chagrined that outside of searching for the meaning of life everyone had done little these past nine months to improve him- or herself.

Everyone dove into the apple sauce, dug out a soldier, slipped the soldier into his or her mouth, and crunched. Everyone was on the way. Everyone felt better already.

A soldier had been rescued. Everyone deserved a reward. Rewards help motivation.

Everyone stood, went to the refrigerator, grabbed a Handsome Cola, two. A chocolate bar lay on the top shelf. Everyone took that too. The chocolate belonged to everyone’s child Journey. Everyone had paid a ridiculously extravagant sum for it, $5092. Everyone deserved the chocolate bar every bit as much as Journey. It was everyone’s money.

Everyone bit the chocolate bar.

Everyone gloried in his or her diet.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Everyone Seeks Clarity

Everyone had forged a habit of washing down the mirror in her or his office building restroom before work. The restroom was on the right as she or he came out of the elevators on the twelfth floor. She or he arrived twenty minutes early each day from the bus.

Everyone had started by using paper towels and water, which left droplets on the mirror and left everyone unsatisfied. Next came towels from home, but those left a layer of fuzz. After that, everyone brought window cleaner and a squeegee from home and some towels from the gas station, but that system left soap residue.

Everyone sometimes did janitorial work on weekends. That work, everyone realized, once she or he began cleaning the bathroom mirror before her or his regular job, was shoddy.

Everyone consulted with Harvey. Harvey worked in a cubicle on the same floor on the other side of the office building. On weekends, Harvey was everyone’s boss. Harvey had a view of a window that was so clean it appeared not to exist.

“How do you do it,” everyone asked, “make it look so transparent and real?”

“I knock it out,” Harvey said. “I open it, take the glass out of the way, and get rid of the reflection.”

Everyone began sitting cross-legged on the bathroom floor before work for ten to twenty minutes. Everyone stared at the mirror, meditated. Still, everyone could not find the clarity for which she or he was looking.

“You’re looking too hard,” Harvey told everyone when she or he asked about it. “You’re focused, but you’re focused on the wrong thing. You have to let clarity--meaning--come to you.”

Everyone sat on the floor and tried to look past the mirror. Everyone saw a person who had aged intolerably in the past year--wrinkles crinkling at the corners of the eyes and along the brow. Everyone was destined for obsolescence. Everyone needed a haircut, a new shirt or blouse--something that would stand out to coworkers, make others take notice of her or him.

Everyone had talked with meaning on the phone. Everyone had seen meaning conveyed to her or him in photographs. And yet, everyone still wasn’t sure what meaning was, was still unable to conjure meaning--get ahold of meaning--in the way that everyone imagined meaning to be.

“You’ve got to introduce me,” everyone told Harvey, finally, in desperation. Harvey knew the meaning of life. Harvey could call on the meaning of life virtually any time he wanted.

“I clean everything,” Harvey said. “Clear it, make the surface shine until I see only me--that is to say, the non-me.”

“I know,” everyone said. “That’s what I’ve been doing.”

“My method doesn’t work for all,” Harvey said. “You have to find your own way.”

Harvey walked to the window that was so clear it appeared to be open.

Everyone stood in his or her spot. Everyone was afraid of heights.

“Come here,” Harvey beckoned.

Everyone didn’t move.

Harvey returned, grabbed everyone just under the arms, his own arm around everyone’s body, and dragged everyone to the window. “Look,” Harvey said. “Look out there.”

Everyone did.

The city teemed beneath them--cars stopping for the light on the corner; people sitting on benches eating lunch, drinking Popsi Cola; others stopping to look in the windows of boutiques; a jacket wafting upward in the wind, then down, then away, to the right, out of view.

“That’s me,” Harvey said. “That’s you. That’s all of us.”

He relaxed his grip.

Everyone backed away.

Harvey did too. And then he jumped.