“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.
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.