Everyone had been invited to the reading by his or her child Star. Star was dead, but reading aloud to a live audience was something Star had great enthusiasm for, which was why everyone felt an obligation to appear. Everyone planned to read from his or her blog. The blog was about everyone’s search for the meaning of life after the death of his or her child Star, or the loss of his or her spouse or of his or her coworkers Harvey and J. D., or the disappearance of his or her child Jan, or the loss of $5092. Everyone wasn’t sure which. Everyone had lost a lot.
This explained why everyone was having trouble beginning. The blog was supposed to be a novel, though the Internet said it hardly qualified. The Internet was against everyone’s novel--because it was jealous, everyone imagined.
Everyone brought screen captures of the blog to the reading so that he or she would not have to depend on the Internet to supply a copy.
The reading was in a room on Skype that looked like a coffee shop. There were a couple of tables with chairs, three couches, a recliner, and a set of bookshelves that featured important works by important authors, such as Quacker Oats Cereal by the Popsi Cola Corporation, Busty Cooker’s Bakeware by the Genial Miles Corporation, and Wheet Thicks by the Kneebisko Corporation. Everyone was proud to be among such celebrated works of American enterprise, for nothing bespoke success like market share. Everyone hoped his or her blog would soon find a home among such works.
Everyone ordered a coffee and waited. The clerk ignored everyone, however, and that’s when everyone realized the coffee was self-serve, so everyone served. The coffee tasted homemade.
A chair sat in front of the shelves. The chair stared into a camera mounted on a computer. Everyone sat in it.
Four people had read before everyone. These people now sat on couches waiting for everyone to begin. Everyone expected more, so everyone waited.
The four people grew restless. One person stood up and stretched, then went outside, leaving the screen. Another went to make coffee.
Everyone realized he or she needed to begin before more disappeared. Everyone wasn’t sure where. The key, however, was to begin. That’s what the Internet would have said.
Everyone opened the folder in which he or she had placed the printouts from the blog. Inside was everyone’s tax return from the previous year. Stapled to it was a letter from the IRS. The letter said everyone owed $5092. It said this boldly, in bold letters.
Everyone looked for the chapter “Everyone Starts a Blog.”
The next item in the folder was a letter from everyone’s coworker Sam. The letter threatened everyone with legal action if he or she continued to use Sam’s name on the blog.
Next was a bill from Star’s surgeon, asking for compensation for his or her heart of gold, and a bill from a window company, and an ad for a sedan from the Misery Beanz Corporation.
Another person rose from his or her seat and took hold of the jacket resting on its back. The person beside rose as well.
The person with the new cup of coffee took a deep gulp. “I’ll come with you,” the coffee drinker said.
The room was empty.
Everyone stared into the camera, looked down at his or her folder: a vacuum cleaner ad, a vet bill, a bill for a cemetery memorial.
Everyone looked back up at the camera and gave a wan smile.
Everyone began: “Account summary. Previous balance: $5092. Payments and credits . . .”
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.