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, October 30, 2016

Everyone Discovers Peace through Imagination

The police arrived shortly afterward. Everyone’s child Journey had stolen $5092 of chocolate. Everyone refused to pay. Everyone had been through this before, and everyone was tired of covering for Journey’s addiction. It did not matter that Journey was only eight or nine years old. Everyone did not have $5092 to spend on chocolate.

Journey had been trapped by a giant glass bowl. The glass bowl was full of fifty-pound chocolate bars, of which Journey had eaten at least one. The bowl was in a candy store in the Dasney Amusement Park Mall, a shopping center modeled on Disneyland that featured all the standard Dasney characters attached to various Dasney stores: the Mudhutter’s Amazing Mobile Homes, Dallas in Wunderland’s Drinking Glasses, Yellow Snow’s Lemonade Concoctions, the Wacked Witch’s Flying Cleaning Appliances.

The bowl was narrower at the top than at the sides and difficult to escape, especially when the supply of chocolate bars was low, as it was now. Patrons pointed at Journey within it. One overhaul-clad boy put his nose to the glass and snorted like a pig. Another licked the glass as if the chocolate could be consumed by osmosis. A girl in a polka-dot dress jumped in place as if she might at any moment launch into the bowl herself. A man in a plaid jacket averted his eyes, embarrassed, remembering his own past childhood transgressions involving Fruit Polygon Cereal.

Neither Journey nor everyone noticed any of this. Everyone was in love with the Internet, so computers of any sort sent her or him into a swoon, and a computer made of popsicles sent everyone into a double-swoon, since everyone was on a diet.

For Journey, the chocolate bowl was a world not unlike the animatronic John Quincy Adams Hawaiian exhibit on the other side of the mall. There, patrons were asked to forget what had been and what was possible and instead live in the moment, as if it were the real. Jump out a window and fly, the Dasney Amusement Park Mall executives in charge of bad decisions might as well have proposed. Don’t worry about what’s below.

What’s below came for Journey as a person dressed as a red-mustachioed copper put clinks on her or him. Beside Journey, a person dressed as a woman with a matronly physique read the child her or his rights in an enthusiastic sing-song voice appropriate for a picture book reader. Around Journey, Pop Rawk grenades went off as people shifted their feet trying to get a look.

Everyone was one of them.

Five thousand ninety-two dollars was a lot of money everyone did not have and a lot of lesson Journey had failed to learn. Still, this was everyone’s darling, her or his offspring, and it was difficult to watch her or him disappear into the darkness of a vehicle decorated like a paddy wagon.

Everyone thought of the Internet that she or he loved so much. It was always telling everyone to let go, that attachments were keeping everyone from what she or he wanted, which was to find the end to the novel she or he was writing, the end that was also the beginning.

Everyone thought of John Quincy Adams on the other side of the mall, of the transcendence offered in robotics.

Everyone saw Journey melt before her or him as if everyone’s darling were merely an idea conveyed through an assemblage of metal and plastic. Everyone let go.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Everyone Starts Fresh

One of the more harrowing attempts everyone made to get rid of his or her darlings so that he or she could begin writing a novel per the Internet’s advice went something like this:

The storm came from nowhere. Everyone had written his or her blog post at the office during lunch. Now it was after midnight, and everyone was home, the children in bed, the dog sniffing everyone’s elbow, begging for the outdoors, where it could bark to be let back inside. Everyone wasn’t giving in, no matter how much the dog breathed on him or her. Everyone was waiting for the blog to post.

The Internet was being churlish, angry again that everyone had ignored its advice. The Internet hadn’t read what everyone had written. If it had, all would have been forgiven.

But because everyone had to wait so long for the Internet to respond, everyone reread what he or she had written, and as a result, the post was being transformed. If it did not react soon, the Internet would not see that its advice had been followed.

And then came the crash. It sounded as if everyone’s new $5092 vehicle had fallen from the sky and landed on everyone’s old vehicle with the peeling green paint and then a crane whisked both away and dropped them on the house. Indeed, at that moment, everyone saw the roof give way, the metal tear upward and off as if unzipped to reveal a spoiled sky. Raindrops fell onto everyone’s keyboard. The screen beaded up with spit.

The dog fled to a space under everyone’s coffee table. Books from everyone’s shelves rained into the room, as the shelves themselves rattled against the walls and then collapsed like giant sails atop the table where the dog had retreated.

“Help!” everyone heard in the wind.

Everyone rose, looking in the direction from which the yells seemed to be coming. Above everyone were his or her darlings: Jody, the sanctimonious now-thirteen-year-old with a penchant for fart jokes and a budding movie career; Star, the dead ten-year-old with a heart of gold and a desire to be famous; Journey, the now-nine-year-old lover of expensive chocolate; and Jan, the six-year-old whose presence was superfluous because of his or her lack of import to the story but whose near-constant absence paralleled everyone’s missing spouse. The children clung to the roof’s edge as it flapped in the wind. “Help us!” they cried.

Everyone was scared. Everyone did not know how to rescue the children. Everyone would have queried the Internet, who knew everything, but the Internet wasn’t talking. The Internet held grudges, everyone had discovered too late.

Everyone dived into the pile of books and crawled toward its apex. The summit, everyone estimated, was only five feet or so from the lowest point of the roof’s flapping, almost close enough to grab a child or to catch one willing to jump.

“Help!” the children cried.

Books slipped beneath everyone’s knees and feet. Each step seemed to drop everyone further from the crest. Below everyone, books fell and fell, a chasm growing beneath him or her. Everyone stood now, ran, moved as quickly as possible so as not to slide into the void.

Jan was the first to go. Everyone didn’t see him or her disappear. One minute he or she was there, and the next Jan was gone.

Next came Star. His or her hands could no longer hold on, and the wind ripped Star away like a chocolate wrapper tossed from a speeding car.

And then the roof itself went, carrying Jody and Journey, winging its way into the air.

Everyone cried melodramatically, “Noooooo!”

The wind ceased.

The books came to a stop. Everyone found him- or herself on his or her knees at the foot of the mountain, staring up at the black and wet sky. The rain became a drizzle.

Through the haze, everyone spied the computer.

Large, bold letters scrolled across the screen. The Internet was back. It was apologizing.

The dog emerged from its hovel, nuzzled everyone’s armpit.

I’m sorry,” the Internet posted. “Let’s start over.

Everyone wasn’t sure the past could be forgotten so easily. Everyone’s darlings were gone.

But what other choice did everyone have? The Internet, the dog, they were all that everyone had left.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Everyone Does the Dog Walk

The meaning of life had finally agreed to meet everyone. Meaning would come to the coffee shop on Skype three blocks from everyone’s office, the coffee shop at which everyone had once done a reading. The shop had windows that looked onto the world. The world the windows looked onto featured people walking with Popsi Cola cans in hand, people with places to go and things to become, like janitors and bloggers and keepers of vast amounts of marketing data that could be used to sell them stuff.

The meaning of life had once visited the coffee shop, along with other parts of downtown, one Saturday night when a convention of rich and successful and beautiful people was in town. The night had involved much Popsi Cola drinking and a number of comparisons of savings account totals and Q Quotients, and the meaning of life remembered it fondly, especially the part when all downtown’s inhabitants crowded into the back room of a bar for karaoke. The meaning of life’s rendition of “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Woof?” was so good that a music record company executive had offered the meaning of life a contract.

Everyone was to leave directly from work at her or his office, which was on the twelfth floor. The normal route involved the elevator, but on this day the elevator was shut for repair. Hence, everyone left work early to walk down the stairs.

To prepare for the meeting, everyone had purchased the meaning of life’s music album and borrowed earbuds and a music player from her or his child Star, who was dead and thus couldn’t say no. Everyone listened to the meaning of life’s album on the way down.

The meaning of life’s album was full of soothing sounds such as wind in trees, bird chirps, and ocean waves. At random intervals, the meaning of life joined in with soft, howling chants. Everyone had difficulty staying awake.

Everyone skipped to the next song, hoping for something less sleepy, which the meaning of life had anticipated, providing an all-out rocker full of angry barks that made everyone turn down the settings on the player for fear that the stairs would crack beneath her or him. Everyone looked around. The stairwell seemed to have remained structurally sound, for which everyone was relieved.

At the bottom of the stairs, everyone could have eaten $5092 worth of chocolate. Everyone was famished. Everyone wished the coffee shop was not three blocks away.

Everyone took out a napkin and wiped at her or his brow. Everyone was sweaty. Everyone needed to stick to her or his diet.

Everyone was afraid the meaning of life would walk away once everyone’s weight was no longer secret.

Everyone was wearing baggy clothes. Everyone was being circumspect. But baggy clothes were a lot of baggage for a long walk.

Everyone stepped into the street. The sidewalk was full. A coterie of dog walkers was passing. Everyone waited.

Everyone checked the time on her or his cell phone.

There were a lot of dogs to walk.

Everyone joined the procession, even though it was going the wrong way. Everyone switched back to the meaning of life’s first song. Everyone needed to be soothed.

At the next block, everyone took a right turn. Everyone planned to go around the block, take the long path to the coffee shop. Everyone had time if she or he hustled.

The long path involved an alley. The alley went between a karaoke bar and a movie theater. Everyone stepped into it with a confidence she or he had not felt in forty weeks. The meaning of life’s album was playing a song of self-assurance. The song had a stoic beat that insisted the listener march like a Great Dane through a swarm of kittens.

Everyone stopped.

A man with a dog stood in front of everyone. The dog was almost as large as everyone and had much longer teeth. Everyone shut off the music.

“You can’t go this way,” the man said. The dog snarled, jumped, fell back on its leash.

“But,” everyone countered, “there’s no other.”

The man shrugged his shoulders. “You’ll have to turn back.”

Everyone pulled out a cell phone as she or he rounded the building again. The dog walk continued. Everyone was late. Everyone dialed.

The meaning of life answered the phone. The meaning of life was waiting. In the background was a party. The party involved barking. The meaning of life had somewhere else to be--another party, on a boat. The boat left in twenty minutes. The meaning of life couldn’t wait.

Everyone tried to explain.

The meaning of life was very important and had lots to do. Perhaps they could try some other time. The meaning of life would call.

Everyone watched the dogs pass. Everyone was disappointed.

The man with the dog with long teeth came up behind everyone.

“Out now,” the man said to the dog. Everyone thought the man was talking to her or him.

Everyone joined the crowd. Everyone turned on the music player again, raised the volume, but all everyone could hear was barking.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Everyone Discovers an Author

Everyone asked various online book reviewers to blurb his or her blog novel even though the novel wasn’t finished. Everyone’s closest friend, the Internet, had suggested it. “All books get blurbs,” the Internet said. “Blurbs signal that the book is readable, which readers like.”

The only potential blurber who responded, however, was no one. Everyone thought he or she had heard of no one, but everyone wasn’t sure. Everyone even thought he or she had referenced no one a few times in his or her novel. Everyone was intrigued to know what no one had to say.

No one’s blurb came in an e-mail. The blurb read like this: “A magnificent work of metafiction. Everyone should read this. After all, everyone wrote it.”

The implication that everyone had never read his or her own written work bothered everyone, and everyone resented the blurb. Everyone had, of course, read his or her own blog a number of times--read it, in fact, more than anything else--but everyone had set the blog stats not to count his or her own hits. Anyone who reviewed blogs should have known.

“That’s why no one called your book metafiction,” the Internet pointed out. “No one was not making a claim that you never read the book. Rather, no one was pointing to the parallel between your choice of reading and writing. They are one and the same. Metafiction makes explicit the artifice of writing by inviting the reader to directly follow the creation of the story as it is brought into being.”

Everyone was dismayed. Everyone hated metafiction. Everyone had wanted to write a great story that would put readers at the edge of their seats. Instead, everyone had written a story that bore within it an ironic distance that would keep readers from believing it to be true.

Everyone had committed a travesty.

“Is it more true,” the Internet asked, waxing philosophical, “to ignore the creation of the story at hand, to pretend that there is no author bringing it into being, that the events are just happening?”

Everyone wasn’t sure what the Internet meant.

The Internet missed everyone’s coworker Harvey. Harvey had jumped out of a window and never returned. Harvey liked to discuss abstract ideas from theory, philosophy, and religion with the Internet. Everyone just wanted to know the meaning of life--concretely, in some personal manner, as if one could wander into a party on a boat and shake hands with it, have a drink with it, and suddenly be illuminated.

The Internet rattled off a list of metafictional works for everyone, rehashing their basic plot points, hoping the examples would clarify what the Internet was trying to say about truth. In Tristam Shandy, the Internet explained, a man attempts to write his autobiography but gets so distracted by the details of his story that he never even completes the story of his birth. Or take Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions, where the protagonist meets the author of the book in which he appears. Or Ernest Hemingway’s The Torrents of Spring, wherein chapters are given over to the author’s recounting of events from the past weekend that prevented him from completing the next chapter on time. Or Pale Fire, by that epitomal author of metafictional worlds, Vladimir Nabokov, in which the narrative consists of the annotations to a poem that constitutes the first half of the book. The poem’s meaning is, in part, brought to light by its first reader in the same way that subsequent readers will create further annotations and stories and meanings.

“So you’re saying that’s what I’m writing?” asked everyone.

“I’m saying,” the Internet said, “that that is all one ever writes or reads. We write the stories as we read them. The very choice to ignore this part of the storytelling process is itself an artifice with metafictional underpinnings--erasing the author so that the author must be found, or creating an author so that the real author is obfuscated, which is you, everyone, the reader!”

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Everyone Feels out of Place at Parties

Jody was at a party on a motor boat with the famous actor Clint Gabble. All the people who mattered were there--people such as Jody’s runaway parent and the meaning of life, Jody’s fake parent, Clint and Jody’s hair people, and Clint’s costar and girlfriend Gina. Jody’s defunct sibling Star was even there in spirit.

Jody’s runaway parent had been married to everyone but had given that up for the meaning of life. Now everyone’s former spouse was rich and successful and gorgeous.

Jody’s fake parent was an actor Jody had hired to pretend to be everyone in a more palatable form. Jody’s fake parent had been a member of a Greek organization in college and had ties to all of humanity but most especially to those who were career politicians or CEOs of multinational corporations, whom she or he tracked through newsfeeds provided by the Internet.

Everyone, by contrast, knew no one--or at best, the coworkers at her or his office. Everyone considered the Internet her or his closest friend. The Internet, however, had so many other friends that its relationship with everyone was perfunctory.

Jody’s fake parent sat in a circle that included Clint, Jody, Gina, everyone’s spouse, and the meaning of life. As they drank Popsi Cola, the fake parent talked about the time she or he had last had dinner with the president of a small European country. The president was a snob, the fake parent admitted, but also a lot of fun once she or he downed a few Popsis. The people at the table nodded. They knew the power of Popsi.

Everyone’s spouse and the meaning of life knew the power especially well. Everyone’s spouse raised an eyebrow. The meaning of life gestured to the right. “It’s been a pleasure,” everyone’s spouse announced, rising. “So nice to meet you again.” The spouse proffered a hand to the fake parent, who shook it.

“Don’t be a stranger,” said the fake parent.

The meaning of life and everyone’s spouse exited to the right. None of the people at the party paid attention. They were people who mattered and had little time to worry about others, except in regard to gossip.

“Why did you divorce?” Clint Gabble asked the fake parent.

“Jealousy,” the fake parent admitted. “We were both close to the meaning of life and couldn’t manage to balance the relationship, busy and successful people that we are.”

Gina nodded. “I understand,” she said. “I almost never see Clint anymore.”

Everyone’s officemate Sam stepped onto the boat wearing a swimsuit reserved for risqué movies. As an interloper on the scene, Sam understood that the only way to be considered rich, fit, and successful was to create a buzz--and that meant controversy.

Sam was at the party to find the meaning of life. With Sam was everyone. Everyone was there to meet all the people who mattered, but most especially her or his spouse.

“Where’s the meaning of life?” Sam demanded.

Everyone thought Sam a turn-on when she or he was demanding in a swimsuit.

“Let me handle this,” everyone told Sam. “Where’s the meaning of life?” asked everyone, mimicking Sam’s forcefulness in a superficial and unsatisfactory way.

Everyone noticed Clint Gabble sitting next to her or his child Jody.

Everyone swooned.

“May I sit?” everyone asked. “I’m very tired.”

Everyone sat.

Everyone wanted to appear as if she or he were used to the presence of famous people, yet everyone also wanted to gush over how much she or he had liked Clint’s movie The Real Mr. Keen. The movie had had lots of sex in it, and everyone had been turned on. Clint’s coworker--what was her name?--was a beautiful woman.

Everyone saw Gina next to Clint. It was the woman from the movie.

Sam ran a hand through her or his hair, but everyone did not notice.

“I liked your last movie a lot,” everyone noted. “You were really cool.”

“Thanks,” Clint Gabble said.

Jody gave everyone an evil eye.

The fake parent sighed, as if to begrudge the fawning fans people who mattered had to put up with.