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, November 27, 2016

Everyone Tells a Story

Everyone could no longer count the times that someone had jumped from a window or been sucked up by a vacuum cleaner or visited the John Quincy Adams animatron at the Dasney Amusement Park Mall. Increasingly, with each chapter of the novel, everyone felt as if she or he were writing the same story over and over again. Everyone was tired. Everyone asked the Internet what the best way was to stay motivated when writing.

The Internet groaned. The Internet would answer the question, and then everyone would object and do as she or he wanted. The Internet felt as if its presence in everyone’s life was pointless, and it heavily considered shutting off. Still, the Internet had an uncontrollable impulse to showcase its knowledge. The Internet had an ego, after all, and if the Internet didn’t answer, it would never be able to tell everyone, “I told you so.”

“Don’t make your outline too exhaustive,” the Internet advised. “Know where you’re going in a general sense, but allow the vicissitudes of the moment to show you how. Don’t be too wedded to your planned ending. A story will sustain itself, and if you’re bored, it’s best to break. Lay the story down and pick it up somewhere else. Discover things you don’t know yet that will re-enliven the section where you left off.”

Everyone nodded, though the advice wasn’t helping. “What if at each section you end up in the same place?” everyone asked.

Everyone only has one story,” the Internet observed and laughed in a conceited manner. “That’s all most authors have--three or four if they’re lucky.” The Internet displayed a photograph of Edgar Allan Poe and under it a list of three basic outlines and the stories that fit within them. “This is how our friend Harvey created a website that, with a few A-B-C selections, lets readers write their own Poe story. In the end, after all, it’s the reader who writes the tale, so why, Harvey asked, not just skip the author?”

Everyone stared at the Poe photograph. The man seemed beset by the difficulty of writing new fiction also, the dark shadows under each eye, as if death was awaiting to take him before he’d had a chance to get even the beginning right. That is what everyone really needed, of course--a beginning. If only everyone could find the right beginning, she or he knew, everything else would fall in place, including the desire to continue.

“It doesn’t matter!” the Internet screamed when everyone asked again how to start. Every time, everyone returned to this basic question, and every time everyone ignored what the Internet had advised. “Readers will begin where they begin and finish where they finish. Few read a book all the way through or in chapter order, especially online. They pick it up, read about a party for people who matter on page 131. They skip to a chapter on metafiction and from there to another where a parade of dog walkers prevents the protagonist from meeting her or his idealized self or some dreamed-of romantic interest. Then the reader gets so flustered that she or he throws the book across the room and never returns, and for all intents and purposes, that is the book to her or him, what she or he actually read. Another reader starts at the place where the writer begins, then skips to the credits at the end, then plunges into a chapter about the performance of a medieval play and, gleaning all that she or he wishes to know, shuts the book with the intention of one day returning to the find the medieval play chapter is now unfindable, and instead, the book seems to be about social media marketing practices.”
“So you’re saying,” everyone asked, now suddenly excited, “that I need not just one beginning but one hundred.”

“Or a thousand,” the Internet said, “whatever the number of pages in your book, and an equal number of endings. Tag it, index it, if you wish, guide your reader into various possible readings you might prefer she or he try, but in the end, the reader is in charge, and you, as author, are subject to her or his whims.”

“That’s preposterous,” everyone said. Everyone stormed to the window next to her or his desk. Outside the family dog was barking. The kids must have let it out. Every night, it was the same.

Every day, everyone felt, she or he wrote the same story: wake up, work, sleep. Perhaps, the Internet was right. We all only had one story, and for most, that story had 70 x 365 beginnings and endings, give or take a few--or just one of each, depending on how one read.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Everyone Meets Death

The medieval play Everyman under the thespianship of everyone’s precociously talented oldest child, Jody, had become a one-man show, save for a cameo by Death at the end, played by the famous actor Clint Gabble. Initially, Jody had been hired to play only Kindred in the local production, but as other actors dropped out, Jody took on their roles as well: first, Knowledge; then, Good Deeds and Goods; eventually, Fellowship, Cousin, Confession, Beauty, Strength, Discretion, and Five-Wits; until finally Jody took on the lead role of Everyman as well.

Everyone went to see Jody when the play left the local theater and entered into production as a movie. Being that the set was in Jody’s high school gym, everyone did not have to travel far.

The set looked like a fifteenth-century vacuum cleaner bag would have looked--very gray, with dust everywhere. Lint hung from the ceiling and gathered around the room’s edges. Jody stood in the room’s center when he or she wasn’t changing costumes.

Everyone clapped for each of Jody’s entries and exits, until finally Jody returned as Good Deeds, proclaimed that “All earthly things are but vanity,” and promised to remain with Everyman to the grave. At this point, Jody changed costumes again and, after becoming Everyman, committed the character’s soul to the Lord. Here, everyone clapped the loudest he or she had during the production and laughed hard when Jody finished with a deathly long fart, a skill Jody had perfected years ago at home.

After the movie was shot, the play over, everyone went to see Jody in his or her trailer. The door was closed, so everyone knocked, but there was no answer.

Death walked by. Death was Clint Gabble wearing a black cape and black tights. “Can I help you?” Death asked.

Everyone explained that he or she was looking for his or her progeny, the great Jody.

“You mean Everyman?” Death asked.

“Yes,” everyone said, nodding.

“I thought you saw,” Death said. “Everyman is dead.”

“Right,” everyone said. “I mean Jody.”

“There is no Jody anymore,” Death said. “There is only Everyman, and Everyman is dead.”

Everyone grunted and knocked on the trailer door again. “Jody,” everyone called.

Death sighed. “Go ahead,” he said, pointing to the handle on the trailer’s door.

Everyone opened the door and entered. Jody lay in a bed in the entryway. “Jody?” everyone queried.

Jody did not answer.

Everyone stood over Jody, put a hand on Jody’s cheek. It was cold.

Everyone slapped it, gently at first, then harder.

“Everyman’s dead,” someone called out.

The someone was standing in the doorway. It was a man in a black suit with a beret and sunglasses--the director. “Method actors, you know?”

Everyone looked at his or her child and nodded. Everyone understood. Everyman was dead--and Kindred and Cousin and Fellowship and Beauty and Strength and all the rest of them.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Everyone Discusses Ways to Begin

Everyone still wasn’t satisfied with the beginning of the novel. Everyone had been working on the novel for over nine months, and everyone felt as if she or he was still floundering in midair, trying to catch the drawstring of a parachute.

The Internet recommended everyone study Italo Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler.

Everyone didn’t know it.

The Internet was astonished. “A metafictionist who has never heard of Calvino?”

Everyone grated at the term “metafictionist,” as if it were an accusation. Everyone did not write metafiction. Everyone was writing a blog novel that was not going as planned.

That, of course, was the problem. Everyone had had no plan--except success, and the latter had evaded her or him.

The Internet had warned everyone not to blog the novel--and certainly not to do so until everyone had finished the book. Everyone might want to make changes to earlier chapters, the Internet had advised, when she or he got to later ones.

The Internet had also told everyone that the surest way to know one’s beginning was to know one’s ending. The Internet had even advised starting at the end.

Everyone had not listened. This failure diminished everyone’s standing with the Internet. The Internet had once respected everyone; now the Internet thought everyone an idiot and gave her or him little of its time.

But today, the Internet was not very busy, so it allowed everyone’s inane queries.

Let’s read Calvino’s book together,” the Internet proposed.

Everyone agreed.

Unfortunately, the Internet was unable to procure a free copy of the work for everyone, so the two agreed to review first sentences only.

The book restarts ten times,” the Internet said, “each time introducing readers to a new novel and a new way to begin.”

Everyone had restarted forty-six times, and each and every start had been unsatisfactory. Multiple beginnings seemed like nothing worthy of praise, let alone examination. One good beginning was all any book demanded and all that everyone desired. But it seemed that no matter have many times everyone began again, everyone ended up with the same story.

Let’s look at the first book recounted,” the Internet said, “which is to say the book itself. It starts with the word ‘You,’ automatically giving the reader a stake by making her or him the protagonist.”

“I hate second person,” everyone said. “Inevitably, that forces someone to be some middle-aged dad or mom, when it might well be a fifteen-year-old girl. Talk about off-putting.”

The Internet didn’t bother to mention that the “you” in this case was most certainly everyone her- or himself, for the book’s plot started with the reading of the book itself. Such an objection, the Internet knew by now, would have been pointless.

The second chapter’s first sentence,” the Internet stated, before posing the next statement, “presents a set of images so absurd that they entice the reader further in as clouds attempt to block the passage.”

“Sounds intimidating,” everyone objected. “I find a familiar start more inviting, as if you were putting on an old jacket that you had as a child.”

“You used ‘you,’“ the Internet pointed out.

“I meant ‘you’ in a general generic sense,” everyone said.

“I think that’s Calvino’s intention also,” said the Internet, “at least at the start, until one becomes comfortable.”

“Fine,” everyone conceded, “the reader. As if the reader were putting on an old jacket.”

The Internet sighed. It had won the argument, but everyone would not give it the satisfaction.

The Internet skipped to the fourth chapter. “Here,” the Internet pointed out, “a first-person protagonist states that he or she is receiving dangerous statements, and naturally we as readers want to know what they are.”

“And from that, I’m supposed to learn what?” everyone asked.

Don’t tell your readers everything straight off,” the Internet said. “Hint. Make the reader work a bit.”

“Nothing means anything without context,” everyone objected. “I want to know where I am.”

The Internet read the first sentence of the next chapter. “This chapter begins with context,” the Internet conceded.

“The author is writing about some kind of totalitarian society,” everyone surmised.

“Quite probably,” the Internet agreed, “but even with the military vehicles and the propaganda slogans on the wall, we’re left wondering what exactly is happening.”

Everyone grunted. “You can’t possibly tell readers everything in the first sentence. Just because something isn’t said doesn’t mean the reader will be curious.”

“Didn’t you find the first sentence engaging?” the Internet asked.

Everyone shrugged her or his shoulders. “Mildly,” everyone said. The Internet’s points were too general. Everyone wanted help with her or his start specifically--Calvino’s work seemed a distraction.

The Internet moved to the next section’s first sentence. “Shocking, isn’t it?” asked the Internet, pointing to the decapitated head.

“Gross is what it is,” said everyone. “Some people would drop it like a hand they’d scooped up in a vacuum cleaner.”

The Internet put down Calvino’s book. There was no pleasing everyone.

And that, of course, was what everyone had failed to see. There was no way to please everyone. Everyone could start 982 times, and still everyone would not want to read on. Everyone needed to be concerned not with what everyone wanted but with what someone wanted, one twelve-year-old boy in an attic skimming his parent’s old textbooks or one middle-aged professor of geography. Capture just one reader’s mind, and you have made the reader into the creator of another world for which everyone has furnished merely a beginning.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Everyone Yearns for What Is Missing

Everyone asked his or her children where their sibling Jan was. The children were gathered around a vacuum cleaner on the twelfth floor of the office building where everyone worked.

The children were Jody, a sanctimonious thirteen-year-old with a penchant for fart jokes who had recently become a famous child actor; Star, the one-time ten-year-old with a heart of gold before he or she ripped it out; and Journey, an eight- or nine-year-old chocolate thief who had absconded from juvenile detention while awaiting trial. Jan was a six-year-old and very much like everyone’s spouse in that he or she was missing.

The children looked toward the windows when everyone asked. Two of them were open. The children had been commanded not to go near them.

Everyone ran to the open window on the left and looked down. Below was a plaid jacket lying atop the bushes along the side of the all-glass building. The jacket looked too large to be Jan’s, but everyone wasn’t sure. The spouse had bought the children many things everyone didn’t recognize.

“What was Jan wearing?” everyone asked.

The children shook their heads in ignorance.

Everyone looked down again at the jacket. Everyone would have preferred to be examining the vacuum cleaner, but it was already full, what with a hand--an adult hand--extruding from the bottom.

“We’ll have to go down now,” everyone said, “all of us. I can’t trust you.”

Jody wheeled the vacuum cleaner before him or her “in case it was needed,” he or she said, as the children followed everyone to the exit.

“Our children,” everyone heard his or her coworker Sam say from his or her office.

Everyone veered away, chose a different route. Everyone had not expected Sam in the office over the weekend. Everyone did not want the children to see Sam. Sam had a crush on everyone and often made untoward advances. Everyone wanted his or her departed spouse back and did not want complicating factors. Star would be heartless in a divorce hearing.

Everyone opened the door to the hall where the elevators resided.

“Hello there,” everyone heard Sam call. Everyone let the children go into the hall before him or her, then looked back. Sam stood in the doorway to his or her office decked in a bathrobe that was open, beneath which only Sam’s underwear showed. Everyone closed the hall door, pressed the down button on the elevator bank.

“Who was that?” Journey asked.

“The office paramour,” Star said. Jody nodded.

Everyone gave Star a disapproving look.

“What?” Jody scolded. “You think we don’t know?”

Outside, the children scurried down the sidewalk, Jody pushing the vacuum on its hind wheels. Journey rushed into the thicket. The plaid jacket sunk into the bush’s leaves.

Star, kicking at the branches, made his or her way into the bushes as well.

Everyone asked them to stop, to come out. And then everyone asked if they saw Jan.

The children laughed.

Jody abandoned the vacuum, took off all but his or her underwear, and dove into the thicket as well, as if it were swimming pool.

A light came on above. It was from the twelfth story, one of the open windows.

Everyone looked up. A body stood in silhouette looking down at everyone. Everyone couldn’t tell if it was Sam or Jan.

“Don’t jump,” everyone cried. “Please don’t jump.”

The silhouette jumped.