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.
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.