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Because all of life is stories.

Happy Endings

This is a short story of mine that I’ve been submitting for awhile, and it hasn’t found the right home. It’s gotten a few positive notes from editors, and has made it through a few rounds of voting at different sites, but for now, I think it’s fine right here. I hope you enjoy it.

_______________________________________________________________________

There was once a man who wrote himself into his stories. They say it’s something you shouldn’t do. He didn’t care what other people said.

When they asked him why he did that he told them, “It’s going to make me immortal.”

So he continued to write. He wrote murder mysteries and time travel stories and westerns. He wrote poems and limericks and epics that he knew would cement his place in history.

But nobody read them. He wasn’t published in magazines and his books were never printed. His plays were never put on stage and his name never became well known.

But he kept writing. He kept putting himself into each and every one of his stories. He was a bank robber, a bandit, an alien, the guy who dies on page seven during the first big gunfight. He wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote.

He lost his job. He lost his home. His friends and family thought he had gone crazy, and so eventually he lost them too.

He ran out of paper. So he wrote on napkins and newspapers.

He ran out of pens and pencils. So he begged and borrowed chalk and charcoal, and wrote on sidewalks.

When he could not beg or borrow he told his stories out loud. People looked away and told their children not to stare.

People asked him why he told his stories.

“It’s going to make me immortal.” he said.

He became ill.

He spent his nights carving out words on trees. It was hard work in the cold, and his hands bled from the effort.

But he was sick, and cold and hungry. After several weeks he was no longer able to carve. And when he tried to tell his stories the words that came out were unintelligible. He was delirious.

One morning, when the snow fell softly and the morning light left the world colorless and pale, the man who wrote himself into stories was found underneath the park bridge. There was a small, pointed rock in his hand. Scratches that might have been words covered the quarried stone. His lips were tinted blue, and his face was a dull and unwelcoming grey.

An ambulance took his body away.

#

It was warm.

He had hoped it would be this one.

The man opened his eyes. He was lying in the dust.

And it was warm.

He stood and looked around. He was in a desert. He had been beaten to hell, and his clothing was ripped and torn. He had long black hair, matted and stuck with dried blood and dirt. He was on top of a hill, and long weeds grew around him, waving in the light wind. There was a woman at the bottom of the hill running toward him, and a small boy behind her. He smiled at them, and began to walk home.

He had hoped it would be this one.

#

He was tired, and the cold was beginning to eat through his coat and into his bones. But he could see that the fire inside had been laid, and a beautiful woman had laid out their dinner, and his dog sat curled by the fire.

He had hoped it would be this one as well.

He laid the axe next to the old stump, and stacked the last of the firewood up against the side of his small woodland cottage, and went inside. His back ached from the days work and he was hungry, but there was food on the table and already the fire had begun to chase the chill from his bones. His wife kissed him. His dog sat across his feet under the table and awaited scraps of meat.

He was happy.

He had hoped it would be this one as well.

#

In a dark hospital room a man lay in bed and breathed shallowly, but calmly. The room was warm and he was well cared for. He had not woken for many days, but he was in good condition, and was very much alive.

Every day he had company, though mostly it was only to change his sheets or his bedpan, or to make sure the machines that kept watch over the rhythms of his beating heart maintained their vigil. Some days they would tell him stories, or read to him.

Through it all he slept.

He dreamed he was a woodsman living in a small cottage with his beautiful wife. He dreamed that he was the sheriff of a lonely western town, and was well loved by a beautiful woman and his handsome and courageous son. Some days he was a great hero, celebrated the world over for his deeds. Others he was merely a man who spent his days in libraries and kept his own company. But each day he dreamed. Each day the dreams were good and familiar. He had written himself into all of his stories, and every day he lived through them. And in doing so, in wandering from dream to dream, story to story, he fulfilled the roles which he had cast himself in long ago when he was cold and alone and hungry.

Those who watched over him came and went, and were replaced in their own time, but the old man had become a fixture in his darkened hospital room. Aged and wise he traveled the corridors of dream, always young, and always well loved. And when he died, warm and happy and peacefully asleep, they told their own stories about him. They talked about who he must have been and where he had come from. They talked about what kind of life he might have had before being found cold and near death in that park so long ago.

And in the telling, though the man was long since dead, he became immortal.

END

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One comment on “Happy Endings

  1. alexturnwall
    December 14, 2014

    I think this is the saddest thing I’ve read in such a short space. Happy and sad at the same time. Good job setting the scene—you feel like you know him a little, but not at all—in the end.

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This entry was posted on October 7, 2014 by in Uncategorized.
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