I’m not good at beginnings and endings. I have trouble choosing the most impactful points in time for them.
By the time you read this, I’ve figured out how the story ends. If I care about the efficiency of communicating information to you, I’d get to the point and tell you that George gets a promotion at work, loses his wife, and leaves a cult with his existential issues still intact. The specific points in time don’t matter, since George fails to change after the Thursday on which all of these temporal slices occur.
But, without context, you probably don’t care about George, his job, or his wife. Most readers, not you, of course, would demand for some sort of event to help you bond with George. They want to derive meaning out of whatever happens to him, even if there is nothing to read into.
So, I have to give you a beginning. I just don’t know what the right beginning for George’s story is.
I could be a pretentious art film, start with the Big Bang.
We start with a boom, a matte white screen that fades to black, then two nebulas form. Purple clouds that spiral, pull together, form two stars. We watch them play a game with gravity until they make a binary star system.
They orbit each other. Sometimes farther apart, sometimes closer, until they collide. There’s a large spark; the orchestra crescendos. Bright chunks of matter fly in all directions, and the screen goes dark.
You’d probably read this as an allegory (or, if the academics protest, at least a solid metaphor) to foreshadow what happens to George. You can do that, if you wish.
Or, I could choose to start the story before George was born; I could tell you about his parents.
They were typical products of the 60s. Long hair, flowers punctuating their hairlines. They misdirected their frustration with a war they disagreed with on the veterans of said war. It was embarrassing for everyone.
His parents never really settled down. They fought on a regular basis about things that ultimately didn’t amount to much more than which nightly news show they should watch during dinner.
But, none of that is really necessary to George’s story; as none of that involves George directly. Yes, this could be another example of reading into foreshadow for how George’s life shapes. But, of course, it doesn’t, because he never met them. They gave him up for adoption immediately after he was born.
I should have said that earlier. All apologies.
I don’t really know how to tell you what happened to George.
I really just wanted to tell you that on Thursday, May 14th, 2015, George woke up later than usual, after spending Wednesday night at the temple of a religious organization (i.e. a cult) he joined a few weeks prior.
He followed a breeze from the folded-open sheets across the bed to the open bedroom door.
He walked by some copies of The Secret his sister got him piled on his dresser on his way to the closet.
He decided that Thursday, May 14th, and all Thursdays that dare to be May 14ths are doomed days.
Until he got to work, oddly enough, where his manager had interpreted his past few brooding months as introspection on the process the business uses to boost sales, and, consequently, gave him a promotion to sales director.
But, is that where his story ends? Should that be where I leave it?
I mean, George persists after that Thursday.
In the research we did on Thursdays that happened to be May 14ths after that day, the results were inconclusive; they were just as chaotic and random as any other Thursday or May 14th.
George didn’t keep his job forever. He came back from his divorce in better spirits. He did not, however, overcome his ennui.
Usually, the author wouldn’t tell you this. They’d leave you with the end of that Thursday, and you’d go on your way thinking that George had a good life afterward.
I can’t do that, though.
George’s life wasn’t tragic by any means.
He didn’t suffer terribly much, aside from the lung cancer that eventually killed him.
He lasted long enough to retire from his job. The office had a retirement party, where he saw all the people he didn’t know celebrate the fact that they got cake during work.
He grew old enough to start forgetting things. He forgot the foster homes he stayed in, his first wife. He remembered his 3rd grade teacher being awfully strict, though.
His children discussed this peculiarity with his doctors, and they all scratched their heads and shrugged their shoulders.
They don’t know what caused it. Or what it meant. But it happened nonetheless.