I have nothing against happy endings. I really don’t. But they don’t come to me naturally very often. I would argue, mind you, that everything I write is a happy ending, or at least an optimistic ending, it’s just that I rarely view happiness as dependent on everything working out perfectly. I like a little grit in my life. The way I look at it, it’s going to be there anyway so you might as well figure out how to use it for you.
So my endings don’t usually have an “everyone’s ducks are in a row” type of feel, mainly because my life never seems to have an “everyone’s ducks are in a row” type of feel, and even if it does for a moment the next moment something requiring my attention is bound to pop up, so “ducks in a row” doesn’t seem like a very honest type of ending to write. And why are we lining up our ducks anyway?
Which brings us to the one clear-cut happy ending I wrote for this project, “Black Eyed Susan.” The story of Unnamed Male Narrator and Unnamed Female Narrator (no, they never receive names) wasn’t written with a plan in mind. It wasn’t written with a structure in mind. It wasn’t written with an ending in mind. It was just written. I had a male voice, and he was talking about meeting his wife, and I had his wife, the female voice, talking about meeting her husband. They took it from there and I wound up, much to my surprise, writing a love story. But after a few pages I came to realize that this was only 50% love story. The other 50%? The other 50% was nothing short of a judo match.
Each section was a push from one side or the other. Unnamed Male Narrator would give a few paragraphs of honest emotion and his view of things that put him just far enough out on a limb so that when the section ended and we swapped over to her side of things, Unnamed Female would be able to take his story and neatly tumble it ass-over-elbows with one or two deft sentences. Then Unnamed Female would start telling her point of view, build up steam through her section until she herself had gone a little too far with her viewpoint, and then we’d have another section break and sure enough Unnamed Male would step in and throw Unnamed Female’s story for a tumble.
It got to a point where I didn’t know what was coming next; I just knew that when I hit a section break I should duck. The sometimes playful sometimes painful tug of war that brought this story to light was one of the more enjoyable experiences of this project. I loved every turnaround, every section where he saw things one way, would state things quite firmly with his ending sentence, only to have her section open with the complete opposite point of view.
So slot number five goes to one of their smallest sparring bouts. A quick four sentence break involving Unnamed Male’s rival love interest, one Frankie Doogan, and Unnamed Female’s firm belief that nobody was pulling strings the night of their first kiss. This moment actually prompted a real Frank Doogan out there who had spent time at the Jersey Shore to e-mail me and ask if he had ever inadvertently tried to steal my girlfriend. He didn’t. This story is all fiction.
This moment also caused me to laugh harder than at any other point in this project. I’m talking pushed away from my desk, headphones off, face buried in my hands because I had just burst out cackling so hard I might have freaked out my neighbors.
Three simple sentences.
Then a fourth that changed everything all over again:
Did I know about Frankie Doogan? Of course I knew about Frankie Doogan. Why do you think I pushed him into the bay that night?
Of course karma paid me back after your mother broke my heart.
(thanks to Dom Dada for the photo)