You always said I had a problem with happy endings. That whenever my narratives got near the end they started to spoil like coddled milk. You were the optimist, the one who looked at the uneven and crooked pictures on the wall and said their imperfections gave you something to do tomorrow, something to live for.
I tried to argue, standing in the living room, shouting as you cuddled under a quilt with Duke, our old and chubby basset hound. I said the rule of the universe was entropy. Death and destruction.
You just shook your head. What you’re not seeing, you’d say, is the beauty of it. The rising buildings. The walls. The ceilings. The way it all grows and blossoms.
But those walls will tumble. Those ceilings cave in. Everything that grows must die and everything that blossoms must wither.
You were never convinced. Here, you said, handing me a sheet of paper. Write me a story. Write me a happy ending.
Duke had sloughed his way off the couch and taken a seat on my toes. Once, when I was in one of my states and obsessing over dying, you told me you knew I wasn’t because he wasn’t worrying over me, wasn’t nursing me with attention. I wrote, Duke was born without a name and with a mother who couldn’t recognize him. He grew old and white in the muzzle. He died and was buried under the pine tree in the backyard.
When I handed it to you I expected a shaking of the head. I expected you to crumple the paper and toss it in the corner. Instead, you leapt from the couch. Here, you said, framing the story with your fingers on my desk and then narrowing them until only He grew old and white in the muzzle was left. There it is, you said. You found it.
Jared Yates Sexton is a born-and-bred Hoosier living and working in the South as an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Georgia Southern University. He's the award-winning author of three story collections and a crime novel. His work can be found at jysexton.com.