Monday

Sep. 28, 2009

How It Will End

by Denise Duhamel

We're walking on the boardwalk
but stop when we see a lifeguard and his girlfriend
fighting. We can't hear what they're saying,
but it is as good as a movie. We sit on a bench to find out
how it will end. I can tell by her body language
he's done something really bad. She stands at the bottom
of the ramp that leads to his hut. He tries to walk halfway down
to meet her, but she keeps signaling Don't come closer.
My husband says, "Boy, he's sure in for it,"
and I say, "He deserves whatever's coming to him."
My husband thinks the lifeguard's cheated, but I think
she's sick of him only working part-time
or maybe he forgot to put the rent in the mail.
The lifeguard tries to reach out
and she holds her hand like Diana Ross
when she performed "Stop in the Name of Love."
The red flag that slaps against his station means strong currents.
"She has to just get it out of her system,"
my husband laughs, but I'm not laughing.
I start to coach the girl to leave the no-good lifeguard,
but my husband predicts she'll never leave.
I'm angry at him for seeing glee in their situation
and say, "That's your problem—you think every fight
is funny. You never take her seriously," and he says,
"You never even give the guy a chance and you're always nagging,
so how can he tell the real issues from the nitpicking?"
and I say, "She doesn't nitpick!" and he says, "Oh really?
Maybe he should start recording her tirades," and I say
"Maybe he should help out more," and he says
"Maybe she should be more supportive," and I say
"Do you mean supportive or do you mean support him?"
and my husband says that he's doing the best he can,
that he's a lifeguard for Christ's sake, and I say
that her job is much harder, that she's a waitress
who works nights carrying heavy trays and is hit on all the time
by creepy tourists and he just sits there most days napping
and listening to "Power 96" and then ooh
he gets to be the big hero blowing his whistle
and running into the water to save beach bunnies who flatter him
and my husband says it's not as though she's Miss Innocence
and what about the way she flirts, giving free refills
when her boss isn't looking or cutting extra large pieces of pie
to get bigger tips, oh no she wouldn't do that because she's a saint
and he's the devil, and I say, "I don't know why you can't admit
he's a jerk," and my husband says, "I don't know why you can't admit
she's a killjoy," and then out of the blue the couple is making up.
The red flag flutters, then hangs limp.
She has her arms around his neck and is crying into his shoulder.
He whisks her up into his hut. We look around, but no one is watching us.

"How It Will End" by Denise Duhamel. © Denise Duhamel. Reprinted with the permission of the author. (buy now)

It was on this day in 1066 that William the Conqueror of Normandy arrived on British soil.  On October 14, he defeated the British in the Battle of Hastings, and on Christmas Day, he was crowned King of England in Westminster Abby.

It was on this day in 1978 that Pope John Paul I died just 33 days into his papacy, marking the shortest papal reign in the history of the Catholic Church.

He was born Albino Luciani in Belluno (1912), northern Italy, the son of a bricklayer, and he was the first pope born in the 20th century. He got a doctorate in theology, writing a critical thesis entitled "The origin of the human soul according to Antonio Rosmini." He taught canon law at a seminary, and became a bishop active in the Second Vatican Council sessions.

In August 1978, he was elected at the papal conclave on the fourth ballot. He tried to "humanize" the role and image of the pope: He rejected the papal coronation in favor of an inauguration Mass. Rather than speaking in the royal "we," he used "I." He was warm and friendly, he laughed in public, he was a good speaker, and he smiled a lot. In Italy, he became known as the Smiling Pope ("Il Papa del Sorriso").

But his popular papacy ended on this day, just 33 days after it began. He was found sitting up in bed, dead, in the wee hours of the morning on September 29. The Vatican announced that he had probably died of a heart attack the previous night.

Today is the 40th birthday of New Yorker magazine editor and writer Ben Greenman, (books by this author) born in Chicago (1969) and raised in Miami. His many humor pieces include a recent op-ed for The New York Times from the perspective of Bo, the White House dog. The article is entitled "The First Hundred (Dog) Days" and begins:

"Before my arrival in the White House in April, I was not well known to the American people. Perhaps understandably, I was greeted with some suspicion. "Portuguese water dog" has a foreign sound to it. My hair covers my eyes, which can create the impression that I am not trustworthy. From the first, I took it upon myself not only to illustrate my own belief in clear thinking and accountability, but to give the American people a sense of what their lives would be like during my time in the White House."

He's written several collections of short stories and also a couple of novels, including Please Step Back (2009), which came out in April of this year.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®

 









«

»

  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
  • “I want to live other lives. I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.” —Anne Tyler
  • “Writing is a performance, like singing an aria or dancing a jig” —Stephen Greenblatt
  • “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up.” —John Edgar Wideman
  • “In certain ways writing is a form of prayer.” —Denise Levertov
  • “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Let's face it, writing is hell.” —William Styron
  • “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” —Thomas Mann
  • “Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials.” —Paul Rudnick
  • “Writing is a failure. Writing is not only useless, it's spoiled paper.” —Padget Powell
  • “Writing is very hard work and knowing what you're doing the whole time.” —Shelby Foote
  • “I think all writing is a disease. You can't stop it.” —William Carlos Williams
  • “Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one's luck.” —Iris Murdoch
  • “The less conscious one is of being ‘a writer,’ the better the writing.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is…that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is my dharma.” —Raja Rao
  • “Writing is a combination of intangible creative fantasy and appallingly hard work.” —Anthony Powell
  • “I think writing is, by definition, an optimistic act.” —Michael Cunningham
The Writer's Almanac on Facebook


The Writer's Almanac on Twitter

Subscribe to our daily newsletter for poems, prose and literary history every morning
An interview with Jeffrey Harrison at The Writer's Almanac Bookshelf
Current Faves - Learn more about poets featured frequently on the show
O, What a Luxury

Although he has edited several anthologies of his favorite poems, O, What a Luxury: Verses Lyrical, Vulgar, Pathetic & Profound forges a new path for Garrison Keillor, as a poet of light verse. Purchase O, What a Luxury »