Happily Ever After

When the red light finally turned green, John drove off into the sunset with Julia and they both lived happily ever after in a tax free country run by very little men.

What was that? you ask. Bad beginning! you cry. Well, in case you hadn't notice, my friend, the title of this whatever you want to call it is "Happily Ever After", so there! Why do I need to say more? Who's writing this story anyhow? I mean, would it make you feel better if I told you that John and Julia are running from the law? How about if John is driving a stolen car and has kidnapped Julia? How about if John is in trouble with the law because he has stolen the car, kidnapped Julia and robbed a profitable convenience store? Well, that wouldn't make for a fulfilling and enjoyable ending, now would it? I don't think so.

However, since I consider myself a nice guy, I'll concede to a few changes and give this bloody thing another try. First of all, John's name isn't John at all, but Oliver. And to add another twist (ha!), Julia's name isn't Julia, but Natasha. Oliver and Natasha are fleeing from nasty (and sneaky) government tax collectors who are determined to punish the fugitives for not agreeing to pay a new fugitive tax. If you must know more, well too bad. The only other input you'll get from me is that Oliver is a very good driver and Natasha is a very good passenger. Action.

"Julia, what shall we name our first child?" asked Oliver.

"My name's Natasha. Keep your eyes on the road, please." I told you she was a good passenger.

"I apologize for letting my eyes wander. By the way, do you know where we're going?" Oliver used his turn signal as he changed lanes.

"Off into the sunset, where else?"

"Then why do I feel like this is only the beginning of something greater? As if we are at the onset of some grand adventure?"

"Because it's our duty as characters in this writer's story to feel what he would have us feel, do what he would have us do, and know what he would have us know."

"Does he not want me to know what kind of shoes I'm wearing?" After shaking his head to free himself of a sudden shiver, Oliver glanced (for an instant only, mind you) at his feet and saw his new brown penny loafers. He kind of liked them. "And what is this about our being characters? I thought we were fugitives."

"We are fugitives," Natasha stifled a yawn. "but our existence as characters supercedes our existence as fugitives. If the writer were to change his mind, we might not be fugitives any longer."

"That would be nice," Oliver checked his speedometer to make sure that he wasn't going over the speed limit.

"Yes, it would. Now, pull into that gas station over there. I don't think we should be driving on only a quarter tank."

"Yes, you're exactly right. We'd better keep an eye out for those nasty (and sneaky) government tax collectors, though." Oliver thought it might prove difficult to actually get out and physically pull his black Italian-made sports car into the gas station, so he elected merely to drive slowly through the entrance and stop next to the full-service island.

"What'll it be, Oliver?" A young long haired gas attendant, his face several teeth shy of a proper smile, peeked into the car.

"Eight dollars and twenty-five cents of your highest octane, please. By the way, how did you know my name?"

"The writer told me." With a shrug, the attendant shuffled off towards the pump.

"I don't like this," Oliver furrowed his brow. "How are we to know whether or not this writer has told anyone else who we are? He could even be keeping tabs for the tax collectors."

"We can't know. If he wants to tell anyone who we are or where we are, we are powerless to stop him." she answered.

"By the way, how do you know so much?"

"The writer told me," Natasha got out of the car and stretched. "I'm going to use the restroom. I'll be right back." She waltzed off.

"Gee," Oliver whispered to himself as he looked after his traveling companion. "I wish this writer had told me what Natasha looks like so that I could have enjoyed all of that stretching and waltzing."

Oliver heard distant laughter, but quickly forgot about it as he began to wander blindly through his thoughts. "I wish Natasha would hurry back so we can leave. I want to smell again her sweet perfume as the wind blows her long black tresses over her shoulder, revealing that beautiful high cheek-boned visage which rests upon her delicate neck."

Oliver scratched his scalp and frowned.

When Natasha finally returned, Oliver considered how beautiful his companion now seemed to him. Natasha returned his ogling gaze with a distasteful frown.

"Ready?" Oliver asked with a smile.

"Of course," replied Natasha. "Now, don't accelerate too fast, and look both ways before pulling back onto the road. The road, by the way, is an interstate."

"Thank you," Oliver started the car and followed Natasha's directions. "Any sign of our pursuers?"

Natasha craned her head backwards, brushing her windblown hair to the side. "None. It's getting late and we should stop at the next motel."

"Are you sure? Shouldn't we keep driving?" Silence was his only reply, so he quickly glanced at his passenger. "Natasha?"

Natasha began to snore contentedly in her seat. Oliver reasoned that she must suffer from narcolepsy. He sighed as he watched the white-striped roadway pass silently beneath the hood of his vehicle.

* * *

In another part of the world, three tall and dark featured men rode silently in their blue American-made standard model car. A fourth man in the car was the driver, and he of course drove silently.

These serious seeming men were dressed in black suits of the two piece variety and all wore sunglasses, seemingly oblivious to the two facts that the sun had long since set and that moonlight had never been known to make one squint. This quartet was in hot pursuit of a certain couple by

now very dear to you: Oliver and Natasha, of course. The other part of the world through which they were traveling was actually only twenty miles behind the fleeing pair.

"How soon before we catch them?" asked one of the two men seated in the back of the car. His name was Ernest Faulkner, a very earnest name for a very earnest fellow. His mother, by the way, loved literature but always complained about how she "couldn't keep all those damned names straight."

"Soon," answered the driver, a man with the unremarkable name of Zaroff.

"Exactly how soon?" asked yet another man, Kurtz by name.

"Just a few more paragraphs,"

Ernest nodded his head slowly and peered out of the window. He tried to imagine how much fun he would have when they caught up with this evil little Oliver and this mysterious Natasha, but he couldn't because his mind suddenly went blank as he and his friends entered the void that marks the end of a scene.

* * *

It wasn't long before Oliver noticed a car in his rear view mirror, approaching rapidly.

"The government tax collectors!" he exclaimed.

Natasha leapt into awareness, then quickly realized there wasn't enough room in the car for such acrobatics, and returned to her seat. She looked over her shoulder. "Lose them."

"But I can't!" whined Oliver. "The speed limit's only fifty-five! Oh gosh, Natasha, what are we going to do?" Oliver felt perspiration rise through his pores.

As he looked at the road ahead of him, Oliver noticed that written in black on a very large speed limit sign were the numbers "155." With a satisfied grin, he accelerated.

As they blazed down the road, Natasha looked over her shoulder several times before finally shaking her head. "Regardless of the writer's attempt to give us an easy out, we cannot seem to lose our pursuers. It'll take a miracle, or at least some more plausible form of Writer's Intervention to save us now. Keep driving, however." With that, the beautiful yet one-dimensional Natasha went out like a light and her lips began to flap softly as she snored.

Being a very thoughtful person, and having nothing better to do, Oliver began to think as he sped down the interstate. He wondered about all of this foolishness about there being a writer guiding his every thought and action.

"If I were but a character," he mused. "then how could I be thinking such philosophical thoughts? Does not my very act of thinking make me exist?"

"You are thinking second hand thoughts."

"I thought you were asleep, Natasha." Oliver looked over at his companion (but he still had a keen view of the road out of the corner of his eye). "What do you mean second hand thoughts?"

Natasha yawned. "What you were thinking was what the writer was thinking. How else could I know what you were thinking while I was asleep."

"Maybe the writer gave you ESP."

"Doubtful, he doesn't believe in that."

"How is it that you know what he believes and I don't? Are you his lover?"

"He only wishes that I was his lover. That's why he has made me so wise and so beautiful," Natasha heard distant laughter. "Anyway, that's not important. What is important is that we're no longer fugitives."

"What do you mean, Natasha?"

"My name's Julia, Oliver."

"I'm, John-- no, I mean Oliver! What is the writer doing? This is so confusing!"

"You're babbling, John, and you're also driving too slow. What, are you afraid of getting a ticket or something?

John looked down at his speedometer and saw that the little ticker hovered above the numbers "55", thus confirming the truth of Julia's words. "Now, wait just a cotton pickin' minute--"

"C'mon, John! Are you going to let that car back there pass us? Don't be a push-over." As you can see, Julia lacked a certain amount of common road courtesy.

"I'm Oliver!" If John had had a free hand at this point he would have grabbed his hair between his fingers and pulled. "Do you hear that Mr. Writer? I will not change for you or for anybody! Ha! Ha! I drive safely because I am a good driver, and I am wearing a nice pair of new brown penny loafers!"

"But what do you look like?" asked Julia calmly.

"Hunh?" asked a bewildered John.

"Well, it seems to me that if you actually do exist, as you like to believe, you would know what you look like. What color are your eyes? Your hair? You don't even know how tall you are. You might only be three feet tall for all you know. How good a driver would you be if your feet couldn't even reach the pedals? You see, without the writer, you would be nothing but an obscure amalgamation living only in his thoughts."

"Oh please stop it," John whimpered. "Please, please stop it."

[That's better. Please is much better. Now I'll stop.]

In his shock, John had accelerated up to twice the speed limit. He wasn't in the least bit bothered by that fact however.

Suddenly, sirens could be heard behind them, and John drove off of the road and onto the shoulder. An everyday policeman walked up and peered through the car window.

"In a hurry, John?" asked the officer. "License and registration."

John looked in his rear view mirror to see four large and dark featured gentlemen emerging from a blue American-made standard model car parked twenty feet behind the police car. For some unknown reason, John was being tickled by the little hairs at the base of his neck.

Remembering himself, and the policeman, John reached into his new jeans and pulled forth his new wallet. He took out a drivers license (which, of course, had his picture on it. The face he looked at was hard featured and cloaked by the shadow of a beard. Clear green eyes stared back at him from beneath a creaseless brow and short brown hair lay immaculately combed atop his head. He was pleased by the fact that his height was listed as six-foot-two).

He grabbed the new registration from the new glove compartment and handed both it and his license to the officer. The officer examined them through his new sunglasses. John wondered briefly how he hadn't noticed all of these "new" things before.

"You were going one hundred in a fifty-five zone. Do you know what that means?" the policeman asked flatly.

"Are you sure I wasn't going fifty-five in a one hundred zone?"

"Don't try any silly word games with me. I'm a static character and my opinion won't change. Five hundred dollar fine." The officer smiled.

"A little steep, don't you think? And why should I pay you now?" John had the (nasty and) sneaky suspicion that something strange was going on.

"The writer has never gotten a ticket himself," the officer let out a sigh. "And he was too lazy to do research, so don't expect him to know what happens when you get a ticket. Just fork over the dough and take off."

After grinning at the officer's use of the word dough, John took the new money from his wallet and handed it to the policeman.

"Thank you, and have a nice day," The policeman waved and left.

But the nasty (and sneaky) government tax collectors approached.

It was our friend Ernest Faulkner who peered his almost-but-not-quite remarkable face through the window. That face fell when he looked upon John and his amazingly bright-eyed companion.

"The horror! The horror!" gasped Kurtz from behind him.

Ernest managed a weak smile. "Umm, sorry John. I thought you were Oliver."

John grinned. "Common mistake, Ernest. Have a nice day."

Ernest smiled politely then ushered his companions back into their car. The car then turned around (not by itself of course, but at the insistence of the steering wheel grasped firmly by Zaroff) and they drove back down the interstate the way they had come.

John, himself, started his engine and drove his white-colored, German-made family car back onto the interstate.

"There it is!" Julia yelled suddenly, pointing forward.

"What?" John, fearing the worst, made ready to veer the car around any object that might come into his path.

"The sunset!"

"This means..." John smiled despite himself.

"This means that there's a stop light up ahead and you'd better slow down."

John did so, and the car stopped at the light.

"Is this where I say..." John smiled as his heart raced.

"Yes, John."

"I love you, Julia."

"I love you too, John." They both waited eagerly for the light to turn green so that they could begin their tax free existence in the land where very little men have all the money. The light finally changed and John held Julia's hand as he drove off. And, of course, they lived happily ever after.

* * *

Cut. Well, of course the story has to end like that, right? I mean, I could have told you that the story actually continues, but with the toothless gas attendant as the protagonist in a plot involving a late delivery of motor oil and a murdered truck driver. And this would mean that the narration would follow said attendant, leaving John and Julia in a state of utter oblivion, thus joining Oliver, Madame Natasha, the police officer and the nasty (and sneaky) government tax collectors. That doesn't sound too happy to me.

I know what you're thinking now (even though I certainly do not believe in ESP): "What does that mean?".

Well, it could mean that if a character, or nonexistent entity, exists only as an extension of the writer's thoughts, then characters can have no true thoughts of their own. And from this it can be assumed that the phrase, "Happily Ever After" can not apply to these entities as any existence they might have had ends when the writer stops writing about them. On the other hand, the text can be seen as a seed of sorts, and only within the fertile mind of the reader can the life essence of creativity cause it to blossom into what we call a story. And so, despite all of the writer's manipulations and machinations, it is the reader who is the truly omnipotent one who can extend the life of a character beyond the bounds of any amount of words. Or not.

On the third hand, it could mean that I've exhausted all of my creative energy and can't seem to come up with a suitable ending to this story. Aah, here we go: