But Atwood warns the reader not to be deluded. Most of these endings are fake; there is really only one ending to all beginnings, and the interregnum in all cases are just plots – “a what and a what and a what.”
John and Mary meet.
What happens next?
If you want a happy ending, try A.
When I was in grade school, I used to read this children’s series that allows the reader to choose what happens in the next part of a particular story. It was called “Choose Your Own Adventure,” which I totally loved. At the end of each section, at the bottom of the page, you are given options as to how you want the story to go on. Molly finds a box behind the door. Do you want Molly to open the box? Turn to page 5. Do you want Molly to return the box where she found it and go on to the next room? Turn to page 8. It was fun going back and reading the parts that I did not choose, and marvel at the many possible and wonderful endings.
The success stories had good things going, things that were “stimulating and challenging.”
Happy Endings reminded me a lot of that series, but only in style. This short offering from Atwood is wry and witty, and I chuckled at some parts that I thought were written with a certain amount of sarcasm. Following John and Mary’s story was quite amusing. There’s that first ending, of course – the happy one – in “A.” And then there are the not-so-happy ones – tragic, actually – and other characters and their fates are added until finally, Atwood addresses the reader directly and instructs on all matters of beginnings, endings, and what happens in between.
So much for endings. Beginnings are always more fun. True connoisseurs, however, are known to favor the stretch in between, since it’s the hardest to do anything with.
Fred and Madge from “D” totally cracked me up. Fred, Madge, and the huge tidal wave escape! I literally laughed out loud at that one. In the end, however, how did Fred and Madge fare? The story instructs that, after all, endings are the same everywhere.
From the collection Murder in the Dark