The No-End Ending
Some stories have happy and satisfying endings. Others do not, leaving us breathless and with our hearts on the floor. Then there are those that seem to have no ending at all. Perhaps they are left unfinished intentionally, forcing our imaginations to wander and wonder. Or maybe, in some situations, though we’ve come to the last page in a book, we haven’t really reached the end at all.
With respect to my last Shlog, Meet The Squatter, let me begin by sharing that I had revamped the Shlog a bit, ending my two-part approach and sharing the full story upfront. But I realized, after being contacted by several readers inquiring about the ending of Meet The Squatter, that I’d forgotten to share this. I should have made it clear with a classic close. The End.
But was it the end?
I moved away from the area where the house is some years ago, and though I still think about it–more than I like to admit, I haven’t been back in quite some time. The request for more information about the story, however, changed that. It sent me driving east to my old neighborhood, a pen and paper in hand, and a curiosity ready to be quenched.
As the traffic pushed me along, I realized that I should have picked another time to investigate. It was a weekday and early evening, and traffic was moving. I circled the block numerous times, trying to grab quick glimpses of the house as I passed. After a good half hour of this, I finally got the opportunity to roll to a slow stop in front of the house without an assault of horns.
For a moment, as I sat there, I felt like I’d been sucked into a dream—one of those reoccurring types that visits too often and leaves you sweating through the sheets. It’s familiar but unwanted, and the purpose of it is rarely determined.
The front lawn had been recently cut, though it was still a mix of Creeping Charlie and dandelions, sheered short and giving it the illusion that it was grass. While the houses on either side of it were decorated with large pots of blooming flowers and monstrous plants, it was flowerless. After taking in the yard, my eyes wandered to the front room. I always considered it the window into the soul of the house. It was lit by the same horrid fluorescent light it had been, accentuating the globe that still sat on the small desk-like table. The table was flanked by the same plastic chairs with metal legs. Homeschooling, I thought. The unhappy girls being paraded up the driveway had to be homeschooled.
The curtains in all the other windows in the house were drawn, but for the one window upstairs where I’d seen the man peeking out. It was pulled shut bunched slightly in the corner, as if he’d recently been there, sitting like a voyeur. The thought of it almost made me laugh out loud. Who am I to call him a voyeur when I’m sitting in front of his house, taking notes? But the fact of the matter is, a grown man doesn’t sit upstairs, peeking out of a curtain. Right?
I watched for several minutes, wishing that something would happen, but for a squirrel or two, the place was as dead as the tree that arched over the car port. A car sat beneath it. I was pretty sure it was the same car I’d seen years earlier. I took down the license plate, though I wasn’t sure why. If I figured out how to run the plate, I’d at least have a name.
As I sat watching and taking it all in, hoping I’d have something to report back, I couldn’t help but think about the many funerals I’ve attended in my life. Sitting in front of this lifeless house was like standing in front of a casket. You see the body of your loved one, peruse their face for answers…for messages…for emotion…for some sort of sign. But, while their physical body is there, their spirit is gone. The house was lifeless but, yet, it had lives residing in it. It was the one thing I knew for certain. There was a man. A woman. Two girls. Who were they?
My conscience began to nag at me. I imagined hideous headlines hitting the papers. Children Found Chained in Basement of Milwaukee Mansion. I worked to shut it all out, reminding myself repeatedly that nothing sinister had happened. Not that I knew of. Besides, what could I do with such limited information? It was nothing that warranted a trip to the police department. Imagine…
“Yes, hello. Um, there’s a house up the road, sir. I’ve kind of been observing it. A weird man peeks out of the curtained window upstairs. Oh, and, um…the mom appeared one day and seemed to be clutching her daughters’ shoulders a bit too hard. And, um, they looked unhappy. And, I haven’t seen them since that day. Oh, and there are no flowers…on their…well…porch.”
No doubt, my next Shlog would be about the characters I’d met while locked up in the insane asylum. (Yes, I know they don’t call them asylums anymore, but I’ve turned in my political correctness for unbridled flavor.)
So, if going to the police wasn’t a valid option, what about enlisting my readers to sleuth things out, to do a little reconnaissance? I could provide the address of the house, and you could do the surveying. Maybe someone would have the guts to ring the bell, ask for a tour, do a little neighborly intel. But I have enough guilt for all the stalking I’ve done–some of it likely illegal. Siccing readers on the case isn’t reasonable. It did make me smile, however.
What I do believe is that there will be an ending to this story. It’s just not time yet. Until then, let’s keep our fingers crossed that the ending won’t be a feature story on 20/20 or Dateline. In the meantime, if you happen to pass a house with a globe sitting on a table in the front window, feel free to investigate.