Endings are difficult to write. This is because they should foster a sense of denouement (which translates to “unknotting” rather than “tying up”); establish a return to the beginning in some manner; create an atmosphere of openness and order; subvert expectation(s); respect, employ, and trust understatement; and leave the reader’s emotions in a state consistent with the book’s overall tone or mood.
That is a lot of work.
This is why endings are hard.
The original ending to this book is reproduced below. It was cut because it was doing some of the above, but not all. Or rather, it was doing all of the above, except the last and most important: it was not leaving the reader’s emotions in a state consistent with the rest of the book. What is interesting to me is to look at home small it is, isolated here. It’s a mere 200 words! And yet—tagging these very few lines to the end of the book radically alters everything that precedes it.
In his story, “Beginnings,” Robert Coover notes: “It is important to begin when everything is already over.” Therefore, I give you here the failed conclusion of The Lost Daughter Collective, which is also a beginning. (Let me say here that the book was originally titled The Region of Perhaps.) Put it more concisely and more ambiguously, this is the place where the book does not end:
The past can haunt, but the future always does.
What is this part of me called? The Daughter will ask, pointing to the place where her hand meets her arm.
What do you mean?, The Father will reply.
This place, here, what is it called?
I don’t understanding the question, The Father will say. Then he will point to her arm and say, This is your arm, and then point to her hand and say, This is your hand.
But what do we call the place where they come together? We have ankles and we have knuckles and we have elbows and we have knees. But what do we call the place where the hand meets the arm?
The Father will look at The Daughter very intently as her brows furrow and her arm is extended, hand drooped and hanging loose.
We do not call it anything at all, The Father will say. But this was the work of Archivists long ago; they found terms to describe phenomenon that no one yet cared to discuss.
The Daughter will think very hard then, looking at the ground. Eventually, she will nod to herself.
I am going to call this a wryste.
(Photo credit: Darren Hester, via Morguefile.)