Second Chances – Advice #Two452

Posted on February 14, 2011


A sign brought Art to the office. He saw this sign on the bus: “Free Writing Help. ANY WRITING. Come to the writing center.”

Art’s stories were quick and clean and they didn’t leave anything to mop up after. But this one particular story bothered him, and he wanted a second opinion.  The story was about a caveman at the beginning of time. The caveman falls into terrible situations, such as child support and the need for several root canals. Somehow he invents the flame and in doing so inevitably sets himself and the world on fire.

A girl calls his name.  She says, “I’m Red. How can I help you?”

Art says, “It’s this story, you see.”  He shoves the story towards her.  “It’s missing something, and I saw your sign on the bus. Can you help?” She tells him that this isn’t their normal sort of work, but that she’ll take a look.

She reads the story and gives asides: “I think its missing the symbols that are usually in good stories,” she says.

Art says, “Oh, I see what you mean. I forgot to put in the symbols. I’m so stupid.”

“And how does the caveman set an entire world on fire? That’s a little strange, isn’t it?” says Red.

“You’re right. You’re really good at this. The whole thing is absurd. I tend to get crazy sometimes, I admit,” Art says.

Red says, “And where is the romance? Aren’t stories about love? There isn’t any love in here at all.”

Art says, “God, you’re right. Stories are always about love. At least the good ones.  Without love, we don’t have any whiskey or sore hearts or warm beds. There aren’t any of the good things or the terrible things. How can I let my caveman burn down the world if I don’t put love in there to burn with it? It’s all wrong. The story is all wrong.”

“Not just that, but this is a dangerous story. If a child read this, they might get terrible ideas,” says Red.

“Ideas?” Art asks.

“Yes. Like ideas to play with firecrackers or matches.  Ideas like trying to set a tree on fire or live in a cave! You have to be responsible, Art,” she says.

“The whole thing is a mess,” he says.

“Come on. We should burn this. We can’t have anyone reading something so empty and yet so dangerous,” she says.

Art is hesitant. “Do we really need to burn it?”

“It’s the responsible thing,” she says. “The caveman doesn’t deserve a second chance.”

They find their way outside and Red dumps the story in a garbage can. She throws a match in and the whole damn thing burns to ash and hell, but in a most responsible way. The smoke is black and Art stares at it, realizing that his caveman still burns in the end.

(For copyright sake: Photo taken of part of a mural at Epcot)