A Happy Ending by Murray Dunlap

How are you doing, Ben?”

The cam­era man crunch­es down to take advan­tage of a bet­ter upshot.

Well, I’d tell you, but there is a stranger in my house who seems to be film­ing us,” I say with sin­cere astonishment.

`        “Pre­tend they’re not there. None of them,” my bud­dy says.

And who are they?” I ask.

They are mak­ing a movie of “us,”” he replies.

They obvi­ous ques­tion here, is who are “we?””

OK pal, you asked…  “We” are you and I. No fak­ing this. And “we” are the focus of a movie that “they” are filming.”

This is seri­ous­ly messed up.”

You asked,” my bud­dy says.

And I assume my injuries will be the focus of this ‘movie’?” I ask.

You betcha, Ben. Just maybe make your limp a bit worse for the sym­pa­thy vote.”

That is not nec­es­sary, bud. I limp, plain and simple.”

Ah, thank you,” my bud­dy replied (for you guys at home, his name is Michael).  “That sort of detail will make this movie make sense.”

And what is the point of this ‘movie?’” I ask.

It’ll have peo­ple amazed to see what you have been through. How you man­aged to press on. To ‘hang in there.’ Par­don the phrase,” Michael says.

Ah, so you’ve seen this movie,” I say.

Yep. Watch­ing it right now.”

My TV is bust­ed,” I say. “Watch­ing it how?”

We are it.”

This is a movie?”


Ter­ri­ble movie,” I say. “Who wants to watch a guy named Michael and a guy named Ben sit around talking?”

Well ‘we’ do, we’re watch­ing it right now!”

Hmmm. Weird.”

Hey, why don’t you tell us all about the wreck?”

Cut,” a dis­tant voice calls out.

Michael, what the hell IS this?” I ask sincerely.

OK guys,” a man who I assume is a direc­tor of some sort steps into the room. “”Let’s try to be more con­cise. And knock off on all the meta­nar­ra­tive crap!”

Um, well, you are the direc­tor of some film in my liv­ing room about me. How exact­ly do you think I can pos­si­bly have this NOT be meta­nar­ra­tive?” I ask.

Just keep going,” the direc­tor says. “And talk about the wreck.”

Fine.” As con­fused as I am right now, I’ll do just that. “The wreck. Not inter­est­ing. A man none of us knows ran a red light. The end.”

And…” Michael con­tin­ues, “Ben, tell us ALL what your injuries are.”

ALL?” I stam­mer. “This is ridiculous.”

Action!” the direc­tor calls out.

OK, OK, Ok… I have 3 frac­tures in my pelvis, a bro­ken clav­i­cle, 9 sutures in my head, five stitch­es in my ear lobe, and a severe trau­mat­ic brain injury,” I state.

Brain injury!” The direc­tor calls out. “Per­fect! You should riff on this… Brain injury, and trau­mat­ic too, and even SEVERE!”

Riff? Do you want our audi­ence, who­ev­er they are, to think I’m nuts with a brain injury?”

If that works…” the direc­tor stam­mers. “Then sure, you can be crazy!”

I’m get­ting crazy mad,” I reply.

Action!” our direc­tor shouts.

I’m real­ly becom­ing angry, brain injury or not!” I shout.

Just try again,” our direc­tor says.  Fol­lowed by, “Action!”

And so I made a movie, try­ing very hard to be ‘me.’ I played along, end­ed up on Oprah, and every­one went home happy..

Cut!” our direc­tor shouts. “This is get­ting WAY too meta­nar­ra­tive!   And give this dread­ful drea­ri­ness a hap­py end­ing! Action!”

Hmph,” I start. “How to end this on a hap­py note?  Well, the fact that a movie is being made about me is exact­ly a hap­py ending.”

But your audi­ence,” the direc­tor shouts. “What will they understand?”

OK.” I say. “How about a new house?  You know. The cab­in that I’ve always wanted…”

Out of the damn bud­get…” our direc­tor cries. “How on earth do we pay for a house?”

Well, you could chip in?” I stammer.

Horse­shit! Cut!” Our direc­tor looks as if he has giv­en up.

Hmmm,” I start. “What about Oprah?”

And why exact­ly, do we hope for that?” Michael says.

Because I do care,” Oprah appears from the shad­ows as if the whole thing was script­ed out.

Oprah… uh, uh, hel­lo there?” I scratch my head in disbelief.

Dar­ling,” Oprah cuts my ques­tion in half. “Any­thing is pos­si­ble in a movie… You know that.”

So what is your part, excuse me, your ROLE.”

Dar­ling,” Oprah begins, “My role, as you call it, will be to help the pub­lic get a glimpse of how it is, in fact, pos­si­ble to “hang in there.”

And will this movie be it?” I ask.

Of course Ben,” Oprah says. “And I’ll give your sto­ry a hap­py ending!”

How does this end?” I ask in confusion.

Let’s go see your cab­in in the woods,” Oprah states.

What cab­in?” I ask in utter disbelief.

Fol­low me…” Oprah waves her hand to the front door and pro­ceeds to exit my house.

Real­ly?” I ask as I fol­low Oprah onto the front porch. My ques­tion is answered when I see a shiny black limo in the dri­ve. And of course, we then are dri­ven to a pic­turesque cabin.

Here we are my good pas­sen­gers,” the limo dri­ver says.

My good­ness! I am utter­ly bewil­dered. A porch over­hangs a beau­ti­ful lake.  My gosh! And once the dri­ver opens the front door, a dog comes bound­ing out to greet us!

Now THIS is a hap­py end­ing!” I scream with utter amazement.

Dar­ling, my dar­ling,” Oprah begins, “You know that I love to give people’s sto­ries hap­py endings!”

But I had no idea…” I drift into silence.

Ahh­hh, I see you like?” Oprah gives Michael and I a great big wink.

This is awe­some!” Michael interjects.

I agree, I agree.” I have to admit. “Awe­some. Per­fect really.”

Are you hap­py?” Oprah asks.

My good­ness, Oprah,” I state. “Hap­py.”


The End (cred­its roll for our view­ers at home)

Mur­ray Dunlap's work has appeared in about fifty mag­a­zines and jour­nals. His sto­ries have been nom­i­nat­ed for the Push­cart Prize three times, as well as to Best New Amer­i­can Voic­es once, and his first book, an ear­ly draft of "Bas­tard Blue" (then called "Alaba­ma") was a final­ist for the Mau­rice Prize in Fic­tion. His first col­lec­tion of short sto­ries, "Bas­tard Blue," was pub­lished by Press 53 on June 7th, 2011 (the three year anniver­sary of a car wreck that very near­ly killed him…). His newest book is the col­lec­tion "Fires." The extra­or­di­nary indi­vid­u­als Pam Hous­ton, Lau­ra Dave, Michael Knight, and Fred Ashe taught him the art of writing.

See www​.mur​ray​dun​lap​.com for a look at hiswork.

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