The story starts like this. I go to a bar with friends. My boyfriend doesn’t come with me because he never goes with me anywhere. He wants to see me only after 10pm, and I think he doesn’t want to be seen with me.
In the bar’s courtyard two young men strike up a conversation with me. They make me laugh and one is tall and good-looking. It turns out the shorter one is married, and after a few minutes he says he needs another beer and leaves the tall guy on his own to talk to me.
I think the conversation goes well, but when my friends say it is time to go home, he doesn’t ask for my phone number. Walking out of the bar, I see the married friend. I do something that goes against my wallflower grain. I push through the crowd to talk to him.
“It was nice to meet you,” I say, hoping he will say the right thing. He seems like that kind of guy.
“Did my friend ask for your phone number?” he asks.
“Oh, no,” I say as if this hadn’t occurred to me.
“Give it to me,” he says. “He’s just shy. I’ll give it to him.”
If the tall guy had really wanted my number, he would’ve asked, but I decide I’ve nothing to lose. The tall guy does call. It is Monday night and friends are crowded around my TV to watch the season premier of Murphy Brown–the one where she responds to Dan Quayle.
“Look, ” I say to this guy who is handsome and funny and actually calling me. “Murphy Brown is on–can you call me back later?”
He hesitates. “All right,” he says, and I’m sure he won’t call again. But he does.
That Friday night from my bedroom window I watch him walk up to my apartment, and he’s so good-looking I panic that he’s forgotten what I look like and that he will be disappointed when I open the door. But he smiles, and I think we’re off to a good start, even if his friend talked him into asking me out.
But what ending is unpredictable? The tall guy was the tactophobe. The End.
The beginning of any story holds promises. Perhaps a mystery will be solved or a quest will be completed. The tone and style of the beginning sets up certain expectations. It is hard to imagine starting with Great Expectations and ending in Clockwork Orange. Nor do you want the reader to know how everything will end.
When you’re writing, it’s a long way from those first pages to the last. Do you ever feel that the beginning to match up to the promise at the start? What story endings have let you down?