The Saddest Happy Ending Ever

Carson was a writer who made up stories about crazy things, like animals rowing out to catch up with Noah’s Ark.  Sometimes, he wrote about men finding tiny lint people in his pockets.  These stories were not true—at least not true in any way any of us would usually understand the word—but for the most part, Carson liked them.  Sometimes, he even loved them.

Eventually, before he submitted them to his agent, he changed the endings of what he wrote so that they’d be happy.  No matter what, no matter if he were telling the saddest sounding story, he’d end up with a character winning a contest or being loved by everyone.  Sometimes the endings were interesting; sometimes they were hackwork, but there was no arguing with the fact that they were uplifting and positive.  This made Carson much beloved with his fans but hated by smart people, critics, and college students.  The irony of it was that Carson was smart, had written criticism to make a few extra bucks when first starting out and had gone to college, which explains why he hated his own endings almost more than anyone else.

Still, Carson couldn’t help himself.  He’d made a deal, maybe you could even call it a pact, with his old typewriter: in exchange for popularity, status and money, he could only write happy endings.

Unlike smart people, critics, and college students, typewriters prefer happy endings, which makes sense if you think about it.  Sad endings cause tears, which fall onto the inner workings of typewriters, which are made of metal, a material that rusts quite easily.  As it happens, the typewriter that Carson used was especially optimistic.  It was bright yellow, made by a group of extremely positive ex-hippies who worked at the Remington Rand factory in Tonawanda, New York, a rust proof town in the middle of the rust belt.

So Carson felt stuck in his writing an couldn’t see a way out for himself.  But then he turned fifty, and things started changing.  Within a week of his birthday, his wife left him for a bleak poet who wore black clothes; his black cat, Thirteen, ran away and got hit by a truck; and his therapist diagnosed him with chronic depression.  In fact, she told him, he was a repressed-depressive person—the worst kind of depressed.  “It was imperative,” his therapist added, that he get out there and deal with his demons.  She suggested that as an exercise, he let himself write the darkest story he could write and not let up.  “You have to see this through,” she implored him.  “Write a sad ending.  It’s the only way to find happiness.”

Carson did his best.  He had lots of dark ideas.   He tried to write a murder-mystery.  A double-homicide committed by an awful criminal who never gets caught because a corrupt cop is heading the investigation….

Carson stopped himself there.  He wanted sad, not stupid.

He tried again:  a literary novel about an old woman dying of cancer who didn’t have anyone to take care of her middle-aged autistic son—that was pretty sad.  But after writing the opening, Carson stopped himself again.  He didn’t have enough time to research autism and he didn’t know anything about cancer.

For hours, he went on this way: writing and throwing away everything he wrote. After a week, Carson decided he had to go deeper.  It was the only way to withstand the onslaught of positivity that his yellow typewriter was hurling his way.  He had to look within himself, write what he knew, show not tell and some other cliché’s he hadn’t heard since he was a student.  And that’s exactly what he did.

Months later, when he was done with his novel, he couldn’t believe how easy it was to write a sad book.  Carson ended up writing about a writer who just couldn’t come up with a sad ending to a sad story about a writer who was writing a sad story based on his sad life.  It was so easy once he came up with the concept.  The words came to him easily, and all the emotions were right and honest.  And when he came to what he knew was the ending of his story, there was no hesitation.  The writer in Carson’s story would die in an accident.  At the end of the novel, Carson described the guy sitting at his desk, looking on happily at the sad ending he’d come up with.  The writer in Carson’s novel would be so relieved that he’d finally let out all that negativity and bile and rage that he’d go out to celebrate.  And then, in the last chapter, Carson had him drink so much that while driving home, he got into a terrible accident.  It was a sad ending—no doubt about it.

Carson was pleased.  He was so excited, in fact, that he went out that night, got drunk and drove himself home.  But then the next morning, when he woke up hung over, he realized he wasn’t happy any longer.  Sad ending or not, Carson was still the same person—sad, frustrated, depressed and repressed.  And to make matters worse, now he had to begin editing his damn book.


Tags: , , , , , ,

Categories: fiction

Author:the circular runner

g. martinez cabrera currently lives in San Francisco with his lovely and talented wife. He holds degrees from Columbia and from the Harvard Divinity School where he spent three years thinking about lofty things. Since then, he tries to write some lofty and some not-so-lofty things down so others can see how lofty he sometimes is. When he’s not writing or spending time with said wife, he tortures young people with learning. He blogs at and Tumbls at

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One Comment on “The Saddest Happy Ending Ever”

  1. December 15, 2011 at 6:56 pm #

    This is a sad state of affairs. Good story 🙂

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