the very very very end
For storytime last night, Sage selected four Bible stories. As we ended the one about Noah's Ark, with the dove coming back with a green leaf in its beak and creation of the rainbow as God's promise never to drown the earth again, Sage interrupted my narrative.
SAGE: Wait, wait, Dad.
ME: What, sweetie? Do you want me to go back?
SAGE: No. I want to know the ending.
ME: This is the ending.
SAGE: No, Dad. The real ending.
ME: This is the real ending. Noah and his family and all the animals survived and the world started fresh.
SAGE: (exasperated sigh) That's not the ending, Dad.
ME: (points to page) But it is, see? There's the rainbow, there's Noah, there's his family, and look, there are all the animals. Everyone's happy.
SAGE: Dad... The ending...
ME: I'm sorry, but what do you mean?
SAGE: (grimaces) I want to know... I want to ask...
ME: Go on.
SAGE: Dad, in the end, does Noah die? Do all the animals die?
ME: No, no. See? Everyone's happy. The water's gone. They have the rainbow and entire earth.
SAGE: No, Dad. In the very very very end.
ME: The very very very end?
ME: Well, then yes, in the very very very end, everyone dies. But not in this story.
SAGE: See? So everyone dies.
ME: But not just yet. Not in this story. And actually, did you know that God took Noah and another guy named Enoch away so they didn't have to-
SAGE: Dad. Next story, please.
ME: Okay, but do you understand that stories can end at different places, especially with people not dead?
SAGE: Of course, Dad. I just wanted to know if they die at the very very very end.
I looked at my four year-old and realized how finely her mind worked. I don't recall ever asking my parents anything like that. I was one to accept the story whole-hog, without questions, basking in the wonder of it all. Perhaps it is just a father reading too much into a conversation, but this isn't the first time Sage and I have had talks like this.
Later that night, I had a hard time sleeping. Floating in my head were hazy elements of a story, something about the very very very end. When I did fall asleep, I woke up a couple of hours later in the darkness, feeling quite sad, weighed down heavily by the certainty of endings.
I got up and smoked a cigarette and I remember thinking how, yes, it is true that at the end of things we all die; but how wonderful it is to be able to choose when to end smaller stories - whether in fiction or in real life. It's a matter of choice and perspective, after all.