Like an Ending


“How did it end? Make your own damn ending. I don’t remember. And if this picture fades to black, does the ending even matter?”

Inside a no name neighborhood tavern of smoke and memories. An empty Chicago Street in a February wind. The old man whispers to last years calendar hung crooked behind the bar. The bartender hovers in the background quiet because it’s not the first time he’s heard this story. The old man’s whispers are like muted thunder that had forgotten how to roar.

The old man whispers to the calendar, “Course it was winter back then. Winter, all those years ago when we woke up in that Montana cabin surrounded by the snow.”

Winter when we walked out into the sunlight for the trip back down the mountain to Stapleton Airport. I never really thought I’d see her again. We didn’t talk much. No music played.

The old man takes a breath and dreams up a wavering shadow of a face. A much younger man. When he first told the story. Back when folks would read what he wrote. Sometimes even want to talk to him about the story. That was the best. When someone else, maybe even a stranger, would want to talk to him about the story. But the best of all? When that stranger’s load got even just a little bit lighter because they recognized something in the music of the story that made them nod their head and say “Me too.”

He called the first part of the story. “Like Love.” That was the one about how they met in Chicago. Part Two was “Like Music.” A trip through a musical snowstorm. The storm that lit the way to that cabin in Montana.

Course every now and then he’d get a question that he never really figured out how to answer. Somebody would say something like, “hey wait a minute. Are these stories true? I find it hard to believe those stories really happened. I mean, c’mon. Look at you. Look at her. You see what I’m saying? You just made all this up, right?”

“Hah!” the old man pounded his fist on the bar. “Are these stories true!” he shouted at the old calendar. The bartender glanced over. Went back to polishing the glass. You want to find the truth in a story? Well, how about this. How about finding out the ending of the story first. Let’s see how it ends. Because if you know how a story ends, maybe the part about the truth doesn’t matter anymore.

So what’s the ending of this story? Of course it started with a song, just like everything else between us did.

Why right after we got to Denver, checked in the car, walking to our flights, and it was Muzak we heard. That’s right. Muzak. More like a machine than a song. Piped in drivel that they used to play in airports. But she picked it up. She could hear things like nobody else could. The mere hint of a song was all she needed. So just as this song started, we stepped on an escalator. She was a step above me. The song started, she turned around and she lip-synched it right in my face. Those sparkling eyes telling me it was just the two of us who got the joke. That blonde hair sailing, flying, she sang just for me to hear. She sang the old Dusty Springfield song,

You stopped and smiled at me
Asked if I care to dance.
I stepped into your open arms
And I didn’t stand a chance

Right that second, hearing that song, that’s when I said it. As the escalator steps folded up, I said, “Come to Chicago. Make a new home with me. Let’s try.”

“But it’s only been four days!” She stopped at the top of the escalator. Crowds swirling all around us. “And I’m under contract. I have a job! It’s what I’ve been talking about! The new TV series. Where I can almost be myself!”

“And you can’t . . ..”

“You wouldn’t want me to . . ..”

“Well they have airplanes between Chicago and LA . . .”

“So we’d see each other on weekends?”

“Yeah,” I said. And then in the airport throng walking towards our gates, “But we’d be married.”

Which stopped her cold. Blue eyes wide as the Rocky Mountain skies.

I saw her turn to look out the window at the giant planes on the tarmac framed by the mountains, and I heard Bob Segar sing,

She looked out the window a long, long moment
Then she looked into my eyes
She didn’t have to say a thing
I knew what she was thinking

“What’s the name of the town we’d live in? The one where you grew up?”


“Is there a McDonalds or a Carl’s Junior in Evanston?”

“There’s a Burger King”

And as John Hiatt’s song rushed through my head . . . . .

I thought I had a line on something
Maybe no one else could say
And they couldn’t find it in their hearts
To just get out of my way
Then out of nowhere, and from nothing
You came into my life
I’d seen an angel or two before
But I’d never asked one to be my wife

“You know I’ve never lived anywhere but LA?” she said.


“And you know I’m nutso crazy. Kind of competitive.”

“Do I ever.”

“OK then yes!”



“She said yes!” I shouted out to a group of 6 sailors.” One gave me a thumbs up. Another said “Awesome” and the other four just stared.

The February winds outside the tavern shook the building. The old man drew a breath.

And that calendar behind the bar answered, “Nice. But too cute. I’m not buying. If this had a happy ending, then why are you here? Where is she? At home in the kitchen making brownies?”

“Too sweet?” said the old man, now answering himself, “OK. How about this. How about you pick the ending? Harder than it looks, ain’t it? Want some help?” he asked the calendar. And when there was only silence, he went on. “Here, let me help you with a song. Another John Hiatt lyric. Maybe this will prompt your ending.”

Well now the babies are all sleeping
And the twilight’s givin’ in
She looks like you, he looks like her
And we all look like him
Well maybe it’s just the little thing
The way I feel tonight
A little joy
A little peace
And a whole lot of . . .

That give you an ending? Nice song like that. Or does that make the ending even more cloudy?

Then in amidst the dialogue with himself, The old man stands up, nods to the bartender, pulls the collar up on his coat and heads up and out into the wind.

Is that the ending?

Alone now on the empty street. Calendar gone. He remembers that today was the day was the day he was finally going to throw away that thick, yellowed folder full of medical tests, plastered with his name. The one he had stashed behind the books on the bottom row of the shelf. All those tests. All that money. All that time.

An ending stuffed in that folder. The proof that there would be no babies. Not now. Not ever. Nobody would be looking like anybody. Not if he was to be the Dad

Not if he was to be the Dad.

Oh he had an ending alright. Just like Bob Dylan’s song. She didn’t even like Bob Dylan. But he still heard . . .

He woke up.
The room was bare.
He didn’t see her anywhere.
The neon sign above the bar on the deserted street beat out a rhythm so faint, he had to strain to hear it. A rhythm like an ending.

Stumbling through the darkness. Now the only light is a memory of her sparkling eyes that time he said, “Let’s try.”

And she answered him, “Yes.”

Once he said, “Let’s try.”

And she answered him “Yes.”

11 Responses to “Like an Ending”

  1. Tom Says:

    Haunting piece, Roger. Nicely done!

  2. toritto Says:

    Nice Roger. Very nice. Good to read you. Regards

    • chicagoguy12 Says:

      Thanks Frank–this is an old story that was badly in need of repair. Am ALMOST satisfied with it.

  3. Naomi de Plume Says:

    I didn’t expect the “ending,” which I suppose was by design. For all the reasons it shouldn’t have worked in the first place, the one thing he couldn’t control was what did them in. The tragedy of romance – you don’t know what’s important until it presents itself.

  4. chicagoguy12 Says:

    Naomi–That’s so true. You don’t know what’s important till it presents itself. And that really was the one thing he couldn’t control. That’s the whole story right there!

  5. Paul Haider Says:

    The good news for everyone is that winter has ended with the temperature rising for Spring…steen! Go, Cubs, go in Wrigley Field and away from home. It feels like Spring here in England too for the 40th anniversary of Three Mile Island’s nuclear accident.

  6. carol steinbrecher Says:

    You ALWAYS tell a great story. Seems sadder this time ’round. “Haunting” was a good word. Or, maybe, haunted? Our ghosts come to visit in the cold and dark of winter, don’t they?

    • chicagoguy14 Says:

      Just reread it and it does seem sadder. I think one of the reasons is that part 1 and 2 of this (especially 1) are so happy. Am slowly working on my new book–a collection–and wish I could use this; but there are too many song lyrics for that. Thanks for digging this out. It is for when the ghosts come knocking!

    • Paul Haider Says:

      Roger Wright is still my favourite writer from Chicago!
      Paul Haider, England

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