Bats, Stephen King, and Happy Endings

There is always something great about a good book. Especially when the ending has some satisfaction to it. And not just books, movies too. And maybe the occasional reality TV show. Maybe.

A good ending is a good ending. It leaves you satisfied like an ice cold drink on a hot summer day, sleep after a long week of studying for exams and you haven’t slept for days. And a good fourth of July fireworks finale. That’s always pretty good. All seems right with the world.

Good endings seem to be, well, natural. They’re supposed to happen. Rocky has to win, there’s no other way. Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan have to be together (if you haven’t seen “You’ve Got Mail”, I suggest you rent it while no one’s around, or wait until it replays on TBS, because it will, and because you must) and Jack Bauer eventually is going to pull it out in the end because quite frankly, he’s the Uber-man.

Life is better with a happy ending.

A few days after the fourth of July I was out in the yard with my neighbor, shooting off Roman Candles into the air watching the bats chase after them thinking they were really large mosquitos. It was quite a bit of fun. After we had had our fill of tormenting said bats, the talk moved to literature and, of course, Jack Bauer. When I asked If he was much of a reader he immediately responded, “Oh Yeah. Stephen King.” Almost simultaneously we both said, “Dark Towers!” Jinx. It was an awkward moment.

The thing about Stephen King though is his endings are so creepy. Not many of his stories have a good ending. Or maybe I should say, healthy closure. See also The Shining, Children of The Corn, Pet Semetery, etc. etc. etc. You get the point.

Most King books leave you saying to yourself, out loud, ”That was pretty darn awesome. I’m going to read it again.” And you then turn to page one. King fans are nothing more than romantics at heart, wishing, hoping, praying that with each new book maybe this time he’ll resolve something, anything really. Anything creepy and evil into something good.

Don’t count on it.

See also Salem's lot. The vampires win, take over the town, and the dude drives away. The end. Well, that sucks. The writing is so good we can’t help but to have enjoyed the reading. But somewhere deep inside, there is a dissonance. A resounding need to resolve the problem, the mystery, the whatever, or else by God you’re going to have rent Sixteen Candles for a cheap fix. Yikes.

The need for good, sound, ol’ fashioned great ending is why the Matrix down right blew. After it was all is said and done, my friends and I walked out of the theater saying, “Well, I thought he was pretty good in Point Break.”

So why is it that we long for happy endings? We’ve all felt it. That longing. The well in our chest and dampness of the eyes when love prevails, the bad guys are all eliminated, and the hoped for becomes a reality. You’d be a liar if you at least didn’t admit it to yourself. Ask a woman. Any woman. Women have no problem with that. They are as in tune to happy endings as Yo Yo Ma is in tune with his cello. It’s down right perfect. And it should be that way.

For women it’s a perfect wedding. The right dress, with the perfect guy, in the right atmosphere, and the right paper for the perfect ink to go on the essential paper of the invitations for the event of the year. A wedding is something good, a good ending to years of searching for the right guy. It’s a celebration. And the start of a new story with hopefully, a happy ending.

For guys, it can be an ice cold Coke after a great freaking’ steak. Yeah! That was a great ending. Ok, I’m sorry. That was a bit trite. Guys are deeper than that. A good ending for us is a job well done. Mission accomplished. In Saving Private Ryan, Ryan was given a mission. To earn the life he had so freely been given. And in the end, when all was said and done, he wanted to know had he done it. had he been successful in completing his mission? It was. And he did. And I cried.

Whenever the ending to anything is sub-par, that is, it doesn’t quite meet our expectations, we all feel a sense of despair, of being let down. Inside of us there’s this uncanny drive as natural as hunger for something more, something better, and something good. Great movies, great stories, great lives all have good endings. Rags to riches, against all odds, they lived happily ever after. We live in a world where it’s right and good to want a better ending. America was founded on the premise that life could be better. Men die and still do so that Americans can live in a world where life could be better. And hopefully, the rest of the world. There’s not a human being in the world, with the exception of a militant few, that don't long for happiness.

There’s a good chance, you are doing something in your life, right now, because you believe something can and should be better. Whether it’s your own life, someone else's life, a product, or cause, humans are driven to desire and produce happy endings.

So where does it come from? Why does it drive us to college degrees, to recruiting stations, to movies over and over again with the same plot?

Life was meant for resolution. That is to say, a happy ending. And not just with one climactic event. All through our life there are mini sub plots, being resolved all the time in one big story of my life, your life, and the life of mankind. Maybe it was designed that way for a purpose.

As a side-note, my neighbor made the observation that at some point in King’s career, he started writing more happy endings. Why? Well, rumor has it that King began to have grandchildren. And now they’re old enough to read his books. And so, like any good grandfather, he wanted there to be a happy ending for them to read. Maybe it’s just a rumor, but I bet there’s some truth to it.

I guess even the great King of scary novels had to succumb to the powerful lobbying of the happy ending.