When I was young, my poor mother arranged to send me to creative writing camp. I was not a grateful camper. I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to be classified. To make matters worse, I was thrown out of camp because I failed the class on endings. We were given subjects and told to come up with one happy and one sad ending ; I simply could not come up with a happy one. To this day, I can picture the counselor, a tall Norwegian woman with bulging eyes, saying, “Susan, can’t you think of one?” (I suspect it’s an especially bad sign when a Norwegian tells you you’re depressed.)
The next summer, my mother might have chosen to send me to therapy camp, but chose instead to send me into the Canadian woods as part of a canoeing camp. (The odd thing is, we had absolutely no money, so I don’t know why she was sending me to camp at all, though now that I think about it, she probably needed relief from me.) In this canoeing camp, I thrived. In fact, the summer was so transformative that at the end of camp I was awarded a paddle, signed by all the campers, and proclaimed “Best Trailblazer.” I still have it, in my office. I consider it one of the proudest moments of my life.
Now that’s a happy ending, I think. Unless you consider what happened the following summer.
Even as I write this, I see that a new issue of Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms is coming out, with all 40 or so endings. I can’t wait to read it. Have you ever had trouble with an ending?