The Parking Lot Problem

July 8, 2012 § Leave a comment

While writing today I noticed that an inordinate number of the stories I’ve written (both published and not) have final scenes that take place in parking lots.

That includes both of my print publications, and, barring revision, the story I’m working on now. An early version of my unpublished story “Grand Fury” ended the same way, until I cut that scene out.

There might be a simple explanation: a story builds up to a confrontation, upon the conclusion of which the protagonist makes an exit, either for dramatic effect or the first moments of isolated reflection, and of course, outside most buildings are parking lots. The hero heads home, moves on, ideally a more complete figure than when the story began.

But part of me wonders if there’s an “A & P” influence at work, knowing that a) Updike is perhaps my favorite writer, and b) my first encounter with the story was in an undergrad creative writing course at Merrimack. Perhaps it set the model, in my mind, for narrative endings. Sammy stands up to his boss by defending Queenie and her friends, quits his job, ditches his bow tie, and makes his exit, thinking he’s changed the world with this act of courage, but then the girls are gone and he looks back through the windows to see Lendel in his old slot, ringing customers through:

His face was dark gray and his back stiff, as if he’d just had an injection of iron, and my stomach kind of fell as I felt how hard the world was going to be to me hereafter.

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