When the Story’s End Is Just the Beginning


With the hype-driven success of “Scarlett,” can “Huck Finn’s Excellent Adventure” be far behind? Just think: If Rhett can come back, maybe Shane can too.

To prepare for the day that Huck and Jim open a dude ranch in Wyoming, we present this unexpurgated look at likely sequels to some of the great works of literature.

When we last see the Joad family from Steinbeck’s Depression-era masterpiece, “The Grapes of Wrath,” Tom has left the clan, vowing to improve conditions for the helpless everywhere. He promises Ma Joad he’ll come back someday. The rest of them, still looking for work, hole up in a barn with a starving fellow migrant, whose life Rose of Sharon tries to save with mother’s milk.


“The Raisins of Wrath”

Fresno, 1988.

This time when the dust came, it curled up in ribbons past the hats of the men who were sitting on the benches, waiting. They were waiting for the dust to settle so they could see their reflection in the shiny hubcaps of a Lincoln Continental. Out of the car stepped the California Dancing Raisins. They had heard through the grapevine that Tom and his family were starved by drought and needed help.

“Tom,” said the head Raisin, “we want you to be our manager. . . .”

The final scene of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” one of the most troubling works in the English language, is a big mess. Basically everybody is dead, except Hamlet’s trusty sidekick Horatio, and, of course, the ghost of Hamlet’s dad, who was dead when the play began.

“Hamlet: The Next Generation”

(Enter various pages and attendants, Horatio, and finally, the Ghost of Hamlet’s Father.)

Ghost: Zounds! Where is everyone?

Horatio: Dead, my lord.

Ghost (sniffing the air) : Something really is rotten in the state of Denmark.

(Enter Ghost of Hamlet; Ghost of Hamlet’s Mother; Ghost of Hamlet’s Stepfather and ghosts of everyone else who died in Act V, Scene 2. )

Horatio: Soft! Who goes there? Art thou flesh or fiend?

Ghosts: OooOOOoooOOOooo!!

Horatio: Page! Come hither! Get thee to a Ghostbuster!

(Exeunt: Attendants, to look up Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd in the Yellow Pages.)

“The Raven,” Edgar Allen Poe’s most famous poem, ends with the narrator realizing that the Raven perched above his chamber door will be there forever, croaking, “Nevermore!” The refrain is a hapless reminder that the narrator is doomed to be haunted throughout his life by the memory of his lost love, Lenore.

“The Raven, Too”

Years have passed since first the bird

Relayed to me that awful word,

That stinging, unforgiving word of “Nevermore.”

But now, my bird and I are friends.

Through therapy we made amends,

And soon forgot old what’s-her-name--

Oh yes! Her name’s Lenore.

“Let’s move out West,” the raven croaked.

And then untutored, unprovoked,

I said: “Let’s open up a health-food store!”

Quoth the bird: “In Livermore.”

“Cinderella,” the fairy tale favorite that became the English-language metaphor for transformation against all odds, culminates with the happy marriage of Cinderella and Prince Charming. And now, 10 years later. . .

“Cinderella--The Final Days”

Once upon a time, Cinderella came home from a shopping trip with a new pair of glass slippers.

“Cindy,” sighed the prince. “You already have 300 pairs of shoes.”

“How can you talk shoes,” cried poor Cinderella, “when every time I turn around you’re out on the polo fields!”

Cried the prince: “What about your disco-hopping?”

”. . . your organic gardening!”

”. . . your camera hogging.”

The couple took a much-publicized second honeymoon. Royalty watchers debated the constitutional complications of divorce. And People magazine, assured of at least 10 more years of good copy, lived happily ever after.

Melville’s “Moby-Dick,” the labyrinthine allegory of Good and Evil often described as the most important work of American fiction, ends with everyone drowning, except the good guy--narrator Ishmael--who floats to safety on a coffin rising from the sinking vessel’s hellish vortex. The Great White Whale, of course, escapes, with the body of his maniacal nemesis, Captain Ahab, lashed to his side.

“Moby-Dick II”

Call me Fishmeal. That’s the nickname they gave me after the leviathan of my soul found itself pierced on the harpoon of my conscience and I sold the rights to my story and moved to Hollywood. Life is peaceful now that I am rich, and I continue to embrace the bosom of the sea through my position as national director of an organization that saves the whales.

To pledge contributions, call 1-800-GO-FISH.