Is a life lived a lesson learned? This is the story of a life, an angst -Jason's. It is three interwoven stories occurring at different times in his life, and explores the guilt he feels about the death of a girl he once dated (Margie). The theme is existential: death is guilt and vice versa. It is, in the final analysis, the story of a failed life that shouldn't have. More
The first story is about Jason's early life in Winnipeg in the 50ies. He is being moved out of his brother's room into an unfinished room in the attic. He is of mixed feelings about this because up there his imagination runs riot. He thinks of the rafters as the ribs of a sleeping animal -a bear- and the crawl space over the porch as being inhabited by a mysterious old lady. Life is good, however, and he travels into the winter with a boy named Billy who he always seems to find in a little snow fort in the lane behind his house. One day during a snow storm, they decide to hitch a slide behind the local bus but Billy slips under the wheels and is killed. This, of course has a profound affect on the young Jason.
The next story is told through the conversations and diary entries of Margie. She is a classmate of the now teenaged Jason. She is a very intense, and lonely person who lives more on the paper of her diary than in real life. Although very bright, she is also misunderstood and has few friends. One day, while out bowling with her best friend Sheila, she is challenged by a group of girls who mock her about an upcoming dance. They threaten to bribe a boy to ask her, knowing that if anybody does finally ask her out, he will be suspect. This mortifies her, and yet, for some reason, she accepts a date with Jason when he asks. The story explores her feelings, and suggests an imminent psychological crisis around this. When Jason finally does pick her up, she is almost in a fugue state psychologically and eventually decompensates, runs out of the dance and despite Jason's best efforts, leaves him outside her house. In the final story, we learn that she drowned herself shortly thereafter.
The final story is about Jason again, but this time as a neurotic, middle aged accountant just divorced from a woman we later learn was Margie’s best friend, Sheila. By this time, Jason is consumed with guilt, although we are never quite sure whether it is about Margie, the friend in Winnipeg, or the marriage he has just lost. Jason is seen as a morbidly depressed man who cannot come to grips with his memories.
Ray, his best friend, is constantly looking for relationships and one day invites Jason to go on a blind date with a woman he's just met and her friend. Jason and Janet, the woman Ray found for him, have a brief relationship, but he is too depressed to make it work. In a final, desperate attempt to run away from himself and his past, he and Janet go to a convention in Bolivia. Things do not go well there for them, and she leaves early. When he arrives back in Vancouver, it is to a cold, rainy winter evening, a Janet that doesn't want to see him anymore, and a Ray who seems oddly non-supportive. In a heuristic, but despondent mood, he comes to realize that every thing in his life has involved death: Billy, Margie, Sheila, Janet, and even Ray -real or spiritual endings. His nemesis, therefore, must be the same; he caused the others, he must cause his own. He should, as he realizes, move on, balance the equation.