I Can Almost Picture It

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"The Treatment"

There was no building next to the parking lot. The only hint of structure came from the bushes planted in a line along each edge of the pavement, forming a perimeter. Errant branches like wires extended from the plants, tangling and knotting into each other and creating the rails of a botanical fence, a reminder to any visitors of the areas they may not visit. Something about it made a sliver at the center of Julie’s core slow, just as her car slowed to take the right turn onto the driveway.


Julie urged the steering wheel around, returned the car to the mouth of the parking lot, and made another right turn, back onto the street she’d been traveling moments before.


"What the hell?" Rachel said from the passenger’s seat, pointing. "My appointment’s and ten. And there’s paperwork I’ve got to do."


"We have time," said Julie. "It’s just—I want to get a cup of coffee with you before you go in. Can we do that? Do you mind?"


Rachel said, “Coffee. You really think my stomach can handle coffee right now?”


And Julie’s hands, her knuckles night-white, twisted around the leather grip of te steering wheel as if she were kneading dough. “I know,” she said. “I’m sorry.”


The scenery outside, the trees and lampposts, old with all they’d seen, crossed Rachel’s reflection in the window. “Tea,” she said. “I can have some tea. Toast might be a good idea. Maybe an English muffin, I don’t know.” She shrugged. “I really don’t knwo how this is going to go, you know?”


"I know," Julie said. "I’m sorry." No matter how many times she said them, the words never could make up for everything that was wrong.


The chairs in the diner booth had padded back and flat, hard seats—a little bit comfortable, but not entirely. Julie asked the waitress for coffee and, thinking of what Rachel had said in the car, an English muffin. Rachel ordered tea and an almond bear claw and lifted one of the short glasses of water brought for them to her cracked, grey lips.


"Why not, right?" Rachel said after the waitress departed. "I mean, I’m probably not going to be in the mood for a pastry afterward."


"It’s whatever you want right now." Julie’s smile was a thin film stretched across the surface of her face. "As long as it doesn’t hurt you." The waitress came back with a mug of thick black coffee, topped with an iridescent sheen, for Julie and, for Rachel, a cup of tea.


They were seated at a table so wide that, if they were to try, they hardly would have been able to reach their arms across it. Except for a few stains and a chip that revealed layers of wooden pressboard, the tabletop was white, reflective despite the matte finish of its coating. It bounced cold morning light onto Rachel’s skin as she rested her head atop her hand. Her skin bounced the light right back.


"You’re having a pretty rough time with this," she said.


"I know," said Julie. "I’m—"


"If you say you’re sorry one more time, I swear, I’m going to tell the cancer fairy to fucking visit you next."


"I’m scared," Julie said. The waitress returned. For what felt like a long time afterward, the English muffin and the bear claw sat on their plates between Julie and Rachel like two lonely islands in a hopelessly pale sea.


Julie reached out from her continent first. “I’m a horrible friend,” she said.


"You’d be a horrible friend if you weren’t afraid." Rachel pulled the bear claw closer to her and broke off a piece. "If you were happy about all of this? Then you’d be a horrible friend."


"I should be happy," said Julie. "You’re getting treatment," she added when Rachel’s eyebrows rose. "You have a chance to get cured. Like, completely cured. And I’m just sitting here thinking, ‘Oh, but I don’t know, I don’t really get it.’"


"It’s experimental. It’s weird. Like I said, I have no idea how this is going to go."


"Then why aren’t you worried? Why am I the only one freaking out right now?"


"Because your freakout’s big enough to cover both of us." Rachel waited until Julie smiled and began to butter her muffin before she continued. "You know I’m terrified," she said.


"I know," said Julie.


"It’s just that, more than that, I’m tired. Tired of being sick, you know? Tired of being tired, that’s what they say."


"I know," said Julie.


For a while, they both looked out the window and ate in silence.


"It doesn’t seem fair," Julie eventually said, "that you have to go through something so strange all alone."


This time, Rachel bridged the distance across the impossible-looking Formica-top sea between them: she took Julie’s hand. “How can you offer to wait for me today and say I’m all alone?” she asked. “The parking lot’s right there. I’m only walking a short way off. And all my brochures are in the bag. You can read up on the treatment while you wait, maybe make it seem a little less strange.”


"I’m not just talking about the treatment," said Julie.


The words hung between them, heavy and full under the daylight. Rachel blinked as she smiled. “You,” she said, “are a basketcase.”


"I know," said Julie. "I’m—"


"—a very good, very neurotic friend who’s going to pay for my breakfast and drive me to therapy," Rachel finished for her. Julie squeezed her fingers and felt her bones. "Come on, before I’m way the hell late," said Rachel. They stood up from the booth together and walked to the cash register arm in arm.


Julie parked the car two spaces to the right of the path that began at the east end of the parking lot. Rachel hugged her and set off on the path, which, Julie remembered from her reading, would lead Rachel to a glade a short way into the forest. The other details of the treatment Julie couldn’t recall. Nor had she understood them when Rachel had tried to explain. On the other side of the lot’s perimeter, the birch trees guarding the deepening path were slowly going white, their bark becoming a silvery skin starting at the branches’ crowns. Julie didn’t understand how birch trees did that, either. There was so much it seemed that she didn’t understand.


At the edge of the lot, separating the world Julie knew from one she could barely imagine, a row of bushes sat with their branches entwined, as if they were holding hands.

"The Treatment"

There was no building next to the parking lot. The only hint of structure came from the bushes planted in a line along each edge of the pavement, forming a perimeter. Errant branches like wires extended from the plants, tangling and knotting into each other and creating the rails of a botanical fence, a reminder to any visitors of the areas they may not visit. Something about it made a sliver at the center of Julie’s core slow, just as her car slowed to take the right turn onto the driveway.

Julie urged the steering wheel around, returned the car to the mouth of the parking lot, and made another right turn, back onto the street she’d been traveling moments before.

"What the hell?" Rachel said from the passenger’s seat, pointing. "My appointment’s and ten. And there’s paperwork I’ve got to do."

"We have time," said Julie. "It’s just—I want to get a cup of coffee with you before you go in. Can we do that? Do you mind?"

Rachel said, “Coffee. You really think my stomach can handle coffee right now?”

And Julie’s hands, her knuckles night-white, twisted around the leather grip of te steering wheel as if she were kneading dough. “I know,” she said. “I’m sorry.”

The scenery outside, the trees and lampposts, old with all they’d seen, crossed Rachel’s reflection in the window. “Tea,” she said. “I can have some tea. Toast might be a good idea. Maybe an English muffin, I don’t know.” She shrugged. “I really don’t knwo how this is going to go, you know?”

"I know," Julie said. "I’m sorry." No matter how many times she said them, the words never could make up for everything that was wrong.

The chairs in the diner booth had padded back and flat, hard seats—a little bit comfortable, but not entirely. Julie asked the waitress for coffee and, thinking of what Rachel had said in the car, an English muffin. Rachel ordered tea and an almond bear claw and lifted one of the short glasses of water brought for them to her cracked, grey lips.

"Why not, right?" Rachel said after the waitress departed. "I mean, I’m probably not going to be in the mood for a pastry afterward."

"It’s whatever you want right now." Julie’s smile was a thin film stretched across the surface of her face. "As long as it doesn’t hurt you." The waitress came back with a mug of thick black coffee, topped with an iridescent sheen, for Julie and, for Rachel, a cup of tea.

They were seated at a table so wide that, if they were to try, they hardly would have been able to reach their arms across it. Except for a few stains and a chip that revealed layers of wooden pressboard, the tabletop was white, reflective despite the matte finish of its coating. It bounced cold morning light onto Rachel’s skin as she rested her head atop her hand. Her skin bounced the light right back.

"You’re having a pretty rough time with this," she said.

"I know," said Julie. "I’m—"

"If you say you’re sorry one more time, I swear, I’m going to tell the cancer fairy to fucking visit you next."

"I’m scared," Julie said. The waitress returned. For what felt like a long time afterward, the English muffin and the bear claw sat on their plates between Julie and Rachel like two lonely islands in a hopelessly pale sea.

Julie reached out from her continent first. “I’m a horrible friend,” she said.

"You’d be a horrible friend if you weren’t afraid." Rachel pulled the bear claw closer to her and broke off a piece. "If you were happy about all of this? Then you’d be a horrible friend."

"I should be happy," said Julie. "You’re getting treatment," she added when Rachel’s eyebrows rose. "You have a chance to get cured. Like, completely cured. And I’m just sitting here thinking, ‘Oh, but I don’t know, I don’t really get it.’"

"It’s experimental. It’s weird. Like I said, I have no idea how this is going to go."

"Then why aren’t you worried? Why am I the only one freaking out right now?"

"Because your freakout’s big enough to cover both of us." Rachel waited until Julie smiled and began to butter her muffin before she continued. "You know I’m terrified," she said.

"I know," said Julie.

"It’s just that, more than that, I’m tired. Tired of being sick, you know? Tired of being tired, that’s what they say."

"I know," said Julie.

For a while, they both looked out the window and ate in silence.

"It doesn’t seem fair," Julie eventually said, "that you have to go through something so strange all alone."

This time, Rachel bridged the distance across the impossible-looking Formica-top sea between them: she took Julie’s hand. “How can you offer to wait for me today and say I’m all alone?” she asked. “The parking lot’s right there. I’m only walking a short way off. And all my brochures are in the bag. You can read up on the treatment while you wait, maybe make it seem a little less strange.”

"I’m not just talking about the treatment," said Julie.

The words hung between them, heavy and full under the daylight. Rachel blinked as she smiled. “You,” she said, “are a basketcase.”

"I know," said Julie. "I’m—"

"—a very good, very neurotic friend who’s going to pay for my breakfast and drive me to therapy," Rachel finished for her. Julie squeezed her fingers and felt her bones. "Come on, before I’m way the hell late," said Rachel. They stood up from the booth together and walked to the cash register arm in arm.

Julie parked the car two spaces to the right of the path that began at the east end of the parking lot. Rachel hugged her and set off on the path, which, Julie remembered from her reading, would lead Rachel to a glade a short way into the forest. The other details of the treatment Julie couldn’t recall. Nor had she understood them when Rachel had tried to explain. On the other side of the lot’s perimeter, the birch trees guarding the deepening path were slowly going white, their bark becoming a silvery skin starting at the branches’ crowns. Julie didn’t understand how birch trees did that, either. There was so much it seemed that she didn’t understand.

At the edge of the lot, separating the world Julie knew from one she could barely imagine, a row of bushes sat with their branches entwined, as if they were holding hands.

How I Became a Medical Assistant, or “Why Doesn’t This Blog Get Updated?”

This post has no picture and is nonfiction. It’s also pretty long. But I felt the need to discuss how life’s been.

Until about two weeks ago, I’d been working freelance in various capacities. I’ve been a writer and a proofreader and have considered myself lucky, because writing is something I enjoy and something I trained to do in college. From 2007 to 2012, however, the bulk of my income came from doing art restoration on older comic books being reprinted in lovely new collections.

Early in 2012, I learned that the line of books I worked on was going to be scaled back dramatically, to the point that almost all of us who worked for the line’s editor would no longer be getting work. I immediately went into panic mode, as you can imagine, and because my boyfriend and I worked on the same line of books, the panic was doubled. I decided I should look in earnest for a job outside of the realm of freelance so that our two-person home wouldn’t be caught unawares again. So I applied for every job I thought I qualified for—librarian work, writing and editing jobs, administrative assistant jobs, retail, AmeriCorps, you name it. Not much came of it. Did well in the few interviews I had, I was told, but there was always someone who was a better fit for the position.

(In the meantime, I stayed afloat with freelance work, for which I have to give especially loud gratitude to Terry Becker and Michael and Debbie Kelleher. Without them, I would have been completely screwed. I also have to give thanks to my main editor, Cory S., who fought for me to still have work and who, along with Mike, was an invaluable job reference.)

It was in December that I got toward the end of a multi-step interview process for a writing job I really, really wanted. (Jellyvision! Dammit!) As you can tell from that parenthetical thought, that job I didn’t get. That was the one that broke my heart. Savings were dwindling, the job search was depressing—in short, I needed a career. I decided to go back to school.

I have a science background along with my writing background; I’m a dual-degree freak, biology and English. We’ve all heard that health care is where the job growth is, so I did some research and tried to figure out what discipline I could go for with the education I had gotten and the money I had available to spend on training.

It turned out there was a program at my community college for one high-demand position. (Aside: use of phrases like “high-demand” is one identifier that marks people who have been scouring the want ads for work.) I began taking the prerequisite courses for a medical assistant program this past spring and would have gotten into the substance of the program with the start of the fall semester a few weeks back if not for one odd twist.

While in school, I’d been looking for part-time work, anything that had a schedule that would be easier to fit courses around than freelance work. As past of the search, I posted my resume on the community college’s job site. That was where Colleen, the office manager of a local cardiologists’ group practice, found it. She called and invited me to interview for a full-time position as a medical assistant/front desk assistant.

I went to the interview. I got the job. I’ve been working at it for the past two weeks.

The reason I didn’t make a huge public announcement sooner is that it’s so different from freelance comic work, I’ve been terrified—of failing, screwing up a patient’s care, and getting fired. Seriously terrified. I was asking friends about library degrees and careers, just because I worried I would need another plan, and hey, I like libraries and had been considering going down that path. However, my co-workers and supervisors talked with me this week and let me know that I’m not going to get fired right now. In fact, despite the stress that hits at busy times and makes me flustered, they said they expect that I’m not going to know everything right away, and they actually think I’m doing pretty darn well. So I’m going to run with it, because it turns out that my initial feelings about the place were right, and they are a good bunch of people to work with. That support makes all the difference.

Of course, I’m still exhausted, having shifted to a normal person’s waking hours from a semi-nocturnal life. I hope that subsides soon, though, because I actually think this could help me be a better writer. Not that I won’t continue to study drug names and new patient forms in my free time, but once I feel better about this new job, I might have more time to write than when I was strictly a freelancer. Freelance work doesn’t end till the job is done, which may be at 3 a.m. Traditional work at least has something close to a schedule it adheres to. And what a weird kind of relief it’s going to be, getting paid regularly every two weeks! Optimistic, maybe, but sometimes, optimism feels nice.

So. I’m getting adjusted. But I’m still working toward both the creative life and the professional life I want. In fact, it’s almost time to head out to one event that helps with the former—there’s an event tonight for the reading series I help coordinate.

Guess I’ll just have to say, “Write more soon.”

(And now I’ve typed that and am about to click “Publish,” which means I’ll have to write more soon, because anyone will be able to see that I said that. Yeah! Obligation!)

"The Gauntlet"

Four sprinklers sat in a row ahead of Gus, guarding the edge where sidewalk met lawn. The neighbors had arranged them so that the areas they sprinkled overlapped, but just barely, leaving no grass ungreened. Their spray tubes spat water in arcs that swept the ground like pendulums.


Gus rolled up the sleeves of his dress shirt. He studied each sprinkler’s motion in turn. When he was finished, he removed his glasses and tucked them into his breast pocket. Two teenage girls riding their bicycles in the street glanced at him while they cycled past.


He ducked his head and ran.

"The Gauntlet"

Four sprinklers sat in a row ahead of Gus, guarding the edge where sidewalk met lawn. The neighbors had arranged them so that the areas they sprinkled overlapped, but just barely, leaving no grass ungreened. Their spray tubes spat water in arcs that swept the ground like pendulums.

Gus rolled up the sleeves of his dress shirt. He studied each sprinkler’s motion in turn. When he was finished, he removed his glasses and tucked them into his breast pocket. Two teenage girls riding their bicycles in the street glanced at him while they cycled past.

He ducked his head and ran.

"My House"
Michael has been just as careful stacking the boxes next to the curb as he had been peeling back layers of newspapers from the dishes or sliding the new refrigerator out of its enormous crate. All of their belongings are unpacked, yet the house now feels empty without walls of boxes to trap their echoes. All of their belongings are unpacked, yet something is missing; something is not where it’s supposed to be. A glance outside shows Michael that his son has dragged the refrigerator crate away from the curb to the middle of the front lawn and is drawing on it with a crayon.
"Hey, big guy," Michael says when he approaches Calvin in the yard, "what do you got going there?"
"This is my house," Calvin informs him while continuing to color. "It’s got a blue door, and two windows, and red flowers."
Michael studies his work. “Buddy, that’s our old house,” he says. “Why don’t you give it a brown door? Make it look like what we’ve got now.”
"This is my house," Calvin says again. He is beginning to lose against his tears. "I don’t want you to throw away my house." He hits the top of the crate twice, striking the words that end his sentence. Inside the crate, the sound echoes.

"My House"

Michael has been just as careful stacking the boxes next to the curb as he had been peeling back layers of newspapers from the dishes or sliding the new refrigerator out of its enormous crate. All of their belongings are unpacked, yet the house now feels empty without walls of boxes to trap their echoes. All of their belongings are unpacked, yet something is missing; something is not where it’s supposed to be. A glance outside shows Michael that his son has dragged the refrigerator crate away from the curb to the middle of the front lawn and is drawing on it with a crayon.

"Hey, big guy," Michael says when he approaches Calvin in the yard, "what do you got going there?"

"This is my house," Calvin informs him while continuing to color. "It’s got a blue door, and two windows, and red flowers."

Michael studies his work. “Buddy, that’s our old house,” he says. “Why don’t you give it a brown door? Make it look like what we’ve got now.”

"This is my house," Calvin says again. He is beginning to lose against his tears. "I don’t want you to throw away my house." He hits the top of the crate twice, striking the words that end his sentence. Inside the crate, the sound echoes.

[What a crappy photo. I promise, that squash is not swarmed with bugs. That’s just my phone’s camera adding specks.]
"Music Takes Time"
Lucas came back to check on the seedling two days after the seed was planted.
"It’s not ready yet," Old Man Bones, who watched over things that grow, told him. "Go home and practice. Da-DUM, da-DUM, da-DUM. That’s right." Lucas frowned but marched home, tapping out a simple rhythm on his belly.
Lucas waited a month before he marched back to visit Bones, beating the same simple rhythm that the old man had given him to work with the last time. “Still not ready for you yet,” Bones said, “but come here, look at this.” He turned the fruit over for Lucas to see. “See this little groove right here? This little notch?” Lucas nodded and pretended that he did. “That’s going to be important. You’ve got to be ready to play it. So try it with some extra notes. Da-DUM, da-da-DA-dum.” Lucas practiced for weeks without understanding the point of it, until one day, when, tapping the rhythm against his arm, his finger twitched and struck the bone of his wrist instead. The feeling was completely different. That’s all that music was, he realized: paying attention to how the slightest changes felt.
He and Old Man Bones continued like that over the following weeks, the old man giving him new steps in his rhythm each time. Finally, summer ended, and the time for harvest came. Old Man Bones gave Lucas a beautiful drum, plucked straight from the vine. “Now it’s ready for you,” he told the boy, who ran off and began to play. And you’re ready for it, Bones’ inner voice added as they both enjoyed the fruits of their labor.

[What a crappy photo. I promise, that squash is not swarmed with bugs. That’s just my phone’s camera adding specks.]

"Music Takes Time"

Lucas came back to check on the seedling two days after the seed was planted.

"It’s not ready yet," Old Man Bones, who watched over things that grow, told him. "Go home and practice. Da-DUM, da-DUM, da-DUM. That’s right." Lucas frowned but marched home, tapping out a simple rhythm on his belly.

Lucas waited a month before he marched back to visit Bones, beating the same simple rhythm that the old man had given him to work with the last time. “Still not ready for you yet,” Bones said, “but come here, look at this.” He turned the fruit over for Lucas to see. “See this little groove right here? This little notch?” Lucas nodded and pretended that he did. “That’s going to be important. You’ve got to be ready to play it. So try it with some extra notes. Da-DUM, da-da-DA-dum.” Lucas practiced for weeks without understanding the point of it, until one day, when, tapping the rhythm against his arm, his finger twitched and struck the bone of his wrist instead. The feeling was completely different. That’s all that music was, he realized: paying attention to how the slightest changes felt.

He and Old Man Bones continued like that over the following weeks, the old man giving him new steps in his rhythm each time. Finally, summer ended, and the time for harvest came. Old Man Bones gave Lucas a beautiful drum, plucked straight from the vine. “Now it’s ready for you,” he told the boy, who ran off and began to play. And you’re ready for it, Bones’ inner voice added as they both enjoyed the fruits of their labor.

"Fire"
He rarely thought about the trees in any of the lands their army crossed, but this one he liked. The way the thin, curved fingers of its trunk curled toward the sky made him think of fire, and fire he liked as well. He took his striking stones from his breast pocket and reached into the pouch at his hip for one of the wax-dipped wads of cotton he carried with him. Grinning, he broke from the line of freeriders and went to kneel beside the tree. It was almost as if its line were meant to lead the flames.

"Fire"

He rarely thought about the trees in any of the lands their army crossed, but this one he liked. The way the thin, curved fingers of its trunk curled toward the sky made him think of fire, and fire he liked as well. He took his striking stones from his breast pocket and reached into the pouch at his hip for one of the wax-dipped wads of cotton he carried with him. Grinning, he broke from the line of freeriders and went to kneel beside the tree. It was almost as if its line were meant to lead the flames.

"The Tooth Fairy Pillow"
When I was younger, I had a small pillow, pink with lace trim and a pocket about as wide as the diameter of a quarter sewn onto the front, where I kept the baby teeth that I lost. The night after a tooth had fallen out, I would slip the dead little bit of enamel into the pocket. In the morning, the pocket would hold a coin. My tooth fairy was somewhat lax in her duties, though; often, she left the teeth tucked inside along with the quarter. As more and more teeth fell out of my mouth and ended up in the pillow, I swore that I could hear them clacking together at night, as if someone were talking very quickly, or shivering in the cold.
I hadn’t thought much about the tooth fairy pillow until the other day, when I was cleaning the hair out of my brush. I’m used to imagining the tangled bunches that I pull out as tumbleweeds as they drift down toward the garbage can. This time, as it was falling, the mass of hair sprouted tiny legs and feet from its bottom side, landed on the can with its toes curled over the rim, and leaped onto the floor, where it dashed toward a crack in the wall. I thought I had been hallucinating until this morning, when some of my fingernail clippings joined together and grew a hand out of nothing, and afterwards proceeded to run out the front door like the Thing.
Sometimes I’ve thought about the parts of me that I’ve lost over the years, and the other lives that I or some other version of me might have gone on to live. Now there’s a knocking on my door downstairs, and I find myself wondering, What about all the thoughts I used to have? The stories I once dreamed and the terrors I used to fear? What might have become of them?

"The Tooth Fairy Pillow"

When I was younger, I had a small pillow, pink with lace trim and a pocket about as wide as the diameter of a quarter sewn onto the front, where I kept the baby teeth that I lost. The night after a tooth had fallen out, I would slip the dead little bit of enamel into the pocket. In the morning, the pocket would hold a coin. My tooth fairy was somewhat lax in her duties, though; often, she left the teeth tucked inside along with the quarter. As more and more teeth fell out of my mouth and ended up in the pillow, I swore that I could hear them clacking together at night, as if someone were talking very quickly, or shivering in the cold.

I hadn’t thought much about the tooth fairy pillow until the other day, when I was cleaning the hair out of my brush. I’m used to imagining the tangled bunches that I pull out as tumbleweeds as they drift down toward the garbage can. This time, as it was falling, the mass of hair sprouted tiny legs and feet from its bottom side, landed on the can with its toes curled over the rim, and leaped onto the floor, where it dashed toward a crack in the wall. I thought I had been hallucinating until this morning, when some of my fingernail clippings joined together and grew a hand out of nothing, and afterwards proceeded to run out the front door like the Thing.

Sometimes I’ve thought about the parts of me that I’ve lost over the years, and the other lives that I or some other version of me might have gone on to live. Now there’s a knocking on my door downstairs, and I find myself wondering, What about all the thoughts I used to have? The stories I once dreamed and the terrors I used to fear? What might have become of them?

Another Update

As you can probably tell by the stretch of time between today’s post and the one I made last Thursday, I decided to take a more casual approach with the blog, at least over the past few days. I still don’t know what I’m going to do moving forward. I can say, though, that the time away was well spent. I took care of another obligation, one that I’m happy to have.

I wrote my partner a story.

It’s a thing we do. Every year, I write two stories just for him: one for his birthday, and one for the winter holidays. (In turn, he makes some art for me on those same days. Well, he draws for my birthday, not for his. You know what I mean.) His birthday is next Tuesday, and I had the idea; I just needed the time to write it out. Stupid as it sounds, I didn’t want to talk about working on it until I had the story done. After over a decade with him, I’m still worried that I’ll jinx myself and not finish the story if I mention it too early. I wonder if that worry is ever going to go away. At my age, I’m beginning to doubt that it will. And that’s fine. Worry keeps me on my toes, eh?

It was hard, working on a longer piece after several months of not doing so, but I will say that this blog has helped me in committing to a story idea and seeing it through to at least some kind of ending—because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have a blog post for the day! Whatever this blog ends up being, though, it’s been a great exercise so far.

As for the other story I was working on, much as I love sharing with people, some stories are meant only for certain readers. (And Wes, if you’re reading this… um, happy birthday! I made you something!)

"The Pepper Plant"
Eddi was twelve weeks into the pregnancy when she bought the pepper plant.
"I feel like I need the practice," she told the clerk at the garden center.
She actually felt that she needed some kind of distraction, something that wasn’t a baby book or a question about her child-rearing plans from an eager co-worker that would leave her worrying away the rest of the afternoon. And she had always loved the taste and the color of hot peppers. She took the plant home, gave it new soil, and applied an Epsom salt solution to its leaves.
Once the plant, a cayenne, had produced several fruit, Eddi snipped one of the peppers and sliced off the tip. She was well into the second trimester by that point. She brought the piece to her mouth and began to nibble on it. Immediately she wanted to cry.
The burn of it was horrible, nothing like she remembered or had expected. Her stomach had felt like a minefield flooded with acid throughout the previous months, but she had still hoped to be able to enjoy some of what she had worked so hard to grow.
She called her mother.
"I can’t do this," Eddi wailed into the phone, "I don’t know what I was thinking. I can’t do this."
"Do what?" her mother said. "Honey, is this about the baby?"
"I just wanted to eat a pepper," Eddi said.
She couldn’t stand to look at the pepper plant the next morning, and she was hardly able to look at it the day after that. She did, however, check on it three days later. Its leaves were drooping. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” she whispered as she silently urged the water to fill the watering can. It didn’t matter that she couldn’t eat the peppers; it was still her plant. Yet she wasn’t as worried as she thought she should’ve been. Somewhere deep inside of her, a voice was saying, It’s all right, it’s all right.

"The Pepper Plant"

Eddi was twelve weeks into the pregnancy when she bought the pepper plant.

"I feel like I need the practice," she told the clerk at the garden center.

She actually felt that she needed some kind of distraction, something that wasn’t a baby book or a question about her child-rearing plans from an eager co-worker that would leave her worrying away the rest of the afternoon. And she had always loved the taste and the color of hot peppers. She took the plant home, gave it new soil, and applied an Epsom salt solution to its leaves.

Once the plant, a cayenne, had produced several fruit, Eddi snipped one of the peppers and sliced off the tip. She was well into the second trimester by that point. She brought the piece to her mouth and began to nibble on it. Immediately she wanted to cry.

The burn of it was horrible, nothing like she remembered or had expected. Her stomach had felt like a minefield flooded with acid throughout the previous months, but she had still hoped to be able to enjoy some of what she had worked so hard to grow.

She called her mother.

"I can’t do this," Eddi wailed into the phone, "I don’t know what I was thinking. I can’t do this."

"Do what?" her mother said. "Honey, is this about the baby?"

"I just wanted to eat a pepper," Eddi said.

She couldn’t stand to look at the pepper plant the next morning, and she was hardly able to look at it the day after that. She did, however, check on it three days later. Its leaves were drooping. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” she whispered as she silently urged the water to fill the watering can. It didn’t matter that she couldn’t eat the peppers; it was still her plant. Yet she wasn’t as worried as she thought she should’ve been. Somewhere deep inside of her, a voice was saying, It’s all right, it’s all right.

State of the Blog

Here I am, having taken several days away from this blog to do other tasks with deadlines and timeframes that didn’t work well with this project.

For some time, I’ve questioned whether I should continue with these posts. They’ve been a helpful exercise, forcing me to write about themes I might not address otherwise and making sure I got some writing practice done every day. And as disappointed as I feel when I put the blog on hiatus, I can deal with it. I mean, it’s not as if I can’t make up for the days I missed.

The big reason I debate continuing this project, though, is that there are simply other stories I want to write, ones that don’t fit into the “one picture + one story a day” format or that I’d rather submit and publish elsewhere. I miss spending more time with characters and getting to know them, y’know? The big problem with the big reason, however, is that there’s not enough time in my workday to do all the writing I want to do!

My thought now is to leave this blog not as an everyday commitment, but a space where I can work my writing brain with some short posts if I need a warmup or if I have an image with a story that needs to be told. I’m not sure if that’s what I’ll end up doing, but I might post this and see how I feel about it tomorrow.

If you’ve been reading this blog while I’ve been posting, please know that I’m grateful for your attention. There are a lot of good writers out there, and I’m pleased as all get-out that you spent some of your reading time on my posts. I hope it’s been as fun for you so far as it’s been for me. :)

"Old"
As he pushed the sealcoat across the surface of the parking lot, he became aware of an elderly woman watching him from the balcony of her second-floor condo. She was seated close to the railing, her hands folded over the top bar. The skin covering her fingers was dark brown. He imagined that it would look like splintered wood if he saw it up close, and that her fingers were curling over the railing like withered grape vines. He didn’t know why it bothered him. He continued the sweep the liquid seal over the cracks in the exhausted asphalt that had been filled, telling himself that the sun was just getting to him.

"Old"

As he pushed the sealcoat across the surface of the parking lot, he became aware of an elderly woman watching him from the balcony of her second-floor condo. She was seated close to the railing, her hands folded over the top bar. The skin covering her fingers was dark brown. He imagined that it would look like splintered wood if he saw it up close, and that her fingers were curling over the railing like withered grape vines. He didn’t know why it bothered him. He continued the sweep the liquid seal over the cracks in the exhausted asphalt that had been filled, telling himself that the sun was just getting to him.

Jul 7

On Break

The blog’s on hold for the next few days. Got a test that got rescheduled, along with a project for work that needs to die already. Thank you!

Jul 6
"Sometimes on Those Summer Nights"
Sometimes on those summer nights, among all the shouts from the neighbors playing bag toss games in their driveways and the songs that fell in pitch as cars drove past the house, he would catch the sound of someone crying. He checked out the window a few times and once in the held-breath stillness of night even stepped barefoot on the lawn, but he never saw anybody. The only figure of any note was that of the tree, which stood in the middle of the yard, sticky with the sap that had built up inside it over the course of the spring and that was now escaping through cracks in the bark, unable to be contained any longer.

"Sometimes on Those Summer Nights"

Sometimes on those summer nights, among all the shouts from the neighbors playing bag toss games in their driveways and the songs that fell in pitch as cars drove past the house, he would catch the sound of someone crying. He checked out the window a few times and once in the held-breath stillness of night even stepped barefoot on the lawn, but he never saw anybody. The only figure of any note was that of the tree, which stood in the middle of the yard, sticky with the sap that had built up inside it over the course of the spring and that was now escaping through cracks in the bark, unable to be contained any longer.

Jul 5
"What Are You Afraid Of?"
"It’s the weirdest thing," said the oldest of the three rabbits. "They make these hard ground pathways for themselves, and they never step off of them, just follow them everywhere. When they’re younger, they’ll play in the grass, but the older ones—you almost never see that."
"Maybe they go blind as they grow up," said the youngest through the blades of grass that he had stuffed into his mouth. "Need the hard ground to know where to go."
"Or maybe they’re afraid of what’s out there," whispered the middle rabbit. The oldest turned to see him and would’ve sworn that he was just sitting still, listening to what the wind had to say for the evening, except that he follow the middle one’s sideways stare and saw at the end of it a human, standing not five rabbits’ length away, at the edge where the grass met solid ground.
"I don’t like it," the middle rabbit said.
The oldest held still for a moment. Then he wrinkled his nose. “Why not?” he asked. “It’s on the pavement. It won’t come any closer.” He lowered his head and joined the youngest in the task of eating.
"It’s trying to hide its eyes now," the middle rabbit said in more urgent tones.
The oldest and the youngest glanced up. The human was holding a small rectangle in front of its face.”Weird,” said the youngest.
"It’s still not coming any closer," the oldest said.
Later, the oldest rabbit figured that the human must have been able to hear him. That was why it put its foot on the grass.
"Run!" the oldest rabbit squeaked. The three dashed for the nearest bushes, scared to wonder what else the evening held in store.

"What Are You Afraid Of?"

"It’s the weirdest thing," said the oldest of the three rabbits. "They make these hard ground pathways for themselves, and they never step off of them, just follow them everywhere. When they’re younger, they’ll play in the grass, but the older ones—you almost never see that."

"Maybe they go blind as they grow up," said the youngest through the blades of grass that he had stuffed into his mouth. "Need the hard ground to know where to go."

"Or maybe they’re afraid of what’s out there," whispered the middle rabbit. The oldest turned to see him and would’ve sworn that he was just sitting still, listening to what the wind had to say for the evening, except that he follow the middle one’s sideways stare and saw at the end of it a human, standing not five rabbits’ length away, at the edge where the grass met solid ground.

"I don’t like it," the middle rabbit said.

The oldest held still for a moment. Then he wrinkled his nose. “Why not?” he asked. “It’s on the pavement. It won’t come any closer.” He lowered his head and joined the youngest in the task of eating.

"It’s trying to hide its eyes now," the middle rabbit said in more urgent tones.

The oldest and the youngest glanced up. The human was holding a small rectangle in front of its face.”Weird,” said the youngest.

"It’s still not coming any closer," the oldest said.

Later, the oldest rabbit figured that the human must have been able to hear him. That was why it put its foot on the grass.

"Run!" the oldest rabbit squeaked. The three dashed for the nearest bushes, scared to wonder what else the evening held in store.

Jul 4
"Snugglewood"
Person 1: “Hey, you want some wood?”
Person 2: “…”
1: “Look, Snugglewood’s on sale.
2: “Sugar plum, it’s always on sale. It’s just not legal to pay for it outside of certain parts of Nevada.”
1: “Why do I have the feeling that ‘Snugglewood’ was someone’s euphemistic pet name for part of the body?”
2: “I don’t know. Possibly because we already implied something like that just two seconds ago? Possibly because your mind thinks in weird euphemisms all the time? I don’t know.”
1: “What? Weird euphemisms?”
2: “I told you I was going to run to the corner and grab some eggs and you, like, died laughing for a half hour.”
1: “I was just wondering whose you were going to grab.”
[pause]
1: “I think a product name like ‘Fucksticks’ would help them sell a lot more firewood.”
2: “Okay, going inside the store now. And I’m going to check the price of milk, too, if you think you can handle it.”
1: [snicker]
2: “Yep. Definitely not getting any wood tonight, that’s for sure.”

"Snugglewood"

Person 1: “Hey, you want some wood?”

Person 2: “…”

1: “Look, Snugglewood’s on sale.

2: “Sugar plum, it’s always on sale. It’s just not legal to pay for it outside of certain parts of Nevada.”

1: “Why do I have the feeling that ‘Snugglewood’ was someone’s euphemistic pet name for part of the body?”

2: “I don’t know. Possibly because we already implied something like that just two seconds ago? Possibly because your mind thinks in weird euphemisms all the time? I don’t know.”

1: “What? Weird euphemisms?”

2: “I told you I was going to run to the corner and grab some eggs and you, like, died laughing for a half hour.”

1: “I was just wondering whose you were going to grab.”

[pause]

1: “I think a product name like ‘Fucksticks’ would help them sell a lot more firewood.”

2: “Okay, going inside the store now. And I’m going to check the price of milk, too, if you think you can handle it.”

1: [snicker]

2: “Yep. Definitely not getting any wood tonight, that’s for sure.”