I pulled my car into a spot next to the motorcycle I thought was his, turned off the engine and gazed at the small apartment complex, realizing for the first time that I didn’t know his unit number. My dad had just moved into his new place, and though he’d armed me with something resembling driving directions (“Get off the freeway, and head toward the library. Then look for a big building that people might live in.”), I found myself just short of enough information to declare my journey a success.

I got out of my car and looked around, trying to decide what to do. This was in the time before mobile phones, so a quick call wasn’t an option. I took a few steps in the direction of the town’s main street and the corner bar he frequented, and then paused. It was a nice day. Overcast but warm with a soft breeze. The kind of day, I thought, that would mean my dad would have his windows open. Maybe even his front door. And so I paused…




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From the Vault: Squirrel!

In an effort to collect all of my writing in one place, I will occasionally post previously published work here, under the heading “From the Vault.” This was a mostly stream-of-conscious little ditty I wrote after watching a squirrel nervously scamper around the fall chestnut bounty of my back yard.

One of my favorite things about Fall is looking out the window and watching the squirrels try to wrap their brains around the sheer volume of chestnuts in my backyard. They scamper in, see one chestnut, then two, then fifteen. They get a little excited. “Wahoo!” they think. But then they find 30 more, and then another pile, and another and another. And even while they’re collecting the ones on the ground, more are falling off the tree. They get more anxious, they pace, they twitch, their movements grow more fitful, more frantic. I can see the panic behind their beady eyes.

I like to imagine that some of these squirrels tire of being slaves to their obsessive compulsive neurosis and try desperately to change. The one scampering along my fence looks particularly self-aware; I’ll bet he’s in therapy. Once a week, perhaps. Certainly once a month. And his therapist is his polar opposite. Something calm, something slow, something zen. Like a giant tortoise.

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Reading Fiction: Life After Life

Reading Life After Life was the first New Year’s resolution I broke.

It didn’t start out that way. The book was a recommended reading assignment from my Year of Writing workshop. I had to read it. (I totally did NOT have to read it since it wasn’t required reading. But whatever. It sounded interesting.) So, as I was saying, I had to read it (no I didn’t), but I remembered that I had resolved to buy no new books until I finish the ones already stacked next to my bed. Following my own rules, I checked it out from the library instead. Ha! Take THAT, silly resolutions!

Turns out, it’s a really big book. I was no where near finished by the time it was due. And there was a wait list, so I couldn’t renew it. So I bought a copy for my very own. Resolution broken. So it goes.

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From the Vault: The Birth Story

In an effort to collect all of my writing in one place, I will occasionally post previously published work here, under the heading “From the Vault.” Yesterday was my youngest baby’s FOURTH(!) birthday, so what better time to relive and reshare his birth with all of you.

It’s about 3:00 am when the first one hits. I’ve been having contractions for months, so I don’t bother getting out of bed to alert Josh. But I know. I’ve been feeling a little off all day, and even left work early that afternoon. And this contraction is just different; not stronger, exactly, but somehow more intense. But it’s late and I’m tired and I’ve been through this before. I know what to expect of the hours ahead of me. And I’m not ready. Not yet.

I sigh and roll onto my side, burrowing my head into the pillow and pulling the blankets tight around my shoulders. But I can’t get comfortable. I know it’s time. Even the air feels different.

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From the Vault: Betrayed

In an effort to collect all of my writing in one place, I will occasionally post previously published work here, under the heading “From the Vault.” My writing workshop assignment last week was to write a story on the theme of betrayal, aging, or unrequited love. I’m still working on that assignment (and even when it’s complete, it won’t be fit for public consumption), so I offer this micro short story in its place. “Betrayed” was originally published under the title “Once Upon a Time” on November 6, 2008. Enjoy.

I grimace and glance at my sister across the room. She is engrossed in her Lite-Brite creation, hunched over the glowing board with her blond hair hanging in her eyes, a preview of the brilliant artist she’ll become later in life. She hasn’t looked up in what seems like hours, but I know as soon as I so much as flinch, she’ll tell. I let out a little whimper. My skin is crawling. I’m going insane from the itch. My fingers twitch and another whimper escapes.

“It itches,” I moan.

“So scratch it,” she says, disinterested, still sorting the green lights from the red.

I’m desperate to scratch, dying to rake my nails across my arms until I tear off the skin if that’s what it takes. But She told me not to, and I’m terrified of Her. “I’ll get in trouble,” I whine.

“Just scratch it. She’s not even in here.”

I’m beginning to panic. The itch is unbearable, but the punishment is sure to be worse. “Noooo,” I wail. “She’ll know.”

“No she won’t. Just scratch it.”

I kneel down, turn my back and press myself even further into the corner. I let my own blond hair fall forward in an effort to further conceal my disobedience. And slowly, I graze the fingernails of my right hand across the eruption of bug bites on my left arm. The relief is so great, I begin to cry. I sink to the floor and scratch at my arms feverishly, lost in the sweet satisfaction.

“Mom!” my sister shrieks, “She’s scratching her bites again.”

I freeze, terrified, furious, betrayed. I hear the angry footsteps of my step-mother coming down the hallway. I stand, still pressed into the safety of my corner, and turn to face her. She bursts into the bedroom, already screaming, and pulls me out of the corner by my hair. She shoves me on the bed, disrupting the sorted Lite-Brite pegs, for which I will suffer my sister’s wrath later that night. She is a whirlwind of noise and hate, of angry limbs and pinching fingers. I focus on her mouth, her teeth, her monster’s jaw tearing apart insults and spitting them in my face. I am told that I am stupid, that I am fat and ugly, that it’s no wonder my real mother doesn’t love me. I am pelted with obscenities. I am shaken, I am smacked, I am shoved, I am spanked. When it is all over, I am delighted to discover that the bites no longer itch, but am unable to control the tears streaming down my face. And crying is not allowed.

I am led out of the bedroom, through the living room, and out the front door. It is winter in a remote town in Eastern Washington, and there are several feet of snow on the ground. She is no longer yelling but still angry, hissing at me through clenched teeth, her hot breath a stark contrast to the winter air biting my cheeks.

When the lecture is complete she storms back into the house and locks the door behind her, leaving me alone to shiver on the porch without a coat, without a hat, without shoes. The frigid breeze races between my legs and up the skirt of my pink nylon nightgown. My hands sting; my bare feet stick to the frozen porch. Bewildered, I tiptoe to the window and find my sister peering back at me from the warmth of our bedroom. She sticks out her tongue and returns her attentions to the Lite-Brite.


This post’s song: Positively 4th Street by Bob Dylan

“You’ve got a lot of nerve to say you are my friend…”

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