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windshield note

The Perfect Day

The rain had fallen hard last night, but not today. Today was perfect. Sylvia grinned up at the cloudless, sunny sky, drew in a deep breath that smelled of wet grass and spring, and then dropped her keys. She giggled when she looked down and realised that she had neither dropped the keys on her foot nor in the mud puddle she had almost stepped in but managed to avoid completely. Of course she avoided it. Mud had no right to intrude on her perfect day. She felt almost giddy as she picked up her keys, fingers grazing against the cool, damp gravel. As she straightened, she rubbed her hand on the back of her jeans to brush the crumbs of dirt off her fingers. Then she remembered that she still hadn’t locked the front door.

“Oh, f-f-f-fiddlesticks.” Ever since the stick turned blue, she was determined to stop swearing. She’d only peed on the stick this morning after Andrew left for work. Immediately after the door closed, Sylvia had grabbed the test hiding in her handbag and rushed into their shared bathroom. Two minutes had never taken so long, and she’d surprised herself by actually whooping out loud when she saw the positive result. Followed by a jubilant “Hot damn!”, which was, rather predictably, followed by an earnest promise to the powers that be to give up swearing before the baby came.

She locked the door and turned to go to her car. She saw a piece of paper under the windscreen wiper, and both her heart and her steps quickened. Her footsteps squelched on the damp gravel, and the faintest breeze lifted her hair and brought tiny goosebumps to her arms. She knew what it was. Andrew did this every year, leaving her a little love note for her to find on their anniversary. She adored these little surprises, but she knew they couldn’t top the surprise she’d be giving Andrew tonight at dinner. As her hand reached out to take the note, a police car pulled in the drive behind her car.

Sylvia couldn’t understand what the cops would be doing here. But it didn’t matter. It couldn’t. Nothing was going to ruin this perfect day.

The car came to a stop. She noticed the crunching noise the tyres made. She saw a uniformed officer exit each side of the vehicle, and everything, including time, stopped.

“Mrs Taylor?” She heard them tell her about the car accident, about the ambulance arriving on the scene, about Andrew dying before reaching A&E. She heard it all, but she’d stopped noticing anything. Nothing made sense anymore. Nothing but the blue stick in her bathroom and the paper she clutched in her hand.

My Dearest Syl—
Happy anniversary, darling. I think this is going to be our best year yet. I’ll see you tonight.
All my love, A.

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writing blog picI’m in the midst of writing a short story. Since I mostly write poetry, this is a bit of a change. Especially since I’ve challenged myself to write every day. Consistency is not my strong suit—not when it comes to my own personal schedule. But since this story has grabbed my attention I’ve written for eleven days in a row (it’s a start…).

I think I read somewhere that you need to do something for at least twenty days in a row for it to become a habit. As much as I love to write, I’ve been inconsistent and haven’t made writing time a true priority. This was part of the reason for setting this challenge for myself—how can I seriously call myself a writer if I don’t take my writing seriously? I guess it’s not that my writing isn’t a habit; it just isn’t a very consistent one. That’s something I’d like to change.

Something I’ve learned during these past eleven days: I kinda’ understand why some authors drink. Ha! There have been moments, and tonight is one of them, when I’ve been nervous about writing. Not because I don’t know what I’m going to write, but because I’m not quite sure how it’s going to come out. I can totally see how a drink or two would relax you before you take to the pen—or keyboard, as the case may be. (Please understand that I’m writing this tongue-in-cheek. I’m not advocating alcoholism for anyone, author or otherwise.)

So tell me, does anyone else get nervous about writing a particular scene? I’ve been getting actual butterflies in my tummy at points. Typical? Or am I more neurotic than I thought?

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So, after some encouragement from friends and support from my 6-year-old—who is also a writer—I’ve decided to continue the story that I found a bit ago. The writing is going slowly, but steadily. I’m curious to see where this goes. Perhaps the title will even come to me soon.

story graphicEmma rolled over to turn off her alarm. She’d set it earlier than necessary because she knew she’d be getting off to a slow start today, making ample use of the snooze alarm. But now it was time to start the day—and this new chapter in her life—in earnest.

She went through the motions of preparing for her first day back at work. A part of her missed her co-workers and was looking forward to having a little human interaction again. But she wasn’t looking forward to the looks of pity and the awkward condolences that she knew were coming. Just the thought of hearing “I’m so sorry…” or “If there’s anything I can do…” over and over was almost enough to make her stop brushing her hair and crawl back into bed. But she didn’t. “Emma,” she told her reflection, “it’s time you rejoined the land of the living.”

She moved to turn off the light as she left the bathroom, but stopped—hand reaching toward the light switch—and turned back to the mirror. “Even if you do wish you were with Oliver instead of here.”

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I don’t even remember writing this. But judging from the notebook I found it in I didn’t write it all that long ago. Hmm. Now I’m wondering if I should turn this into something more substantial.

Human blood travels 60,000 miles per day on its journey through the body. She wasn’t sure why this thought came to her—now. But it was comforting to remember Mr. Klein, teacher of science for grades six through eight, imparting these strange tidbits of biological wisdom on his students in the hopes of piquing their curiosity enough to explore the wonders and mysteries of the natural world beyond the basics of the “chapter review Q and A” in their textbooks.

It was far more comforting to think of Mr. Klein, and seventh grade, and even Will Schneider, the little shit who tormented her until his family finally moved to Denver or Chicago or wherever it was during their sophomore year. Yes, even little Willy Schnilly was better than this.

She touched her forehead, wincing as she did so, and then studied the blood on her fingertips as she pulled her hand away. How far had this blood travelled, she wondered, through her veins and arteries, before being forced to change direction? And how much farther did it have yet to go?

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  1. Wanted: One new daddy.
    Apply immediately.
  2. Bee sting. Wedding reception becomes wake.
  3. Late getting home. Puppy. Uh oh.
  4. Cold beer. Back seat. Shotgun wedding.
  5. Bad night. Relationship over. Happy ending.

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Okay, so far this week I’ve pretty much ignored my ROW80 goals because I was focused on finishing my application for grad school. If you ever decide to apply for grad school, I offer this word of advice…make the decision more than a week before the deadline. I know, I know – this comes as a shock, but trust me when I say that you will be doing yourself a favor if you allow more than a week to gather your info and write a &*(#^%  damn  passable  awesome personal statement.

The deadline was midnight last night. I had everything in by 9:30 p.m. So now I can focus on other things.

But just to prove that I haven’t been a total slacker, here’s a list of the short stories I’ve read so far during this challenge:

  1. Chivalry, Neil Gaiman *
  2. Nicholas Was…, Neil Gaiman
  3. The Price, Neil Gaiman
  4. Troll Bridge, Neil Gaiman *
  5. Don’t Ask Jack, Neil Gaiman
  6. Her Husband Didn’t, Yasunari Kawabata
  7. Homage, Nadine Gordimer
  8. Tomorrow’s Bird, Ian Frazier *
  9. The Goldfish Pool and Other Stories, Neil Gaiman
  10. The White Road, Neil Gaiman
  11. Queen of Knives, Neil Gaiman
  12. Story, Lydia Davis
  13. The Fears of Mrs. Orlando, Lydia Davis *
  14. Liminal: The Little Man, Lydia Davis
  15. Virgin, April Ayers Lawson
  16. The Palmist, Andrew Lam *
  17. Blood, Zdravka Evtimova
  18. I’m Slavering, Sam Lipsyte
  19. Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear, Joyce Carol Oates
  20. Footnote, Rommulus Linney
  21. My Lawrence, Claudia Smith
  22. Feeling Good, Feeling Fine, George Garrett
  23. We Ate the Children Last, Yann Martel
  24. Girl, Jamaica Kincaid *
  25. 1951, Richard Bausch
  26. PS, Jill McCorkle *
  27. The Hollow, James Lasdun
  28. Someone Ought to Tell Her There’s Nowhere to Go, Danielle Evans         
  29. Pompeii, Leslie Pietrzyk
  30. Ma, a Memoir, Lynn Freed
  31. Changes, Neil Gaiman
  32. The Wine Doctor, Frederick Adolf Paola *
  33. In Reference to Your Recent Communications, Tessa Brown *
  34. Following the Notes, Pia Z. Ehrhardt
  35. The Minimalist, Stacey Richter
  36. The Daughter of Owls, Neil Gaiman

* These were particularly enjoyable and I recommend adding these stories to your reading list.

The rest of the week will be dedicated to kids, work, catching up on writing, and not obsessing over whether or not I get accepted into the grad program.

See how my fellow ROW80 participants are doing here.

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The first Sunday update:

I think I got off to a good start, but this weekend I’ve been feeling a bit scattered. Consequently, I’m feeling like I haven’t gotten much done. But I know that I have.

Goal #1, Editing my short story: Haven’t done anything on that one yet. But that’s okay. I have time.

Goal #2, Submit twice a month: I did, in fact, submit something to an online journal. Should hear back in 6-8 weeks.

Goal #3, Post more regularly: Eh. This one’s going okay. Not great. But not bad.

Goal #4, Write a poem once a week: Done. I did write a poem. It wasn’t a good one. But, it has potential, so I’ll put it away for a little while and come back to it later. If it’s still bad, I’ll chuck it. If I still see the potential, I’ll work on it.

Goal #5, Read a story every day: This one, not surprisingly, is the one I’ve been most successful with. I’ve read “Chivalry,” “Nicholas Was…,” “The Price,” “Troll Bridge,” and “Don’t Ask Jack” all by Neil Gaiman. I’ve also read “Her Husband Didn’t” by Yasunari Kawabata, “Homage” by Nadine Gordimer, and “Tomorrow’s Bird” by Ian Frazier.

I also had a blog entry posted on the Hugo House blog, which was fun to see.

So, all in all, despite the feeling scattered and not altogether with it, I think it’s been a productive week in terms of writing goals.

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