Sunday, February 13, 2005


It is six o'clock of this past Friday evening. The mall I stand in is uncomfortably crowded. I haven't bathed in two days. My unshaven face peeks out the top of my oversize Land's End winter coat that was truly stylish eleven years ago; the intervening nine or ten survey seasons since have not been kind.

Thursday morning I had resolved that MY story - maybe my novel - would get the start it has been screaming for.

So I cleaned out the garage. I dumped a ream of comments on my favorite blogs. I played that pointless but addictive shooter game I got for Christmas into the wee hours of Friday morning. Friday a.m. and I open a Word window and stare at it for ten minutes. Then the wife reminds me she has to see her doc and off we go to the Women's Center.

Then to Sam's Club. Then to lunch. Then to some furniture stores. Home again. Rain is in the forecast so I move a bunk of wood from the rack outside the back door inside, next to the woodstove. Then refill that from the cord stacked beside the garage. And I have to move some tools and lumber in the garage while I'm out there. My ass finally hits the big command chair around two and I disable the wireless internet (die, DIE, stealer of seconds, minutes, hours...) just in time for the phone to ring. The oldest goddess is calling to say her homework is done, all of it, and she's wondering if I can maybe please dad it's important run her to the mall so she can find a cute skirt for the pivotal dance of the Valentine Season.

I promised her I would, you see, if she delivered on the schoolwork.

I look at the barren white expanse where my words belong. I see the first sentence. And I see the paragrahs that will roll out afterward.

I type, "The train station in Provo, Utah, has never won an award for architecture". "Save as", shut down, and out the door. I can come back. I can. And the story will still be there. Sure it will.

Three hours later I stand in Mervyns at the intersection of Fragrances, Women's Sportswear, and Petites. In the time since I left the house I've picked up oldest daughter, dropped her at the mall, rushed back to the school to pick up youngest daughter (and her two friends she assured "Sure, my dad can give you rides home") who had her dance in the hour after final bell, and escaped two fender benders only by the grace of God and the ability to generate a powerslide turn in spite of having a minivan with ABS.

Is this what writing is? I am negotiating the evening rush. Bumper to bumper traffic at fifty on a six- lane forty mile per hour secondary artery street, three seventh grade girls behind me comparing the social implications and merits of just who danced with whom or who did not. Surrounded by a hundred drivers, each and every one yammering into a cell phone are as oblivious to me as they are to the steering wheels in front of them, and I cannot think of anything but resolving that damned inconvenient gap between the Falklands war and the need for my character to have a grandfather who was there. And the question about elephants lurks in the haze beyond.

I stand in Mervyns, in a cellular dead zone, with an hour before my oldest daughter MUST make her entrance at the dance. My glasses dangle from the same hand that holds my useless phone. I stare into oblivion. I must find my daughter (who I instinctively realize is most certainly at Meier and Frank at the opposite end of the mall) but if I MOVE FROM THIS SPOT I will lose the thread of literary device that looked so promising...

"Hello, sir. May I help you find something?"

She is polite, professional. Her nametag is clean and adorned with a little Valentine heart to honor the season. She wears stylish but sensible shoes suitable for walking hard floors all day. The dark pleated skirt topped by a cowled brick-red sweater work well together, and complement her auburn hair and green eyes. And here she is, awaiting an answer.

I am, in the immortal words of Patrick O'Brian, frousty and crapulous. In large amounts. I am profoundly aware that all I lack is a bag of empty aluminum cans over my shoulder.

"Are you looking for someone?"

I cannot resist. I look directly into her eyes.

"I found him, the one that betrayed me to the sheriff. Ibn Azul and I fought as men should fight - on horseback, with swords. He was very strong, and he wounded me many times - he cut me here, and here (hand signs, crossing chest, and arm), but the baraka was strong with me, and I finally slew him there under the cloudless sky of the Rift".

I kept my eyes on hers, though I dearly wanted to glance down and see if her feet had really grown into the floor. This was not what she was being paid for. I had to tell her the truth.

"Oh - terribly sorry. I was channeling Sean Connery there for a moment. What's really happening here is that I'm minus on sleep, terribly aware I look like a ragpicker, and need to find my daughter who I hope has found the skirt she was looking for. Her dance starts in an hour, and my dad credibility hangs on her hitting the door with the first note of the first song..."

...insert engaging grin here...

... and I wonder if you've seen a fourteen year old girl with a denim skirt, black hoodie sweatshirt, and hair just like mine, but longer, wandering around in here?"

* * * * *

The Oldest Goddess had a smashing time at the dance.

It is Sunday morning. We spent Saturday doing chores and then watched the director's cut of Return of the King over at a friend's house.

Mom is doing great. The rain has finally broken. The skies are blue from the mountains to the desert. I am going to make pancakes, take a walk with the OTL, and then take the girls to the empty quarter of the mall parking lot for driving practice.

And maybe then I'll write some more.

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