Short Cuts

“I am still angry.
But sitting here waiting for Saul, I’m still hoping he will say something that will change everything.
I believe that he has too.
I believe it because I have to.”

Those are the first lines of the first piece of fiction I ever published.  A short story called Café Idiot, which appeared in Oxford Magazine in 2003.

After my first book didn’t sell, I went on immediately to write a second.  But when that one ended up losing me my agent, it was obvious I needed to take a step back.  So instead, of diving into a third book, I threw myself into reading instead—classics, contemporary, poetry.  I enrolled in a bunch writing classes too and started work on short stories.

I have always gravitated toward novels.  I like their slower pace and wider reach.  I like being able to stack chapters and narrators together, to move them around, and reorder whole threads.  I like lots of breathing room.

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Cafe Idiot (Excerpt)

I am still angry.
But sitting here waiting for Saul, I’m still hoping he will say something that will change everything.
I believe that he has too.
I believe it because I have to.

*

It was raining the night we met, a raw early fall day.  One of the last before the clocks are switched back and the darkness reclaims its hours.  I hadn’t brought an umbrella with me even though I’d known it was raining, so I jogged along under the awnings.  The Café’s wooden sign, a white globe, rose like a warm beacon in the watery distance.

I went to the Café every day, after work on weeknights, in the afternoon on weekends.  Sometimes for hours.  I even had a favorite chair.  It sat alone in the corner facing the windows.  It was a stoic piece of furniture, pleased to have survived as long as it had.

The welcome smell of damp wood and cigarettes washed over me as I stepped through the door.  Someone came in the door behind me, wetly crowding me out of the doorway.  I turned to my chair. But it wasn’t alone anymore.  It was now huddled next to an almost identical chair, a small table nestled between their backs.  I could see the top of someone’s head over the back of the other chair.  I looked at the girls working the counter.  Hoping that one of them might offer an explanation.  But the one who was speaking just stopped mid-sentence and they both looked at me blankly, their mouths open slightly.  As if they didn’t know who I was, or why I was looking at them.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

In the wake of Sandy, I have been reminded to be grateful for the very many things I too often take for granted like electricity, shelter, hot food, running water and heat.  Being able to tuck my babies—healthy and safe—into their own beds at night.

I am grateful too for my little one’s crazy head of curls, her insanely contagious giggle and the way her little round face gets all red when she’s mad.  I am grateful for my older one’s uncanny empathy and for telling me every night that she loves me to where the dinosaurs are and back, because the moon just isn’t far enough away.

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Behind the Book

For three months, I’d been faithfully taking my pre-natal vitamins, avoiding all unapproved foods and keeping my heart rate safely below 140 beats a minute. Yet, I didn’t really believe that my body would work—when called upon—the way health class had assured me it would. But there I stood in my squat, bathtub-less bathroom, a positive pregnancy test pinched in my already puffy fingers. And all I could think was: my God what have we done.

Once I got over the initial shock of being pregnant, I convinced myself that I would figure it out. I’d always been a quick study, and I wasn’t afraid of a little hard work. I’d been a lawyer and a writer and had traveled all over the world. I’d climbed a mountain and run a marathon. I’d learned to speak Japanese and taught myself to bake. If I could do all those things, then surely with enough time and effort, I could learn to properly care for a child. Surely. Continue reading

Late Bloomer

For years, I was in denial.

No, I was not a writer, I told myself.   I could not, would not be a writer.  In college, I actually avoided anything having to do with writing lest I be tempted to entertain the possibility.

As the survivor of a tumultuous childhood, security was critical to me.  I knew that no part of writing—not the doing of it, not the selling of it, much less the succeeding at it—was certain.  So, I vowed, I would forgo that particular road less traveled, for a well-paved highway.  I was going to law school.

Law school was really pretty interesting, too—the long talks about the injustice of stop and frisk procedures, the debates about flaws in FDA drug approval.  And then there’s that crystal clear trajectory off it (back, at least, in those boom economic years): study hard + good grades = great job.

Simple, straightforward, safe. Continue reading