End of the Nap

25. Dread: Write about doing something you don’t want to do.

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

Suddenly, I realize I had been
Asleep.

I can tell the light is dim
Behind my shut eyelids.

What time is it?
I’m disoriented.

My eyes are still shut
But I feel a presence
In the room.

Awareness creeps in.
I remember
I’d been napping.

The presence is coming closer.
I screw my eyes shut tighter.
Move the sheets up over my head.

“Mama?”
I grunt.
“Mama, nap time’s over.”

I groan.
Just because you’re up
Do I have to get up, too?

What Comes in Threes?

24. Numbers: Write a poem or journal entry about numbers that have special meaning to you.

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

Bad things always happen in threes.

That’s the old line, at least. But three is also a lucky number. The Holy Trinity. One, two, three, go! Third time’s the charm. Third time lucky.

But then again, three is a crowd. And deaths come in threes.

GOOD LORD. Number three! Make up your mind! Are you GOOD? Or are you BAD?

One of Three

I’m one of three. The third, actually (and in my case, yes, it was third time lucky because they’d hoped for a girl).

And here I am. The mother of two. Two boys, to be precise.

I always thought I’d have three. On an early date with my Chico, we talked about family expectations. I said I’d always pictured myself with three kids. He said, “Where there’s three there’s four.” (For context: he’s the youngest of four.)

“You’re not the one squeezing them out,” I muttered. Four seemed excessive.

What About a Third?

But now that we have two… Now that we have two wild and wonderful boys who fill our days with exasperation and joy, I’m just not sure.

I’m not sure I want a third.

I don’t feel anyone is missing. Our family feels complete and happy as it is.

Also, I don’t know if I want to put myself through the physical trial that is pregnancy and childbirth again. Granted, I managed both like a boss in my previous pregnancies and deliveries, but I’m nearly 35 now. My body has taken a long time to recover after the birth of our second son, and it will never be the same.

It sounds selfish, but there it is. I don’t know if I have the stamina and energy needed to carry another child, birth another child and then raise another child.

(Just the thought of going through potty training and the terrible twos again gives me great pause.)

Two’s Good, Too.

So maybe it won’t be three. Maybe we’ll leave it at two. For now, we are deciding not to decide. And if that goes on much longer, the decision will have to be no.

Tick tock, you know.

So I may have to start mourning the idea of three. Give up on the idea of a girl (though, Lord knows with my luck if I got pregnant again it’d be with twin boys).

But then again… They do say that third time is the charm.

Warning: I’m on a Rant

Many of the posts in this writing challenge series have been either fiction, or ficitonalized reality. Today’s prompt set me off on a rant about our actual current situation. It’s grumpy. It’s griping. It’s how I feel right now. The GIF of the naked dancing gnomes made me feel better.

22. Smoke, Fog, and Haze: Write about not being able to see ahead of you.

How can anyone see ahead of herself in the fog of this pandemic?

Our current living arrangement was supposed to be temporary. By this time, we were supposed to be house hunting and preparing to settle into our own home. It’s the first time as a family that we want to settle somewhere longer term, and here we are, unable to do so!

I must preface my rant by saying that we are extremely lucky. My Chico just so happened to be here in the States (legally!) when things started shutting down, and he has been able to remain here (also legally!) this whole time. We are together. We are healthy. We are lucky.

And yet…

Even before the pandemic, the United States (the country of which I am a citizen, just in case that wasn’t clear), made it damnably difficult to get my spouse into the country.

As anyone who has experience with these things will know, the U.S. immigration process is one of the most opaque and exasperating in the world. It is really, really hard to come to the States. The pandemic has made it worse.

This is not our first move. We’ve moved to Canada, to Germany, and to Spain before this. The process to bring our family to the U.S. has been hands down the most stressful, the most complicated and the most convoluted immigration process of all.

The process of moving the spouse of a U.S. citizen to the United States (I emphasize this so the absurdity of it can really sink in) has taken us more than one year. And we’re still not done. We’re not even sure if we’re half-way done.

Talk about fog!

Each time we think we’re a step closer, we learn of another step we have to complete.

We are constantly anxious about what the next phase is, as it’s never quite clear how we have to move forward. Not to mention further barriers thrown up in the meantime by He of the orange face and fake hair Who Shall Not be Named.

And also thanks to He Who Shall Not be Named, I now have to prove that I can support my immigrant husband financially. I have to demonstrate that I have at least $100,000 in assets and must undertake to REIMBURSE THE GOVERNMENT should he ever require government assistance (unemployment, Medicaid, etc.).

I’m a homemaker. My assets are my husband’s assets—we share everything. But can shared assets count? We don’t know. We may have to take another step to ensure they do.

Let’s let that sink in for a moment, shall we? If you can’t see how deeply disturbing that is, then you need an empathy transplant, stat.

What about the U.S. citizens who cannot be financial sponsors for their immigrant spouses? How are they supposed to live here?

The downright xenophobic nature of the immigration process makes me feel unwelcome in my own country. And frankly? This pandemic is showing such huge cracks in the laughable social support system that compared to other places we’ve lived, THIS looks like the “shithole country.”

Doubts and Questions

It makes our future hazy. It fills my dreams with smoke and fog. It makes me wonder, do I really want us to move our family here? We can go other places. Why put ourselves through the stress and pain of moving here?

I cannot see clearly the path ahead. I am stumbling through the murk, trying to move forward.

But I am so thankful that I am not alone. The best man I know is stumbling forward with me.

Dictionary Definition

Day 17 of my daily writing challenge. I realized something horrible: I do not own a dictionary! Instead, I opened a book and chose a word at random.

17. Dictionary Definition: Open up a dictionary to a random word. Define what that word means to you.

ThinkWritten.com

corner
verb
cor·​ner | \ ˈkȯr-nər  \
transitive verb
1a: to drive into a corner
the animal is dangerous when cornered
b: to catch and hold the attention of especially to force an interview

Cornered. Trapped. There was nothing for it. My lunch break was ruined.

I’d waited until his desk—the one by the kitchen door—was empty. Perhaps he was in a meeting. Maybe he’d gone to the toilet.

Now was my chance!

I grabbed my Tupperware and made a dash for it. If I was lucky, I could get to the kitchen and close the door behind me before he got back to his cubicle.

I was nearly at the kitchen door when he pounced.

“Hey! You having lunch? Great! I’ll join you!”

My heart sank.

Turns out he’d been lurking in the printer room, waiting for a victim. Too late now. He’d seen the Tupperware.

“I was just going to warm this up and—”
“Oh, I’ll just keep you company.”

Cornered. Trapped. My lunch break was ruined.

I smiled wanly and meekly submitted to having my ear talked off on some tedious topic. As I stood there, waiting for my meal to warm up, I prepared to zone out.

Something in his tone, though, caught my attention.

There was a different note in his voice. A halting, hesitating manner. Normally he droned on, not seeming to care whether his victim listened or not. Today, though, he paused frequently. At a couple of points he trailed off, staring into space.

Eventually he stopped talking and just stood looking out the window. The microwave beeped, but he didn’t hear it. Instead of pulling out my meal, making my excuses and dashing off, I looked at him.

“Brad?” I said.

He was looking away from me, but I could see tears in his eyes.

“Brad, are you okay?”
“Oh! Oh, hey. Yeah. What was I saying?”
“I just asked if you were alright.”

He looked straight at me for a moment, then looked to the window again. He mouthed something, and I stepped closer to hear him.

His words were practically a whisper.

“My mother died last weekend.”

His mother. I cast back to see what I could remember him telling me about her. I seemed to remember he’d lived with his elderly mother. When he wasn’t at work he was her primary caregiver.

My own heartlessness filled me with shame. Here was a man cornered, too. Cornered by his grief and loneliness.

“I’m so sorry, Brad.”

I moved to the kitchen table and pulled out two chairs. I sat down in one and gestured to the other.

“Will you tell me about her, Brad? Will you tell me about your mother?”

He looked at me again. A weak smile came over his face. With a sniffle, he sat down. I passed the stack of napkins to him across the table, figuring he’d need one for a tissue. I took one for myself, just in case.

My lunch sat forgotten in the microwave.

Hopelessly Addicted

16. Addict: Everyone’s addicted to something in some shape or form. What are things you can’t go without?

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

Tea. I cannot go without tea.

Can this article be done?

What, you need further explanation? Fine.

Coffee vs Tea

Think of coffee. It has caffeine, it gives you that boost you need to kickstart your day. Its bitter flavor and strong smell combine to activate your get-up-and-get-going mode.

Now think of tea. (I am speaking, naturally, of the only tea worth drinking. That is Yorkshire Tea, produced by Taylor’s of Harrogate, Yorkshire. If you disagree, stop reading immediately and just go away.)

Sure, it doesn’t have as much caffeine as coffee. And it doesn’t have the energizing smell of coffee. And though it can be bitter if left to brew too long, it doesn’t have the same tangy bitterness as coffee.

So what is so wonderful about it?

Simply everything.

Tea Time is Me Time

My best friend once told me that life gets 10% better when you put the kettle on. Time and again, I have found this statement to be true.

In these times of social isolation and spending seemingly endless days at home, the one thing that lifts my spirits without fail is when I hear my beloved husband put the kettle on to make me a cup of tea.

(A quick side note to say that the saintly man does not even drink tea himself, but he brews a mean cup of tea. He’s got it down to a science, and now I almost prefer a cup of his brewing to my own. He also seems to have a sixth sense for knowing exactly when I need a cup of tea.)

Tea, since it’s made with boiling water, is much hotter than coffee and stays warm longer. When your tea is ready, you know that you have probably 10 to 15 minutes to enjoy it while it is still warm.

That’s 10 or 15 minutes for you to sip, close your eyes, and enjoy the warmth spreading through your mouth, down your throat and into your belly. The warmth then spreads from your core, slowly through your body, finally reaching your outer extremities. You curl your toes in response to it, and inevitably you take a deep breath and let out a sigh of contentment.

Characteristics of Tea

Just the act of wrapping your hands around a warm mug of tea is addictive. The calm that then descends on me in that moment is what I crave.

Coffee tastes like a swift kick in the butt saying, “Get up! Get to work!” But tea… Tea tastes like a best friend saying, “Come on over and sit a spell.” It’s inviting, it’s kind. It’s comforting and caring.

It also stains your teeth something fierce. Oh, well. I guess that’s the price of addiction.

The Found Poem

At first I thought this was dumb. I thought, “I’m not gonna do that. It’s stupid.” I thought about writing about three books that had a significant impact on me as a reader. But then I randomly opened a page of the book I am reading now, and so many wonderful words sprang out at me. So I changed my mind.

14. The Found Poem: Read a book and circle some words on a page. Use those words to craft a poem. Alternatively, you can cut out words and phrases from magazines.

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

A series of Haikus formed from words found on pages 294 and 295 of The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel (2020, Henry Hold and Company, New York.)

Walter is scoffing.
Everybody’s indifferent
Eyes on the gallows.

He never did thrive
To speak truth. Courtesy was
Always beyond him.

He wasn’t hanged; but
Anybody sad or lost
Is swimming upstream.

Correspondence

Day thirteen in my daily writing prompt exercise. This one filled me inexplicably with rage. I looked up famous letters, read some wonderful letters from history, thought of every historical biography or 19th century novel I’ve read and mourned that we don’t write letters like people used to. It’s a lost art. And I’m just as responsible for that loss as anyone.

13. The Letter: Write a poem or story using words from a famous letter or inspired by a letter someone sent you.

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

Dear JANE KENNEDY,

Oooh! A letter! I love a letter! Never mind that it’s arrived by email. It’s a letter!

Dear, huh? It must be someone I know! JANE KENNEDY. Hmm, this must be serious. You can only mean business if you address me by my whole name, in all caps no less.

Your bill is now ready to view!

Ah. So it’s a bill. I ought to have suspected as much. But why the exclamation point?

An exclamation point indicates excitement! It means joy! It means delight and exhilaration! Why finish that of all sentences with an exclamation point? Could there be more to this letter than I had first thought?

Oh! Be still my beating heart! I shall read on!

Your bill for the amount of $54.75 is due on 04/08/2020.

What?! What roller coaster ride is this?!

You follow an exclamation point with this?! What cruelty! What heartlessness! Why would you raise my hopes with an exclamation point only to dash them down again with such functional, cold and distinctly pecuniary language?

To login to your account, go [this website] or copy and paste the URL into your browser.

Okay now you’re just INSULTING me. Copy and paste the URL into your browser—ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!

What kind of idiot doesn’t know how to click on a link?! Why would you assume I am a digital incompetent? You’ve written me an email, for God’s sake! I’ve signed up for automatic online billing! I KNOW WHAT I’M DOING, DAMNIT!

Sincerely,

Customer Relations

“Sincerely,” huh? Sincerely? Sincerely.

Well. I’ll give you sincere, buddy! I’ll show you sincerity, pal! You want sincere? Well, you got it.

Okay fine I’ll just log in and make sure my payment details are up to date.

A Sonnet Called Hello

I’ve never made any pretensions at being a poet. I’m terrible with rhymes, and each attempt at poetry sounds stilted and downright bad. But here’s a stab at a Shakespearean style sonnet.

12. Greeting: Write a story or poem that starts with the word “hello” or other greeting.

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

Hello, may I have your name?
No, this isn’t she, this is her daughter.
Yes, our voices do sound the same.
Yes, I’m sure I’m not her.

Yes, you’re right; it’s true.
Many people have made the same mistake.
I look a lot like her, too.
No, no, you’ve no apologies to make.

Sometimes I remind myself of her.
Other times I want to rebel.
Often times people compare me to her—
Negatively or favorably, I can’t always tell.

And sometimes I think how nice it would be
For someone to mistake her for me.

St. George’s Dragon Rant

This is Day 11 in my writing prompt essay series. I’ve actually made it further than I ever thought I would. I may have to start writing at a different time of day than evening, though. I’m starting to forget what my Chico looks like…

11. Dragon: Envision a dragon. Do you battle him? Or is the dragon friendly? Use descriptive language.

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

Theodore and Demetrius were useless fellows. They would tell you not to believe in dragons!

You’ve probably heard they were valiant warrior saints. Helped out the European crusaders in the first crusade, etc., etc. Poppycock! They never fought alongside any crusaders! If anything, all they did was drink alongside the crusaders!

And when it comes to identifying dragons? Worse than useless! Ask Theodore to describe a dragon (forgive me if I forgo the honorific of “saint” when speaking of both of them—it simply goes against the grain, I don’t mind telling you), and he’ll tell you it’s nothing more than a serpent. Not even venomous! But can you really expect more from a man whose only claim to sainthood is that he was thrown into a furnace?

And Demetrius? Don’t even get me started on Demetrius! He was nothing more than the troublesome son of rich parents who packed him off into the army to be rid of him. Sure, he was Christian, but how did he defend the faith? By getting run through by spears. Laughable.

Anyway, he would tell you a dragon was nothing more than an eel. An eel, for Pete’s sake!

An Introduction

My name is Saint George, and I know all about dragons. And I am here to tell you that dragons are very, very real. They are just as real today as they were in my day.

I, too, am a warrior saint. But while Theodore and Demetrius did nothing better than get themselves martyred, I actually fought the beasts. I once saved a town from a dragon’s reign of terror, and secured fifteen thousand converts to Christianity in the process! Say what you will of Christians, you’ve got to admit that’s some smooth operating.

Allow me to present myself to you, dear reader, as an eminent authority on dragons.

Dragon Problems

When a dragon plagues a town, first of all he starts by picking off sheep. Then he helps himself to larger livestock. Before long, however, he craves warmer blood, and that’s when he starts eating people.

Worse than a plague, is a dragon. The more he eats, the hungrier he gets. And he always starts with the most vulnerable, the poorest of the town. Pick off a couple of peasants, and hardly anyone notices. It’s only when he’s eaten a dozen that the nobles—the so-called quality—start to notice.

Up to this point, royalty looks at the dragon as a useful population control. Keep the rabble down and they won’t clamor for better working conditions! But a dragon soon acquires a taste for bluer blood. He moves up the echelons of society, picking his way through the merchant class once he’s had his fill of serfs. Next, he moves up to the landed gentry, onwards through the lower nobility, and before you know it he’s picking off dukes, duchesses and even princes!

The Dragon That Made Me Famous

That’s what happened in this one town I came upon in Cappadocia, in the country you modern-day folks would call Turkey. I’d been doing some campaigning with my ne’er-do-well colleagues (tiresome fellows! How I longed to be rid of them!), and we broke our journey in this quaint little town.

While Theodore and Demetrius patronized the local watering holes, I looked for lodgings at a respectable inn. It was there that I learned from the innkeeper—a wonderfully informative species of person, in my experience—that they had dragon troubles in town.

It had gotten to the point where they’d agreed to leave the dragon a victim each night, as a kind of—you know—sacrifice. They drew straws for it. Earlier that day, the local princess’s straw had been drawn. She was to be tied up and left for the dragon that night.

I vowed to save the princess from such a fate. Theodore and Demetrius laughed at me heartily and said they wouldn’t wait up for me that night. (Couldn’t wait up for me, more like it. Soused as a pair of eels by sundown, the pair of them!)

At the Lake

My unease grew as I approached the spot where they’d left the princess. I found her bound at the wrists and the ankles, gagged, and tied to a stake on an island in the middle of a small lake outside of town. With what barbarity had the townspeople left her to her fate!

(Forgive me, dear reader, if I do not go into rapturous descriptions of the maid. I am, after all, a saint.)

I motioned to the maiden to remain silent, not to betray my presence. Then I maneuvered my steed into the trees and waited in the nearby shadows.

The moon shone brightly that night, the clarity increased by that celestial body’s reflection in the waters. As I crouched in wait, I was aware of every ripple, every disturbance to the water’s surface. Close to midnight, one ripple appeared from around the lake, and a dark shape moved purposefully towards the island where the maiden was captive and where I, unbeknownst to the beast, lay in wait.

The Beast

Its awful snout emerged first. A pair of large, cavernous nostrils broke the surface of the water, followed by a cruel and crooked horn. A long, thin snout followed, with whiskers dripping as they rose from the water. Its eyes caught the glint of the moonlight before ever surfacing, and the beast never blinked as it lifted its vile head from the depths.

Vile it was, dear reader, and adorned with two more curving horns of ivory, which cut against the reflected moonlight on the lake. Down its neck and across its back it had venomous spines, and its long, writhing reptilian tail curved this way and that behind it as it dragged its low and foul body up onto the shore. Its four legs were stout and strong, and each sported five vicious, curved claws. Its tongue darted in and out of its mouth, and the light of the moon glinted off of long, sharp fangs.

The Attack

I didn’t wait to learn if it was a dragon of the fire-breathing variety. Before it had taken another step towards its victim, I crossed myself and charged from the darkness, brandishing my lance. The beast was entirely surprised, and had no time to react before I plunged my weapon between its shoulder blades, narrowly missing what must be the creature’s heart—if such devils indeed have hearts.

A terrible cry burst from its throat. Although it was mortally wounded, the beast did not immediately perish, and indeed looked ready to turn and fight. I acted without thinking and turning to the maiden, cut her free from her bonds. Seizing the ropes, I threw myself on the dragon, holding its jaws shut. There we wrestled until I was able to tie a rope tight around its muzzle.

Before I could think what to do with its claws, the maiden had removed the girdle from around her waist, and in an extraordinary act of bravery, she approached the dragon. Calmly as though she were approaching her spinning wheel, she slipped the girdle around the dragon’s neck.

For a moment, the beast continued to writhe. But then, feeling the silken fabric of the girdle, it slowed and eventually lay still. Its great, horrid eyes continued to stare at us, unblinking. We only knew it to be alive from its glance, darting from the maiden to me.

Suddenly, the dragon was like a tamed spaniel. The maiden took up the other end of her girdle, and tugging gently on it, she coaxed the dragon to its feet. I stood and watched in utter amazement and she walked to the shallow ford that lead off the island and to the village road. The dragon limped behind obediently.

I spurred my horse and galloped after them.

All’s Well That Ends Well

To make a long story short, we made our way back to the town, the maiden perched on my saddle, the dragon following on the lead.

I won’t go into the details of what followed—I’m not terribly proud of the extortion I performed next. I threatened to release the dragon on the townspeople unless they converted to Christ.

I know, I know, I was heavy-handed. But believe me when I say I meant well. In the end, no one came to any harm, and after they’d all been baptized at the fountain in the town square, I obligingly chopped off the dragon’s head.

Modern Day Dragons

As for dragons today… You do have them, dear readers. Your dragons may not be visible. They may be called by other names. Plagues, dragons, pandemics. They’re all one.

Whatever you call them, just as they did in my time, they pray first on the lowest of the low. Then they move through the population and strike down rich and strong alike.

These modern dragons cannot be ignored. They will decimate your populations and grind trade to a halt. No one will move from home for fear of encountering the dragon.

And just like the beasts of my day, modern day dragons must be managed by competent authorities. Modern St. Georges, if you will. Not clowns like those buffoonish fellows Theodore and Demetrius.

My Fellow “Saints”

But where were Theodore and Demetrius, you ask? How is it that they cannot identify a dragon, even after such a spectacle as this?

The simple answer is, my dear readers: they were drunk. They’d drunk the innkeeper out of his best ale, and had fallen asleep under their stools.

Is it any wonder they met the ends they did, dear readers? I ask you!

L’Amitié

I am privileged to count among my closest friends a small group of extraordinary women. Today’s essay is a tribute to two of these women. I sometimes wonder where I would be without them.

10. Friendship: Write about being friends with someone.

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

Ours was not an unlikely friendship.

In fact, anyone would expect us to get on like a house on fire.

What surprised us both was just how strong a connection we each felt.

You came to sit with me at my desk.

You were supposed to brief me on your job and how we would collaborate.

We were supposed to talk for half an hour.

An hour and a half later, we had to be reminded we were at work.

That first conversation left us both impressed.

I was impressed by your talents,

Your liveliness,

Your loveliness,

Your wit,

And your open heart.

You must have felt the same,

Because since that day I have enjoyed your friendship.

A friendship that has enriched my life.

Merci mon amie! Je t’aime!


Thursday my dear friend called to say she felt useless.

The baby was fussing, she couldn’t get anything done.

Saturday morning my mother took ill.

Saturday afternoon, I hopped in the car, almost nine months pregnant.

Saturday night my mother died, just before I could make it to her side.

Sunday morning my brothers arrived.

Monday morning we visited the funeral home, the clinic and the church.

Monday at noon I went into labor.

Monday afternoon, just before 5pm, my son was born.

Tuesday, my dear friend rode in like the cavalry.

Baby in stroller, diaper bag on her back, lasagne in hand, carry-on suitcase with maternity clothes & baby clothes dragging behind.

My dear friend. Some days you may feel useless.

But every day you mean the world to me.