Fee, fie, foe

They keep coming: small men with their small desires. They hunger for my gold; they scrabble through my table leavings. They foul the air with their scent.

Here comes another, hand over hand to steal my solitude. Let me ready my plate.


A handful of days

I take seven pills every night. Don’t worry, I’m not sick. I’m just trying to stay healthy. A multivitamin. Three glucosamine tablets, for my joints. An aspirin because of that one a-fib incident a couple years ago. Two melatonins to help me sleep. There are too many to take all at once, and so I have to swallow them in three big gulps. Some of these things are huge.

“Horse pills,” I joke, every night.

When I travel I count out tablets into a ziplock bag. Three nights away means twenty-one pills. Seven nights means forty-nine. It looks like a lot of pills. It feels like a lot of time.

Our days are filled with activity: biking, swimming, hiking, a museum visit, even a horseback ride. Good thing for those horse pills, I laugh to myself. We stay up late; we sleep in. We hardly know what time it is. We don’t bother to count the days.

Tonight I weigh the bag in my hand. It’s light: only seven pills left. Seven pills between me and the end of our vacation. Seven pills between me and time’s inexorable pull.

Melatonin won’t help, I can tell. My brain is already tracing the route home, counting loads of laundry, making a grocery list. I reach for my glass of water anyway. The rattle of the pills sounds like the winding of a clock.


Evolution

“Are you a writer?” asked the woman in the park. She’d seen my yellow field bag with the Ray Bradbury quote: You must stay drunk on writing so that reality cannot destroy you.

“I like to write,” I equivocated. It was my standard answer. It was true, after all, and got me out of committing to the word. And I had never published a thing, except for poetry and flash fiction on my own blog, which maybe fifteen people ever read.

***

“Who here is a writer?” asked the panel moderator.

I was at Long Beach Comic Con with the rest of the Yeah Write crew. It was the first time most of us had met in person. Rowan and I were sitting in on a panel about queer representation in the writing and publishing world before we went off to our own panel about storytelling in the internet age. The question took me by surprise. We looked at each other for affirmation or validation or moral support, and raised our hands.

***

“Are you a writer?” asked the man sitting next to me on the plane.

I was head down in my computer, wrestling with the final pages of edits on The Jade Dragon, the novel Rowan and I had been working on for years. The man was watching the World Cup quarter-finals streamed to his seat-back TV.

I looked up, a little irritated at the interruption. “Yes,” I said, and went back to work. Only fifteen more pages to go.


Scorcher

Nights like this, I sleep naked, seeking relief in the coolness of empty sheets. I wake to the droning of cicadas, the yearning for rain, the ache of desire and the taste of your name in my mouth.


How to have a Sunday

It starts with sleeping late, only not too late, or you’ll miss out. Wait until you hear tires crunching on the driveway’s crackled pavement to hop in the shower. Be quick; the hot water only lasts so long, and your father will be back any minute now.

Go into the kitchen. By now your father is waiting there with the Sunday paper, a box of Entenmann’s donuts, and real coffee in a paper cup. He had to go all the way to Trumbull to get it, a ten-minute drive. The donuts are a treat, but not a surprise. You like plain and powdered; your brother likes cinnamon. With four of each, everyone gets what they want. You can even have two.

Make yourself a cup of coffee: two tablespoons of Taster’s Choice, a spoonful of sugar, and blend with milk until the color matches your skin. Someday you’ll learn what real coffee is; for now, just feel grown-up.

Snag the comics and the Parade magazine, quick, before your brother finishes his donuts. He can start with the sports page instead. You don’t know what your Dad reads, so hand him the rest of the paper: the news, the classifieds, the obituaries, and all those circulars. He’ll sort through them, recycle the stuff no-one wants. He’ll save the coupons for your mother.

If it’s cold, spread the paper out on the living room carpet. Lie on your belly, kick your feet up. Try not to touch the paper; you hate the feel of newsprint on your hands. But if it’s warm and the morning is bright, take the paper out to table on the back deck. That’s the best way.

Break your powdered donut in half and in half again. Take small bites, tapping the excess sugar onto your plate. Repeat with the plain donut, using the broken ends to blot up the white powder, and when the donuts are gone, lick your finger and use that instead. Leave no crumb behind.

Sip your grown-up coffee; listen to the birds and the wind in the trees. Let the sun dry your hair. Hand the comics to your father when you’re done reading.