Living La Vida Literary

I’m reading one of Agatha Christie’s early works: “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd” and I  am filled with despair. Will I ever write anything good–or at least passable? Plenty of books that are poorly written go on to become quite successful (50 Shades of Grey, anyone?) and at least I’m enjoying working on my poor little novel (most of the time). Still, the thought nags at me that the passages I think especially good are the worst, and the sentences I think lackluster really shouldn’t be polished at all. What if I’m doing it all wrong? I have a grand time writing out a scene–I’m in the scene; living and breathing it with my characters–and when I re-read it later, I can’t tell if my writing style is overwrought or under wrought, or too imaginative or not imaginative enough. The things I write that are drawn from my own experience seem too fantastical. The things I pull from my own head seem flat and uninspired.

Because I am certainly going through the “agony” part of the writing process, I figure I should at least get the “ecstasy” part, too. So, this year that I am writing my first novel, I will plume myself on being an authoress. I will buy myself one of those necklaces with a Jane Austen quote under bubble glass, and make a fancy tote bag in which to lug my laptop around importantly. I will choose a coffee shop to haunt once a week, and type away with furrowed brow, while sipping on a latte. No, lattes don’t sound literary enough. Earl Grey tea will be my drink of choice. I will join a monthly book club and discuss other people’s works, and try not to despair of ever writing anything as good. I may even join a local writers’ association, where we can all sit around and congratulate ourselves on our superior insight into human nature. I can pretend to be interested in someone else’s epic poem about corporate greed, and someone else can pretend that my work in progress about a nanny who falls for her playboy millionaire boss does not make them think immediately of Fran Drescher and the 90s’ sitcom The Nanny. (Yes, that is what I’m writing about. I can’t believe it, either, but I’m on page 80 and there’s no going back).The-Nanny-HQ-the-nanny-17083962-500-336

Maybe if I make this writing process more about fun, I’ll actually write something that is a pleasure to read. Only one way to find out!

I Burnt an Egg….

frightened-fried-egg-is-frightened_o_594499I burnt an egg this morning. Its acrid, rubbery smell permeated the whole house. It was an harbinger of what was to come.

I burnt that egg with the best of intentions. I fed my children breakfast, and by the time I finished feeding them, they wanted a second breakfast. By the time they had finished that, I was ravenous, so I took the one egg left in the house and began to fry it, stealthily. The stealth was necessary because my little daughter loves fried eggs, and a belly full of two breakfasts would not stop her from begging for it, teary-eyed, while I ate. I was just about to turn the stove off and enjoy my perfect egg when 4-year-old Bubsy begged me to trim and paint his toenails. He was so cute and pleading, looking up at me with his big eyes. Why shouldn’t he have glittery toes, just because he’s a boy? I gave him a pedicure. Then Zee wanted one, so I gave her one, too. When I had painted the last little piggy, the smell of scorched egg and butter filled the air.

I opened all the windows, even though it was freezing. It smelled worse than burnt hair (another story). The ice-cold air exhilarated my children. They danced around joyfully. I nibbled on corn chips and raisins, because I was too hungry to try to cook something else.

Other than the smell, things were going okay that morning. Our puppy, Mookie, mastered going both up and down the stairs, and had a spotless record for going to the bathroom on her puppy pad. I gave Mookie lots of attention and treats to encourage further good behavior.

The phone rang. “Hellooo-OOO-ooo,” I answered in a goofy, sing-song voice. The number looked like my husband’s work number. It was not. The caller was a woman named “Annie” who was coming to pick up our old toddler bed. She was supposed to come last night, but suffers from “mom brain” (like I do) and forgot. It took a little explaining to help her understand that I don’t always answer the phone like that, but I mistook her for my husband. I could tell she thought I was weird. I changed the subject and warned her about our treacherous driveway. While talking, I walked into the living room where my pants-less almost 3-year-old was squatting in the corner of the floor that we had just cured our puppy of squatting in. “Hey, put your pants back on!” I ordered. She matter-of-factly told me, with a laugh, that she had just pooped on the floor. “You POOPED on the floor?!”

“Yeah, Mommy, I did,” she said, smiling ingratiatingly like she had just told me a funny story, and wasn’t she cute?

“I’m sorry?” Annie, the Toddler Bed Lady was confused. I explained, as best as I could, what my daughter had done, and that I would have to get off the phone soon and clean it up. My emotions vacillated between feeling embarrassed that another mom knew my child pooped on the floor, and blind rage because what the heck was my almost 3-year-old child doing pooping on the floor?! Annie was confused, and a little frightened. She hadn’t understood a word of my explanation, even though I had tried to use a calm and measured voice. I tried to explain why I went from warning her about our steep driveway to talking about poop, but she just wasn’t comprehending me. I could almost hear the thoughts whirling around in her mind: Should I really go to this crazy woman’s house? What if she’s another Craigslist killer? I told her I had to hang up so I could clean up the mess.

Zee smiled up at me insolently until the swooping hand of justice dropped by for a quick visit. While she glowered from time-out, I fought off our pint-sized puppy, who was tremendously excited by the warm, sticky pile of human excrement on the rug. She couldn’t decide if she wanted to bite the shit or bite my ankles. She settled for both, and soon my bootcut jeans had pinprick sized poop stains on them from her teeth. My son sat serenely on the couch, taking in the scene with amusement. “I’m the good one” was written all over his face. Finally, I got the mess cleaned up. Despite the open windows and liberal application of air freshener, the house reeked of poop and burnt egg. I wanted to scream.

Annie’s car struggled up our steep, bumpy driveway. I met her in the doorway with a smile. “Your driveway is awful,” she coldly informed me. She had her 2-year-old daughter with her. The child looked meek, mild, and obedient. I apologized again for our weird phone conversation, and said I didn’t know why my daughter had pooped on the floor; she hadn’t done a thing like that for months. Annie looked startled at that, and exclaimed: “Oh, I just thought you said she had taken off her pants!” She and her angelic-looking daughter stared at Zee like she had sprouted a second head. I wondered if Annie might be a little deaf…or stoned.

The toddler bed did not fit in her car. I had asked her, on the phone, if she needed me to dismantle it beforehand, but she assured me it would fit in her trunk. Wrong. She (nervously) left her child inside the house with my children and helped me hold the bed frame steady as I removed the screws. Once the bed was finally in her car, she hastily returned to the house to rescue her daughter. The child was staring at Zee like she had never seen a naughty child before. Zee was staring at her with mild disdain.

Annie thanked me for the toddler bed, and departed, probably thanking her lucky stars for her nice, normal child.

Upon further reflection, I realized Zee had pooped in the corner because she was jealous of all the attention the puppy was getting. I also realized I would much rather be mother to that mischievous monkey of a girl than to a perfectly well-behaved child who seemed lacking in sparkle and verve. I would also rather be the frazzled mother who gives things away freely rather than the mother who repays a toddler bed with judgmental stares. And, well, that was my morning. The rest of the day got a lot better.

The End.