It's my first summer by the ocean, and it turns out that the worst place in the world to have writer's block is by the ocean, because it's a giant white noise machine designed to get you addicted to cooking in your own sloth. But even worse, everyone tells you how healthy and awesome it is you're going to the ocean every day, because they don't understand you're using it to run away from the 5 stories you owe that you can't seem to write, and the bills you struggle to pay every month, and the general lack of affection in your life that's slowly becoming more of an obsession because sex is more interesting than the novel you were supposed to spend all summer working on that you no longer feel worthy of.
If you're interested in what failure looks like, it turns out it's very, very tan.
After this last full moon, I felt this release of frustration, a venting of sexual energy fed by disappointment and shame, and it came roaring out into the night, almost threw up in the parking lot of Blue Post, and caused me much mortification the next morning when I checked my text messages. But then, as if a boil had been lanced, the paralyzing shame of my own ineffectiveness drained away, leaving room for resolve to be better, and I can feel my head clearing up from the pheromones, and the twenty thousand crushes I had slowly being replaced by the much more useful desire to be a good writer. So I think we're back on track now, or getting there. But I won't be attempting to get back to this blog for a while, because I have those stories, and that novel, and then school starts in two months again. And I am SO far behind.
In the meantime, as a marker for anyone who's googling me and seeing this defunct site (which I still love very very much), here is a story I recently had published in the UNCW literary magazine, Atlantis.
Gladys comes into the office holding a carton of eggs in her hand. The office is very modern, all the walls are painted happy shades of yellow and white, and the furniture is pale blonde. Gladys is not pale blonde, she is dark mahogany, and her figure is very trim. She wears cotton skirts and cute button up blouses. The effect of her walking across the tastefully gray carpet towards my desk is very neat and professional. Except for the eggs.
She puts the eggs on my desk, and I can see they are larger than chicken eggs, very large in fact, and cracked all over. “You need to take these,” she says, and it is not a request. One of the eggs shakes a little, quivers on its axis in the plastic carton. There is a new crack. Something is moving around.
“What is it?” I try to remain calm. Everything is always a crisis around here.
“Deer eggs. I found them in my backyard, and I can’t have them in the house, Gary will go apeshit if we get deer. He loves his chrysanthemums.” She stands there with her perfectly formed hands on her trim little hips, and for a minute I am consumed with hate for neat little Gladys and her neat little yard and her neat little husband who gardens and has the same first initial as her. But it’s fleeting. I actually like Gladys a lot. I just wish she wasn’t so pretty.
“What am I going to do with them?” Everyone in this office comes to me with the weird stuff. I suppose it’s because I don’t dress like I belong there. I tried at first, but then my entire wardrobe became work clothes, and I felt boring when I went out socially, so I decided it was better to not fit in at the office than not fit in with my friends. And if it’s not my clothes, it’s probably the mousepad on my desk, which is blown up photos of viruses and bacteria I got from a friend of mine who works at an animal hospital. Being the weird one is okay. It keeps the serious stuff off your desk, and it’s important to not let things land on your desk. Once it’s physically on your desk, the problem is yours; that’s the golden rule here.
“I thought maybe you could take them out to your mom’s farm. Let them live there. They’re mostly deer eggs, but I think there’s a few chicken in there too. Doesn’t your mom have chickens?”
Pushing aside the absurdity of the situation, the fact that Gladys has just brought me a tray of living breathing about to be born animals and that she brought it as casually as one might bring in a jello salad to the company picnic, my nurturing sucker instincts take over. If there are chickens in there, they need heat. I pick up the tray and position it under the small sun lamp I have for my cactus. Gladys seems satisfied that I’ve taken ownership by my act of touching the damn things, and walks away.
I’ve never heard of deer eggs. I sit there in my office chair for a minute studying them. They are large, almost the size of ostrich eggs. I pick one up carefully with two hands. It is hot and disturbingly smooth, like a child’s hand. It gives a violent shake and I almost drop it, so I put it safely back. But they will need to be moved. I have a bread basket on my kitchen counter, I think I can line it with a towel and that should do. It is impossible to work after that. I try to type, but the slightest movement of the eggs distracts me. I google “deer eggs” and find nothing. I feel a fear building in me, a worry, I have no idea what’s actually in those things. Are they hawks? Ducks? Platypuses? Obviously I know it’s not deer, I’m not an idiot, I know how mammals work. But it’s hard to fight the instinctual excitement of something being born. Whatever’s in there, I want them to survive.
Finally the day is over. I drive home carefully, the eggs cradled in my coat on the front passenger seat, my hand hovering over them in case I have to stop suddenly. I feel infinitely relieved when I get them upstairs to my second floor walkup and they are established safely in my smallest laundry basket, the bread basket being too small after all. They sit there, on my kitchen counter under the sun lamp for the rest of the night. I lock the cat up in the second bedroom. I drink a beer and sit there on my only stool, watching them, gently touching, tracing the cracks with my fingertips. I can tell which ones are the chicken ones, there are two of them and they are much smaller. They don’t move nearly as much as the four larger eggs and I worry they are dead, but maybe they are just not ready to come out.
The next morning when I wake up, I’m ecstatic to see one of the chicken eggs is cracking too. All of them are moving like crazy, it shouldn’t be much longer. I remember something about turning the eggs, to make sure they are coming out right side up. Sticking my hand in the basket to gingerly move them is the same as sticking it in a basket of scorpions. I recognize there is now a terror weight in my chest, a large beast breathing slow hot air into my cheeks, which are vivid and red. I call off work, tell them I have a fever. I have a little fantasy while I'm eating cereal that Gladys wonders why I'm not there, wonders if something happened. But better that it be me, the girl living alone with no husband or kids to worry about. I start to feel more charitable to her, but only a little.
It's a beautiful warm sunny day. I take a book with me to the back yard, and the basket. We lay in the sun. I'm vaguely aware that an actual mother would never do this because of hawks and vermin. "Lucky eggs, you. You landed in the arms of a superior predator, " I say to them. They are being still at the moment, it must be hard work, hatching. Especially if you're a little deer, trying to kick out with your spindly little knocky knees all tied up in knots. Someone close by is cutting the grass, and it smells warm. I fall asleep briefly.
I dream of the pulsing red beats of life, of the color of your thumb when you hold a flashlight to it, of the spark of livesavers in my mouth late at night around a school trip camp fire. I dream of falling off my bike, and first dates.They are dreams of being afraid and full of awe at the same time, a euphoric lack of control over the universe’s laws and regulations.
When I finally open my eyes, my body is cold and stiff. The sun has gone down, way down, and the yard is night time dark. There are crickets chirping in the blue shadow leaves, and the memory of the sun still lingers but has chilled considerably. I sit up. Even the grass feels sharper. Looking down by my side, I can see the eggs are lying broken, empty.
They are stumbling in the weeds, a few feet away. Tiny, delicate, and awkward; only a few inches tall and glowing a faint moonlight green. The hooves of their stumbling glass feet must be smaller than my fingernail. My eyes trace the contours of their arched necks, their pointed fawn ears laid back in confusion, their big dark eyes wide with introduction. The babies stumble and climb up unsteadily again, the strong ones are fairly walking already. Among the stalks of grass that are barely taller than their heads, the light from their bodies sparkles and drifts, interrupted like glitter. I stay incredibly still, and barely I catch the soft high pitched squeals and murmurs. It sounds like pieces of chandelier glass knocking against each other.
Then I catch a different sound, a very ordinary cheep, a chirp, from a little closer. By my knee, the one little chicken to survive. She is shivering in the evening air, curled up against a fold in the blanket. I reach down and cup her beating weak body in my hands, hold her up to my cheek. She settles into me immediately, and falls asleep. I think to myself that I’ll give this one to Gladys in the morning, she and Gary can take care of a chicken, they’ll probably like that. A pet chicken playing among the chrysanthemums. The chick and I watch the deer, keeping each other warm.