"Everybody has a secret world inside of them. All of the people of the world, I mean everybody. No matter how dull and boring they are on the outside, inside them they've all got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds. Not just one world. Hundreds of them. Thousands maybe" ~ Neil Gaiman (A Game of You)



I sit on the lid of the toilet.  I reread the instructions on the box in my hand.  With a deep breath, I open the cardboard and pull out the smaller aluminum wrapped package.  I pull at the edge, but it crinkles and refuses to give.  I start again on the opposite corner.  It tears smoothly this time.  I remove the long, thin plastic stick that has such potential to change everything.

A small dip, a shake, and I set it on the paper towel on the counter.  I read the instructions again for the fourth?  fifth?  time.  Wait five minutes; a pink line means positive.  I glance at the plastic stick on the paper towel.  No more than a minute has passed, but a bright magenta bar is visible.  I wait the remaining four minutes and check again, wondering if the line would magically disappear.  It does not.

My husband doesn’t know, but he will soon.  I hear him pacing just outside the door.  I don't want to see him just yet.  We are so young!  We promised ourselves we would wait just one more year, giving ourselves a little more time to squirrel away some savings, to prepare.  I don't know what he will say.  I can't bear it if he is upset, or worse, sad.

I wait alone, but it suddenly dawns on me I'm not really alone.  I hold onto this moment, stretching it out as long as I can.  I put my hand on my still flat, deceptive stomach.  I caress that tiny glob of cells in small, gentle circles through layers of skin and muscle.  I don't have to be brave until I open that door.

There's a small, timid knock.

"Honey?  Are you all right?"

I stand up, pick up the stick, straighten my back, and turn toward the door.  I turn the knob slowly.  I hand it to him, but I don't look him in the eye.  Silence.  I hazard a quick peek.  He looks back at me, a strange, forced smile on his face and panic in his eyes.

"That's great," he says, stiffly.  "Really, it's great.  I swear."

Somehow, I know that everything is going to be all right.  He folds me into his arms.  Realization takes hold.  The smile on his face requires less effort as the man I married surfaces.  Once again, he is strong and capable and only worried about me.

"Are you happy?" I ask.

"Yeah," he says, rubbing my back briskly in that unthinking, nervous way of his.  "I'm happy."

He pulls back so he can see me better.  The smile is real this time.

"I'm going to be a dad."


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An American Epic

I finally finished a behemoth of a book, Pulitzer Prize winner Herman Wouk's Youngblood Hawke. It was a fascinating, if uncomfortable read. I love a book that stretches my mind, and this was able to do that. I learned a lot about Hollywood, publishing, the theater, coal mining, and the communist witch hunts back in the '50s.

The book was not without flaw. It was drawn out and rambling in some parts; occasionally the dialogue didn't seem to work very well. However, it was a compelling story about a topic that interests me very much right now -- the life of a rising star author.

Wouk did an excellent job of characterizing. You really got a feel for the people he created. Youngblood Hawke was a larger than life, beast of a man. As a writer, I recognized the qualities that most of us can probably relate to: a huge ego, necessary to even consider putting pen to paper; tormenting bursts of self-doubt; the belief that one can write much better, as you'll see in the next book; and that strange compulsion to keep writing, whatever the circumstances.

The supporting characters were just as compelling and well-sketched. As Wouk revealed more and more about his characters, kind of like peeling the skin off an onion, you experienced the same loss of innocence and disgust that Youngblood Hawke, himself, felt. The few moral characters in the story shined brightly, tugged at your heart and earned your sympathy.

I won't spoil the book for you, but I have to admit that the ending was very unsatisfying to me. That was probably due to my attachment to some of the characters. I didn't feel that the ending was necessarily wrong, per se. I just think that the author could have chosen the alternative and still remained true to the story.

Now, I'm not satisfied reading a book unless I am able to take something from it to add to my craft. To that end, Wouk was masterful at using foreshadowing. Throughout the book, he sprinkled subtle, poetic hints at what would happen in the story. It was not surprising the way the events unfolded, it was more like a fulfillment of promises.

I don't know if I would heartily recommend this book. It had such a cynical and pessimistic tone. I also personally could have done without a lot of the profanity; hey, I'm sensitive that way. But I don't regret the time I sacrificed to read it.


Fun Friday -- Win Some, Lose Some

“There’s a nice knock-down argument for you!”

“What? I was just trying to make my point,” Phoebe said.

“Right, with a dagger.” Jackson sniggered.

“OK, maybe I was a little forceful, but that doesn’t change my position.” She began to twirl her hair around her finger, a sure sign that she wasn’t so sure anymore. “Besides, I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.”

“Oh, don’t worry, I’m a little tougher than that.”

OK, now he was just playing with her. Her ire began to raise again. She fought hard over the last three years to be taken seriously. Apparently she had gotten no where.

Jackson smiled at her, that winning smile that usually worked magic. She braced herself against it. She knew she was winning this one, and she wasn’t giving up that easily.

He took her in his arms. His breath was warm on her neck. She was completely disconcerted.

“All right, I give up — but you lose,” she said. “You know you’re beaten when you have to resort to tactics like this.”

He laughed, a guilty, little boy caught kind of laugh.

“Fair enough,” he said. “But I still win when we make up.”

To play along, visit the writing prompt at Quote Snack here.



(overheard at the hair salon)

I hated having a shower in the front bathroom.
I hate getting in and out of the shower, it's slippery!
Oh, yeah, especially if it's been sitting awhile.  We took out so much dirt, it was gross.
Spring cleaning, huh?  Hahaha.

It's not as bad now, but still.

It's weird, cuz they're all like 20 and I'm 31.
I used to babysit these guys.
When they order drinks, I'm like, I'm not old enough for you to be old enough.

Two three year olds and a four year old.  The four year old is OK, but the three year olds and a baby?  No way.  I'm not going to pay the entrance fee to be miserable.

A family of four is like $200 to get in.
Not only lunch but dinner, too, and a couple of drinks throughout the day.

Like he could use the energy.
Brock was saying he could have done it last night, but I was like not getting back in the aircraft.
For safety, I can't imagine flying at night without them.
But I hate them.


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What's For Breakfast?

Sammy walked into the kitchen with slow, shuffling steps. He rubbed his sleepy eyes and opened the pantry door. Oh, good, Mom finally got some more Cap'n Crunch, his favorite cereal. He pulled the box out and brought it to the table. He fetched a bowl and spoon and grabbed the carton of milk from the fridge. He fumbled to open the top of the box of cereal, ripping the flimsy cardboard and ruining the slit meant to re-close the box. Oh, well, maybe he'll just have to eat the whole thing. Wouldn't want the stuff to get stale.

He poured the little golden nuggets into his bowl. A flash of red poured into the bowl, conspicuous among all that yellow. He set the box down and dug through the pieces of cereal. His fingers poked something soft and definitely not crunchy. Fishing it out, he peered at his find. "Hey!" he yelled. He threw the small chunk of flesh away from his body. It skid across the table. He jumped up, pushing himself further away from the table, knocking his chair over with a clatter. "Mom! Mom!" he screamed, running for the stairs.

Prompt:  While digging in a cereal box for the toy surprise, a child makes a grisly discovery.

Wanna play along?  Visit Write Anything for today's [Fiction] Friday prompt.