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Today in My History

2000: Beans in My Ears
2001: Take Me Out to the Ball Game
Gynecology Can Be Fun
2003:  Gone, All Gone
2004:  I Don't Do Perky
2005Slingshot: the Pros and Cons

2006: Catching Up
2007: A "Real" Writer
2008: Tears
2009:  When Friends Write Books
2010:  Giants, Indeed
2011:  Halloween Report

Bitter Hack
Updated: 10/28
"Macbeth: the Radio Play"

Books Read in 2012
 Updated: 11/1
"The Year of Magical Thinking"

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The Paul Picnic

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mail to Walt


2 November 2012

I'm going to do something unusual for then next three (maybe 3-1/2) days.  I came across a story I started writing for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) back in 2007.  I never finished it and had completely forgotten it, but I re-read it and...I don't think it's all that bad.  So I decided to print the first three chapters here and see what you think.  I know where I was going with it, but by the time I got into chapter 4, I wasn't quite sure how I wanted to get there and ultimately quit.  But maybe you'll enjoy the first three chapters.  This is obviously semi-autobiographical, except the heroine is more my mother than me, yet not exactly either of us.  The children are an amalgam of all of my own children, of course.

My case is a species of madness, only that it is a derangement of the Volition & not of the intellectual faculties. - Samuel Taylor Coleridge


The box stood in the middle of the living room. It was wrapped in silver paper and tied with a big red bow.

Beside it stood her children, big grins on their face. They could barely contain themselves, they were so eager for her to open it.

They were so different from each other. Tim was tall and muscular, with curly brown hair and that little curl that would have fallen onto his face if he didn’t keep it slicked back with a thick layer of gel. Right now he had a pencil-thin moustache, left over from the full beard he sported just a month ago.

It was hard to believe that this strapping man was the little boy she chased up and down the street 30 years ago. Now he was a father himself, with two little kids.

Jenna was petite, with blonde hair which hung to the middle of her back. She inherited none of her mother’s curls, but everyone always complimented her on how thick and shiny it was.

“She’ll probably have to cut it when she has children herself,” Laura thought to herself as she turned her attention to the box again. She hoped that they hadn’t spent a lot of money. Tim could probably afford it, with his job at the computer company, but Jenna had precious little to spare from her waitress salary. She had been working at Miz Bee’s ever since she started college. With grad school coming up next year, it would be a long time before she’d be pulling in the kind of money that Tim did.

“C’mon, Mom!” the kids said. “Open it!”

She leaned over to touch the big box. The ribbon was red and had glitter glued to it. It was a huge bow, but then it was a huge box. The paper was silver. She had to save that to use on another gift later on in the year.

The kids were beside themselves in glee watching her agonizingly slow, methodical opening of the box. Remove the ribbon, roll it up and set aside. Put the bow on the table so it doesn’t get squashed. Paper must be folded to minimize creasing. They knew that all these would go into the big “gift wrapping” box under the bed in her room.

When all the wrapping had been taken care of, Laura carefully lifted one corner of the box.

“I don’t know why you’ve given me a gift now,” she laughed. “It’s not my birthday. It’s not Christmas.”

“We just thought this would be something you’d enjoy, Mom,” her children explained, wondering if she was ever going to open the damn box.

Laura’s heart dropped when she opened the box. There it sat. The thing she’d been fearing all these years. It was a computer. She had told her children over and over again that she didn’t need, didn’t want, would never use a computer. “Don’t ever get me a computer,” she had specifically said over and over again. “I don’t want one of those things in my house.” But they’d done it. They’d given her a computer. She knew they had spent a lot of money on it. She didn’t want to seem ungrateful, but she simply did not want that thing. She knew she would never be able to learn how to use it and she hated looking stupid.

“It’s...it’s...it’s a computer,” she finally gasped, not quite able to get out the words “thank you.”

“Now mom,” Tim said. “I know you said you didn’t want one, but really I think you’ll be surprised at how much you’ll like it when you learn how to use it. I’ll get it all set up for you and get you started on it before I leave.”

“All right, dear,” she smiled weakly, trying desperately to hide her disappointment and her frustration. “You do whatever you have to do with that th... with the computer... and I’ll get dinner ready.”

She left her children happily unwrapping boxes and cords and so much stuff that it scared her to even look at it. She went out to the kitchen to prepared dinner.

Her she was in her element. Laura had always been a wonderful cook and she loved to entertain. Nobody ever left Laura Webster’s house hungry, if she could help it. And she always tried to make a little extra for people to take home lunch the next day.

As she began chopping onions and slicing tomatoes for her famous chicken cacciatore she almost forgot that her children were in the other room fixing her computer for her. She went out to the garden to pick some fresh basil. None of that stuff that came in jars for her. Everything had to be fresh – the home grown tomatoes and fresh herbs made all the difference in the end product, Laura believed.

As the smells began to fill the house, Jenna came out to ask if she could help.

“It smells great, Mom” she said. “What can I do for you?”

Laura asked her to set the table. “Let’s use the good dishes tonight,” Jenna said. “It’s a special night; let’s celebrate.”

She went to the dish cabinet and pulled out the gold-rimmed dishes that had belonged to Laura’s godmother. They dated from the turn of the 20th century and Laura was so proud of them she wouldn’t let anybody wash them, and certainly would not put them in a dishwasher. In fact, she rarely used a dishwasher at all. She liked getting her hands in soapy water and liked the look of the dishes and glassware as she dried them.

Laura was not one for new-fangled contraptions. She liked doing things the old-fashioned way. Why, oh why had they given her that...that...thing. She would never use it. She hated it already.

“Call your brother for dinner will you, Jenna,” she said, her mouth set in that thin tight line she got when she was upset.


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