two short stories; two snapshots in time
Welcome to all the new people who arrived here this week. I was humbled and pleasantly surprised to be mentioned by the Substack team in their latest Writer Office Hours.
Today, you’re getting two (very short) stories instead of one. The first is a flash memoir piece (<500 words) that was originally nearly a 4,000 word essay draft. The second, is an even shorter piece that was inspired by a podcast chat I had with Natalie Toren. She often writes about scent and taught a great class on sensory writing when I was in the On Deck Writers Fellowship.
Enjoy and thank you for being here.
As I wash my hands in the airport restroom, I glance up at the mirror, give myself a slight smile, and shake my head. I’m not sure if I want to laugh or cry.
My wife Allison and my fifteen-month-old daughter Em are waiting outside. We’re supposed to be flying home, but it’s not looking good, though our flight isn’t delayed or cancelled.
As I dry my hands, I see a father walk into the restroom with his son who looks to be two years old. It’s hard to imagine what Em will be like when she’s two. The father is irritated because his son isn’t cooperating. The boy is fixated on touching the countertops instead of walking straight back to the stall. It’s a mundane moment in this father’s life, one he likely won’t remember.
Twenty minutes ago, we were about to go through security when Em’s feeding tube came out. She has severe cerebral palsy and gets all of her nutrients and medications through a tube in her belly. I call it her first piercing. We laid her down on the floor at the back of the zig-zagging security line where I tried to put it back in several times, but to no avail. We’re waiting for the paramedics so they can help us get it back in. But, instead, I’m guessing we’ll be making yet another trip to an emergency room.
I daydream, wishing it could be like in the movies where they announce, “Is there a doctor in the building?” And then some strapping, George-Clooney-looking doctor would hear it as he’s handing his boarding pass to the agent. All he would have to do is pretend he didn’t hear and he could be on his way home. But he wouldn’t be able to live with himself if he didn’t do something. Instead, he would abandon his plans and rush to the scene. At first, he would struggle to put in Em’s tube, but just as we give up hope he succeeds—our savior. The crowd that had formed around us would erupt into applause. But wait, look at the time. We will miss our flight if we don't hurry. Our hero would pick up Em and we would run to our gate and narrowly make our flight. I would stop as I enter the jetway, slowly turn around, and give him a respectful nod.
But we’re not in a movie.
I look back to the frustrated father. To me, his son is amazing. He’s walking and touching and talking—all things Em can’t do and might never do. It’s incredible how fast children figure out how to do all these things; things most parents take for granted. There are their kids’ first steps and first words, of course. I’m sure those are exciting. But eventually, they become normal and occasionally even annoying.
I would give anything to be an annoyed father chasing Em while listening to her babble on and on.
Taking it all for granted.
My stepdaughter Sara is twelve going on sixteen. It's cliché to say, but she's truly growing up right before my eyes.
Her bedtime routine has bloated into a thirty minute ordeal, which includes a discordance of fragrances from washes, scrubs, spritzers, and whatever else she blew her twenty-dollar allowance on at the Dollar Tree.
She tops it off with a vanilla perfume that attaches itself to every surface in every room she walks in. My soda is now vanilla flavored. My popcorn? Salty, buttery, vanilla. Everything is vanilla. It's dripping from the walls. I thought vanilla was supposed to be bland. No, it's intoxicating and nauseating.
But now it's late and I must close my eyes and drift off to sleep. To dream of a place where vanilla is delicious ice cream and her perfume and makeup evaporate and she sheds years off her age. And we can go back to how it used to be when every room she walked in was only filled with her innocence.
Someone else’s words you should read
One of the coolest parts about writing online is connecting with other writers. I especially love writers who delve deep into the personal and explore what it all means.
She also mixes in other links, thoughts, and fun stuff. Check it out.
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