Five days with a sick child, five days of physically wincing as he screamed, five days of holding him close to me and crying when it was just damn scary. Then he went back to school and I went back to work. As I walked into the office, I felt like I was floating down the hall. No one really asked about him, no one seemed to care. I was half-there myself, my mind stuck in an image of his flushed face and droopy eyes. The week before, I had made a decision: that I would write over lunch on my little MacAir, which I had thought I’d charged up. But no, dead. iPad in my husband’s car. Office laptop at home. I scrambled, looking for something, anything, that was powered up and ready for a trip to the coffee shop across the street.
Then I saw the three chapters I’d just given a new writer friend I made on Facebook. On paper.
Sunday night, we had sat in a face-off at a sushi restaurant downtown, after a packed reading by David Mitchell in a gorgeous theatre. I spoke off the top of my head, telling her the stylistic things I would avoid, the spoken thoughts that didn’t sound natural for a five-year-old narrator, and showing action rather than talking about it. She read her notes aloud to me, then explained them. “Try to give it a beginning, middle, and end. Describe what you look like. Don’t drop these bombs. Give me more.”
There they sat, the sixty pages I’d given her that she’d commented on. I took the whole stack with me across the street, ordered peppermint tea, and began to write–revising, changing words, adding pages of text. My tea grew cold as I forgot all about it and poured myself into the word. Forty-five minutes later, I walked back across the street and called the school to check on my son. He was going to be fine, and so was I.