A strong breeze rushes through the window I left open and flutters the papers in my hands. The ceiling fan spins and hums above me like a baby’s butterfly mobile. I can’t keep my eyes open. Did an invisible elephant land on my eyelids? I’m so . . .
“So what do you think?” Meg’s voice jolts me awake.
What do I say since I haven’t finished the first page in—what time is it? Oh no, thirty minutes. My wife will be insulted if I tell her I fell asleep. Why does she always ask me to critique her stories the minute I walk in the door? I’ve been editing all day—my eyes need a break.
“Nice. I like the part when, umm . . .”
Meg interrupts. “Jason, tell me . . .you didn’t read it yet, did you?”
“Well, not exactly.”
“Please tell me you didn’t fall asleep. I thought you’d like this one.”
I tilt my head and avert my eyes like our puppy sorry for chewing the sofa. “It’s not you, it’s me.”
“Heard that one before.” She folds her arms tighter. Locking me out.
I better fix this or I’ll be sleeping on that chewed sofa alone tonight and eating pickles for breakfast like the last time I gave her an “honest” critique.
“I’m tired from work, honey, but I really do want to read your story. Give me five more minutes.” I kiss her beautiful strawberry lips that happen to be pouting at the moment.
“Okay. I’ll fold this laundry while you read.”
I reread the first paragraph . . . blanket of leaves . . . dew like diamonds . . . chattering birds . . .
Description, description, and more description. No wonder I fell asleep. I’ll need a gentle way to tell Meg she needs a better opening.
I keep reading . . . Katarina’s thoughts drifted in the wind. She remembered when they met. He was just . . .
Terrible name and where’s the depth of character? I feel eyes staring at me from behind a folding towel.
“Are you watching me read?”
“Of course not. Just folding.”
He was fifteen, the cutest lifeguard she ever met. . .
Not very original. Meg is going to hate my critique. I should get my pillow and head to the couch now.
. . . Katarina stared at him discreetly through dark sunglasses. He was writing something in a notebook. “Shouldn’t he be watching the kids in the ocean? Or saving lives? What could he be writing that’s so important?” She asked her friend, Tara, as they both slathered lotion on their legs.
Tara slumped back in her beach chair. “Go ask him.”
“You don’t think I will, do you?”
“Not in a million years.”
Katarina dusted sticky sand off her hands and ambled over to the lifeguard mound . . .
Not much of a plot.
. . . Every day that summer, after boldly introducing herself, Katarina sat with Kenny on the mound as he wrote his first novel. She loved to listen to him read out loud. . .
Sounds familiar. I hate when she uses us as her inspiration. Too obvious and corny.
After they married, Katarina began writing. She felt connected to Kenny whenever he read her stories as if he was reading her deepest secrets. She didn’t like his critiques, but knew she needed to listen to his advice to become a better writer. She only served pickles for breakfast once after a bad critique, or maybe twice. . .
Too much telling.
. . . Katarina’s heart pounded as she waited for Kenny to read her latest story. She had a surprise ending written just for him. . .
Finally, I’m curious. Meg needs to work on pacing her stories.
. . . In nine months you will be more than a writer. You will be a daddy, Kenny. And you too, Jason.
I feel her eyes again and peek over the papers, shaking again in my hands. “Do you mean that I, that we are—“
“See for yourself.” Meg holds a plastic thermometer shaped thing with a pink dot in the middle.
“I love you.” I caress her flat belly. “Want to know what I think of your story?”
“Mmm hmmm.” Tears wet her cheeks as she nods.
“I love the ending!”
Meg smiles. We’ll have pancakes tomorrow, for sure.
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