Monday, May 19, 2014

Derailed Deadlines

by H. Linn Murphy

Luce sat at her desk, unprepared and oblivious to the encroaching deadline. She had an article due but hadn't thought about it in a couple of months, having buried herself under a mountainous pile of work she couldn't shuck off.

Her helium hand was continuously getting her in trouble, until she barely had time to deal with her own manuscript. She offered to drive for school field trips, bake cookies for an end-of-the-year choir party, sew costumes for the last school play for her high school senior, teach five hundred cub scouts how to paint, organize and execute a family dinner for battling siblings, and do the accounting for the family's nearly due taxes, among a thousand other tasks. Cinderella had nothing on Luce Lamont.

Luce ran her fingers through her shaggy up-do and looked up from the pile of receipts, realizing she hadn't done anything on her own manuscript in weeks. The taxes were driving her insane, she'd sewed the arm on her daughter's princess costume on backwards, that evil carbon smell was eking out of the oven again and she smelled like a longshoreman.

"Forget this!" she thundered. "I'm going back to my book!" She slapped on her blinders and prepared to spin the threads of her story into the Great American Novel.

But it didn't come.

She sat there staring at the monitor detesting her book for its recalcitrance. Why couldn't it be the one thing in her life to fall gently and easily into place? She glanced up at her calendar.

Then she saw it.

She had a deadline, which was nearly past.

Luce banged her head into her keyboard, causing several of the buttons to pop off and fling behind the adjacent armchair and bookcase. She just stopped herself from swearing and crouched down to try and find the errant buttons. Why did everything have to crash down on her at once? And when had she gotten so allergic to calendars and marking things on them?

She felt like a magician. Someone had asked her to pull a rabbit out of her top hat and then stomped all over it until it was a puddle of black silk. How was she supposed to do it with all the other obligations she had nipping at her heels?

She finally put her head down and began to pour out her heart in prayer, her troubles flooding out in a cathartic rush.

At the end of it all, the words fell into line like tiny black soldiers.

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