My family was hopeful that after the launch of my debut novel, things would return to normal. And ideally, I would have dropped everything and gone back to matching socks, if only my novel-in-progress had not been weighing on me like a term paper for a class I’d stopped attending. Since I was already short-listed for Space Cadet of The Year, and considering how little time remained before summer, it hardly seemed worthwhile to switch gears. If I could just take the momentum from my book launch and apply it to finishing next novel, I could be present for an earthling summer and sort socks in time for camp. Unfortunately, over the previous year I’d only demonstrated ability to focus on next novel while in solitary confinement, at least 450 miles from home. Sacrifices would be required to replicate the intensity. Earth would have to go.
I printed the existing draft and read it aloud, plunging deep into the world of my characters, maintaining an iron grip on the narrative line while my grasp of reality flirted with black holes. I solved literary problems while driving the car, but my passengers rolled their eyes as I passed destinations, again and again. I rallied for the dinner hour, but was no good for conversation, and relied on the puppy for homework patrol. At the very moment it seemed our household chaos could not possibly get worse, oldest son arrived home for the summer and unloaded a year’s worth of dorm life just inside the back door. He left a narrow path to the kitchen but that hardly mattered for obvious reasons.
For the record, I entered a grocery store during all this, but the minute I tossed the first item into my cart, a distressed text message originating from afterschool sports screamed: WHERE R U?? I had to ditch.
Yes, I managed to finish the novel, but for the first time in my life, I truly understand my late grandfather. I laughed at the absent-minded professor stories, but now I know why he backed out of the garage before opening the garage door and why he sometimes wore his pyjama bottoms to work. And I’m with him on driving to the university and taking the bus home. At the most distracted point of this episode, I hauled three teenagers out of bed for a very early morning obligation at church and then had to explain to them, and the assembly of church people whose morning I disrupted, that I was operating in a different week of the month. If they had flipped their calendars ahead one week they would have understood exactly where I was coming from, or where I was at that moment. Someday it will seem funny.
And then I reached the end. I pressed send, launching new novel through cyberspace and into my agent’s orbit. After a brief personal celebration, I reorganized The Sock Department of our Laundry Room, patronized three grocery stores, and relieved the puppy of command. At one point a teenager grumbled, “don’t you have a book to write?” It’s nice to be back.