What to Do When Words Fail You

I have twenty minutes to write, about anything, anything at all, and therein lies the problem, the problem of too much choice. I like limits. I adore constraints. Now I’ve got 19 minutes and eight seconds. Shit. I suppose I could just type all the curse words I know, but then I suspect I’d have several minutes left on the clock and be left with an abject sense of failure. Because I pride myself on my vulgar vocabulary. I like to think of it as containing multitudes. I don’t want to discover it does not.

So, then, with 17 minutes and thirty-one seconds what shall I write about? People who have wronged me? Nah. Pets I have owned? Sure. That at least holds the promise of interest.

All the pets I’ve ever owned

  1. Sunshine the parakeet, purchased because my Christmas present was defective and I was “owed” a return gift by Santa.
  2. Kip, the rabbit. A replacement for Snowball, the rabbit. Snowball turned out to be a homicidal fluffy white bunny that would hiss and jump at you when you tried to return her to her cage. That rabbit was fucking terrifying. The people in the pet store looked at us like we were bonkers when we returned her. “Don’t worry, honey,” my Mom said. “Just wait until they reach into her cage to change her water.”
  3. Speedy I, II, and III. All painter turtles. The first, retrieved from the nearby pond by my patient and saintly mother. The second and third rescued from the road. All were returned to the pond at summer’s end.
  4. China, the feral white cat I co-owned her with my ex. She could fetch balls and bat at crumpled paper like a champ. She loved cantaloupe and the smell of BenGay drove her into a frenzy. She would come to me when I sang to her. She’d also swipe at you, when you’d least expect it, just to keep you on your toes. She got diabetes later in her life and it was an odd experience going to the local CVS to pick up her insulin. I’d always struggle to recall whose last name we’d used for her prescription.
  5. There were more animals: lots of animals. Coco, Zenith, and Alex, all dogs. Tigger, Ditto, Farrah, and Bixby, the cats. But they didn’t belong to me, but to other siblings. The same went for the bunnies and guinea pig that were my sister’s. Oh and her parakeet. I killed two of those pets but both were accidents and the result of a very small child not thinking things through. I’m not a monster.

Okay, I now have eight minutes and three seconds to repair the damage I’ve done to my reputation. Maybe I should make a list of all my good deeds? Except maybe that list wouldn’t take eight minutes to transcribe and maybe that would be even more depressing than the lack of swear words. Or maybe it wouldn’t, not to me. Which shows you exactly what type of person I am. Not doing myself any favors here.

What can I tell you that will possible improve upon the impression I’ve made thus far? I’m good at baking! Want a cookie? Or a cake? I can even make a homemade Pop Tart that is crazy tasty. This despite the fact that my first solo attempt at cooking resulted in such a badly scorched pan it had to be thrown away. The dish? Popcorn. Top tip: never tell a child to keep moving the popcorn pan back and forth across the oven burner until the popcorn stops popping. Because there are always stray kernels that pop toward the end. And said child will keep moving the pan back and forth as the pop, pop, pops continue until there is a thick cloud of black smoke in the kitchen.

Two minutes twenty-four seconds. The end is in sight. Don’t worry. This isn’t how I spend all or most of my time writing. It’s just that some days you sit down and words fail you. Or they seem to. And so you have to draw them out, one at a time, with lists, with memories, with half-assed justifications of your past behavior, with a prayer that the next time you sit down to tell a story, the words come quickly. And that they are the right words. Thirty-one seconds.

Tomorrow I will write something different, but I will probably curse at least once. That’s the way I am.

One second.



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