- by Emilie Richards
I spent last week searching for hidden objects. What time I didn’t spend with nose to ground–a skill I learned from the local beagle–I spent watching half the appliances in my house fall apart. Ah, some people look for signs of changing seasons, colored leaves gently drifting to the ground, that first tracing of frost on window panes. Novelists see the changing seasons of their deadlines in all the signs around them.
I am “this” close to finishing my latest novel. Even if I didn’t know that because I’m the author, I would be able to tell just by looking at the state of my house.
First sign: Nothing has been put in its proper place for months. That’s right. Months. Things have been “straightened” at least a little, but the time to get them where they really go? Could I afford that when there were sentences to rework, plot threads to tie up, characters to admonish? So things ended up in, well, for lack of a better term, deadline purgatory, that temporary abode where they don’t quite fit and sometimes, prayer is needed to get them where they really belong.
You think I’m kidding? My favorite black pants, which needed to go with me to the Novelists Inc. conference in my hometown of St. Pete? I actually cleaned out my closet–at least the floor–looking for them, along with the “other” slipper to a pair I like best. Floor clean now, slipper still missing. The pants, however, eventually turned up in my husband’s closet, put there, most likely, by the infamous pants gremlin who sneaks in and rearranges clothing when we aren’t looking. And when we’re on deadline? He comes twice as often.
The slipper is still on my Most Wanted list–likely a product of the Nemo gremlin–but the Turkish cookbook with the recipe for lentil soup I’d planned to make last night? Not on my cookbook shelf. Not on my overflow cookbook shelf. Not on my desk, not on coffee tables, not beside or under my bed. Not on the sun porch. And the other recipe for lentil soup that I wanted to try? Folded neatly in, you guessed it, my Turkish cookbook. Both finally turned up on my dining room table when there was no longer enough time to make soup.
Second sign: Although we’ve been home from our summer cottage for a month, many of the things we brought back with us haven’t yet been integrated. Two jars of everything in my refrigerator, when one would do nicely. Clothes still to go to the dry cleaners. Magazines and mail yet to go through. Last night I found a $100 coupon to try Google ads, but it was three days over the deadline. Ah well, who had time anyway?
Third sign: As if to say stop ignoring me in favor of the women of Happiness Key, yesterday my garbage disposal died. The cheese drawer in my refrigerator flips down the moment the door is opened, as if my poor overcrowded fridge is sticking out its tongue. The VCR? Please! Does anybody’s VCR actually work? Apparently, since we allowed TIVO, which also died recently, the major place in our hearts, VCR has no intention of being cajoled back into favor. Even a brand new package of tapes didn’t help. Okay, too busy to shop I snatched them from a neighbor’s garbage, but they were still wrapped. How did my VCR know?
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but one of the finest things about sending off a book? Cleaning my house. Making peace with my appliances again. Locating the missing. I am sure, as my reward, my slipper will reappear with only a few teeth marks, my microwave will not give up the ghost, and those dust bunnies who’ve acquired names and personalities, will happily hop off to that great briar patch in the sky.
May all that happen soon. Otherwise, the next time I start a book I won’t be able to find my computer. Could we blame it for hiding?