Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #447: Release

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Max Hollywood

He liked his own posts—
his favorite subject being himself—
even going so far as to
put sticky notes all over his mirror,
reminding himself of how awesome he was.
But when that face in the mirror went all Dorian Gray on him—
the mirror cracking when he smiled at it—
he was rewarded with 7 years of bad luck.
Then he had to rely on a world
that became blind to his male beauty,
but not to his bullshit.
His face,
his lucky charm,
was no longer a goldmine.
The women he’d collected like dolls,
or charms for a bracelet,
were released from his magnetic charm,
for the value of his sperm bank
had depreciated,
& so, like an aging movie star,
there were no new releases,
save the ones that he did himself.

http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/wednesday-poetry-prompts-447

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Summer Writing Mini-Workshop: Creative Writing Prompts

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Reimagine fairy tales, turning them into reality tales. https://sarahleastories.com/2016/02/02/writers-digest-wednesday-poetry-prompt-338-theme-stained/

If you enjoy writing poetry, but are, at heart, a storyteller, writing a verse novel is a way of satisfying both of those needs. I wrote my novel first, & am now in the process of creating a stand-alone verse book, which will be fashioned into a chapbook to market the novel. https://sarahleastories.com/2016/07/22/fiction-friday-micropoetry-based-on-the-book-2/

What we write doesn’t always have to be created from nothing. You can write about writing (analysis, book review, criticism, et cetera), or you can write about how a piece of cinematic art (especially one that is well-known because others who are fans of that art just might want to read what you have to say about it) made you feel. (And by cinematic art, if it has moved you deeply, it is art.) https://sarahleastories.com/2014/02/24/the-american-dream-in-black-&-white-&-living-color/

Write a sequel (perhaps even a grown-up one) to an existing children’s nursery rhyme. You just might create an entire series of flash fiction stories that would work—without the reader even knowing how they came about. https://sarahleastories.com/2016/04/22/poem-a-day-2016-writers-digest-challenge-21-theme-poem-that-responds-or-somehow-communicates-with-another-poem/

Art imitating life (or something like it) can be as inspirational as life itself. Try imitating the art that imitates life. https://sarahleastories.com/2015/10/27/writers-digest-wednesday-poetry-prompt-328-theme-movie-inspired-poem/

An ekphrastic poem is a “vivid description of a scene or, more commonly, a work of art. Through the imaginative act of narrating & reflecting on the action of a painting or sculpture, the poet may amplify & expand its meaning.” You already have the big picture (pun intended)—all you must do is fill in the details. Here’s an example: https://sarahleastories.com/2016/04/07/poem-a-day-2016-writers-digest-challenge-5-theme-ekphrastic/. Also, rather than write a movie review, write a poem about it. It still requires analysis on a deeper level, & you will be creating a piece of art. https://sarahleastories.com/2015/10/27/writers-digest-wednesday-poetry-prompt-328-theme-movie-inspired-poem/

 

Summer Writing Mini-Workshop: On Journaling

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Journaling is the purest, rawest form of writing.

If you don’t like the idea of a diary, create a journal for a fictional character. Get to know them, then write your story.

Live to live, not to record. Never let the magic of the moment be lost because you were too busy writing it all down.

I’m a scrapbooking collagist when it comes to journaling, meaning heavy on the photography & “graphic design,” & light on the writing. I’ve included newspaper clippings, greeting cards, event programs, badges (for example, my college press pass), & many more.

Always have a notebook (& pen) nearby: on the nightstand, in the glove compartment, in your purse/murse, etc. Ideas often come at the most inopportune times. It’s easier to keep up with several books rather than having to remember to always carry the same one around with you (unlike a cell phone).

Have a “theme” journal. Joe Brainerd did an “I remember” theme. https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/text/joe-brainard-i-remember. I am doing a “Precious Moments” book for my daughter. Other ideas would be “What if?” (my favorite poetry subject), “If only,” &, in the spirit of Tom T. Hall, “I Love.”

Start a reading journal (this is best for poetry). Unlike a book review, which analyzes the text with a critical eye, a poetry reading journal is about what the text means to you.
Journaling isn’t just about the product, but the process. If you focus too much on the product, you’re editing, not writing.

In the Irish film, The Secret Scripture, the main character has a Bible in which she keeps her journal, writing in between the lines, in the margins, et cetera. You can do this with any book that profoundly affects you.

Though there’s something intrinsically beautiful about a handwritten journal, don’t feel you have to write your journal by hand. (Better to keep a digital journal than no journal.) There are many journaling apps online. Think about it. Most of already journal every day, whether it be through Facebook, Instagram, our Shutterfly Share site, WordPress blog, etc., though hopefully, we’re not posting our deepest, darkest thoughts—that should be between you & your journal, whether on paper or paperless.

 

Summer Writing Mini-Workshop: Creative Writing Prompts

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Writing prompts are a wonderful way to break through writer’s block. When I find myself stuck on a piece, I put it away & work on something else. This was one of the most interesting prompts I ever worked through, & my favorite from when I took a college level creative writing course. https://sarahleastories.com/2016/01/18/writing-prompt-the-desert-inside-of-us/

Many of us remember where we were when something big happened. Use that event as a framework to build your narrative. https://sarahleastories.com/2017/08/23/writers-digest-wednesday-poetry-prompt-407-big-event/

Posts about chocolate are always well-received. Just be sure to package it nicely, like any box of assorted truffles. https://sarahleastories.com/2015/11/19/poem-a-day-writers-digest-challenge-17-theme-ode-to-a-blank-or-blank-is-for-the-birds/
Give your community the “City Confidential” treatment. Like people, places have quirks. https://sarahleastories.com/2017/06/15/writers-digest-wednesday-poetry-prompt-397-land-of-blank/

If you find yourself stuck, make a list of things that come in sevens (the Seven Wonders of the Modern or Ancient Worlds, the seven dwarves, even the seven years of bad luck you’re supposed to get if you break a mirror) & write a poem (or group of short poems) based on the subject you choose. https://sarahleastories.com/2014/03/07/the-seven-wonders-of-hannah-an-exercise-in-non-rhyming-poetry/

Pick four related words, & write a riddle poem. Try using the following words: everything, nothing, something, & anything. See what you come up with. (You just might come up with as many different poems as there are Sonic beverage flavors.) https://sarahleastories.com/2017/01/19/writers-digest-wednesday-poetry-prompt-380-theme-nothing-better/

Childhood memories are some of the most vibrant. Think of something you loved as a child (a toy, a book, a game, et cetera), & write about it. You can make a favorite stuffed animal come to life, write a grown-up follow-up of a beloved book character, or a reimagined backstory of a game. Most importantly, just have fun with it. https://sarahleastories.com/2015/05/01/poem-a-day-writers-digest-challenge-30-theme-bury-the-blank/

 

Writing prompt: The symbols of your life

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I wish I could take credit for this idea, but my Contemporary Literature professor last semester asked us to examine our life as a literary text–to search for symbols.

My name is Sarah Lea, which is symbolic of my love for baking, as well as a nod to my playful nature (when it comes to writing, anyway).  And though I’m not generally a fan of Urban Dictionary, I rather love the definition they attributed to my name:  https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Sarah-Lea

As for the things I carry, well, that always includes a tube of Revlon’s “Love is On” lipstick (symbolizing my love for anything red or retro), a pair of tweezers, and a flosser.  (There will never be a hair on my chinny-chin-chin.

In the pocket of my red purse (which my husband helped me win at a “Dirty Santa” party), I keep a USB drive, which represents my love for compact, but tangible things (verses saving everything to a mysterious “cloud”). It’s why I read physical books and not e-books. It’s why I write articles for the print version of The Corsair and not for the web (unless they ask me to or shove a story I wrote for the print edition online because they “ran out of room”).

For me, there is something more permanent and prestigious about print. It cannot be edited once it’s been printed (like an online article) and it looks so much better in a scrapbook.

A brand-new suitcase, now several years old, reveals that I never have enough money to travel, but that I hope to someday. The fact that it exists at all is optimistic, which I attribute to my Pollyannish nature. For now, the case is a storage space for my out-of-season (or “when I am skinny again”) clothes, which forecasts that a trip to Iceland or Australia (or Skinnyville) won’t be happening any time soon.

So analyze (or psychoanalyze) the symbols that make up the text that is your life.  You just might learn something new about yourself.

15 Blogging Prompts

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Bloggers, have “theme days” or regular “feature articles”.  It will help you stay on track, as it’s easier to write a continuing series than a stand-alone piece every single time; this will also help you blog purposefully, rather than simply posting whenever inspiration sparks (as inspiration doesn’t always happen on a regular basis).  Serious bloggers should blog at least twice a week, or no less than once, and preferably on the same days.  Make your own deadlines, and meet them.

If you’re not on a regular blog schedule yet (which I highly recommend) with “themes” filling in the slots on certain days, here are some blogging prompts to get you started:

1.Query letters:  I believe these are an art form in & of themselves, and should serve as an appetizer to the main work.  https://sarahleastories.com/2014/01/17/query-letter-to-missouri-life-magazine/

2.Rejection letters:  The good, the bad, and the funny.  https://sarahleastories.com/2014/05/08/an-interesting-rejection-letter/

3.Book reviews:  Analyzing a book and articulating why you liked (or didn’t like) it strengthens your critical thinking skills, which helps you become a better writer.  A well-written book review can often be as entertaining as the book.  If you’re praising the book, try to “sell it”; if you’re not, then state exactly why you didn’t like it. “It sucked”, or “it was stupid”, will never suffice.  Beware of spoilers—think of a book review as a movie trailer.  Whet the appetite, but don’t satisfy it.  https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/30181323-sarah-lea-stories.

4.”Blog your book”.  That said, don’t post 1000-word chapters at a time.  300 (or less) is perfect.  For a 60K word book, at 300 words per post, you will generate more than 260 posts, which you could stretch out over two years time.  However, read this (http://www.rachellegardner.com/should-you-blog-your-novel/) before doing that.

5.Author tribute.  This is different than a book review in that it “reviews” an author’s entire body of work.  As great as it is to find a good book, it’s even greater to find a good author and read everything they’ve read (as many authors are hit-and-miss).

6.Take something cute (or not) & turn it into something dark & sometimes inappropriately funny:  https://sarahleastories.com/2014/02/12/linsey-gordon-had-a-hatchet/

7.Haiku, limerick, or even a 6-word story with a stunning photograph; posts don’t have to be long, just good.  (A great suggestion I once read is that the first two lines of a 3-line poem should be opposites, and the last line should be a surprise that ties the two opposites together in a surprising or unexpected way.)  I often like to do short pieces in series of 3:  https://sarahleastories.com/2014/03/02/nonet-poems-my-geography/

8.Short, personal essay (300 words):  Myslexia (https://mslexia.co.uk/nonfiction/) does this using the ABC’s, which I thought a cute idea.  It’s easier to mine your life for material when it doesn’t have to be a full-length piece.

9.Writing tips:  I share these on my Facebook page Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday:  https://www.facebook.com/sarahleastories/?fref=ts

10.Writing prompts:  I appreciate these, as they are ideal for freewriting practice.  https://sarahleastories.com/2016/03/06/writing-prompt-the-memoirs-of-others/

11.Writing products you like (software, pens, free Kindle books, etc.): https://sarahleastories.com/2016/02/06/5-really-cool-things-about-kindle/

12.Favorite writing blogs (or Twitter accounts).  Mine are (so far):  https://twitter.com/WriterlyTweets, https://twitter.com/GHowellWhite1,  https://twitter.com/tablopublishing, https://twitter.com/writerswrite, https://twitter.com/Grammarly, https://twitter.com/AgathaChocolats, https://twitter.com/WritersDigest

13.Life Lessons:  A list of 10 life lessons (serious or silly) you have learned.  I consider this a “column piece”.  These are so “notebookable”.

14.How-To Article:  Did you know Microsoft Word can “grade your work”?:  https://sarahleastories.com/2015/03/20/writing-tips/

15.One Book, Many Forms.  Every Friday, I post a set of #novelines or #micropoetry from my book  (https://twitter.com/KatrynNolan).  Not every noveline is a true noveline because of Twitter’s character limitations, and the micropoetry is brand new–all of which I am going to repurpose into a pocket book called “Mormons on the Beach”, as part of my book promotion package.  Though you should always keep at least half of what you write under lock and key (until you become Stephen King and can charge for it all), make sure everything you put out there is your best work.

And here is 40 more from an author who has great content and isn’t just all about selling her books:  http://writerswrite.co.za/40-types-of-content-that-will-make-your-life-easier

 

Poem-a-Day 2016 Writer’s Digest Challenge #4. Theme: Distance

Years ago, I wrote an epic poem for the Gulf Coast “Let’s Write!” literary contest, winning first place in the fiction category.  I’d gotten the idea from my English teacher, who was doing a Greek mythology-themed class for the year.  (We even had to wear togas while reading Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”.)  It was with much glee that I shared my good news with that teacher, who had given me a C on the poem.  “Too creative,” had been her justification.

If I can ever find a copy of “Nova”, I will post it on here, but the story I am sharing today was a piece I submitted to the L. Ron Hubbard’s “Writer of the Future” contest.  (L. Ron was the founder of Scientology.)  I entered the contest because it was free (free writing contests are like the Holy Grail of writing contests), and because I had a story I’d written that was too long for the Gulf Coast contest.

I’d just read the notorious short story, “The Lottery”, by Shirley Jackson (which I found more interesting than good), and had just written an essay for my “Health Care Law” class on a controversial news story that even the Pope chimed in on.

I’ve always said I’d never like to go into the future—the unknown is always more frightening than the known—yet neither would I want travel into the past, because I might alter my future (the movie, “About Time”, is great on this).  I’d rather be able to travel over distance…to be able to wrinkle my nose like Samantha Stephens (I always thought the ph should have been a v—it looks cleaner), and pop, I’m in Iceland or Australia.  The future of science and medicine, of technology, of food, and even social relationships, has always fascinated me.

Because I do enter so many contests, and submit without ceasing, I do find myself occasionally having to somewhat “mine” content from other works, like turning a short story into a poem, a chapter of a book into a stand-alone short story, etc.  Sometimes the new piece will take a completely different direction, which is always fun and exciting, not to mention rewarding, because it means you have created something new.

And so, here is my poem (based on the short story below it):

A Glimpse into The Distant Future

For whosoever needed a part,
be it a kidney, a lung, or a heart,
could have it for a price–
even as Jesus had bought
our whole beings with such–
the price a lottery ticket.

For those who needed blood,
with its magical properties
(for had not the blood of Jesus
once shed grace on Thee?),
the United Nations Blood Bank
had become a place of withdrawal for the rich,
of deposit for the poor.

http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/2016-april-pad-challenge-day-4

~

The New Lottery

“I bought you a ticket,” Julie said.  She handed Jenna, her eleven-year-old daughter, the pink slip.  It was the color of the flamingo, signifying Florida, though neither had ever seen one in Pensacola, or L.A. (Lower Alabama), as the natives called it).  Pensacola was more Florabama than true Florida.  However, it was warm year round; if one wanted snow, they had to go to Canada now, as snow no longer fell in the United States.

“Thanks, Mom,” Jenna said, trying not to get her hopes up—all the while thinking that winning this lottery would buy her heart’s desire.  She had never had the opportunity to go to Disneyworld.  Maybe if she won, she would get the chance.  Though many of the rides of the past had been banned because of safety issues, she’d heard the simulations were just as good.

Julie smiled a smile she didn’t feel.  So many were in need out there, so what good did it do to pray to the gods, except make the praying person feel better, give them some peace—a semblance of control over the Fates?  Even the Greek gods and goddesses of ancient times could only do so much—they couldn’t control Fate.

If she held the winning ticket, her daughter would have so many opportunities that were closed to her now.  She would be able to go to the gifted Common Core school, she would be able to have a dog, she would be able to eat a banana—a rare fruit which only the very rich enjoyed.  Preceding the Great Blight, her Cajun grandmother, in lieu of a cake, would make Bananas Foster every year for her birthday.  Even though Banana #5 had been created by AgriTech as an addition to tofu, it lacked the subtlety of the original fruit.  Though Banana #5 didn’t go bad for months, it could not compare to the creamy bananas of Julie’s childhood.

“Do you mind if I go for a walk?”  It wasn’t even close to midnight, so she wouldn’t be breaking curfew.  She rarely left her daughter alone, but she needed this time to herself.
“No, Mom, go ahead, I’ll be fine.”

Julie smiled, and walked outside, where the breeze from the Gulf commingling with the humidity made it damn near unbearable.  At least she didn’t have to worry about getting the flu.  There had been a monstrous epidemic ten years ago in which about two percent of the population had died, but now everyone was vaccinated, except for the few thousand who lived off the grid in the mountains of West Virginia.  Not exactly a mass exodus.  All the children there were homeschooled, for they weren’t allowed to remain in civilized society, and neither did they receive any benefits from the State.  Julie wasn’t sure how they were able to survive without Food Vouchers or modern healthcare.  They even supposedly drank milk from a cow, which she found rather distasteful.

As she walked, the soft soles of her shoes a dull thud on the sidewalk, she realized she was grateful for her life.  Cameras everywhere recorded her every move, and she felt completely safe walking the streets, even at this late hour.  The streetlights made it almost as bright as day.  Humankind had come a long way, banishing the darkness from the night.  It was a wonder those vagabonds up in the hills hadn’t died off by now.

So many diseases had been eradicated, and cancer was becoming rarer since sugar had been banned.  She remembered looking at pictures of people in modern history books, and thinking how strange it was that people had gotten that large.  Sugar was still traded on the black market, but if you got sick, you were found out.  She just didn’t understand people who wouldn’t follow the law, for whatever reason.

Julie was feeling particularly melancholy tonight, and it didn’t help that she didn’t have a lot of friends.  Jenna took up most of her time, but she did have one:  Bethany Douglas—a woman seven years younger than she, with whom she’d become acquainted at the Standardized Testing Center.  They both volunteered there as their contribution to society, helping children get placed in their respective fields so they could start training for the workforce as soon as possible.

Bethany had a rare form of brain cancer, possibly inoperable.  She had insurance like everyone else in the country, as it was against the law to be without, for all the good it had done her.  If only her parents had gone for genetic testing, Bethany’s life of suffering, her life itself, could have been prevented.

She passed Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church, its stained-glass windows radiating from the inside.  People still gathered to worship their God there, for mention of Him could not be made in public.  It was considered a form of indoctrination, and anyone who was caught uttering the name of God outside the meetinghouses and the privacy of their homes would have to pay a fine for crossing the line between separation of Church and State.

A couple of drones flew by with packages.  John had surprised her with a Sphere just last week.  She’d been taking care of Jenna for so long that she no longer bought anything for herself.  The Sphere, though it hadn’t made her forget the reality of Jenna’s situation, had at least taken her mind off of it.

The Sphere was a new invention.  She could experience being at the beach, as it used to be, before the last oil spill, when all the seashells had turned black.  That had ended the use of fossil fuels, and the world had plummeted into a deep depression, until the State and the Clean Earth Police had taken over.  Through the Sphere, she could stand under the waterfalls of Niagara Falls, look over the edge of the Grand Canyon, and even experience Mars, which had become a popular tourist destination.

She thought about all these things, and then suddenly, she was at Bethany’s door.  She often went on auto-pilot like this.  Her mind always checked out when she was alone.

Bethany answered, the swelling in her face from numerous pain medications distorting her delicate features.  “Julie, how nice to see you.”  Bethany’s spirit, even while staring into the face of the Unknown after death, always lifted Julie’s spirits.

It was strange being in a house owned by someone other than the State.  Private property such as real estate was a thing of the past.  Some government rentals were better than others, but always, those in power lived in the plush ones outside the Centre.  Bethany’s family had owned the house for over two hundred years, but the taxes on it were becoming burdensome.

Bethany’s house was homey, and Julie loved being there.  There was even a fireplace in the living room, though no one used them anymore because of the pollution they caused.  However, Bethany always had several soy candles burning in the hearth.  There were no books or magazines to be found—Julie had held only a few books in her lifetime.  The idea of flipping a page rather than scrolling down was foreign to her.  There were no pencils or pens—only the Artists employed by the National Endowment of the Arts League used such tools.  Her eye caught sight of a pink ticket, and Julie looked at her friend in askance.

“I want you to have it,” Bethany said, catching her eye.

“But that’s not allowed.  The State keeps track of all that.”

“There are exemptions.  If you and John divorce before the lottery is called, then he is no longer part of the household.  I got it in his name.  That way, you have two chances.”
Julie noticed all the drapes were drawn.  There was no way a drone could be spying on them right now, though she had seen a few fly by on the way.

“I will tell John.”

Bethany nodded.  “There isn’t much time.  I want to teach Jenna the Art.”

Though the State had done away with teaching cursive writing fifty years ago, one scribe was allowed per district, and Bethany was it.

“Jenna can take over for me when I go,” Bethany said, “instead of someday working in that solar plant, like John.  Of course, he’s doing the greater good.  You know, Julie, I wonder what life used to be like, when art was so spontaneous, and everyone did it.  Seems strange, doesn’t it, that just anyone could be an artist.  Disposable art.  Now it means something when you’re an artist.”

“I suppose,” Julie said, having once thought she’d like to be an artist herself.  She had never pursued it, because it wasn’t one of the approved majors at the University.  Medicine, science, technology, engineering, education, mathematics, and business were the Magnificent Seven.

Julie stayed for awhile, and they chatted over slices of square watermelon and seltzer.  “I wanted a child, too,” Bethany murmured.  “I’d thought about applying for a special dispensation, but there’s enough people in the world, I suppose.”

“Depends on who the donors are,” Julie said, and Bethany smiled.  They were thinking of Dana Kimberly, who had hosted a sperm-donor party, and ended up picking some loser’s because he was the only one she wanted to do it the natural way with.  The child had turned out to be subpar.  People just never learned.

Peace radiated from Bethany, and Julie marveled that someone who seemed so alive could be dying on the inside.  Perhaps dying with dignity did that for people.  Since it had become legal in all fifty-seven states, there was no more undignified dying.  Cases in which people chose to wither away in hospices, which were becoming increasingly uncommon, were rare.  Birth with dignity had only been around the last twenty years.  Women didn’t scream like some primitive animal when they had babies—they were grown in artificial wombs.  Women could watch their babies grow like a flower in a vase.  They had true reproductive freedom now.

The world had become a more civilized one.  Abortion had been done away with.  A woman who didn’t want a baby growing inside her didn’t have to have it anymore—she gave away rights to her embryo, though there were a militant few who didn’t want their biological child running around, and so there were places to go for that, though it was a punishable offense.  It was considered a crime against humanity, and treason against the nation’s future, for the fewer lowly beings being born, the fewer there would be to serve as soldiers in the armed forces and do manual labor.

“Knowing that I’m going to die free of pain and indignity has helped me enjoy what time I have left here on this beautiful Earth,” Bethany had said after her last, unsuccessful operation.  “It is my duty not to be a burden to my family.”

Just then, Adam, Bethany’s husband, came home, followed by Gus and Charlie Solarski.  “Hi, kid,” he said, giving Bethany a kiss on the forehead.  It was ironic that marriage equality, which was now free to anyone who wanted to marry, had become rarer than ever.  Gus and Charlie, two male nurses Bethany had met at the hospital, were exceptions, which made them rebels.

The only time Julie had been a rebel was to have a child the natural way, which insurance no longer paid for.  She’d trusted her Catholic faith that suffering brought one closer to Jesus, but it hadn’t, and so she’d left her childhood faith forever.

Adam went to the kitchen to place their dinner delivery orders while they polished off the rest of their seedless, and somewhat tasteless, watermelon.  Watermelons used to have seeds, her grandmother had told her, and how fun it had been spitting them out, but Julie wasn’t so sure.  Why should food be such a chore to eat?

“You know Jenna represents the little girl I’ll never have,” Bethany said as soon as Adam was out of earshot, “but that wasn’t the only reason I bought the ticket.  I also bought it out of love for both you and John.  I needed you to know that.”

Julie’s eyes misted.  She held Bethany’s hand and whispered, “Thank you.”  It didn’t matter that John and Bethany had once been very much in love.  They had shared a defective chromosome that would have resulted in a child born with a terminal illness; their marriage hadn’t been allowed because they hadn’t agreed to sterilization.  They had wanted children more than each other, and Julie had always felt bad for Bethany, for she had neither John nor children.  She could’ve chosen to be bitter, but she had chosen to fall in love with another.

“Do you love me like you loved Bethany?” Julie had often asked her husband.

“More.  Because you are the mother of my child.”

Children had become so precious—a commodity.  Even their little parts were precious.  One baby heart (from a defective fetus) could save the body of a great mind, a baby liver, the life of a productive laborer.

No, nothing was wasted.  Everything was reused, recycled, upcycled, and given new life.  Even the embryos and fetuses who didn’t make it were put to good use in the labs.  The American nation was thriving.  As this brave new world became more familiar, memories of what used to be faded into a silent spring.

 

When Julie got back, Jenna was resting comfortably.  She kissed her little girl’s forehead—her miracle child, she called her.  Most of the defective genes had died out, and the few babies born with Down’s Syndrome now were seen as strange little creatures, but they did make good laborers.  Everyone had a purpose in this life—it was a purpose-driven life.

A tear fell from her cheek onto the lavender coverlet.  Jenna had been a perfect baby, but Julie feared she would never fulfill her potential.

 

The weeks passed.

Jenna couldn’t attend Bethany’s slipping ceremony, but John and Julie were there, along with her husband Adam, and a few other close friends, as well as Bethany’s stepmother, who had raised her, her father, and half-sister.  Her father displayed pictures of Bethany as she grew up, with music by Damon Krauss playing in the background.  It was a celebration of her life, and a wonderful send-off to the life beyond.

It was a peaceful transition.  Bethany had called Julie to her and in her hand was the ticket.  “Did you get the divorce?” she whispered.

“Yes,” she said.  She and John had decided it was the right thing to do, and it had taken all of an hour online, where most pastors and government officials resided.  Julie couldn’t help the niggling thought that Bethany, in the end, had separated her from John.

She and John walked home together.  Few cars passed them.  Not many people could afford the kind of cars that were around today, but the world was much safer than it had been when cars powered by gasoline were everywhere.

“Do you ever ask if you’re happy, John?” Julie said as they walked arm in arm.

He was quiet for a minute, and Julie assumed he wasn’t going to answer, but then he spoke up.  “I don’t like to think about it.  Somehow, it makes me feel less happy.”

Julie nodded.  Somehow, she understood.  If anyone was her soul-mate, John was, and somehow, being divorced from him felt wrong, even though they were doing it for their daughter.

“If being at peace is being happy, then I am that…like Bethany,” she said, and John broke down then.  They grieved together, and in so doing, it brought them closer.

“I wish I could’ve been there,” Jenna said when her parents came into her room that night.

Julie ran her fingers through her daughter’s fine hair—hair that was like fairy wings and angel dust, like starlight and moonshine.  At least that was how Bethany had put it.  She had always tried to inject a little magic into Jenna’s too-realistic life.  “Bethany understood.  Bethany always understands,” she told her daughter as she drew her into her arms.

 

Three weeks passed, and then the winning number was called on the big screen in the Towne Square.  The President was in charge of calling for each of the states.  John and Julie held each other, holding their breaths, knowing their daughter was watching from her room.

When John and Julie Esh returned to Jenna’s bed, John was behind her as Julie told her, with tears in her eyes, “You won, Jenna.  You’re going to get a new heart.”