The Saturday Evening Post’s Great American Fiction contest

Just submitted “Love in the Time of Corona” to The Saturday Evening Post’s Great American Fiction Contest. I originally wrote this as a memoir for my independent study at university and decided to convert it into a short story (not that my life isn’t awesome, but I wanted to use a little creative license). Each section is separated with a little poem; here is the first:

A wife, a widow, & a divorcee walk into a bar,
or, more likely, a restaurant,
because the wife isn’t looking,
the widow isn’t interested,
& the divorcee isn’t impressed.

The Year of the Tigress

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions; I prefer to look back at last year’s accomplishments. Maybe that’s because doing something motivates me more than planning to do something. One of the hardest things I did was kick the soda habit (this Coca-Colaholic hasn’t had a drink for months). I checked my blood sugar this morning for the first time in almost a year, and it was where it should be. My dad has diabetes, his mom had it, and her mom had it. My mom kicked cancer’s ass twice, so I can do the same with diabetes (or rather, preventing it). Fighting genetics isn’t fun, but I am doing it with the same determination I put into math classes, homeschooling, and my current gigs (I freelance for a living). Since giving up soda, I have found that I crave sweets less. Just a few bites of something sweet after dinner (I even gave up the sweet thing I used to have with my morning coffee), and that’s all I really want. So, how did this Coca-Colaholic give up soda? When I was carrying my second child, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. Suddenly, because my habit no longer affected just me but someone else, I found the motivation to give up my Mexican Coca-Cola. Even after having my daughter, I had become accustomed to drinking sparkling water. When I tried drinking soda again, it still tasted great, but the cravings were gone. My next goal: getting used to unsweetened coffee (but Milo’s iced tea with Stevia stays).

Dear Amelia

“Dear Amelia” was published in the summer 2021 issue of Bella Grace magazine.

Dear Amelia,
You have made me appreciate red wine,
pink champagne,
and the true spirits of tomato and orange juice
more than ever.

Dear Amelia,
Thank you for giving me an excuse
to take naps in the middle of the day
and for making me take the spring semester off;
I didn’t want to take those lit classes anyway.

Dear Amelia,
You have given me an outie
where there used to be an innie,
and it’s weird.

Dear Amelia,
Thank you for giving me a reason to replace
The Very Hungry Caterpillar
and the excuse to reread it;
to play peek-a-boo,
to teach you baby sign language,
to cut up the moon for you,
to show you that you don’t have to do it all
to have it all,
to show you that you can do anything a boy can do
(but that you don’t have to),
and to tell you about the people I wish you could know
and who I wish could know you.

Dear Amelia,
You have kicked me when I am down
(for the night),
but I don’t mind,
for it lets me know you are still there.

Dear Amelia,
Thank you for showing me how much
I can love someone I’ve never met
but know is there—
who I love even more than I love myself
(and that’s a lot!).

Dear Amelia,
You took your sweet time getting here,
yet you came at seemingly the perfect time,
for who I am now
is better than who I’ve ever been.

Dear Amelia,
Thank you for giving me another chance to do this . . . all over again.

Dear Amelia,
It took a while to get your name just right,
but know that what we chose to call you
was not to honor anyone but you.

Dear Amelia,
Thank you for coming to be a sister to my other little girl,
who will need you and share your toys for you from time to time.

Dear Amelia,
Enjoy the abundance of the girl who beat you to it
and who will be more than happy to share hers—
especially the Calico Critter house with the dog-eared bunnies.
Don’t mind their shabby appearance,
for they have endured the play of Hurricane Hannah.
Let her show you how milk makes the best bubbles,
how you can sound like an elephant if you blow your nose hard enough,
and how to play pretend with anything.

Dear Amelia,
Let this other little girl tell you what you have missed,
even as you will experience things she will miss.
Share your stories.
When your dad and I have gone,
stay close to her,
for no one else will have the same memories of us
that you two will.

Dear Amelia,
You are ready to meet the world,
but is the world ready to meet you?

Dear Amelia,
Thank you for showing the world
that even in times
of pandemics and all manner of upheaval,
life goes on,
for babies are still being born.
Children are precious,
for they are the future.

That said,
Dear Amelia,
I am so glad your lease is up on January 15, 2021—
with the prerequisite grace period, of course.

And always remember,
Dear Amelia,
that just as you will leave my body,
I will someday leave your life.
And I pray that I will have given you everything you need
to take care of yourself
(and hopefully others),
so take care,
and we will see you soon.

But most of all,
Dear Amelia,
remember that whatever you choose to do
may not be essential to the world,
but it will be essential to you,
for it will give you purpose and provide for you
and any who may come after you.
Know that you do not have to know
what it is you want to do
at the same time as everyone else,
for lifelong learning
includes learning about yourself.
Find your quiet place,
where you can take the time to reflect,
for when you know yourself,
you can be yourself,
Miss Amelia Skye.

Fiction Friday: Poetry Based on the Novel

For she’d rather forsake her child
than face rejection from the father of that child,
even as God had seemingly forsaken His Son
to the world that had rejected Him.
For Tony’s sake,
Kath, being the vessel,
would let the world mark her the sinner
to save the sainted one who had filled that vessel.
She would bear the scars of his sin
in the form of stretch marks
& a giving away of the one whose heart had beaten
in tandem with hers.

Tony had used her to relieve something other than his bladder,
but he was empty,
& he filled Kath with that emptiness,
for what he gave her,
took from her.
I had to believe that he should want to do everything in his power
to protect her & the part of him she carried,
for how could a man create an existence
& not be responsible for that existence—
just as if he had taken a life,
he would be accountable for those that life had left behind.
I believed we should be held accountable for our creations,
just as we were for that which we destroyed,
& when they were one & the same,
such was the most grievous sin of all.

To love a child as a child of God was one thing,
but to love a child as one’s grandchild—
to be included in the inner circle
of the second most sacred space,
to add them to their list of descendants
& will them an inheritance from their ancestors—
was something else.

Logline for Because of Mindy Wiley An Irish-Catholic girl coming of age in the Deep South during the New Millennium finds her family splintered when two Mormon missionaries come to her door, their presence and promise unearthing long-buried family secrets, which lead to her excommunication and exile.

Fiction Friday: Poetry Based on the Novel

Kath & Tony tampered with the sacred powers of procreation,
a sin that,
according to the Church,
was second only to murder,
for it dealt with life—
not just the premature creation of it,
but sometimes the destruction of it,
when that life was inconvenient.
Though Tony sheathed himself
like a knight in latex armor,
if a drop went through the eye of his needle,
he would be rich,
for he would have to marry Kath—
a woman who loved him for him
when no other woman ever would.

Talking to the Bishop about having sex with your boyfriend
was like inviting a stranger to watch.
Kath & Tony held off on confessing,
for what good was it to debase yourself,
only to sin again?
To get it out of their systems,
they christened the Church parking lot after hours,
their deeds hidden by the trees.
My blood had never run so hot for someone
that whenever I was around him,
I felt I would burst into flames.
Though I felt warmth when I was around Elder Roberts,
I did not burn;
he was more like a cold drink on a hot day.
Our love was pure;
it did not consume us.
Our passion would come after the commitment,
for that was lasting love.

The latter half of November
that year of my Mormon soldier
consisted of Leann tracting (or proselytizing),
or going on trade-offs with the sister missionaries,
& Kath and Tony seeing each other in secret.
Though Kath and Tony had made love,
she had yet to see him without his garments,
as some devout Mormon couples
never saw each other fully unclothed.
As for me and my house,
we served the Lord of the Mormon Church.

Logline for Because of Mindy Wiley An Irish-Catholic girl coming of age in the Deep South during the New Millennium finds her family splintered when two Mormon missionaries come to her door, their presence and promise unearthing long-buried family secrets, which lead to her excommunication and exile.

Micropoetry Monday: Hymns of Motherhood

Hymns of Motherhood

The Shutterfly Edition

For her,
motherhood was spent
smacking tags on clothes in the store
& plush animals at home,
on spinning pennies
& Minnie Mouse by the tail,
on “crashing the checkers”
of Connect Four,
only for the tray to be filled up again
with what she called gold coins & pepperonis.
Though such activities became
repetitious,
the payoff was in her smile
that lit up her face like a gloriole
& with the laughter that filled a room
with mirth.

She taught her daughter about Dreamland,
Tomorrowland,
& Never-Never Land that was always, always there.
She taught her about the Land of Shuteye Town,
of Oz, Narnia, & Wonderland,
& the Queendom of 40 Winks.
She taught her practical magic
& made realism magical,
which came from the imaginations
of those under the Heaven that was
beyond imagination
& surpassed all understanding.

There were oohs & aahs
over the goos & gahs
as the parents & grandparents
gathered round
in fascination with this new life,
bearing pink, plushy presents,
while the little child who had preceded this life
stood back & watched in the cool shallows,
thinking her star had dimmed
when it had only matured,
not understanding
that her co-existing co-creators
had wanted this life,
in part,
because her ever-so-wonderful life
had come first.

When Age Was No Longer Numbered

When the world no longer aged,
learning did not cease
but development did.
Husbands loved their expectant wives
with their rounded bellies & tiger mom stripes,
& the mothers loved their little one(s) within,
who floated as if in a state of suspended animation,
the mothers,
in suspended celebration.
The babies born were loved for who they were
& who they would never become.
Developmental milestones became a thing of the past;
educational milestones became the next big thing.
There were no more birthdays—
just calendars marking each day
since the last birthday had been celebrated;
there were anniversaries, however,
for Time continued marching on,
leaving a lighter bootprint
with every passing year.

It was an era of endless childhood:
of childhood sweethearts who would never marry,
of teenagers who would never know wisdom,
of young parents who would never become grandparents,
& of grandparents who would never pass away.
Those who loved their age loved their lives;
those who wished to be young again would be old forever;
& those who wished to grow up would never know independence,
for no matter how much they learned,
they would never mature.
There were no more conceptions or births,
no more deaths from old age but unnatural causes.
Those who loved what they did would do it seemingly forever,
& those who did not
could not bear an eternity of hating their livelihood,
so they went back to school
in acknowledgment & the reclaiming of their perpetual personhood,
for they had all the time in the world.

In this reverse Groundhog Day,
where the days changed, but the routine did not—
the world began to live in an almost hypnagogic state,
for the only promise of tomorrow was that it would come.
For some,
this cessation was the spring of eternal life,
for others,
a never-ending winter.
And for those who were too young to know any better,
it was all they knew.

*Fiction Friday: Micropoetry Based on the Book

For the Mormon women of Green Haven Ward
that November day of 1999—
in the circle of condominiums known as Washington Square—
home of Mindy & Carl Wiley,
a consensus was reached:
If the wearing of the lingerie led to the act of procreation,
the ends justified the means.

A restlessness began to stir within me that winter.
I began to change as the leaves did.
I began to imagine what it would be like
to be independent of my nuclear family—
the power plant that had given me a rock
upon which to build my life,
if not my faith.
I wanted to be strong & independent
when Elder Roberts came back for me,
but I couldn’t pray to God about it,
for if the Church was true,
He would be against our love.
The only comfort I had was in knowing
that God’s will was not always done.

Contentment had been my life before the Church—
enjoying only the contributions of others
while contributing nothing myself.
Mother had her Church & David,
Caitlin had her piano & dance,
David had his art & professorship,
but the Church had made me want more,
& so I had to be more.

The three of us stood before a Mormon temple—
a tableau of what I felt was another time,
a time of bygone days:
A pastel pink rose rested on a black, baby grand piano,
& sitting before the piano was a woman
whose back faced the viewer,
adding to the painting’s mysterious quality.
Long, luxurious dark hair fell not in waves but ripples,
like the notes I imagined flying from her fingers.
Something about the scene was familiar,
but I couldn’t place it.
I blinked, & the painting was as it had been before.

She had been Annie McCarrick,
but I had only ever known her as Laurie Nolan—
a dark beauty who had reinvented herself from the poor only child
of an Irish father & a Russian mother
to become a common hausfrau to an Irishman like her father,
to the uncommon paramour of a man so unlike any man,
whose identity was as mysterious as his past.

Logline for Because of Mindy Wiley An Irish-Catholic girl coming of age in the Deep South during the New Millennium finds her family splintered when two Mormon missionaries come to her door, their presence and promise unearthing long-buried family secrets, which lead to her excommunication and exile.

Micropoetry Monday: The Lighter Side

In the valley of the dollhouses
there lay the site of the Calico Critters’ Lumberjack Festival.
When the Hopscotch Bunnies decided to participate
alongside the Eager Beavers
rather than fell trees,
they were needed on the roofs
to get better reception.

When 10:10 met 8:20,
10:10,
an annoying, perky sort,
told 8:20 to turn his clock face frown
upside down
& 8:20,
taking his advice,
cleaned 10:10’s clock
with his longer hand,
so that it took a minute
rather than an hour,
making 8:20 feel like an a.m.
rather than a p.m.

Mr. Gherkin always found himself in a pickle,
Miss Cherry, a jam,
but these 2 accident-prone soul-mates—
1 sweet, 1 sour—
had never met until they were joined
in sandwich-style matrimony
by the pregnant bridezilla.

The Comely Bones

She didn’t yet have a name,
but she had a job—
to someday watch over the sister,
whom she would never outpace in age,
after their parents had returned to Heaven;
to watch over the sister
who some saw as a cute little dot
on a wide spectrum—
this blitheful child who wrote in smileys
& spoke in echoes
& laughed at movement,
not jokes,
& whose dreamlike gaze
noticed the page numbers
but not the words.
But as the mother looked at her rapidly expanding belly
that contained an entire universe of being,
she wondered if this unknown quantity
would outpace the one outside her body;
for every parent’s worry about their child
whose needs were different than most was
Who will love them when I am gone?