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Kansas City MO 64131





Cindy Maddera

It's the first day of NaNoWriMo and I'm staring at a blank screen. I have a story. I do. I just don't know where that story is going or how it's going to end. This is when the voices start talking in my head. "What do you think you're doing? You are not a writer. You are a scientist. You have no idea what you are doing." The voices are mostly right. I am a scientist and I have no idea what I am doing. I mean, my biggest excuse for not going on from my Masters to get my PhD was that I didn't want to write papers and grant proposals. I have no business pretending and that's what this feels like sometimes. I'm pretending to be creative. I'm sure Chris is out there somewhere thinking "how cute, she thinks she can write." Which makes him sound condescending. We had our places. He was the creative. I was the cheerleader. That's just how it was. The voices in my head tell me that Chris would make fun of these creative efforts even though I know he would never. 

I look at the blank page again and say to myself "1,666.7 words." That's all I have to do a day. That's a lot I have to do a day. I type a few paragraphs, thinking "this isn't so hard." Like I said. I have a story, but when I select all and do a word count it only comes up with 643 words. Is that all? Gah. 1,666.7 words is more than I thought. I plug on. Typa, typa typa. I pause to pat the dogs head. I take a break to shove the cat away from walking across the keyboard. I get 1,325 words and I call it a night. It's late (for me). I'm tired. My right foot has fallen asleep and prickles as I place it flat on the floor. 1,325 words will have to be enough for today, but when I lay my head down on the pillow, the story keeps playing in my head. I should add that there. I should explain this here. I should tell this part next. Now the voices in my head are those of the characters in the story. I have to tell them to be quiet so I can go to sleep, but I'm woken up a few hours later by the sounds of war outside. 

I stumble out of bed and peek out into the living room. Michael is sitting on the couch, excitedly shoving popcorn into his mouth. He sees me and asks "What's up?" My reply comes in the confused look on my face. He says "Are you wondering about the gunfire and fireworks happening outside? Don't worry. That's the sound of World Championship in Kansas City." The Royals have won the World Series (the Cabbage used to call it the World Serious).  Michael was nine or ten the last time this happened. It's been thirty years. He is beyond pleased. I mumble a "Happy Birthday" before stumbling back to bed. Michael's birthday is in a few weeks. Back in bed. Head on the pillow. The voices return. This time it's a blend of the bad voices mixed with those from the story. I focus on the sounds coming from the neighborhood. I hear more popping sounds of fireworks or gunshots or both. I hear people yelling. At least I stop listening to the voices in my head and fall back asleep. 

I wake up the next morning and the only voice I hear is the one saying "1,666.7 words. That's all you have to do."

That's all I have to do. Today.