Toothpaste Magic

The Afthead family has a secret, and as a family of scientists and engineers you need know know we are a trustworthy source of this information.  Toothpaste is magically regenerating.  If you squeeze the tube hard enough each toothpaste molecules will split and create two toothpaste molecules.  Do this enough and you will never run out of toothpaste.  You can only really get enough force out of the squeeze when the toothpaste is almost empty, and, of course, even if you did squeeze the tube hard enough when it’s full you are just going to end up with toothpaste all over.  But when you get to the end just keep squeezing.  If you don’t you will be shamed and labeled a heretic for not believing in the magical toothpaste properties.

(I did not throw this tube away, but Mr. Afthead did.  I’m so disappointed in him.)

Santa Sighting

The Afthead Christmas season begins with a trip to Main Street of my hometown.  The four blocks are lined with trees covered in tiny white lights, dark until Santa arrives.  He travels in the back of a truck waving to the kids, and when he reaches the beginning of a new block the lights magically illuminate. This year it was cold and snow flurries painted the sky.  My daughter and her friend were bundled three layers deep topped with Santa hats.  Both of them believe completely in Santa, and while they know this is not the real guy, eight years of a tradition have made him special.  

The girls call in unison as Santa passes.  

“He saw us!”

“He waved at us!”

Because they are bigger and the crowds stayed home to avoid the cold this year I ask, “Do you want to go down another block?”  They do.  This year we see Santa four times and he sees us twice, by the girls’ counting.  Only at the last block do I have to threaten, “Girls,are you really hitting each other?  He is right there!”  Their cold bodies extend for one final wave.  

They leave singing  a song they proudly made up on their own:  “Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus right down Ma-ain Street.”  

Nature Wonders

Yesterday was a heavy blog, so let’s have a little simple wonder today.  I have lived around cottonwood trees my whole life.  We have lived in our house, that has a hundred year old cottonwood tree in the backyard, for 15 years.  I have probably picked up thousands of fallen twigs before my dad, my husband, my brother, or I mowed the lawn, because cottonwoods drop sticks constantly.  It wasn’t until last year when I learned there are magic in those sticks.

A friend of ours showed up to pick up his daughter and we were playing in the backyard.  He looked at our tree and asked, “Is that a cottonwood tree?” Before we could answer he picked up a stick broke it in half and said, “Oh, it is.  Look at the star.”


Folks, there is magic in cottonwood sticks.  Look for the ridges on the surface and break the stick between them.  If it breaks cleanly you will always find a tiny perfect star.

Isn’t nature awesome?

What’s the Opposite of Prophesy?

Sunday the Glimmer Train August Short Story Award for New Writers was announced.  I had high hopes for my short story The Fisherman.  As I knew from my status, I didn’t win.  As I learned Thursday, with my excellent web research skills, I did not make the top 25.  Finally I learned, from the official Glimmer Train announcement, that I didn’t even make the honorable mention list.  My first fiction submission and I got nothing.  Crap.  My prophetic dream was the opposite of what I had hoped.  Everyone was right.  You don’t get published the first time.  What a bummer.

I was disappointed, until my husband asked a very important question:

“How did they decide the winner?” asked Mr. Afthead

“Well, these two sisters run the literary magazine, so they decided.” I responded.

“That seems awfully arbitrary.”

He was right.  Two women didn’t like my story.  Yes, it was two women who happen to have the power to publish, but it was just two people.  His words jolted me into remembering why I wrote the story in the first place, and why I wanted to get it out there.  I love that story, and the only way for me to share it with people is to write it down, be brave and send it into the world.  With my first draft something amazing happened.  The story developed a story of it’s own when others read it.  Different people liked parts that other people hated.  Some people thought it was creepy.  Another blogger, On the Lamb Design, tied it to a real life experience, and the similarities are haunting.  Overall the response was not just positive, but thought provoking.

My favorite reaction was my husband’s.  I gave him a copy of a later draft of the story and asked him to read it.  When he finished we had the following discussion:

“This is good,” he said.  “Where did you get it.”

“I wrote it.”

“Reallly?  I thought it was by a real writer.  I like how The Fisherman made the dad a better dad.”

Okay, first of all my husband thought a “real writer” was the story’s author.  Then, he found a story in my words that I never intended.  I didn’t mean for The Fisherman to make the father a better dad, but when my husband found that meaning I saw it too.  When I write and share, something magical happens.  I agree completely with my writing guru, Stephen King, when he says that the reading/writing bond is telepathy.  I write something, and you read it through your lens, and we share a common vision together.  Sometimes our lenses are the same, but sometimes one or the other distorts the story and it changes.  To understand how others find different meaning in my words makes me want to write and read more.

So I’m disappointed that two sisters didn’t like my story, but I’m still going to write, and I’m still going to share, and I’m still going to submit.  This is magic stuff happening, and I’m not about to let it go.