This time I asked everyone to write down three phrases:
When to call the poison control center
Reverence for the holiness of sex
Take a long walk
Then we all chose one and wrote for twenty minutes.
What I wrote is below.
I should have turned my phone off.
The early spring weather offered 65 degrees, clear skies, and a light breeze, so I decided to skip the gym and take a walk. I was busy looking up into canopies of plum branches, heavy with pink blossoms. I was also enjoying the sweet scent of magnolias and flirting with a chickadee, when my phone rang.
It was Shantel.
I hit decline.
She called right back.
“Hi, Shantel!” I said, trying to sound pleased. “How are you?”
There was a long pause.
“I think you know the answer to that question,” she said.
“Yes, darling, you do.”
“You feel I’ve been irresponsible.”
“You feel abandoned.”
“Well now,” she said a little more seriously, “let’s not get overdramatic.”
“I’ve been meaning to get back to you. I just–”
“I know,” she said, interrupting me, gracefully, as always. “You’ve been working on that cookbook.”
“I have. I’m nearly done with the memoir pieces.”
“How nice for you,” she snapped, doing her best impression of Bette Davis in All About Eve.
“I know. You couldn’t care less about my cookbook.”
“It’s not just that,” she said, not exactly denying it, “and it’s not only me. What about the rest of them? Vincent and Gabriel and Officer Harvey.”
“How are you and Officer Harvey doing?” I asked, genuinely interested, trying desperately to assuage my guilt.
“How the hell should I know?” Her voice rose an octave. “You haven’t even written the Epilogue yet.”
“I did, actually,” I said meekly. “Well, most of it.”
“Please,” she said, sounding mildly disgusted. “Save your defense. I didn’t call to badger you.”
“No, of course not. I called to remind you that you have a responsibility.”
She let out an exasperated sigh.
“Yes, darling, you do. Who else is going to finish the novel if you don’t get on it right away?”
“You have a point.”
“I know I do. And what about that poor girl who spent all of her summer typing up your hand written draft?”
“Yeah. She’s working on her book now.”
“I didn’t call to hear your excuses. I called to remind you: we’re waiting.”
“We aren’t leaving.”
“Honey, we are not going anywhere. Am I coming through?”
“Loud and clear.”
“Well all right then,” she said sweetly. “Because I don’t want to have to call you again.”
And then, before I could say anything else, she hung up on me.