Writing the Dinky Stuff

Writing Prompt: You Remember
not this bus but one just like it
You remember the time in Ferrara, a town you only know because it’s the last stop in Veneto and because it has a theatre but no ballet company. If it did, you’d have auditioned here on your way to look for more stable work. Now it’s just a stop on the tour. The bus to Reggio Emilia is parked right outside the piazza and you know that in the daytime, it’s a pretty average piazza. If this were a smaller company, the poorly-managed kind without a lot of money, you’d mingle outside the stage doors waiting for the rest of the cast, smoking a cigarette under the “No Fumare” sign and then the group would wobble into town and eat at some local trattoria.

But this time you are with a more prestigious company and so there is no time to explore the town you’ve just performed in. The bus leaves 30 minutes after the last curtain call, the only vehicle in the whole boot of Italy that is punctual. You won’t eat until you get back to Reggio Emilia, and then not you make the final trek back to your tiny apartment. Not only will all the restaurants and trattorias be closed when the bus arrives, but you don’t earn enough to eat out after every performance. (Part of the reason that poorly-managed company never has any money is because they always treat the dancers to dinner.) But here at your new job, you’ll have to eat something at home, and with all the touring this week, there’s scarcely been time to go to the grocery store. There’s probably a bit of proscuitto and there’s always pasta and olive oil, if nothing else.

In a way, it’s no different than the bus that waited to take you from Uvalde, Texas back to El Paso when you were in 8th grade. Except perhaps, that you weren’t smoking then.

200 Words Before Breakfast -- Small Babies
Pause here. Linger.

Trouble is, I’m not sure what I was going to say. I grimace. Will my mom be shocked when she sees the boys? Only a few friends and family will come to see the boys when they’re in the NICU. They will aren’t all visibly distressed, but the ones that are will make me feel culpable for showing something they won’t be able to erase from their memories.

I grimace. They are so small. As small as you might think a baby could be, this is smaller, I want to say. At a foot long, they are the size of Chiara’s favorite doll, the one that fits perfectly in her arms. And even though this doll is accurate in height (what about weight?), it’s still more robust-looking, with baby fat molded in plastic creases.

She asks quickly. She knows that Matt’s dad has been diagnosed with a huge abdominal tumor several inches in diameter. She probably also knows that it is malignant, an inference Matt and I have not made. Our logic bent in the opposite direction. A tumor that big has to be benign, we reasoned. How else could you explain Mike’s relative health? The sixty-eight-year old still regularly competed in triathlons. Someone like that couldn’t have cancer.

200 Words Before Breakfast -- Thinking of a Guardian Angel
This is the moment in which it would be useful to have a guardian angel. Someone from the future, me, perhaps, and she’d tell me the truth, something only she would know. Like, “Michael and Wagner like to use the word, ‘basically.’” I don’t know if that would make me feel better. What would it be? It couldn’t be facts such as “no oxygen canisters, no asthma specialists, no stomach ports, no kidney surgeries.” Maybe it would be a picture—the boys on their first day of kindergarten. Our biggest problem is that Michael’s socks have a seam that is uncomfortable in his cowboy boots (he only wears cowboy boots or flip flops.) And Wagner is slightly bothered that we have never recovered his blue-gray fleece, the one with pockets that he can zip up by himself. But I don’t wan this picture. I don’t know if I can handle raising two more kids, but that’s not what I need to prepare for. I need to prepare myself for the worst case scenario, the one that the doctor had warned us about.

That’s what I need to prepare for, but what do I want to imagine? What would make me breath a little easier and a little slower?

200 Words Before Breakfast
Describing a big blue shirt:

It was a huge shirt, a warm medium blue, an XL. The only shirt that fits. I can't wear it everyday. Long sleeve. More of a tent than a shirt, perhaps. I wish they made fourth trimester clothes, even though I'm not out of my second trimester yet. I am enormous and round, hard and soft at the same time. The belly is its own entity and it has knocked my two-year-old on her bum twice this week: I turned the corner; she was running down the hall. I couldn't see her--the belly obstructs much of my view south of its equator and as with any blind spot, accidents are bound to happen.

There are other shirts, of course. But either they’re not long enough. Or they’re so big and baggy that they’re ugly. Or they’re not warm enough. It is winter after all. The material of the blue shirt is soft.

Pants are a bigger problem. There are three pairs that still fit—all from my first pregnancy. Beige cords and brown cords from the Gap, which are nice, but the waistband, a low and wide elastic that cuts into my ginormous sphere of a belly, is uncomfortable. Most importantly, there’s no support. I have one other pair of jean that my mother altered as maternity pants; these are so big and also ugly. I never thought I’d fit into them and now that they are the only pants that really fit without discomfort, they have become wonderful.

Bio for 1-Star Reviews and Lit Crawl
Janine Kovac: writer, reader, mother, napper. She gives 5-star ratings to all the books she reads. Just in case she needs a favor from that author later.

Janine Kovac is a founding member of the Write On Mamas and co-director of the San Francisco production of Listen To Your Mother.
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Bio for Midlife Mixtape
Before the turn of the century, Janine Kovac was a real live ballerina. Today she is the sponsorship coordinator for Litquake and a founding member of the Write On Mamas. She's also a contributing author and co-editor of the anthology Mamas Write: 29 Tales of Truth, Wit, and Grit (which makes a great stocking stuffer, by the way!) You can like her on Facebook or follow her @janinekovac. But if you really want to score points, offer to babysit.

Bio for Literary Death Match
At the turn of the century, Janine Kovac was a real live ballerina and danced in Iceland, Italy, Texas and San Francisco. Today she drives a mini-van with a shitload of car seats. She is an editor and contributing author to the anthology Mamas Write: 29 Tales of Truth, Wit, and Grit and makes a mean peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

The Lavendar House
Whenever I walk past Lawrence Lavendar’s house, I walk on the opposite side of the street. At first I did so because his house looked so scary and creepy. But then I did because I can see it better from across the street. I can spend more time looking at it pretending that I am looking at something else. I look to see if the white squarish car from 1992 looks as if it’s moved at all. I check to see if there is mail or packages. I stare at the windows to see if someone is inside.

And then one day, I walk past on the opposite side of the street and there he is, sitting in a chair on his sorry excuse of a porch. He looks much, much older than I imagined. He nods and waves to me, “Hey.”

Without thinking I wave back and say, “Hey, man. Have a good night.”

Here's what I want to remember about today:

1) That the cat fell off the stool that doubles as a nightstand and into a box. She pretended that she wasn't startled by this.

2) That the kids actually got dressed without nagging.

3) That Chiara wanted to practice her week's "challenge" spelling words. Yesterday she got one out of 10 correct. This morning she got 7 out of ten.

4) That I can keep a secret.

5) That eventually children do learn to swim. Sort of.

6) That Wagner wants to write a story about kittens.

7) That Chiara wants to help him.

For something Litquake-related with the intention of making myself sound like I've done a bunch of different stuff in life.

Prior to wrangling sponsors and tweaking websites for Litquake, Janine Kovac was a software engineer and a soloist with the Icelandic Ballet. In 2012 she co-founded a writing group for parents. She lives in Oakland with her husband and three small children.
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