On Sunday I washed my dishes in Woolite. I had to. On the Thursday before, I’d run out of dishwasher tablets, and on Saturday I’d pried the absurdly tight cap from the bottle of dishwashing liquid so I could add enough water to get some suds going. My cats and my dog were clamoring for their breakfast, and by the time I served them up and fixed a little something for myself, I’d have half a dishwasher load I couldn’t do anything about unless I took extraordinary measures.
Ordinary measures wouldn’t work, you see–something so ordinary as getting in the car and going to the grocery–because I’d had a writing breakthrough, the kind that blows apart a section of the wrongly-constructed puzzle, shuffling the pieces in ways that makes me see them from new angles, from the true angle this time. When this happens, those shuffled pieces don’t so much fall into place as they float in the ether above, hovering where they might belong, drifting first toward one piece and then towards another, enticingly suggesting connections, but it’s all too dreamlike to fix into words, jotting notes on a page. I have to stay in the dream, not let anything disrupt it–like a trip to the grocery, or any other task that introduce other voices or actions that don’t belong to my characters’ world. At times like these, everything in the story is as real–and as intangible and easily startled as a deer in the field or a ghost on the stairs. So I looked about me, deciding against shampoo–with its promises of fortifying vitamins for extra volume–and settled on Woolite as the most reasonable choice, thinking of how no harm had ever come to any infants–nieces and nephews–who had sucked on the collar of my lambswool sweater.
By Sunday night, I’d gotten all the pieces into place, and as I happily turned my anticipation to Monday, when I’d begin a new section of the novel, I realized the grocery could wait no longer. My stores had entered a state of emergency–one or two more servings left of cat food and dog food, no more cat litter to pour into the now scanty boxes, less than one third of a roll of toilet paper, not a single bite of a fruit or vegetable (fresh, canned or frozen), no coffee, and no chocolate–not even plain cocoa. Resenting every minute lost, I headed to the grocery, resolving to buy enough to keep the kitchen of my writing cave stocked at least until this time next month.