all quiet on the cervical front, friends.  this evening’s literary reading at ye local library was uninterrupted by the waters of Babylon.  i even laughed without peeing myself…banner day.

have i ever mentioned that i live two doors from the Dairy Queen?  and that i have something of an, erm, sugar fetish?  i came home from the reading with a fervent hankering for a chocolate-covered-cherry blizzard.  they’re my all-time favourite, my True Patriot Love…and the fact that DQ took them off the menu a couple of decades ago does not daunt me, people.  i know what i like: ice cream, cherry mix, cone dip.  lots of cone dip.  i have – with the help of slightly embarrassed minion Dave, who loathes ordering anything special or altered or ‘on the side’ but was nonetheless man enough to procure my fix when bedrest prevented me from doing so – been personally training the local DQ ice cream jockeys over the past few years to prepare this wondrous concoction of deliciousness.  tonight i got the boy who’s really good: he puts a little extra cone dip in there, oh fine pimply charmer, and never scoops the extra off the top.  some days, i think Dave & i should adopt him.

all that to say…this will be a short post.  i need to go make love to my ice cream.  and then write some more, because we have to read tomorrow night, at the closing dinner.  and in the company i’m keeping, my meandering little rambles i feel so proud of here suddenly sound like the braying of donkeys.

oh well.  one cannot learn if one does not shame oneself, i always say. ;)

i leave you with a challenge, or a favour, really, should you choose to accept it.   the story opener below is an exercise we did today, a one-off written from a brief news clipping.  i’d love feedback.  first person to guess the backstory or what the news story was actually about will be allowed to share my next Blizzard.  a little.  first person to tell me how to end the damn thing will win my undying affection and…um…uh…something nice.  i know!  DQ boy! he doesn’t look engaged, or anything…so, uh, as long as you promise to move here so i don’t have to let him go, a talented young mail-order ice cream boy can be yours for just a little bit of closure.

He couldn’t say he hadn’t been warned.

Gordon normally ate oat bran for breakfast. Seven days a week, whether the girls were there or not. Oat bran – no sugar – soy milk, coffee. After his run, before his shower. At nearly fifty, it is work to stay trim, regular, ship-shape.

He generally pays little attention to whether the girls eat breakfast – he refuses to keep crap cereals in the house, though they are welcome to oat bran or toast or fruit as they desire, and he suspects the elder of throwing up most of what she eats anyway – so when the school counsellor had caught him in the midst of a meeting Friday afternoon – an important meeting, a single-malt meeting – and mentioned pancakes, it had thrown him off, led him to assume that the conversation was a prank, a charade.

“I don’t eat pancakes,” he’d said, flatly, into the phone, grimacing towards his Scotch partner with a look he’d hoped was both authoritative and blameless.

“Sir…Mr. Herbert…” The voice on the other end of the line had sounded awfully young. Gordon  had grown irritated. Stupid joke. Maybe his youngest had pissed off some of the in-crowd at school? Fourteen year-old girls can be such bitches.

“Thank you for your time.” His voice had been curt, final, all Father-Knows-Best as he’d hung up, making it clear that he did not appreciate the interruption, the incursion of drama into the realm of his dignity. But when he’d flipped the phone over just to check the number, the display had read “Wilmington Charter School.”

Gordon’s run Saturday morning had taken him down towards the stream in the park. He’d noticed the faint tinge of yellow in the leaves, there, amongst the stately old trees that dappled the path with leaf-filtered light. “Odd,” he’d thought. “That’s early.” The leaves seldom fall until well into November.

When he’d gotten back to the house and found both girls up and in the kitchen, his thoughts were identical. This was odd. This was early, for a Saturday. He smiled at them, vague and solicitous. Julia, sprawled on the couch by the breakfast bar using his laptop, waved back sleepily. Tess had her back to him. She was…making pancakes.

“Hey, dad.”

“Hey, hon.” Gordon was aware, for a moment, that he sounded unusually hearty. He approached her, suddenly tense, like an animal wary of a trap. A part of his brain reeled, scrambled to recall yesterday’s phone conversation. Another part of it scanned the countertop for his coffee.

“I don’t eat pancakes,” Gordon said flatly, for the second time in less than twenty-four hours. He picked up his coffee cup and stared at his youngest child, willing her to look him in the eye.

Tess raised her eyes to his. The flecks of gold mirroring his own caught the morning light. She looked younger without all the usual makeup. She laughed.

“Who said they were for you, piggie?” she teased. She poked at him, digging where his belly used to be before all the running. For a second, her father remembered her, small and round and still in diapers, the two of them playing piggies with her tiny, stubby toes, oinking in abandonment.

“Make me a few,” he grinned at her, surprised by himself. But his smile was like steel, a challenge.