Monday, July 16, 2018

July 16: Stayci Taylor • Laura Schuff • Chris McGuire • Joshua Dewain Foster • Craig Reinbold • Carlos Davy Hauser • Heidi MacDonald

Today we present ten more dispatches from June 21, 2018 to you. More details on the project here, but, in brief, we asked you to write about what happened on one day in June, and are publishing the results, largely unedited, through July 16th.
—The Editors

July 16: Stayci Taylor • Chris McGuire • Joshua Dewain Foster • Craig Reinbold • Carlos Davy Hauser • Heidi MacDonald


There are fewer options at this breakfast buffet, one of three on this island resort and the closest to the sea. The limited selection brings with it a sense of calm, but there is still panic inspired by the free time ahead. Unlimited choices are dangerous; they pave the way for a day lived incorrectly. Given the environment, this is despicable. A woman, probably here for a conference, asks for warm milk. She is directed to the espresso machine, but this will not do. She needs it for cereal. This request is mildly curious against the backdrop of palm trees, but only half-registered. There is pressing interior business. Don’t be miserable in paradise.
     It’s much warmer than home, but the coldest temperatures here in living memory. The locals are bewildered, and wearing polar fleece – an extreme response, perhaps. The temperature won’t fall below 20° C. Two days ago a lone visitor braved the swim-up pool bar, wading back, everything clenched, to deliver a tinnie to a waiting girlfriend. There is more than one pool, though, and the closest is heated. It can be seen from the balcony. The same balcony from which, this morning, a sunrise was witnessed over the sea. The accommodation, when booked, did not include an ocean view. Don’t be miserable.
     This outside table also affords a view of the beach. The plate is less overloaded than previous mornings but still strangely appointed. When else do fruit and pastries and eggs and toast and mushrooms and chia pudding share the same stage? At a table behind, someone reassures the warmly milked woman that she’s ‘still glamourous’ despite their shared advancing years. She reports she had her upper eyes done five years ago, ‘which is fabulous. It’s about looking fresh’, she says, ‘but not fake’. She’s also lost a lot of weight, on a drug that makes her feel nauseous if she overeats. There’s apparently—and quite literally—a downside to thin faces. You can go too far, she says, but at least she’s not devouring the lamingtons. 
     They do look like excellent lamingtons. They nearly made the plate.
     A cockatoo lands on the table beside and seizes upon the empty butter portions. A deft claw lifts the foil flap and the beak dives into the tiny shallow plastic tray. A tongue, presumably, laps up the remains. 
     Mid-morning, the reclining view from the pool noodle is of alternating knees, slowly advancing and retreating in the heated water. This performance of relaxation is watched and weighed up against activity in the solar plexus. It feels like fretting, but hard to discern amidst the competing sensations of caffeine and the pseudoephedrine fuelling much needed cold & flu meds. To pay this much inward attention feels unforgivably self-absorbed. Sleep is resisted and undoubtedly needed. There may never have been a better bed to accommodate such a task, but yet a bush walk is attempted. The swim-up pool bar is circled warily. Soon, and with no towel required, bourbon is added to the mix. 
     Later, the internet celebrates the birth of the New Zealand Prime Minister’s daughter. Ex pats join in with whisky on the balcony. The booze and the news do their job and the sunset is greeted with decided cheer. But a setting sun is always more promising than a rising one. There are always fewer options at the final hour. Fewer ways in which to fuck up five days in paradise.

—Stayci Taylor

Stayci Taylor is an Industry Fellow with the Media Program at RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia. She brings to her teaching and research a background in screenwriting, which is still her main professional practice. She has lately become interested in creative nonfiction and critical autoethnography; mainly through an investigation into the performance of girlhood diaries with colleagues from RMIT's non/fictionLab.


The sun on a spoke toward the eastern corner of my office window heralds the longest day of the year. June 21st finds me hunched over my desk, shell-shocked gaze on the traffic sweeping by on East 5th Street. In my crotch I can feel my father’s hand, a memory shard left over from the 3-day EMDR Intensive I just completed on Bainbridge Island, WA.
     That hand, drenched in callous bone, the brutality of which I’ve always known. But not this. Not this horrible awakening of my flesh, refusing to be silenced, refusing to retreat. I rock with the after-quakes.
     But now there are my clients, needing my attention, needing me to hold space for them, hear them, validate them. My mind drifts to the little red kayak I paddled out around Bainbridge’s Eagle Harbor, seeking rough waves, something edged and raw against which my body could throw itself. The pair of eagles I watched, transfixed, in high branches, shrieking their indignation against an assault of crows guarding nests. My kayak beached as the tide receded beneath me. Me, all at once embodied, trudging knee-deep through the heavy mud toward water to get the little boat afloat again.
     I hear my name, paged overhead. First I see R, who’s here on the advice of her attorney on an asylum case. She’s fleeing Mexico b/c her abusive stepfather waited for her outside her nursing school class and tried to kidnap her. She cries soundlessly while stroking the red sand of my sandtray as if it were her pet cat. I become hypnotized by the gentle, rhythmic movements, my heart breaking for her at a distance, because with the current Administration, her case does not look favorable. In my mind, my father’s voice: “Boys are gonna love that ass” while his hand—
     Next there’s a couple of kids, siblings, jubilantly unselfconscious in their unsuppressed bodies. Sprawling on the carpet, limbs askew as they play with the toys on my shelves. Their untarnished sexuality breathless and innocent. I balk, freeze, grit my teeth through the hour. Curl like a pillbug on the carpet afterward, my door shut against colleagues.
     Subsequent appointments will arrive and depart in a blur, shades of pale passing in and out of my scope of consciousness, accompanied by a low hum. I will wonder if I’m asleep, drifting in dream. Outside the window, the sun will shift along its spoke, growing dimmer as the afternoon progresses. A thought, like shattered crystals: “What did happen today?” My eyes searching the street outside for a response.
     I find a bright bird on a bare branch in the mesquite tree across the street. It is only there for a moment. I watch it lift from the leaves, sweep over the whisking traffic, disappear after the stretched sun.

—Chris McGuire


So I woke up after nine a.m.—which is not something I like to admit but also something that happens a lot so at this point why lie? So I wake up late and I stay there in bed, which is not something I usually do. Usually, I’m up and at them as soon as my eyes are open; most days, I spring from my sheets to my shoes. Normally, I work at a standing desk in the other room. But not today, the summer solstice, June 21, 2018, the longest day of the year. The sun is out in Houston, Texas for another ten hours—or something. I relax. So what if I’m starting late today. I have plenty of time. I scoot away from the warm round ass of my bed-partner so that I can actually get some work done, reach off the bed to the floor and get my janky cheap chromebook.
     I open it up and write an email to my agent. She is in New York City, a place I have visited three times in my life. Once, the most recent, was to meet her. I’ve been telling her I’d have a novel ready since 2014. I’m surprising her with it today, attached as a PDF and shared in the cloud as a DOC. It is 399 pages; 107k words. I told her I’d send her the manuscript by my birthday, July 5, but I’d finished it early, could not stand to read it one more time, so I decided to print it out and put it in a binder for my own edits and to email her and invite her to finally take a look and at least get the good grace of beating my own often extended deadline.
     What did I feel like, after I sent it? Glad, and proud. That email took me like thirty minutes to get right. Happy, I got up to take a leak.
     About then, G rolled over. It was her ass I had been lying beside. Her kids were with their dad for the summer, and we were luxuriating in these slow mornings where modesty could be relaxed and neither of us really had anywhere to be but to our desks, in our books. Except I no longer had a book to write, I’d written it, so I had nothing to do. I asked G if she’d cook us some french toast.
     This is also not something I usually do. Usually, I handle my own food intake, especially for breakfast. Most days, I’m a black coffee banana kind of guy. If I have time to really cook, it’s meats eggs hashbrowns. Never breakfast cakes. Pancakes? Waffles? Too heavy. Those put me back to bed, and that’s something I cannot abide. But the day before, G and I had been in the grocery story together, and she’d been waxing nostalgic re: real New England maple syrup, which I had never tried, so she bought some, and I got a good loaf of five-dollar sliced bread knowing I would try to talk her into cooking French toast for me soon. Which I did, successfully.
     She put on a robe and went to the kitchen and made the French toast. I piddled about, scooped the cat boxes, shit the dog in the backyard, brushed my teeth, took my meds. Extra naproxen, because a bunch of shoulder pain had returned to my left arm, where I had had an operation in 2017. But three weeks ago, this pain had settled on me again, left me wincing any time I reached and turned, pushed or pulled, typed, drove, washed my hair, or anything of the sort with my left. I thought I was better—I’d been pain-free for six months—and clearly I was not. I froze all my summer plans, including a trip home to Idaho for a family reunion, until I could meet with the doctor, which would happen tomorrow, which, as I told the doctor’s scheduler, might as well be two weeks away. As soon as I knew what was up with my arm, I could plan the rest of my life.
     G and I ate French toast together. The New England maple syrup ran thin and warm and washed across the butter egg bread, tide-like. I could see why she relished this great American sap, appreciated that I’d been let in on the secret. I felt the same way about russet potatoes. There, on the plastic table in front of us, was the manuscript that took me four years to write. It was in a hot pink plastic binder, four inches thick. An inch a year—so much for personal growth.
     10:30 a.m. My agent had had my email for over an hour. Had she read the book yet? Did she love it? Already sent the contract? Check(s)?
     I gathered up the dishes to wash them at the sink, my pleasure and gratitude after such a food gift. G removed to her desk to edit and knit. I washed and dried and shined the dishes, put them up. Folded and refolded the dishtowels. Swept the kitchen floor, something I’d been wanting to do for seven months. In the bedroom, I turned on the World Cup—France versus Peru—and rooted for the Spanish-speakers. I always pull New World. I took out my empty luggage and looked inside my closet, starting to plot what I would need up north, back home in Idaho, if we were lucky enough to make it back there. G and I had a secret hope and plan: if the doctor cleared me to travel, we would pack the car and leave by Saturday, be to Idaho by late Sunday so that we could surprise my mother, who was turning sixty on Monday.
     I didn’t see the point in actually packing without knowing what was up with my shoulder, so I hooked up the leash to the dog and took her around the block for some fresh air. Out on Gray Street, I paced and scoped out a palm reader sign that G had told me recently showed up. I had always wanted to have my palm read. I can handle the truth, and am happy to pay for it. Of course, I wanted to buy G a round of hand-reading too, as a late birthday gift.
     So I walked the dog past a sagging peeling house on a main drag in the historic Rosemont district of Houston, with a covered front porch and a beat to shit Ford Excursion in the cracked uneven driveway, a neon OPEN sign in the window, not illuminated, and a phone number on a placard on the sidewalk. In the front window, a shadow appeared behind the curtain. I wanted to make nothing easy, no dead giveaways, no easy outs. I hustled around the corner with the dog and called the number. I wanted to keep everything I could a secret; I had no faith in the palm reader, but had a hope I’d learn something somehow, anyways. I didn’t disguise my voice or give a fake name. I asked if she had time to read the hands of two people as soon as possible. She said she could at one p.m. That was less than an hour away. I said okay.
     She told me to call back in a half-hour to confirm my appointment. So I confirmed something with her then: She wanted me to call her in thirty minutes to tell her I’d be there in thirty more minutes? Yes, she said. I said I’d text her at twelve-thirty, and that we’d be there at one p.m. on the dot.
     The dog rushed me home. There, I informed G of the plan, and she took a break from the editing and fussed about the flat, changing clothes a few times, deciding a hair situation, and wardrobe. I too checked myself in the mirror, wondering what the palm reader might discern and misinterpret. For two months, the temperature hadn’t dipped below eighty degrees, and I was in shorts and a tank-top and a farm hat, always sweaty, far from my element. I decided not to change. The palm reader, like most people, would have no idea who I really was.
     These bustling moment in our relationship when both are readying for a joint event, equally energized, are intensely gratifying, and do a lot to unify. This was still fresh, vibrant, steeped in meaning, cosmic, revelatory. As G and I readied, we smiled and winked at each other, took one another by the waist, danced, swayed a bit.
     What does the future—our future—hold? I couldn’t guess, and didn’t need to know but was asking just because I could, just because I was with someone who wanted to go along with me to find out. I pinched an ass as it went by, kissed a cheek, said thanks and also hurry up or we’re going to be late.
I texted the palm reader and tell her we’ll be there at one p.m. on the nose. Which we weren’t. We’re a few minutes late.
     At the house, half a cigarette smoldered in an ashtray. Oh, how peppery and lovely that smoke smelled. Cigarettes had not been present in our lives for 84 days, according to G’s stop smoking phone app. I had finally stopped coughing long enough to want another cigarette. I didn’t pick it up and smoke it, though. I was past that point. I simply longed for it, reminisced about the good old bad days. I stamped down the nico-urge, knocked hard on the thin front door. Above me, a diamond window cardboarded from the inside shook against the glass.
     A little girl opened the door. Younger than eight, for sure. Cute kid. Looked a lot like any one of my nieces. Pink clothes, long hair, a few missing teeth. I asked her to go get her mom. I didn’t really think about it. Old Mormon Missionary reflex. A young short woman came to the door and shooed back the kid and her little brother, who had been in the shadows of his sister the whole time. The mother, who was our palm reader, A, brought us inside and shut the door. We stood in an empty living room with thin path-worn carpet over a bowed floor. A, chewing gum, speaking English Italian Chicagoan, set the kids up and explained she’d be in the other room, working. Once they were settled, A led us into another front room, behind a white door—her palm reading room.
     A large pink lounger, in front of which A stood, centered, at the back wall. In front of A, center of the room, was a table piece, alter-like. Facing this desk were two fabric covered chairs, nice enough, but with stains. I took the far chair, and G took the near. We sat down once she did.
     A reminded me of my youngest sister E, and my first ex-wife R. A was twenty-four, twenty-five. Poised, serious. Wise but unrefined. No pushover, but easy to confuse. A, who was wearing jeans and a shirt, had three burns or scars on her sternum. They looked surgical, earned, unfortunate, designed. We discussed what services we were looking for, and landed on one in which we could each get our palms read, a tarot reading, and the opportunity to ask any questions we could come up with. That ran me sixty bucks a piece. I paid A through the cash app.
     Transaction sent and received, phones down and away, A crossed one leg over the other, interlocked her hands, mystic-like, and asked who would be going first. I looked at G to see what she wanted, and I could tell she wanted me to go, so I said I would. A got out a deck of tarot cards from the alter desk. She warned both of us that regardless of what we were to each other, who we were in each other’s lives, things might come out in a reading that could damage a relationship, so she invited G to leave the room if I was uncomfortable. I said I’d like her to stay. I could trust G with any bit of information, any secret, any sin.
     I was disappointed with A, incredulous—she was trying to figure out who G and I were together; she was reading us. Which I knew she would do, but didn’t anticipate it being this obvious. Maybe she wasn’t psychically inclined; maybe this was all just jig.
     “So she can stay?” A asked me.
     “Yes,” I said, again.
     A flipped over some cards and arranged them on the table. Then she took my palms and looked at them. She leaned back and interlocked her hands again.
     “Okay, so before we start, I have a message for you. I don’t know what it means, but I have to give it to you from the other side. Did you recently lose a child?”
     I’d never had any kids. It was a strange whiff to start with. I considered my very much alive mother and father, my living breathing five sisters and their husbands and children, G, her two kids, my cat, their cat, the dog—all all good.
     “No,” I said, “Not that I can think of.”
     I looked back at G. She had this look on her face like: Are you kidding me?
     “Who then?” I asked.
     “H,” she said.
     I realized I had been thinking too narrowly about A’s question. Selfishly, I had only been considering my immediate family. But just a few weeks before, my ex-family of my second wife M suffered the catastrophic loss of their youngest member, H, a little girl age three. I had not been in contact with this family since the divorce, but once I heard the news, I texted M and let her know that if there was anything G and I could do, we would. M took us up on that, and brought over her two cats for us to watch so she could return to Idaho for the funeral. She had just retrieved the cats the day before, and was actually coming over to have dinner later tonight because she needed some good company and a meal. G had offered to cook.
     I said to A, “Yes, there is one person, but my connections are hard to explain.”
     “Here’s the message. Celebrate her in her time of death. Don’t blame anyone. Celebrate, and love.”
     I nodded and said that I would pass that along, which I planned to do, but didn’t yet know exactly how, or to whom.
     That gravitas delivered and leveled, A reviewed both my palms again quickly, roughly, and set them back down on the table. She told me I led a simple, but complex, life. I agreed. She said it would be relatively long, which brought a lot of relief. She said I was happy on the outside and sad on the inside. She was so right that deep down this made me quietly weep. But that was all my hands had to say about me, and so I took them away and she turned her attention to the cards.
     She told me to think of three questions I wanted answers to. This gave me pause. I was not prepared to think while at the palm reader. I looked at G. Was there anything I wanted to know with her? I knew she was as solid and beautiful as a person as any I’d been lucky enough to be with, and felt we would be together for a long time, one way or another, and since we spent all our time together anyway, I’d had all my questions answered, whether she knew it or not.
     I told her I had them. She told me to tell her two. So I did.
     What would happen with my book?
     Where would I go next?
     On the first, she said I’d be fine, on all counts. With the book. I asked her how fine. She said fine fine. I didn’t want to jinx anything, so I left it at that.
     And what about the next thing?
     She said she was was really feeling Arizona, Arkansas, or Colorado. Any of those places would be good. Also, I’d have a house for once in my life.
     I trotted out my third question, too, this about G, about us and our future, but I cannot write it here. So I listened to that answer, and felt good about everything and had nothing left to ask.
     G and I swapped seats, and A and G got right down to it; it would not be my place to go into all that was revealed. You’d have to ask her. As for me, I was feeling pretty glowy and golden, having a message to pass on, knowing I still had some life left to live with a person I loved, and a fine fine book situation on my hands.
     G’s future all came back good too. I can at least say that. A made some mistakes on that one, reading her, flubbed a bit. But who doesn’t? G’s a tough nut to crack. We left through the front door, saying thanks to A and adios to the kiddos, time well spent. 
     We talked about everything on the walk home, and for an hour at the flat. It was 2:30 p.m., and once we had rehashed everything a few times, we shut up and got back to our desk work. We had a lot to do if we were ever going to get out of Texas. She edited. I paid all of my July bills and budgeted the rest of my summer money. Transferred cash over from savings to cover the travel and upcoming doctor’s visit. I walked to the bank and took out some road cash, went to CVS and bought heel bandaids for G and toothpaste for me. Returned to the flat. I read the news on my phone.
     Around seven, G started cooking chicken curry, and I made some watermelon juice Mexican-style—watermelon, lime, a bit of sugar, water, some ice, blended it up in G’s kickass ninja blender, served in a pitcher—and set up the table in the back driveway. Soon enough, M showed up and we went and dished up curry and all three of us sat out back and ate like we were starving and talked about her trip to Idaho. She got to sing at the funeral. Sad but good.
     Our upstairs neighbors and their daughter came down and joined us. I hadn’t seen them for two weeks, as they’d been in Utah on summer vacation. I’d been sitting upstairs twice a day, taking care of their birds while they were gone, a cockatiel and two budgies. The daughter and wife caught up with M, who had lived in the flat with me for a month or two, and had started a friendship but paused it, and now wanted it again.
     The kid went to bed at ten, her summer vacation bedtime on certain nights, and after that someone spilled vodka into the agua fresca, and wine and kind bud materialized, and stories were traded, and we all laughed about the north country, which everyone had been to but me and G, and we were pining for it. But it felt like after the palm reader, we both knew our plan was a good one, and we’d be leaving Texas soon enough. We squeezed hands in the dark.
     I told M of the message from A, and she told me to relay it to H’s father, so I said I’d contact my friend and ex-bro-in-law, and let him know to celebrate, and love, and not blame. So much of life is out of everyone’s control.
     M was in great spirits, too, after having come home, because she had met a new man, a twenty-five year old snack-bite, as she called him, a lil nugget. Made us laugh; reminded me of funny sweet things M used to coo about me, back when we were in love. I was happy for her in this new flu. I looked around the table. We all were.
     Then a miracle happened: M produced a half-pack of love cigarettes, bought with her new beau, in Idaho. She didn’t want to smoke all of them, or smoke alone. Well, it was the perfect timing to break us. We were all weak. All the rest of us in the house, upstairs and downstairs alike, had been living healthy for most of 2018. G and I had been clean for over eighty days of the nicotine smoke gum vape et al. But we were all in that transitory summer state, hot and bothered and itchy, and could use a break.
     So the pack went around, and we all smoked one together in the humidity, this at about eleven o’clock. M left the pack, and took off with some tupperwares of leftovers, and drove to her place across town.
     Then it was just the four of us. There were five cigarettes left. We each smoked another one, talked for another half hour. These people were my family, my friends, my tribe. We could do this all night, and often did. But by the time the smokes were up, the neighbors excused themselves to bed. They had dreams to dream about home.
     Eleven-thirty, it was just G and me, out in the back drive, staring up at the new builds looming on three sides. What a sad wonderful joke this neighborhood will be in the future, we thought together, when the palm reader and us are gone. G and I will be in Fayetteville, Show Low, Trinidad, I’m sure. But where will A be? Can she read her own palm and know? The truth was in the backyard, G knew my future, and I knew hers—what else could be said? We were smug, satisfied, content. We shared that last cigarette, puffing and passing, not ever coughing, old pros. It was a real treat.
     After midnight, G and I, happy, horny, needy, tugging at each other, got up and went inside and—technically, what occurred next was on June 22, so I don’t have to mention details, but know that morning I slept well, woke loved, made it to the doctor on time.

—Joshua DeWain Foster

Joshua Dewain Foster is the online fiction editor at Gulf Coast. He tweets @jdfish_9 & instas @jdfish9


My 20th blurs into my 21st: I'm wrapping up an 1100 to 2330 shift and I’ve stocked my rooms and I’ve handed off my elderly fall patient and my abdominal pain with a history of bowel obstruction patient to my nightshift replacement, but I wanted to stay on to discharge the ankle pain who's been here going on three hours. She's a little, off, right, and came in with a previous diagnosis of gout, but the PA on her case tonight ruled that out so she's going home with a referral to an orthopedist, an ace wrap, and a prescription for ibuprofen. He also wants her on crutches and she wants a cane and now, after three hours, she tells me she’s a minister and needs a cane for Sunday’s service, and  what? I tell the PA and he says, No way. She needs to be non-weight bearing on that ankle. Eventually she leaves with crutches, and a cane, and now it’s 0015, June 21st.
     I bleach-wipe my shoes, my stethoscope, my shears, my pens, my nametag, the roll of surgical tape I carry around, and my watch, and while I stand there performing this end-of-the-day meditation, I chat with the third-shift crew about their seating arrangements and why the only guy on tonight has been segregated to the far side of the arena. This group’s playlist is typically Trap Rap or Pop Country, and he apparently resists both, and no one can stand his music, so there he is, way over there. Ten feet away, in a different world. As I’m leaving, finally, fuck it’s late, I stop and ask what he’s listening to. Tool, he says, and I say, Oh. I thought it was going to be something really far out. You know them, obviously, he says. And I say, Sure, I used to listen to them when I was a kid, which I later realize might be an offensive thing to say, but I said it, and I can’t spare much energy to dwell on these things.
     He suggests I dig out those old Tool albums, for the nostalgia, if nothing else. He seems excited at this thought, happily indulging in this nostalgia himself, so I just say the obvious, For sure. Well, take it easy, man, instead of the honest, I have no interest in indulging in nostalgia for that time in my life. 
     I am enveloped, and happily so, I think, in the present tense.
     Home, shower, wind-down with 20 pages of The Fifth Season. Then it’s 0200, and I melt into the mattress.
     Jack, who’s three, is up at 0630, and Angie works today—she’s already in the shower—so I pull him into the bed and try to cuddle with him until he turns perpendicular and, pretending to swim, starts kicking me in the face. Ari, 5, appears at the door. I tell him to go pee, because if I don’t, he won’t. Does anyone else struggle with this?
     I know it’s June 21st today, the solstice, the longest day, the day of this big project, all that, but it’s also just Thursday. It’ s any day, every day. Enveloped in the present tense. A creature of the present tense. This largely means living inside a very comfortable routine.
     Today is a Cathi day, Cathi who runs a small daycare out of our house two days a week. I drag myself to the stove to get the coffee going. Stretch a little. Get the boys fed, dressed, teeth brushed, and then hand them off. Two days each week. Sometimes I work on these days, but today I’m off, so it’s truly a free day 0800–1630. I’m off today, so I suppose I mean 8:00 to 4:30.
     Head to the basement to work out. The aim is two days a week of planking, two days a week of intervals. Today it’s intervals: kicks, pullups, star jumps, handstands, squats, leg lifts. This should take me 30 minutes, but I can’t really pull it off in less than 45. I feel good when it’s done, but also so tired, like I’m being slowly pulled into the floor. All I want to do is go sit in a coffeeshop and read all day, and maybe fall asleep there. But these free days are rare, and I made plans to meet an old friend for lunch. Angie has the car, so I’m already late for catching the cross-town bus. It’s a 10-minute walk and 30-minute ride and a 20-minute walk and I’m at this lake-front café a little early so I just sit outside with my feet up and eyes closed and try to empty it all out, you know what I mean?
     Eventually I open my eyes and my friend is 10 minutes late. I head inside, then outside again, and find him parked by the bike rack waiting for me. He’s newly retired from the cubicle world where we both once worked, and we order BLTs and coffees and he catches me up on his latest workout routine, his latest injuries, books he’s been reading. We’re an unlikely lunch couple, and I can’t quite figure it out myself, but here we sit, every few months, catching up. I value this friendship, it’s idiosyncrasy, but I worry about him a bit, too, and this is good, this seeing him periodically. To see he’s doing all right. He did tell me he’s been wearing elastic-banded exercise pants for the last month. He doesn’t say sweatpants. He just says pants like these. Elastic-banded exercise pants. I make fun of him a little bit, and that’s important, I think, that I can do this.
     I walk back to my bus route, a mile along Prospect Ave., quintessential MKE, East Side. Past coffeeshops I used to frequent, bars I haven’t visited in years. I think about stopping for a drink, a quiet sit by myself, maybe take some notes for this project, but I admit I’m anxious to get home, too, to hang out with the boys, and enjoy that space. Once upon a time I was a stay-at-home dad. I often miss the ease, the easier franticness, of those days. I miss the boys, when I’m not there with them.
     On the walk, I’m so tired, people everywhere, noise, cars, kids biking against traffic with no helmets on, so much happening and my head spins. Some college kids are leaning against the bus stop next to me, texting—texting each other?—on their phones, and I feel a little old. Worn. But really good, too, satisfied, and tired, and satisfied, and heading home having not accomplished anything today, but that was a nice walk and I never walk in the city anymore, and it feels almost foreign it’s so unfamiliar to me now and that’s a wonderful feeling. Rejuvenating. So there’s that.
     I fall asleep on the bus.
     The kids hit me when I open the door, the five of them, grabbing my legs, all trying for my attention.
     I get dinner started, can’t remember what I made, just another dinner, one of the five or six I make all the time. The not-our-kids get picked up, then Angie’s home and she takes the boys outside to water the gardens. We eat, we clean up, walk to the next neighborhood over, then back. The boys on their balance bikes. Ari should probably be on a pedal bike by now, but we haven’t picked one up yet. Never seem to get around to it, but whatever. He doesn’t mind, his days are so filled with everything else. Back home, we get them undressed, they both pee, we get them dressed, teeth brushed. It’s hot, so shirts off tonight. I read the bedtime books—I work the next three days 0700-1930 so I won’t really see them again till Monday.
     In bed, they goof, and we’re in and out of their room for another 45 minutes. Finally, they’re out. I pack for tomorrow, scrubs, snacks, breakfast, lunch, more snacks.
     Angie and I take to the couch with the laptop and watch a Marcella, but seriously, why can’t all of these shows be Happy Valley? She invites my hand under her t-shirt, and this is the best part of my day, it’s the point really, or the pinnacle, I don’t know. It’s as if the day with all its momentum, gears grinding, wheels in motion, is just a vehicle meant to arrive me here. So many lovely moments in the day, most days, all days, today, and here is one more.
     Of course, we start falling asleep almost immediately. Rouse ourselves to brush our teeth, our own teeth, let the dog out, and in again, take off our day clothes, hit the lights, get up again to turn the ceiling fan back on, tuck back in with just a sheet—this is our routine. A little cuddle, a roll away. And there are all those things I’d wanted to accomplish today, emails to finish, other friends to catch up with, words to write, the toilet is still running needs a new flapper probably, the boys’ ceiling fan isn’t going to fix itself, the lamp in the front hall needs a new pull chain, the garden is still carpeted with purslane, the front porch that took a year and a half to build is finally finished but needs staining. Stacks of books, so much reading. I’d love to just hit the lake and do some fishing. There is this constant list, a daily litany, but perhaps my greatest survival trait is my inability to stay awake. I crash hard and sleep easily.
     All of that clutter, I push it aside and focus on a memory from last Sunday—I’ve been falling asleep to this memory all week: We’ve finished dinner with my folks at the campsite, sausages and corn and watermelon, and then we hike to the boat launch on the far side of the lake, where the kayaks are tethered, and where it’s less crowded and everyone’s dogs are let loose to swim, and it’s after 8, the sun almost orange now, the water so warm and peaceful, and Jack is in a lifejacket next to me as I float on my back, only the sky and the green tops of the trees in my view. He can propel himself through the water now, but as I drift away from him, he reaches out and grabs my big toe, and now I’m pulling him, and I look at him, his hair wet and wild, spiked in every direction, and his eyes are wide—he’s thrilled to be getting this ride—and he smiles, such a big smile, and I float, weightless, and I love him, and this, all of this, so much. There is nothing else. Nothing. I will fall asleep to this memory forever.
     And then I'm out.

—Craig Reinbold

Craig Reinbold was once the managing editor of this site and continues to curate Essay Daily’s series featuring international essayists. He works in the ER of a Milwaukee-area hospital. 


Should be asleep already (12AM; long drive tomorrow), but choose to flip through channels. Must first take Clorox On-the-Go Disinfecting Wipe from backpack and sanitize hotel remote from top to bottom; front and back; in the grooves; behind soft buttons, esp. Power and Channel Up.
     Infomercial for Age Spot Cream, Free Naughty Channel, Infomercial for Ab Cruncher. Think about buying one Ab Cruncher w/ Free Exercise Band (Low, low price of $39.99). Last week I jabbed my lil pinky into softness of belly and almost felt one ab coming thru. Soon I will be big and strong.
     Here’s a good one: it’s Dumb-But-Well-Meaning Parcel Deliveryman Has an Angry Wife. (Episode in which Parcel Deliveryman attempts to hide fact from Angry Wife that he has purchased sports car, but she’s too smart for silly Parcel Deliveryman. Wife figures out Deliveryman and fight ensues.) Many laughs. Nagging Wife! Silly Stupid Deliveryman!
     Eek, a gnat has landed on my plush duvet! I kill it and disinfect the area with a combination of bar soap, hot water, and Purell Advanced Hand Sanitizer (kills 99.9% of germs!)
     At 12:30, more laughs!—on New York Sports Writer Has Angry Wife and Lives Across from Overbearing Mom and Lazyass Dad, Angry Wife thinks Sports Writer might liker her better if she gets a boob job. (Episode is called “Boob Job”.) Already seen. Back to Ab Cruncher while I do a crossword on my phone.
     Lights out. Close eyes. Remember that even the most scrupulous housekeeper would not likely think to disinfect the little knob beneath the lampshade, so I double-wash my hands and return to bed.
     Up to pee. Almost pee usual way (standing), then remember urine epiphany from last week after Friend B.O. and I hiked big muddy mountain. When B.O. and I returned to his house to relieve ourselves, B.O. said:
— Gotta pee like a racehorse.
— Ok, B.O., you go first.
     B.O. only in bathroom minute or so. Now my turn. Standing at the toilet, I see two muddy boot prints facing towards the sink, not the toilet. Did B.O. make a poo in such little time?
— B.O., did you make a poo?
— No, just a pee.
— Then why were your bootprints facing away from the toilet, B.O.?
— I pee sitting down. It prevents splashing.
     Yes it does! Why have I not previously thought to do this? When I was a child I asked my parents to install a low-flow urinal in my bathroom (they said no), but I never thought to just sit down like a lady does.
     So I sit down to pee. Wash hands twice. Can’t be too careful.
     More sleep.
     Up. Shower. Pee sitting down again. (It’s quickly becoming a habit, although I’m still mad I’ve wasted an entire quarter-century splashing myself while urinating.) Pack up. Down to the front desk to check out and turn in my keycard.
— Checkin’ out? asks Needlemark Jim from behind the desk.
— Yep.
— What brought you to Cathedral City?
— Just passing through. On my way to Phoenix from the Bay Area.
— Oh yeah, you from the Bay Area? Me too! What part?
— No, just visiting family in the South Bay.
— Ah, don’t know that part too well.
(A relief. Neither do I. All I know is that down in the South Bay there are many old men on bikes with all their gross leghair overflowing from their wool socks as they pass me. The worst part about them is that when you honk at them, even curse, all they do is wave at you and smile rather than the more customary approach: present you with their finger.)
     Needlemark Jim bids me adieu as he achoos into his crusty sleeve. Bye Needlemark Jim!
     My car’s temperature gauge says it’s 112°, so I lower the thermostat to 60° and turn the fan on high. By the time I reach the Jack in the Box drive-thru a few blocks away, the car is comfortable. Thank jesus for technology. Otherwise he only redeeming thing about this Coachella Valley desert town would be the local oppressive sun’s ability to remove all scent of street piss immediately.
     After enjoying one Chicken Fajita Pita and one Medium Jumpin’ Jack Splash in the parking lot, I drive 275 miles. Along the way, I listen to a few podcasts, including How and Why I Broke Up My Marriage by Killing a Series of Prostitutes and Who Killed Grandma Eleanor with a Blunt Object?
     When I arrive in Phoenix, Young Friend Millicent asks to meet me for dessert.
     We go to one of my favorite eateries, Hipster Diner Where All Waitpersons Must Have at Least Three Arm Tattoos, which has recently added some delicious pies to its menu. Young Friend Millicent orders strawberry rhubarb, but they are out, so instead she settles for blueberry.
     Young Friend Millicent and I catch up.
     I see that Young Friend Millicent has unshaven armpits. In fact they are as furry as the rear end of the hefty hirsute man named Dwayne I see in the gym most weekdays. I know his name is Dwayne because he likes to introduce himself to new gym patrons (—Hi buddy, I’m Dwayne!) in the locker room while naked, but thankfully his hirsuteness and big belly veil his tiny pecker.
     Recently Cousin Nelly told Grandma:
— I am going to stop shaving my pits.
— That’s just silly! protested Grandma. Girls should shave every day. Haven’t I taught you anything?!
     Normally I would side with Cousin Nelly, but I too do not understand why anyone, woman or man, would desire to have unshaven armpits. My pits are currently as bare as a baby’s bottom. This allows my Secret Powder Fresh Solid deodorant to glide on effortlessly.
     I would quite like to be hairless. I imagine that hairless people generally have less stank than the haired, as stank often seems to be a product of sweat mingling revoltingly with arm hair, leg hair, head hair, eyebrows, pubes, et cetera.
     Done with pie, am beat, it’s getting late, return to apartment.
     Am about to slip into bed when I remember that Friend Zander, who was watching my cat and my bird and my apartment while I was away, had been sleeping in my bed. Friend Zander seems to engage in sex quite often, so I don’t know what or whose germs I might be exposing myself to if I choose to lie down on what has surely become a cesspool of dried bodily fluids.
     I strip my bed, place the sheets in the hamper, and walk to the laundry room downstairs, where I spy my dirty neighbor Stanley.
     Will just get a hotel room.

—Carlos Davy Hauser

Carlos Davy Hauser is a poet and photographer originally from Skagway, Alaska. He recently received his MFA in Photographic and Electronic Media from the Maryland Institute College of Art. He shares his apartment with his cat, Tim-Tom, and his parakeet, Brandon.


I'm at the Tucson Botanical Gardens, sitting in Cafe Botanica with my new laptop—an experiment. I'm a member of the Gardens and I told my peer counselor that I wanted to come here one morning a week to start the day elsewhere, because I tend to waft around my apartment in the morning, petting my cats, drinking iced coffee (I make really good iced coffee), sitting at my desk, then on the couch, thinking about taking a shower, and taking a shower, or not taking a shower, remembering and forgetting that my number-one job is to write, and hours later remembering, oh, shit! that's what I was going to do: write! I don't have a job-job anymore because there's no job-job that I can do consistently, or that I can do without making mistakes, because my brain keeps jumping the tracks. When I was at the end of my job-job working life, I got used to feeling incompetent. As the administrative assistant slash receptionist, I’d sit at my desk with pens and post-it notes, a stapler and a 5-line telephone, a list of stuff I needed to do and the stuff that needed doing. I would read my list of stuff to do, start the first thing, but then I would stop, turn my head and read my list again, and then look at what I’d just started, and say, “Okay.” The phone would ring. I’d answer it, talk, write a message, and then I would read my list, again. I felt like I was a third grader put into the 11th grade by mistake and I would cry because I couldn’t keep up. It turns out nobody wants to work with a crybaby, and neither do I. So now I don’t have a job-job, but I get a check every month from the Feds. I’d always wanted more time to make art and write, but this doesn’t feel like “free time,” because part of my brain is on vacation. But now I’m writing. Right now. I’m writing what happens. Today.
     I'm amazed that I made it here. I woke up at 9:00 a.m. and got up. That doesn't sound very impressive, but for me it's an accomplishment worthy of a high-five. I use the alarm app, “I Can’t Wake-up!” to make my phone wake me up. (Really, that’s the name of it.) It has a slew of tasks you can choose from, that you have to accomplish before the alarm will turn off. So once the alarm starts playing the extremely irritating blues riff that I chose to wake me, I have to do three tasks: copy a string of random text, press five buttons in the correct order in a five-by-five button grid, and get up, go into the bathroom and scan the bar code on my shampoo bottle. Waking gently just isn't something I can do. The previous music I'd used was too lyrical and lovely to wake me up, it only served as a weak prompt to get me to consider waking up—it might as well have been a lullaby cooing to me to snooze the alarm again—even after doing the tasks.
     It's not that I need more sleep, but as my prescriber told me, "vivid dreams" are a common side-effect of one of my psych meds—quetiapine—the generic version of Seroquel. In my case, if I open my eyes, do the tasks my alarm requires, and snooze it for any length of time, 10, 7, even 4 minutes, as soon as I close my eyes I enter an instant full-blown vivid dream. They are richly colored breathing scenes that spring out of my unconscious mind like a lady bursts out of a cake at a bachelor party, and I can’t wake up from the party, the lady, the cake, the bachelors. But today, when I heard the irritating electric guitar blues riff, I woke with a growl, started the tasks, put my feet on the floor and stood up.
     Sitting here isn't comfortable, at all. My back hurts like a sling shot stretched too far. Ouch. This is not conducive, even with Bob Dylan on the system. The sound system. I just noticed that the word shoulder has the word "should" in it.
     The lady with the black apron is crouched in the shade of a patio umbrella holding out her arm with something in her fingers. Ooo! A lizard approaches; it's a big lizard, fat and checkered. Hmm, how big? how fat? It’s about ten big blueberries long, and two big blueberries across. She drops the something, the lizard darts and the something is gone. She stands up, and looks into the distance—this is her habitat—she shares it with lizards. I think she's lucky, and I am lucky to have come here today.
     When I first walked into the empty cafe, I asked her how much a cup of coffee was. “$3.50 plus tax,” she said. Geez, that seemed like a lot, I thought, so I didn’t order coffee, but asked her if I could sit and write for a while. She was slow to answer. “You can sit at one of the little tables until it gets busy, then you’ll have to go.” I thanked her. It was so un-busy at the moment, with only me there, that I had my pick of the tables, which is worse than having only one table available, because I had to choose one. Choosing confuses me because it involves considering, and I am a slow considerer. Each table was by a window, so I looked out each window, considering what view I wanted. I put my stuff down on one table, then looked out the window again, and chose a different table. I wanted the optimum table. That reminds me, I stopped at the 12-foot square little Japanese garden on my way to the café. It’s one of the little gardens in this big garden. It’s neat because there is a sand table with miniature monolithic rocks sticking out of it. I picked up the heavy, steel, miniature rake and slowly drug it through the sand, making little sand waves around the rocks. A little girl saw me doing it and I offered her the rake. She didn’t take it from me. As I walked away, the lady with her said, “This is feng shui. I’ll teach you about it when you’re older; how does that sound?”
     I wanted to say, “That sounds horrible. Fuck feng shui. It’s just sand and rocks.” But that wouldn’t have been very Japanese gardenesque of me.
     When I asked her what she fed the lizard, the café lady said, “A blueberry.”
     “A blueberry?!” I said.
     “Yes! I dropped a blueberry once and a lizard ate it. They LOVE blueberries! Now two of them will eat out of my hand. I feed them all day long." I ordered a cup of coffee.
     I told her about my project, "A bunch of people from all over are writing about what happens today." I wondered if the lizards’ tongues turned blue, like mine, when they eat blueberries, and I wondered if I shouldn’t have told her what I was doing, because I didn’t have to, and maybe I’d blown my cover. But no, I’m not an undercover kind of gal. A lady, a lizard, a garden, a stretch of shade, another lady, a computer, a cup of coffee, a saucer, a see-through garden table with see through chairs—expanded metal—lathe. Oh, yes, I always want to add an extra lump of expanded observation to every thought. It is my way. This is not a police report.
     I'm getting out of here. It’s super-hot already: 11:42 a.m. 97 degrees. Tucson, Arizona. The high is supposed to be 106 today. Will I go to the YMCA? That's my plan, and today is today and available.
     I went to the Y. Other stuff happened. I ate. I watched the news and turned it off when I heard that Koko had died in her sleep. Koko the gorilla was dead. I started to cry when I thought of the Mister Rogers episode when he went to visit Koko, and how she took off his shoes and socks, and how little he looked when she held him in her arms. He was very brave. Two gentle beings, both gone. I looked up some articles online. There was an email address. This is what I wrote:
I'm so sad to hear that Koko has died. She was a beautiful being. She taught me about kindness and I thank you for raising and caring for her and never mistreating her.
     You are a wonderful example of how much goodness we bring to the world when we choose to be the best human beings we can be.
     I will never be able to fathom how we can be such a loving and kind species, yet some among us persistently devote their time, their spectacular minds, and our shared resources to invent and invest in a constellation of tools and methods to kill one another and institutionalize cruelty.
     I disagree with people who believe that we humans, specifically the males of our species, are unable to control our cruel and deadly "instincts," that war is a given, and that "evil" is an actual proven "force" akin to gravity.
     Maybe I stray too far from our shared grief at Koko's loss, but I do believe that to live gently, as Koko did, would be a wondrous achievement for humanity; we might even find that it feels natural. And if it doesn't, we can learn to do it anyway.
     Without Koko and without your work, I would not have come up with this version of the (my) truth on my own. Thank you for inspiring me.
—Heidi MacDonald

Heidi MacDonald writes nonfiction and poetry. She has a BFA in sculpture from the University of Houston. She began writing in 7th grade because it helped.

And… that's all folks, at least from our Write-a-Day June 21st project this year. We're back to our regularly-scheduled programming in a week or so. Keep an eye out for the next version of this experiment and some thoughts on what happened. —Editors

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