When the alarm sounded, I hit the snooze button. At least I thought I did. I woke up thirty minutes later- fifteen minutes late.
I leapt from bed to the kitchen to make a pot of coffee and scrambled to take a shower, cursing my luck. I nicked myself shaving, and realized only after I’d donned a black shirt that all my black socks were dirty.
I changed out of the black shirt, grabbed my keys, and went to the kitchen, only to discover that the coffeemaker had malfunctioned and overflowed. I cleaned up the mess got in the car at 7:38, twenty minutes later than I normally left.
I got stuck at a train crossing. Some asshole cut me off on the interstate. I had a new pile of papers on my desk when I got to work. I explained to my boss that I didn’t have time for these papers today. Besides, wasn’t this type of thing Joe’s job?
Joe’s sick, and the job needs to get done.
My wife called on the way home. She’d forgotten pesto, and needed me to stop at the store.
Another asshole had rammed a guard rail three miles up. I got stuck in traffic, but at least I could relax a bit. I turned on Zeppelin and closed my eyes.
The phone rang. It was my mother-in-law. I’d never hear the end of it if I didn’t answer.
She talked my ear off for thirty minutes. I tried to end the conversation, but never got a chance to speak. She was too busy telling me about her plans for Easter, and the baskets she’d bought for the kids, and her doctor’s visit last week.
Before I knew it, I was at the grocery store, and I hadn’t had a moment to relax. Zeppelin would have to wait. I got the pesto and went to the self-checkout lane. Four lanes and sixteen people stood before me. My line, of course, moved more slowly than the others. I scanned the jar, and the machine informed me that assistance was required. A cashier had been alerted.
God damn it.
Finally, I made it home. Making my way to the front door, I stepped in dog shit. I left my shoes on the front porch and opened the door to the din of two kids screaming and the dog’s incessant barking. My wife was in the kitchen, making dinner.
“What the hell is wrong with Katie? She looks like she’s on the verge of tears.”
“The boy she likes ignored her today.”
The dog was still barking.
“In his room throwing a fit. He’s mad because I took the iPad away.”
My wife was moving through the kitchen like a woman possessed, whisking, mixing, frying. She hadn’t even turned to look at me.
My eyes fell on the kitchen window. The sunbeams were coming through in waves, lighting up the dust particles in the air.
I took a deep breath.
Then I turned to my wife.
“Honey, how much time before dinner?”
“An hour, maybe. I’m going as fast as I can, dear.” There was some strain in her voice. From behind, I put my hands on her waist, and reached around to kiss her cheek.
“I’ll be back. I’m going to take the kids to the park.”
I changed into jeans and a t-shirt and loaded the kids in the car. I refused to tell them where we were going, so they were reluctant. It was like dragging kid-sized boulders to the car.
We pulled up to the park three minutes later. When it came into view, I heard Jake squeal.
“The park! The park! Daddy brought us to the park, Sissy!”
I turned in my seat to look at my daughter. She fought a smile for a split second, then went with it.
They both ran to the jungle gym first. I sat on the bench and watched as they climbed, both sticking out their tongues, as they always did when they were concentrating.
There were no other kids around.
I pulled out my phone when it vibrated. A new email. I put the phone back in my pocket without opening it.
“Daddy! Daddy! Come play with us!”
I ran to the playground and climbed up the rope that you’re supposed to climb down. I met my daughter at the top. She faked a startled scream, slid down the slide, and ran to the swings, where my son was waiting. We swung.
And I watched the world melt away with each laugh, each glimmer in their eyes.
Not long ago, I said on this very site that I wanted to use it as a sort of reading journal. It was an intriguing idea- I read so many great things, and wanted to remember more of it. A quick post and a little commentary would help me do that, and at the same time, provide a little value to readers. I had some worthwhile things to say, after all.
Then I started experimenting with fiction, which needed to evolve. I felt that I’d said much of what I wanted to say in essay form, and fiction felt like the next step in my evolution as a writer. Or, rather, I felt a compulsion to write stories.
I started to write combination flash fiction and essay pieces, which, to my knowledge, no one else was doing. It was original. That’s a good schtick, right?
Then I started to consider using Wonderisms as a link blog. It would mean more frequent posts, but would require about the same amount of time and work. Lots of others were doing it, and were driving a decent amount of traffic with the format.
That was what I wanted to do, wasn’t it? Drive traffic?
When I asked myself that question, the answer surprised me. No. That wasn’t the aim. How had I forgotten so quickly?
During the day, I write copy. Depending on the subject, it may be incredibly boring, or somewhat satisfying. The research is sometimes enlightening.
Mostly, though, it’s boring. I’m told precisely what to write, then I write it. A lot of it.
Sssimpli was supposed to be the money-maker. Not a lot, but I’d always expected it to serve two functions: as a resume for other tech news sites that may have a paid staff writer opening at some point, and, failing that, to monetize the site itself somehow. Turns out I love doing the work, but it’s still somewhat restricted work. I have a clear vision, and I stick to it.
Then there’s Wonderisms, which was never supposed to make money. It was supposed to be my playground. It was supposed to be the place where I experiment, where I turn to play with words. If I monetized it, I would be restricted. Will readers like this new format? What if traffic drops? I can’t afford that. Better stick to what got me here.
That, of course, would leave me without a playground.
We all need it: that ability to let things slip away. Nothing so nurtures that ability than a playground. Your playground may not be a park, or a jungle gym. It may be a book, or meeting friends for dinner and drinks, or the garage, or the gym. It doesn’t really matter what it is, so long as there’s that one place that you can go to play hard.
This is my word playground. It will remain free of goals, free of vision, free of restriction. This week, it will be what I want it to be. Next week, it will be something different, because next week, I will want something different.
We all work too hard. Isn’t it time we played hard, too?