Forward Thinking

The students at the craft school are all on spring break, which means a cut back in hours at the coffeehouse and a bit of lounge time during the afternoon shift. Today I sat on a tall wooden stool behind the counter next to Flo(w), our Italian espresso machine. The view from the window covers the down slope of Conley Ridge, the top of Seven Mile Ridge and farthest in the distance, a slight view of the rim of the Black Mountains. Sometimes I imagine I am a crow and can fly myself home, just a few miles from point A to point B, rather than seventeen miles skirting around two ridges and deep into the South Toe River valley.

But a dense fog rolled in by closing, like a ghost-snow rolling over the hills and finally settling on the sloping field across from the coffeehouse where the llamas pasture in winter. A handful of staff members on campus had already come in for their mid-afternoon caffeine fixes and the rest of the afternoon was as quiet as a sleeping toad. At first I busied myself with the necessary tasks: wiping down tables, stocking the sandwich bar, sodas, and coffee beans, preparing iced coffee and gingerade pitchers for the morning shift, etc.

The chance for solitude while on the clock was a little bittersweet, however. I missed the traffic flow of students coming in and out, checking their email and buying fresh baked treats. No one came to me in need of counsel or to offer humorous confessions from a craft school party. None appeared before me with drooping eyelids and sagging mouths, aching for the house specialty mochas made with our secret recipe chocolate goo.

I got through another thirty pages of Jack Driscoll’s novel, Lucky Man, Lucky Woman, which provides a fascinating and intimate view into the mind of a forty-year-old married man with no children who is unhappy with his life but doesn’t know why. I’d like to ask the author if all men fantasize about other women in real life as much as Perry, the main character in the novel does (all the while, truly, genuinely expressing his deepest love for his wife…and I’m not be facetious here). Jack Driscoll is on the faculty at Pacific so I could ask him this in four weeks face-to-face – but that wouldn’t really get at the heart of the matter. This novel is teaching me about the eloquence of character development and the selectivity of the narrator (omniscient third person). How this relates to building plot remains to be seen, which is what I would need to discuss with him.

And with the synchronicity of Cinderella’s fairy godmother, at about that moment an email popped up in my inbox from the MFA director reminding me when my manuscripts for workshop are due. Four weeks to the day to grill time. I’m nervous and excited, worried how I’ll measure up yet a little confident at the same time. What remains to be seen is how I will write my proposal this week that the faculty will read and then, based on that, decide who I get to work with one-on-one for the semester. There has never been a more crucial moment in which I need to be able to articulate who I am as a writer and where I hope to go.

Think I’ll sleep on that one tonight.

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