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emmer effer
a pretend genius broadsuction
some days are better than none
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Cathy Eaton

On New Year’s Eve, my girlfriends and I swirled among the merrymakers as we danced Scottish reels and jigs at Widow Fletcher’s. The fireplace didn’t burn peat, but the pub’s low ceilings and knotty-pine paneling exuded authenticity. Smoke swirled above wall sconces, and waiters in kilts kept refilling our glasses. We downed Glen Fiddich as we marked my entry into the world of flourishing writers. While a fiddler serenaded me with “None But A Harper,” we clinked glasses and watched out the large window as snow blanketed the streets of Boston.
The girls toasted my agent. I raised a glass to the judges from the Harper Novel Competition. Those astute gentlemen had awarded me five thousand dollars based on my first captivating chapters. We saluted my Scottish rebel protagonist who couldn’t fail to capture the hearts of readers as he valiantly avenged his father’s murder and the torching of his village. None of us doubted that I would land a book deal the instant I finished my historical novel.
The next morning, my head hosted tiny elves setting up a carpentry shop. Some sawed right through my cranium while others pounded nails straight into my skull. Forty-seven was way too old to be drinking and dancing and drinking some more ‘til dawn’s dreary trumpet call.
No more celebrating. I was on a mission!  
The mirror had the audacity to reveal bloodshot eyes, dark creases around my chapped lips, and shoulder length tangles of gray hair. The thirty extra pounds I’d packed on since my divorce a decade earlier needed to be shed just like those adjectives and adverbs that I would prune in ruthless revisions. I sucked in my cheeks and squinted to see my newer. thinner look. Wine at dinner – not happening. Ritual morning stops at Dunkin Donuts – terminated. Those excesses were not part of my new regime. Delicious deadlines loomed before me.
My life had changed in December when my boss, the principal at Portsmouth Middle School, summoned me into his cluttered office. “Good news, Patricia. The board approved your sabbatical!” He was beaming. But the way his fingers tugged at the knot of his yellow-striped tie notched up my stress level.
“And,” I prompted.
“Well, your job’s safe. It’s all yours when you return.”
Relief swamped me, and my intestinal knotting began to unravel. Why had I tortured myself? The school board, those spectacled dozen crones and retired lawyers, had come through.
Then Mr. Hanson began fidgeting with the framed photos of his three daughters.
I waited.
“There’s just one thing.” He coughed.
I stopped breathing.
“We can’t actually pay you when you’re not teaching. But,” and he beamed again, “the good news is that we got you the time off to write.”
It was great news, I told myself. A sabbatical! I had the spring semester and summer free. When Mr. Hanson came over to put his sweaty arms around me, I ducked out of his embrace. “Gotta get to class,” skidded out my mouth before I bolted out the door, barely acknowledging the secretary’s gushing congratulations.
My job was safe. My health insurance secure. I just had to wrap my mind around the minor matter of not getting paid for six months. My dream to write without interruption for eight months was no longer stuck on a back burner.
The missing paycheck wasn’t a deal breaker. I quit my health club, promised myself not to buy new clothes, and cancelled my car insurance. After all, I’d never had an accident. My alimony would pay the mortgage. The five-thousand-dollar grant would cover groceries, utilities, and house insurance on our split-level with a couple hundred a month to spare. Besides, what were credit cards for if not to provide for the little extras in life? 
An artist now, I could live on inspiration, sweat (I did know that writing was hard work) and fresh air. Vigorous, cost-free walking would burn off those extra pounds. My new, trim body would become the temple to inspire my creative muse. I was not going into this sabbatical blind. I had everything covered. What could go wrong? 
My fiction teacher’s agent had agreed to be my agent and pitch my book to publishers when my manuscript was done. I’d already punched out ten of the thirty chapters. All that writing when I had no life: teaching six classes during the day to pimply-faced, hormone-run-a-muck middle-schoolers; waitressing two nights a week for their mothers who flashed diamond rings and bracelets on their chubby fingers and wrists.
    Woops. Forgot to mention my son, Sam, who’s six inches taller than my five-foot-seven frame and a paltry twenty-five pounds heavier. He “totally” understood how I needed time to thrash my novel into shape.
Sam was sixteen, played baseball and soccer, and was smitten with a cute gal from his chemistry class. With the tips he made at Outback, he volunteered to fill up the tank when he borrowed my car. Practices and games would keep him too fatigued to get into trouble, and Sherri would occupy his free time. How fortunate her parents were Catholic. All guilt, incense and rosaries. No need to worry about the sex stuff.
Bulk shopping at Costco would lower our grocery bills. Each week, I’d cook a few casseroles, always great for leftovers. Sam pledged, “I’ll whip up one meal a week. “Good practice for when I’m on my own.”
Dinnertime would be our together-time. My son would not be neglected. I would not stunt his growth by ignoring him. Instead, he would flourish in the freedom I allowed him. On Sundays, we’d have brunch with spicy gingerbread waffles and banana-berry smoothies.
That sacred ritual started when his dad crammed his belongings into supersized Tupperware boxes early one morning and hefted them into a U-Haul emitting diesel fumes in our driveway. Fifty-eight trips dismantled our life as a family. Frank worked solo: no help from me perched on the porch swing; no help from the blond passenger slouched in the cab.
A languorous arm with jangling plastic bracelets reached out the window to adjust the side mirror. Her spying wasn’t subtle. I didn’t give her the satisfaction of seeing me slink inside or screw up my face with weepy recriminations. I even kissed Frank goodbye. On the lips.
For months afterward, I dragged to school, bawled in the parking lot, and hibernated in front of late night movies, putting check marks on papers I couldn’t remember reading. I downed hundreds of Oreo cookies and glazed donuts, which made my stomach queasy and kept me sleepless as I squirmed around the vast bed.
Sam threw himself into sports. He dented the garage door with the pitches he slammed against it. When his father called, Sam dragged himself to the phone. I insisted. Curt, monosyllabic responses was all Frank got. More than the bastard deserved.
For a few years, I wallowed in self-pity. When my marriage dissolved, I lost my identity. That is until I discovered writing. Much more satisfying than listening to Frank gripe about his engineering job and lousy commute to Boston. Hanging out and laughing with my divorced girlfriends while we learned to line dance and took karate classes beat dressing up and dining with Frank’s stuffy friends.
But now, no whiny husband and no needy students demanded my attention. In the first six weeks of my sabbatical, four new chapters poured out of me.
The first hiccup occurred forty-five days into my writing marathon. Sam sprang his surprise on Valentine’s Day. He counted on me falling for strokable hair and an unruly wagging tail. He convinced me – I am tempted to say conned me – to let him adopt a Golden Retriever puppy from a litter of six.
Sam asked, “How much trouble can it be to care for a puppy that weighs less than twelve pounds?” He trotted out his proposal. “What you see before you is a waiter. I’ll be raking in tips.” Anticipating my objections, he removed from his jean pockets a crumpled list of expenses. “Puppy food, shots, leash, bowl, and toys – I’ll pay for them all.” It was a nice touch that he named the puppy Gregor after my Scottish protagonist.
Besides, I had three more chapters banged out, and my agent raved about my last installment. I didn’t tell him I stole the weapon idea from one of Sam’s video games. My clansmen fired poison-tipped arrows at the English infantry marching in ineffective rows. They retreated in disarray to the glen where my Scots, concealed in the thickets, rushed out and hacked them apart with claymores and dirks.
I was in rare form. My writing, not my body. It accumulated extra pounds in direct correlation to the number of chapters I churned out. The frosty weather and slushy mush of our New Hampshire winter had confined me inside during January and February.
At first, stepping out with Gregor for brisk romps energized me. As he galloped beside me on unsteady legs, I imagined pounds melting away. I mastered untangling my legs from his leash when he wound me up like a top. I didn’t even mind braving the wintry mess. When I retreated into our warm house, I translated the dastardly wind stabbing my face and numbing my toes into harsh winter scenes that the Scottish rebels had to endure.
What I didn’t love was having Gregor as my tireless companion claiming my attention. He was worse than sixth grade girls hyped on Halloween candy and racing around the locker room as they slithered into costumes for the middle school masquerade dance. He needed to go out and pee. He barked to come in. He wanted food. He demanded I toss him a rubber chicken.
The day he chewed my computer cord was the day I banished him into the kitchen and out of the dining room that I’d converted into my study: books in orange crates, card tables covered with research notes, and a computer made up of generic components. Driving to three different stores to replace the frayed cords cost me a full day of writing.
I installed a baby gate to keep him out of my sanctuary. Within the hour, Gregor knocked the fence down with his pogo stick jumping.
I reinstalled the gate.
Gregor knocked it down.
I jammed it back into place and shoved a chair against it. His high-pitched puppy yips shrieked inside my eardrums. I hammered out a scene detailing a frenzied storm. It fit my mood and was the perfect cover for a sneak attack.
Gregor ate a hole in the fence.
I duct taped it together.
His piranha teeth ripped off the tape.
Spewing out profanities that would make my gutter-born jailor character blush, I spent another bloody hour reinforcing the webbing with wire coat hangers that I straightened out and wrapped across partitions on the baby gate. At last, victorious.
Until Gregor desecrated the kitchen.
I stepped in it. After I scraped the stinky shit off my slipper-socks, I deleted three pages of storm details. A mere dozen words escaped the hatchet.
Enough was enough. The next day, I hired a neighbor to walk the damnable dog while I fled the house and escaped to the Highland Archives at Harvard. My research transported me back to eighteenth-century Scotland, its political upheavals, barren landscapes, and harsh weather. I poured over illustrations of costumes of warring clans.
After that, I braved the beastly commute and battled the demented Massachusetts drivers twice a week. The sacrifice was worth it. Historical accuracy was not to be trifled with.
On the day I was investigating the construction of Scottish dungeons, I left the library armed with pages of notes, ready to tackle the prison scene where my protagonist was burning up with fever. When I pulled into the garage, I planned to ask Sam to whip up an omelet, so I could jump on the computer. As I entered the mudroom, unrelenting barks boomeranged around the house. Sam had imprisoned Gregor in the bathroom. I found my son kneeling on the kitchen floor. He looked like a medieval penitent.
“Stupid, stupid dog,” exploded my son as I set my notebook on the counter. “Look at the kitchen floor. It’s ruined.”
My momentum to write withered as I examined the linoleum that Gregor’s sharp toenails had ripped up. His razor teeth had shredded a three-foot section. Even Sam’s nimble fingers couldn’t glue back the scraps. Rubbery puzzle pieces curled at the edges from slippery puppy mouth. I didn’t want to touch them. Instead, I covered the mutilated gap in the linoleum with a braided rug my grandmother had made in the fifties.
Pacing around the island, I said, “A new kitchen floor isn’t in our budget.”
Despondent, Sam slouched on a stool and demolished a bag of salty Fritos.
“This is your fault,” I said. “You promised a puppy wouldn’t be a problem. Just look at the gnawed chairs and windowsills. A rug won’t cover them.”
“You shouldn’t have left him alone, Mom. Gregor was lonely. He got bored.”
“He’s your responsibility.” I whipped out a bag of carrots from the refrigerator and chomped through three unsatisfying sticks.
“I have to go to school. You don’t.”
“Enough. I expect you to buy a fence for the backyard. He can’t destroy that.”
Sam’s succinctness, inherited from his engineer father, wasn’t going to cut it. “I expect you to pay for a fence and install it.” I terminated the argument.
“A fence is not in my budget,” he countered before raking his fingers through his spiked black hair as he unrolled his lanky frame from the kitchen barstool and stepped over the baby gate.
“Come back here,” I yelped in a less than civilized manner.
“Mom, I’ve got homework to do,” he said without an ounce of barbarianism in his voice. He grabbed his backpack and sprinted down the hallway to his bedroom. For a moment, I stared at his Scooby-Doo boxers, riding three inches higher than his low-slung cargo pants.
“Get your butt back in here before I flail you alive.” My threat drew him back, the corners of his eyes crinkling with mirth.
“Having trouble separating your Scottish rhetoric from our lives?” he said before grabbing lemonade from the refrigerator and gulping a few draughts from the pitcher.
I ignored his bad manners and shot back, “Sam, you promised you would pay all the puppy’s expenses.”
“Mom, think about my expenses. I’ll be forking out money for the yearbook, baseball cleats, and a new glove. And the prom, well that’s a killer. Tickets, tux, limo, corsage and dinner – a quick 350. You can look after Gregor in the house. It won’t kill you.”
“A promise is a promise.” I could be succinct, too.
“Mom, I leave for school at 6:30 on the bus with all the pitiful freshman and sophomores, run three miles before practice, work eighteen hours a week at a restaurant clogging up my lungs with smoke, get home past midnight three nights a week, and in case you haven’t noticed, I’m keeping up my B Plus average.”
“Your point?”
“Look at your life. sleep in, type a couple pages a day, stroll around the block with Gregor, and whenever possible, you scoot down to Cambridge and drool over designs on hilts of ancient swords while you look up two-hundred-year-old Scottish weather reports.”
    I stiffened. He didn’t have a clue how hard it was to create characters that could leap off the page and plot twists that could confound a reader. “You can tap into your savings for the fence.”
“Actually, I’m using my savings for a down payment on a car. If Dad was around, he’d help me by a car.”
“Don’t go there.”
“Bumming rides from my friends for baseball and work has gotten old. You promised, if you remember, I could use your car most of the time since you were going to be very, very busy working on your great masterpiece.”
    I cringed and began cleaning the surface of the stove, which was stained with bubbled-over-gravy and the splattering of fried-egg lunches. It’s true I had mentioned he could borrow the car. But twice a week, I was committed to doing research in Cambridge. Every week, Friday was the evening I volunteered at the food pantry, and Saturday was girls’ night out.
I paused.
Sam hunched forward.
I scrubbed a little harder.
His jaw clenched.
“Alright, you can get a car if you can swing the monthly payments and the insurance. I’ll buy the fence.” His dad wouldn’t have caved, but then again, his dad had bolted. He had no part in these negotiations.
Sam’s jaw came unhinged. The bear hug he gave me almost erased my worries about him affording a car and keeping himself whole while he zipped around town.
The argument lasted less than ten minutes, but the headache it precipitated swallowed two days of writing. Half my sabbatical was over, my plot was starting to bore me, and my agent wanted me to make major changes in chapters I thought were dynamite. “The voice, the energy is missing,” he emailed me. He had that right.
Gregor, gaining muscles but lacking coordination, romped gleefully inside the new fence while I ignored the holes he dug. His excavations triggered thoughts of underground escape routes. When Gregor barked at all the squirrels that scampered up and down trees in their romantic spring frenzy, I tuned him out by listening to bagpipe music through headphones while I typed away at the siege scene.
April was a productive month. Three chapters flowed from my fingertips as I plotted out a scorching romance between a black-haired Scottish lass and Gregor, who had risen in the ranks of the militia. The passion was unlike anything I experienced with Frank or could anticipate during my lifetime. Too bad my Scottish hunk had no clue that Pamela, the epitome of darting tongue and sizzling hands, was a Fergusson on her mother’s side and that she was conveying secrets to her clan leader. I finished the village massacre scene. Enough blood and hacked up limbs to give Braveheart a run for its money. Now I had to figure out how Gregor could escape the damp dungeon where Pamela’s treachery had trapped him.
I knew nothing about used cars, but with guidance from his baseball coach, Sam put $500 down on a green ’91 Toyota Corolla. My contribution – adding my name to the title. His team won nine games in a row. Determined not to lose my writing momentum, I missed seeing his virtuoso saves at shortstop, but I appropriately oohed and ahhed over his blow-by-blow reports of double and triple plays.
One afternoon I was locked in my Highland world of grass-roofed timber huts, fire pits with smoky peat, and rolling hills of heather. It was Mother’s Day. Annoying peals of the doorbell drew my head out of the computer.
When I swung open the front door and saw the blue uniform, the straight posture, and the menacing frown on the officer’s face, battlefields with screaming wounded and fly-infested corpses vanished. In their place rose visions of a crumpled green sedan, my bloodied son being lifted to a stretcher, and Sherri’s pale body on the side of the road. An hour earlier, they’d left to drive to Worcester for her family reunion.
My knuckles gripped the doorknob. I couldn’t make myself push open the door. The policeman eased inside, slipped his arm around me, and half carried me into the kitchen where he poured me two glasses of water before I could hear him speak.
“What’s happened to Sam? Is he all right?”
“Is Sam the name of your dog?” the policeman inquired.
I shook my head. Had the kids taken Gregor with them? Was he hurt, too? “My son and his girlfriend. They left over an hour ago. Has there been an accident? Are they all right?”
The policeman didn’t respond. Clearly, he didn’t know how to break the news.
I crunched down on my tongue. “Tell me everything.” I scrounged up calm. “I’ll get my keys and follow you to the hospital.”
“I’m not here about your son. There hasn’t been a car accident.” 
Blood rushed back to my fingertips. I stood and embraced the officer. “Don’t scare me like that. If you’re soliciting money, come back next year when I’ve got my job back.”
“Ma’am, I’m not collecting money. It’s about your dog.”
Blood rushed out of my fingertips, into my arteries, and began thumping my scalp; I swayed with dizziness. “Gregor? Is he dead? Did he get hit by a car?”
“Listen to me. Your dog’s just fine. See, there he is in your backyard. He’s chewing up a soccer ball.” 
I rushed over to the window above the sink. There he was – my big, goofy puppy. He started barking in a wild frenzy when I tapped the panes.
“That’s why I’m here. The neighbors have filed a complaint. Your dog’s barking has become a nuisance.”
How dare they! It was one thing that Gregor’s whining and barking frayed my nerves, but my neighbors should mind their own business.
The officer explained my choices. I could confine Gregor inside, muzzle him, or take him to dog training. “Or,” the officer warned, “if there’re more complaints, the town will impound him.”
As I looked out to see our retriever chomping on a plastic patio chair, then observed the pockmarked yard, finding a new home for the dog seemed the perfect solution. However, it’s an unwritten law in our household that you can’t sell or give away children or pets, no matter what.
“I’ll enroll tomorrow,” I said as I escorted the officer out the front door.
Two hours, plus the half hour drive each way, on Monday and Wednesday mornings, were now set aside for dog school. Some days, I was tempted to boot Gregor off a high bridge. I refrained. While puppy training progressed, my writing downshifted to a standstill. Inspired words on the page had taken a backseat to “Come! Sit! No barking! Lie down!” Every few pages I printed out to read, I crumpled up until I could have filled a dumpster. I was doomed never to finish the book.
At the end of May, Sam announced that he, Sherri and a bunch of friends planned to camp out at a state park after the junior prom. Bonfires, blasting music, and a 1:00 A.M. cookout were on the night’s agenda. “We’ll rent canoes and go hiking the next day,” he said as if these wholesome activities could fool me.
“Drinking, drugs, and being busted,” was my snappy comeback.
Sam raised his eyebrows and squinted his eyes as he cocked his head. “Don’t you trust us?”
“You’re having the after-prom party here.” Once said, I couldn’t withdraw the offer.
Sam smiled. “Thanks, Mom. You’re the best. Wish I could help you clean the house,” he said, “but you do remember that our baseball team will be in Vermont for the New England Finals.”
I remembered. Sam and I had each coughed up a hundred dollars for the motel room, food, and transportation. I bit my tongue so I wouldn’t blurt out what I wanted to say about him tricking me and how a prom party wasn’t in our master plan. Tackling our neglected house loomed in my future. More days of writing down the sewer.
A miracle happened. I was saved. A charming guy with a hint of Scottish brogue called and explained how my name had been randomly picked out of the phone book. “You are the fortunate winner of free carpet cleaning in three rooms.”  He trilled his Rs, or did I imagine that?  “All that is required is you observe the demonstration. I guarantee,” he paused dramatically, “this will change your life.”
How lucky could I be? Someone else cleaning my house for free. I set aside thirty minutes to watch the demonstration and then planned to spend the day revising the escape scene in which my hero disguised himself as a blacksmith assistant.
Instead, the demonstration took two hours on the first carpet. The condescending salesman with his whiny voice, clearly not the sophisticated man I had spoken to on the phone, kept broadcasting how amazed he was that one carpet could be so filthy. I made up my mind to model Pamela’s sleazy uncle after him. Rats would gnaw on his waxed mustache and tacky cufflinks before I disposed of him in a vat of boiling oil.
To my horror, I put fourteen hundred dollars on my credit card to purchase a Kirby vacuum and carpet cleaning machine. I wasn’t fooled by the salesman’s pitch about how he was earning money to go to college so he could become a teacher.
What nailed me was his description of how this Kirby sucked up any disease-carrying dust mites that could get lodged in our lungs. Did I want to endanger my son’s athletic career? No, I didn’t. I bought the blasted machine and spent the next two days cleaning every floor, carpet, and piece of furniture. When I slipped in a few hours of revising, I switched from double-spacing to single-spacing my drafts and began printing double-sided rather than single-sided. A token effort to compensate for the hit to our budget.
Filling the cavernous holes in the yard wasted more time. I didn’t want to risk broken ankles from kids at the after-prom celebration. I borrowed a portable fire pit from a neighbor. I even splurged on petunias, which I planted in window boxes that I repainted in school colors. More days of not writing.
Meanwhile, my poor Highland lad was still stuck in a tunnel between the manor and the mews. Even I knew that finding a tunnel hidden beneath a floor slab in his cell was a tacky, overused plot device.
On Friday night of prom weekend, a giant detonation, like one of the cannon shots that had scattered Gregor’s rescue brigand, scared the shit out of me. I was sitting on the toilet when a huge crash shook the house. I pulled up my pants and raced out the front door, expecting the house to tumble down around me. Instead, Sam’s green Toyota had rammed into my Saturn, which was scrunched like an accordion against the garage door that had split.
My son stumbled out of his car and collapsed to his hands and knees on the driveway. I rushed down the front steps and hurtled prickly bushes to reach him. Not until later did I remember that I’d canceled my car insurance.
When I knelt by his side, beer fumes washed over me.
Drunk. The little jerk. How dare he? I took a deep breath, ready to lay into him.
Sobs gushed out of him. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I can’t believe it. I wrecked our cars. The garage is ruined. I don’t deserve a car. I’m such a jerk. Oh God, can you ever forgive me?” 
I cradled his body and rocked him, like I did when he was seven and his hamster died.
“We lost 11-2. I struck out four times.”
“I should have been at the game, Sammy!”
“No, Mom. You’ve got to finish your novel. I can’t believe how they creamed us. The game was a disaster.” Sam groaned and looked green. Vomiting seemed imminent. Instead, more heartache spilled out. “Lance walked seven hitters in a row. He was a basket case. That’s why I split a six-pack with him, Mom. I couldn’t let him drown his sorrows by himself. He needed me,” Sammy hiccupped through his sobs.
“It’s all right. Everything’s all right,” I crooned in his ear. “Don’t worry. Everything will be fine.” Why do moms deny the truth and try to salvage the messes their kids make?
The next morning both cars were towed to Jack’s Garage. The dent in our garage was big. The dent in our finances was massive. Writing slammed to a stop. My stomach felt like the inside of a disposal. So much for sticking to our budget. Repairing my uninsured car and paying Sam’s deductible hiked up my credit card balance. I hung up on the Home Depot guy when he quoted $1200 to replace the garage door.
When Sammy was little, time-out was his biggest punishment. But this time, he’d really screwed up. Canceling the prom party and grounding him for life seemed fair.
Instead, I borrowed my neighbor’s car and headed to the florist for his girlfriend’s corsage.
Later that afternoon, Sherri picked up Sam so they could drive to the high school and board a bus that had been rented to take the kids to the Mount Washington Ferry on Lake Winnipesaukee for the prom festivities. She looked adorable, her blonde hair in ringlets and her pale pink dress with the low back sculpting her petite figure. I snapped two rolls of film. Sam, with his cropped black hair and dark eyebrows, looked like a funeral director, whose somber expression was etched in stone.
After the prom, only six couples made an appearance. I couldn’t even remember the names of kids I had carpooled for years. They barely touched the tubs of soft drinks or the bowls of Chex Mix. The guys wolfed down a few subs while the girls nibbled on carrot sticks and Deviled Eggs. Sam moped. At one point, I had to drag him out of the garage where he was hammering nails into two by fours, trying to fix the split frame of the garage door. Everyone, including Sherri, left by 2:00 A.M.
I poured myself a large glass of wine that I’d been saving for a special occasion. After one sip, I dumped it down the sink and slunk off to bed. The party had died. Our finances were shot. I felt like road kill. Inspiration for writing had hit an impenetrable cairn.
The following morning, Sam knocked on my bedroom door and carried in a tray of English muffins and two mugs of black coffee. He perched on the edge of my bed. “I’ve got it all figured out,” he said. “As soon as I get my car fixed, I’ll sell it. That’ll be eleven-hundred dollars. I thought about quitting school, but that’s just stupid. When the semester ends in three weeks, I’ll ask for more hours at the restaurant. This summer, I’ll get a second job. I’m sure we can get a refund for baseball camp. That’s another four hundred.” He patted my hand. “I promise you, Mom, I will pay for everything, and you can finish writing your book. That’s what’s important. You have to fulfill your dream.” 
    I nodded and ate my muffins and then his.
Going back to sharing a car wasn’t going to be fun. Sam had made his sacrifices. Now it was my turn. The next morning, I called up my principal and took the job teaching summer school that he’d been pestering me about for weeks. Sam put his foot down and wouldn’t let me start waitressing again.
I wrote from five to eight in the morning, headed to summer school, and then after an early dinner, I wrote from six until midnight. My dry spell evaporated. Writer’s block was not a luxury I could afford. Sam picked up a second job at Staples and skipped baseball camp.
Now my sabbatical is over. My agent pitched my book like a champ, and Bethany House will be publishing me. Most days I still feel like cartwheeling down the hallway at school, but I’m not expecting huge royalties unless Mel Gibson wants to buy the movie rights to the book and don the sexy kilt again. My evenings are filled with correcting uninspired essays and boring grammar exercises. I’m still not doing the waitress thing, and I haven’t missed one of Sam’s soccer games.
Last night, while I was sitting in the bleachers cheering on his team, which hasn’t won a game yet, I took out my steno book from beneath a stack of vocabulary quizzes and scribbled down the description of the club-footed scullery maid, who stows away on the ship Paris uses when he kidnaps Helen and starts the Trojan War.

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