I don’t consider a piece of writing finished until it’s published. Until then, it’s an amorphous thing, a rough beast, perhaps, waiting to be born.
During the writing of this new piece–the one I just hit “Send” on– I misplaced, lost, the most important source book for it, the cornerstone of the whole essay, mid-writing. I was absolutely positive it did not leave the house. I searched, somewhat manically, for about three days before I ordered another copy. I concluded that I must have placed it in some crazy unbookish place, like a bread basket, if we had a breadbasket. A man who mistook his wife for a hat kind of thing, I fear. But damned if I could figure out where. I also thought that the act of ordering another copy would somehow conjure the lost book out of the ether just to spite me. It did not.
I remember when we moved out of our big old Victorian house in the midwest I found the desiccated corpse of one of our son’s (many) escaped pet rodents. So that’s where you’ve been all these years. I remember that one of them lived under the stove for years and could be enticed out with a single Cheerio.
I let the writing sit a few days and then asked my two most trusted (i.e., sympathetic) readers if they’d look it over. Good. Then I let it sit a few more days. Finally figured out three places to send it. Sent it. Now forget that it exists and wait for six months. Repeat.
Our son’s dog, Kushlakhan, is a source of much comfort to us, though she has nothing but contempt for most of the world, growling under her breath at just about everything that enters her radar. She has particular contempt for magpies which she believes she can bark out of the sky. She also dislikes drunks and gets furious at our son when he climbs a tree or rides a skateboard (he’s almost thirty years old). They’ve been together for ten years and are inseparable. She weighs ten pounds.
When she stays with us she insists that it is I who let her outside at night. She knows I am the softest human in the house. One night I had already let her out twice, and, now, she wanted to go out again. I decide to watch. She walked over to a flower bed, pawed out a shallow hole, pulled out a bone. Finding it satisfactory, she placed it back into hole and pushed the dirt over it with her muzzle and sprinted back to the house. That concern satisfied, she could now rest.
The night after I had sent the essay out in the world, I woke out of a deep sleep certain that I had used the word “warn” when I had meant “worn.” I rushed downstairs, opened the laptop, the file. Nope, I had it right. Although, I had literarl for literal. This sort of error drives me to madness. I rationalized that the error occurred very late in the essay and if anyone was still reading at that point I’d notch it in the win column. I muzzled some dirt over it and went back to bed where I repeated the transgression literarl literarl literarl until sleep found me again.