# of literary mags submitted to: 1
# of agents queried: 3
writing progress made: wrote a piece for Burlesque Press and did a bit of revising on something
My mom was robbed on Monday. She came home from work and her house, as well as two of her neighbors’ houses, had been broken into. The thieves took her laptop, ipod, camera… even her cell phone charger. “At least they didn’t take my uke!” she said – she had just bought a ukulele at Richmond’s Uke Fest.
They left the house a disaster. They opened all of the cabinets and drawers and threw everything onto the floor in their search for valuables. They even found and took the heirloom jewelry that my mom had hidden underneath some sweaters in her dresser.
In my mom’s office, they ripped everything off the shelves – shelves that my mom and I had just put up this summer and that she had spent a long time organizing. They even opened up my American Girl Doll wardrobe, strewing Felicity’s tiny colonial outfits all over the living room and unwrapping every single one of her doll-sized dishes from their tissue paper.
I was talking to my mom on the phone about all of this, simply saying, “that sucks” over and over again. When my mom mentioned my Felicity doll, a thought jolted through me: oh yeah, all of my stuff is stored at my mom’s house right now! My mind immediately went to two things:
1. My tiny toilet collection
2. My first published story
“Are my tiny toilets okay?” I asked. I knew the thieves wouldn’t have taken them, but I was worried that they might be broken, or frightened.
“I don’t know,” my mom said. “They unwrapped them and threw them all over the bed.”
I thought about my tiniest tiny toilet, which I bought in Mexico and features a lint-sized rat sitting on a toilet the size a baby’s pinkie fingernail. What if it fell onto the floor and got stepped on by one of the detectives? I tried to tell myself that if el raton in el bano is gone, it’s not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things. At least my mom is okay, and at least she has insurance.
“I just keep thinking about how long they must have been in here,” my mom said. “It’s like the really got to know me. They must have seen your and Deven’s pictures on the wall. They must have seen my cat-butt magnets on the refrigerator. I wonder what they thought of me. Couldn’t they tell that I was a nice person? Didn’t they feel bad about stealing from me?”
I thought about how personal it must be to go through someone’s house while they’re not home. And we’re not talking about a quick little tour. These people were digging into my mom’s life, opening her drawers, unwrapping her boxes. Touching all of her things.
“I feel bad for them in a way,” my mom said. “They took what they thought was the most valuable stuff. But they didn’t really take anything that was of value to me. They didn’t take my ukulele or my canoe. And I already had all my pictures and writing backed up from my computer.”
They didn’t take my first published story. And even if they had, they could never really take that away from me.
My mom is a writer, too – a playwright. In fact, this might give her fodder for a new project. Maybe a play about two thieves going through a person’s odd assortment of belongings and constructing who this person must be and what’s going on in her life based on her possessions. Maybe, in my mom’s play, the thieves will decide not to take anything after all.
As for me, maybe I’ll do a writing exercise: what would a thief think while going through my character’s bedroom?
It’s been awhile since I’ve played the “your house is on fire, what would you take with you” game, but I think my answers are still pretty much the same. I would be sad to lose my photos from before we all had digital cameras. And my diaries from before I started typing them on the computer. And my tiny toilets.
Everything else – take it if you must. Because we Langstons have most everything we need inside our heads, and inside our hearts.
1. Your house is on fire and you can only take 3 things with you. What would they be?
2. What would thieves think about you, or a character you’re writing about, if they went through all your possessions?