As they ate their breakfasts I made lunch for our son—or would have had there been anything to make. After dropping the kids at school I would have to spend precious time on a grocery run to buy lunch fixings. I would put his lunch in his locker when I picked up his sister.
We were out the door more or less on time. Halfway to school I recalled that daughter’s backpack (which I had packed) did not contain her library book. It was her library day. There is deep shame in forgetting to return your book. Should I drag them back home, or continue on?
Fortunately, a house across the street was having several trees pruned and chipped. I gave instructions to son. “Stand here and hold her hand. Watch the tree guys while I run home and get her book.”
I ran home to get her book. As I reached the door I realized that I didn’t know which of the dozens of books scattered around the house it was. It would probably have Hello Kitty on the cover, or Dora—something girlie. The one on the hall table had animals on it. That would be son’s. I ran a fruitless circuit of the house and gave up. I returned to the children empty-handed to hustle them on to school. The clock was ticking. “I’ll run back home and get your book and put it in your locker.” This would eat away another ten minutes. “What book is it, anyway?”
“Jan Brett. It has animals on the cover. It’s on the table in the hall.”
Now I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to finish the story before kindergarten dismissal. However, there would still be half an hour or so before noon, provided we went straight home instead of going to the playground, our usual routine.
As we neared the school a mother of a kindergarten classmate asked if her daughter could go with us to the playground after class; she would be a bit late picking her up.
“Umm,” I said. “Okay.” In the modern, familially far-flung world, childcare favours are important.
I got the kids to class and ran home. Tic toc tic toc. I stuffed the library book into my backpack. I grabbed my wallet. I put on my canary yellow bike jacket, my goggles and helmet. I rode back to the school, didn’t bother locking my bike, and ran in the back door, the closest to daughter’s locker. I placed the book inside. Strangely, the school PA system was playing folk music. “This Land is your land, this land is my land, from Bonavista, to Vancouver Island...”
Phew. My bike was still there. I rode like the wind to the grocery store. All this time, the story was percolating in my head, which felt clogged.
At the grocery store, I did lock the bike. Everyone working there was in a friendly morning mood. Usually I shop late in the day when they’re all tired and hungry, and customers are walking out with tantalizing barbecued chickens.
I bought meat and bread and milk.
I got home at about 9:30. 1.5 hours left.
I sat in this chair and typed and cut-and-pasted and spell-checked and fact-checked and so on for as long as I could. Damn. I needed about ten more minutes. More immediately, I needed to make son’s lunch.
Lunch in hand I ran to the school, just in time for kindergarten dismissal. The classroom was empty. All the classrooms were empty. What on earth?
“This Land is your land, this land is my land, from Bonavista, to Vancouver Island...”
Oh, yeah. Today was the day the folk singer was to visit. Everyone was in the gym. I went outside to the playground to wait. Tic toc tic toc. In the time I waited, I could have finished and sent the story.
Finally the gym emptied. I met daughter at her locker. She handed me a library book. The same library book.
“Why do you still have the same book?” I asked.
“We didn’t have library today. We had the singing man instead.”
We went to the playground with the other little girl to wait for her mother.
We got home, after noon. I submitted the story at 1PM. This is pretty much the way it always goes.