AFTER

by Larkin Vonalt

I could have been done with this hours ago.  The luminaria have all burned out. The guests have all gone home. Every living soul in the house is sound asleep. I’ve just sat here for three hours barefoot at my desk, in pajamas and a wool pullover because the house is cold at night, daydreaming.  In the shower I thought I knew what I was going to write, and I might still write that, just not tonight. Tonight I am something beyond tired– gone long past sleepy to something else. Even now, I’m just noodling away at this. There’s no story here, folks, move along.

It was a good party, our first in probably a decade. I don’t even remember which one was the last one. I think it could have been the year that I started out for Bozeman before dawn to pick up a last few things and the car shuddered to a stop on the pass when the gas lines froze. By the time someone stopped to help me, I was beginning to be hypothermic. The person who lifted me from the driver’s seat was an extraordinarily kind snowplow operator. He set me up in the cab of the plow and drove 15 miles straight down the hill  to the Bozeman ER .  In the emergency room, they rolled me up in layers of heated blankets, changing them out as they cooled.

That year, we put the party off for a day. There were times this week that I wished I could push back the start time a day or two or ten– and yet, we were reasonably presentable when the first guests stepped through the door. Presentable, but still cooking. Maybe that was an excuse. It gave me something to do with my hands, cutting up cantaloupe with woeful inelegance. It made people come to me, rather than making me choose. I think I’m a little rusty at this hostess business.  I was thrilled to see each one of those folks walk through the door, though.

William Faulkner once said “Everything goes by the board: honor, pride, decency to get the book written.”  I don’t think I’m quite there. (This is probably a relief to my husband as I understand old Bill was pretty difficult to live with when he was writing. And damn difficult when he wasn’t.) It’s getting better though– at least there is writing is going on. It may not be good writing, but it’s got little legs all the same.

Unlike Faulkner, I’m not willing to just dump everything else in my life. I would just as soon find time for  making eggnog for my friends; taking the coats, and bottles of wine and gingerbread from their arms; hearing about their children, and dogs and political campaigns. Even if finding the balance means too many late nights trudging along one after the other. I’ll get down to the business of the writing tomorrow, and might be able to transform that into something worth reading.

In the meantime, I’m just going to sit here at my desk, enjoying the kilim under my bare feet, remembering a splendid evening with friends, the magic of the lanterns in the garden – until I’m too sleepy to do so.

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