Category Archives: Allie Writes

“Ducky Madness and the Diaper Bag,” WRITERS READ, NYC, July 17, 2016

“Ducky Madness and the Diaper Bag,” WRITERS READ, NYC, July 17, 2016

Feeling great up at the podium, getting ready to read my essay “Ducky Madness and the Diaper Bag” at Writers Read, a literary salon, in NYC this past weekend.  The essays were all themed around “The Great Outdoors” and it was a pleasure and an honor to read with such a gifted group of writers. Each of the essays was less than 650 words (mine rang in at 648!) and here it is, for your reading pleasure!

Ducky Madness and the Diaper Bag

           I’m not sure why attending a conference for shrinks called “Creativity and Madness” seemed like a good idea, but I was hormonal, having recently produced a quintessential baby boy, and it was August, it was Aspen, and work was paying for it. The altitude was high, both in proximity to the clouds and in the pretentious vibe of the mind-numbingly boring conference. I suspect I just wanted a vacation, no, I’m certain of it, given that after the grossly unoriginal discussion of poor Emily Dickinson’s psyche on morning one, I didn’t attend a single session.

I was traveling with my then-husband and my toddling true love, Evan. Aspen in August is glorious; the air is all blue shimmer, it smells like pine heaven, and everyone there is very chi-chi, very granola, or, in some cases, both.

Colorado is perhaps a bit too rustic for this Manhattan-born cliff dweller, but Evan had fallen in love with ponies, and there was a family dude ranch near the conference I was not attending, so we set off for a baby cowboy adventure. My husband and I were almost happy. Evan was saddled up on a giant pony, his baby-face split grin-wide. I was both photographer and pack horse, hauling diaper bag, pocketbook, and the detritus that hangs off mothers of young children—sticky juice boxes that attract an inordinate number of stinging bugs, bug spray to combat same, sunscreen, and the sun hat that babies inevitably refuse to wear. It didn’t seem fair that my husband got to lead the pony around with Evan “riding” solo. I grew tired of being the nanny, so when I spotted a duck pond nearby, I suggested we head in that direction so Evan could feed the ducks.

I don’t know what I was thinking, because I don’t like ducks, and I’m phobic about birds and living poultry in general. Maybe it was the thinness of the air, or my baby’s delight in seeing a multitude of ducky’s quacking about, their disgusting webbed feet notwithstanding, that compelled me. Evan was in my arms, his dad had charge of the pony’s reins, and I still had the diaper bag slung over my shoulder, a column of Saltines at the ready to fling at the ducks. At first, it seemed manageable. Evan was hurling Saltines, watching the ducks race-waddle each other for fallen crackers, then engaging in mortal cracker combat. The ducks were too close, too many, and way too aggressive for my comfort, and more were approaching. Enough. I turned, picking my way through slippery duck shit, sublimely unaware that the open Saltine package was sticking out of the diaper bag, leaving a Hansel and Gretel Saltine trail and inviting more and more quackers to feast on crackers. Their numbers were increasing, and they were gaining on me. The faster I walked, the faster they followed. Terror. Within seconds I was running at top speed with a thousand ducks following close behind. Evan was shrieking with glee, I was shrieking in terror, and who knew ducks could even run? Trust me, they can.

I was frantically tear-assing it to the relative safety of my spouse and the giant pony, when a panicked glance over my shoulder revealed that the ducks had abruptly fallen back. Demented, I gasped out my definite sense that the swarming ducks had evil intentions. I was beyond demented when husband passé said mildly, “No, the crackers were falling out of the diaper bag with every step you took. The running was definitely not a good idea.”   Evan was chanting, “Love ducky’s, more crackers?” I was hyperventilating and emotionally horsewhipped.

Ducky madness and traumatic memories remain intact, husband passé is obsolete, and I haven’t eaten a Saltine, at any altitude, since.




The Sahara Affair


It was a good deal easier when I reviled you. I can’t remember that so much now, since you have crossed the vast desert of my heart yet again, that barren wasteland born of decades of unmet desires. You caught me off guard this time when you appeared by smart phone, your number blocked, your face a billion sandy pixels, a digital mirage. I felt woozy from the sudden heat of you. By the time you arrived in real time, blazing for me beneath a Saharan sun, I was already feeling wavy. You set me spinning like a child’s toy top: fast and faster still, until all my stripes blend blue and I approach lift-off.

It is always like that with you and me. I am forever at tilt where you are concerned, and it is safe to say that you know just how to play me.

A desert heart is strange and mysterious, the glassy sands of feelings and memories rearranging themselves, over and again, at the slightest hint of a desert breeze. You traverse this sandscape without pausing to consider the thirsts that will ensue. This time, the voyage was long, but you pressed on, magnificently, sandbank-by-sandbank, in urgent need of something you believe that only I can provide. When you found me, as you always do, I was dipping deep into an oasis of Margaritas, top shelf, three tequilas required to anaesthetize me against the illusion I knew we were about to create. Your ancient powers are impressive where I am concerned. You appeared, and in that scorching moment I forgot, as I am want to do, the many nights I have spent filling that same desert pool with the briny tears of a woman febrile with longing.

We set up a tent of soft Egyptian cotton with an obscene thread count, a billowing tent for two the color of an inky night sky. We drank the Moscato you know I like, straight from the canteen that is its bottle. We imagined ourselves nomads braced against the shifting sands, and we pretended it meant nothing, and that time had stopped, and that it was meaningful and necessary, and that if no one bore witness, it had not really happened.

The reviling is really much simpler, you know.   It is not hard to conduct a symphony of anger inside your soul, and turn it up so loud that you hear nothing but the sound of your own heart begging you to stop. I ruined your life, you said, by reminding you of the true connection that lives beyond the boundaries of lust and desire and the conventions of commitment. Bullshit, I said, there is nothing lofty about this. You take what you want, my charming conqueror, and you always have. Do you think I haven’t noticed that you cc yourself on every email you send me? Calculated, I said. I will always love you, you said. Always.

It is easy to revile a man like that; a premeditated man who believes he can outwit me with no effort at all. You plead not guilty where I am concerned, every time, and you argue your case in the interest of winning, not justice. And even sunblind and Margarita-hazy, I can see clearly that this does not resemble love. I am a temporary tattoo upon your heart, but you have marked mine indelibly, row after row of hatch marks drawn in permanent marker.

So you have returned once more, shimmering in the heat, to send me into the stratosphere above the infinite desert sky. You came and pillaged me. When you left a sudden sandstorm erupted in your wake, obscuring your departure and leaving me gasping, my silt-filled lungs unable to find my breath. You left me here, tangled in the gritty bedclothes, wondering what the hell just happened and how long it will take me to recover this time.

There is no regret, you know, quite like the regret of I-did-it-again.

Now you will disappear once more, indefinitely, into the thorny wilds. You will hide for a time in the damp and murky underbelly of a city I have always hated, leaving me to wonder what terrible desert wind erupted and carried all reason and judgment away. But before you left you ran me a hot shower just the way you know I like it. I rinsed you away, baptized myself clean. You left no trace but for a vague and arid memory, the memory of that reviling, for me to resurrect once more.

The desert is a wasteland, but I suppose you will find me there when you return.