DECEMBER 2003/JANUARY 2004

UNDERWAY

WRITERS ANSWER:

What are you working on? What’s on your desk?

THISBE NISSEN

On the desktop: stamped, addressed, unsealed manila envelopes of job applications with Post-it checklists of what’s in them and what still needs to go in them; the line-edited manuscript of my new novel, Osprey Island, which needs to be gone through in the next six days; a galley of John McNally’s new novel The Book of Ralph; a Post-it list (“garage door, MULCH, kitchen sink drain, Jen’s light”); a dirty spoon; a bottle of zinc lozenges; One Story issue #27; a nearly empty two-liter bottle of Hy-Vee seltzer water; a receipt from the New Pioneer Co-op for two scones, a Sunday New York Times and a bag of Newman’s Ginger-O’s, which were on sale for $2.49 and are really really good dipped in milk and have inspired odes by my poetess-friend, Laurel Snyder; a roll of one-inch masking tape; a “Florida” collector’s salad-plate with labeled four-color illustrations of “Marineland,” “Water Skiing at Cypress Gardens,” “Lucky Palm at Silver Springs,” and “Aqua-Ballet at Weeki Wachee Springs”; a lime green “ouchless” ponytail holder, fraying; Fernanda the cat, who has a fractured pelvis and isn’t allowed to move around freely for another three weeks but just cries and cries when I put her in the kennel where she’s supposed to stay; the cup of coffee Jen just brought me because I can’t get up because Fern’s actually on my lap, not on the desk, and I can’t bear to disturb her. On the computer desktop: four thousand words for Wordsmitten; emails to thank everyone at Tulane for bringing me down there and then taking care of me when I got the flu; eighteen different versions of that odious job application letter where you try to be yourself and sell yourself and just wind up loathing yourself; the nicest surprise message from Laurie Colwin’s daughter, Rosa; and this. On the proverbial desktop of my mind: a bleeding bride, a stillborn twin, electroshock, a family of postwar German suicides, an imaginary cocktail party, a thirty-year-old virgin, the difference between selflessness and not having a self, and a spanking after thirty-five years of marriage.

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