Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me

Note: I wrote this years ago, before I was lucky enough to land an agent and become a published author. In a few days, my third novel will be released and yesterday I handed in the revisions for my fourth. I'm all out of words for now and my garden needs me, so you'll have to forgive this somewhat dated story. I hope it makes you laugh.

My youngest daughter is leaving for college in the fall. At least I hope so. Despite dire warnings issued by my friends about Empty Nest Syndrome, I figure that’s the way it’s supposed to be. I’ve done my job: she has all of her digits and no outstanding warrants. How can I be mourning her childhood when I haven’t figured out how to turn her room into a small-batch brewery? Besides, from what I understand I’ll be lucky if she and her sister don’t graduate from college and then try to crawl back into my womb.

I’ve got a bigger problem. After I had my teeth cleaned yesterday I chatted with the nice ladies at the desk. One asked if she could buy my novel yet. I told her I was still trying to land an agent, and that in the current publishing market that was like trying to become a supermodel. (I could have said that my book might suck, but she wants to believe in me, so I didn’t.)

“Don’t you have an agent from your last book?” I published a book about animal intelligence ten years ago. You can buy it on Amazon today for four cents. That’s right. You give them a nickel and they’ll give you my book, plus change. Still star struck? Anyway, like I said, these ladies are nice. I’m not just teeth to them.

So I explain that I sold the book directly to the publisher and that my editor now only sells health books (how annoying) and my junior editor founded some multimedia enterprise and…The dental ladies’ eyes are glazing over. Then I remember something about the junior editor.

“He married, um, that actress, you know, the one from, um…” They are looking more hopeful. Their good manners might earn them a tidbit. If only I could remember the name of the actress, or even the movie.

“The Breakfast Club!”

“Oh, her!”

“I know her!”

Of course we all know her. Everyone knows her. And it goes without saying that you know her, that you’re shouting her name in your head, or even out loud. And you’re wondering how someone as stupid as me even manages to find the letters on the keyboard to get this down. You are thinking that because you don’t have what I have, at least not yet. You don’t have Empty Brain Syndrome.

But the dental ladies do.

“I can see her face.”

“Me, too. She’s got red hair.”

“I’m going to google it.”

“No!” They stare at me. “I mean, let’s try to remember.”

I do this a lot. I’m not going down easily or quietly. I’ve discovered that most of the time I can retrieve the information I’m looking for. Eventually. As long as I can hear it breathing in the foggy swamp that is my memory, I will not rest. Yesterday I was on my game and hunted that sucker down.

“Molly Ringwald. That’s the one, right?”

“That’s her!” the dental ladies cheered.

Other days I feel like I’m on Jeopardy, playing against that guy that set the all-time record. You know the one. Ken What’s-his-face. I keep pushing my buzzer, standing there like an idiot with my mouth open until Alex Trebek (didn’t even have to pause for that one—hah!) gives me that supercilious little smirk and I step over to the podium and smack him.

The one person who admires my retrieval efforts is my husband. Days after we both fail to recall a name, or a place, I will tell him what it is and he will be amazed. Or pretend to be amazed, which is just as good.

“Well done!” Delivered in his BBC English, as if I had made an improbable whatever-you-call-it in cricket.

I left the dental ladies and stopped at the nursery to get a tomatillo plant. A thirty-something showed me where they were and pointed out a purple variety. Last year I made purple pesto from purple basil but this seemed wrong.

“It wouldn’t be salsa verde anymore, would it?” I mused.

“No,” she said. “What’s Spanish for ‘purple’?”

Hmmm. My poor brain. Barely had time to dust off from the last mission.

 “Is it marrón?” she offered.

“I don’t think so. But that’s close.” I liked that we were puzzling it out together, me and someone with a functioning hippocampus.

“I’m going to google it later,” she said.

“I’m going to think about it,” I said.

A guy walked by carrying a large plant.

“Hector, what’s ‘purple’ in Spanish?”

No! Don’t tell me! My hands flew to my ears and I hit myself in the head with the tomatillo plant.


“It’s morado,” she said to me, rubbing it in.

Empty Brain Syndrome be damned. I would have had that before I got to the car.