It turns out that my wife wasn’t just suffering for love of me the other day, she has walking pneumonia. What’s worse, she seems to have developed pleurisy or to have so offended the intercostal muscles by frequent coughing that the simple procedure of rolling over in bed is a gasping, shuddering trial. Having watched her give birth twice, I know her tolerance for pain is miles beyond my own, so when she winces it really means something.
I think I ran down a sparrow with my car yesterday. It limply fluttered a foot or so above the asphalt from right to left a yard at a time, as if injured. It crossed successfully, but then turned round at the last, precisely wrong moment. Was it a suicide? I wondered. I slowed the car as much as I dared in the traffic and looked back through the side mirror – and nearly ran into a tree. There was no sign of the little bird, unless it was the brown smudge on the street receding in the distance.
To round out the day, after tucking wife and children into bed, I made myself a cup of coffee and hammered out the last bit of the last chapter in my first full draft of the novel. When I was sixteen I wrote a sort of fantasy novella on a stack of college-lined binder paper that I still keep in a desk drawer. I haven’t looked at it in twenty years, but the night I finished it I laid my head on the manuscript and cried. After two years and 125,000 words of my current project, I had hoped for a similar catharsis. All I got was insomnia.