I cried out and pulled my knee to my chest, hopping to the nearest spot on the wall where I could easily lean without knocking anything over. I turned my bare foot over between my hands and squinted at the sole, twisting oddly to catch the light.
There, buried in the pink, translucent flesh was the pine needle.
It was the stubby, dark green remnant of the redwood tree which, last month, took up a festive residence in our loft, bore our many sparkly ornaments, sheltered our prettily wrapped gifts (as well as the occasional sleepy kitty), and throbbed with a fresh, pine scent which greeted us every night on our return home.
We loved that tree, with its upward arching branches. It made us pause with wonder in the evenings. It made us remember the holiness of Christmas.
It took Jonathan hours to chop it apart, reducing it to pieces which would fit in our green waste bin. The floor was littered with sharp, angry pieces. We vacuumed and swept and picked the bits up with our fingers, gingerly, having experienced the extreme sharpness of each needle and the way nothing from cotton to burlap could fend them off.
Naturally, we missed a shard or two, but one of them found me.
I pinched the entry wound between my polished nails. There was no blood, of course. The skin on the ball of my feet is tough, used to slapping around bare on concrete, tile, asphalt, and grass in the summer time, and the blood vessels are hidden way up inside. Thus, I could see the belligerent face of the culprit clearly. He'd backed into his den and was baring his teeth at me.
Picking, scratching, tweaking, prodding. Finally, still straining like a one-legged stork against the wall, I squeezed my foot between my palms and let our an exasperated squeak, letting my eyes, big and forlorn, find my husband's eyes, sympathetic.
Jonathan hopped up from his place by the computer and helped me to the sofa. I limped like an amputee, letting my lower lip tremble for a fraction of a second, just long enough for him to notice and take pity on me. He tilted our lamp toward us and pulled my upturned foot into the pool of light. When his fingers found the sliver and I let out a tiny yelp, he looked up and smiled at me, stroking my naked calf and giving my knee a kiss.
You're okay. I'll be right back.
Lately, trying to inspire my own writing has been like carefully cooking spaghetti. The water never boils and, after a while, when I do pull a limpid noodle from the froth and pitch it against the nearest wall, it tumbles down to the floorboards to hang with the dust bunnies. Nothing will stick.
A friend recently asked whether I'd posted anything to the Red Door in December.
No, I replied. No, I'm going through a drought.
A drought? he asked, and sipped his wine thoughtfully. Or have you just been really, really busy?
And so, he extended to me an excuse. It was forgiving, charitable, all the things I expect from the friends and family who follow my blogging. But I could not will myself to accept the avenue of escape. It's a bad habit of mine; once convicted, I believe I must remain convicted, and I will slam the cage door shut of my own accord.
After all, this isn't my first lapse by any means. I lag behind all the time. But in the past, when faced with nothing but the ugly, vapid glare of a blank Word Document on my laptop screen, I've written about that glare, that block, that demon, as though I could vanquish him by simply giving him a name.
Reading back, I admire those times. I admire the me who flailed and fought against her own laziness or fatigue or lack of originality by inventing some strange metaphor. It was always a stretch, of course. Beasts, machetes, rivers curling through jungles. But in those instances, I came through and, amazingly, I had a story to tell.