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It’s Thursday, and I’m itching to get to work on the novel. But it’s Thursday, which means the 500 Club is happening at The Parking Lot Confessional. So I’m taking a quick break from my regular programming to play along. Are you a writer or someone who enjoys words? You should play along, too!

Here’s my entry. I chose the first prompt (Today would be like any other day except…)


I shuffle past the penguin on the way to the kitchen. Hubby always makes enough coffee to spaz a small army, and today I’m going to need an extra jolt. I squint my eyes against the sunlight screaming through the living room windows. Too damn bright, too damn early. I scruff my hair. Yawn. Search out the largest mug in the cupboard, the 16-ouncer we bought at the Cafe du Monde. I can feel the steam on my face as I pour. Reminds me of the heat down south. The mugginess. It’s hell-hot here, and all of us — even the dog — are in a heat-induced laze. But it’s nothing compared to that summer we spent in NOLA.

Kids aren’t up yet. House hums a quiet monotone. As I sip from the mug, I feel the mental To-Do list start to churn. The phone calls. The laundry. E-mail. Twitter. I stretch my neck to the left, to the right, exhale. I’m not ready for the list yet. I’ll get there. Maybe after a second 16-ouncer.

The penguin stares at me, not blinking. Tiny windows of light reflecting in its black-pearl eyes.

The phone rings, and I startle the coffee right from the mug. “Monkey gun snot,” I mutter, because that’s all the intelligence I can muster before caffeine and it’s already a bazillion degrees out.

It’s mom. She wants to talk about the weather. I close my eyes as I listen, as I sip down my magic juice.

The penguin paddles two steps toward the television and stops. Turns right. Stares at the wall. Pickles, our great dane, lifts her head to look, then rests it back on the arm of the couch. She sighs.

“Mmm-hm,” I say into the phone, only catching snatches of the monologue. Storm. Garden. Drive. Wildflowers. Marmot. I hear a thump from upstairs. Kids waking?

Mom asks what’s on the agenda today. “Teach the kids to sleep in,” I say. She laughs. She thinks I’m joking.

I guzzle down the rest of the mug and walk to the counter for a refill. Head feels a little clearer. I don’t spill as much this time. I answer Mom’s next question with a little more coherence. “They’re bored, but fine. You know, summer break. Hot out. They’re watching too much television.”

Looking out over the patio, I stretch my eyes wide, let all the light in. Wakey, wakey. A black bird hops through the grass, wrestles a worm from the ground. The tomato plants are wilting in the heat. Leaves curling like panting tongues.

I hear the front door open and close. Pickles’ ear twitches, and she looks at me with droopy eyes. Her way of asking, “Do I need to get up? Check it out?”

“You, too, Mom,” I say and then, “Okay. Bye.” I set the phone on the table. Yawn. Sniff. Hear the kids ambling down the stairs, laughing.

A single word takes shape in my brain and ends itself in a question mark, sleek black and tapered like a wing.

When I look, the living room is empty. The penguin, gone.

Copyright © 2010 by Amy K. Nichols



2 thoughts on “Penguin

    S. C. Green said:
    July 8, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    Awesome. I’m in mind of Billy Madison.

      Amy K. Nichols said:
      July 8, 2010 at 12:08 pm

      LOL! I completely forgot about Billy Madison! Must have bubbled up from my subconscious this morning. I wonder why. Hmm…

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