f. scott fitzgerald was never pregnant

Posted on Thursday, February 27, 2014

“She was a blonde by natural pigment, and she wore no paint on the streets at high noon.  Outside of that she was no better than most women…” I’m well into the scene of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story, Head and Shoulders, gaining needed inspiration and momentum for my morning writing. He’s just introduced me to Marcia Meadow. “Marcia Meadow had to talk her songs, but her speaking voice was like byplay on a harp.” Among the choir of chirps just outside my window, I close my eyes and allow myself to hear a harp playing. As with most pieces that intrigue me, I take a moment to jot down favorite passages and phrases. I am captured by Fitzgerald’s dialogue, his character development and his plain humor. I’m nearing the final pages of Head and Shoulders and plan to transition into my own writing. My journal is open and eager for words, but before my ink hits, I think about the milk I still haven’t gotten from the store. Never mind the milk, I tell myself, go back to the harp, go back to the characters.  For the moment, I succeed – partially – my notes slowly dwindling and the taste of milk growing evermore distinct in my mind.


Unwrapping myself from each delicately constructed pillow and blanket I listen to the voice of hunger and responsibility and grab my phone from the other room. I type the word milk into my latest app, ironically dubbed Out of Milk, the most commonly used app these days that houses my grocery lists. With my husband working eight to ten hours each day, we’ve agreed the grocery visits are my concern. Nearing the end of my second trimester I’ve stocked and emptied the fridge dozens of times with eggs, milk, juices, cheese, chocolate, salad, fish, lamb and anything else I can cram into the precious cold box. The list is updated. I bring the phone into the writing den and set it on the stand next to the chair. Repositioning my carefully assembled pillow formation, I soon find comfort and regain focus. After several minutes I fill my journal with character notes and story ideas.  Suddenly the thought of spinach breaks through my focus. And so, I add spinach to the list.


I decide to give up studying. I look at the cover of my journal, lined with shapes and filled with bright colors as if it were a stained glass piece of art. A shiny ribbon holds the spot where I last wrote close to the front of the book. Perhaps it’s the journal that’s the problem – or this room. My phone and I leave the back room and find the computer already on and open with various word documents full of short stories, interviews and poems. Command + N. I open a new word document. The page is blank and white.  The white screen reminds me of yogurt. Yogurt does sound good, I converse with myself. What time is it? It’s been a while since I last ate. I should eat every few hours anyway for the baby.


I leave the white, empty screen and follow the hum of the refrigerator. My mouth waters slightly as I imagine the last bit of silky full-fat Greek yogurt that I will soon decorate with almonds, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, fresh raspberries, blackberries and blueberries. I walk over to the white screen, my white mound of yogurt, seeds and berries accompanying me. After several bites, I feel the movement of life within me. Will this kicker be a reader like me or a Lego builder like Dad? Will our tiny creation be a dancing and singing beauty like Marcia Meadow, the “shoulders” of the relationship, or like her husband, Horace Tarbox, the “head,” an intellect interested in chemistry, geometry and writing?  Yes, I was reading “Head and Shouders.” I should get back to writing, but I’d much rather daydream about the baby. What distracted Fitzgerald from writing? Taming his wild wife, Zelda? Inviting in a new world after sipping absinthe in the streets of Paris with Hemmingway and other friends? Was Fitzgerald ever distracted? Of course he was; all writers are distracted. But he couldn’t have been distracted by hunger, as one of the highest paid writers, and he was never pregnant. So what was his culprit?


The living room is filled with dishes, open computers, closed journals, scattered pens and half-filled water bottles. I hear a distant airplane buzz across the sky. Maybe another writing retreat would help. The retreat brings back memories of the fish, the freshest I’ve tasted in years. I won’t have time for a writing retreat for a long time once the baby comes. The time to write is now. Shifting my focus, I elect to work on an interview I’d recently piloted with Los Gatos Poet Laureate and friend, Erica Goss. Remember those sugar cookies and Chai tea served at her poetry reading?  Incredible.  I sip a glass water, indulging the sweet memories and my desire to finish off my snack with tiny bits of chocolate squares and warm milk, and continue transcribing Erica’s interview, now arriving to the section about parenting and creating a creative atmosphere for children:


“When I was a kid, we didn’t even have television. It seemed like the forbidden fruit.”

What kind of fruit?  I haven’t had any kiwi lately – or apples. I’ll add them to the grocery list.


“I wanted my kids to know themselves before an advertiser could tell them how to think.  A pediatrician said no TV, no computer, and so I spent a lot of time with them reading books, singing and playing. During those years I didn’t have much to write. Then I think I let things in as they got appropriate. I let them watch TV; I set limits on video games. I wanted them to have that basic urge that they would rather entertain than be entertained. I’m not going to sugarcoat it – technology is so powerful in our culture – the urge to turn on a machine and walk away from your kids is something each of us face.”


I feel guilt set in, my computer screen in front of me, my phone to my side. I’d tried an unplugged project a few years ago. I pulled away from all forms of social media and used my cell phone as a home phone, placed in one particular spot of the house like the days of a fixed phone that forced me to stand up and move towards the ringing addiction, unsure of what voice would beckon me on the other end. Those mornings were peaceful. I’d rise slowly, bending forward and back during morning yoga, and then sit on the back porch filling pages with words for hours. But that too had its downfall – the hours spent typing my handwritten notes took discipline and focus, unlike today, when my thoughts are swiped directly onto the screen. But there was serenity, sacredness, and simplicity in unplugging.


I listen to the songs of swallows outside my window again, the noises in my stomach, the whirr of nearby traffic. I have at least an hour before I’ll be hungry again. I finally take advantage of my time – holding on to the few months ahead before my blessing arrives at the end of the year – and finish the piece.


I glance up from the hypnotic screen and the notice the steady rays of the sun now matching the amber hue of my living room light. Soon my husband will be home from work and I’ll have dinner prepared. Unpainted and well past high noon, I think of Marcia Meadow again. Fitzgerald’s words repeat over and over in my ear: “…she was no better than most women.” Perhaps I am like Marcia Meadows, no better than most women, entering my relationship as the “shoulders,” my physical skills as my way to provide for the family and my husband like hers, the “head,” supplying his mental qualities. But the story doesn’t end that way. A gradual transformation leaves her the “head” of the family – and that is what keeps me going – the pursuit in writing, and of course, the little bites of food.


behind the scenes

This piece was inspired by a prompt – what distracts you when you write? During my pregnancy, food was always on my mind.


  1. I got lost in this story, imagining what you were feeling and what you were doing. Although at this time you were distracted, you kept me absorbed!

    • I’m so glad you’re still reading my silly little stories.

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