Sunday, January 13, 2013


In my last blog post about the awesome L.E. Pate and my fantastically failsome faux-pas, I mentioned an old, old, short, short story I wrote back in 2002. I will probably live to regret this, but since I mentioned it, I'm going to post it here in its entirety.

Let me back up for just a moment, if I may.

My father, George McCarey, died of ALS, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (or Lou Gehrig's Disease) in 2000. {Click here to learn more about ALS.} 

Let's just say, ALS sucks. You can read my journey with my father and his ALS story on my old personal blog.

After my father died, I made many changes in my life because of him: I became a vegetarian after listening to too many hunting tales (I'm a carnivore now, though I can barely handle raw meat); I started fundraising for ALS (their Walk to Defeat ALS is every spring); and I began running marathons with Team in Training. When your father dies of a neuromuscular disease that atrophies his muscles, it makes you want to use every muscle and move every tendon of your own, just to prove you're alive.

I wrote Two for a creative writing class I took in 2002. We were challenged to write a fiction short story, with personal influences, and to keep it around 500 words. Do you know how hard that is? This is what I came up with, and I hope you enjoy it. {Disclaimer: please keep in mind that this was 11 years ago. 11. And clearly, keeping anything short is not my thing.}


5:02 am
Somewhere in the distance you hear it. The incessant hum of your alarm clock. Cocooned deeply within the warmth of your bed, you dread the long reach to the snooze button. Like a turtle’s tentative neck, you poke your long skinny arm from beneath the matted, moss colored blanket and begin your search. Like the turtle’s head, your hand looks left, then right before sensing the slick black surface beneath its touch. 

5:22 am
Hadn't you just shut off that intruding jangle? You stretch your hand back out of its warm shell to hit snooze again. This time, you sense something in the air. The window you had left open last night, to hear the pounding thunderstorm, now invites the cool morning air to wake you. Instead of hitting snooze, your hand betrays you and turns, silencing the disturbance. Your legs dangle off the side of the bed from beneath the blanket, slowly finding their footing. The turtle wakens from its sleep.

5:52 am
You stand in front of the bathroom mirror. The bags beneath your eyes are the only sign of the death that had crept into your life just two days before. You pick your favorite toothbrush, the one your father used to make fun of; the kid’s toothbrush with a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle on the handle. You always liked it because the turtle could kick ass.  

6:22 am
You sink back onto your bed. Your hand searches the floor for your running shoes. The left one goes on first, then the right. Just like Dad had taught you when you were four. You still use the precision of a seamstress lacing a needle’s eye, running the head of your lace through each eyelet. You can hear its fibers as they scream across the metal. You wonder if the noise inside your head will ever stop. 

6:42 am
Your feet hit the pavement, first the left, then the right. You wanted to crawl back within your shell and mourn another day, but you needed the minutia and repetition to move on. If you didn’t run, you would lay down in the road, unable to move out of harm's way. Cars would drive by you. The speed of life whipping you around in circles until you were knocked to the shoulder of the road, broken and forgotten. Instead, you laced up your New Balance, and you ran. Just like you had done every day for the past two years, since you learned your father was dying.

7:02 am
The first two miles are always the hardest; your legs cramp and you feel unable to move. Then slowly, slowly you begin to run with intention. The air slices down your windpipe into your lungs, forcing you to breathe. To admit you’re alive. Your muscles burn, but they do not give. You know that your father’s muscles gave.  So you push yourself harder, afraid yours might give too. After the second mile, your muscles relax as they have had time to warm up. They are stretched now and begin to lengthen. Slowly, the turtle begins its run. Your legs kicking up traces of dirt, leaving marks of your existence.   



  1. Well written story, Colleen. Inspiring blog post. I liked it a lot. Sorry for your loss, too, btw; I lost my father and brother to cancer, so I understand how disease can tear people apart. It's one of the main reasons why my children are so precious to me.


  2. Thank you so much for taking the time to read it. That really means a lot to me. I'm so, so sorry to hear about your father & brother (he must've been young). My dad was 49 when we lost him. Just not enough time. I, unfortunately, have also lost loved ones to cancer. My grandfather had lung cancer & a favorite aunt of mine died from Lymphoma. That's why I teamed up w/ The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society here in the US. They have a cool team you can join to run marathons & raise $$$ for cancer. I became a walk coach to help others complete their marathons (& have done several myself to benefit them). It does put things into perspective quickly about the precious time we have with our loved ones.