where the writers are
That warm puppy thing
Puppy critic

     “Happiness?  That’s an easy one.  I know the answer.  Everybody knows the guy who wrote Snoopy said happiness was a warm puppy.  I’m cold right now.  But I still feel pretty happy.  I’m confused.”  The puppy wrinkles her brow the better to access her non-existent brain trust.

     “Well, I really think Mr. Schultz was considering the puppy’s owner, that the puppy made the owner happy.”   I sense a puppy crescendo of defiance in the making.  And a headache for me.

     “It’s all about you, you, you.  Don’t I make you happy?  I sure try.  I graduated from Puppy College, remember?  When I’m a lawyer, you’ll be sorry for all this.”  She revisits the copy of Martindale-Hubbell and gives it a serious push.  The potted fern atop the book teeters precariously.  I rush to catch it and miss.  Another non-Martha moment in my Mara kitchen.

     “Sorry for what?  Lord knows, I do everything possible to make you happy, and I really think you make me happy.  You make people chuckle when I write about you.  That’s happy.”  I decide to ignore the cries of the dying fern, a plant I’ve always secretly loathed.   

     “Okay.  I like to be funny.  Watch me be funny.  Funny is happy.”  She laughs hickety, hickety, hickety in an explosion of puppy giggles and scoots around the kitchen looking for potential targets.  In her ever-expanding repertoire, destruction equals creation.  I deftly remove the ceramic plant pot as she sprays dirt and bits of fernery green over the formerly-revered law book.  I note subconsciously that the result is rather artistic in a Rorschachian fashion.  It looks like an eagle.  With a Volvo in its beak.  My headache is escalating   

     “Let me read you more about happiness from my novel.”  I plead for a little time out.

     “That stupid thing again.  There’s too much stuff in it.  I learned the word edit.  Do you know the word?  I bet it’s crap.”

     Smart-assed little creep.  “I’ll read it to you anyway.  Then you can decide.”  From the manuscript box, out come the well-worn pages:

     “She had learned one very important truth that was worth the price she had paid.  You could decide your own happiness.  To choose, decidedly choose to be happy at a given time.  Just like that.  It was a skill and like any skill needed to be practiced, but was definitely doable, and as such, changed your life.  The most important self-improvement, pop-psychology, ten-questions, million-selling, lecture-circuit idea.  Not an easy thing at first.  You had to start slowly with the obvious stuff --- sunsets, good food, smiling babies, trite but true.  But the real test came when you were thankful for the silence around you, happy to see a familiar dead branch, to embrace the bad with the good, to consider yourself blessed.  To smile at nothing.  To see the fall colors brightened even stronger by a darkened sky.  To choose happiness over malcontent as a clear and rational choice of free will.  Not denial, but a logical extension of self-preservation.  The paradox of life revealed.  That every minute does count and that minute is just as valuable, as precious, and can be as meaningful for you as for any royal princess on a yacht with the finest at her disposal.

     To welcome happiness as a conscious intellectual decision.  She was sure that this could not be a unique nor original thought.  Surely others knew this.  But as most things had been for her, she had discovered it herself as on a deserted island and that made it all the more real and all the sweeter.”

     The puppy gives me not only the eye-roll, but adds a nose-wrinkle of disgust.  “Crap.  That’s just plain trite crap.  The paradox of life!  Gimme a break!  If you burned it in the fireplace, at least I’d be warmer, then I’d really be a happy puppy.  And your book would be much better.”

     I gotta say, when she’s right, she’s right.  Perhaps a few nice thoughts, but definitely trite execution.  Poor prose makes good kindling for the woodstove. 

     Happiness is indeed a warm puppy, albeit one smart-ass critic.

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Every minute does count! The

Every minute does count! The smart-ass critic sounds adorable...m

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Mary, how fitting that you should choose that phrase, since you yourself excel at sharing the meaning of your seeming ordinary moments with us!

I have so many pages deleted from my now-perfected novel that the fire from those pages would warm a whole basketful of four-legged critics!  Still, better to heed the critic beside you --- or inside you --- before submission to the agent or the editor.  The essence of the thoughts remain, but in a less pedantic format.