I’m sitting at my mom’s kitchen table, trying not to barf. I’d like to say I have the flu. Well, I wouldn’t. I mean, I’d rather say I won the lottery than I have the flu, but saying I have the flu would be better than what is actually going on, which is: I have just eaten about six cookies worth of cookie dough and six actual cookies on top of that. It’s all in the name of research.
Backstory: I’m staying with my mother in the New Mexico mountains this month. She pastors a church and asked me to make three dozen cookies for the kids’ classes tonight. Things you should know about me: I cook almost as well as I dance. (If you’ve never seen me dance, picture a monkey being overrun by fire ants. I once almost knocked a man out at a concert. He had the audacity to stand behind me and fell prey to my bad ass moves. This wasn’t a moshing kind of show, in case you were wondering. But if you stand with me at a concert, even if it’s Handel’s Messiah, you have just landed in the mosh pit.)
Undaunted by my history of epic failures in the domesticity department, I started my day by making three dozen cookies, as per my mom’s request. I had to taste the dough while I was going, to make sure the butter was thoroughly mixed in, and then, I had to taste the finished products. I’m sorry to announce they looked and tasted like hockey pucks. That didn’t stop me from repeatedly “trying” them to make sure they weren’t any good. They weren’t. Now, I’m making another batch. More dough, more tasting. You get the idea.
And as my second batch of three dozen cookies was mouldering in the oven (I don’t bake things, I moulder them), I opened a blog post by my friend Eva Langston, who is apparently force feeding herself butter to try to gain weight. Eva, come on over to my mountain. I’ll fatten you up quick. The key is mixing the butter into cookie dough and eating all of it. Tips from a girl who has never, ever had problems gaining weight. Now you know.
I’d like to say this behavior is an anomaly, but it’s not. I’m stressed, and when I’m stressed, I eat. And eat. And eat. If there are yummy things to eat in eating distance. I’m like one of those cows that will eat themselves to death if you don’t take the corn away. Which is why I never buy fattening foods. My mom doesn’t usually either, but those pesky kids need cookies, so here we are, trying not to barf.
What’s that you say? “Why are you stressed, Tawni?” I thought you’d never ask. As I’ve mentioned here, and in a few recent interviews, my agent recently submitted my latest novel, The Long Ride Home, to publishers. Of course, it took a few weeks to get responses, and being the impatient, melodramatic thing I am, I threw my hands in the air and deemed it dead in the water. (Picture me holding my manuscript aloft, weeping, whispering, “Alas poor Harley”—that’s my protagonist’s name—“I knew her well.”)
Just when I was setting about organizing a very tasteful memorial service in the New Mexico woods for my fallen literary love child, my agent wrote to tell me he had received a phone call from a publisher who was seriously interested. “Oh, frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!” I shrieked, which is to say, I was happy. (I quote “The Jabberwocky” when I’m happy, having memorized it in high school in an effort to become one of the “cool kids.” Shockingly, it didn’t work.)
This was Wednesday of last week. (If you are not a math person, that’s seven days ago.) He told me not to get my hopes up. We’d hear more this week. Until then, I should distract myself. So I decided to distract myself from the agony of waiting by eating everything I could get my hands on. As I indicated, it’s not as bad as it sounds because my mom is a health nut. She only buys broccoli and lentils, as far as I can tell. So I was getting lots of vitamins, and my digestion was moving along beautifully.
But then, Andy called me on Friday to tell me another publisher was seriously interested in the novel. And that we would hear more from them next week too. When he said “next week” at 5 p.m. on Friday, I assumed that meant Monday at 9 a.m. sharp. He didn’t say it meant Monday. I just assumed. I was wrong.
So, as the days go by, and my phone fails to ring (Andy Ross, what I wouldn’t give to see your name pop up on my iPhone screen), I eat more and more and more. And now, my mother has thrown cookies into the mix. I wrote her a while ago to let her know the first batch of cookies tasted like hockey pucks. I told her I would try again. She wrote back, saying, “I’ll do it when I get home.” I could hear the desperation in her voice even though she wasn’t speaking aloud. She was picturing the poor church children breaking their teeth on Tawni’s hockey pucks. She was envisioning dental lawsuits. “Too late,” I wrote back. “I already started.” Which I had. I imagine her now, gently rocking and weeping at her desk, having thrown the fate of her cookies into her culinarily-challenged daughter’s hands.
“Why the hell are you telling us this, Tawni?” you ask. I’m mostly telling you his because my agent forbade me to talk about the interest in my novel, or my angst over it, on Facebook. I usually post everything on Facebook. I’m a Facebook whore. If I get a hangnail, you will see a picture of it on Facebook (and you will like it, or so help you God). But now, I can’t talk about this HUGE issue I’m having. My primary mode of decompression has been immobilized. So I’m eating more and more and more. Not talking about this is making me fat, Andy. In the interest of my health, I had to talk about it. This isn’t Facebook. So I’m technically not disobeying you.
Yes, I know nothing may come of this. Yes, I know I may be having that tasteful memorial service for my literary love child after all. Of course I know that. Why do you think I’m eating my weight in cookie dough? I am utterly aware of my professional peril.
If this book doesn’t sell, I’m going to have to find another career path. Clearly, “chef” is not an option.
P.S. When Tom Petty said the waiting was the hardest part, he was on to something. Tom Petty is a modern prophet, in case you didn’t know. He’s one smart cookie. Pun intended. And yeah, I know it wasn’t even remotely funny. Shut up.