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American Contemporary Creative Nonfiction

Today’s the day you change. 

You mean it this time.

Everything. You’re going to change every jot and tittle.

You are unsure what a jot and tittle is—an expression your overly religious grandmother uses—but it seems like a good phrase to use today.

You pull out your iPhone and google “jot and tittle” → [The very smallest detail(s) or amount(s)]. 

It’s a sign.

You make a mental list of where to start, but it’s entirely overwhelming, so you simply decide to get out of bed. 

You stand up and look at the futon with its balled up sheets and matted comforter—one that is too hot at night until you stick one leg out from under it. Then it’s too cold.

For the past two years, this particular futon has acted as a de facto womb during the quarantines, both the government-mandated ones and the ones you declared yourself after almost-graduating from college. 

And just look at you—up before noon!

You find immense pride in carrying up your own trash and recycling debris from your musty bedroom in the basement. 

Your bare feet pound the steps leading out of the cold cinder block lair into the relatively warm kitchen, every square inch decorated with your mother’s penchant for cow memorabilia. 

Should you accidentally get married, you will forbid your wife from any black and white bovine décor. 

Regardless, your mother will be proud of you—for bringing up a shit ton of beer bottles without her having to nag you. Of course, you aren’t entirely sure when “nagging” equated to her trying to talk to you, but that isn’t relevant. Now she won’t have to do either. 

Bonus prize: your mother won’t see how many beers you’ve consumed this week if you get them all in today's recycling. You put half of them in the neighbor's yellow RECYCLING - GLASS ONLY bin. For no reason except for pure petulance, you cut through your neighbor’s frozen flower beds to unload an armful of Pabst Blue Ribbon bottles.

Now, back inside your parents’ house, you decide to bring the vacuum cleaner downstairs as well as some bathroom cleaning supplies since your toilet looks like a medical experiment gone awry. 

As you walk through your parents’ claustrophobic living room to get to the laundry room, you notice the cloying stench of holiday pumpkin spice, wafting from an automatic air freshener. It sends out a helpful puff of holiday cheer as you walk by, entirely unwelcome. You unplug it from the wall and kick the fucker under the china cabinet.

After gathering what you think you’ll need to clean your living space, you notice that your mother has hung up an inordinate amount of stark square and rectangular wall hangings with assorted concrete and abstract nouns: Days of Wine and Chocolate. Peace Friendship Love. Gather Thankful Laugh. 

Should you accidentally get married, you will forbid your wife from making people read the walls of your home. 

Downstairs in the basement, the temperature is a good fifteen degrees colder than upstairs. You feel resentful that your parents have not purchased you a space heater. Sure, one of their aunts died in front of a space heater, but that was more from acute alcoholism than from faulty wiring. Regardless, you put on your favorite college sweatshirt, which like every other piece of your clothing, needs laundering. 

The college sweatshirt reminds you of your ex-girlfriend, so you sit down among the chaotic bed coverings. With a heartfelt sigh, you pull out your iPhone. An hour and a half later, you have read through all of your ex-girlfriend's social media, virtually meet her new boyfriend, wish them both well, and then feel sorry for yourself. 

You decide you need to be on dating apps. Your father would prefer you be on LinkedIn, proudly listing your almost-degree in communications, noting the 3-month internship you completed at a used car dealership, proudly painting cloud bubbles on windshields with prices containing lots of nines: REDUCED FOR SALE $13,999.99. But since the pandemic, you’ve kept a low profile, except on Steam, where you’ve racked up more hours playing Counter-Strike: Global Offensive than it took you to almost-earn your undergraduate degree.  

You look at the dating apps options. 

Tinder is a little too raw for what you want. Hinge seems a little too serious for what you need. So you select Bumble, since girls have to do the selecting, leaving the decisions to someone else. You watch the download from the App Store with mild interest. 

After opening Bumble, you fill in mostly accurate information. When it comes to uploading a photo, the only decent one you have is from your sophomore year in college, which is about thirty-five pounds ago. Still, the resemblance is close enough. You cobble together a quick bio that makes you sound like the person you are changing to be and pick three “My Move Makers.” Now you are off to the races!

Your social life successfully percolating, you take the toilet brush and blue bowl cleaner into the bathroom. Lifting the toilet lid, you wonder what you ate that could have gone so, so terribly wrong.

As you swish the brush around, a flicker of blue bowl cleaner lands exactly in your left eye, making you drop everything to run to the sink to flood the area with water—just like your high school chemistry teacher showed you when you were fooling around in class with hydrogen peroxide. 

Nearly blinded, you decide that you have cleaned enough for one day, so you gather up the cleaning products, shove them in the tote, octopus the canister vacuum around your neck, and ascend the stairs to the much cozier main floor. 

Halfway up the stairs, the canister hose slides out of your hands and coils itself between your feet, causing you to catastrophically trip.

The tote of cleaning supplies spectacularly falls, flinging the wet toilet brush full of fetid toilet water and blue bowl cleaner in a perfect arc across the basement floor, but mostly on the futon.

With that, you kick the canister vacuum down the stairs, watching the main container burst open, dispelling hair and gray dust that is actually dead skin cells, according to Reddit.

You pick up your iPhone and note that your friends are meeting on Steam for an all-night Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournament.

So, you change the day that you will change. 

Tomorrow. Tomorrow is the day you will change. 

You mean it this time.

Every jot and tittle. 


December 31, 2022 18:45

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49 comments

Rebecca Miles
15:54 Jan 04, 2023

I may read this to my son. Or if I read it to them, perhaps it might mobilise some of my students to take stock...perhaps its power lies in the recognition all Generation X's will have when they read this and feel a smidgen less alone. Your comment by the way: Z is for Zero Effs given on any occasion..., worthy of a polemic I'd say! As always, hits the sweet spot.

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16:11 Jan 04, 2023

I read "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" to my children when they were little. Here's a copy of the flipbook: https://fliphtml5.com/piaso/cmnd/basic If you are "raising" adult children in your home in your 50's...you'll now understand that this particular children's book has poisoned the well. They've taken it to heart. It's their life's mantra now, and it's all our fault (as well as Laura Joffe Numeroff.)

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Rebecca Miles
16:34 Jan 04, 2023

Ha! We've never read that, sadly, but still the message rings true. This is the illustrated version of any parent who enlists the help of the kids and then wonders why they didn't just do the chores themselves as worse mess or a task half-done is what ensues! Still, lovely illustrations! Now where's that glass of milk and cookie in amongst my pages and pencils? Oh yes, the 19 year old has polished them off! We've got to laugh, eh!

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Delbert Griffith
20:48 Jan 03, 2023

The 2nd-person POV is amazing; I would never attempt such a feat without a net. "Should you accidentally get married..." effing great phrase! The paragraph that transcends: "You stand up and look at the futon with its balled up sheets and matted comforter—one that is too hot at night until you stick one leg out from under it. Then it’s too cold." That's the story, right there. It really says everything about the MC, and it says with with depth, humor, and a savage shot at the 22-35-year old (presumably) male parasite still living off his...

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21:14 Jan 03, 2023

2nd person is usually a crowd-pleaser. I tried a collective 2nd person POV years ago, and it had an interesting effect...an amorphous blob of people acting as one entity at a high school reunion. haha... This is an Ode to two of my adult children. I hope they accidentally read it one day :)

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Michał Przywara
01:56 Jan 05, 2023

Heh :) Amusing, recognizable, and a little sad. Sympathetic, too. We have a guy in a slump, and you can probably make all sorts of arguments about surley mooching - and you wouldn't be wrong. The space heater, for instance - yes, they could buy it for him, but *he* could buy it for him too (or, if money's an issue, we're back to LinkedIn). But he recognizes this, with the thoughts on nagging/conversation, and then makes a decision to change, and then actually acts on it. Yes, it's just small steps. Things like taking out trash and tidying...

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18:14 Jan 07, 2023

Happy New Year - Amazing Michael Przywara! Does anyone even "write" a story until you comment on it? I live for your analysis and hot takes on everything. (On some level, I'm sure you are a deity from another dimension. That would explain what's going on with the L in your name.) You make a great point with the "all or nothing" change fixation -- Compulsive hoarding is also considered a feature of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD). (If you can't clean/control/manage everything, then why clean/control/manage anything....?) My ...

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Michał Przywara
21:27 Jan 07, 2023

Inertia! Yeah, I'm familiar with that video/quote :) It seems so ridiculous on the surface, but dig a little deeper and it makes a lot of sense. Very applicable to writing too. Forget writing a novel today, just write a sentence. Doesn't even have to be a good one. If that's all you do, you've written one more sentence than you had yesterday. But... how often does on sentence naturally lead to a second? Then a paragraph? It snowballs.

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Laurel Hanson
16:29 Jan 02, 2023

This is really nicely rendered. Kind of an internal monologue in the 2nd pov. Great details and descriptions building his life in a way that is both bleakly depressing and also funny, full of little commentary. IE: "Should you accidentally get married, you will forbid your wife from making people read the walls of your home." (PS: HGTV should take note). This is super, down to the last jot and tittle.

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21:19 Jan 03, 2023

You make a good point about life being some mathematical equation, like "bleakly depressing" multiplied by the square root of funny. Fun fact, HGTV is the #1 cause of Gray Divorces. This isn't a fact, but it should be. :)

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Laurel Hanson
21:40 Jan 03, 2023

I've never hear that phrase! Doesn't take much to figure out what it means and it's an excellent "fact"! :)

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Wendy Kaminski
21:21 Dec 31, 2022

Your range is incredible, and this character's personal life is just so wonderfully catastrophic or "socially unacceptable" in every way that nobody ever just lays out there (though it's probably pretty close to reality for more than one might expect!) ... it was hilarious and awesome! :)

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15:12 Jan 02, 2023

This is my ode to Generation Z from the delightful curmudgeons of Generation X. (I'm guess the Z is for Zero Effs given on any occasion...)

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Wendy Kaminski
16:25 Jan 02, 2023

In that regard, I have a little gen-vy! :) Loved it!!

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Hannah K
15:14 Jan 20, 2023

Hillarious story, and sadly relatable for a lot of people. Although I'm not an unemployed young man living in my parents' basement, I do relate to making a bunch of resolutions, starting strong, having something happen to discourage or upset me, and then just saying "I'll try again tomorrow when I fell better" and going back to my old ways. Maybe lots of us are like this. The world could use more self discipline for sure!

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AnneMarie Miles
14:36 Jan 09, 2023

I love the second point of view, it is so amusing and playful in this context. We all have a little bit of this in us, especially when things go just a little wrong and it's enough to make us abandon it all. At least until tomorrow. Thanks for another fun read :)

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13:55 Jan 13, 2023

It took me awhile to fall in love with 2nd person POV. One Reedsy prompt required it (years ago) and I took the challenge. It definitely brings a different tone to writing: the voice of the collective. I find it more intimate than even 1st person. Hive mind?

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Mike Panasitti
03:29 Jan 06, 2023

This. Is. Exactly. Where I am. In my life right now. A Gen-Z underachiever trapped in the (maybe?) delusional embodied mind of a Gen-x'er. Change is coming, maybe not as thoroughly as jot and tittles, but Jesus H., does it take long.

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18:02 Jan 07, 2023

That's the great part about being in your late 50's... You embrace the fact that you are just fine being perfectly imperfect--worthy of love, worthy of life--just the way you are. (Billy Joel is always right.)

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Mike Panasitti
18:39 Jan 07, 2023

Thanks. I honestly needed to hear (read) something like that this morning.

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Sherry Bazley
01:45 Jul 09, 2023

LOL-LOL-LOL! Love your colorful, easy ways with description and your MC reminds me of certain of my own spring-offs. Wonderful story with good Intentions!!!

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16:51 Jul 09, 2023

Adult children... (Let's have drinks, Sherry.)

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Sherry Bazley
00:23 Jul 10, 2023

LOL! Would you do me the favor of reading my 2nd story on here? I'd like your critique! And I understand if you can't. Thanks!!!

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Amanda Lieser
18:28 Mar 21, 2023

Hi Deidra, This is a delightful piece. I loved the way you described this home and challenged some of our desires to fit into the latest trends. I like how this story feels like a turning over a new leaf challenge. I imagine a prequel where we see the MC falling down the rabbit hole. It feels very fitting for a new year piece. Nice work!

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Doubra Akika
09:02 Jan 20, 2023

Deidra, this is amazing. Like everything I've read that's been written by you. It's always a combination of many things: funny, sometimes sad, but always realistic even when it seems completely unrealistic. You're such an amazing writer, and I hope the New Year is treating you well. Always appreciate coming back on the site to read one of your works

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Kelsey H
12:20 Jan 14, 2023

Loved every line of this. The 2nd person pov was such a good choice, the mix of humor and frustration was spot on. Also very relatable in many ways!

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13:25 Jan 16, 2023

Thanks Kelsey :) I think we'd all like to roll over and go back to bed most days...then call Uber Eats. :)

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Nicole Of 2022
23:17 Jan 12, 2023

YOU HAVE CHILDREN??? GROWN CHLDREN????????????!!!!!! LOLL I thought you were a teenager. No wonder your fantastic stories Deidra. This story was so interesting and different. I loved it so much! It was also so different. I loved the 2nd POV. Update me when you write another amazing story!! Much love<3333 I'd appreciate your thoughts on my newest story! <33

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13:56 Jan 13, 2023

Yup. Three "grown" children. Allegedly.

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Dan Hansen
04:45 Jan 10, 2023

Hi Deidra, I get it. Especially when you wrote "But since the pandemic, you’ve kept a low profile, except on Steam, where you’ve racked up more hours playing Counter-Strike: Global Offensive than it took you to almost-earn your undergraduate degree. " For me it was World of Warcraft and for me it was Graduate Degree = Masters and almost PhD. I get that dating thing too. I got divirced when I ended up being my mother's caregiver. Now that she's gone I can think about dating.

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23:39 Jan 11, 2023

What a wonderful son you are ❤️

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Dan Hansen
16:58 Jan 12, 2023

Thanks!

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Susan Catucci
19:14 Jan 09, 2023

All I can really say is . . . SHIT! (But really, really great shit, as usual!)

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13:57 Jan 13, 2023

Well, like I always say, if you are going to write shit, make it GREAT shit.

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Susan Catucci
13:59 Jan 13, 2023

It's not a bad specialty. :)

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18:45 Jan 08, 2023

Fun, light story! Good characterization, could see the guy without a written description. Hope he does change though and find his way.

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13:57 Jan 13, 2023

I'm sure our main character will grow up just fine. And you know he's marrying someone EXACTLY like his mother :)

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Daniel Allen
18:04 Jan 08, 2023

Love this story. It feels very current, and I think highlights some of the mental barriers to change that we can experience. It sounds to me like your protagonist has suffered some setbacks in life and is just looking for that little spark of magic to get them back on track. The fact that they are making an effort to change is encouraging, at least. Who knows, maybe tomorrow really will be the day they change!

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13:59 Jan 13, 2023

Agreed, Daniel. It's hard to know why people get into a rut and why they stubbornly sit there until some catalyst encourages them to MOVE ON. I've found that lasting change is always incremental. An object in motion stays in motion :)

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J.C. Lovero
16:30 Jan 08, 2023

Fun fact: you taught me a new word today. I had no idea what a tittle was lol It's been a while since I've had the pleasure to read one of your stories, and I'm glad I plucked this one out. There's something to be said about reading a story many of us can relate to: the awkward formative years when we are all figuring life out. You could have easily replaced video games with social media, replaced dating apps for bar crawls, etc. and the story would still hold up. I appreciate you threw the kitchen sink at the protagonist. Kept us reading ...

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14:05 Jan 13, 2023

J.C. !!! Thanks for dropping by and reading my drivel (when you should be writing your enthralling epic romances.) Yes on the curly fries and milkshake (strawberry for me, please.) The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry...but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a cheeseburger for? (I'm mixing up literary quotations and metaphors and a half dozen other literary devices -- but why not? It's January. It's cold and there are too many bills coming due.) It will be interesting when "gamers" fully take over -- we'll have...

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Melony Beard
13:42 Jan 08, 2023

You always do such a great job creating characters. Another good story!

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14:56 Jan 08, 2023

Woo hoo! Thanks for the read, Melony.

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Stevie Burges
02:07 Jan 08, 2023

Again another story I really enjoyed. I loved the 'listing' of his resolutions. His resolution conversation going on in his head was so damned familiar. Took me right back to my 'happy 20's'!!! A good read.

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14:06 Jan 13, 2023

Woo Hoo And does anyone really miss the 20's? Is it just me, or is everyone else embarrassed by what they did/thought/ate/dated/lived?

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Stevie Burges
14:38 Jan 13, 2023

Nah! I was too stupid to be embarrassed.

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14:38 Jan 13, 2023

(This made me authentically LOL)

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