This was originally published June 8, 2007
You can find a ton of writing prompts at Write Anything.
Writing prompt: Write a story/poem about fatherhood with a doctor as the main character and a mug as the key object. Set your story/poem in a garden.
“Why is this nasty thing sitting in front of me?” Dr. Mike Samuels stared at the misshapen, yellow and purple polka-dotted mug on his expensive fifty-dollar place mat.
“Would you keep your voice down?” Mike’s wife, Lori, glanced anxiously around the garden to see if anyone heard him.
“No, seriously. What is it doing here?”
Lori sighed and looked over her shoulder. Their six-year old daughter was happily chatting away with her friends at the kiddie table. “Shyla made that for you for Father’s Day.”
“Okay. But why do I have to use it now? In front of the entire hospital board?”
Lori spoke slowly between gritted teeth and attempted to keep her voice light and cheery. “Because, your daughter wanted to surprise you. And you wouldn’t want to disappoint your daughter AGAIN, now would you?”
“I have no problem with that.”
Lori’s eyes narrowed and she glared at him. “You’re a prick, you know that?” She had a plastic smile pasted on her face and by the tone of her voice, a neighboring diner would never guess at the hostility seeping from her every pore.
“I’m not using this mug, Lori. It’s ugly and disgusting.”
“Sort of like our marriage,” she replied and instantly changed her entire demeanor as Mike’s boss appeared behind her husband.
“Lovely party, Lori. You always throw the best garden shindigs.” He issued a low-rumbling chuckle.
“Why thank you, George. I do try.” Her smile was warm and friendly; her eyes sparkled with tension.
George clapped Mike on the back. “So, old man. Are you ready for …” He paused and both Mike and Lori looked up at him. “What is that?” He nodded his salt-and-pepper hair toward the mug.
“Oh … that,” Mike began.
Lori interrupted brightly. “Shyla made that for him for Father’s day at school. She worked very hard on it.” She gave her husband a warning look.
George chuckled. “Ah, I remember those days. It seems like another lifetime ago I was forced to drink out of leaky clay mugs and pretend it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.”
Mike scowled. Lori chuckled.
“Actually,” Mike began.
“Shyla’s teacher said she worked on this mug for hours. She said she was so excited that she could hardly paint the flowers …”
“Is that what those are?” Mike asked incredulously. He dropped his head and peered at the mug more closely.
Lori kicked him under the table but kept her facial expression sunny and pleasant.
George laughed and again slapped Mike on the back. “I’d suggest a napkin, old boy, or you’ll most likely end up with a wet lap from the leaks.”
They both snickered as he moved off to talk to the people at the next table.
Mike’s smile immediately dropped as soon as his boss’ back was turned. “I’m not using this mug, Lori. It’s embarrassing.”
She wrung the expensive linen napkin with her hands and without looking at him, muttered under her breath, “Mike Samuels, you will use that mug and you will pretend to like it. I’m sick and tired of the way you shrug our daughter, and this whole fatherhood thing off.” She took a deep breath, blinked back the tears and waved cheerfully at Shyla. “You don’t pay attention to her, you don’t act like a father at all. You’re so wrapped up in your career …”
Mike bristled. “A career that buys you expensive linen napkins, I might add …”
She continued as if he hadn’t spoken, “ … that you never have time for us anymore. And when you’re here, you’re not here because you’re too tired to give us the time of day. Well you know what? I’ve had it. I’m not going to continue to walk on pins and needles around you anymore. I’m tired of drying Shyla’s tears because of your inattention.” She released a shaky breath, “When this party is over, so is our marriage.”