Feed or Flush

by a contributor

Beth Bates

Shout obscenities at the goldfish shitting up the Tupperware on your mantel and refuse them food and oxygen.

Feel like crying, but don’t.

Slash the tires of the person who fracked your plans.

Or not.

Tell yourself, “It’ll work out.”

Write a treatise exposing the low standard of business practices among Christian business people, so-called; publicize it to your blog and Facebook. Name names.

Call the girlfriends and rag on the woman whose incompetence derailed your counseling career re-launch. Rip apart her character; criticize her lack of professionalism; make it all about her.

Call your husband and bask in his righteous anger.

But, no. Leave him out of it.

Make it all about you. Personalize her flakiness as rejection. Internalize the rejection.

Feel like a failure.

Tell yourself that hanging a shingle again is ridiculous. Divorced therapists are a joke.

Write a novel about a therapist who thinks she’s good but isn’t.

Retreat to bed in the middle of the day. Spread your legs for Depression.

Consider suicide.

Decide suicide is boring.

Stop showering.

Ignore the dust building up on your furniture. Ignore the phone.

Brighten when the kids come home from school. Prepare tacos.

Apologize to your husband for being shortsighted enough to exchange steady income to free up time for kids and writing.

Stop writing.

Stop eating.

No really, stop eating; you’ll feel better in your skinny pants.

Think about cleaning the house to compensate for feelings of inadequacy.

Force yourself to take a walk.

Get hungry.

Scrub toilets and mop floors to show appreciation to the mister for his toil and provision.

Sit on the couch and watch the fish.

Watch them until their pitiful mawing breaks you and you haul the “tank” into the kitchen for the tenth time in fourteen days since your daughter won them at a church carnival, and cup by cup empty the plastic food storage bin she found to house the creatures. Refresh their filthy medium with chlorinated, fluoridated tap water.


Jettison guilt over pursuing grad school (again, at your age).

Pursue your second master’s. Hard. It’s just for a season, and seasons are finite.

Finish a book, reading or writing one.

Write daily.

Write about this struggle. Fold it into a paper boat with all the soundness of design and seaworthy construction required to keep it afloat, and launch it.

Sail it into the past. Resist sending a search party to retrieve it into your present.


Brainstorm action steps. Make a new plan.

Execute your plan by taking three steps each day.

Wait. Pray.

Watch the fish.

Flush the fish.

Feed ’em.

Beth Bates lives in the Indianapolis area, where she stays busy writing and editing. She is the Prose Editor for Booth, the Story Editor for Curly Red Stories, and a Butler University MFA Candidate.

See Beth’s 5 P Words You Should Know tomorrow in our ongoing contributors’ series.