“Good at Doing Nothing,” by Abigail Thomas

Dec 11th, 2019 | By | Category: Nonfiction, Prose

Yesterday I ate 3 pieces of cheesecake, 1 cannoli, 1 can of sardines and drank 3 pellagrino blood orange sodas.  That’s it. Oh wait. I smoked a pack of cigarettes. I’ve been waiting around for the important thought, although I don’t have important thoughts. I sit for hours thinking nothing in particular, looking at the dogs sleeping on chairs and sofas and the sun moving across the rug. Now and then, for no obvious reason, they all rise howling and head for the door, returning a few minutes later to resume their positions. I am good at doing nothing, but when I’m done doing nothing, I don’t know what to do.

Let’s see. It’s five- fifteen in the morning. What do I do?  I pull a few hairs out of my head and hold them up to the light to make sure I don’t have head lice. Sometimes the follicles look like nits, so I use a magnifying glass for closer examination. One of my young grandsons has head lice, and my head is itching. Seven hairs, no lice. It’s almost disappointing so I pull out another bunch of hair. Still no lice. My interest wanes. Then I pick up a catalogue and look at mattress pads. For years I’ve longed for the fleece ones which they say are washable but I don’t believe it, and I don’t need a new mattress pad. Then I look at feather beds which I also don’t need, although they look inviting. I drop the catalogue back on the floor. Next I drive to an Al-Anon meeting so I can be better prepared for living with my grandson. I can’t remember where the door is, nothing looks familiar. I wander around trembling and then I get a dizzy spell and badly need to sit down but there’s nowhere to rest so instead I go to the Saturday flea market where I buy a necklace with a tiny silver sword on it because the lady tells me the sword cuts fear. Then I buy figs from the fruit man and eat them in parking lot.  I want more figs so I drive to Sunflower. They don’t have any figs so I buy apples and almonds and smoked salmon and chestnuts peeled and roasted and even though they are from China I eat them all, ripping the plastic open with a pen. I finish everything else sitting in my car listening to Aerosmith. Then I come home and read the book review and listen to the horrible news. Looking out the window I worry that my big beautiful locust is dying. No leaves yet, and it’s late for leaves. The trunk goes up for a long time, then two branches come out on either side like arms raised to heaven. Its armpits have always been faintly pink. Today they are gray so I call my friend the tree man. He comes over and tells me  the locusts are all late this year, something to do with last winter, and in two weeks it should be fine.

Now I’m sitting on the couch between Daphne and Sadie and writing it all down. Looking it over, I decide nothing is more fun.


Abigail Thomas is the mother of four, the grandmother of twelve, and the great-grandmother of one! She writes mostly memoir, and lives in Woodstock with her dogs. Her books include Safekeeping: Some True Stores From a Life; A Three Dog Life; and What Comes Next and How to Like It.

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