To Do List by Mary Steer

Mary Steer's snapshot of middle class domestic life will ring hauntingly true with busy couples everywhere.

Wake up. Get up. Turn on fish tank light. Take dog into backyard. Wait while dog does business. Pick up after dog. Ponder how life is less like a box of chocolates and more like a used grocery bag full of dog shit. Drag dog back in. Feed fish, but not with diced-up pieces of husband - yet. Feed dog, ditto. Make coffee. Wake kids. Shower. Brush hair. Wake kids again.

Get dressed in eye-catching outfit. Fail to catch husband's eye. Nag kids. Get kids up. Get newspaper. Momentarily get lost in headlines. Rule out Europe and Middle East as potential places to escape to. Nag kids. Get kids dressed. Get breakfast. Fight with husband. Referee kids fighting. Pack lunches, leaving out the strychnine again.

Get kids to school. Pick up mail. Shred postcard from husband's sister ("Having a blast in Bali!").

Tidy kitchen. Run dishwasher. Make beds. Second coffee. Skim newspaper. Contemplate travel section. Pay special attention to colour feature on Jamaica. Empty dishwasher. Phone mother. Listen. Daydream about glistening Rastafarian black men in bikini briefs and wraparound shades bearing ganja.

Call father-in-law. Check email. Search YouTube for Harry Belafonte music videos. Find Banana Boat Song. Watch. Notice time. Nag self.

Vacuum. Dust. Make lunch. Eat lunch. Prep dinner. Tidy kitchen again. Find electronic boyfriend. Enjoy. Put electronic boyfriend back in hiding place. Consider possibilities inherent in finding real flesh-and-blood boyfriend.

Walk dog. Get kids from school. Feed kids snack. Prevent kids from using food as ammunition. Schlep daughter to ballet. Schlep son to karate. Schlep both home. Get dinner on. Apologize to husband for morning altercation. Wait for return apology. Keep waiting. Revisit daydream of Rasta man.

Dinner. Referee kids fighting. Fantasize about emptying serving dishes over heads of family. Clear table as normal instead. Nag kids. Homework. Feed fish. Wonder briefly if perhaps neon tetras come from Caribbean Sea. Feed dog. Turn off fish tank light. Nag kids. Get kids' teeth brushed. Nag kids. Get kids' teeth flossed. Nag kids. Get kids into pyjamas. Read bedtime stories, refraining once again from choosing Fifty Shades of Grey or The Shining. Turn out lights.

Go downstairs. Tidy kitchen one last time. Run dishwasher again. Make tea. Take cup to husband as further peace offering. Join husband in front of television. Sip and slurp with him in one moment of perfect togetherness made possible only by lack of conversation. Get kids back into bed.

Rejoin husband in front of television. Wake husband. Try to open discussion about relationship. Get damn kids back in bed again. Rejoin husband. Watch husband slumber, slack-jawed and drooling, snoring, eyes twitching and rolling. Decide not to attempt to wake husband again.

Let dog out. Let dog back in. Brush teeth. Floss teeth. Curl up in bed. Look up couples counselling on cell phone. Change mind. Look up travel agents on cell phone. Add "book ticket" and "find passport" and "pack" to to-do list for tomorrow. Put light out. Try to fall asleep. Dream of the future.


  1. Gritty and sardonic,good writing,

  2. Terrific story, Mary! I love the to-do's and the not-to-do's, and all the verbs. Thank you.

  3. Awesome story!Totally loved it. A nice slice of reality in a busy world. Cheers, Connie Cook

  4. Kind of like a long prose poem. Great topic and really good rhythm.

  5. concise and true!
    Mike McC

  6. It's bitter and twisted. Just like real life but ever so much better scripted. Well done!

  7. true and funny! ah, mary, your writing is wonderful!

  8. Good story, Mary. Bitter and twisted but with a moderately hopeful ending.

  9. I enjoyed that in the beginning the narrator had to wake her kids several times before they got up. Near the end, the kids' interruptions punctuate the narrator's staccato list to comic effect. Funny from start to finish.

  10. The clipped sentences worked so well here. Honest and so relatable. I liked the hopeful ending.

  11. Love the style and humor in this one.