Sometimes in writing these stories, I might take exaggeration a little too far and need to reign in my storytelling to not stray too far from the real-life inspiration. 

My artist wife often acts as this check on my immense imagination that often takes the most modest and trivial detail and blows it completely out of proportion for entertainment purposes. 

I might be tempted to call this reality check a “buzzkill” but I prefer to sleep in my bed and not on the couch.

Besides, her reality check saves me from myself more often than it hurts the stories I share.

After The Gas Mask was published earlier this year, my dear wife was sitting in her blue easy chair in the corner of the living room. She pointed out that she has never owned a gas mask. 

I just stared skeptically at her. 

Perhaps sensing my skepticism, she climbed out of her chair and left the living room. A few minutes later, she returned. As she entered the room, she tossed a rubbery, gray face mask on the couch beside me.

The so-called respirator flopped to a rest on the couch next to me.

“It’s a respirator,” she said matter-of-factly as it flopped on the couch with a soft slap of rubber against rubber. “No googly eyes.”

I picked it up, flipping it around every which way. My fingers gripped the rubber. I placed it over my mouth and nose as I inspected it closely.

“See,” she said. “Nothing sinister or frightening about it.”

I handed it back to her while carefully reflecting on the morning that saw my daughter and I shooed from her art studio amid a horrid stench.

As my wife stood there with the respirator hanging limply from her hand, she was clearly expecting to hear my thoughts. 

… it’s not a giant leap to go from this thing to a gas mask, especially with your eyes bugging out larger than flying saucers…

“I know what we saw that morning. Besides, it’s not a giant leap to go from this thing to a gas mask, especially with your eyes bugging out larger than flying saucers when you shooed us from the room,” I said, stifling my usual good sense to hold my tongue when in an unwinnable situation with my wife.

She clearly wasn’t impressed with my response to her reality check. I’m pretty sure it was the big-eyes comment.

Regardless of what she calls the gas mask, I know what I saw that morning with my terrified daughter clinging to my leg. It cost me a good dose of daddy ice cream.

Read It Again