birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Exposure

On Monday, I awoke in a rush of panic, gripping the covers and fish-mouthing “Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me?!” Only I wasn’t rabidly screaming in the field like I thought. I was silently gasping and grasping at the sheets as the fan whirred peacefully above. I was so angry, so shocked, and my heart pounded as hard as I’d pounded my fists in my dream moments before.

It all started as a dream come true, at first. My husband and I were told that our work was to be featured on a television news show, one like 60 Minutes or Sunday Morning. Then, the arrival of camera crews followed, crawling all over our gardens and barns, cooing for us to “act natural” while fisheye lenses and fluffy microphones were stuffed inches from our faces. We’d survived the nerves and the interviews, and tiptoed around the unspoken anxiety of when it would release and how it would look. Would they be kind, telling our fun stories truthfully, or greedily make drama where none existed? The show was to come on soon and David promptly headed for the field. I watched with a pillow on my lap, absentmindedly clawing it and clutching it, making busy work for my nervous hands. I’d had the television on mute, but pointed and pushed all the buttons at once when I saw my face.

“It’s on!” I yelled towards the doorway, knowing he was too far away to hear. On purpose.

They ran previews and cut to a commercial. When the program came back, it launched into a gruesome story of a young housewife gone mad. A story just breaking in the national news, breaking hearts with the discovery that she’d murdered her two babies, newborn twins. I didn’t want to hear the horrifying details, so I muted it again. I peeked into the kitchen, aimlessly wandering for snacks and diversion. Then, I saw myself on the screen. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a photo of me smiling in a broad straw hat, laughing as I looked over at David. We were picking vegetables in slow motion, looking freakishly happy, and well, just freakish, as one feels watching his face in film. Then it cut to old photos of me, a headshot in a suit, school photos, and a panning image of our garden with me in the distance. What the hell? Mashing buttons in a curious fury, I unmuted the sound.

“…seemingly happy, she hid secrets from her family. Even her husband, a man neighbors describe as someone devoted to her, didn’t know. She took a knife and…”

“WHAT?! WHAT IN THE HELL?” I screamed at Leslie Stahl.

“THEY’VE GOT IT WRONG!” I screamed at no one.

Running out the back door, down the hill, I flagged David, flapping my hands around. “Honey, omigod! You won’t believe! The whole world is going to hate me. The TV! The TV! They mixed up my B-roll. I’m the woman who murdered her babies!”

He stood there holding a hose, wrinkling his face, squinting as if it would make me more sensible.

I was rabid. Pacing, shouting, waving my hands, then putting them on my head and bending towards my knees, yelling,”You don’t understand! Everyone is going to think that is me! I will get threats. I’ll never work again. You watch!”

Then, the dings. “Ding! Ding! Ding!” my phone cheerily sounded, alerting me to text messages and voicemails pouring in. I sat down—hard—in the field, grabbing the big patch of tall grass next to me.

“You have got to be kidding me!”

The School of Unfinished Business

Moving Dream