Iowa Writes

JIM O'LOUGHLIN
The Zone


The Zone is a semi-circular arc stretching from our daughter's high chair for the distance of a toddler's reach. Our daughter, Emma, though only two, understands The Zone. At least Emma realizes that all items within The Zone are eligible for play. If we try to put a bib on Emma before clearing The Zone, it is within her rights to twist off the top of a saltshaker and create an anthill-sized mound of salt in front of her.

We respect The Zone, so after we walked into Mycanos Diner and picked out a table as far away from the smoking section as possible, we leapt into action. While I buckled Emma into the high chair, my wife took out a wipe from the diaper bag and sanitized the high chair and the table. Then while my wife took out a plastic bowl with Cheerios, I removed all objects of interest from The Zone: sugar packets, napkins, pads of butter, water glasses, and tips from previous customers.

The Zone is a semi-circular arc stretching from our daughter's high chair for the distance of a toddler's reach. Our daughter, Emma, though only two, understands The Zone. At least Emma realizes that all items within The Zone are eligible for play. If we try to put a bib on Emma before clearing The Zone, it is within her rights to twist off the top of a saltshaker and create an anthill-sized mound of salt in front of her.

We respect The Zone, so after we walked into Mycanos Diner and picked out a table as far away from the smoking section as possible, we leapt into action. While I buckled Emma into the high chair, my wife took out a wipe from the diaper bag and sanitized the high chair and the table. Then while my wife took out a plastic bowl with Cheerios, I removed all objects of interest from The Zone: sugar packets, napkins, pads of butter, water glasses, and tips from previous customers.

A waitress approached. Jennifer, according to her nametag. Jennifer smiled at us, but we could tell she did not have children because she placed a set of silverware right in the middle of The Zone. Emma immediately grabbed a knife and started waving it in the air, evading our attempts to disarm her, while Jennifer asked if we wanted anything to drink. My wife distracted Emma with a stuffed animal while I approached out of eyeshot and cleverly snatched away the knife from Emma's hands. Jennifer stood, hand on hips, impatiently waiting. We ordered coffee and attempted to restore order.

Waitresses with children have an implicit understanding of The Zone, and they will assist us in piling up one end of the table with side orders of toast, jugs of syrup, and extra cups of juice. However, Jennifer, I realized, saw The Zone simply as available space. When she returned, she placed a coffee pot right in front of Emma. The coffee pot was a bright Day-Glo orange designed to perk us up, but in the eyes of our daughter it was a shiny bauble come rightfully into her possession.

We lurched forward. Six hands struggled for control of the coffee pot.

Jennifer smiled, blissfully unaware, waiting for our order.

"Cute kid," she said.

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About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Find out more about submitting by contacting iowa-writes@uiowa.edu


JIM O'LOUGHLIN

Jim O'Loughlin is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Northern Iowa. He runs the Final Thursday Reading Series in Cedar Falls and is the publisher of Final Thursday Press.

Final Thursday Press

Final Thursday Reading Series

This page was first displayed
on March 10, 2006

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