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Who ARE You?

By January Gordon Ornellas

After 32 years of marriage, there’s not a lot of surprises.

Steve and I know and expect certain things from one another.

For example, Steve is an early bird.

That guy is always up before the sunrise, perky and productive. Like a rooster on crack.

I’m more like a bear who’s been dragged from a mid-hibernation slumber and was given no crack.

Also, our work schedules are drastically different.

Steve works long days and long weeks.

My weeks, working as a substitute teacher, tend to be a tad shorter.

In fact, I can often be heard uttering the phrases, “Beginning of the work week again?!” and “Thank God It’s Friday!” on the same day.

Also, unlike me, you will not find a crumb nor a stain on Steve’s clothes.

I’m not saying I’m Pig-Pen. I mean, who hasn’t dipped their elbow in pesto sauce?

Regardless, it works for us.

We recognize our differences, and we know what to expect from each other.

But then, last week, everything changed.

I had warned Steve ahead of time, but he didn’t believe me.

This past Monday, at 5:30 am, I walked into the kitchen and chirped, “Good Morning,” with a big smile on my face.

Steve, who was in the middle of getting coffee, turned suddenly, fear in his eyes, as he almost doused me with a carton of coconut creamer.

“What-what-what…” he stuttered, unable to get the words out.

“I told you. I’m getting up early to write now,” I said. 

I’d recently returned from an Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop, and the mantra from the keynote speakers was, Get up before sunrise and write your masterpiece!

I was hoping there was going to be a workshop titled, Sleep ‘till noon, and then write your masterpiece!

There was not.

Tuesday morning, I walked into the kitchen, again, at 5:30 am.

(Sidenote: It’s dark at that hour. Who knew?! I mean, besides Steve.)

Steve was reading the Moorpark Acorn, and upon seeing me, he rolled up the newspaper, ready to attack.

“What are you doing?” I said, jumping back. “It’s me!”

He caught his breath. “Sorry, I thought you were an intruder.”

“I told you. This is when I get my writing done,” I said.

He just stared. “Who are you?”

This continued for several mornings.

Each morning that I appeared in the kitchen at this ungodly hour, Steve looked as if he’d seen a ghost.

I hadn’t seen Steve this unnerved since the early '90s, when I came home with a lady golfer haircut, which I had neither the face nor the handicap to pull off.

On Friday morning, I walked into the living room, where he was doing yoga.

“Good morning!” I said, in my pre-dawn perky voice.

His down dog quickly became an up dog, and he grabbed his yoga block, like a weapon.

Creamer, newspaper, yoga block.

Should a real intruder break in, they are in TROU-BLE!

Steve looked me up and down, his eyes growing wide.

“What did you do with my wife?” he asked.

Not only was I up early and chipper.

I was up early, chipper, AND fully dressed.

Just to be clear, I’m always at least semi-dressed. I don’t walk around the house naked. 

That’s not a good look at any hour.

“I just thought I’d get ready for work before I write,” I explained.

Early and efficient!

Steve walked over and gave me a big hug.

At first, I thought it was an I’m-proud-of-you hug.

He later confessed it was a You-might-be-a-robot-so-I-best-check-your-flesh hug.

“I don’t even know you anymore,” he said, shaking his head.

“Hey, I’m getting stuff done,” I said, giving him a high-five.

As I raised my hand, he pointed to my sweater. “What’s that on your elbow?”

I bent my elbow, but I couldn’t see it because, well, it’s my elbow.

Can you see your elbow?

After close examination, Steve determined that it was marinara sauce.

“Huh, that’s weird,” I said, and shrugged.

Steve dusted bread crumbs off my other elbow.

“You’re like a walking Italian dinner,” he said.

Then he smiled and gave me a Thank-God-you're-still-my-wife-but-you-might-want-to-wash-your-sweater hug.

— January Gordon Ornellas

January Gordon Ornellas is a comedy writer whose stories include everything from colonoscopies to triathlons (equally torturous). Her article, “Rookie’s Triathlon Lessons,” appeared in the LA Times (June 2019). Two of her other stories, “Gobble, Gobble” and “Almost Taken,” were recently published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Laughter is the Best Medicine (April 2020), and another four can be found in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Too Funny! (April 2022). She won honorable mention in the global humor category in the 2022 Erma Bombeck Writing Competition and is currently working on a book, Confessions of a Crazy Softball Mom. January also enjoys writing for her blog (, traveling and spending time with her husband and two adult daughters. 

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