DNA and me

Once again, it’s time for prompts from More Odds Than Ends. Many thanks to ‘nother Mike who created this prompt. It’s so true that practicing writing makes it better. These prompts have improved my writing in the fiction area, just like I improved in the academic area. It’s something I emphasize to my students. But, sometimes, we need to practice what we preach and see things grow for themselves. I’m grateful I have these opportunities to practice and get feedback.

Prompt: Your kids sent in your DNA samples for analysis, and the company wrote back, explaining that they only do human DNA analyses… What do you tell them? Describe that scene with your kids.


The kids came crashing in through the front door, chattering in excitement. Standing in the kitchen, I couldn’t quite make out what they were talking about, but the level of excitement made me smile. Triplets, like twins, often develop their own language and unique communication characteristics and my crew was no exception.

“Mom! Mom! A letter came for you!” Trystan was the oldest (by three minutes) of the group and often took the lead. I think the other two deferred to him without even thinking about it.

“OK. But, why the excitement? We get mail all the time.” I smiled as I took the proffered envelope. Glancing at the return address, I felt my heart sink a bit. Oh, dear. There was going to be some explaining to do here.

Genetic History, Inc. was one of those mail in a swab and we’ll tell you about your genetic background companies.

“Um, guys, what is this?” I kept my expression neutral as I looked at three identical excited faces.

“It’s your birthday present! We saw an ad on TV and thought it would be fun to find out where we all come from! Read it!” Padrig, the “youngest”, was the explainer and chief negotiator.

“OK.” I knew what the letter was going to say, but how was I going to break the information to the kids? Well, I guess I’d have to make it up as I went along. The anticipation was getting mixed in with some anxiety now. They were wondering why I wasn’t as excited as they were and as they expected me to be.

“OK,” I said again and opened the small package. Inside was a small vial and a single sheet of paper. I put the vial aside and unfolded the sheet of paper. Clearing my throat and taking a deep breath, I started reading it out loud.

Dear Ms. Griffin,

Thank you for submitting your DNA sample to Genetic History, Inc. We greatly appreciate your trust in our company.

Unfortunately, we are only equipped to analyze human DNA, and therefore we are unable to process your submitted sample. In the interests of privacy, we have returned your sample. Should you wish to pursue your genetic research we recommend that you submit your sample to HumanFae Ancestry (HFA, Inc.). They are a highly reliable organization specializing in the analysis of non-human DNA.

Thank you again for your confidence in us and the best of luck in your genetic research.


Ronald L. Barclay, CEO
Genetic History, Inc.

The silence in the kitchen was deafening. I raised my eyes from the letter to see three astonished faces gaping at me.

“What does that mean? Non-human? Didn’t they do the test?” My “middle” child, Anwyn, was the worrier and the one who didn’t like things to go sideways. Clearly finding out that mom was not human was the ultimate in things going sideways.

“Guys, you know how much I love you. But, yeah. There is one thing I didn’t tell you yet. I was kind of hoping to do this in about a year, but I guess we’ll do it now. Let’s go sit on the sofa.” I moved into the family room and plopped myself down in the middle of our well-used couch. The kids slowly followed and arranged themselves in their usual pattern around me. Trystan on my left; Arwyn and Padrig on my right. This was our pattern when we read to each other or watched TV or movies together. When their dad was home, he sat on the other side of Arwyn. This sofa and our seating arrangement on it represented our family together time.

I looked at each of them. Their faces were alive with curiosity. I smiled. I couldn’t be any more proud of them than I was right now.

“Let me tell you everything and then you can ask all the questions you want and I’ll do my best to answer them. Deal?”

Three heads nodded in unison.

“OK. I’m not human. I’m not a monster. At least not like something out of a story. But, I’m not human. I’m fae. That’s somebody from what your books call fairy people. I was sent away many years ago because the Queen became very angry with me. I wound up here and met your father. We were very happy for many years. We were extremely happy when we found out I was pregnant with you three. Fae have a very difficult time having children, so the idea that we were going to have three children was exciting.” I paused, assessing their expressions.

“Mom? Can I ask a question now?” Trystan’s voice was hesitant.

“Yes, sweetheart. What is it?” The hesitation in his voice tugged at my heart. I didn’t want my children to be afraid to ask me questions.


“Yes. Does that bother you?”

Three voices came back in a chorus. “That’s SO COOL!!”

I had to laugh. I had worried about having this talk, but I guess those fears were overblown. I settled in to answer the flurry of questions that were being fired at me.


This one was a lot of fun to write. I love the mix of “real world” with supernatural. These are the worlds I like to write in. I think this one has the potential for at least a short story if not more. I’m going to let it marinate for a while.

Image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay

And so it begins…

The Spring 2020 semester starts tomorrow. I just got back yesterday from 11 days in Belgium and Netherlands with my students. I have finished two out of three syllabi. And, those two are for the same class (2 sections). The third one, my class on Russian politics, is not in the online learning management system yet. The last time I taught it was before we got this new system. So, that will take some time to input all the modules and info for them. Fun.

On the “I’m grateful for…” side of things, I’m grateful I teach Tuesdays and Thursdays so I have tomorrow to work on getting everything uploaded and semi-functioning. I can spend the day working on that so that on Tuesday it’s all ready and looks like I’m totally organized. Ha!

On the WTF?! side of things, we have our first big meeting of the semester tomorrow as well. Oh, joy. I started seeing the emails for several meetings last week, but since I was busy doing pedagogically sound activities with students I was able to totally ignore most of them.

Continued: Monday Jan. 13.

The semester started today. I’m grateful that my schedule is Tuesday/Thursday this semester. We did have a meeting this afternoon, but at least I didn’t have to teach today. Tomorrow is three classes back-to-back. Oh, joy. More and more I think that work puts a real crimp in the work I really want to do.

You might have noticed that I’m doing a weekly writing prompt exercise over at More Odds Than Ends. I’ve posted them here. Last week’s was “Old Keys.” I had fun writing it and I’m very much looking forward to continuing this exercise in the foreseeable future. Waiting to see what the next one will be. In the meantime, I greatly appreciate your reading them and I’ve love to read any comments you might have.

OK. I’m off to bed. Long day tomorrow. Here’s to a good, and less stressful Spring 2020 semester.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Old keys

The Week 2 of Odd prompts found me sorting through a coffee can of old keys. I’m traveling with my students and this has been a welcome change.


Old Keys

I pulled the can off of the top shelf in the garage. The left side of the two-car garage had been my dad’s workshop/home appliance repair area. He’d spent hours and days puttering around out here, in all kinds of weather, at almost all hours of the day. If mom hadn’t insisted he get some sleep, and preferably in their bed, I truly believe he would have slept out here as well. Now I was cleaning it out along with the rest of the house so it could be sold.

The can was heavy and there was a metallic rattle when it shifted. Probably a bunch of screws and nails. All saved “just in case.” Dad never threw anything away because, according to him, you never knew when you might need it. He wasn’t really a hoarder, except when it came to screws, nuts, bolts, washers, and nails. I’d already found about 10 coffee cans full of all of those. This was probably one more.

I peered into the rusted Folger’s coffee can. Holy crap. It was filled with keys. Keys! Not just a couple dozen or so (something I would expect to find in a house that had been lived in for almost 50 years), but almost a full coffee can’s worth. Did any of these work on the current locks? Knowing dad, they probably worked on the original locks for the house.

“Michael! Where are you?” My wife’s voice came through the door that went into the house from the garage.

“Out here, in the garage. You gotta see this!” I yelled back, staring into the Folger’s can.

Jenna appeared in the doorway. “What did you find?”

I simply handed over the coffee can. “What am I supposed to do with these?”

“Wow. That’s a hella lot of keys. Can’t you just throw them out?” Jenna looked up at me.

“I suppose. But…something tells me I have to go through them just to be sure. Who knows what dad put in there. Besides, some of them might go to the current locks in the house. I’d feel better knowing we accounted for them all.”

I took the can back and followed Jenna back into the house and went through to the kitchen. I unceremoniously dumped the keys out on the kitchen table.

Jenna started sorting through them. “A lot of these look the same. Why don’t we start there? Find your keys to the house. We can compare them and see if any of these are house keys.” She pulled out a chair and got to work sorting keys.

Thank God for my wife. If I’d been alone, I would have simply stared at the pile on the table. I had mostly made it through the weeks after my parent’s deaths because of her. She took care of all the practical stuff and just told me where to go. And I went. The police to deal with the aftermath of the accident, the hospital to see them and be there when the machines were unplugged, the funeral home. Everything. She handled it all and pointed me in the right direction. Now she was helping me do something as mundane as sort keys. How did I get so lucky?

“Michael. What could this possibly go to?” Jenna was holding up an antique key with a fanciful design on the handle end.

I stared at the key. “That looks like it might actually open that bottom drawer in the old dresser in their bedroom. I have no idea what could be in there, but why don’t we try it?” I took the key from her and headed into the master bedroom.

I had to stop at the door and take a deep breath. I hadn’t touched this room yet. I couldn’t bring myself to go through their clothes, my mother’s jewelry, anything. In this room, their room, they were still alive. I pushed down a sob and felt Jenna’s hand on the small of my back.

She gave me a hug. “I know. Let’s just see if the key fits and then go back to the kitchen. It’s probably something your dad found and couldn’t throw away. It is a beautiful key.”

I nodded and moved into the room toward the dresser that sat next to the window. I don’t know that it would qualify as an antique, but it was old. And damn if it didn’t look like the key was made for that bottom drawer.

I knelt down in front of the dresser, put the key in the keyhole, and slowly turned it. A soft click and a small release of pressure told me it did indeed unlock the drawer. I glanced over at Jenna who had knelt on the floor next to me. She smiled at me and made a “go on” gesture with her hand. I pulled open the drawer not knowing what to expect.

“Holy shit!”

“Oh, my God!”

Jenna and I yelled simultaneously. The drawer was filled, filled, top to bottom, front to back, side to side with $100 bills. There had to be close to a million dollars or more in that dresser drawer. In cash.

“Michael, look!” Jenna’s hand was shaking as she pointed to a white envelope sitting in the middle on top of all the cash. She picked up the envelope, glanced at it and handed it to me. Her eyes were wide.

The envelope was addressed to me. I tore it open and pulled out the single sheet of paper inside.

Seeing my father’s crabbed handwriting made me tear up again.

Dear Michael,

Congratulations. You found the key and figured out where it fit. This is your real inheritance. I didn’t want to put it in with the other investments even though it might have made more that way. Do with this as you see fit, although I wouldn’t spend it all in one place. That makes the IRS suspicious and you know how I feel about them.

I had to laugh. My father’s dislike of the IRS was a legend in the extended family.

There’s $1,750,000 in here. It’s all yours, son. I love you.


P.S. Your mother says she loves you too.

Water dripped onto the paper. I took the Kleenex offered by Jenna and wiped off my tears.

“Well, Dad. You finally did it. I’m speechless.” I looked up to the heavens and laughed.


This was actually kinda fun to write. My father was not like this in terms of fixer upper coffee cans full of screws, and he didn’t have a workshop in the garage. But for some reason he was front and center while I was writing this.

Writing prompt and traveling

Writing prompt from More Odds than Ends: octopus ink and cuttlefish quills from Cedar Sanderson.


“Dammit.” Jonathon shook the small bottle. Nothing.


“Yes, sir?” the almost sibilant response came from his immediate left. He jumped. “Dammit! don’t DO that! You’re lucky I’m out of ink. If I’d spilled it on this document I would be extremely unhappy with you!”

“Yes, sir. I apologize.”

“Damn straight. I need more ink and a new cuttlefish quill. Now.” Jonathon tamped down his rising impatience. He knew that it would take a few minutes for Edwards to produce enough ink to refill the bottle. The octopod did not like to be observed when producing ink. It could be an annoying habit, but one Jonathon was willing to put up with in light of Edwards’ other talents.


I’m traveling with my students this week, so I think my next prompt will be inspired by that.

Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay