Intrusive Thoughts

Prompt: What was your first intrusive thought?

Just as I was about to fall asleep, I heard knocking at the door. I tried to ignore it but it turned into pounding and then a repeated ringing of the doorbell. As soon as I opened the door, I regretted it. She loomed large in the doorframe waving a giant notepad containing a “List of Things to Do.” I shook my head and held out my hand to stop her but she walked through me into my place. I held my nose against the smell of her too much, too flowery perfume. She settled herself onto my couch, propping her giant bare feet up on my coffee table. She was badly in need of a pedicure, I noticed, and I wondered if that was on her list.

I went back to my bedroom, ignoring the questions she shouted at me. Did you make an appointment for the dog with the groomer yet? There are prescriptions waiting for pick up at the pharmacy and the kids need eye doctor appointments. When is that field trip permission slip due? You better put it on the top of the list in case it’s tomorrow. Did you write the math teacher back yet? What happened to the graduation cards you bought in May? You didn’t send them and now you’ll have to buy new ones if you can’t even find them anymore. I’ll add that to the list.

I didn’t respond but she didn’t seem to mind. She just carried on, reading her list. I sighed, found my phone and put in a call to the guy in charge of plans. I need help asap, I whispered once he answered. What’s the plan for Intrusive Thoughts? She’s barged in and won’t shut up.

Plans guy was distracted. I’m in the middle of realigning things, he said. The supply chain is killing me right now. Let me see what I’ve got…

Don’t put Polly Positive on it. I told him. I’

I’ll send Comfort. She’ll coordinate a plan. She does great with Fear and Grief so I think this should work.

His lack of certainty about Comfort was not comforting.

I made my way back to the living room slowly, trying to anticipate what Comfort could do in the face of the negative stress vibe coming off of Intrusive Thoughts. How would she get her to leave? I liked Comfort very much but she wasn’t very tough and I didn’t think she would be much match for the brashness we were facing.

When Comfort showed up, she was the picture of kindness and calm. She wasn’t alone. She had a fully cooked turkey with all the trimmings in her arms and Happy Memories at her side. She barely glanced at me as she glided into the living room. Before I knew what was happening, Comfort had persuaded Intrusive Thoughts to relocate to a cozy recliner in the far corner of the room. Happy Memories was seated cross legged on the floor nearby, recounting tales of holidays past. Intrusive Thoughts seemed annoyed and was clutching her list but she had stopped talking and was listening to Happy Memories.

A few minutes later, Comfort came out of the kitchen with chamomile tea for everyone and announced that dinner would be ready shortly. Turkey, mashed potatoes and bread stuffing – plenty for all. Intrusive Thoughts tried to protest that there was no time for large meals and cups of tea but Happy Memories began showing old reels of home movies on the wall and Intrusive Thoughts got quiet again as she watched.

As we ate, Happy Memories commanded our full attention recounting the plots of beloved childhood books. Comfort served everyone another cup of chamomile tea and some pumpkin pie once we’d finished. Intrusive Thoughts retreated to the chair in the corner again and soon fell asleep as Happy Memories sang the lyrics to old lullabies. Comfort laid a blanket over Intrusive Thoughts and signalled me to go to bed. I tiptoed away, not looking back, and fell asleep to the peaceful sound of silence.

Beth Mulcahy is a Pushcart Prize-nominated poet whose work has appeared in various journals and her chapbook, Firmer Ground, is forthcoming with Anxiety Press. Beth lives in Ohio with her husband and two children and works for a company that provides technology to people without natural speech. Her latest publications can be found here: