Hubby’s looking over the bills and mutters something that sounds like “$789.”

Self is barely listening. She keeps thinking of yesterday, the Stanford class visit. And what she told the young women in the class: “Marilyn Chin saved my life.” The moment she said it, she knew it was true.

Self graduated from Stanford and the following year she had a baby boy and was working part-time as a medical transcriber in a doctor’s office on Welch Road. Out of the blue, she got a call from Marilyn Chin, who was in the poetry program while self was in the fiction program at Stanford.

At that time, self and hubby were living on the second floor of an old house on Live Oak Avenue in Menlo Park. The landlord was the wife of a Stanford math professor. She didn’t know self was pregnant when she rented it out, but after she got over her initial displeasure, she was kind.

Marilyn came over. She waited while self changed her son’s diaper. Then self put the baby in his stroller and she and Marilyn walked around the corner to the Peet’s that’s on the corner of University and Santa Cruz Avenue. Marilyn told self about a new anthology that was being put together by Calyx, a women’s press up in Oregon. Self had heard of them. Her classmate, Beth Alvarado, had been encouraging her to submit. But self was afraid. She had never sent out a single story, not in all her two years in the Stanford Creative Writing Program.

Marilyn kept saying that she should. And self did have this story. In a drawer of her desk, where else. And she had never given up hope that she could be a writer. Even though she hadn’t written a thing, not one thing, since graduating from the program.

So she sent her story, “Siko,” to Calyx. That’s it. That’s how it began.

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