Karen Craigo / Michael Czyniejewski

Home is where the heart is, said Pliny the Elder. Home sweet home. Home plate, home run, home free. Bring home the bacon before the chickens come home to roost. A man’s home is his castle. Make yourself at home.

You can never go home again. I’ve actually thought this while turning my key in the door.

Pliny was a sea captain. He died at the foot of Vesuvius in a rain of pumice and ash, his ship stalled by an uncooperative wind.
Me? I just had a long day at the office, and there is a corner of the couch where I try to bury myself in cushions and baby-kisses.
This is nothing to write home about. Unlike Pliny, who was trying to execute a rescue. All the years of his life were expressed in only two digits. I can’t help but feel that something was missing there.
Karen works early in the morning; I function best late. Karen writes in front of the TV, egged on by noise (today it’s a marathon of The Simpsons); I need absolute seclusion. Karen gulps coffee; I’ve only tried one sip and was repulsed. The writing prompts we use differ dramatically, too, Karen’s more general, posing a puzzle: "Write a poem that uses seven different definitions of the word muzzle." Mine are more situational: "Write a story about an artist who finds one of his paintings on the wall of a cheap hotel room."
Should one of us write something, the other adding to it later? Should we go back and forth, a two-headed exquisite corpse? Should we—gulp—sit next to each other and literally collaborate?
Karen wrote the piece you see above, Pliny and all things "home." Before I read it, she told me about how Pliny died at Vesuvius, about the rescue mission and being stuck by the mountain. He may have been simply too fat to get away.
She told me he was found buried in pumice and ash.
But I didn’t hear "pumice." I heard "hummus." An image popped into my head, this obese scholar, waist-deep in chickpea paste, lava oozing toward him, trying to eat his way to safety.