Try as it might, 2020 cannot keep good things from happening, including Halloween. It’s the one holiday where you can’t keep the spirits down, much like Rush Week at [insert your alma mater], amirite?
This year I entered and won a Halloween short story contest! The prize was $100, and not to brag, but that will keep me in ramen and tap water for quite some time. You can read it here: https://www.everywritersresource.com/winner-bedtime-by-dansans/
And now, in the spirit of Halloween, I have a treat for you: Exclusive access to the unpublished works of an award-winning author! Below are the other six spooky stories I submitted to the contest, available only to the readers of my blog. Looks like we’re all winners tonight. Congratulations, and Happy Halloween!
The icy well water clung to her like an anchor but she wouldn’t give up, painstakingly searching the stones for a firm grip before pulling herself up a little more. When her fingers finally curled over the top I stomped on them hard. I love the splash she makes.
I never wanted a cat. I always thought that if I fell and broke my neck a dog would run for help, while a cat would wait for me to die and feast on my remains. Turns out I was wrong. Mittens didn’t wait for me to die.
It was beef stew night. My husband took one bite and started gagging. He collapsed on the floor, face turning red, twitching and gasping for air. I waved the peanut oil over him and said, “NOW who can’t take a joke?” Trust me, your honor, it was hilarious.
I study Tyler’s drawing. “What’s this?” I ask, pointing to a brown smear.
“Baby birds,” he replies, smiling.
I pause. “What happened?”
“They got smooshed.”
“Tyler…is this our backyard?”
“Enough drawing,” I whisper. “Who wants ice cream?”
He squeals with delight, shooting chills up my spine.
This fly is driving me crazy. Circling my head, filling my ears with his annoying buzz. Somebody please shoo him away before they close the coffin.
Now he’s sitting on my eyeball and the flames from the incinerator are creeping in. Looks like we’re going to hell together.
Sometimes a person needs a push to find his fortune, Dad said when he kicked me out. Today, as I stand overlooking the majestic valley, I finally get it. The insurance money that is. My wife’s broken body lying on the rocks below is a beautiful sight.
Is anyone else sick of “these unprecedented times?” It seems like you can’t watch TV or the cheapest streaming option without one or two ads throwing out that phrase. Sometimes they mix it up a bit by saying “these uncertain times” or “these challenging times”, but the point is to remind us that the times we are living in are not normal. After all, how can we remember that if they don’t constantly remind us?
More importantly, the companies behind these ads want you to know that they are here for you. Companies that normally wouldn’t spit on their customers if they were on fire without raising their rates. Insurance, pharmaceutical, airline and cruise line are among the industries now trying to convince us that they care, as if COVID made their heart grow three sizes. Not impossible given what we know about COVID, but the more likely explanation is that they’ve simply adjusted their sales pitch to reflect the changing marketplace. It’s annoying, but it’s just business.
What’s way more annoying is the celebrity public service announcements, where they bravely face the camera without the usual hair, makeup and wardrobe to remind us that “we’re all in this together.” Hey, they’ve got bills too! Private islands don’t pay for themselves. But to be fair, hating celebrities for spouting tone-deaf platitudes from their mansions does bring the rest of us closer together, so I guess it’s mission accomplished!
What we really need are messages that speak to the reality 99% of the country is currently facing, from companies that know how to relate to us. “Budweiser – boredom is thirsty work,” or “Subway – when you can’t eat another bite of homemade sourdough,” or “Home Depot – you’re drunk and bored, so why not give regrouting the bathroom a try?” Or the one phrase that fits neatly in front of any brand name, “you’ve got nothing better to do.”
It’s a pipe dream for now, much like concerts, tailgating and universal healthcare, but the longer the pandemic rages on, the more desperate advertisers will be for new material. If you like these suggestions, write to Corporate America now and demand they adapt these new slogans. After all, you’ve got nothing better to do.
Of the many new trends spawned by the pandemic, DIY haircuts are at the top of the list. All of my guy friends proudly cut their own hair, and my girlfriends cut their kids’ hair. Women are the only ones not getting DIY haircuts because our hair is styled, and you need a Phd in Female Hairology for that. At least that’s what I assume. How else do you explain why our haircuts cost $45 more than men’s? Is there a black market for men’s hair on the dark web? Are fit bits secretly made from it? Am I wearing a men’s hair bracelet right now?
On a completely unrelated topic, Americans have an extraordinary amount of free time these days, enough to get bored with the hobbies we used to complain we never had time for, and now we’re looking for new ways to occupy ourselves. Jigsaw puzzles have made a big comeback, and homemade sourdough consumption is up 98%. While I believe there is no such thing as too much sourdough, I feel like we all should take advantage of these unprecedented time to push past our inhibitions and see what we find. You’re probably already going stir crazy right now, so it shouldn’t be that big of a leap.
Why not invent a new dance by fusing two traditional dances together and post it online? Irish Clog Dancing could be the next Youtube craze. Always wanted to go to Argentina? Well you can’t, but you can pretend a 23andMe test showed you’re 1/64th Argentinian and brag about it at your next Zoom meeting. Always wanted an iguana but never had time to care for one? Think long and hard before you adopt. It’s okay to get a little crazy right now, but not at the expense of an innocent creature that depends on you.
I could go on, but I’m not here to spoon-feed you ideas. I’m here because I’ve pushed past my inhibitions and this is what I found. And it’s only the first layer. Grab a shovel and dig in!
Like many Americans I’ve been sheltering at home since early March. As a natural introvert I knew I’d be able to handle a few weeks hanging out a home, but after six weeks with no end in sight, even I’m surprised at how well I’m doing.
My hair has grown past my shoulders for the first time in ten years. It’s officially more grey than brown and I don’t care. In fact, I’m struggling to remember the last time I washed it, focusing instead on the novelty of wearing a ponytail again. I don’t wear any clothing that requires any fastening with buttons or zippers. My makeup and jewelry cases are gathering dust. My diet consists mostly of pizza, chocolate, cheese and beer. My stress levels have dropped significantly now that I no longer feel pressure to be part of society, and I now binge-watch TV shows with no FOMO. I’m free to be me without guilt.
That being said, I realize that a lot of extroverts out there that are really struggling from the lack of human contact. I wish you well, and share your hope that this lockdown ends soon. That might seem contradictory to what I just wrote, but I’ve learned that life is like a rollercoaster: just when you feel like you’re on top of the world, you’re plunged screaming into the abyss. For once I’d like to jump out at the top, climb down to the ground and enjoy a soft pretzel. Here’s hoping we can enjoy that pretzel together.
And if not, check back in a month for my next post, “Quarantine Week 10: There’s Something Moving Behind the Yellow Wallpaper.”
Is it February 29th already? Feels like we just had one four years ago. Where did the time go?? Probably into that same black hole as my sunglasses, youthful optimism and 34-inch waist. I don’t remember if I did anything special that day, but since none of my friends and family have ever brought up any embarrassing stories involving this date, I’m going to say no.
And that’s a shame, because I feel like we should all be making more of a fuss. We make a big deal out of other events that only happen every four years, such as the summer and winter olympics and the presidential election, so why not Leap Day? It’s just as deserving as the others, minus the drama. We can call it Leap Day Day.
I think the best way to get people excited about a Leap Day Day is to commercialize the hell out of it. Leap Day cards, balloons, napkins, plates, balloons, etc. Start running commercials for big Leap Day Day sales beginning January 1st. Get a few Twitter celebrities to promote it. They’re just like real celebrities in that they’ll grasp at anything that gives them attention, but for free.
We need to get the ball rolling on this. Start wondering out loud why we don’t celebrate Leap Day, both online and in person. Get enough people talking to get the attention of the retailers, and by 2024 we’ll all be wearing our Leap Day Day clogs, eating Leap Day Day persimmon tarts and playing Leap Day Day games like toad toss.
Remember, every day is a blessing, so getting an extra one must be celebrated as the precious gift that it is. And what better way to do that than buying a whole bunch of crap we don’t want or need? Get on it, America!
Today is the first day of the Chinese New Year. For the Chinese it’s a sacred tradition going back thousands of years. For everybody else it’s a chance for a New Year’s resolutions do-over, only this time swapping out the champagne for the much cooler scorpion bowls. As for me, this Chinese New Year holds a very special significance, because it’s the Year of the Rat.
For those of you who are too happy and fulfilled to care about such things, the Rat is the first animal in the Chinese Zodiac. It’s a twelve-year cycle represented by twelve different animals, and your animal is determined by the year you were born. That’s right, those of you who have been paying close enough attention to put two and two together before I finish this incredibly long sentence, I was born in the Year of the Rat. This is my year! Despite the fact that rats are disease-carrying-crop-destroying vermin that rational people kill on sight, this is my year! Despite the fact that the zodiac is about as accurate as horoscopes and meteorologists, this is my year! Despite the fact that I can’t think of a third thing, this is my year!
Why do I harbor such unfounded optimism? Because I’m a writer. Unfounded optimism fuels our flighty little brains, which occasionally spit out some good stuff. So take a look around my website and feel free to email me if you have any questions, or just want to give me money to whip up more gems like this.