Sometimes it feels like 2020 is messing with us the way we mess with our pets. Who hasn’t pretended to throw a ball and laugh as their dog dashes around looking for it? Or driven their cat insane with a laser pointer? Or thrown a blanket over their parakeet’s cage to shut them up? After ten months of this shit show, it feels like we are the parakeet and 2020 has thrown a blanket over our cage. Maybe that’s why I only just realized that Christmas is next week.
You’d think a pandemic would take some of the pressure off Christmas. We finally have the perfect excuse to avoid the stress of the shopping malls, travel and family gatherings that we bitch about every year and have the holiday we’ve always wanted – a quiet celebration at home with the only people we can stand enough to live together under the same roof. The silver lining we’ve been desperately wishing for has finally arrived, right?
Fools! Did you really think a virus that’s killed more Americans in one year than all four years of World War II is any match for the intense pressure and guilt of the holiday season? The Christmas lights MUST go up! Gifts MUST be exchanged! The good linens MUST be fetched from the attic! No, not THOSE linens, the ones with the poinsettias! What do you mean they’re NOT there? Well I can’t look because I MUST cook dinner for the ten relatives who insist on coming over! I am so BAD at enforcing boundaries!
In fact, why am I still writing this post? Those gingerbread men aren’t going to decorate themselves! If they could do that I’d be too busy fighting in the inevitable Gingerbread War to blog. Why are you still here? Get busy already!
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And now, in the spirit of Halloween, I have a treat for you: Exclusive access to the unpublished works of an award-winning author!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!