Funny Ha Ha: The High School Humor Writing Challenge - Text Entries

Funny Ha Ha: The High School Humor Writing Challenge

We’re looking for great humor writing from high school students, and at the end of the summer, writer and actor BJ Novak will name a winner on our show. Here’s the catch — your piece must begin and end with these sentences:

FIRST LINE: The sun rose and everything fell.
LAST LINE: Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

UPDATE 8/27: Our winner is Emma Callahan; the runner-up is Dylan Kapstrom. A big thank you to everyone who shared their work with us!

August 03, 2015 11:31:14 PM





The sun rose and everything fell.
Alex was at work when it happened. His boss said, "Okay everyone, listen up. Now that everything is falling, we can't have the building open in anyway." He looked at Alex. "Can you handle that?"
Alex felt offended. He said, "Well of course. I'm not dumb!" His boss nodded and walked away.
Alex' co-worker said, "Hey Alex, I dare you to open the door."
Alex said, "I know what you're trying to do. It won't work. You're not the boss of me."
His co-worker was like, "Okay, okay, sorry."
Alex said, "It's okay."
Then the co-worker said, "But hey, I dare you to not open the door."
Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

August 03, 2015 11:18:47 PM





The sun rose and everything fell.
Alex's friend said, "Wow, that's sad, isn't it?"
Alex said, "Well yeah, it's an apocalypse."
His friend was like, "What? No, I mean that the sun is such a jerk. If you made everything fall, why not just pick it up?! Like, who raised you? Ah, whatever. Just don't open that door over there."
"Why not?" Alex asked.
His friend said, "The sun rising makes everything fall, but opening the door makes certain things end. If you open that door, Madonna's career will end and she'll have to retire!"
Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

August 03, 2015 11:18:28 PM





“The sun rose and everything fell”
“Can you wait one second?” Alejandra said, walking out of the room to fix herself a coffee.
I paused. We had started the story and not even gotten past the first sentence. In many ways, the action mirrored our relationship; it’s turbulent nature, it’s shambolic state. And yet, in many ways, it did not.
In actuality, I hadn’t said “The Sun Rose and Everything Fell” to start the story. I had read, directly from the Spanish original, “Amaneció el sol y se cayeron todo”. I have translated all of the dialogue in this story.
Alejandra walked back into the room, coffee in hand. It wasn’t the expensive, low-quality shit that everyday Americans are inured to. It was the good stuff. That doesn’t matter though. Ignore what I just wrote there.
I read. “The sun rose and everything fell. The stellated night sky wistfully said goodbye to its canvas. Then, in its haste, it left laughing without a trace. The sun looked around, startled. He had come to join his friends; where had they gone? And the stars, upon hearing him, had fled.”
Alejandra bristled next to me. I had chosen the story. I could already sense her objection to the similarity that it bore to our own story. I cared a lot about her, but not enough to stop reading.
Just as I was about to continue reading, she looked me right in the eye.
“Can’t you see how cruel this is? Don’t you see what you’re doing to me?”
“Don’t worry. The story gets better. If you’re bored by it now, that’s okay. It ramps up.”
She didn’t laugh or even smile.
Tears were now streaming down her face.
To understand how we got there, to that particular point, I must tell our own “story”. It’s largely based on a reconstruction from my own memory, which I do not claim to be perfect - Hell, just yesterday I nearly forgot the anniversary of an important event. I would appeal to Alejandra for help in this retelling - to make it more balanced - if it weren’t for the fact that I have no easy way of contacting her, even in this wired world that we live in. That, and the fact that it probably is already close enough to being balanced because Alejandra was an important part of me and who I was.

We met in a bar. Or a club. I don’t know. The establishments that replaced dance halls because all the dance halls burned down. I guess clubs aren’t very viewed as classy; it doesn’t matter. Dance halls were probably lascivious back in their day. Back then, arranged marriage was the “proper” choice. Anyway, I didn’t want an arranged marriage, so I went to this club. I was working abroad and I guess I happened to play the role of the enigmatic foreigner that night. Alejandra was there and as they say, “we hit it off”. Not immediately, but we eventually did. I introduced myself, and then Alejandra broke the ice with a dismissive glare.
“I don’t go to clubs. In fact, I am here only because of extenuating circumstances and a friend. Perhaps you’d also be interested to know I’m not seeking to meet any more awful friends or boyfriends here tonight.”
“That would make two of us” I shouted over the music. So there we were, two non-clubgoers amidst the lights and the darkness, in a club probably full of non-clubgoers if each patron were to be asked personally.

That final story, the one I had been reading before that slight digression (sorry), might have sounded like a traditional tale for children, or even the slightly less classy possibility of it being the prize of a free picture book for kids giveaway in a cereal box. (Unfortunately, I’d never been lucky enough as a child to win anything from a cereal box. My brother had inherited all of the luck leaving none for me.). But actually, it was neither. The story was the product of an Italian writer, who Alejandra introduced me to, but this particular story had been my own finding. He had a fabulistic quality to his writing with fantastic flourishes interspersed. His writing, rather than feeling dated or modern, felt atemporal. Alejandra and I shared an admiration for his work.
“He is slightly misogynistic,” she once told me, “But I like how he doesn’t try to hide it, like everybody does these days with their prejudices and beliefs. He’s mostly a moral individual, but he doesn’t try to create a world without flaws or his own deficiencies.”

The recollection of this remark brings me back to our long conversations. Alejandra was - and remains - the most engaging person I’ve ever talked to (or at least in the top two along with my brother). Of course her acerbic wit was brilliant, but what was more impressive was her frankness. She never tried to portray herself in a sympathetic light or pretend the problems that she saw didn’t exist.

One time we’d been having a long conversation - I think on a park bench or perhaps in bed - and the talk sort-of trailed off. We sat there in silence, something that Alejandra liked and was totally new to me. Silence - especially after mutually participating in a conversation - was uncomfortable to me. Yet Alejandra did it with everybody. Coworkers, friends, whoever; it didn’t matter. Sometimes the other person would even be expecting a reply but Alejandra wouldn’t grant it, she would just stare off vaguely into the distance and leave the conversation at a crossroads (she contested this point, saying that rather, she preferred to think in silence, personally moving forward, making observations, and finding a sense of clarity, rather than regurgitating the previously voiced points and arguments). I teased her that she got away with it because of the impression she made on people and how beautiful she was. She countered, ”Of course, that’s less of a reason for me being able to do it. One of the biggest reasons we have this collective societal aversion to silent thought is because of the male-dominant culture.” I raised an eyebrow. “No, I’m serious, males feel the need to assert themselves and demonstrate to females that they can carry a conversation, which the male in turn expects the female to feel gratitude towards him for helping them both avoid an awkward situation, and now she will regard the male favorably.”
“So when everybody in the elevator is looking down at their shoes, and I make a comment to lighten the mood, it’s because I want to get into everybody’s pants?”
“Not necessarily, per se, but just because it’s not a goal of yours doesn’t mean it’s not a cause. You’ve seen this behavior by males thousands of times who might’ve had different motives for it, but regardless of any motive on your part - there may not even be one, you will mimic it to fit social norms.” She added after a second, “And also, that’s an elevator, so there’s less of a chance that your fellow travellers are deep in thought. It’s not as bad to make a comment in an elevator. Most people in elevators, in fact, will probably be just like you and worrying about their behavior and the social situation at hand, so you’ll be doing them a favor. Somewhere, for example, where it would not be ideal, however, and I would disapprove of it would be eating at restaurant or a bar. And yet how many countless times have you seen in TV and movies men walk up to that silent pensive women?”

Getting back to my original train of thought, we were together but the conversation had drifted off. I was looking at her, trying to pinpoint the malaise that had been spreading over me in recent months. She was looking away. Abruptly, she proceeded with a non-sequitur.
“Would you love me if I weren’t beautiful?”
The question took me off guard. The nonchalant matter in which she delivered it made me feel uneasy. If anybody had walked by without hearing it, it would have seemed to them like a women asking her partner if he had bought the groceries or walked the dog. She still hadn’t looked back at me. The question was also peculiar on account of its phrasing. She hadn’t used a “conventionally” or “perceived as” as I had become accustomed to disclaimers of this type when talking to her about anything. This was a woman who just yesterday had lectured me about the construct of success. I sputtered and she looked back at me.
“Yes” I lied.

From this moment on (if not before), I think she knew I had been drawn to her by physical attraction (and maybe even to have her as an accomplishment); the impressive symmetry of our faces had led me to talk to her. Sure, I liked a lot of other things about her, perhaps I delighted in them even more so than her beauty. But the artifice that had brought us together remained the same, an unholy reminder about our base nature.

The day that I read that story, the final night together, we went to a movie in the afternoon. We were both off work and I figured it would be a good way to relieve some of the stress that I had started to notice. It was a very small theatre with only two screens. We had two choices: an arthouse flick, or Shoot-Em-Up-Middle-Aged-Guy-Adrenaline-Fest IV. I chose, and I was satisfied with my choice, but by a happy accident we were able to see the end of Shoot-Em-Up-Middle-Aged-Guy-Adrenaline-Fest IV because we arrived a bit early. If you were wondering, I can assuage your fears that the main character dies (He lives!), unfortunately his best friend ass-whooping sidekick dies after falling off a cliff because he sacrificed himself for the protagonist (it was a lot more emotional in slow motion), but then we learn right at the end that he didn't die and was only bit shaken up because he fell into water, which always softens the impact in movies. Everybody lived, except the bad guy, but he's replaceable (especially if the purported salary he’s asking for in the sequel is true). One line really resonated with me, although I realize how completely ridiculous this sounds. The main character was looking at his sidekick after their tear-jerker reunion and he said, "I'm too old for this business. I need to get out of this. It's a trap. The game is up." I appreciated the Shakespeare quote and thought it a classy nod; but alas, everybody knows it's not true because sequels and money and other pesky things like that, but for me, the quote rang true, and that was important.

The arthouse flick was good. It was a fictionalized true account of an Afghanistan war veteran who broke down and was struggling to put his life together. I left the theatre feeling lighter, which I suppose was odd, given the content of the film. Walking out I couldn't find Alejandra. I didn't look for her.

Perhaps this story is starting to feel incoherent, and I apologize for that. It is only recently that I have been able to tell this story, or at least the full version of it with no attempt to deceive. It might make me seem a bit strange, or even crazy, but I ask you to withhold judgement and/or revulsion. And only make a diagnosis if you are a certified medical professional, and I expect it to be in the strictest confidence (That was a joke. I am not soliciting medical advice and my current psychiatrist is quite capable).

Alejandra was back at our flat. Multiple times I considered asking her to leave but I didn't. Instead I read the story to Alejandra. We both cried. But at the end I knew what I needed to do. It had become very clear, now clearly in the light. The sun had risen to illuminate my path.

I walked downstairs to get my phone. I was ready to end it all. And that's when I saw the new text. Everything fell.

I pulled out a knife. Alejandra was there. I was crying. Stop she screamed at first. But then she became cold. Do it she said. You're a freak. Better than showing me to your friends and family back home what will they think? It took me a few minutes but I calmed down. I put the knife back. Alejandra had left. I knew she would never return.

That remains as the most painful moment of my life even though there was no physical pain. It was the first good decision that I had made in this entire thing, not to wound myself, and yet it was too late. I got on my computer and booked myself a plane ticket home departing at some ungodly hour. I collected everything that I needed and left for the airport.

The plane ride back was where I relived everything and started to process it all, so I guess this is where I should explain myself and what happened.

The text message I had gotten that day had been about my brother, Nick. Funnily enough, before I saw it, I was getting my phone to call him. And if that didn’t go through, I was going to inundate his messaging app with texts. Of course, all would have gone unanswered. I had planned on taking my phone to the movie but it had been out of battery so I let it charge. I hadn’t turned it on until that moment, and a chain of texts was waiting for me. I had about thirty missed calls too. My mother had called me twenty times, and Nick’s wife had called ten times. My mother had texted “answer your phone”, “you need to answer your phone” and finally “you need to come home”. Nick’s wife, Kristina had texted “Alex pick up”, then “bad news”. The last message waiting for me was “They’re saying Nick’s dead”.

It was a shock, because my brother was a large part of who I was. Or who I wasn’t. I feel now would be an appropriate time for an anecdote of me as a child to show how much I looked up to him, but it’s really not, because one event can’t demonstrate the admiration I had for him, and the admiration certainly didn’t end at adolescence. Nick was everything I was, except better. He had been better looking, more charismatic, and done more impressive things. He was a reporter, having gone to the school at which I had failed to be accepted. To be completely honest, he was the reason I was working abroad, and he had been the only one to question me about it. He had known I had hated my job at marketing, and asked me what would change about this if the only difference was a change of location. After I transferred and realized the mistake I had made, I sulked. Childishly, I had thought my life would be more beautiful or glamorous here than the depression at home; it wasn’t. The depression remained. My brother was an investigative journalist and war correspondent; exotic locales were a part of his job description. I talked to him about it a few weeks after I had moved, speaking vaguely and trying to mask my true discontentment.
“Well,” he said, “Sometimes things here are incredibly mundane… And sometimes they’re incredibly exciting. Everybody expects that everything here is just an action movie - non-stop excitement and chasing of stories - but it’s not. I have the stupidest tasks to do everyday like writing emails to my editors or inquire about travel arrangements. And what’s most surprising for people is that a lot of my time is spent passively pursuing stories. I can’t start writing about something unless I have a basis. That means drifting, wandering around, and talking to people.” I wanted to scream at him when he was talking and say, “but look at yourself” (In hindsight, this would have been incredibly rude and mentally unstable thing to do). He liked what he was doing; he had a life, a wife, an everything. I was just here, unhappy, socially isolated, filling the role of an empty void.

About a month later, I invented Alejandra. It was petulant and pathetic, and even at the time I remember thinking, “What am I fucking doing”. It was innocuous enough at first. He had sent me some photos to try to cheer me up, of where he was working. I sent him photos back, the last one a picture of me and my coworkers, from the only night I had gone out with anybody, to celebrate a birthday. I was next to a female coworker, and in the picture it looked like I had my arm around her even though I hadn’t. Nick sent a text “Who’s that?”, to which I replied, “What?”. Then he sent “Your girlfriend?”. It might have been a joke. I don’t really know. But at that moment I realized he was referring to the lady next to me, and it was too tantalizing of a proposal to turn down. “Alejandra”. That wasn’t her real name. It worked though. I was soon telling him everything about “our” relationship. Just to be clear, it’s important that I say I could clearly distinguish between reality and my fantasy (even if it didn’t seem like that from the story). I wasn’t so psychologically fucked up that I was hallucinating. Well I was, but the hallucinations were of my own creation.

The real Alejandra was never my girlfriend. We probably talked only a few times. Bits and pieces of the conversations that I detailed were real. Everything else was fake. The club part was completely invented (I had told Nick that I met her at a club). The short story, I had actually read, and the writer was real. I had seen her reading something from the author one day. That’s why I read it. The silence conversation was real, the beauty one was completely imagined (I had a recent fascination with physical appearance: I had been largely unattractive my whole life - unlike my brother - until I decided to lose a lot of weight. I did, and looked better, but I found myself angry at the hypocrisy of it all). But yeah, to put it bluntly, I had a freakish obsession with a woman whom I was barely an acquaintance of. Or you could take the slightly more sympathetic view of me being obsessed with an abstraction of a woman.

Coming back home was strange. I was forced to confront (even if I had known about it all along) my envy of Nick and people like him. People who just fit in, and life was easy, and who wanted everyone to be happy. My mom and family knew about Alejandra as they had been in the loop too, but I told them brusquely that I had dumped her. After that, no further questions were asked. The only person who knows about this is my psychiatrist who is very professional and won’t disclose anything. I quit my job, an incredibly easy decision, and took a part-time job at the local coffee place. My coworkers are mostly friendly and like to joke around. We serve good coffee. A bunch of customers come who use the rival big-chain’s patented terms, but I try to give them what they want and I don’t ridicule them behind their back. I’ve long since stopped caring about what kind of coffee people drink or what they do.

I felt a bit of guilt about Nick’s death and initially wondered if my texting him earlier with my confession and plea could have saved him. Probably not. There was no water to soften the impact in real life. He likely would have still gone out on that expedition. The only difference would have been remembering me as his lunatic brother rather than just his brother before he was blown to smithereens. At the top of his list of family members to remember, I imagine would have been his kids, two and four years old. I volunteered to look after the kids while Kristina was recovering and also when she needs to work (she just started up again). The kids are young and they don’t quite understand the concept of death (we’re working on it) and view me as their fun uncle who’s a temporary replacement and who’s almost as good as dad. I’m okay with that assessment.

I’m on my way to see them now. I’m coming up to the house. I stare at the door handle and slowly turn the knob.

August 03, 2015 11:15:49 PM

Haley Kellner





The sun rose and everything fell. To Admar, that’s how morning executions always felt. As if the trees and the sky and the newly burning sun followed the arc of his ax, lopping off the old man's head together in one fell swoop. And from the receiving side, as well. Like the whole world crashing down on you. He looked down now at the lone head, lolling on its side, tongue lying limp, blood still spurting occasionally from the sever. A shame. He’d never had a chance to ask if his musings were correct.
He preferred morning executions. Starting off the day with work set him into a productive stride. Perhaps he'd finally get ‘round to building that set of shelves nigh, the ones he hoped would organize his stockpile of villains’ bones from its hapless pile on his floor. After six years of memories to preserve, he was overrun with skulls and knee caps.
He’d not yet picked the lumber for such a job. He spotted a fine looking spruce a few paces away from the platform, but had only his work ax on him and detested using it for recreational chopping. He'd once made the mistake in the yard at home against a practically criminal bush and forgotten to sharpen it before work the coming day. He almost felt bad for the crook as it took a few good swings before the head came clear off. With such an embarrassment to his craft, he vowed never again to mix work and play.
Admar was so consumed by the dilemma, it took multiple elbows to his shin before Tobias got his attention.
"I presume we're hitting up Maiden's Fount after this mess is handled,” he said.
"Aye, but I'll not be drinking. This day shall be a fecund one. Finally, I shall conquer those shelves.”
Toby laughed dryly. At this point he was almost done clearing the remains. He'd swabbed the blood, tossed the head in his canvas sack, and was rooting through the body’s pockets in case the guards had missed anything worth saving. "Come now, Admar. You've been nagging of those shelves since Charlemagne. Never gonna happen."
"Knave! Doubt me again and I will chop off your dick." With this declaration he twirled his ax expertly, but Toby did not flinch. Instead, he grinned triumphantly as his hands found the end of the old man's pants leg. Picking up the foot, he shook the leg so the gold coins sewn into the cuff jingled like church bells on Christmas morning. Admar clasped his arm over Toby's shoulders in celebration of the find and they both looked over the decapitated grandfather who'd just bought them lunch. His limp body covered in ratty tunic and stockings was like a child's old beloved plaything fallen to the dogs. The stump oozed.
Toby wiped a fake tear from his eyes. He spoke, "Even in death, still he gives."

At The Maiden's Fount, Admar and Toby found a table inside. There were glares and curses as Toby still carried his sack of body and head, whacking into every table and person they passed. But no one dared oppose such a duo, executioner and collector. Toby ignored them and they allowed him to do as much, his parcel tossed over one shoulder like Father Christmas. Admar noticed for the first time when they sat and the sack plunked down between them, a third guest.
"You had to bring that thing in?"
"You would not let me swing by the crypt. I can't very well leave it outside."
"What's it to you if someone takes it?"
"It would be an insult to my post. We'd have to catch the fellow and then you'd likely have to execute him too and then we'd have two bodies and no ale."
"The king shall rest easy knowing you take your post so seriously," Admar said, clinking his milk against Toby's brew.
"Was it Cecily who made you cease drinking?"
"No, I told you I am to accomplish much today. Do not cast such hate on my maid."
There was a clatter at the front of the pub causing both men to turn. Twas Cecily herself. Surrounded by layers of blue skirt and clasped tightly in her bodice, her breasts overflowed just as blood overflowed to Admar's heart and penis, who, like a faithful knight, was always on watch. It'd been this way ever since their schooling when all the girls' bodices grew tighter with age, but only dear Cecily's ever bothered to fill naturally up without the extra kerchief stuffing used by other maids. With her long chestnut hair, shinier that the mane of the king’s mare, and her strong, relentless voice, she knew well to seldom use, she was the perfect girl. She'd not noticed Admar until after their graduation when, with a grueling internship spent fetching ale and cleaning up messes left when a sucker under the ax lost control of his bowels, which happened often, he arose to the position of official town executioner. Hence forth, he hadn't been able to keep maidens aback. Women loved a man in uniform. But it was still always Cecily that turned his head and kept it there. Now her eyes were frantic.
Admar rushed to her. "My dear Cecily, what makes your sweet cheeks flush just so?"
Her voice was hoarse from crying causing her to talk in husky, sexy way. “‘Tis my brother,” she said. “He is fated for your ax.”

Admar took Cecily back to his place to calm down. It was a handsome hovel he'd built himself one summer when the world was kind to one another and only a few cases of treason called him to his post. He led Cecily to his bedroom, which also contained the fire place and the gathering area. Although he had installed a long tapestry along the bed for a bit of privacy. It was there that Cecily crumbled into great sobs, as maidens so often do.
"With what is your brother charged?" Admar asked, the face of composure.
"Defacement of consecrated grounds," Cecily moaned. "The stupid wretch." She sat up. "Oh, but I should not say such things of a brother about to be lost to me. Please, Admar," She clung to his waist. "Make this not be."
Admar lowered himself onto the bed next to Cecily. "I will do all I can. But you know I am neither judge nor jury."
"But you know it's not right! He's only a boy and the offense is not so bad."
"Cecily, were they dicks he was sketching in charcoal over church grounds again?" She would not meet his eye. "You know this is his second charge on such accounts."
"He's just a boy,” Cecily only repeated. “He knows not what he does.” She looked up and saw no pity in her lover's eyes. She separated herself from his grasp. "So you would let your ax fall?"
"I would do my duty."
"Is it not your duty to uphold justice?” She said weakly. But when Admar didn’t budge, she burst into anger. “No, you are only a pawn to be ordered about like a dog. You are worth no more than the charcoal penises because of which my brother will die."

"Hold up. How can you allow such a wench speak to you in that way? Without a single hand raised against such smugness?" Toby said. "I shall never understand love." The friends were on their way to Madame Dupree's to relieve some stress.
"She does not understand. Tis not my own ax I swing, but the ax of the king and his government."
"What else did she expect of a brother who draws genitalia on the habits of nuns?" Toby said. "Although, I must say, if I ruled the boy would be praised for such imagination, not struck down."
"Did not Jesus have a penis?"
With these words, the pair, greatly lost in their conversation, ran into a small man and his wheelbarrow crossing their path.
"Knave!" Toby drew his sword on the man. “Was your mother so ugly, thou’st went blind?"
"My apologies," the man said. He tried to bow but with the sword at his throat could only dip his head in humility. "I did not see. " At once, his downcast demeanor shifted into glee. "Why Admar!” he exclaimed like the proudest town crier, announcing . “Deal pal, it is I!"
Toby looked at Admar in shock of him having such ill acquaintance. The man was small and portly with red cheeks due perhaps to sun or labor or just his general jolly manner--persistent despite the cart of horse shit he towed. Such blissful ignorance of his low standards amazed Admar, as ignorance it must have been to plod ‘round with any feeling other than shame.
Admar spoke dismissively, "I'm sorry, sir. Your plain, fleshy face is not one my mind has bothered to remember,” and tried to move past, but the stout man and his horse shit blocked his way.
"Little surprise. Neither captain of the jousting nor equestrian teams was I. But your brother in ridicule! In leggings wedged and heads shoved into chamber pots. Perhaps you can recall this once when they pulled and pulled and from the chamber pot my head would not budge?" All of this he said with the greatest delight, like a heroic knight recounting his success on the battlefield. Admar was forced to admit what he had known all along.
"Ah, yes.” He said with mock realization. “Chamber Pot Pete. How doth it go?" The man looked down at his cart of shit and crinkled his nose in good nature.
"I do what I must. Certainly nothing fancy as you. Who would have thought ol’ Adfart, barely able to climb the gallows rope in bodily education, would turn out to be the wielder of all our fates." Still laughing, he was completely naive of the magnitude of his own statement, the gleaming edge of Admar’s ax by his side.
"Yes, quite interesting how the tides have turned," was all Admar said and then pulled a flabbergasted Toby along past the man to continue on their way. From behind the crown of his head was bald as if the crows had already pronounced him dead and come to collect padding for their nests.
Peter, incapable of catching the grandest drift, was still calling after them all the school memories Admar worked daily to repress. The frogs in his lunch pail, the piss in his ink pot, so on and so forth. "We sure showed them, didn’t we?" He finally ended with, almost to himself, wheeling his barrow away.
"What was all that driveling about?" Toby said.
"A boy from schooling days," Admar explained. "You know that most, unlike your rotten brain, do not choose to come here. They're borne here, known by every face since birth. Most people here our age I attended schooling with which, despite my fortune now, were dark days."
"Wedged leggings, chamber pots.” Toby paused. “It seems you were a dweeb."
"A dweeb, indeed. And I vowed to become someone important enough to exact revenge on those who made my youth such hell. Like that butcher by the church who to this day refuses to cease calling me Adfart, that childhood mockery. I once swore to see him burn.
One day a school trip brought us to see the execution of a local boy caught in a dare to steal undergarments from a duchess's dresser. The other boys were beating me senselessly as usual when the executioner stepped down from his stage and threw them off with threats of the ax." Admar looked up from the rock he'd been kicking while they walked as if he could see it before himself now. "That's when I knew my destiny. No one would dare bother an executioner. And if they did, I'd have the power to avenge. I planned on eliminating all bullies from those schooling days. But soon in my training I learned about duty over revenge, a duty not to be exploited for personal gain. Such as I wish to explain to Cecily now."
Toby stopped. "Enough with that wench. Look now. We've arrived at Madame Dupree's. If the sight of such nude maidens fails to cleanse your conscious, I know not what will. Reach not your troubled hand for your purse of gold coins. What we squander on their exposed bosoms shall be on me."
"Hurrah!" Admar exclaimed. "What a friend you are to have."

The execution arrived day after next. Twas made to be an afternoon one, of course. Admar got there fifteen minutes early. He'd taken the morning to get his ax its sharpest. If he must take care of Alex, he'd send the boy out with the honor of his best chop yet. On the platform, he took a few swings in practice. Strong, fluid motions to keep limber while the crowd gathered, a few tricks to rile their fancies. He’d only just taught himself to balance the blade atop his nose. He spotted Cecily in the front row. Even in her black mourning frock, she looked totally doable. Admar quickly maneuvered the ax in front of his pants. No matter how he stared, she refused his glance. Even as he mouthed to her "You still mad?" numerous times. She was, indeed, still mad. It was only when her brother Alexander the Corrupt, in the arms of the officials, approached the stage that Admar was forced to cast Cecily from his mind and focus on work. Still, he couldn't help feeling for Alex. Perhaps, he was a total delinquent mouthing off to priests and exposing himself to nuns, pissing in the baptismal font, but inside twas a good kid. As the two met, Alex raised his fist to meet Admar's in an amicable gesture of respect and understanding.
Admar spoke. "You must know how this pains me," he said.
"Oh, tis all good. I shan't have expected to get away with it for long." Alex grinned bitterly. "Shall be an honor to die knowing all I've accomplished." With this, he pounded his fist on his chest and shouted to the crowd, "Vive la schlong!" before the guards wrestled him to the chopping block.
They tied him down and all eyes were on Admar. With one last glance at Cecily, head buried in her kerchief, and one last thumbs up from Alex, strained through his restraints, Admar finished the job in one magnificent swoop. An arch so perfect one shed tears for it as well as the boy and his sister, who caught his dislodged head like a bouquet thrown at a wedding. Toby tried to pry it from her, but she held tight until he was distracted by a few of Alex's friends who had charged the stage, deftly removed Alex's postmortem boner with a dagger, and held it aloft over the crowd in his honor. Toby had no choice but to abandon the head and chase down the boys and their dick. He was held back by the crowd as they cheered. They tried to storm the stage, all because of a boy and his phallic drawings. “Shall be an honor to die knowing all I’ve accomplished,” Alex had said. And so it was. He was a martyr. A champion of the people and their basic human rights. He had inspired them.
He was drawn from his thoughts by Cecily’s seal-like blubbering. He rushed to take her in his arms, but while the cumbersome head she clung to kept her from pushing him away, she wriggled from his touch.
"Keep far from me, murderer!" she shouted. "Or tis I who shall be executioner!"
"Cecily, you know twas my duty! A devotion to which you once admired in me.” They faced each other like knights sparing. She in a crouch should he try to attack, he should she try to run. Admar continued, “Remember not, the first day we spoke? I let you hold my ax and you said you'd never courted an executioner before. I said tis useful have you many people you wish dead--a tremendous line. Perhaps not so humorous now. Yet, at the time, we laughed greatly."
"You killed my brother," was all Cecily said, with perfect clarity. And seeing Admar was going to reach for her again, she threw all she had left at him. All she had left being her brother's severed head which Admar caught. Cecily fled the scene and Admar tucked the head under his arm like a ball to charge after her when Toby stopped him.
"Let her go, brother. The damage be done."
Toby relieved Admar of the head. Suddenly, his hands felt very empty.

A couple drinks at the Maiden's Font later, Toby left Admar at the bar to take a groupie back to his hovel. One of the strange ones who would enjoin him to describe the executions to her during the ravaging. Unlike Admar, he had no problem mixing work and play. A hand found itself on his shoulder.
"Begone, maiden. I have no mind for your wiles tonight." It was not a woman's shrill laugh that broke out behind him. He turned around to see Pete, snorting and convulsing as if having a small seizure at Admar's mistake.
"Me? A maiden! Egads." The puny man pulled himself onto the stool beside Admar and, through the saliva each guffaw thrust outward, worked to calm himself. Admar was reminded that not all had managed to grow beyond their youth.
"Control yourself, man. Twas only a mistake."
"Long as you don't find yourself trying to ravish me!" Pete said before seizing into another fit of laughter. While Admar waited for the next lull, he ordered two ales for his old friend and himself.
"Much obliged," Pete said. "I'd offer to pay, but we both know you can afford it." He elbowed Admar in the ribs jovially. "Instead, I shall offer you a toast," he said, thus raising up his mug of grog. "To all we've become since schooling days, whether it be town hero or town fool." His smile was not bitter. "And to the bonds of old friends staying strong, no matter how separate their positions in life become." With a clink of glasses, Pete downed his ale, making him appear as if he frothed at the mouth. But his honest admission shocked Admar into sobriety.
"Pete," he asked, "are you content with your station?"
He dragged a finger through his empty glass to get at the remaining froth. "If you'd asked me in school what I'd become, I'd sooner've said maiden before king of the horses' dung," he answered. "But no, can't say I'm unhappy, even if I be lowest of the low. I got a girl who doesn't mind the stench. I get Sundays off to visit Mom. And I've got reliable consorts like yourself. Anyway, we can't have all ended up local celebrities with riches at your feet, maidens on your arm, and the world on a string."
The reminder withdrew Admar from his funk. He grinned. "It is a charmed life."
"One you've certainly worked for. I remember all those days you couldn't go out pillaging due to that apprenticeship."
"It came with a price, but one I was always willing to pay."
"And now Cecily," Pete said offhandedly. There was no accusation in his face, but still Admar hardened.
"There are always sacrifices to be made," he said.
"Executioner's all you ever wanted as a kid. Funny how everything worked out."
Pete punched Admar in the arm playfully. He had to run home. His girl was coming and bringing her bastard over to meet him for the first time. Admar wished him luck. Watching the last link to his old past walk away, Admar tried to summon what happy memories he retained from schooling days. Perhaps when the health instructor, giving a lesson on avoiding the bubonic plague, accidentally exposed himself to the virus and died, leaving everyone with passing grades for the year. Or when a boy Brigham, in their equestrian studies, had to perform a rectal examination and caught his hand in the horse’s ass. The memories were sparse, but perhaps he’d forgotten. He ran to catch Peter before he left the pub.
"Are there happy memories? That you’ve retained from school?"
Pete only thought for a few seconds. “Twas a time when in physical education I climbed to the top of the gallow’s rope. Somehow I was the first, so all cheered far and wide. For a day, I was beloved. I could’ve lived off that feeling the rest of time, done anything for it, given up everything for it.”
“What changed?”
“I became sick. Returned a fortnight later to find the world had forgotten me. Except for thou, of course.”
They were both silent until Pete added, "That and the time Brigham's hand twas caught in the horse's ass."

On the way home, Admar stopped by Alex's grave. As criminals were forbidden to be buried by their families, it also happened to be the mass grave of all other executions. What Admar had once looked upon as a place of triumph, he now held mixed feelings toward. He thought of an old man once accused of treason who sang a lullaby to his grandchildren in the crowd until his vocal chords were severed. Of the young prostitute who asked him to have a drink after. Of all those men and women quietly taking their punishment, following through with their duty, accepting that this was what their lives led up to.
At the sound of footsteps, Admar turned to see Cecily approaching. It had been only hours since last he saw her, but somehow her mega hotness seemed worn down. When she saw him, a shadow crossed her face, masking it further. She was only a woman now, a heartbroken woman.
"Whatever thou has crafted for me to hear, save it. I am deaf with grief and hate."
Admar knew no apology could salve Cecily's heart. He bowed and left her alone with her sorrow. But before he'd exited the mass grave, he turned with quiet revelation.
"Perhaps if I'd given my duty to you, to something else." he called, but Cecily did not hear him, due to grief, or maybe just distance, and Admar departed.

It took Admar a week to finish the shelves. He made them from an oak. He used his work ax to fell it in the woods behind his house. They were beautiful shelves, shining with the fat from a neighbor's cow. He was greasing them down just as Toby appeared.
"Thou ready?"

On the way to Pete's, Toby caught Admar up on what he’d missed. The new guy sucked. Too gentle. Never got it on the first try. Always spurted the blood everywhere. Too squeamish to stick around and help clean up.
"Makes my occupation thrice times as difficult. As if the guy's looking for a duel."
"He'll learn," is all Admar said.
"Well I'd loathe to be sentenced until he does."
Amidst their walking, Toby began jumping up and down.
"Ooh! Thou shalt never guess what I heard." Admar waits until Toby says, dramatically as if borne for the stage. "Mary. Ann."
"Mary Ann?"
"Mary Ann Triage. Hottest maid in town with regards to Cecily."
"In school, she was head of the jousting allegiance's crowd of good cheer."
"And tis you she wants."
Toby explained further. A fortnight past, he’d caught a glance of Mary Ann at the Maiden's and told her of his concern for her health since surely she was an angel who'd just suffered the fall from Heaven. A line he'd made up himself, convinced of its brilliancy. Unfortunately, Mary Ann accused Toby of speaking sacrilege and was sure to inform the guard. He distracted her by turning the conversation to Admar, their mutual acquaintance. Learning he'd separated from Cecily, Mary Ann became coy and made Toby promise to report back to Admar that if he ever ran out of work, she had an old cow just dying to be milked."
Admar's face contorted into disgust. "But, pray tell, what does it mean?"
"Who cares? She's yours!"
"I'm done with such foolishness. Tis much too similar to my schooling days. Only now people expect things from me."
Pete's home appeared in the distance. The stocky man was standing outside his straw door proudly, waving a hand.
"And what of Pete?" Toby asked. "Is he not of your high school days?"
"Aye," Admar agreed. "But Pete expects nothing from anyone."
A chubby boy ran out to Pete and the two knocked their fists together like kinsmen. A woman followed behind. Pete's girl. She was beautiful.

Admar returned from dinner at Pete's house that night to gaze upon his empty shelves. He arranged the bones of his victims upon them with care. A jaw here, a hip there. On the second shelf from the top, a long index finger lay haphazardly pointed in his direction and Admar let it. He had chosen who to be. When the shelves were lined, Admar felt no pride for his trophies. He looked upon the crowd and felt connected to the world. Millions of people he saw in those bones, some guilty, some innocent, but all poor wretches. They'd remind him of that. Even if he only remembered some of their names, some of their stories, the variety of gasps and exhales and sobs and wails that occurred the moment before the blow struck the back of a neck.
He remembered how Alex had laughed. He was not the first of Admar's to do so, but his was not bitter or evil like the rest. A pure laugh it was. The kind one releases in moments of excitement or relief or triumph. He'd set the hand he'd swiped from Alex’s grave on the right corner of the middle shelf, where he'd see it every night before rest and every morning before setting out. Admar had no idea what next to do with his life. He had no plan for the morning, but to merely start out and see what he found. But still the next morn Admar woke to walk blindly out into the world. He raised a fist in camaraderie with what was left of Alex, stared at the door handle, and slowly turned the knob.

August 03, 2015 11:12:59 PM





The sun rose and everything fell. I clapped a hand over my mouth and just managed to stifle my scream as my masterpiece fell over, Popsicle sticks smashing on my cold hardwood floor and scattering into a million devastating crevices in my room.
Oh, God, not now, of all times! My birdhouse!
Before anyone gets too weirded-out by birdhouse-building at 5 in the morning, let me explain a little. When I was a kid, I’d always hoped that if I sang to a bird, it would sing back to me, and I’d prove for all time that I was related to Snow White. I had wanted feeders, but my parents did not want to deal with the droppings, so I made birdhouses—slightly better. It hadn’t taken many packages of Popsicle sticks for my parents to grow sick of pretending to like the houses and just throw them out behind my back. Obviously, I got over the phase—well, for the most part—but I’d been hoping to make one for Alex.
The last time I’d seen Alexis Lee in person, she was emphatically, pointedly strange. One of the things she’d do was hide things in my birdhouses that were very much not birds at all, like fortune-cookie fortunes and single earrings she’d found and one time some random pink plastic thimble my dad ended up putting with the Monopoly pieces. I think she’d done it to annoy me.
The thing is, in seventh grade, I’d moved away to Illinois. I hadn’t seen her since—every time we’d visited she’d been out of town. Besides, I mean, we’d been close, but not best-best friends.
And then, last night, my parents suddenly told me that when they said they were visiting a family friend, they meant the Lees! And you can’t just visit your friend of five years without a present, so I’d been up all night trying to make it for her. And obviously, with my luck, it fell apart right at sunrise.
And so I found myself in Alex’s room, just me and her, with nothing on me but the bags under my eyes.

I had no idea—none at all—about whatever the hell was going on. Was this the real Bonnie or an imposter? Was this reality or my imagination? My mind literally did things like that—tricked me sometimes, but it was usually with hot, rich male celebrities, not ex-friends.
“I’m sorry about not having a present,” Bonnie said. “I made one, but it got ruined.”
That surprised me a little: it was a typical Bonnie line—straight talk with just a little bit of subconscious humblebrag. And of course she’d be obsessive enough to make a present, instead of just buying one, or—the Alex way—going no-present-at-all. It was weird, ‘cuz she’d changed a lot. I mean, I guess I really should’ve expected it, since it’d been, I don’t know, four years we’d last seen face-to-face? But when I say that she had changed, I mean she had really changed. Bonnie had always been pretty, but now she had really done it with the makeup and clothes and everything, and, I’ll have to admit, on top of all of this awkwardness I was more than a little scared of her now. She had these cute gold earrings and I think she’d gotten her eyebrows done, while here I was, sitting in my old jeans and wearing a t-shirt probably from fourth grade or something. So much for my mom’s “this is just a casual visit.”
“S-s-s-o,” I finally stuttered out after my long, pondering silence, “what do you want to do?” Our parents were downstairs; there were no distractions from each other.
“I’m really fine with anything.”
I flipped my head around frantically like the idiot I am. Bookshelves: Nope. Bed: What? Desk: Aha!
“Um-m … We could, uh, go on the Internet?” As I reached out, way over-eager, Bonnie’s eyes widened for some reason, and when I followed her gaze I saw my laptop—tumbling to the floor!
“Shit!” we both shouted. My hand shot out again, but I only ended up punching it and it flew right into Bonnie’s lap. Her arms flapped around like those birds she was always into and in the end she managed somehow to sandwich it between her forearms and lap. We looked at each other and grinned.
“You still say that?” Bonnie demanded. “‘Shitshitshit?’”
“Not really. Guess it just, like, fell out or something. Why? Is it annoying now?”
“No, but do you remember how Annie would always say…”

The truth is, I had been going to Alex ask about which celebrities she found cute. But I guess I wasn’t being honest. I’d known she wasn’t into that sort of stuff, and I’m glad I didn’t mess it up.
It was really strange sitting there. We were both pulling up anything we could remember, and that helped a little, but memories are easy to talk about, and I still wasn’t sure…Had she changed? She seemed a little less weird, but I wasn’t sure if that was just because we hadn’t been here for that long, or if I was noticing it because I was looking so hard. I knew what would come once we ran out of things to say: we’d start testing each other, like, where you poke at the other person, trying to see what’s different and what’s the same. And I didn’t know whether I wanted to try to be the same or to be different, if I even could choose in the first place—I didn’t know what I wanted from Alex, either. But for now, it was going kind of okay.
And then my phone rang. Oh, no: Ethan. Should I pick it up? On the one hand, a perfect distraction from this weird situation; on the other, I was with an old pal and it would just be rude. On both hands, awkwardness.

Yes, this was her; this was actually kind of sounding like the Bonnie I knew. I was feeling pretty solid, like I could probably make it through, until a pop song popped out of nowhere—
“Sorry,” Bonnie grimaced. “Boyfriend.”
I knew about Ethan. Facebook-stalking is my favorite intellectual pursuit, though I hadn’t looked Bonnie up until the day I found out she was coming. I mean, it wasn’t because I didn’t care about her. It more like it was just too much, I guess, seeing her going crazy with her new friends and stuff in Illinois.
I feel like a lot of people think I’m, like, this friendly, outgoing whatever, but I’m literally not. Truth is, I’m only kinda out there because I’m so afraid of not being out here. You know? Sometimes, really, I don’t want to jump around and throw things; I just wanna lie down on the couch and hug someone.
Bonnie, though, is such a one-girl powerhouse. That’s kinda why I stopped texting her … She had a new life and stuff, and I didn’t want to be too clingy, especially since every time I asked her about Illinois she said it wasn’t super interesting, and the conversations stopped like that.
The worst part was how weirdly lonely for her I was, this girl who hadn’t even been my best friend. I’d think of something I thought Bonnie would like to hear, and just go back and forth: typing it in, deleting it all, retyping, making myself press “send,” and then constantly regretting being annoying until she responded.
“I’ll hang up,” she said, tucking her phone back away.
It’s weird, how someone you’ve thought about and, truthfully, totally obsessed over for the longest time, can be such a stranger.

Now, because of that stupid phone call, we were quiet again. Just as it was about to get awful, we heard Alex’s mom from downstairs:
“Come down, girls; we’re going out to dinner now!”
Going out? Alex and I would probably be expected to sit next to each other—and talk. Oh, god, parents. Didn’t they realize it had been four whole years? Though I guess four years isn’t much to them, as they seem to be able to recall all those things from “when they were my age…” I didn’t want to go out. But at the same time, I was kind of excited, to see if we’d strike it up again, I guess.
And although Alex didn’t show it, I bet she felt the same way. We exchanged apologetic smiles. I guessed we’d just have to see. We got up, walked to the door, breaths quiet. Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

August 03, 2015 11:02:59 PM





The sun rose and everything fell
As the… Wait a minute
This is supposed to be a humorous writing, not a dactylic one. So let me tell you what makes something humorous. Humor is art; art that is supposed to make you ^_>^, which explains why paintings of five differently colored lines are displayed in national museums. Humor is also both right and wrong at the same time. For example, why do Mexicans ski? They’re afraid of boarders. Lastly, humor is incongruent. In fact, people find something to be funny when something other than what they expect to happen occurs. Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

August 03, 2015 11:02:51 PM





Dating A Girl With Bad Breath

The sun rose and everything fell. The kiss was just as I thought it would be- spinning room, sweet summer breeze, cinnamon gum, my girlfriend Alexis. (Whom I’ll call Alex). Yet, there was one odd, very odd thing. It wasn’t her breath that smelled of cinnamon gum. It was mine. Her’s was more of a chipotle burrito kind of vibe. Disgusted, I backed away. Out of my shirt pocket, I took four sour lemon Altoids, and handed three of them to her. She smiled.

alexis: Thanks! (And then she looked at me with a blank stare). Wait… Why did you give me three?

me: What do you mean?

alexis: I mean… (Slowly starting to back up). Like, there were four mints… You gave me three…

me: Yeah…

alexis: Well… (I interrupt.)

me: I mean I thought I was being generous…

alexis: You were… But, don’t you feel that they should have been evenly distributed?

me: I don’t understand… I gave you extra mints! I thought I was being generous.

alexis: Well yeah, but you must be hinting at something. what?

me: (With a shocked expression, sort of like I just got an A+ on a physics test.) No! No! I wasn’t hinting at anything! What do you mean? I was just giving you mints. I thought it might spice up the night. Freshen things up a bit.

alexis: I don’t understand. Why would you want to freshen things up a bit? Am I doing something wrong?

me: NO! (My voice level increasing and trying to find the right words). Look, I bought these special kind of lemon Altoids, and I really ummm… I like lemon and I wanted us to try them tonight! That’s why I gave you the mints…

alexis: Peter, I thought lemon gives you bumps on your tongue. Suddenly you like lemon? And in mint form???

me: Okay Alexis… You want the truth? Your breath smells worse than the cheese section at Whole Foods. We’ve been making out for the past 35 minutes, and honestly it’s kind of gross. I can’t take it anymore. I’m trying to focus but my mind keeps coming back to your breath. I really like you but this is too much. This guacamole, Chipotle Quesarito, onion thing you got going on is not really working for me.

alexis: (Teary eyed, hands shaking) I, I, I, I, I, I… I, I… Don't know what to say… Why didn’t you just tell me?

me: I tried to! I couldn’t breathe!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

alexis: Why?! Maybe you can’t breathe because it’s YOUR breath coming back at you- and not mine!!!

me: Alexis… Alex…


me: Sorry. Alexis, I’m not really so sensitive to lemons. I told you that because when we were at dinner the other night, and you wanted me to try the chicken dish, it looked so gross and I didn’t know what else to say. So I just told you that.

alexis: You are such a liar... Is your name even Peter?!

me: Yes, my name is Peter. And to answer your earlier question, I couldn’t breathe because of the powerful stench of your breath.

alexis: Well tell me Peter, what do you suggest aside from lemon Altoids?

me: How about next time you subtract the onion and don’t order the most vile burrito that Chipotle sells.

alexis: Hey Peter, there’s not gonna be a next time. And peter, by the way-take a whiff of your own breath. It doesn’t exactly smell like a box of altoids- talk about repulsive. Hashtag garlic breath.

(Alex narrowed her gaze away from me, and toward the door that was the escape from the room we were in together).

Making her move, Alex got up, and blew me one final garlic kiss goodbye.

Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

August 03, 2015 10:58:44 PM





The Cruise With Grandpa Bob

The sun rose and every thing fell, including Alex’s mood: it was day one of the cruise he’d be on with his grandparents for the next week. They were headed to Alaska.

That morning, as his grandparents slept, Alex was free to wander the ship. The Super Fun Kidz Klub was super empty. In the center of the ship was a casino, but all Alex could see through the large glass doors was swirling cigar smoke. It was nine o’clock in the morning.

Alex went up a level and found the cruise ship’s morning TV show being taped. He sat down in the audience and observed the show’s host yelling at a much larger man. “I’m out of here,” the big guy said.

“Oh really now. Bring it on bow-wow!” shouted the host, fists raised.

Soon, security guards appeared to drag the host away. “No need for concern ladies and gentleman, Jonas here seems to be suffering from cabin fever.”

This ship drives people crazy, Alex thought.

The rest of the day he slept, drained from yesterday’s long plane ride. When Grandma woke him up, it was time for dinner. Because they were just a trio, Alex and his grandparents shared a table with two other small families. One family was composed of three Canadians. Grandpa Bob was delighted by this because he considered hockey one of his many areas of expertise. The other family was an elderly black couple from Atlanta.

Grandpa Bob was first to break the ice as he asked the Atlanta couple, “So, are you from the South?” When they confirmed his suspicions, Grandpa Bob explained, “I could tell by your accents.” The couple introduced themselves as James and Beronica, and Grandpa Bob patted the man on the back saying, “James, I just wanted to let you know that I very involved in the civil rights movement in the 60’s.”

“Good to hear,” James responded, as Grandpa Bob assured him, “No need to thank me, I just did what was right.”

A period of silence ensued as everyone looked into their water glasses.

“So James, do you play any sports?” Grandpa Bob inquired.

“I swim laps at the YMCA from time to time,” James said.

“I bet you’re a big basketball fan,” said Grandpa Bob.

“Not really, although I do coach my three-year-old grandson’s team.”

“Did you hear that, Alex? A pro basketball coach right at our table!” Grandpa Bob said gleefully. “How about you give Alex some pointers tomorrow?”
“I guess I could try that,” James responded.

The rest of dinner was filled with inconsequential chit-chat. The mustachioed patriarch of the Canadian family bragged that he had been able to convince Buckingham palace security that his hand gun was a medically prescribed “comfort object” to combat stress.

Later that evening, Alex walked back to the cabin by himself. When passing through the photo gallery, Alex spotted a few pictures from dinner with James, Beronica, and the Canadians. He found it disconcerting that other people could buy photos of him. As he stood alone, gazing at one portrait of his dinner group, he didn’t know how he’d survive six more dinners like it. Then he felt a hand cup his shoulder, and Grandpa Bob gestured toward a photo, saying, “I kind of look like Brad Pitt in this one, don’t you think?”

This question was likely triggered by a group in line for dinner who had mistaken Grandpa Bob for the lead actor in an overplayed diabetes commercial. One woman had even started singing the jingle, “Whatcha gonna do if you don't like needles? Sniff it! Whatcha gonna do if you don't like ladles? Drink it!” This jingle was so universally loathed that a group of Japanese tourists joined in the mocking chorus. One man asked Grandpa Bob to pose with him for a selfie.

The next morning Alex woke up to Grandpa Bob saying, “Wake up, brutha! Maybe today you’ll get to ball James so hard!” After a quick breakfast, Alex made his way to the sports deck.

It was overcast and cold up at the basketball court, where Alex found Grandpa Bob, in a t-shirt with neon orange lettering that spelled out BASKETBALL! sitting next to James. “Nice shirt,” Alex commented. Grandpa Bob grinned, “Thanks, I can get one for you if you want.” Alex smiled politely at this offer. Grandpa Bob continued, “I got one for James too, but he decided that he didn't want to get it sweaty so that he could wear it to dinner.”

James nodded.

“So, are we gonna play, or what?” Grandpa Bob asked excitedly.

“I thought James was going to give me some pointers,” Alex said. “I figured we could both give you some pointers,” Grandpa Bob assured Alex.

Alex thought back to the last time he had played basketball with Grandpa Bob. When Alex was six years old, the 5’ 9” Grandpa Bob had blocked each of his shots and yelled, “Not in my house!”

Alex’s attention was brought back to the present when he stepped on the court and Grandpa Bob forcefully passed the ball to him. “Caught you sleeping there,” he jawed. Alex took a shot from far beyond the three point line and banked it in. “Nice shot,” Grandpa Bob said begrudgingly, scowling at James.

“My bad, I thought this was a warm up,” James replied.

The rest of the game went much the same way with Grandpa Bob’s chatter and James’s general confusion. When the game ended, Grandpa Bob patted Alex on the back and said, “I’m really glad I was able to teach you a thing or two, you really improved as the game went on.”

“Sorry about my grandpa,” Alex said quietly to James once his grandfather was out of ear shot.

“Oh, Bob? He’s a hoot. It’s rare you make friends on trips like this.”

As Alex walked back to his cabin, he tried to understand what James liked about Grandpa Bob. Whether this was luck or just something he didn’t understand about old men and friendship, Alex did not know. He walked and walked, past the Kidz Klub, past the casino, through the photo gallery, until he finally reached his room. Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

August 03, 2015 10:55:13 PM





(Author apologizes for the extremely uncomfortable format)

For The Win

The sun rose and everything fell.
Haiden swore loudly and slammed his fist on the table, causing the entire display to slump farther to the side, leaning unsteadily, He rubbed his eyes, wanting nothing more but to make up for the sleep he had sacrificed to the delicate project. To Haiden, a tall, skinny, brown-haired 27-year-old, every job was as unstable as his eating habits, and this failure was sure to get him fired.
The first time, it was an incredibly tragic hummus incident in the women’s bathroom. Not only did he violate the break room refrigerator rules, but he also lost the trust of the entirety of his office’s female population.
Haiden’s next job ended at a particularly festive office holiday party, during which he found an unattended purse. He thought he was doing the right thing when he stumbled onto the small stage with the bag, and rummaged around in it for items that might identify the owner. It was only after he had read into the microphone the contents of a grocery store receipt, including items such as four packages of Depends and Extra-Strength Dulcolax, that the boss’s wife, red-faced, quickly walked up to the stage and snatched the bag out of Haiden’s hands. It was not long afterwards that his fuming boss took him outside and, told him to find another job.
As a result of these unfortunate events, Haiden’s jobs became more and more desperate. He had majored in film direction in college, but he hadn’t gotten a chance to actually begin a career in the field. By good fortune, an old friend’s girlfriend ran a small advertising agency with a vacant position. Although Haiden’s art skills were equivalent to that of a drunken toddler, he was taken in to fill the position. He had already botched three chalkboard designs that week, and Andrea, his boss, was getting impatient with him.
That display was his only hope.

Haiden squinted in the bright sunlight after stepping out of his car, holding what he had managed to patch up of the structurally unsound display. Luckily enough, clients of the company expected him to be a legitimate artist, which meant no one asked any questions when he arrived at the small business in sweatpants, flip flops, and a ketchup-stained “Tattoine or Bust” T-shirt.
He tried to disguise his amazement when the talkative middle-aged shopowner loved his scrappy-looking display. She told him that it was just the right “feel” her store was about, and how he was “an incredible craftsman,” Haiden personally doubted her thoughts about his handiwork as he watched her set it on a table, where it promptly collapsed.
It was at this point that a bell chimed right above Haiden. Before he could realize he was standing directly in front of the entrance, the metal door swung and hit him straight in the spine, knocking him flat on the floor.
He opened his eyes after a few seconds of pain to see a petite woman about his age with short black hair and dark brown eyes drop to her knees to examine him.
“I’m so sorry! Are you okay?” She knelt over him, her lined eyes wide with worry.
“No, no, I’m fine, thanks,” groaned Haiden as he pushed himself up to a sitting position. The young woman glanced at his shirt.
“Oh my gosh! I love Star Wars. The filmography is just amazing, and the casting was just perfect,” she gushed, holding out her hand to Haiden. He grabbed it firmly and she pulled him up.
“Alexa,” she introduced herself. “But I just go by Alex.”
“I’m Haiden,” Haiden awkwardly replied, now extremely aware of the large ketchup blotches on his shirt.
Over Alex’s shoulder, Haiden saw the shopowner turning the corner. Knowing that he would have to face her middle-aged conversational clutches if he didn’t escape, he released Alex’s hand and spoke hurriedly.
“Well,” Haiden started, trying to make it clear to his client that he was going to leave, “I have to run. I hope you like the display, ma’am. Nice to meet you, Alex.” Despite his attempts, it seemed like the shopowner didn’t get the message. She began to open her mouth, and Haiden used his last resort before it was too late. “Here’smycardifyouhaveanyproblemspleasecallgoodbye!” He tossed his business card behind him and made a break for it. Outside the shop, Haiden faintly overheard Alex become the woman’s next victim.
“Such a lovely young man,” he heard the lady said kindly. “He’s an artist, you know. So is my niece. Look at this gorgeous display over here…”
Haiden was too far away to hear Alex’s reply as he swung his keys around his index finger and walked back to his car. Sliding into the seat, he started the engine and began to drive back to his apartment.
An artist, he thought. Hardly.

That night, while Haiden sat in front of his television playing video games and shoveling chips into his mouth, he faintly heard his phone ring. Pausing the game, he sighed and stood, causing an avalanche of chip crumbs. Stepping over small mountains of dirty clothes, he made his way to his disheveled bed. Haiden looked at the unidentified number on the screen and answered the call.
“Hello?” he asked tentatively, praying it wasn’t another prank call from his terrifying nephew.
“Hi. Is Haiden Mallone there?”
Surprised at hearing Alex’s distinct voice, Haiden stepped backwards, slipping on a puddle of week-old wing sauce and hitting his head on his bedside table on the way down.
“Um… Is this a bad time? I can call later-“
“No, no, it’s fine,” said Haiden through gritted teeth. “This is Haiden, yeah. Wait, how did you get my number?”
“Oh, I asked Andrea. We’re actually roommates. I thought it was cool, you know, that she’s your boss. Anyway, when I told her about the run-in today; she told me about how you got your job, and what you actually went to school for. Long story short, I guess, is that I need some money for future films, so I was thinking about making a full-length film to enter in next year’s Independent Film Festival. The only reason I can’t do it by myself is because a film of that magnitude would be way too hard to write, cast, direct, film, and edit myself. So I guess I’m asking you to team up with me. Andrea said she would try to be patient with you if you do decide to do it.”
Haiden rubbed his eyes, struggling to keep up. Alex seemed a little desperate as she continued.
“The award-winners get 25 grand… If the film was good enough, I mean… we could split it?”
Haiden let out all of his breath in one long exhale.
“So let me get this straight,” he said, squinting his eyes as if mapping out everything she had just said on an imaginary whiteboard. “You’re a film director. Some kind of weird serendipity. Cool. Okay. But I need to focus on my own career. I’m already struggling with rent, and my mother is beginning to doubt my financial capability. You seem great, I would love to help you out, but I-I can’t.”
Haiden sighed, and tried to ignore the hairball-like lump that seemed to be lodged in his lungs.
Alex sighed, and there was a moment of disappointed silence.
“Thanks for bearing with me,” she spoke softly. “Sorry for calling so late.”
Haiden scratched his stubbly chin and looked around his disgusting, trash-laden bachelor pad.
“Well, hope you have a good night,” Alex said with an obvious downcast tone.
Haiden absently responded with a “you too”. Then memories flashed back… Holding a camera in his hand, making the only film in his class that his professor liked. Feeling like a success until getting out into the real world again, where he realized that he couldn’t just be the movie guy again. There was actual stuff he had to do. But he realized in that split second that what he really wanted to do was be the movie geek again, the one who quoted Monty Python’s Holy Grail ad nauseam and couldn’t decide whom he liked better: Kirk or Picard.
“WAIT!!!!!” Haiden yelled, and he could faintly hear a startled cry from Alex, who he could tell was about to hang up.
“What?” she asked.
“I’ll do it,” he announced, then went to get some ice for his head.

Working with Alex was nothing like Haiden expected it to be. Unlike his former impressions of her, she, like every woman Haiden knew, was assured that she was always right and he was always very, very wrong. It didn’t matter what the situation was, Alex insisted that it would be her way.
The plot of the film was about a group of four children that wake up one day as adults. It was initially Haiden’s idea, but Alex wrote it. Her reasoning against Haiden writing the script was that he would ruin their chance at winning by inserting unnecessary expletives into the dialogue. It had never been formally prohibited, but Alex said that it would be too risky; she wanted it to be media-friendly. An indignant Haiden protested. “How can it be funny if no one swears?”
Casting the children’s roles was Haiden’s least favorite part. Alex had advertised the auditions, and since she was working on the storyboard, Haiden alone was to select the young actors to play the four main characters’ child selves. The job would have been easy if only Haiden wasn’t generally bad with children. What made him even more uncomfortable was the parents. They came in with their kids, and the entire time they would stare Haiden down like they would do something incredibly violent to him if their precious little angel didn’t make the part. Not to mention that their children were almost never good actors. The entire experience made Haiden absolutely positive that he would never have children of his own.
What surprised Haiden most was that the indoor scenes in the script were actually filmed on a makeshift set Alex had constructed, in an abandoned parking garage in which she had stashed an odd assortment of furniture items that were used to stage the scenes. Some of the furniture she chose to use in their film made Haiden intensely uncomfortable, such as the loveseat that appeared to be woven out of some kind of cat hair and the old locked wardrobe made of very thick oak. Haiden swore that he could hear noises coming from the suspicious closet, which he avoided like the plague.
The closer they got to finishing the film, the more Haiden remembered why he chose to pursue work in other fields. Working on both a full-time job in an ad agency and creating a full feature film was extremely tiring. So tiring, in fact, that on one occasion Haiden woke up and was mortified to find himself on the dreaded cat-hair sofa. Another time, Haiden was awakened by Alex’s laughs. In between her giggling fits she informed him that he was talking in his sleep, then showed him the video she had taken on her phone of him arguing with an invisible adversary about the Lord of the Rings. Throughout the editing process, his power naps became more and more frequent, earning him a few Sharpie tattoos.
The huge independent film festival arrived sooner than either of them expected. Haiden’s nerves soon got the best of him, and on the drive there he vented his anxious energy on Alex by ranting about selfie sticks and former realtors with ludicrous hair running for president. Luckily, by the time they pulled into a parking space at their hotel, Haiden had returned to his normal state and Alex had been enlightened on what Haiden saw as the nation’s impurities. They had a schedule, a map, two VIP passes, two fanny packs, and three bags of Doritos.
They were prepared.

After two days of touring the festival, watching the other films on display, attending interviews, and co-hosting a panel about writing a movie, Alex and Haiden were scheduled to be at the Indie Film Awards at sundown the second night of the festival.
It was only when Haiden slid into the car and saw Alex in a dress that he realized the dress code was semi-formal. She didn’t seem surprised when he sat down in cargo pants and a wrinkly polo shirt; she only gestured to the back of the car with a tired smile, where Haiden found a rented suit in a clothing bag. He ran back into the hotel to change, simultaneously embarrassed and frightened that she knew what size he wore.
They got to the theatre inside the huge performing arts center, where the awards were taking place, and took their seats in the reserved section. Before the ceremony took place, Haiden tried not to fall asleep and Alex looked over the night’s awards and nominations.
“Look at this,” she said, her voice hushed with excitement. She leaned over to Haiden and showed him the program, and he caught a whiff of her perfume, which made his mind go blank, for some reason.
“We’re nominated for Best Overall Film!”
He jumped out of his seat. “WHAT!?” he cried, then suddenly realized that most chatter in the large theater had ceased and everyone was staring at him. Alex pulled him back down by his arm.
“Best?” he asked incredulously. “How did we not know about this?”
Alex shrugged.
“I’m sure we might have missed an email or something.”
Haiden’s mind was blown. He couldn’t believe that he and Alex could win twenty-five thousand dollars from a film they had created from start to finish; especially one without expletives.
A tall man with salt-and-pepper hair stepped up to the stage and distracted Haiden from his thoughts. He adjusted the microphone attached to the podium and flashed a dazzling smile that would have made even Spock blush.
“Hello ladies, gentlemen, and other! Welcome to the twentieth annual Independent Film Festival. My name, if you didn’t know, is Kurt Anderson.” He flashed another smile, and the entire audience chuckled heartily as if he had said something absolutely hilarious.
Haiden turned to Alex, confused. “Did I miss something?” he whispered.
She looked just as clueless as he did. “They do this every year,” she answered. “I have no idea.”
Haiden returned his attention to Anderson with a newfound dislike.
“Now, we’ve had some really fantastic films this year. Superior work. So, because it’s the festival’s twentieth anniversary,” he stopped, grinning at the applause like they were clapping for him, and continued, “we’ve asked our sponsors to donate money to the winners of each category.” He proceeded to describe each category and the nominees, and Haiden struggled, like always, to keep himself awake. Finally, the presentation of the awards began, and after thirty minutes of awkward fidgeting, Kurt Anderson himself glided onto the stage for a second time to present Best Overall Film.
“It is my honor to present the award for Best Overall Film,” he said as he flashed his blinding teeth, and once again the audience lost it, roaring with laughter.
“Seriously, what is this guy’s deal?” whispered Haiden with an irritated expression.
“Maybe they have a lot of inside jokes?” Alex offered doubtfully.
Anderson continued, naming the nominees. Haiden felt a jolt of adrenaline when he heard his and Alex’s film called, and another when Alex grabbed his hand tightly. They listened with bated breath.
“And the winner is….”

With his arm around Alex, they walked up to the large building. She swung the keys around her index finger, the way Haiden always did. They had waited for this moment for a year, and now they were getting their own studio, and getting their own production company. Mallone-Robinson films.
Haiden followed her to the studio door, and watched in excitement as she turned the key in the lock. She looked back at him, and he gestured to the door, as if to say, “It’s all yours.”
Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

August 03, 2015 10:54:52 PM





The Tenant

The sun rose and everything fell.
There was only the light now, getting brighter and brighter. Alex looked into its shimmering hands as they reached for him, getting closer and closer, as though they could swallow him…
And then, in the blink of an eye, he was standing in an elevator.
It was old, its green paint peeling on the floor. The light was dim, and bad elevator music was playing. Alex braced himself as the elevator churned, made a few unusual noises, and started to move down.
When the eerie elevator ride was finally over, the doors opened to show a disgusting hallway. The whole place was an old, run-down apartment complex. Dust coated the floor, and roaches scuttled all around Alex as he walked. At one point, a large, furry creature ran by, its tail brushing his leg. He chose to ignore it.
There was a door at the end of the hallway, and Alex walked over to it. He could hear some noise on the other side, so he put his ear to the door. A voice was singing, old and rough, but still melodic. Alex listened in.

“...Oh, its hot down in the basement,
With the scoundrels and the jerks;
The acoustics are unbearable,
The AC never works.
The boss man keeps me down here
And he doesn’t pay me jack;
One day I’m gonna come up there
And tell him that he’s whack.
My baby left me years ago,
And now I’m all alone,
But at least I’ve got this hell-hole
That I can call my own.
See, all my friends done left me,
Except my trusty mutt.
And it feels like it’s been centuries
That I’ve been in this rutt.
Yeah, all I hear down in this place
Is my old doggy’s howls,
And all I smell down in this place
Is my old doggy’s bowels.”

Then, a harmonica began to play. Alex slowly pushed the door open. It was an old furnace room, as rundown as the rest of the place. The man who had been singing sat looking away from Alex, playing the harmonica sadly. An extremely obese basset hound lay by his side, slobber pouring down its mouth. It turned to Alex, looked at him halfheartedly, and then glanced away.
Alex cleared his throat. The man stopped playing and turned around, showing an old, worn-out face. He tried to look angry, but Alex could see the age and tiredness that sat behind his grimace.
“Who goes there?” He said, attempting intimidation but just sounding sad instead.
“Um… I’m Alex,” Alex said. “Who are you?”
“I’m the superintendent of this apartment complex,” the man said, sighing. “I have been for God knows how long.”
“Well, what do you do?” Alex asked.
“Oh, you know, take care of the garbage mostly.” The man sighed. “When the tenants clog up their toilets, guess who has to clean them? When there’s a rat infestation, you know who they call? But do they ever thank me afterwards? Nope, they just make me out to be some kind of big jerk. Wouldn’t you be grouchy if you had to deal with the people around here?”
“I guess I would be,” Alex said. The basset hound slouched over to him and plopped down
its back. Alex scratched its belly, choosing to ignore the unusual amount of fleas in its fur. It let out a guttural noise in satisfaction.
“Yeah,” the superintendent said. “The worst part is, my boss, the landlord, doesn’t give me any recognition. I haven’t even gotten a raise in what feels like centuries.”
“I’m sorry, man,” Alex said. “Bosses suck.”
“Well, thank goodness you came along,” the man said. “I was getting lonely out here with Mr. Wiggles.” The dog stirred and let out a grunt before lying back down.
“Oh, no problem. But, uh, if you don’t mind me asking… Where am I?”
“Where everyone goes at the end of a long day,” the man said, mysteriously. “Try to guess.”
“A bar?”
“No, not…” The man sighed. “Come on, man, just take me seriously. I’m trying to do a riddle.”
“Oh. Uh…” Alex pondered for a second. “A… grave?”
“Almost! You’re so close. Sooo close. Just...”
“I don’t ---”
“It rhymes with, uh, rafter… strife?”
“Oh,” Alex said. “Afterlife.” He gasped.
“Yup! And this is the basement.”
“So… I died,” Alex said, holding his breath. “That’s why I’m here. And… I got into hell.”
“Yessir,” the superintendent said.
“I can’t believe it. I led an almost perfect life and everything! Is this because of
that one time in college when my classmates pressured me into…” He gulped. “Saying the S word?”
“Buddy, don’t be upset. Almost everyone ends up down here.”
“But… I prayed every night! How could God do this?”
“I know, right?” The man said. “You know, it’s not fair for people like us. He sends us
down here and just forgets about us. He won’t even reply to my E-Vites when I’m hosting a party down here… Although, most people don’t come. But still. I can’t even get a band together down here.” His voice began to tremble. “It’s like he doesn’t even care about me.”
“Well… You know what?” Alex said. “Why don’t you stand up to him then?”
“Huh?” The man said, confused.
“Tell the landlord that you should be treated better. Come on, I’ll come with you.”
“You know…” The man paused. “You’re right. I can’t stand this place anymore. I haven’t done anything wrong! I deserve to be treated like a human being for once, and I’m gonna tell him that. You know, we should bring eggs, too, to throw over his room. Or a really loud boombox.”
“Yes. Come on, let’s go show him that you’re angry.”
“Okay, okay,” the man said. “Yes, I like this idea. You go on ahead without me for now; I need to get ready. I’m gonna grab my guitar, some matches, maybe dog food if we’re gonna be there a while… I’ll come in a few minutes.”
“Alright,” Alex said, walking out the door.
After a while of standing outside the door, Alex suddenly heard a noise coming from behind the door. He nudged it open and looked in.
There, he could see the man with the guitar in his hands, a melancholy look on his face. He strummed it slowly, his eyes closed. His dog howled along with him. In that moment, Alex realized something, and felt very sad for the superintendent. He understood that, no matter how much he wanted to, the guy would never have the bravery to face his boss. He was already starting to question the decision, to second guess himself. He’d do this forever, always on the brink of rebellion but never quite angry enough. There was a scariness in infinity, Alex realized.
He sighed as he walked into the elevator and punched the top floor button. Well then, he thought to himself, he’d be going upstairs alone.

This time, the hallway was perfectly clean. Alex’s shoes left dirt marks on the marble floor as he walked. A man with an elephant head was passed out by the door, a beer bottle hanging loosely in one of his four hands. Really bad EDM music was playing from behind a door, the bass shaking the floor. Alex tried to get in, but the unconscious guy’s body was pressed against the door. When Alex tried to move him, he stirred, mumbled something incoherent, and fell over.
Alex opened the door and stepped into the room. Instantly, he pressed his hands against his ears. The dance music was deafening. It came from a large DJ booth in the center of the room, a bunch of mixtapes lying all over the floor. A scrawny man was playing around with the DJ machine. He had long, blonde hair and an unshaven beard, and he swayed back and forth to the terrible music.
“Um… Excuse me?” Alex shouted over the noise.
“Sh, man,” the guy said into his microphone. “Yo, come check this out.”
He started to beatbox really loudly over the beat, spitting all over Alex’s face in the process. Alex endured the stream of “Buns-kts” and bad record-scratching imitations until the music finally died down.
“So,” the guy said, panting as he laid the mic down. “What do you need, bro?”
“Uh,” Alex said, pausing. “This is… heaven, right?”
“Yeah, man,” the guy said. “I’m the landlord. The O.G. You know, One God.”
“Oh my… God! It’s an honor!” Alex said, taken aback. “I --- wow! I have so many questions!”
“Just make it quick,” the guy said, fiddling around with the booth.
“Uh… Wow. I can’t even…” He stopped for a second. “Well, I have one. There’s a part in
the New Testament, where it says---”
“Actually, uh, I don’t think I could answer that,” the guy said, pressing a few buttons. A
loud, screechy techno noise came out of the booth.
“What?” Alex said, confused.
“I haven’t really read that yet,” the guy said. “I heard it’s good though. I just got a few friends to write it. You know, to get the paparazzi excited. But yeah, I still haven’t gotten around to it yet.”
“But… Jesus is real, right?” Alex asked, taken aback.
“Oh, yeah, yeah,” the man said. “He ran off somewhere a little while ago, though. I think he’s going through his angsty teenage phase right now, always rebelling against his dad and listening to his emo music. But hey, with him gone, I get more time to pursue my music career. Any more questions?”
“Yeah. I, uh, met a man downstairs,” Alex said. “Sort of scruffy, sad. Who was he?”
“Oh, that jerk who plays the sappy blues music?” The man asked. Alex nodded. “He’s lucifer. Sort of a pain in the butt. He used to be in charge of this place with me, but he said I played my music too loud. He just can’t appreciate my art, you know? Anyway, I sent him down to the basement. I’m the lord of this place, after all.”
“Oh. Wow.” Alex thought back to the man downstairs, how sad and misunderstood he’d seemed. Alex always imagined the devil as a big bad guy, but right now, God seemed like much more of a jerk. He almost seemed childish.
“So, um, can I find someone I know around here?” Alex asked. “My uncle Ed converted to hinduism, and I kind of want an ‘I told you so’ moment.”
“Oh, he’s not wrong, bro,” the man said. “We have all the religions here. Your uncle’s probably on the hinduism floor, which is number four, if you want to go visit him.”
“Wait, what?” Alex said, taken aback. “You mean… You’re not the only god?”
“It’s not that hard, man,” the guy said, visibly annoyed. “I’m your god, because you believe in me. But not everyone has the same faith; I personally think of myself as a buddhist. Even the atheists get some kind of big, empty room with a bunch of science books.”
Alex felt cold. “All my life… I thought Christianity was the true religion. I was raised in a strict Christian family, so I pursued it all the time. I went to the Church every sunday, I forced it on my kids, I prayed whenever I got the chance.” He sniffled. “I even got a bunch of Jesus bobbleheads. And even though I had doubts about this religion, even though it didn’t feel right for me, I kept pursuing it and doing everything it told me to. I wasted so much time because I wanted to be… ‘right.’ And now, it turns out… all these prophecies and principles I lived by aren’t even exclusively real. I just wanted to be righteous, but it all turned out… Wrongteous.”
And then, Alex began to cry.
“Oh, jesus,” the guy said, sighing. “No - why - not on the carpet, dude! And you’re gonna get the booth all dirty…” He paused, Alex’s sobs resonating through the room. “Okay, man, cheer up. I’ll offer you a deal. If you really wanna try life again, then I know a way.”
“Really?” Alex said, sniffling.
“Yeah, It’s called ‘reinflanation’, somethin’ like that. I’m really only supposed to give it to people who follow hinduism and buddhism, but YOLO.” Alex cringed, both because of the abbreviation and the fact that he was about to live twice.
“It’s on the first floor. Ask the doorman,” he said.
“Thank you,” Alex said. “Thank you soooo much. I will make this worth it, I swear.”
“Cool story, bro,” the guy said, handing Alex a few mixtapes. “Just make sure to hand these out to your friends. See you around.”
Alex tossed the mixtapes away once he was out of the room.

When Alex stepped out of the elevator, he was brimming with both excitement and fear. He knew he had a choice; he could stay in this hotel and keep all of his memories and experiences, or he could lose that all to let his soul have another chance.
The first floor was quiet and empty, aside from a nicely dressed doorman. He was bald and had a slightly round belly. Alex walked over to him.
“It’s been awhile, Alex,” the doorman said, smiling. His face was very calm, and his eyes seemed familiar.
“Um… Do I… Know you?” Alex asked.
“You do. You just don’t remember me.”
“I… What?” Alex said, confused.
“I’m the doorman,” the doorman chuckled. “I know everyone who comes in and out of here.”
“I’ve come out of here before?” Alex asked.
“Of course. That’s just the kind of person you are, Alex. But now, you’ve got to make a decision. Will you come out of here again?”
“I don’t know,” Alex said. He shivered.
“Let me tell you a story, my friend,” the doorman said. “The first time you were here, you were only ten years old. You had tried to get toast out with a fork.” The man gave a slight chuckle, and Alex looked down. “Oh, don’t be embarrassed. See, you learned from that mistake, didn’t you?”
“I guess so,” Alex said.
“And now, this is the longest you’ve ever been away. Because you learned. That’s the beautiful thing about the soul, Alex. Even your most terrible mistakes - like your second death, when you tried to feed a wild bear some crackers - will ultimately help your soul grow. And when you’re truly ready to stop the cycle, you’ll know it. Do you understand?”
“Yes, I… think I do.” Alex suddenly straightened up. “I’m going to do it.”
“I knew you would,” the doorman said, grinning.
Alex walked to the door. He looked outside. There was a dim light out there, and if he strained his eyes, he could see figures, the outlines of hands reaching for him, as if to take him out.
“So, are you ready?” The doorman asked.
“Yes,” Alex said, anticipation brimming in his heart. He smiled. “YOLO.”
“Go on. I’ll be waiting for you.”
Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

August 03, 2015 10:53:45 PM

Mary Ann




The sun rose and everything fell. Tsuamis towered over East Asia, earthquakes with record-breaking magnitudes sent the world crumbling down, skyscrapers toppled, and Donald Trump announced his presidential campaign. Adolf Hitler asended from the deep bowels of the inferno and was reincarnated as a Krispy Kreme donut eaten by Chris Christie...and Alex was going to visit the gynecologist for the first time in her fifteen years.

Nothing could prepare her for this. Not the school counselor, not her father, not WikiHow...and most certinely not her fifty-five year old grandmother, Bambi. Who, in fact, was sitting right next to Alex. So close, Alex could hear Careless Whisper blasting out of her grandmother's hot pink, bedazzled headphones. So close, she could smell the pineapple-mango juice she was drinking. So close, her eyes could wander off to the side, and read the very same page of Fifty Shades of Grey that her grandmother was reading. “I found some baby oil. Let me rub it on your behind."

Okay. Let it be known throughout the land, that there was noting that could prepare her for reading THAT. Alex's mind refrained from concentrating on the matter at hand. The fact that she was sitting there on the hard, red chair in the lobby of Dr. Wang's office. It was unfathomable.

"Bambi Peterson, it's time for your pap-smear," announced the small nurse with the pink, lollipop scrubs. Alex's grandmother rose from her seat, bent down to drop her waiting room essentials beside Alex's feet, and sashayed to the front desk, her blonde colored weave bouncing off her shoulders. As she walked away, Alex read the tight, fuzzy pink yoga pants that Bambi was wearing. Her behind read "SEXI GRAN" in silver jewels. Lollipop Nurse looked like she wasn't getting paid enough for this.

"Great. Just Great," Alex thought. Now she was left alone to watch an accountant and his drag-queen sibling argue on Dr. Phil. She was so nervous, she'd never felt this way before. And that's when the unimaginable happened.

Suddenley, the tsunami was real. Except this time it wasn't blue, like the was a dark red, like the deep bowels of the inferno. And it was bad. Alex didn't know what to do. She wasn't wearing any protection, and she could feel the heavy liquid seeping through her white shorts. It felt like she was a volcano, and her unwanted blood was the lava, slowly traveling through the outskirts, causing mass destruction.

"I could make a run for it," she thought. "I could reach the parking lot, get in the car...I mean, I only have a permit, but-"

Suddenly, her thoughts were interrupted by her grandmother, Bambi Peterson, "SEXI GRAN," barging through the lobby door, still carrying on her conversation with Lollipop Nurse. "...a problem with these results. It says my pap-smear is average, when clearly, it's ABOVE average...oh, Sugar!" Exclaimed grandmother Bambi, when she noticed Alex and her newly red shorts. The breast-feeding mother across the waiting room gasped, and the crying teenage girl at the front desk dropped her pregnancy test on the marble floor.

Alex thought it couldn't get any worse...until ten mintues later when she waddled out of the bathroom wearing a certain too tight, too fuzzy, too pink pair of yoga pants.
"Alexandra Peterson," called Lollipop Nurse, who chuckled as Alex stepped in front of her.

They took a right, and Alex read the plaque on the wooden door. 'Dr. Wang: OB/GYN.' She sighed. Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

August 03, 2015 10:41:52 PM





The sun rose and everything fell. Alex Lobato, age forty-eight, was fed up with the overly complex yoga sequence, “Sun Salutation.” Dressed in grey basketball shorts and a shirt that read, “Jeopardy,” Alex was sweating intensely. Every time he had reached the third step of the exercise, he either fell face first into his purple mat or failed to reach his toes. How was this pose supposed to even remotely resemble a sun rising? What infuriated him even further was the enthusiastic support and attention of the young adults surrounding him in the sweaty room of “Yoga-Maniacz.”
“Come on Alex! Let’s do it again, you were almost there, huh?” the instructor, Mr. Vandelay, exclaimed. He motioned to the rest of the class, about eight other men and women, and they all nodded in agreement. “We all believe in you!”
“OK… Stop there. Stop it. Listen here, buddy. Just know that this has nothing to do with my own intentions. I’m just here because my doctor said it would be good for my blood pressure. And you know what? This? It’s ridiculous. Unreal. Doesn’t even help me. All this kale must have gone to your head,” Alex hostilely retorted.
He did feel absolutely livid about all this unnecessary… imagination that is related with yoga. Alex put his hand in his dark hair. Was it yoga even in the first place? The terms yoga, barre, pilates, and zumba were all muddled in his head.
The instructor crossed his arms with a resolute smile. “Alex, these are two free classes. Can’t you just give it a go? You won’t regret it-- it’ll change your life.”
Alex then furrowed his brows and tapped his large toe on the hardwood floor. The rooms were actually nicely air conditioned and comfortable for him. “Fine. Because it’s free... The most logical thing to do,” he sniffed.
Mr. Vandelay, despite Alex’s tirade, looked unruffled and continued his instruction of Sun Salutation, the sequence of the week. The other yoga students reformed their yoga lines and adjusted their mats and water bottles. The sun was shining quite pleasantly between the clouds outside the great veranda windows of the studio, which displayed a view of the town of Northern Lake Winnebago. As much as Alex liked the small suburban area, he thought of moving to a different city with less millennials. Young people… They were too loud. Too trusting. Too… Glancing over at the others bending in unison, Alex disapprovingly shook his head. They simply embraced crowd mentality. It was inevitable, he thought. However, there was nothing to do now, except to attempt the silly yoga poses to increase his flexibility and decrease his stress, as his doctor advised.
A few hours of agonizing and unnatural bodily stretching passed. Alex reached for the sky. He stretched. He leapt. He lunged. He was able to do everything that past Alex wasn’t able to do before. On the final step of the Sun Salutation, where he had to press his stomach outwards, Alex realized that he no longer felt sore. He felt whole and complete. Alex clearly knew that he was de-stressed, as he was no longer anxious about his cable bills or his kids’ hefty college tuitions. Instead, only yoga sequences and poses were engraved into his mind. As hard it was for him to believe, Alex was morphing into a yoga junkie.
“Alex-- I see you are embracing the yoga lifestyle. Man, I’m diggin’ your style. Talk about a perfect Sun Salutation!” Mr. Vandelay announced as the class was ending.
“Oh my goodness. Perfect. Alex, you have to join my spin class. With your speed, you’d be great. I have a new sweatband you can use,” a woman gushed.
“No no no no no. Lobato’s with me. He’s coming to Zumba and Crossfit. Mondays and Wednesdays. Don’t you see his potential? I’ll give you some protein shakes!” a man replied quickly.
“Hey hey hey hey. Guys. Let’s calm down,” Alex said with an air of satisfaction. “I’m gonna go with Yoga-Maniacz… if I choose to even continue these classes. I see I’m quite the sensation here. I have a new life ahead of me.”
The others agreed in respect of Alex and Mr. Vandelay dismissed the class.
“Now guys! We can continue if you come tomorrow, so please do! Let’s do it!” Mr. Vandelay told the men and women in a loud voice.
As Alex was packing up his duffel bag, he thought about continuing these yoga sessions. He thought about all the benefits. He was probably able to reach the top shelves of supermarkets to make the beef stroganoff he’s been craving. Stairs in his house would be easier. Alex chuckled. Yoga wasn’t crowd mentality. It was simply cooperation to benefit the body. He could become “in” with the young people and be a role model to all of Northern Lake Winnebago! Maybe he would even understand what was hip with his kids. Upon this conclusion, Alex walked out of the yoga studio to his Honda Accord and drove home.
The next day, Alex was dressed in full Lululemon Men's gear. With black running shorts, a gray sweatband, and a pristine blue shirt, he drove to Yoga-Maniacz with a pleasant demeanor. He had found his new passion and overcame all difficulties. Alex parked his car and sauntered over to the studio’s glass doors with his yoga mat. A whole new world of health benefits, friends, and fun was laid before him. Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

August 03, 2015 10:37:51 PM





The sun rose and everything fell. The entire powdery contents of the plastic packet arced majestically through the morning air and then dropped onto the rocks below.
Alex and her mother observed the ashes from the dock in silence. They lay in fluffy piles on the high rocks, yards from the swirling water of the Atlantic.
“Alex!” Alex’s mom cried.
“I totally thought they’d go over! I thought they’d have more, like, velocity? Momentum?”
“It’s powder, imbecile.”
“You told me to do it.”
Another long silence. The ashes began to dissolve into the wet rock, mingling with the bird poop and barnacles like some kind of repulsive version of a Jackson Pollock. A seagull landed to scope out the scene and immediately took flight in distaste.
“Sorry, Dad.”
“Maybe he’ll like it on the rocks. At least it’s an ocean view?”
“I don’t know. That’s a depressing place to spend eternity.”
“Are there any left?”
“Maybe... yeah, nope. I went all in.”
“Why did we do it at the ocean anyway?” Alex ventured. “We don’t even have any nice family memories here. Unless you count the time when you were piggybacking me in the water and he yelled, ‘Whale rider!’ ”
“I don’t.”
“Good thing I missed, then.”
Alex left the dock and went to wade in the water. She dunked the plastic package, swirled it around, and dumped it into the oncoming tide. The flecks of ash dropped into the water and rushed back toward her, splashing all over her thighs. Great. She turned around to look at her mother and shrugged.
“It’s like a Woody Allen movie!” Alex’s mom called.
Slightly more heartened, they walked away through the sand.
“What do you want to do now?” Alex’s mother asked as they crossed the street to their motel.
“I don’t know.”
“We have the rest of the day...we should do something Dad would’ve liked.”
“So, like, eat mixed nuts and watch spaghetti Westerns.” Alex said.
“We could.” They’d reached the room.
“Gross. I won’t watch anything with Clint Eastwood. He’s so anti semitic.”
“That’s Mel Gibson, Alex.” Alex’s mom replied.
“Oh. Then that won’t save us.” Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

August 03, 2015 10:17:41 PM





The sun rose and everything fell. Light bulbs unscrewed from the ceiling and shattered on the floor, one crushing a patch of Ms. Plumpleberry’s prized “carrots” (Alex and most of the neighborhood were convinced that the misshapen brown lumps were potatoes, but considering Ms. Plumpleberry was just recently released from a mental facility, there was a mutual agreement to call them carrots). Pots and pans and vases slid off tabletops and onto the floor, making a surprisingly harmonious clatter. A particularly ugly jug Alex made in second grade also shattered (no complaints there, but he was sure his mother would be upset). A rather large wind chime slid off its hook and onto the head of the old tomcat that hissed at everyone as they walked by (Alex was sure that was karma). The overhead lamp that hung above Alex’s bed (and Alex’s head) also fell, waking him (Alex was sure that was NOT karma). Alex also decided that he preferred the alarm clock. Alex saw the shattered shards of glass and clay outside his window and around his bedroom and felt a growing sense of apprehension. He knew that his sister was a nightmare when she threw a temper tantrum, but wouldn’t he have heard her break all those things? (Note that Alex has no doubt that it was his sister that did this) He wondered what the house outside his room looked like (hoping that his report card from the day before had also been destroyed). Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

August 03, 2015 10:14:39 PM





Lessons on Dying: Making Sure People Attend Your Funeral, and Other Things
By Eileen Deng

“The sun rose and everything fell,” Alex said.
“Oh my Lord, he is being overly dramatic,” the angel next to him said.
Alex paused. What was this guy’s problem? Just because he has a fancy halo and a pair of white wings doesn’t mean he’s got some sort of moral high ground or anything.
“Gabriel, stop being so hateful," God boomed. A new island in Hawaii formed. "The more dramatic stories usually get more retweets." God turned to face Alex and pressed record on his phone. "Continue, my son."
"There's not, um, really much else to say, God."
God sighed. A tornado formed down on Earth.
“Gabriel, why is everyone always so unwilling to tell me all the details?"
Gabriel pressed "Post" and looked up at God to shrug.

1 min
Feeling bored while listening to another sob story—with God and 2,483,274,194 others. #killmenow #butimalreadyinheaven #yol4ever
2,384 likes 274 comments

Ding! Alex's phone vibrated slightly in his pocket. "Oh cool, there's signal up here? Wow! I'm the first one of my friends to be tagged by an angel."
“That’s not really something to feel accomplished for…” Gabriel said, throwing his head to the side to brush away the side bangs on the left side of his face.
God tapped his fingers impatiently. Little rain drops got prematurely knocked out of the clouds. "Hush Gabriel, stop bickering. Thank God—myself. The app for memory viewing has finally downloaded."
"There's an app for that?! Are you gonna use that on me?”
“Yes it's been super helpful since Steve Jobs came up here, our technological advances have progressed a lot with the help of iPhones and myself. Now hold still Alex—"
“Wait what—"


“Ouch, ouch, ouch...where are we?" Alex asked as he slowly lifted himself up from the floor. He was surrounded by the aroma of coffee beans, scones, and the joy of having free wifi. Starbucks.
Next to him he found his iPhone 6, facing upside down. He quickly reached for the phone and checked the screen, making sure it didn’t crack. Suddenly, his phone started to glow and feel warm. He dropped it to the ground. (Thank God for his Otterbox case.)
“You’re very welcome, Alex, but please be gentle with me," he heard God's voice say. "Stop dropping me all over the ground."
“G-God?" Alex asked. He looked down at his phone, picked it up, and wiped the screen with his sleeve—a routine he has performed many times. "Why are you in my phone?"
“I am not in your phone, for God cannot be confined in a phone. Rather, I seemed to have turned into your phone."
"What the he—"
“Heaven's doing was this?"
“Er, sure."
"Whenever I use the app, I must take the form of whatever is most important in the person's life I am viewing.”
Alex scratched an old bug bite that reactivated after being dormant for some time. He had never felt so great of a judgmental aura from his phone, not even when he asked Siri: "Siri, what is 0 divided by 0?"

Imagine you have 0 cookies that you split evenly among 0 friends. How many cookies does each person get? See, it doesn't make sense. And Cookie Monster is sad that there are no cookies. And you are sad that you have no friends.

He couldn't eat another cookie for a whole 30 minutes after that.
“Usually,” God continued, “I take the form of a mother, a father, maybe an older sibling, a wise teacher, a last lover, or a faithful friend.”
Alex scratched even harder, a rash red color formed on his forearm.
“His phone’s probably the last three things,” Gabriel snarked, throwing his side bangs back with the head jerk maneuver.
What’s this guy’s problem? Alex thought.
“I don’t have any problems.”
Okay, so he’s in my head. Great. Just what I—
“So,” God’s voice boomed, “Why do you think we were transported here out of all your memories?”
A wave of images of AP textbooks and classroom handouts layered on a small table while Alex and his girlfriend sat with their laptops and shared notes appeared. He felt the same urge to massage his forehead as he did the night before the AP tests and he was running on 2 hours of sleep and 4 bottles of 5 hour energy. Was he getting a headache?
Alex shrugged. “‘Cause of the free wifi? That’d probably make you stronger since you’re a phone now…”
“No. No, no,” God said. “This place is special to you because…”
Another wave came. This time it brought memories of him grabbing hot chocolate as a child with his dad. His dad wasn’t there to order him his first coffee. He had to do it himself. Another pulsing feeling in his head, as if a fetus formed inside the cavity of his skull. Would there be Advil in Heaven?
“‘Cause I always came here to only buy one drink and sit there for hours mooching off of the free wifi?”
“Forget about the wifi for a second, Alex. This is where you had your last date with your girlfriend.”
Alex scrunched his face and itched his bug bite. The skin hole where the bug had bitten him started bleeding.
“Your girlfriend? Sia? And not the singer of IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII'm gonna swiiiiiiing frooom the—"
“Okay, okay. I know what her name is. I was just trying to think of what our last date was like."
Welp, Alex thought, I guess I can now tell Sia that she has the singing voice of a god, he chuckled. He remembered her singing karaoke on their first date. Well, it wasn’t really a date since they were not a couple yet and they went with a huge group of friends. Still, that was the moment when he noticed her, singing the Giving Tree. He also loved the Plain White T’s.

If all you wanted was love, why would you use me up, cut me down, build a boat, and sail away. When all I wanted to be was your giving tree. Settle down, build a home and make you happy? Settle down, build a home, and make you happy?

“I think the Lord's singing voice is amazing,” Gabriel puffed. “You should feel honored to have heard it.”
“You don't need to remember it. We’re gonna see it play out right now.”
As the iPhone, or rather God, said this, Alex was walking in with a naked Sia.
“What the fu—dge?” Alex said. “I know for a fact that she was not naked during our date. I would have noticed.”
“I’m sure you would have,” snickered Gabriel. Alex couldn’t see him but somehow he knew that Gabriel did the little head jerk again.
Shut up, Alex thought. Why don’t you just get a bobby pin for your bangs or something?
“Are you sure?” God asked. “The only reason she’s, ahem, not wearing any clothes, is because you didn’t notice what she was wearing.”
“Have you noticed how no one is really here? We can only see them as much as you paid attention to them during that moment. Look, people materialize a little bit when you try sidestepping them and look up from your phone, but they immediately disappear afterwards.”
Alex watched himself and his girlfriend head to grab the tall seats near the window. She seemed cold by the seats, how come he didn’t notice? In the past, when either of them were stuck taking a table under a vent, they would go outside to the little kiddy park and sit on a bench by the small playground where little kids would sit in the sandbox and dig. They were too young to build castles or houses, but they did what they could, and all the digged up sand created small mountains next to them. Then one kid would accidentally let sand fly into another kid’s eyes and the other kid would cry and the moms would stop talking and come take their kids away. Memory Alex walked over to join the long line that materialized. Suddenly, the memory world shifted.


Alex’s vision cleared and he found himself contained in a small square. Inside the square he had an arm around Sia’s shoulder as they stood in front of the Chicago Bean. The small square was in a bigger rectangle that said, “What’s on your mind?”. Above, there was a bar that said ‘Status’, ‘Photo’, and ‘Check In’. Above that was a blue bar with a search bubble.
“Ah, Facebook. I approve,” Gabrielle said as he brushed his hair away with his hand.
The posts started moving up, all different posts from Humans of New York, The Best of Tumblr, Lunarbaboon...Memory Alex stopped at Amy Simon’s post:

Amy Simon added 32 new photos to the album: Summer2k15.
22 hours
Had so much fuun today! Miss you guys <3 #squad with Sia LeBlanc and 8 others.

“Hi, what would you like to order?”
“One venti iced skinny hazelnut macchiato sugar-free syrup extra shot light ice no whip. One lemonade.”
The lemonade was for Sia. She had a weird obsession with lemons that he found out the first time she cooked something for him for a picnic. That’s probably what she would say was their first date. She had little boxes of different dishes prepared, and Alex brought some kabobs to grill. She brought a bag of lemons from ShopRite.
He clicked on Amy Simon, on About, on More about Amy, and scrolled down to the relationship status. It’s complicated.
More time elapsed in the phone background. Somewhere through the liking, commenting, and stalking, Memory Alex had managed to finish half of his drink.
“So…” Sia said. Memory Alex glanced up. “How was your trip to Chicago?”
He looked back down at his phone. “Hm? Yeah, Chicago, yeah it was great. Got to see the bean. What ‘bout you? Last week?”
“Idiot I was with you on that trip!”
Alex looked up and swat at a fly. “Huh?”
“Why would I ask you? I was with you! Look! Look at your profile picture! Who is that standing right next to you and holding a peace sign?”
“Oh yeah...sorry Sia, just a little distracted.”
“You, you’re always distracted. You’re always staring at your phone and giggling like a first grader at some cat meme. You want a meme? I’ll give you a meme.” She made her bag do a high kick and hang onto her shoulder and stood up so that the chair made a loud friction sound against the floor. “Caption it: when girlfriend leaves me because I’m being a douchebag.”
“Wait Sia! Urgh, darn it.” Alex tried slapping the fly on his arm. “Darn it!”
Memory Alex ran out of the Starbucks and the others got transported to inside his car.
Alex returned to his bug bite. The blood had dried into a small dot scab.
Memory Alex started driving down Eisenhower Parkway at 78 mph. He did the small crowd weaving movements that he learned from having to reach from one end of the hallway to the other to reach the cafeteria line. Little images of him and Sia racing each other down the hallway from their third period science class appeared. They’d inch toward the door slowly even though their teacher always said, “I’m the one who lets you go, not the bell.”
He held the home button on his phone.
“Siri, where is the nearest flower shop?”
“Here is what I have found: Big Lemon Tire 0.7 mi…”
“No!” He pressed the button again.
“Siri, where is the nearest flaaa-wer shop?”
“Here is what I found: Funeral Flower Shop 0.2 mi…”
He sighed. He clicked on the name and ‘Directions to Here’. ‘Route’. ‘Start’.

Today at 3:54 PM
You still there
Im comin back



“Well,” God said, “We’re almost at the ending.”
Alex buried his head in his hands. “Do we have to continue? We can just end here. I get it. I screwed up and I died.”
“We can’t, my son. We have to read the whole till you reach me.”
Alex stared at his body resting on the white sheets, with wires connected to him and monitors surrounding him. His eyes roamed to the phone placed on the small tray next to the head of the bed. The body’s hand reached out for the phone and grabbed. Memory Alex slid open the home screen and opened Facebook.
A few seconds later, a small vibration appeared in Alex’s phone, which was in his pocket.

5:50 AM
Sia LeBlanc and 50 other people are going to your event: Alex’s Funeral.

Outside, the sun started rising. Memory Alex’s belly stopped moving up and down. Alex threw his own phone down, and the memory shattered. The sun rose and everything fell.


“So,” God said, “We’re back.”
Alex stared at his sad bug bite. It had started bleeding again.
“That story was definitely a lot more thorough that your ‘I got into a car accident and died’ one. Gabriel, give him a small tour.”
“Let’s make this quick,” Gabriel said, leading Alex down a path lined with golden doors. “I know there’s probably only one section you really want to see: this door leads to the technology section.” Gabriel smirked and flipped his side bangs to the side.
Alex frowned in disgust. Why would I want to use my phone after how I died? he thought.
“And just in case you’re trying to be an idiot, I’m not inside your head anymore,” Gabriel said as he left Alex there at the door.
He could strangely imagine Gabriel with a group of head jerking side bang flippers, laughing at his story. Alex sighed and stared at his phone, which had broken when he threw it to the ground. There was no one to talk to and he was bored.
Who else RSVP’d to my funeral? he thought. Steve better not be coming. That jerk was always ogling Sia. Bet he’ll take this as his lucky chance, the weird voodoo dolls he’s been carrying around finally worked. If only I had my phone and I could check...
Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

August 03, 2015 10:13:28 PM





The sun rose and every thing fell, including Alex’s mood: it was day one of the cruise he’d be on with his grandparents for the next week. They were headed to Alaska.

That morning, as his grandparents slept, Alex was free to wander the ship. The Super Fun Kidz Klub was super empty. In the center of the ship was a casino, but all Alex could see through the large glass doors was swirling cigar smoke. It was nine o’clock in the morning.

Alex went up a level and found the cruise ship’s morning TV show being taped. He sat down in the audience and observed the show’s host yelling at a much larger man. “I’m out of here,” the big guy said.

“Oh really now. Bring it on bow-wow!” shouted the host, fists raised.

Soon, security guards appeared to drag the host away. “No need for concern ladies and gentleman, Jonas here seems to be suffering from cabin fever.”

This ship drives people crazy, Alex thought.

The rest of the day he slept, drained from yesterday’s long plane ride. When Grandma woke him up, it was time for dinner. Because they were just a trio, Alex and his grandparents shared a table with two other small families. One family was composed of three Canadians. Grandpa Bob was delighted by this because he considered hockey one of his many areas of expertise. The other family was an elderly black couple from Atlanta.

Grandpa Bob was first to break the ice as he asked the Atlanta couple, “So, are you from the South?” When they confirmed his suspicions, Grandpa Bob explained, “I could tell by your accents.” The couple introduced themselves as James and Beronica, and Grandpa Bob patted the man on the back saying, “James, I just wanted to let you know that I very involved in the civil rights movement in the 60’s.”

“Good to hear,” James responded, as Grandpa Bob assured him, “No need to thank me, I just did what was right.”

A period of silence ensued as everyone looked into their water glasses.

“So James, do you play any sports?” Grandpa Bob inquired.

“I swim laps at the YMCA from time to time,” James said.

“I bet you’re a big basketball fan,” said Grandpa Bob.

“Not really, although I do coach my three-year-old grandson’s team.”

“Did you hear that, Alex? A pro basketball coach right at our table!” Grandpa Bob said gleefully. “How about you give Alex some pointers tomorrow?”
“I guess I could try that,” James responded.

The rest of dinner was filled with inconsequential chit-chat. The mustachioed patriarch of the Canadian family bragged that he had been able to convince Buckingham palace security that his hand gun was a medically prescribed “comfort object” to combat stress.

Later that evening, Alex walked back to the cabin by himself. When passing through the photo gallery, Alex spotted a few pictures from dinner with James, Beronica, and the Canadians. He found it disconcerting that other people could buy photos of him. As he stood alone, gazing at one portrait of his dinner group, he didn’t know how he’d survive six more dinners like it. Then he felt a hand cup his shoulder, and Grandpa Bob gestured toward a photo, saying, “I kind of look like Brad Pitt in this one, don’t you think?”

This question was likely triggered by a group in line for dinner who had mistaken Grandpa Bob for the lead actor in an overplayed diabetes commercial. One woman had even started singing the jingle, “Whatcha gonna do if you don't like needles? Sniff it! Whatcha gonna do if you don't like ladles? Drink it!” This jingle was so universally loathed that a group of Japanese tourists joined in the mocking chorus. One man asked Grandpa Bob to pose with him for a selfie.

The next morning Alex woke up to Grandpa Bob saying, “Wake up, brutha! Maybe today you’ll get to ball James so hard!” After a quick breakfast, Alex made his way to the sports deck.

It was overcast and cold up at the basketball court, where Alex found Grandpa Bob, in a t-shirt with neon orange lettering that spelled out BASKETBALL! sitting next to James. “Nice shirt,” Alex commented. Grandpa Bob grinned, “Thanks, I can get one for you if you want.” Alex smiled politely at this offer. Grandpa Bob continued, “I got one for James too, but he decided that he didn't want to get it sweaty so that he could wear it to dinner.”

James nodded.

“So, are we gonna play, or what?” Grandpa Bob asked excitedly.

“I thought James was going to give me some pointers,” Alex said. “I figured we could both give you some pointers,” Grandpa Bob assured Alex.

Alex thought back to the last time he had played basketball with Grandpa Bob. When Alex was six years old, the 5’ 9” Grandpa Bob had blocked each of his shots and yelled, “Not in my house!”

Alex’s attention was brought back to the present when he stepped on the court and Grandpa Bob forcefully passed the ball to him. “Caught you sleeping there,” he jawed. Alex took a shot from far beyond the three point line and banked it in. “Nice shot,” Grandpa Bob said begrudgingly, scowling at James.

“My bad, I thought this was a warm up,” James replied.

The rest of the game went much the same way with Grandpa Bob’s chatter and James’s general confusion. When the game ended, Grandpa Bob patted Alex on the back and said, “I’m really glad I was able to teach you a thing or two, you really improved as the game went on.”

“Sorry about my grandpa,” Alex said quietly to James once his grandfather was out of ear shot.

“Oh, Bob? He’s a hoot. It’s rare you make friends on trips like this.”

As Alex walked back to his cabin, he tried to understand what James liked about Grandpa Bob. Whether this was luck or just something he didn’t understand about old men and friendship, Alex did not know. He walked and walked, past the Kidz Klub, past the casino, through the photo gallery, until he finally reached his room. Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

August 03, 2015 10:12:53 PM





The sun rose and everything fell. Years later, scientists (the living ones, anyway) speculated that the earth’s gravitational attachment to the sun had probably been corroding for decades, dissolving quietly over time. But speculation is speculation, and the fact is that nobody knew exactly when or why the planet had been ripped from its orbit. And besides, for most people (the kinds of people who were prone to hysteria and hadn’t been very good at understanding science, even on a good day), the when and the why didn’t matter much.
What actually mattered was the fact that the world collectively woke up one morning and turned on the news and stared in shock at the television, a forkful of fried egg or French toast or frittata suspended halfway to their mouths. The entire planet, the newscaster informed them, was sinking downward into the vast expanse of the universe below. The newscaster seemed a little overly perky, given the circumstances.
“And is the paint on your pipes doing serious damage to your children? Tune in tonight to find out.” Apparently, Channel 4 thought that lead paint and the slow descent of the planet demanded similar threat levels. “And now onto Bob with the weather!”
Because the planet was drifting away from the sun, the tan and jovial weatherman predicted that it would be overcast for the rest of the foreseeable future. And then after the weather was a brief report on how the impending apocalypse might affect everyone’s commute (“In my experience, folks tend to flee in a, uh, northward direction and I don’t know about you, Cynthia, but I’d say that steering clear of the Holland Tunnel would be the best bet.”).
In a pre-war apartment on the Lower East Side that did not have a television, Alex Brandanowitz stood in his living room, his jaw slack and his eyes unfocused. He took off his glasses and polished them on his shirt and then, after a second or two, did it again. His face was a sickly gray color. If someone had walked into the room right at that particular moment, they would have assumed that he was having a stroke or, at the very least, reacting to a severe peanut allergy. But nobody did walk into that room. Alex didn’t have any children, and his wife had left a note saying that she would be at Pilates until noon. The reason that Alex was so ashen-faced was because he had only just realized that his wife was not, in fact, at Pilates. She had probably never even been to Pilates.
Alex’s wife was having an affair with a man named Kevin. Alex didn’t know anyone named Kevin, and for some reason this bothered him the most. Somehow, he thought, he would have felt better about this if she’d been seeing someone from her office or in the building, or one of his college friends. Alex didn’t know this Kevin person and he, for his part, didn’t know Alex, or how much Alex loved and desired and agonized over his wife.
Alex had discovered the affair because his wife had accidently left her phone on the bathroom sink, next to the toothpaste. He had been trying to shave and the phone wouldn’t stop buzzing, so he picked it up, trying to silence it, and saw a string of incriminating and very poorly-spelled texts in which Kevin (whoever he was) outlined to Alex’s wife exactly what he would do to her once she got to his apartment. Alex had read them all twice, stood there mutely for a minute, then wandered into the living room, shaving cream still on his face.
He wasn’t sure if this explained a lot about his marriage or if it explained nothing at all.
In hindsight, Alex thought, he should have known that she wasn’t going to Pilates. She always came back smiling just a little too much, and besides, when he had asked if he could come to a class sometime, she’d insisted (a little too quickly) that he wouldn’t like it, despite the fact that one of her chief complaints about him was that he was unwilling to try new things.
Alex sat on the ottoman, gripping his knees to his chest so tightly that his knuckles turned white. He remembered a writer (maybe Bukowski) once said, “Find what you love and let it kill you.” And he had, hadn’t he? Metaphorically, at least, he’d let her grab his internal wiring and yank it all out. But you know, in a loving way. And it wasn’t her fault. He’d asked her to, practically begged her. She’d tried to break up during their sophomore year of college in the back of her roommate’s station wagon, and he’d cried so hard that eventually she just gave up. And honestly, when she’d said no the first and then the second time that he’d proposed, he should have just stopped asking. If anything, he thought, all of this was his fault, not hers. He’d driven her to it, by being oblivious and awkward and by embarrassing her at parties in front of her intellectual friends because he brought the wrong wine and mispronounced “Iran.”
Alex pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose with a long, thin finger and thought. This, he decided, was something fixable, something that could be solved by marriage counseling or better communication or maybe, maybe less communication. After another moment or two, Alex went into the kitchen and tried to make himself coffee. But there wasn’t any milk, so he pulled on socks and shoes and left, and nobody was there to tell him to wipe the shaving cream from his face.
Alex left the house without even glancing at the newspaper on the doormat (Earth Slipping into Oblivion, the headline read, and just below it, Albany Still in Gridlock). He now felt bizarrely numb as he drifted in and then out of the elevator, then down the stairs and out of the lobby, and then seven blocks east, to the only health food store that sold the type of almond milk his wife liked.
He wandered back home, his mind in a fog. He vaguely noticed that there were more people on the street than usual, but he chalked up the crowds screaming and looting to a Bastille Day parade that had gotten slightly out of hand.
If Alex and his wife had bought a television instead of a record player, he would probably have switched it on when he got home, looking for some kind of distraction, and learned that after leaving the sun’s orbit, the earth was now losing its own gravitational field, too. The gases that comprised the atmosphere would be the first thing to go, and oxygen had already started leaking out, like air from a punctured balloon. Eventually, gravity would be gone entirely, but many guessed that all of humanity would be long dead by the time the loss of gravity would really start to affect them. A scientist at NASA was interviewed, and seemed to be unable to say anything aside from repetitively stating that a rocket evacuation of at least some of the population quote “wasn’t in the budget.”
The situation had escalated quickly. Alex would have seen video clips of the pandemonium around the city and the world: hospitals being ransacked by hysterical mobs that were looking for oxygen masks; a sea of cars, all honking, trying in vain to get from here to somewhere, anywhere else; several sobbing LAPD officers and man with a faded sandwich board that read, “The End is Nigh” sitting on the curb, looking just as panicked as everyone else.
Birds were falling out of the sky. All planes were grounded until further notice, because there was no telling whether this strange new atmosphere would support them. People were retreating to bomb shelters with all the guns they could carry. Obviously, these were the kinds of people who wouldn’t listen to the indisputable scientific evidence that shooting the atmosphere would not make it more breathable. There was no telling how long the earth’s oxygen levels would accommodate human habitation.
But they had bought a record player, and so Alex knew none of this. Instead, he put on a Joni Mitchell album and sat on the floor with his legs crossed. He stayed like that, motionless, until he heard the click of her key in the lock.
He listened as his wife came in, kicking off her shoes and closing the door behind her. He heard her humming a song that he couldn’t identify, and he suddenly felt very far away from her.
He heard the bedroom door close and the muffled sounds of the radio, and at that moment he wanted her so horribly that he had to sit down and restrain himself from running into the room and pulling her close to him and just standing there with her pressed against him until everything was back to the way it used to be.
“Alex? Alex,” she called through the door, and the panic in her voice surprised him. He’d never heard her sound quite like that before, like she needed someone.
He had no idea that the world was falling into a black abyss, nor did he know that the reason his wife was panicked because she’d looked outside and seen that the deli across the street was being set on fire. All he knew, all he cared about, was that he was wanted.

He got up and walked towards the door and then he paused, his hand on the doorknob, and understood that he would never tell her what he’d found out. He felt a strange sense of both defeat and, somehow, triumph. Kevin, that asshole, wasn’t in control of him. They would make this work. They could always make this work.
He wasn’t a smart man. But then again, he had never pretended to be.
There was a funny feeling in his lungs that he couldn’t quite pinpoint. Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

August 03, 2015 10:08:37 PM





One Of Those Days

The sun rose and everything fell. Technically, this was Alex’s fault – he swung a little too hard, a little too clumsily for the snooze button and knocked everything off his nightstand – but who could blame him. He was still in that liminal state between slumberland and wakefulness where animal instinct holds more influence over the body’s actions than anything else. Mornings are hard. In any case, it wasn’t the mere act of knocking everything off his nightstand that seemed to distinguish today as One Of Those Days. It was the incredible improbability of how everything fell, in such perfect disarray and fantastic catastrophe, that it was something to marvel at, something to behold. It went like this: Alex’s hand, sweeping the bedside table in a desperate search for the snooze button, managed to knock every single item atop the nightstand to fall. A glass of water spilled onto the book report on the floor, which was due first period, so Alex would have no time to rewrite it before class. The alarm clock fell into the resulting puddle, short-circuiting with a sad little bzzrt, and as its power cord had been wrapped around one of the hind legs of the nightstand, it toppled over the entire bedside table. The resulting tremor, small though it was, was still enough to knock over several books (Damn, thought Alex, I knew I shouldn’t have just left those up in a domino-like configuration), which then fell, one after the other, knocking over the urn of Grandpa’s ashes that Alex had accidentally left in a precarious position on the side of the desk. It felt to the ground and shattered. All this at 7:00AM. Also, a framed picture of Alex and his late grandfather fell to the ground and cracked, which wasn’t the worst thing in the world, because the frame was replaceable and had no sentimental value, but it added a certain quality of insult to injury that really drove home the absurdity of Alex’s morning. Like, come on, what’re the chances? These are odds so unrealistic that you go to buy a lottery ticket but get crushed by a falling anvil on your way out the door.
Indeed, Alex remained slumped in bed, still struggling to internalize the statistical implications of the morning he had just had thrust upon him. This was the type of thing that fueled Alex’s private belief that sometimes the universe had chosen him to target for its own perverted, cosmic amusement. I mean, not even five minutes past seven, and there was already a thick paste forming on the hardwood floor where the ashes met the puddle of water. A thick paste that Alex would go on to step on as soon as he wrenched himself out of bed and onto the floor. “Wow, can this day get any worse? I mean come on! The reader doesn't even know me that well! There's no karmic justification for why any of this should be happening!” Alex whined, just breaking the fourth wall like that and oh come on Alex you can't be serious.
"What?" Alex said. "Who is this?"
You can't just go and break the fourth wall like that. It's ridiculous. It introduces a metafictional element to the story that has no business existing here.
"The Universe?"
No. And stop trying to guess. It's best if we leave this part ambiguous.
"What's happening? I'm scared."
You should be. You messed everything up.
"Mom's gonna be so mad about Grandpa's ashes!"
Yeah, you really fucked that one up, kid. That never made sense to begin with, you just having that in your room like that.
"I knoooow."
But I'll help you.
"Really? How?"
I'm going to introduce a door into this story. When you walk through this door, everything will be reverted. You will essentially travel back to the instant before you woke up. Be more careful with the alarm clock this time. And don't leave your books in a domino-like configuration leading towards your Grandpa's ashes.
"You're bringing time travel into this? Seriously?"
That little shit.
"I just feel like it's kind of a deus ex machina and the reader will totally see right through this transparent attempt at ending the story before a natural ending can occur."
"Are you sure?"
Pft. Am I sure.
Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

August 03, 2015 10:08:14 PM





The sun rose and everything fell.
“Ah, shit,” I breathed out as I began throwing items from my bed to the floor. Each item came down, one after another, from the broken shelf above my bed. First, came my pair of rain boots. I can’t wait to kick these babies in one day, I thought to myself. My friends and family say I’m an idiot for buying rain boots since California’s in a drought. Well, I say California is gonna have to rain eventually, and when it does, I’ll be ready.
The rain boots were also used as a book stopper. Each book created a loud thud once it banged against my shiny, bald head (which I prefer to polish myself).
I closed my eyes when I heard the familiar sound of a heavy ball rolling towards me - my disco ball. That ball has a lot of sentimental value: it was from my 36th birthday party. I invited my whole family and all of my four friends, but not even my mom showed up. Anyway, it was at an ice rink and the disco ball added so much more life and pizzazz to the party than there already was. Man, that was a great day, I thought, right before it landed on my head and knocked me out.
When I gained consciousness, my heart dropped a little. “Not again,” I whispered to myself as I looked over at my beaming digital clock that read “6:47 A.M.” I fell out of bed, brought down by my tangled bedsheets. My mom was supposed to come over and make my bed a few days ago but she made up some lame excuse about "being an adult" and "doing things on my own", so I'm stuck with this mess. I groaned loudly before I used all of the strength left in my scrawny body to pick myself up. While running to the bathroom to take a bath, I began stripping myself naked. I was fully undressed by the time I entered the bathroom.
“Good morning,” my best friend and roommate, Alex, said from the toilet with a newspaper held in his hands.
I grabbed a towel and wrapped it around my waist. “What the hell, Alex?”
“Hey, you didn’t knock.”
“I didn’t think I would have to. God.” I threw my hands up in the air. “You wake up at noon every day.”
“Not today.” Alex laughed under his breath as he got up and flushed the toilet.
“Will you hurry up? I’m going to be late for work. I can’t be late today, I have a huge presentation.” That didn’t move him. “You leave me no choice,” I said right before I farted, stinking up the bathroom.
“I’m leaving, I’m leaving,” Alex surrendered as he left the bathroom.
I shook my head and swiped off my towel. Before I stepped in the bath I made sure it had the right amount of bubbles. I gathered my toys: rubber ducky, Jaw the Shark, Hungry Hippo, and some action figures. I know I’m an adult, but can you really blame me for enjoying a quality bath? Why should I stop bathing the way I want to just because I’m 42 years old? No one ever has an answer for that one.
I grabbed my shark and action figure to recreate a classic scene from the movie Jaws. I sang the theme song while the shark circled the action figure, but was soon interrupted by Alex.
“It’s 7:15, Jack!”
I dropped my toys and began squeezing the almost empty shampoo bottle as hard as I could. I was satisfied with the tiny drop I was given, and rubbed it into my bare scalp. You get what you get, you know?
After rinsing the small bit of product in my scalp, I attempted to step out of the bath. My feet were extremely wet against the dry tiled floor, and so once again, I fell. I’m a clumsy person, alright?
My feet shuffled back, my arms flailing in the air. I lost all control over my body. I landed with my head and back inside the bath while my legs were in the air. Using the muscles in my upper body, I tried to grasp the edge of the bath. After several failed attempts, I finally picked myself up and wrapped myself in a robe that wasn’t exactly the right fit.
“Jack? Are you still here?” Alex shouted from his bedroom.
“Yeah!” I began wiping down the mess I made on the floor.
“It’s 7:30.” Alex walked towards me.
“Oh my God. I’m late. I can’t believe it. I’m gonna get fired.” I sat down on the edge of the sink and held my face in my hands.
“Dude,” Alex sighed.
“Yeah?” I removed my hands from my face.
“Put some pants on. I can see everything.” Alex shook his head and walked out.
I decided to dress myself and ran to my closet. I opened my drawer and stared at my selection of patterned underwear. I moved my index finger to my lips, lightly tapping it as I stood there deciding. I chose to go with my plain old black boxers. I put on my standard work clothes and took a good look at myself in the mirror. I nodded slightly at my reflection, admiring the outcome.
“Jack! Hurry!” Alex called. Again.
As soon as I was brought back to reality, I grabbed my briefcase and hurried out the door. Realizing I had forgotten the most important meal of the day, I stopped by a local grocery store to grab myself a gallon of milk and a box of cereal. After looking at my watch once again, I opened the milk and chugged the drink, spilling it on my attire. I can’t do this, I thought to myself. I whipped out my cell phone and called Alex.
“Yo.” Thank God he answered.
“Alex, I need you to assist me at my presentation today.”
“I can’t do this on my own and you’ve listened to me rehearse so many times, you've probably memorized it.”
Alex laughed, "I don’t know. Speaking in front of a bunch of boring people in business suits isn’t really my thing.”
“I would do this for you, you know that. C’mon,” I pleaded.
I heard him let out a heavy sigh before he agreed to my plan.

When I picked up Alex, he looked surprisingly sharp.
“Dude, you look fire,” I complimented.
Alex smirked in response. “Unlike yourself. What’s all over your shirt, bro?”
“I spilled milk on myself, but don’t worry it comes out in the wash.” We high fived.
Once we reached the doors, I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, terrified for what was going to happen next. I smelled like milk.

"What is the presentation on again?" Alex asked.
"...Boycotting dairy farms..."
Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.

August 03, 2015 10:01:31 PM





The sun rose and everything fell.

That’s literally how every godforsaken day of her life starts--according to her. The sun will shine through that hole in the wall you call a window and everything will suck. Then she will get up and walk downstairs to come face to face with her smiling parents. It’s repulsive--the nerve of those people. The way they smile. The way they offer her orange juice. Orange juice! How dare they present before her something containing vitamin C? It’s ridiculous!

Oh, she suffers from the tough life of living in the suburbs with food on the table and a roof over her head. The tough, goth life. If you ever ask her, she’ll say that she hasn’t chosen the goth life--the goth life has chosen her. She’s quite proud of her goth-ness.

Goth, gothic, goth, goth.

I take a seat on her bed, staring at her as she lays on the floor and does what goths do best: hating everything. As Taylor Swift would put it, she’s a hater who was going to ‘hate, hate, hate, hate, hate’...

Sorry, I just paused to pat myself on the back. I’m really proud that I made a reference to something hip. You know, keeping up with the kids. I feel--how do they say it?--#Swag yo.


The poor girl is really starting to feel alone, and so she does the completely normal thing and decides to hold band auditions to force people into being her frie--

Protagonist: You creep! What are you doing here?!

She stops contemplating her evil friendship-achieving plan to turn to me and shout those very words, to which I calmly reply with the appropriate amount of sass: “I’m narrating your life. What do you think I’m doing?”

Now. To the auditions…

I am currently positioned behind a bush outside her house in order to narrate this series of events. I realize that my behavior can be perceived as somewhat stalker-like, but I am merely doing my job.

When Justin Bieber makes those shrill, high-pitched screams with his mouth and passes it off as singing without including a caution label, don’t judge. That’s him doing his job.

And now I’m doing mine.

Don’t judge.

Aaand here comes our first auditionee. Stunning--truly. Just now, she shuffled in with her suspenders on, glasses high, and spit dripping out of her mouth. She struggles to speak through her enormous headgear.

Let’s see how our protagonist approaches this one. The encounter proceeds something like this:

Protagonist: (Sighs and then gestures dramatically and sarcastically) ‘The sun rose and everything fell.’ Take it from there.

See, our protagonist doesn’t eat her feelings--she writes them down through song. She doesn’t want to end up like one of those obese Americans a certain Ariana Grande hates so much.

Nerd Girl: (Overly-geeky retainer-muffled tone, pushes up glasses) S-sure.

Protagonist: (Points very pointedly at Nerd Girl) And cover your eyes.

Nerd girl: Wha-?

Protagonist: The eyes are the window to the soul. Your soul reeks of textbook, bruh.

Nerd Girl:B-bu--!

Protagonist: (Sassy swish of hand) No. Close ‘em.

Nerd girl: (Sniffs and wipes nose) Um... uh, ok. (Sings off key) The sun rooose and everything fellllll--

(The sounds just produced may or may not have made my cerebrum bleed a little bit.)

Protagonist: (Covers ears) Stahp!! Don’t make those noises in my presence--you sound like a whiny dork!

Nerd Girl: (Sniffs) Well, I am a--

Protagonist: (Pained look on face) Please tell me you play an instrument or something, ‘cause your voice honestly sucks.

Nerd Girl: (Perks up) I play the bass guitar!

Protagonist: (Facepalms) Then why didn’t you bring it?!?! Oh my God, you’re killing me here!

Following this comment, our beloved protagonist continues ranting for quite some time.

Nerd Girl: (Through ranting) Well… your flyer kinda said vocal auditions, sooo…

Protagonist: (Freezes)

Protagonist: (Slowly grins and points at Nerd Girl, laughing.) I could use someone like you.

Nerd Girl: (Looks excited and jumps up and down) Really?!

Protagonist: (Immediately serious) No.

Nerd Girl: (Sniffs and looks down) Oh, oka--

Protagonist: (Speaks quickly) But I pity you due to your most likely non-existent social ranking, and so I’ll let you in the band. What’s your name?

Nerd Girl: Alberta Curie-Hawking-Copernicus-Edison-Bohr- Einstein. (Voice stops being shaky and suddenly becomes confident)

This piece of information was considered for a good 2.76 seconds.

Protagonist: (Stares at Alberta) No.

Alberta: No? (Returns to shaky, nerdy voice)

Protagonist: Nope. From now on you will be called Attack.

Alberta: Umm...

Protagonist: You know what? It’s time for a makeover. (Stands up)

Alberta: (Is dragged out from behind mic by our protagonist) Wait--wait! Alex, what are you d--?

Protagonist: (Swivels around to face Alberta, angry expression) NEVER SPEAK THAT HORRID NAME IN MY PRESENCE.

There we go, back to me--Finally! I get to explain the whole name thing.

Those snobby main characters are always like this. They take the spotlight for hours and force the poor sweet narrator to desperately try to stay relevant to the story in between lines.


It is true--the girl hates to be called Alex. On her 7½th birthday, she decided once and for all to live her life as none other than Daggers...period. Occasionally with the surname of Demolition. Perhaps it was her hatred for normality that caused her to see to this change in her identity. Or perhaps it was her longing for some sort of rebellion against the common American social structure that drove her to--

“Would you please shut that hole in your face?” Daggers (Alex?) yells as she pulls the bush protecting my face out of the way, revealing my presence.

I, extremely offended, reply to this with a huff--“Rude,”--and back out of a random magical doorway, disappearing.

I know, I’m so mysterious. At least that’s what I put on my profile. I don’t know why I haven’t gotten more dates. Maybe it’s a glitch. Or because under hobbies I put ‘Following a goth girl around and narrating her pathetic life’... No. It must be a glitch. In fact…

Oh, right, back to the story. Stupid, snobby main characters, stealing all my spotlight. Whatever. The rest of their encounter went something a little like this:

Daggers: (Sighs and turns to Alberta) Now.

Insert some epic music here.

Daggers: Are you prepared to dedicate your mind and body to a band of pure epicness and superiority, in the process selling to me your soul and binding yourself by blood to the sister and brethren of Death for the rest of eternity?!?!

End the epic music here.

Alberta: Wh-what? ‘Death?’

Daggers: (Disappointed) Oh come on! It’s the band’s name! Now are you in or not?

Alberta: Ummm… can you repeat everything you just said?


(She has just taken a moment to process the stupidity of the exchange that just occurred, and also to prevent herself from exploding.)

Daggers: Fine. (Inhales and exhales)

Revive the epic music here.

Daggers: Are you prepared to dedicate your mind and body to a band of pure epicness and superiority, in the process selling to me your soul--

Aaaand kill it again.

Alberta: What?!? No--I won’t sell you my soul!

Me: Evidently she doesn’t have what it takes.

Oh, don’t mind me popping back up every now and then to help out my dear friend/spotlight hogger Daggers.

Daggers: I SAID SHUT UP.

Also evidently, she doesn’t appreciate my input.

Daggers: (Shrugs me off and turns back to Alberta, annoyed.) Fine. Keep your soul. It probably smells like that musty textbook that lives at the bottom of my locker, anyway. Now put this on. (Pulls leather jacket out of no where.)

Muffled voices and screams follow as Daggers(Alex?) shoves the jacket and several other garments of goth clothing onto Alberta. I decided to be a gentleman and look away.

“A few moments later,” to quote Spongebob, Alberta reveals herself to the world, now adorned with several black accessories.

Alberta: (Grabs glasses and puts them on to badass music, fire background; makes rock on symbol) Death bruh. Death.

Daggers gives her nod of approval.

So, due to my stupid contract and blah blah blah, I can no longer give long, suspenseful buildups to auditions. I just knew when I took this job that they’d hired me for the looks. I mean, with my yellow teeth, doogie-brown eyes, and luscious unibrow, I am absolutely stunning. Everyone just uses me and won’t give two craps about what’s on the inside. *Sob*

S-sorry--just got a bit choked up there. My beauty’s simply a blessing and a curse. I-I mean with my fourteenth marriage and all…

Oh, right--the dumb audition.

So this time I got smart and hid in the place Daggers never goes: Behind the treadmill. The scene went something a little like this:

Annoying Girl: (Wears an extremely fake grin, smiling and holding a tray of cookies far too close to Daggers) Hi my name is Rainbow Glitter and I like sunshine and puppies and unicorns!

Ugh, I hate her already.

Daggers: (Raises eyebrows) Your name is Rainbow Glitter?

Rainbow: That’s riiiiight!(Sing-songy voice) My parents originally named me Rachel Gluckman but I thought that wasn't very nice, so I decided to call myself Rainbow Glitter! Yay me! Cookie??? (Holds out tray)

Daggers: (Pushes tray away with one finger) Yeahokayfinewhatever--can you sing or play an instrument or anything?

Rainbow: I like to pride myself in spreading joy, as well as rainbows, glitter and unicorn feces--more commonly known as sparkles-- through song! To aid me in that magical process, I use a guitar. (Pulls acoustic guitar out of no where.)

Daggers: (Rolls eyes and nods) Take it from ‘The sun rose and everything fell.’

Rainbow: (Glances down) Oh… See, I thought the lyrics weren't very joyful and nice, so I decided to change them a little.

Daggers: Umm… okay. (Uneasily)

Rainbow: (Very off-key, bubbly voice ) Rainbows and glitter yay! Unicorn feces and sparkles yay! Cookie? cookie? cookie? (Shoves cookies in daggers face)

I hate this child.

Daggers: Oh my God--fine! (Takes one bite, chews thoughtfully, and then spits it out, hacking) What's in this?!?!?!??!

Rainbow: Flour, sugar, and chocolate… all baked in with happiness and love!

Daggers: What's the matter with you? Are you trying to poison me?! Everyone knows I'm allergic to happiness and love!

Rainbow: (Exaggerated sweet voice) Oh my gawsh! Alex! I'm so--

Right about here, I’d imagine some dramatic, end-of-world, Armageddon-style music playing.

Daggers: (Falls out of chair when Rainbow says ‘Alex’ and begins choking with hands to throat) That name--never speak that name!! I’m--dying… (Melodramatically falls flat.)

Rainbow: ALEX, OH EM GEE! I’ve killed Alex!! (Holds Alex’s head in her hands) Let me save you! (Teary whisper) I know mouth to mouth will work! (Leans over)

And right about here, I’d imagine the dramatic, end-of-world, Armageddon-style music ending abruptly.

Daggers: (Sits up instantly, pushing Rainbow away) Okay, okay--I’m fine.

Rainbow: Oh, wonderful! I thought I’d killed you! (Same overly sweet tone)

Daggers: (Under breath as she stands up) You are killing me. (Audibly) It’s ‘Daggers.’ (Rolls eyes) Now, it’s time for a makeover.

Just as before, Daggers struggles to clothe the newest member of Death in the proper goth garb. And once the transformation is completed, Rainbow twirls, doing some sort of pirouette. “Rainbow, Rainbow, Rainbow,” she chants in a failed attempt at Screamo vocals.

Daggers: (Holds up hands) Okay, no--stop that. You sound like a pokemon. And that's not your name--it's ‘Ripper.’

Rainbow: (Instantly begins twirling again) Ripper, Ripper, Ripper!

Daggers: Stop that, will you?!

Rainbow: (Weird growl) Then what should I do to display my extreme goth-ness?

Daggers: (Rolls eyes) Ugh. Just stare forward, say a phrase, and look like a badass.

Rainbow: (Awkwardly stares forward with squinty eyes and growl, holding out tray of cookies.) Who wants a cookie?

So over the next few weeks, Daggers finds herself babysitting… um, I mean training… forget it--babysitting the band. Not that it’s much of one. She’d just recruited two people as desperate for friends as her.

Okay, save it--I know what you’re going to say: “Oh dear, beautiful, stunning, glamourous narrator, I know that you are truly spectacular and could never possibly contain a physical, mental, or moral flaw, but don’t you think you are being a bit harsh on Daggers? You are such a kind spirit--I thought you would be understanding!”

Well you know what? I’m fed up. That girl gets to prance around with all of the attention constantly on her. I have more talent than her, okay?! I was right behind Alex Trebek for Jeopardy! Those jerks could have won an emmy by now if they had me.

Wait, what? Alex Trebek’s won five? Whatever. At least I’m humble. I mean, I hardly ever mention how incredibly amazing I am.

Of course, back to the band. I’d like you to use your gift of imagination to picture me narrating the following scene as the band walks down the street in slow motion. Pretend some epic song is playing.

Me: It was hard work for Daggers--hard work for her to tolerate this incompetent, unworthy assortment of losers, geeks, and nerds.

Band: (Storms down street)

Me: Daggers now had three recruits--four members total. But harder than tolerating her new acquaintances was the feat of making them into a band.

Alberta: (Tries to kick over a tiny trash can that has crossed her path) Grrrrr...OWOWOW! (Immediately stops growling to grab her foot in exaggerated pain.)

Here is where the music dies.

Rainbow: OH EM GEE!! ALBERTA ARE YOU OKAY?!?!?!?!?!

Alberta: (Tries to grab Rainbow to pull herself up, but Rainbow only gets dragged down as well)

Daggers: (Face in palms) What is wrong with you idiots?! I am trying to be epic here and you’re ruining it! Alberta! Get your butt off the ground!

Alberta: Yes--s-sorry sir--ma’am--superior human being.

Band: (Scrambles to get back into position)

Aaand the epic music now makes a comeback. Each member of the band proceeds to speak in an awkwardly wannabe fierce voice.

Alberta: I’m Attack!! (Goes into fighting stance)

Rainbow: Ripper! (Acts like she’s ripping something.)

Daggers: Daggers. (Deadpan-death-glare with crossed arms.)

Band: (Attempts to collectively do some sort of awkward pose) Together, we're Death!!!(Spoken out of sync.)

The music is once again murdered by lameness of Death. Now, back to me, from where I left off...

Me: Was it enough for Daggers to change their clothes and give them new names? Was altering their identities even the right way to go about making a band?

Amateurs. I mean, I’m a professional. I shouldn't be forced to work with these children. The other day, I turned down a call to narrate Zac Efron’s new movie. And don’t you dare try to convince me otherwise--I will NEVER give up on a High School Musical four. NEVER.

So yeah, the band was rehearsing

Daggers: (Singing angrily) The sun rose and everything fell/ Are we gone for good? It’s hard to tell/ But with the moon gone, and the rise of dawn--

Alberta: Can we stop now?! I’m exhausted! We’ve been rehearsing for 7.6 hours a day since you decided to form this band.

Daggers: (Pissed face) Well we’re not good enough yet! Besides, I booked us a gig at this epic pub. We need the preparation, Attack!

Alberta: (Timidly) I like Alberta better…

Daggers: (Glares)

Rainbow: (Soundly sleeping while using a guitar as a pillow, muttering in her sleep) Unicorns, unicorns, unicorns.

As that annoying Rainbow chick dreamt of the waste produced by various fantastical creatures, the day of the concert quickly approached. The girls prepared hard, in hopes that they would be noticed by a record producer.

In other big news, after finding out about Alex Trebek’s Emmys, I did the unthinkable. Yup--I unfriended him on Facebook! It was a hard choice, but, you know, ultimately…

Right. Band concert. Sorry.

Soooo... the band was setting up at this ‘epic pub.’

Daggers: So dudes, I know we rehearsed everything and all, but someone pissed me off and now I want to play a super dark tune so we can unleash my wrath on the world.

I think she’s slightly bipolar.

Alberta: So… you’re just changing the whole set list.

Daggers: (Nods) Yup.

Alberta: Because someone pissed you off.

Daggers: Yup. Now huddle up!

Me: The children of Death whispered and plotted and schemed and--

At this moment, Daggers looks up from the huddle, glaring at me. I run away to a corner and watch as she returns to huddle.

Band: (Breaks out of huddle)

Daggers: Okay, any questions?

A long silence follows this inquiry.

Rainbow: Can I go to the bathroom? (Makes nauseous face) Those cookies I made with unicorn feces aren’t sitting too well.

Alberta: (In overly nerdy voice) I’m afraid unicorns do not exist.

Rainbow: Well I used one, okay? It was hornless.

Alberta: I think you may have simply used horse meat.

Rainbow: (stomach grumbling as she turns to Daggers) Can I please go?

Daggers: (Straight face) No.

After this brief exchange, the band finishes setting up on stage--although ‘slightly raised platform’ would be a better description. An eager audience fills about 76% of the dark room. Some of those who make it up are seated at tables, while others stand closer to Death, awaiting the music that is soon to follow.

Band: (Assembles)

Daggers: Oh, this song… (Gestures dramatically and speaks into microphone) This is one of the darkest, most hardcore songs of all the lands!!!

Eager Audience: (Cheers)

Band: (Turns backs to audience)

At this very moment, What Makes You Beautiful by One Direction begins to play.

Eager Audience: (Becomes confused, slightly offended audience)

Band: (Performs)

As the band continued their remarkable performance, they didn’t notice a certain person in the crowd.

That’s right--you guessed it--he was a record producer! Yup. Stupid main characters get their happy ending and I don’t even get to host Wheel Of Fortune! It’s the most basic game show in the universe. Pat Sajak is what...90? They need a young, cool, guy like me. Sure, I’m 54, bald, a 14 time divorcee, and I live in my parent’s basement, but I’m a way better candidate to host than him!

So, the Label-Signing Record-Dude came up to the kids after their performance...

Label-Signing Record-Dude: (Swaggers up to band) Nice performance, kiddos.

Daggers: Who dares to approach Death?

Label-Signing Record-Dude: I work with Kidz Records--Kids with a ‘z.’ As in K-I-D-Z. So… ya know… we’re pretty cool. (Said in a ‘old guy trying to be cool’ tone.)

Daggers: Cool--a Record Company!! But for kids?

Record Dude: Yeah. You guys would be great as a kids’ band--just change your image a little and you're good to go. You know--just be normal children. Kid friendly!

Understandably, Daggers’ face droops.

Label-Signing Record-Dude: Ok so like, here’s my card and, ah, gimme a call. But you know--you better do it fast--I’m sort of a big deal. (Very arrogantly, still trying to be cool.)

He now sashays away like a model, then puts a hand on his hip and turns.

Label-Signing Record-Dude: I mean, look at all the paparazzi.

Random Loner Kid: (Takes flash picture right in the Label-Signing Record-Dude’s eyes. Looks extremely bored.)

Label-Signing Record-Dude: Argghhh! (Holds hands in front of eyes.) I told you take it from a distance!!

Random Loner Kid: Sorry, dad. (Super bored.)

The Label-Signing Record-Dude collects himself and gives the band a huge smile. Then he walks away.

Daggers: (Huge sigh) Ok guys--back into the audition room, I guess. Looks like you have to change back into your boring… normal selves.

Rainbow: (Looks extremely queasy) Can I go to the bathroom now? PLEASE?

Daggers: NO, RAINBOW--FOR THE LAST TIME: NO! QUIT THIS INCESSANT WHINING! IT’S NOT AS IF YOU’D DARE PU-(Is cut short by rainbow puking on her)

Rainbow: (Wipes mouth) Whoops.

Daggers: …

Daggers: Because I don’t want to get prosecuted for murder, I will give you one word of advice: RUN. (Proceeds to chase Rainbow throughout the pub.)

Despite the mayhem that is currently surrounding me, I will keep calm, carry on, and continue to narrate. I really am not getting paid enough for this job.

Me: So, after the life-changing exchange with the Record-Signing Label-Dude, the members of Death slowly piled back into the closet, one by one. Soon it came to be--

Daggers: Hey you!

Me: Yes?

Daggers: What are you doing here??

Me: Why, is it not clear? I’m narrating the intriguingly outstanding story that revolves around the many anomalous groups in modern soc--

Daggers: Yeah, well today you're a janitor. (Wipes Rainbow’s puke off of her and throws it at me.)

Puke lands on my head. I honestly cannot believe that they made me narrate this part. Ugh--it’s still warm.

Anyways, as I wiped that disgusting vomit of my head, it became time for Rainbow, Alberta, and Daggers to discuss the new changes involving the Death.

But first, let me just say--the conditions I’m required to work under… man. It’s ridiculous. I don’t even have a dressing room or a makeup artist. Okay, fine--I guess I don’t need a makeup artist (I’m gorgeous anyways,) but still.

Hey--don’t look at me like that! Narrators embody eye candy for movies! You think anyone would have seen How The Grinch Stole Christmas if not for the narrator’s alluring voice?

Yes, yes, I know--changes with the band...

Daggers: (Looks dejected; only one still in makeup) This sucks.

Rainbow Glitter: Why? We’re going to get to work with a real record company!! It’ll be sparkle-tacular! (Awkward jazz hands)

Daggers: (Jumps up angrily) First of all, who on Earth even says that?! Second of all, they’ve completely taken away our identity!

Band: (Looks taken aback)

An awkward silence occurs here.

Alberta: Well… I don’t know about the rest of you but (sniffs) I kind of think that they gave it back.

Daggers: What are you talking about?! How can we be Death if we’re just normal kids?!

Alberta: (Dramatic gestures accompanied by music) It doesn’t matter whether or not we’re whatever you think Death should be. We shouldn’t be living up to a name--we should be living up to ourselves--who we truly are!

Daggers: (Silent for a second) I think I’m drowning in the sap that’s dripping off everything you just said.

Me, too.

Alberta: (Frozen in dramatic pose; drops pose and slumps) My words were not physical, therefore nothing, let alone sap, could drip off of them.

Daggers: What did you just say??? (Leans over Alberta in an intimidating manner)

Alberta: N-nothingnevermind.

Daggers: Just what I thought. (Steps away, satisfied.)

Rainbow: I think I agree with Alberta, though.

Daggers: (Throws arms up, exasperated) THIS IS ANARCHY.

Rainbow: (Shrugs) Unicorns live under no laws, and so neither do I.

Daggers: Wat?.

Rainbow: It’s true--I witnessed it in Candy Land.

Daggers: (Utterly confused) You mean like the board game?

Rainbow Glitter: (Stands up and cuts her off) And because both unicorns and I live under no laws, I feel that I have the right to be whoever I want to be--not just a slave of Death. I refuse to hide behind the poopy makeup any longer- (dramatically raises fist)--the world must see my true sparkleshine!! (Points equally dramatically at Alberta) And the world needs to see her inner-textbook! And finally, (Glares at Daggers) the world needs to see your inner Alex.

Picture inspirational music crescendoing throughout this speech that immediately quiets when Rainbow addresses Daggers.

Daggers: (Gulps)

Me: You’re right--it’s anarchy.

Daggers: Shut up. (Now whispers) Rainbow Glitter is right.

Me: Rude.

Daggers: (Slowly stands up, eyes wide and full of awe. Band mates watch her in equal awe.) I can’t hide behind Death any longer. I can’t… I can’t lie to myself. I’m…

Insert a dramatic pause here.

Daggers: I’m ALEX!!!!!!!!!

Me: AAHHHHHHHHH!! (Sings like an Angel.)

Daggers: (HUGS me)I’m ALEX!!!!

Me: Holy (beep-beep-beep) Is this in the script??

Alberta: We’re off the script.

Daggers: (Stops being overjoyed for three seconds) I still hate all of you--just like I hate the rest of the world--but (runs around, spinning throughout the yard) I’m ALEX!!!

The band and I watch this, completely bewildered. I really cannot believe that I have to work for such bipolar freaks.

Eventually, I decide that all of this weirdness is too much to bear and promptly walk off of the set called life.

As I glare down at the my paycheck of seven dollars from this movie, wondering what I’m doing with my life, Daggers--or should I say Alex--stares at her un-gothified self in the mirror. I went to join her.

Me: This was it, the moment she showed the world who she was, all walls down. The defining moment of her life.

Daggers/Alex: Oh, for the love of…

She turns and actually punches me! The pain is unbearable, and I crumple to the floor.

Do you now see what I must put up with?!

But since I am dedicated to my job…

Me: (Strained voice; gasping) Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.