Monday, April 21, 2014

Bethany Goes on an Adventure (to Get Her Mail)

I was at the post office, standing in line and listening to the crazy woman they hired to keep things lively as she unleashed her rant for the day...when it happened.

"SHIT WHISTLES," the crazy woman shouted. "KANGAROO. ILLUMINATI. OBAMA."

She was leaning on the counter by the rack of faded Christmas mailers, as crazy people often do because the acoustics right there are such that everyone in the post office can hear clearly. (To her credit, it helped that the crazy lady enunciated well and played her part with confidence.)

It was almost 2 PM. Several postal workers had just returned from lunch, and the line was now snaking out the door and out of sight, ending two blocks away by that empty strip mall storefront where they used to sell gyros.

I was standing by the "express" window where you could pick up packages and not also try to buy stamps or figure out how to send something to China. You see, I'd done a silly thing like order an item from the internet and then didn't wait at home for 5-7 business days for it to be delivered directly into my hands. I hadn't ordered anything fancy. (Just a candelabra or a solid gold statue of myself or something like that.) But there was a crowd of 20 people who were also trying to pick up their packages at the express window, so we were like a mad mosh pit at a music festival where the opening act is a lady in a postal uniform shouting, "NEXT!"

The woman would take our slips, disappear into the back for 15 to 20 minutes and then return to say, "I'm sorry. Not here. You come back tomorrow?" It was a creative way to thin the herd, but not one that I was going to fall for. Every time she came to the window, I held my slip out, hoping it would be picked.

"Packages! We demand packages!" someone shouted over the din. Several people joined in. We'd gone mad from the waiting.

A man named Brian who had been trying for two hours to pick up an Amazon package for his wife had begun drooling and panting every time the postal worker returned to the window.

"Is not here. You come back tomorrow?" she told Brian again. He whimpered and lifted his leg against the self-service machine, which appeared to be in working order but only dispensed penny stamps with pictures of Oscar Pistorius on them.

"NEXT!" the lady said. I held out my slip and curtseyed carefully. She took my slip. At last. Soon, I might be able to go home to my sad leftovers.

"Oh, she said, reading my slip carefully and looking up at me with an expression that was half fear and half excitement. "You won."

"Won?" I said. "Won what?"

"Attention, everyone!" the postal worker shouted. "All of you need to go home. There will be no more postal service today."

"What?" "How dare you?" "Don't you know who I am?" came some shouts from angry people.

"I'll have you fired!" "Where's the manager?" "HULK VERY DISAPPOINTED!" came more shouts.

The post office manager burst through the back door just then. He was short and fat with a bright red beard and mustache."Please!" he shouted. "All of you must leave immediately. It's over. It's all over. We've found her." He smiled at me benevolently. I tried to look away, as I was unaccustomed to friendly direct eye contact from postal workers.

People finally began to shuffle toward the exit. The manager followed behind them, shooing and saying, "Okay...yeah! I'm soooooo sorry," sarcastically, in response to every muttered complaint. He finally closed the door behind the last customer and locked it.

"What's going on?" I asked.

The post office manager turned around then, and I could see he was wearing a cotton candy-colored suit and shoes with tiny bells on them.

"Why, the greatest thing has happened, my child!" he chortled. "You've won! You've won!"

"Won...what?" I said.

"You found the golden post office slip," he replied, merrily. He held up the slip, and I could see that, indeed, under all those grimy fingerprints, it wasn't the usual salmon pink color, but a bright gold.

"Come, come! There's no time to waste," he said. "You'll need this." He returned the golden slip to my hand and gestured me toward the door that led to the back of the post office.

"You want me to go back there?" I asked. "Isn't that illegal or something?"

"Oh, how you jest, contest winner. Now, come!" He donned a pink train conductor's hat that matched his suit.

I reached down into my purse and pulled out my katana. I always carried it with me to the post office in case an old person who didn't understand how the credit card machine worked tried to cut in front of me.

"Fine," I said.

He opened the door, and when I had ascertained that an angry mail carrier carrying a hatchet wasn't hiding through the doorway, I stepped through.

Immediately, the lights went out. I clutched my katana, dropped into a defense pose, and prepared for an attack, but just then, the lights came back on.

I looked around me in wonder at what I had thought was the back room of the post office. I had stepped into a meadow, dappled with sunlight. Where I had expected to see several musty bags of undelivered mail, I saw trees dotting the shore of a beautiful river.

"Stamp trees!" the post office manager giggled. "Pick some! Mail something!"

I reached into the tree and plucked a sheet of Forever stamps. They were decorated with the photos of all of my favorite feminist icons, like Susan B. Anthony, Pussy Galore, and Dolly Parton.

"Wow," I said. "I mean, I guess this is cool, but I don't really mail letters anymore."

The post office manager, who had been trying to coax a bluebird wearing a tiny pith helmet to land on his finger, turned to look at me, and I could see tears trickling down his face.

"I mean…." I stammered, "do you have a bush that grows flat-rate boxes or something?"

"Come on!" he chortled, recovering his composure as quickly as he had lost it. "There's so much more to see!"

He led me town to the river bank where a boat was waiting. And it wasn't any ordinary kind of boat. It was just a giant envelope.

"Get in!" the post office manager said.

"Is this thing seaworthy? Are there life jackets?" I asked.

"La la la la la la la la laaaaaaaaaa!" the post office manager began to sing, tunelessly, obviously ignoring my question as the boat began to move downstream. I found a wad of bubble wrap under my seat and clutched it in my fist just in case the ship went down, which seemed likely, given that it was made out of paper. (And it wasn't even a security envelope, so my identity would likely be stolen as well.)

"Where are we going?" I asked.

"Where do you want to go?" the post office manager countered. "There's so much to see! We could go to the Mailbox Meadows or Parcel Post Playland.  Or! We could take a ride on the Priority Express."

"To be honest," I began, "I'd just really like to know why we're here. I mean, if I won something, I'd like to know what it is."

"Ah ha! Of course! We must discuss your prize! How silly of me to forget! Boat, set a course to Headquarters!"

Which was a very odd thing to say to the boat since he, himself, was doing the rowing.

We rowed for a long while.

A very long while.

At least 25 minutes.

Eventually, I could see a building in the distance. It was tall and white and seemed to glow.

"What's that?" I asked.

"Headquarters," the post office manager replied. He was quite out of breath from all that rowing. Finally, we docked.

"Come inside! We must hurry!" he said.

He rushed me up the steps.

"Is my prize in there?" I asked.

"Yes, it is indeed!" the post office manager giggled. "Just through those doors!"

We went inside. What met my eyes was the most beautiful post office I had ever seen. It was silvery and bright. I shielded my eyes as we stepped toward an escalator that led to the second floor.

When we got to the top, I looked around to see employees in every window, eager to sell me stamps, or offer me insurance, or ask me if my package contained flammable materials. There wasn't even a line.

"This is amazing," I said.

"I know!" the post office manager chortled. "And it's all yours! Everything is yours! Your prize is that you are the new Postmaster General! Congratulations!"

"Oh," I said, not knowing what to say.

Confetti that looked a lot like old, shredded Bed, Bath and Beyond coupons began to rain from the ceiling.

The post office manager handed me a golden scepter and pith helmet.

"Come! I'll show you to the throne room!" he said, gleefully.

I just stood there.

"It's right this way," he added, holding out his hand.

"This is nice," I said. "Really nice..."

"Just down the corridor in that direction and through those doors," the post office manager continued, doing a quick walking pantomime that made his shoes jingle.

"Buuuuuuuuut...I'm not sure I want it."

The post office manager looked stunned.

"You…don't want it?" he asked.

"Nooooooooooo," I said. "Not really. I just…I just wanted to pick up my package. That's all. And to maybe not have to always wait in line for an hour. And for you to ban children with scooters. And maybe stop letting crazy people come in and play with the buttons on the self-service machine."


The post office manager looked down at the bells on his shoes. He looked at the magnificent post office around him. Finally, he looked at me. His demeanor had changed. No longer was he the jolly proprietor of a mystical land where stamps grew on trees. He was the post office manager he had been all along: gruff, professional, and underpaid.

"Do you have your slip and a photo ID?" he asked.

"Yes," I said, handing them both to to him.

"Be right back," he said.

I waited….and I waited…and I waited…and I waited.

I said to myself, "I'll wait another 5 minutes, and then I'm just going to go." But the five minutes came and went and I remembered that he still had my ID.

Finally, after what was at least 30 minutes, the post office manager came back. He said nothing. He just took the golden pith helmet and the golden scepter out of my hands.

"Did you find my package?" I asked.

The post office manager looked up at me, as if he had forgotten I was there.

"Oh," he said. "Is not here. You come back tomorrow?"


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Tales of Creative Writing Class and Chad's Definition of Poetry

"" asked our creative writing teacher, Ellen, scribbling the question on the board in chalk. She turned dramatically and looked at all of us, heads in hands waiting for her to go on. "I don't have the answer!" she said. "I'm asking you!"

I quickly wrote: "WHAT IS POETRY?" in my notebook. I really did want to know, a college freshman with a big journal filled with essays about suicide. I wasn't depressed. Suicide was just a big theme of the late 90s and early oughts because of Girl, Interrupted and The Virgin Suicides. All the lonely girls were painting their nails black, tattooing their forearms with ink pens, and writing about "the inner hurt." I was good at coming up with razor blade metaphors.

"Think about it, and we'll discuss in 20 minutes. I want to know the definition of poetry. Split into groups and talk about it."

Ellen had walked into class on the first day wearing a bandana on her head and overalls, one of those outfits that raises a lot of questions. Was she throwing a pot in her art studio, painting her garage, or milking her goats when she was suddenly called away to teach college students about writing? None of us could know, and that was how Ellen liked it. She not only taught creative writing. She WAS creative writing.

"You might be wondering why I'm qualified to teach you creative writing," Ellen said on that first day. "Well...ten years ago, I wrote a book. It was published. There's a copy of it in the university library."

"What's your book about?" Chad in the front row asked.

"Well..." Ellen replied, brushing a lock of gray hair out of her eyes. "There's a young woman. She has problems with her father. One day, she learns how to masturbate. Then, she meets a priest and finds herself attracted to him. Shamefully, she masturbates. Some time goes by, and she meets another man and falls in love. She masturbates. It's a novel about love, shame, and masturbation."

Chad nodded thoughtfully. He was definitely going to the library after class to get that book.

We spent the rest of the first class doing free writing. I wrote about how the thin blade of my writing made me bleed my emotions. The sophomore girl who sat next to me (I later discovered her name was Zoe) wrote 10 pages of porn, and the 40-something woman in front of me, Karen, wrote a heartfelt tribute to Princess Diana. (For her, the pain was still very raw.) Toward the end of class, we went around the room and read our work.

"Everything I do is for my baby son," Chad in the front row said, standing up to read his work, as he came to do every time so that it would resonate better with his audience. "I just want to make him proud." Then, he read a poem called "Cheating Bitch."

At that point, I stopped to consider what I had gotten myself into by trying out a creative writing class. In my imagination, my fellow writers were always like-minded, talented people.

"I guess I need to show them how writing is done," I thought, jotting down some ideas for a short story about a college student who lives in a dorm room and writes about death a lot.

I read that short story to Karen and Zoe at our next class, beaming with pride that my life experience would speak to them.

"Is something supposed to happen?" Karen asked. "She was just watching old reruns of Mork and Mindy and microwaving a Hot Pocket."

Zoe just looked at me blankly and then went back to coloring in the pubes on the spread-eagled vulva she had drawn in her notebook.

"UGH. Nobody understands me!" I thought. "I guess I'll show them with my poetry."

And this brings us back to the question Ellen asked three weeks into class after showing up dressed as a train conductor: What is poetry?

Karen, Zoe, and I teamed up to get to the bottom of it. We had all forged one of those classroom friendships by then. I came to love Zoe's porn, the way it made people squirm when she read it aloud, unashamed, in class. And I even learned to appreciate Princess Diana in ways I never had before.

"So....poetry is words," I said. "Like...words that sound good together. And sometimes they rhyme, I guess. Right?"

"Sure," Zoe said, not looking up from her porn notebook.

"Add something about how it has to be beautiful," Karen added. "Beautiful and shining…and taken from us too soon."

I scribbled down their thoughts and added my own. Slowly, we came up with a definition for poetry that we thought Ellen would accept.

"Bethany, Karen, and Zoe. Your definition of poetry please," Ellen called, waving her hands for silence from the rest of the class.

"Ahem," I said. "We decided that it's the art of fitting words together. Sometimes they rhyme. Sometimes they don't."

"And they are beautiful," said Karen, wiping away a tear.

Had Zoe spoken, she probably would have said something comparing poetry to the clitoris. 

"Okay," said Ellen, shrugging, "I guess that's an acceptable answer. Let's hear from some other people."

Chad stood up then to read his answer. He leaned against the wall, one hand in his jeans pocket. Casual, like all that Kerouac he had read.

"So, like, poetry isn't just words," Chad said. "It's, like, life. You see a mother holding her child. That's poetry. A sunset. That's, like, poetry, too. It doesn't have anything to do with words."

And then he glared at our group, like we were assholes for even bringing up words.

I thought about that definition of poetry for the next several weeks. I thought about it while I worked on my own poetry. I thought about it in my American lit course, when I should have been paying attention to Moby Dick. I thought about it while I warmed up Hot Pockets and watched Mork and Mindy.

Finally, I realized something really important.

It was the stupidest fucking thing I'd ever heard.

I'd like to tell you a heroic tale of how I went back to creative writing class, fully actualized at last, and blew my fellow classmates away with a few well-placed rhyming (or not rhyming) sets of words. Or surprised them with a short story that wasn't about a college girl's elaborate plan to the top of something and jump off because nobody understood her.

But I didn't. I kept being a bad writer for many, many years, but I kept working at it, and that's the important part of the story. But mostly, I just really wanted to tell you about Chad being a dumbshit.

I guess if you want to share your definition of poetry in comments, I'm for that. There are no wrong answers here.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

A Very Important Quiz: The Mega Quiz to End All Quizzes

This quiz wants your body. Bad.

Have you taken all the Buzzfeed quizzes yet? Do you know which Game of Thrones character you are? Did it lead you to a greater understanding of yourself?


Have you taken the Welcome to Bethville Mega Quiz? I call it the "Quiz to End All Quizzes." Seriously. I hope it ends all quizzes.

Want to take it? Okay, let's get started. At the end of this quiz, you'll know everything you ever needed to know about yourself.

Step 1: Get out a piece of paper. Yeah. And a pen too. We do this old school, or we don't do nothing at all.

Step 2: Sit down on a comfortable surface like a chair, a couch, the arm of a chair, the arm of a couch, or an elderly person's lap.

Step 3: Learn how to write and spell if you haven't already. Are you all set? Good.

Step 4: Read the following instructions. Instructions: FILL IN THE ANSWER IN A WAY THAT PLEASES YOU. YOU'RE WELCOME. HAVE FUN.

Question 1: Which Game of Thrones character are you?

Your response: ________________

Question 2: Which Harry Potter character are you?

Your response: ________________

Question 3: Which city should you really be living in?

Your reponse: ________________

Question 4: Which superhero are you?

Your response: ________________

Question 5: Which article of clothing are you? (I'm a sock.)

 Your response: ________________

Question 6: Which Muppet are you?

Your response: ________________

Question 7: Is it lunch yet?

Your response: ________________

Question 8: Which Disney princess are you?

Your response: ________________

 Question 9: What are you doing later? Do you want to hang out?

Your response: ________________

Question 10: Which 90s TV boyfriend is right for you?

Your response: ________________

Question 11: How's your mom?

Your response: ________________

Question 12: And your dad? Is he good?

Your response: ________________

Question 13: What are you watching on Netflix right now? Is it any good? Should I watch it?

Your response: ________________

Question 14: Which Star Wars character are you, or Star Trek character, if you prefer? Or both?

Your response: ________________

Question 15: Do you have any need for a 25% off coupon for Michael's Arts & Crafts stores? I have one if you're interested.

Your response: ________________

 Question 16: Did you decide yet about later? Dinner? Or maybe a movie? I'm easy. Just let me know.

Your response: ________________

Question 17: What are your hopes and dreams?

Your response: ________________

Question 18: Was the question about hopes and dreams too personal? You don't need to talk about it if you don't want to.

Your response: ________________

 Question 19: Which Game of Thrones character would you be if you couldn't be your first choice?

Your response: ________________

Question 20: Have I told you that I love you?

Your response: ________________


Your response: ________________

Question 22: Which Battlestar Galactica character are you?

Your response: ________________

Question 23: Which James Bond are you?

Your response: ________________

Question 24: Which Bond villain are you?

Your response: ________________

Question 25: Which Bond girl are you?

Your response: ________________

Question 26; Was that too many questions in a row about James Bond?

Your response: ________________

Question 27: Just kidding. That's impossible.

Your response: ________________

Question 28: What type of doughnut are you?

Your response: ________________

Question 29: Why would you want to be a doughnut?

Your response: ________________

Question 30: Just let me know about later. OK?

Your response: ________________

I hope you enjoyed the Welcome to Bethville Mega Quiz. Mail me your answers (or email me a scan of your answers at and I'll give you a full personality writeup that will blast your face off so efficiently that you'll never have to take another quiz again. And I really did mean the "I love you." DEAL WITH IT.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Romance Advice from the Stock Photo Feet Couple

Dear Stock Photo Feet Couple,

How can you tell if your significant other is cheating? 

Alice in Washington

Dear Alice,

Stock Photo Feet Couple here. Okay, we're going to have to ask you for some clarification on this "cheating" thing. Is he, like, putting on socks or something? We've discussed it intimately for the past fifteen minutes, and we are both baffled by anything that's not lying directly on top of each other for the entire day,  getting out of bed only for making pee-pees and poopies and ordering takeout Chinese (it's the only place in our area that will deliver directly to our bedroom). But we have some advice for you anyway. Tonight, when you are looking deep into your significant other's eyes as you lie directly on top of him, ask him, "Howard, are you cheating?" We can only assume that his answer will be no because there are no secrets between couples.

Stock Photo Feet Couple 

Dear Stock Photo Feet Couple,

I've recently decided to divorce my wife. How do I tell her it's over without hurting her too much?

Doug in Buenos Aires

Dear Doug,

Mmmmmmmppppphhhhh! Mmmmph! Ummmmmmmm….um…..

Oh, sorry. Has questions time started? We were just making passionate love to each other with our legs firmly closed. We do that at least six times a day, as there is not much else to do while lying on top of each other with our legs firmly closed. What was your question again? Divorce? We've heard of this because our neighbors are always shouting about it. We can only assume that it has to do with a decision to no longer lie on top of your partner on a constant basis. Is that correct? Yes?

While we cannot condone not lying directly on top of your partner for 99 percent of your day, if you need a break from it for the sake of your children or physical health, we suggest trying to maintain a strict lying on top of each other schedule that will allow for a minimum of 95 percent of lying on top of each other time per day. Remember that old proverb, "The couple who lies on top of each other all day stays together."


Stock Photo Feet Couple

Dear Stock Photo Feet Couple,

How do you know if you've met "the one"?


Mavis in Iceland

Dear Mavis,

Welcome to the soul mate club! We're happy you've taken time out of your busy schedule of lying on top of your new partner to write to us. But now, your question.

You know you've met the one when you wake up one morning and there is a person either lying directly on top of or underneath you. Say hello. Introduce yourself and get ready for the most awesome time of your life as you embark on your life as half of a couple sandwich.


Stock Photo Feet Couple

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

My Wisdom Tooth Has Become Sentient and All of Its Thoughts Are Murder


Things have been pretty lame recently. Like, super lame. Lame like your game freezing right before you hit a save point, but lamer.

For starters, doing my day [rhymes with knob] is like being stung by a thousand bees all over my body every single day. Every morning I wake up and think, "Is it time for the nightmare scorpions again?" and then I cry for two hours and think about death. I just wanted to clear that up in case my enjoyment levels of my [also rhymes with sob] were in question.

Secondly, one of my wisdom teeth is coming in. But if my mouth is a party, this tooth is like that guy who shows up three hours late with an open bag of Sun Chips and then drinks the last of the vodka before falling asleep someplace weird, like the hall closet. In other words, it's impacted. There is no room for it to come in. The pressure in my other teeth is causing headaches every single day. I'm in paaaain! This is what pain feels like.

But the far worse part of this story is that the wisdom tooth has become sentient and all of its thoughts have turned to murder. 

On the subway platform this morning, I was waiting for an elderly woman to get off the train, and the woman standing behind me on the platform looked at me like, "Well, what are you waiting for?" and then shoved past me to get on the train. My tooth said, "KILL HER." But I told it to shut up and go back to putting pressure on my incisors like a good asshole tooth.

I was supposed to have the tooth taken out on Saturday. I made the appointment over a month ago. But when I called the dentist to find out the details earlier this week, they told me they had canceled my appointment. My tooth said, "KILL THEM. KILL THEM ALL." 

I know its thoughts because the tooth has grown into my brain and tapped into my cerebral cortex. This is what happens when your dentist makes you wait a month to get your tooth pulled and then postpones your appointment for another month, even though you told him that the tooth is giving you terrible headaches. The tooth turns into a giant dentist-sized asshole. This happens all the time, according to the Internet.

How do I know that I'm hearing my tooth's thoughts and not my own? Because my tooth's favorite movie is The Neverending Story. It hates flip-flops and raspberry jam. It loves Christmas songs and doesn't mind when a place has a drink minimum. These are not my thoughts. I would never think those things. And I never, ever think of murder. Not little old me.

It wasn't me who thought, "SET THEM ON FIRE," when my doctor's office tried to slip me a $45 invoice for a test that came out "inconclusive" because they made a mistake and I had to repeat anyway. "But we performed a service for you," the woman in billing said. "You have to pay for it." My tooth replied, "MURDER."

And it certainly wasn't me thinking, "I KILL YOU AND YOUR FACE," when a cab blasted through an intersection and almost ran me over yesterday.

It was my wisdom tooth.

I've somehow managed to schedule an appointment for next Tuesday to finally have this tooth pulled, but until then, maybe just be really cautious around me. My tooth thinks of nothing but murder. And dogs barking "Jingle Bells."

Friday, October 25, 2013

Frightening Friday: A Fancy Dinner Party Where Someone Dies

You're inviting us to what? We're busy that night.

DINNER. For some, it's a word that induces extreme hunger pangs. For others, a sense of warmth and togetherness. But for a few unlucky souls, it is a word that brings terror.

I hope you are prepared for a dinner that is the last kind. Our final Frightening Friday story for this October is not for those of you who are sitting in your supper nooks licking your lips as you dream about a nice risotto dinner. And it is definitely not for those of you lounging in your remembering nooks, thinking about dinners with your grandmother that didn't involve her dying in her soup. It is for those of you trembling in your dark and spooky closet nooks, clutching your childhood teddy bears as you await today's story. I hope you have your best dinner attire on for...

A Fancy Dinner Party Where Someone Dies

It was a dinner party unlike any other dinner party.

I mean...there were similarities, of course. For instance, there were guests who arrived with empty stomachs. There were cocktails. There was a grand silver tray of pickles, sausages, and cheese cubes all poked on tiny sticks. There was a host who shouted, "Make yourself at home!" and a guest who did by taking a nap on the parlor sofa next to the fireplace. But this dinner party had something that most fancy dinner parties don't have. And that thing was villainy.

But who or what the villain was remained a mystery throughout the first course of the dinner. Everyone ate their salads completely oblivious to the villainy that was to come. They dabbed their faces with fancy cloth napkins, not understanding that soon....very soon....someone at that very table would be murdered.

I suppose I should introduce you to the guests now. There were seven of them. Pay close attention to any signs of villainy, or you may soon live to regret it.

At the head of the table sat the host of the party, Sir James John Upton-Starbucks. Upon sitting down at the head of the table, he shouted, "MY SEAT! MY SEAT! HOST SEAT! I CALLED IT." For Sir James John Upton-Starbucks, despite being a prestigious duke, was often quite childish. It might interest you to know that this childishness drove him to two things: collecting trampolines and extreme jealousy of anyone who bounced on them for too long. Did this jealousy and childishness drive the duke to murder? Perhaps. I'll go on.

Sitting next to the duke on his right was the Lady Milicent Upton-Starbucks, his wife. Upon sitting down at the table, and rolling her eyes at the duke's loud claims to the head seat, Lady Milicent said, "Everyone, don your bibs now!" For her ladyship hated it when people got crumbs and mustard stains on the collars of their fancy dinner attire. Was it this particular disdain for crumbs and mustard stains the cause of the death of one of the guests later during the meal? We shall find out very soon.

Next to her ladyship was an extremely mysterious and extremely veiled woman. "Hmmmmrrrrfffff mrrrrffff," she said as everyone took their seats at the dinner table. This was because the heavy veil made it difficult for her to understand. Was she saying, "I shall sit here next to the hostess because she is so beautiful and kind and delightful at conversation," or was the mysteriously veiled woman saying something like, "I will murder one of you very soon"? Perhaps you should read on while you ponder that mystery.

To the right of the mysterious, veiled, and muffle-voiced woman sat a gentleman of very high regard, Sir Tottenham-Smith-Facebook. He was a gentleman for two reasons. The first was that he was a viscount. The second was because, as everyone was seated at the dinner table, he ran around and politely pulled out everyone's chairs. "Mother always said that a gentleman does gentlemanly things," he said as he took his own seat. But perhaps his gentlemanly title and gentlemanly behavior was a cover for something else: something like MURDER.

The far end of the table, opposite the host, was reserved for Sir James John Upton-Starbucks's younger brother, Stuart. "Does everyone have enough room?" he asked, pulling his place setting far to the corner of the table so that it almost toppled onto the rug. "I don't want to be in anyone's way." He wasn't, but Stuart suffered from a terrible ailment that made him believe he was a giant, even though in reality he could hardly see over the table. "I'm so hungry, I could eat a village," Stuart said quietly, licking his lips. Did a giant hunger drive the duke's brother to dispatching a fellow dinner guest? We shall soon see.

The last two guests, sitting side by side to the left of the duke, were a very handsome couple. The man had a strong chin and jawline, a marvelous head of hair, and a winning smile. The lady also had a strong chin and jawline, a marvelous head of hair, and a winning smile. Seeing themselves and their own handsomeness in each other, the couple was soppily in love. As everyone was getting seated at the table, Lord and Lady Pembrooke-Jones-DiCaprio were looking into each other's eyes and sighing the deep sighs of two people in love. Was their love so great that it led to murder? How would I know...yet?

Of course, no dinner party at the fancy home of two aristocrats would be complete without a butler, a valet, a cook, and a maid named Constance. They are also suspects, so don't forget to eye them suspiciously as well.

The murder occurred during the main course, quite an inconvenience for anyone looking forward to dessert. The cook, whose name was Pauline, brought a large roasted turkey and a side of potatoes to the table. Everyone smacked their lips loudly as they were served, especially Stuart Upton-Starbucks, who said, "Fee fi fo fum. I love turkey...and also gum." (He wasn't good at rhymes.)

"BIBS," said Lady Upton-Starbucks, fussily, gesturing at Constance to run around and secure everyone's bibs back under their chins, in the off chance that they had come dislodged during the aspic course.

Only one thing was said after that before the lights suddenly went out, and that thing was, "Mmmmmmffffffffff!" Was the veiled lady asking someone to pass the gravy? Or did she know what was coming? No one had a chance to ask her because, just then, the lights in the dining room went out.

There was a scream and the sounds of a scuffle. Then, there was another scream and the tinkle of glass breaking. As the lights continued to be out, there was yet another scream and a shout of, "Will someone please turn the lights back on and also who keeps screaming?"

Very shortly after that, a very brave-sounding voice said, "I'm feeling along the wall for the light switch! The lights will be back on soon!"

And another voice replied, "Thank goodness! I'm terrified. Not so much of the dark but of being in the dark with leftover aspic."

"And what is wrong with aspic exactly?" came another demanding voice, clearly slighted.

"Nothing," said the aspic-hating voice. "I'm just not a fan. It's basically meat Jell-O."

"Is that what that was?" said yet another voice. "Now I'm terrified of the leftover aspic as well. But also of the potatoes being cold when we finally get to eat them."

"I'm getting closer to the light switch!" said the voice of the person who had been searching for the light switch. "I've just passed the sideboard with the candelabra on it."

"Well, personally, I loved the aspic," came another voice. "My compliments to the cook."

"She has a name!" said the slighted voice from before. "It's Pauline. God, you're such an elitist."

"My hand is almost on the light switch. It's a mere inches away," said the light switch searching voice.

Everyone sighed in annoyance at the continued darkness, the aspic disagreement, the elitism, the screaming, the broken glassware, and the future coldness of the potatoes. Everyone except the person who had been murdered. But none of the people in the room knew about that part yet, so that was not on the list of annoyances.

And just then the lights came back on.

"I found it! I found the light switch at last! IT WAS ME! YOU'RE WELCOME!" exclaimed a person who everyone could now see was Sir James John Upton-Starbucks himself. But their excitement was cut short. For someone was lying dead with her face in the turkey.

And that person was Lady Milicent Upton-Starbucks.

"NOOOOO!" shouted Sir James John Upton-Starbucks, distressed that his wife was dead with a carving knife in her back, but also because her collar was COVERED with turkey grease, a thing she would have completely hated. Somehow her ladyship's bib had become dislodged during her murder.

"My god," said the gentlemanly Sir Tottenham-Smith-Facebook. "Someone in this room is a murderer."

"Yes, indeed," agreed the handsome Lady Pembrooke-Jones-DiCaprio.

"Mmmmrrrrrrrfffff fffffrrrrrpppppp," said the veiled lady, which meant either, "It wasn't me!" or "Oh, boy! I do love a mystery!"

Sir James John Upton-Starbucks rushed to the door, closed it, and locked it with the key from his vest pocket.

"Everyone be seated," he said. "No one shall leave this room until we've figured out who the murderer, or murderers, are."

Now, you're probably wondering right now why no one suggested calling the police to come and resolve the matter and instead seated themselves back around the table where the corpse of Lady Milicent and the corpse of a turkey lay intertwined together sopping up cold gravy. And the reason for this is that aristocrats don't know how to use telephones. Keep that in mind should you ever decide to call a member of the aristocracy on the phone. He will probably get confused, say hello into the wrong end of the receiver, and eventually hang up in frustration. Always send your correspondence via handwritten note to be delivered by your butler if you ever expect a reply.

"One person here strikes me as extremely suspicious!" cried Sir James John Upton-Starbucks.

"Ah HA!" cried Stuart Upton-Starbucks. "Here you go accusing me again just because I'm a bloodthirsty giant who eats entire flocks of sheep for supper. I'll have you know that in no way could I wield such a tiny knife with these enormous hands!"

"NUH-UH! I accused you of no such thing," replied Sir James John, whose name is sometimes exhausting to type. "I was going to accuse--"

"Ah HA!" cried Sir Tottenham-Smith-Facebook. "You were going to accuse ME! Obviously I'm a gentleman with impeccable table manners. Therefore, I would be the first to offer someone a second helping of roasted turkey. That is how you knew that the knife was in my hands when the lights went out."

"Well, I suppose, now that you mention that, you total poopy butt, however--" replied Sir James John.

"Tut tut tut!" shouted Lady Pembrooke-Jones-DiCaprio, not bothering to look up from making smushy eyes at her darling husband. "No! He was going to accuse me and my extremely handsome husband of the murder. We're so obviously in love. How could he not?"

"I never--" began Sir James John.

"Are you implying that my husband is incapable of committing a murder???" Lady Pembrooke-Jones-DiCaprio shouted. "I'll have you know that the cornerstone of a good marriage is being supportive, and if darling Edmund Pembrooke-Jones-DiCaprio, the love of my life, wanted to commit a murder, he could do it!"

"You are my moon angel!" cried Lord Pembrooke-Jones-DiCaprio, and the rest of the world disappeared to the very handsome couple as they went back to gazing into each other's eyes adoringly.

"I was actually going to accuse the mysterious veiled lady seated to the right of my wife," said Sir James John Upton-Starbucks. "Who are you anyway? Show yourself, or I shall throw a big tantrum!"

"Mmmmmmmmrrrrrrfffff!" said the veiled lady, which either meant, "How dare you? Isn't it obvious that I'm your mother-in-law and I'm trying to keep your other guests from catching my cold with this veil?" or "Mwahahahahahaha! In a complicated and unforeseen plot twist, I'm Lady Upton-Starbucks's evil, murderous twin, Samantha! And you'll never catch me alive!"

At this point, it's likely that several things are going on in your mind. Perhaps you would just like the suspense to end and to know who the killer is. Perhaps you would like the suspense to go on and for me to continue twisting the plot until I become bored of it. Perhaps you have no opinion at all as you have gone to the kitchen for a snack. But most likely of all, you've forgotten about the other people in the room. Don't feel bad. The servants of wealthy aristocrats are used to being ignored. But I will get to them and their current activities right now.

Told to be seated, the valet, the cook, the butler, and the maid sat down on the floor exactly where they had been standing. The valet sat down next to the sideboard, where Sir James John Upton-Starbucks trod on his fingers in the dark while looking for the light switch, and because he was such a good servant, the valet didn't utter a word in the way of, "Ouch! My fingers!" or "You blundering ass!" Instead, he sat crying silent tears of extreme finger pain as accusations of the guests were made.

The cook sat down next to the fireplace, wearing an expression of concern that dessert, a delicious apple tart, was going to burn, left unattended in the oven. She was also still slighted by the guest who didn't like aspic and intended to poison him later, as she knew exactly which gentleman he was. But, despite that villainy, of the murder of Lady Upton-Starbucks, she was entirely innocent.

Asked to sit, the butler sat down under the portrait of Lord and Lady Upton-Starbucks. He was also crying silent tears, but it was because his grandmother had died in her soup at a dinner earlier that week and he was suffering from painful dinner memories as a result. 

The maid, Constance, had sat down in the dining room doorway. As accusations were shouted and identities were demanded, no one was looking at her. Not one person. She was, after all, just a servant. And that was why, right before the lights went out and the screaming began anew, no one noticed her bloodstained hand creeping up the wall toward the light switch. She really, really hated those bibs.

The dessert ended up burning after all.


Friday, October 18, 2013

Frightening Friday: Ghosts Are the Stupidest Ever

Walk toward the light, idiot.

Driving past a cemetery late on Halloween night, there is an extremely good chance that nothing at all will happen to you. The cemetery will fade into the darkness, and you'll continue on your merry way to pick up a pizza. But sometimes...just might see a ghost. He might be standing in the middle of the cemetery, arm raised in a wave. He might be hovering by the road, like he's waiting for a ride. If you are driving past a cemetery late at night and you do see a ghost, beware.

Ghosts are total idiots.

I can say that because I know several ghosts, and each and every one of them is a total bonehead. Just the other night, I was lying in bed thinking about George Clooney when a ghost appeared.

I said, "What do you want this time, ghost? I'm trying to think about important things." And he just stood there, rattling his chains and moaning.

"Quick, ghost!" I said. "What's five plus five?" And he just floated there, slack-jawed, until he dematerialized out of what must have been total embarrassment. The next night he appeared again. This time, he was headless. Probably because he was so mortified at not knowing simple arithmetic that he didn't want me to look him in his eye sockets.

It almost makes me sorry for stealing that gold locket from that casket on one of my recent travels. If I knew I would have to put up with this, I would have left it right where it was, gripped tight in that skeleton's hand. 

So, our truly terrifying tale of horror today is all about ghosts being dumb. I call it...

Ghosts Are the Stupidest Ever

One Halloween night, a man was driving down a deserted road past a cemetery. Perhaps he was on his way home from a dance. Maybe he was just on his way to pick up some nachos at the Cemetery Road Convenience Store. We will likely never know because, as in many cases like this, this story is totally made up and this man does not actually exist.

As the man neared the cemetery gates, he saw a woman standing near the road, arm raised in a wave. She was wearing an old-fashioned white dress, too light to keep her warm on such a chilly night.

Now, if you've ever heard a story like this one before, you might be silently telling the man, "DON'T STOP. DRIVE AWAY!" But the man cannot hear you because, again, he does not exist, so he did an extremely silly thing and pulled over to the side of the road to talk to the woman.

He rolled down the window. "Do you need a ride?" he asked.

The woman said yes and climbed into the car.

Here is where I stop the story to remind my living readers that you should never get into cars with strangers.

And I will also use this time to remind my dead readers that DEEEERP DERPY DERP. You're idiots.

Back to the story.

"Where are you headed?" the man asked.

"354 Oak Street," the woman replied.

The two drove in silence for a few minutes.

"I don't want to pry," the man asked, deciding to casually make conversation. "But are you a ghost?"

"What? No, of course not," the woman replied. "I'm a young lady on my way home from a Halloween dance late, late at night. Mysteriously walking all alone."

"Okay, suit yourself," the man said. "I'll just drive you home. But I will say that this has all the hallmarks of a ghost passenger story. You know, the thing where you mysteriously vanish, and I show up at your house tomorrow with your shawl or something. And your mother tells me you've been dead forty years. Stuff like that."

"Well, you're wrong," the woman said, "I'm completely alive."

"Okay," the man said. "I'm not one to pry. Just thought that if you wanted to talk about it, that would be fine with me."

The conversation came to a halt once again.

 Finally, the woman spoke again. "GOD. How did you know? I thought I was hiding it so well."

The man laughed. "You don't want to know," he replied.

"Yes, I do," said the woman.

"Okay, I'll tell you, but you can't get upset."


"Fifty years ago, on a night like this one," the man began, clearly jumping into an extremely long and tedious story, "a young man was driving down a road past a cemetery. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a woman standing by the road. He pulled over. He asked the woman if she needed a ride. She did. He drove her home. On the way there, he looked over, and she had MYSTERIOUSLY VANISHED INTO THE NIGHT. The man got so scared, he drove into a ravine and was killed instantly."

"OH MY GOD. THAT IS TERRIFYING," the woman said, alarmed.

"I know, right?" the man replied. But when the woman turned to look at him, he vanished.

"AAAAAAAAAAA!" said the ghost woman as the ghost car plummeted into the ghost ravine. 

Do you believe me that ghosts are total idiots yet? They do dumb stuff like this ALL THE TIME.