Friday, October 10, 2014

Frightening Friday: The Medium Scary Haunting

I want to tell you a story. A story about what? You'll have to read it to find out. But first I want to reassure you that it's only medium scary. Medium scary means that you will probably not have to prepare for fear the way you would with a super scary story. A super scary story might cause you to pee your pants or lose consciousness or run in fear. But a medium scary story means you'll only do those things halfway. You might lightly tinkle your pants, swoon, or prance away in mild alarm. You might even sleep peacefully tonight, instead of lying awake staring at the dark ceiling of your bedroom, hoping you're all alone. So, rather than turning on all the lights and grabbing your teddy bear right now for comfort, as you would with a super scary story, you will only need to light a few candles and hold the hand of a distant cousin before you read…

The Medium Scary Haunting

If you walk to the end of Darkwood Lane, you'll come upon the house numbered 311. You might feel a strange heaviness in the air as you gaze upon it and wonder who might have lived there. It's abandoned now, and the trees that surround it have grown tall and old. Even on a bright summer day, they remain leafless but still manage to cover the front yard with shadows. The people in the neighborhood stay away. Not even the teenagers dare each other to go there. They've heard the stories. Everybody in town has. They warn their children, "Don't even ride your bikes down there. Don't even look at it." And for good reason. People who stare too long at the house claim to see things. A candle burning in an upstairs window? A face? A shadow where there shouldn't be one?

I guess what I'm saying is don't walk to the end of Darkwood Lane and don't gaze upon the house numbered 311. Just forget I told you about it. Get in your car and drive back to where you came from.

Still here? Okay. But I warned you.

Our story begins on an autumn day, not unlike this one. A block away from 311 Darkwood Lane, the air was brisk and smelled of burning leaves. But the air close to the house, if you dared to get close enough, felt heavy and was surrounded by a musty odor you might find in an attic or an old box of papers from a long ignored closet.

The family that arrived that fall afternoon had not heard the stories. They didn't know the house's history. They didn't feel the uneasiness in the air or see a flicker of shadow in an upstairs window. They could only see "an adorable wraparound porch," a "very becoming Mansard roof," and the low, low price on the long-forgotten and overgrown "For Sale" sign in the front yard.

It didn't even occur to them to ask questions like, "Is this a murder house? Were atrocities committed here? Was this once a funeral home? Is there an opening to another dimension in one of the upstairs closets?" Nothing. They bought it without a second thought.

As you likely expect, things got medium scary pretty fast.

In a super scary haunting, a family member might open a door to a closet and see a man hanging there, his eyes bugged out and staring. After a moment, the specter might disappear, and the person might suspect he or she had imagined things. Super scary hauntings might include doors slamming all by themselves, lights flickering, sudden chills, or a strange, overpowering smell of rot. The family might hear a piano playing in the middle of the night, only to come downstairs find the lid of the piano firmly closed and no budding pianists in sight.

But in a medium scary haunting, these things only happen halfway.

It was the family's first night in the house at 311 Darkwood Lane. The two cherubic children were tucked into bed. The parents lay in their own bed in the darkness, side by side, talking about how things were going to be different, now that they were homeowners. The kids were going to be happier. They themselves were going to be happier. Everything seemed as it should be. And then somewhere in the darkness of the house, they heard the sounds of a piano beginning to play an eerie melody.

"Do you hear that?" the dad asked.

"Yes," said the mom.

"Is it one of the kids?"

"No," the mom replied.

"Are you sure?" said the dad.

"Yes," said the mom. "We don't own a piano, Steve."

So, the parents got out of bed and crept down the stairs to investigate. They moved as quietly possible, hoping to discover whatever was making the noise in the act. But as they reached the living room doorway, the song ended abruptly.

The moonlight shone through the window, casting a silvery glow on the furniture they had moved in just that day.

"Is it one of our cell phones maybe?" the mom asked, switching on a lamp. But the dad didn't answer. He was staring at the woman standing in the middle of the room with her back turned to them.

She wore a pink gingham dress, like she was all dressed up for a summer picnic. But something about the way she was standing seemed odd, slumped somehow, like she could barely hold herself up. As the parents in our story looked on in horror, the woman slowly turned to face them.

If this were a super scary story, she wouldn't have a face, just two maggot-infested eye sockets. But because this story is only medium scary, she only had one maggot infested eye socket and her face was only half gone. It was still pretty disgusting, as I'm sure you can imagine.

The two parents screamed and screamed and raced back up the stairs to the comfort of their bedroom and each other's loving arms.

The next morning, they sat at the kitchen table drinking coffee and wondering what to do.

"We can't sell the house. We just moved in," the dad said.

"Who would buy it?" said the mom. "No wonder it sat here empty all those years."

They talked about it and decided they had no choice but to stay right where they were. Perhaps the odd experience they both had was just a one-time incident.

But they were wrong.

That weekend, one of the children woke them in the middle of the night to tell them that a woman was standing by her bed and wouldn't let her sleep.

"She keeps saying 'Help me. He's coming,'" the girl said, rubbing her eyes.

If this were a super scary story, the parents would carry the girl back to her bedroom. And as they went to tuck her back into bed, the music box on the dresser would begin to play. And then a spectral face would appear in the mirror with an obscene amount of blood spurting from its mouth.

But as this is only a medium scary story, the music box stayed quiet and the horrifying face in the mirror only had a small trickle of blood running from the corner of each eyeball.

"I'm beginning to think we should just move," said the mom, back in her own bedroom.

"It'll be all right in the morning. You'll see," replied the dad. And they both finally fell asleep, holding hands in the darkness.

If this were a super scary story, there would be one last unforgettable incident that would finally drive the family from the house. They would venture into the basement and find the dusty lab of a madman, the hastily buried corpses of his victims moldering in shallow graves nearby. Or the attic might yield a faceless monstrosity screaming, "GET OUT. GET OUT FOR THE SAKE OF YOUR CHILDREN." But this is only a medium scary story, so the final incident, while quite unforgettable, was really only half as scary as it could have been. But I'm warning you, it is still pretty medium scary.

It was evening, not quite dark outside. The mom was home alone, enjoying a few quiet moments before her children arrived home from their after school activities. She was sitting at the living room window with a book in her hand, and she heard a male voice outside and looked up, expecting to see her husband waving at her from the driveway. Instead she saw what appeared to be an elderly man standing in the street in front of the house. She couldn't see his face, but he was definitely watching her. In his hand he held, not an ax as it would have been in a super scary story, but a shovel that shone coppery in the evening light.

As she watched, he began to stride toward the house. The mom quickly ran to the front door to make sure it was locked. As she held the doorknob in her hand, it began to rattle, like someone was trying to open it from the other side. She backed away from the door and began looking around for a place to hide. She finally crouched down behind a side table. The rattling at the doorknob finally stopped, but the sound that took its place was almost more disturbing. It was the sound of a shovel being dragged across the porch...and slowly making its way around the wraparound porch the family had so recently admired to the back door.

Had she locked it? The mom couldn't remember. And she couldn't move. Her body seemed paralyzed by fear, frozen to the floor beside the couch.

"GET UP! MOVE!" she screamed in her mind. "Run out the front door. Run to safety."

It was the sound of the back door creaking open that finally released her body from its paralysis and allowed her to take action. The mom raced to the front door, not even daring to look back toward the kitchen and the horrors that likely lay there.

In a super scary story, she would struggle with the lock as the sound of footsteps approached her from behind. But this is only a medium scary story. She did struggle with the lock and she did hear footsteps.   But rather than the rough hand she expected to grab her, it was only a light touch that came with an overwhelming fragrance of perfume.

The mom looked behind her in alarm to see the face of the woman she and her husband had happened upon in their living room that first night in the house.

"He's here," the woman said in a raspy voice. The knob turned in the mom's hand, and she ran from the house.

In a super scary story, I might tell you that the family fled that night and never returned. But as this is only a medium scary story, it took them until at least 10:30 the next morning.

I told you it was only medium scary.


Friday, July 25, 2014

Everybody Loves Raymond Committed Murder…of My Eyeballs

He's a big, dumb galoot, but we love him.

I'm not an angry person. I don't shout at babies or kick puppies or threaten to speak to the manager.

But when I see the stupid fucking face of Ray from Everybody Loves Raymond, I just get…so…angry. Yesterday, I was scrolling through Hulu, looking for something to watch in my post-Community loneliness. And there it was. Everybody Loves Raymond. I'm not going to go into discussions of sexism or ageism or generally poopy writing. Sometimes you just hate a thing. You don't know why. Or maybe you do. Maybe you saw one episode, and Ray did something dumb, and instead of having some wine and taking a bath, Debra made him sleep on the couch and think about what he did like the most overdone wife caricature on the planet. And then the show won a bunch of Emmys or whatever, and it was like, "Whyyyyy?" even though awards shows are stupid.

To be clear, I almost don't have a problem with Ray Romano. I definitely hate watched that entire season of Parenthood where he hooked up with Lauren Graham, and I didn't have to mute it even once. And to show you just the kinds of grudges I usually hold against TV people, I'm still seriously mad at Peter Krause for almost every season of Six Feet Under and often remind his Parenthood character about all those times Nate Fisher did a super shitty thing to Brenda because WAAAAH! He's so misunderstood. Shut up, Nate Fisher. I'M GLAD YOU'RE DEAD.

Also, Ray Romano's name is a cheese, and as far as I'm concerned, that automatically gets you like 300 person points. (Alison Brie clearly gets 400 because brie is the best cheese.)

But back to the hate at hand.

It's not Ray Romano that bugs me. It's that show. Let's look at the evidence, shall we?

ITEM #1: This picture.

What is this???

This is THE defining photo of Everybody Loves Raymond. What are they doing in that picture? Are they performing in a first grade tap recital? It's the photo equivalent of your 7th grade geography teacher showing up wearing a novelty necktie. Like, "Look at us! Can you believe how silly we are? We're the crazy cast of a wacky show where a big galoot does a big dumb thing every week!"

And everyone is ignoring the fact that Peter Boyle is clearly calling for help. SOMEONE HELP PETER BOYLE. GOD.

And when someone holds his or her hands out like that, there had better be cheesecake in them. Cheesecake for me. And Doris Roberts. She can have some too because clearly she is over this photo shoot.

ITEM #2: Episode descriptions.

I went into the Everybody Loves Raymond IMDB page for these. Do you know what that means? It means it will come up at the bottom of the screen every time I use IMDB to remind me of that time I looked up Everybody Loves Raymond. I hope you're happy, Patricia Heaton.

Ray accidentally tapes football over his wedding.


Ray and Debra try to be nice to each other.


A man accidentally sneezes on Ray and he think's he's caught the man's germs.


Debra accidentally throws out Ray's letter from Muhammad Ali and Marie takes the blame for it. But in return for helping Debra, Marie has Debra take the blame for the disappearance of Franks clothes. Debra can't lie very well so she tells Frank the truth and tells him not to tell Marie. In return Franks wants her to take the blame for digging up Marie's roses. It becomes one big mess!


And my personal favorite, maybe of all time:

Ray and Debra have a fight over a can opener.


ITEM #3: Can I PLEASE watch the Russian version of this show, Everybody Loves Kostya? He's not wearing pants in this photo. Not wearing pants! 

In Russia, Kostya is, how you say, big galoot?

ITEM #4: This show killed Peter Boyle. This show is an actual murderer. Case closed. 


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Welcome to Bethville Theater Presents: Christopher Pike's Gimme a Kiss

One kiss. Like 300 deaths.
Shhhhhh! Please don't tell anyone you saw me here. It could have disastrous consequences. 

You see, I've faked my own death. 

Why, you ask? Well, I come from a land where people are very, very sensitive. The other day, I was at the mall with my friend Katherine, and I told her that her bra strap was showing. She was so embarrassed, she immediately left the mall and committed suicide by driving her Ferrari into a ravine. I was so embarrassed at having made Katherine so embarrassed that I developed a huge cocaine habit. Like, huge. And my friend Stacey was so embarrassed that I developed a drug habit that she gunned down like six football players. The rest of the team was so embarrassed by the untimely deaths of their teammates that they all developed coke habits. AND THEN, they all drove their Ferraris into the SAME RAVINE. I'm so embarrassed by all of this that I had to get away. That's why released the parking brake on my own Ferrari at the top of Teen Suicide Ravine and let people think that I'm dead. 

Embarrassment is a powerful thing. It can drive you to faking your own death just to teach everyone a lesson, as Jane did in Christopher Pike's Gimme a Kiss. It can even drive you to MURDER. So, try not to get too embarrassed by this pivotal scene from Gimme a Kiss, as performed by me and my friend Amanda.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Princeton Mom Saves the World from Feminists


It is the year 2175. Feminists have taken over the earth. 95 percent of the men are dead. The rest are in hiding. In a small mountain hideout, deep in the heart of Manitoba, a small group of men are planning...

"We can take the world back," said Steve the Rugged to the other five leaders of the Secret Society of Manliness, swiveling around dramatically in his chair made from slabs of hot and spicy beef jerky.

"But how?" said Kevin the Timid, twiddling his thumbs anxiously.

"Dammit, Kevin," Steve the Rugged replied. "We have to be men about this. Men make quick decisions. They don't take no for an answer. They have firm handshakes."

Kevin the Timid could only nod. He had not been among the men for long and was not used to their ways. For most of his 28 years, Kevin the Timid had lived…among the feminists. It was barbaric. He was expected to shave once a week. He had to engage in meaningful conversations. He had to watch ice dancing.

"What do we need to do?" Kevin the Timid asked. He wanted to learn the ways of men.

It was Greg the Totally Ripped that answered his question.

"We have to bring her back," he said.

"But that's not possible," said Malcolm the Plaid. "Not since the feminists stole all of our scientific technology and used it for useless things, like tampons and other vagina stuff."

"There is one thing they don't have," said Steve the Rugged, clicking a button on his universal remote control device. A panel in the wall slid open.

"What is it?' asked Kevin the Timid.

"I think you mean 'Who is it?' It's her," Steve the Rugged mansplained.

"MY GOD," said Kevin the Timid. It was her. It was really her. The women called her things like "The Usurper," "El Diablo," and "That Sad Lady."

But the world would always remember her as Susan Patton. Otherwise known as the Princeton Mom.

The Princeton Mom was a force of anti-feminism like the world had never seen. During the early 21st century, she wielded her opinions like a mighty club of truth, singlehandedly shattering the ideals of female medical students and executives the world over. The force of her words drove millions of women from positions of power back to their desperate eHarmony accounts. For a while, it seemed feminism might be defeated at last, driven back to the 1960s from whence it came.

But then a woman was elected President of the United States, and everything changed. No one knows what really happened on that fateful day. But many suspected that during one of her menstrual cycles, the President hit the "BLOW UP ALL THE MEN" button in the Oval Office. Only Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, and Idris Elba survived. And maybe also Javier Bardem. Nobody knows for sure. These last remaining men went into hiding.

It was over. The feminists had won. They celebrated their victory by bringing back Cagney & Lacey and drinking grapefruit mojitos with their bras off.

But now, a century later, the men were preparing to rise again. And they had a powerful weapon in their arsenal: the cryogenically frozen body of The Princeton Mom. And about 5,000 copies of her book, Marry Smart.

Now, to speed things along because we don't have all day, I'll tell you that the men put Princeton Mom in the microwave on defrost for 15 minutes. Then, they popped her into the oven at 350 degrees for another 30 minutes, along with some pizza rolls.

DING! She was ready, and so were their snacks. The men replaced Princeton Mom's burned bits with titanium alloy and outfitted her with laser cannons.

"What do we do now?" asked Kevin the Timid.

"We unleash her upon the women," Steve the Rugged replied.


Friday, June 27, 2014

Migraines? I Like to Think of Them as Ourgraines

Hey. Hi. 

I'm speaking in a whisper, so be sure to adjust your inner monologue levels starting now.

We have to whisper. If it helps, imagine you're Arya in the bowels of the castle at King's Landing. 

Oh, no, friendly reader companion! Some guys are plotting to murder the Hand of the King, Arya's father, Ned Stark. We must speak only in whispers or they'll catch us for sure.

Good. Very good. Just take that inner voice volume down like seven notches. There you go. Gentle, relaxing tones like you're a yoga instructor who does voiceover work for one of those "Women Who Murder" shows on Oxygen. Shhhhh….

This is no adjustment for me. I've been talking like this for ages. My boyfriend gets migraines. This bout has lasted two weeks so far. When people ask me what I've been up to, that's what I tell them. "Migraines. So many migraines." I sit in the dark. I make no noise. Not to sound martyr-ish, but that's where we are. Any little thing could set off a new migraine. The other day I ate some chips in the next room, and he told me afterward that the sound of it made him almost barf. 

I had a migraine once. It was adorable, when I think back on it. It was the Finding Nemo of migraines. I wore my sunglasses for 24 hours and knocked myself out with ordinary over-the-counter medications that might as well have been Skittles. I recovered. I was back at work the next day. These migraines are so much more than my piddly migraine. I'm sorry I mentioned it. I'm so embarrassed. 

My mom always tells me to look for the positive in things. Sometimes I just look at her like she's crazy. Sometimes I actually try it. 

Here goes. 

1. I get to eat all the leftovers, now that my man is on a diet of applesauce and crackers.
2. I get the whole couch to myself basically all the time, so I can lay on it and spread out like I'm the Pablo Escobar of this couch.

Those are the only two positives I was able to think of just now.

I don't have time to write all the negatives, so here is this video that I think sums them up nicely.

I'm going to stare into the refrigerator with a helpless look on my face now. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

FEAR ABBY: An Advice Column

Be afraid. To seek advice.


My boyfriend is cheating on me. What do I do?

Helpless in Wisconsin


Do you have a cellar? Do you have gloves? Maybe it's time for Mitchell to have an accident. Oh, yeah. I know his name is Mitchell. I know where he lives. I know where you live. Do you always hide your house keys under that rock beside your porch?

Yours in Death,



I can't help it. I feel like you're watching me all the time. In the shower. From my closet. Any time I'm alone. Is there any truth to this, or am I just being paranoid?

Your Next Door Neighbor Helen


No, shut up. Just that one time.

I'm slowly and methodically killing you with poison,



What do you mean you're killing me with poison?

Helen from Next Door


Oh, ha ha ha. I'm only kidding. It's just a little neighbor humor.

I ate your dog the other day,



Do you have any advice for a guy who just wants to stand under the streetlight on the corner wearing a clown mask for a living?

Bongo the Terror Clown

Dear Bongo,

No. I am indifferent to your plight.



Oh, Jesus Christ. Is that what happened to Scruffy? You MONSTER.

Helen from Next Door. You know, Helen of "Helen and Bob"?


I was just kidding. NO I WASN'T.


Monday, June 16, 2014

I Did This to Myself: I Let Modeling Go to My Head

At the height of my modeling career.

"Hey, can I use you as a hand model this weekend?" my boyfriend asked.

I looked up from the thing I was doing, which was probably just being unbelievably beautiful for hours on end.

"It's for this thing for work," he added.

"I'm so flattered, Michael," I said, trying to play it cool. He could not know that he had just said words that I had been waiting for my entire life.

At last I could tell people I was a model.

"Just my hands?" I asked, drawing my shapely lips into a pout.

"Yes. Your hands at various locations around the city. It's for an ad I'm working on."

I knew I had a lot more to offer than just my hands, but what could I say? A gig was a gig. And a paying gig as well, as Mike promised me that I could eat the piece of pizza he planned to photograph with my hands as part of the "New York experience" photo series.

"I would be happy to hand model for you," I said, fluttering two lush fields of eyelashes in his direction.

"Okay," he said. He'd already gone back to reading comics.

Preparing for my first real modeling gig was a no-brainer. I had to get into the best hand shape of my life, and I only had one day to do it. I began my rigorous workout first thing Friday morning.

"Look! Over there!" I gestured.

"What?" Mike asked, looking out the apartment window where I had pointed.

"Shhhhhhh!" I said, drawing a finger to my lips. "I have five more sets of jazz hands. I need to concentrate."

He was patient, not even batting an eye as I hummed "Single Ladies" to myself and began to flip my hands back and forth during dinner that night.
Tone is very important to hand beauty.

On Saturday morning, I woke up early and did some texting to warm up my thumbs.

"I haven't even asked you what I should wear," I commented to Michael over breakfast.

"Whatever you want," he replied, shrugging.

"Probably whatever will frame my hands the best," I said, nodding. "Something a little caj. Understated. Modern."

"What you have on is fine."

"Is it?" I asked. I feared he was testing me. I'd heard stories of photographers who said that things were "fine," and then you never worked again. I needed to be careful. Fine was such a dangerous word.

In the end, I went with the strappy summer dress. When Mike moved in in an apparent attempt to grope me (typical photog behavior), I knew I'd made the right choice.

"Are you ready to go?" he asked.

We stepped out the door together. Out towards destiny? Maybe.

Our first shooting location was the tram to Roosevelt Island.

"Cup your hands like you're holding the Queensborough Bridge," Mike said. As I did, he snapped several photos.

"Is this right?" I kept asking. I couldn't read from his face whether or not he was pleased with my work.

"Maybe just tip your hands a little more towards the camera," he replied.

I did. When it still wasn't quite right, he moved my hands the way he wanted them. "Like that," he said.

As we walked along Roosevelt Island and snapped photos of me cupping various buildings in the Manhattan skyline with my shapely hands, I began to feel more natural. Confident even.

"I'm going to cup the Long Island City Pepsi sign," I said. "Then, I'm going to cup that abandoned hospital. And this might just be me going out on a limb here, but what do you think of my hands framing that seagull eating an old bagel? Like it's a tribute to squalor or something?"

I could tell by the look on his face that he was nonplussed by my creative input.

"Maybe just come back over here and let me get a few more shots of the UN?" he said, boringly.

We walked back towards the tram. We were going to head to Times Square so I could cup a dirty guy dressed as Elmo with my delicate fingers. But then something happened. Something that would change my hand modeling career, my very life, forever.

"Mommy!" I heard a voice cry.

I cupped one comely hand to my ear.

"Did you hear something?" I asked Mike. He hadn't, of course.

It was a little boy who had lost his mom at the FDR memorial. I knew I could help.

"Are you lost?" I asked him.

"Yes," the little boy replied, frantically.

"Well, don't worry," I said, with reassurance in my voice. "I can help. I'm a model."

I flexed my fingers in preparation.

"Now," I said. "Which way did she go?"

I pointed one direction. "Did she go that way?"

I pointed in the opposite direction. "Or maybe it was that way."

I flapped my hands over my midsection. "Do you remember what she was wearing?" I asked. "A hat? Sunglasses? Maybe a wig like Marie Antoinette?" With each suggestion, I moved my hands to represent the possible article of clothing. Perhaps it would awaken a memory of the last time the boy had seen his mother.

The boy was just crying by then.

Finally, he scampered off the direction I had first pointed, toward a woman wearing a blue and white striped top.

"Stripes. I should have known," I muttered.

As we continued walking toward the tram, I started thinking that I could do so much more than hold New York in my hands. By this time next month, I could be cupping Big Ben or the Kremlin for some fancy photographer named Giovanni. I could give the world the gift of my hands.

"Do you ever feel like you've just done a miraculous thing?" I asked.

Could the world handle my hands? 

"Would you mind if we got just one more photo of the bridge?" Mike asked, ignoring my comment like a jerk.

I knew then that I had outgrown him.

"The bridge?" I asked. "You have the Adriana Lima of hands in front of you, and you want to photograph a bridge?"

"I think you might be getting a little too into this modeling thing, Bethany," Mike said.

"Am I, Miguel?" I replied. "Am I?"

He bought me a bottle of water and made me drink it, sitting on a bench that looked out at the river.

"Feel better?" he asked.

"Yeah," I said. "Sorry about that."

"It's okay," Mike said. He put his arm around me. Times Square (and the world) would just have to wait.

"Hey, would you do me a favor?" I asked, humbled at last.

"Sure," he replied.

"Don't Photoshop my fingers to make them thinner."

Thursday, June 12, 2014

My Second Favorite Scene from Christopher Pike's See You Later


I know you guys have been waiting all day and all night to see more of Batman and Catwoman reenacting my favorite scenes from Christopher Pike's See You Later. This is my second favorite scene. Just remember that after this, you're just going to have to read this book on your own. I'll be busy preparing for my one-woman show of my favorite scenes from Christopher Pike's Die Softly. Be sure to tune in!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Welcome to Bethville Theater Presents: Christopher Pike's See You Later

See you later. (This isn't a caption. It's a personal note
for someone. Stop reading it. It's personal.)

The other day I just happened to be in a used book store. My reasons for being there are my own, so don't even think about asking. They may or may not have something to do with hiding from someone. Someone who might be another version of me, but I can neither confirm nor deny that. It's possible that I accidentally traveled back in time to visit an earlier version of myself to make sure she doesn't make the mistake of her life. I was not successful, if you must know. (I used the Nair on a place I shouldn't have.) But a good thing did come out of the experience and that is that I happened to be in a used book store that had almost the complete set of Christopher Pike's teen romance/sci-fi/horror novels from the 1990s.

With names like Die Softly, Bury Me Deep, and Whisper of Death, these books whispered softly deep into my ear all the things teen girls want to know. Such as, "Should I kill a guy if he gives me herpes?" Or, "Do all scuba dives result in murder?" And finally, "Are all head cheerleaders evil, murderous drug dealers who drive Ferraris?"

I used to scrounge for loose change so that I could buy the latest Christopher Pike novel. I loved them with the scary intensity of a cocaine-addled high school quarterback with an axe. Now that I'm an adult, I can read them again and try to decide if they hold up. They don't.

See You Later was one of my favorites. It made me cry, LIKE, OH MY GOD, with this pivotal scene at the end of chapter 10. I won't tell you what happened because I can't capture the awesomeness of this scene with stupid wordy words. Instead, I made this reenactment video. You can watch it if you want to.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

How to Not Have a Job Effectively

I'm too unemployed to write a caption. 

So, I recently lost my job.

But don't cry for me, Argentina. I'm, like, fine. I've been trying to think of a metaphor to describe my ex-job for twenty minutes, and the only one I can think of is "human centipede." As in, "My former job was a human centipede." Not, "My former job was like a human centipede." Because that would be a simile.


When you're unemployed, people have a lot of advice. Like the reason you lost your job in the first place was maybe that you weren't networking effectively or using the right fonts on your resume. (Like layoffs have something to do with you, and not that your former company was run like a human centipede.) It's 10 percent "job fair blah-blah-blah" and 90 percent mouth farts. I'm all stocked up on advice over here. Thanks.

But what about the advice you need for when you're just sitting at home waiting for your unemployment benefits to go through? Or when you're waiting for that temp agency to email you back? Where's the advice for when you're just killing time, trying to make your life a little less shitty?

I'm so glad you asked. Here is my advice for being a better unemployed you.

1. Stock up on some unemployment groceries. This is not the time to blow all $0 of that severance package you didn't get because your former company was a human centipede on kale smoothies and yogurt. You need ice cream. You need chips. You need some cheese that comes in a can. Maybe you're feeling positive today and are thinking, "I'm going to get healthy!" But shut your dumb unemployed face and head over to the cookie aisle. Tomorrow you won't feel that positive, trust me. They have root beer float Chips Ahoy now. DID YOU KNOW THAT?? DID YOU? Of course you didn't. You were too busy before, checking your work email and putting in a request for some IT asshole to fix the copy machine, which he will ignore for at least three hours. GET THOSE COOKIES.

2. Leave notes around to remind you what day it is. About Day 3 of being unemployed, you'll stop looking at the clock. Darkness will come, and you'll be afraid. DON'T BE AFRAID. That darkness is totally normal. It just means it's time for you to have dinner, which will consist of a mustard sandwich and some stale crackers because you were too busy watching all of the Netflix to go outside all day and buy food things. Notes will remind you that it's Tuesday and you need toilet paper.

3. Stop doing your hair. Nobody cares.

4. When people ask about your day, tell them in detail so that they don't ask again. Like this, but all in monotone. "It was good. I woke up at 7 AM. I took a shower. I walked into the kitchen, but I was too depressed to cook, so I ate some peanut butter on a Triscuit. It was a garlic Triscuit. Then, I went to the bathroom where I sat on the toilet playing Tiny Tower on my phone for 45 minutes. Then, I sang 'The Wind Beneath My Wings' to my cats. They maybe loved it. I don't know. They were all asleep. I filled out unemployment paperwork. I wrote a cover letter for some job I'm overqualified for and probably won't even get an interview. I cried into a pillow. At 11:45, I ate lunch. What did I have? So glad you asked. It was just a can of beans, two Cheetos, and some water. No, that was yesterday. Today, I had some leftover taco meat. I'm going to trail off now because I don't really want to talk to you anymore…"

5. Shower?

6. Give yourself goals. Go out for things like pancake mix. Don't actually make pancakes. Look up things to do for free. Do none of them.

7. Pretend like you're in a big hurry at Starbucks. This is really fun. "I'm busy and important. I have a meeting in five minutes. Hurrumph! Hurrumph! DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM? DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM? I'm CEO of Couch Corp. I'll have all your jobs." Don't drag it out too long, or you'll end up on YouTube.

8. Look at Facebook and play a drinking game where if people are talking about Orange Is the New Black, take one drink. For Game of Thrones, take two drinks. You can do this with either wine or water. Either you'll end up drunk or hydrated. The end.

Well, I'd love to stay and tell you more things to do, but I have to finish watching Community now. Okay, bye.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Some DIY Ideas for the Aspiring Murderers of Hannibal

So, you’re an aspiring murderer on the show Hannibal? I guess you already know that they set the bar pretty high for guys like you. You can't just shoot your best friend for sleeping with your wife or smother your mother-in-law with a pillow. You have to study art, poetry, and music for several years and then hone your craft through careful practice so that you can eventually create a work of art that will baffle the FBI, befuddle the homicide department, and put Martha Stewart to shame. It’s hard to keep your ideas (and your corpses!) fresh when the other serial murderers around you are turning their victims into DIY beehives, musical instruments, and corpse totems.

And you don't want to be labeled as a copycat, do you? 

So, check out these DIY ideas that will help you create a memorable calling card worthy of Hannibal Lecter himself.

1. The Wall Marlin. 

Do you have the old corpse of an elderly neighbor just lying around doing nothing in that moldy, old basement freezer of yours? Why not turn it into a conversation piece? While taxidermy is definitely a "been there, done that" for a lot of murderers, thanks to Norman Bates you can still create a clever, eye-catching piece of art with a few original accents. Maybe you want to make a bold statement about the beef industry? Why not procure a cow head from a local animal renderer and stitch it to a nude, headless corpse? Don't know how to get started? Take a class at your local community college under an assumed name. Murder is the gift that keeps on giving once you've mastered the art of taxidermy. Mount your favorite pieces over the operating table in your "man cave." The right work of art will definitely make your future victims scream things like, "Wowee!" and "AAAAA! SHIT!" and "Please, let me go. My family has money." 

2. The Fashionista.

If you're like most murderers, you don't have a lot of time to think about fashion. You tend to just crawl out of your cot, throw on some coveralls, a mask, and a pair of gloves, and you're out the door. But check this out. You can create a simple, fashionable handbag for carrying your murder tools out of those unwanted internal organs. Hollow out a kidney to use as a small purse for your poison vials. Or fashion a stomach and length of intestine into a roomy shoulder bag for the “axe murderer on the go.” Just pop them into the oven at a low temperature until they've reached a leathery consistency and can be easily stitched together using nondescript black twine. A hot glue gun and some jewels later, and you'll not only mystify the police, you'll be forevermore known as The Slasher [Who Knows How to Accessorize!]

3. The Footballer.

Sometimes running after fleeing victims and deadlifting corpses just isn't enough to keep a murderer in shape. So, why not up your cardio by fashioning an unwanted skull into a medicine ball using some ball bearings and discarded victim clothing? Or you probably have a lot of cars parked around your rural cabin. Why not create an obstacle course through your self-made junkyard? Or turn those rib bones that your dog keeps digging up into croquet wickets and schedule a tournament with Jeremy, your dark half? Just because you're a psychopathic loner doesn't mean you shouldn't be keeping in shape. Think of the fun the police will have when they finally discover your hideout and can’t help but play a few rounds of head golf before being slaughtered!

4. The Interior Decorator.

Is the centerpiece of your basement hideout that old corkboard with yellowed news articles about you posted all over it? (Hey, 1974 called, and it wants its Zodiac Killer back, am I right?) You don’t have to live that way when you have an unlimited source of raw materials at your disposal. A human skin rug can brighten up the hearth of that abandoned mental hospital on the outskirts of town. Or why not light up that condemned warehouse with a matching pair of lamps you fashioned from the hands of that graffiti artist who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time? The cops might call you a murderer, but they won’t call that old barn where you keep your trophies “so last year.”

5. The Food Vendor.

I know what you’re thinking. “Do I look like Sweeney Todd, the demon barber of Fleet Street? Maybe you’d like me to sing you a few musical numbers before I cut off your head and run it up the flagpole in front of a local government building to be discovered by workers when they arrive at 7 AM?” But don’t misunderstand! There is a heap of recipes that the enterprising serial killer can incorporate into his craft without stepping on the toes of cannibals who have come before him. Maybe you’d like to be known as “The Pickler” or the “Cobbler” or “The Murderer Who Makes His Victims into Jerky.” (I’m still working on a name for that one.) It’s all possible with the right ingredients, a meat cleaver, and little bit of kitchen know-how.

Well, the ominous shadow outside on my patio tells me that it’s time to turn out my lights, grab a shotgun, and head to the closet upstairs. I hope these tips help keep you relevant the next time a victim is discovered sewn into a patriotic summer quilt. Best of luck and happy murdering!

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.