Death By 1,000 Cuts



Because my biological clock hates me, I am often the first person to wake up in my house. I’ve grudgingly come to accept this, but this acceptance doesn’t make me any more pleasant to be around.

This past Saturday, my son, Alex, found me at the breakfast table a quarter of the way through an Atlantic cover story, one third of the way through my first waffle, and halfway through my third cup of coffee.

“Waffles! I think I’ll have that, too,” he announced.

He then paused to see if his declaration would spur me to act – and it did. My actions were a long, slurpy pull on my coffee and a facial expression that could be interpreted to mean, “Get yer own damn waffles.” Continue reading

On To Contestant’s Row

clean roomI like to enter writing contests. I love how they force my brain to think in new and exciting ways. I would even say that some of my best writing efforts were the direct result of such contests – especially the ones with strict rules regarding subject matter and word count.

I suffer from a sort of Contest Compulsion, I think. Sometimes I win these contests, which, of course, is awesome. More often than not, I lose — but losing never bothers me much; for the real victory is in the final written product, the story that didn’t exist before I decided to compete.

Thanks to Patricia Tilton, I recently learned about the Erma Bombeck Humor Writing Competition. Due to my Compusion, I had to enter. The rules were simple: One had to submit a humorous essay fewer than 425 words written in the style of the great Erma herself.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed channeling Bombeck’s propensity for exaggeration. She also loves dialogue, which allowed me to exercise my long-atrophied playwrighting muscles.

What’s posted below didn’t win a thing, but I thought it might be fun to share. Here’s hoping you agree.


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The Battle At Fort Mike

When my older sister, Gina, became a high school junior, the house suddenly got very loud. It was time for her to declare her independence from everyone and everything, and that, apparently, cannot be accomplished with an inside voice.

She yelled early and often in a shrill, tenacious soprano that burrowed directly into my head at the left temple and ricocheted off the interior of my skull. (Once a noise like that gets inside your cranium, by the way, it’s very difficult to get it out. On quiet nights I can still hear a faint, echoing “IT’S NOT FAIR!” circa. 1981.) If Gina was the only one making unpleasantly loud noises it wouldn’t have been so bad; unfortunately she inspired similarly loud noises from my parents.

When those three voices filled the house in a hollering harmony, all I wished to do was go elsewhere.

That was when I began to take an interest in the woods.

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