Please RSVP!!

What’s not to like about a picnic?!

Unless you’re allergic to grass, perhaps. Or the flies bother you.

But other than those two things, what can you do other than just fully enjoy the day when you are at a picnic?

I mean, I guess if you have back problems, I suppose, and it’s hard for you to sit on the ground. Or if you’re prone to sunburn – I get that that.

But other than those four things, what’s not to love about lounging in the park on a sunny day with good friends and good cheese?

Unless you’re coming alone and you don’t know anyone to start, and you’re not really great at meeting people, especially in the daylight on a Sunday afternoon when everyone is sober, or only having one glass of wine, and there’s a distinct possibility that everybody will already know each other, and because of this, they will be too busy having fun conversations amongst themselves, and they won’t really want to take the time to make small talk with you, and if you show up late, there won’t be much room left on the blanket so your butt will kind of be halfway on the grass and you’ll get kind of itchy because it’s Brooklyn Grass and so it’s probably contaminated and you’re wearing short shorts so bugs might try to look at your hoo hah and perhaps you might bring the wrong cheese and everybody will say “awwwww thank you,” with a fake smile and then nobody will really eat it because you have generic taste in cheese and then the cheese will start to feel left out too and you will feel bad for it and you will get totally in your head about the cheese and you don’t belong and you never will and you’re too pale for picnics anyway and why did you even wear shorts what if people notice your cellulite what if they stare at it what if they think you’re weak why would you invite a redhead to a picnic at a treeless park anyway and what if someone brings nuts and you eat them and suddenly you become allergic to nuts or what if you don’t become allergic to nuts but at the EXACT MOMENT you find yourself warming up to someone and having a comfortable conversation, you get cocky and then you choke on one instead? And then you die?

Image result for social anxiety memes

So, if those things bother you, I TOTALLY understand if you don’t want to come to my birthday picnic.

But just so you know, if you don’t show up, I WILL overthink it, and I’ll probably send you an email asking you why you hate me, and then you’ll have to live with that for a couple of weeks.

Please RSVP so I know whether to bring GF crackers or not! Thanks!

a muse before dark

“Hey.”

A long, wiry man with curly dark hair and wings was laying on my couch. It was confusing.

“Hey.” I said, to be polite. I was in a hurry though. I had a date. And I still had to shower and walk the dog.

“How was work?” He asked, gently.

“Good?” I responded with a question, I think, because I wasn’t quite sure yet how work was. I was an executive assistant, and quite bored with it. So even on my best days, I was still standing at the very bottom of the gaping hole that was my life, looking for a rope. But there was food down there!

The man with wings was laying very seductively, propped up on one elbow with his hand on his head. His other hand rubbed his naked belly.

“I’m not going to have sex with you.” I told him, flat out. I didn’t know who he was or where he came from, and frankly, I wasn’t interested in the wings, as liberal as I claimed to be.

“I know.” He smiled at me, almost painfully.

My dog, Aura, bit at my hand. She was ready to go out. I felt like I should figure out why this guy was in my apartment before I went anywhere. He couldn’t have been too dangerous, if Aura was okay with him. But still, something was off.

“So, how did you get in?” I sat at the edge of the couch, careful not to touch his feet. I didn’t know where they had been.

He sat up, clutching a throw pillow to his chest. He really was very docile. His wings fluttered, tenderly. His eyes were colorless, and his cheeks were rosy. If not for the hairy chest and the day old stubble, I would have found him literally cherubic.

“I floated in through the window. I was actually trying to get to the third floor,” he put his hands to his little poochy belly, “But this was easier.”

Suddenly we were holding hands. He was very soft.

He produced a pair of wire glasses, and put them on.

“I’m your new muse,” he announced. His wings flittered with excitement and his cheeks flushed a new bright pink.

At first I was very excited to hear this. Maybe now I could quit my job. Then I realized that I wasn’t his intended partner.

“I thought you were trying to get to the third floor.” I shook his hands off of mine.

He smiled wide for the first time, and I realized he was missing a few teeth. I found this comforting, since the rest of him was nearly perfect. Minus all the body hair.

“Art!” He yelped, and then the dog yelped too, “is a mysterious lover.” He paused dramatically.

I decided to multitask so as not to be late for my date. I clipped my nails in the silence.

“What do you think?” he asked.

“I could get behind a muse.” I decided. Although I was skeptical.

He snapped his fingers:

And I was confronted by a wave of nostalgia and longing that I didn’t even know I possessed. It was as if every happy moment in my childhood, every adolescent fancy I had ever inhabited, collided inside of me. A black hole was collapsing, and I was nearly free. Or perhaps it was a bang- a new universe had exploded to life inside of me, and I was the creator.

“I want to paint!” I was yelling and I didn’t know why.

He clapped gleefully.

“I’ve always wanted to be a painter! But I never thought I could!!”

He kissed me on the mouth. He kissed the dog on the mouth.

“Myra,” he held my face with two dainty hands, and looked me in the eyes. I felt so alive. I felt like I was holding my heart in my own hands. “You will paint.”

He produced a small leather bag from under the couch, and removed a folder.

“Packages start at 49.99 per month.”

 

A comedian like you

Pia and Karen play cards, while Mickey tries to ignore them and focus on her book.

Karen: I signed up for an improv class!

Pia: Oh, great!

Mickey is suddenly interested.

Mickey: What does that even mean?

Karen: Improvisational comedy. I’m going to be a comedian, like you.

Mickey: Mom I don’t do improv. You’ve been to my shows- when do I ever do improv?

Karen: I’ve seen you do improv.

Pia: I think she means your standup has a very improvisational quality.

Mickey: Well, of course, I mean there’s always going to be a-

Karen: That one time the man in the front row was texting, and you called him a- no, you said he- Pia, what did she say to that texting man?

Pia: Oh yeah, she said his- he had a ponytail right? She said, I think she said that his ponytail was way too luscious to be sitting in the dark?

Mickey: No-

Karen: Yeahhh something about his ponytail-

Pia: Then she said she was going to eat his phone, like it was a $14.00 taco?

Karen: That I didn’t understand.

Pia: It was like a hipster joke… kind of a bad one.

Mickey: You guys are the worst.

She turns back to her book. 

Mickey: Whatever. I hope you have fun, Mom, I think it will be good for you.

Karen: I think it will. Denny always said I was funny.

They sit in somber silence. Pia pats Karen’s shoulder. 

Mickey: Oh, come on, he’s not dead. You left him in Wisconsin!

Pia: Mickey, your mom just made a huge life change. When you dismiss her feelings like that you invalidate her brave choices. Karen? Do you have anything you’d like to add?

Karen is scrolling through Facebook on her phone. They wait for her to answer. 

Mickey: Mom. Pia is waiting for you to tell me that I hurt your feelings so that I can apologize.

Karen: Sorry. I wasn’t paying attention. Donna just posted this video of a cat at a grocery store, ordering something from the meat counter.

Pia locks eyes with a smug Mickey.

Mickey: She’s gonna be fine.

half your age

Mickey grabs a beer from the fridge. Thinks long and hard about whether or not she should take one for Garrett too. Decides to put them both away, and pours them each a glass of orange juice instead. 

Pia comes home, looking pissed off and exhausted.

Mickey: Hey! How was work?

Pia: I had to wear this giant, like, plastic dress thing with a bunch of little slits in it, and then they locked champagne flutes into them like a puzzle. And I was also on rollerblades. So basically I was a giant drink tray on wheels. For 6 hours.

Mickey: Wow, cool!

Pia: No, Mickey, it was awful! At one point this guy grabbed a champagne from one of the slots and said to his friends, “see, this is why you send your daughters to college!” And they all thought it was hilarious, of course. I have a phD!

Mickey: Yeah, in Peace Studies.

Pia: Which is exactly why I didn’t punch that motherfucker in the head.

Mickey: Don’t you think therapy would have been cheaper than another 3 years of school?

Pia: I don’t need therapy! Hey- what are you doing up so late? Why are you drinking orange juice? Oh my gosh, do you have someone over?

Mickey: Maybe. Maybe not.

Suddenly Garrett enters from Mickey’s room. He looks young. Not even 20. 

Garrett: Hey.

Pia: Oh, wow. Hi.

Mickey hands him a glass. 

Mickey: OJ?

Garrett: Does it have pulp?

Mickey reads the label on the bottle. 

Mickey: Mmm, yes.

Garrett: No thanks, I don’t like pulp in my orange juice.

Pia: I do.

She pours herself a glass of vodka and dumps the orange juice on top. 

They sit in awkward silence. 

Mickey: So… what are you gonna do now?

Garrett: I dunno. Probably keep hanging out with you.

He grabs a beer and heads back to Mickey’s room. 

Mickey: Cool. Cool cool cool.

Pia: Wooooooooooooow. He’s like, 20!

Mickey: No Pia, he’s 18.

Pia: WHAT, why?

Mickey: Because now that I’m 36, I can technically sleep with someone half my age. So I did. Because there’s absolutely nothing else special about being 36.

Pia: Where did you even meet an 18 year old?

Mickey: Snapchat.

She pulls a beer from the fridge. And then takes the whole case and heads to her room.

Mickey: Night.

Pia gets her phone from her purse. 

Pia: I should learn how to use Snapchat.

this is what happens when all of a sudden writing gives you terrible anxiety.

this is a story about a magic turd. if the turd comes to you and you accept it, then you get to have three wishes. but because it’s a turd, most people dismiss it as repulsive, and then they don’t get any wishes. therefore the turd cannot perform it’s magic.

but the thing is the turd WANTS to do magic, it’s just that the only people who will accept the turd and all of it’s powers, are dogs. and dogs cannot ask for wishes because the turd only speaks human languages. and not just english either. let’s say a german or japanese speaking person were to find the turd. all good, the turd could understand them.

so the magic turd did everything in it’s power to become beautiful, so that it could be accepted by a human and could grant three wishes and be happy again.

(This is where I get stuck and I ask Cole, “Now what?” And he says, “Is this an essay that you’re going to use to apply to Grad school? Because that will determine what kind of advice I would give you.” “Yes,” I decide. He thinks, and then says gently, “What if the turd finds a little boy?” I think about this for a minute and make some tweaks.)

one day a little squirrel stumbled across the magic turd. the squirrel was actually a human girl, who was turned into a squirrel by an evil witch.

now i know what you’re thinking- just what kind of turd are we talking about here? is it long and coiled, or mostly water? is it human? colors, etc.

oh i forgot to tell you- this is a choose your own adventure story.

(At this point I delete the whole story and I say, “Ugh, this is baloney.” Cole says, “Why did you delete it?” I quickly hit command Z, in case what I wrote was genius. “Well I’m not going to publish it, am I?” “Just save it as a draft,” He responds. Then he put on ‘Interview With a Vampire’ and began gleefully reading the opening credits out loud, saying things like “Thandie Newton’s in this?! Oh this is gonna be so spooky!”)

(I quickly grow irritated with this movie because I don’t like the score because it’s annoying, and then I also can’t hear a word that Brad Pitt is saying. But damn, Brad Pitt is hot!!)

(Tom Cruise kind of is too, believe it or not!!)

(Yo, vampires are sexy!!!)

(Because they look like women!!!)

so this little squirrel finds a turd and then they become friends and they both decide that they don’t need to be beautiful after all because ( Okay actually, GTG because now I’m watching this movie, but hey at least I tried. I ask Cole, who doesn’t know that he has become part of my story, if he has any last thoughts, and he looks up from his phone, on which he is reading the plot of the movie along with the movie, and says, “No, not really.”)

 

Uncle Bill’s Will

Dear Katie,

I’m sure you remember the stories about my grandpa’s brother, Bill, who was a known prankster. Actually do you remember the story I told you the day we met? Your bag was caught in the subway door, and I had to pull you away from the train so that you would quit chasing it down the platform.

You made a little wisecrack about a meet-cute, and it reminded me of the time that Bill put raw goat meat in my grandpa’s boots. Do you remember that? Uncle Bill always had goats. Well, almost always.

My grandmother used to say that Uncle Bill got away with a lot because of his “spooky blue eyes” and his “noxious charisma.” He was a tall, crooked man, who lived in an old castle on a hill just outside of town. You never got a chance to meet him, but I’m sure you would have found him charming.

Anyway, that’s not important. I’m just stalling as long as I can to get to the heart of this letter. Hoping perhaps to make it so long, that if my circumstances do change, and I am able to come back to you, then you won’t have finished it yet. At least 350 pages. One page for every year of Bill’s life, since he’s the reason I have to go home. Ha, just kidding. He was only in his 90s, but it seemed like he was 350.

As you know, he disappeared about six months ago, leaving behind a limerick that hinted at a suicide.

“There was an old man from Northbrook,

who lived his whole life as a rook.

Now his body is gone

But his jokes will live on

So don’t even bother to look”

It’s been a strenuous legal battle, and one that so far, I have been lucky to avoid. Mostly, I think, because I live here in New York City with you, and so I’ve been spared from all the confusion and bad vibes back home. Thank you for being my rock. I’m going to miss you so much.

After months of back and forth, it appears that Uncle Bill has been declared legally dead. This wouldn’t really affect me at all (except the nostalgia I would experience at the memory of him, of course), but many years ago, when I was just a kid, Uncle Bill had a new will drafted, as a joke, in which I inherited the laundromat he’d owned and operated for almost 70 years.

He told me he’d take it out, but it looks like he forgot, and now I own a haunted laundromat in Northbrook, Indiana.

Ha, well it’s not really haunted. But I always thought it was when I was a kid, and I was terrified to go there. Once, I found this crazy secret room. The memory is a blur because I was so young, but it was painted completely red and there were all these scary tools. So anyway, he always got a kicked of how much I would cry when I went there, and so on my 16th birthday, he amended the will. We all got a kick out of it, because he said he would change it back.

But, he didn’t. And I’m sure by now you see where this letter is going. I have to go home, Katie, and I don’t think I’ll be coming back to New York City anytime soon. I can’t give you anymore details than that, legally, because the laundromat is under some kind of investigation, and now it’s my problem.

I truly don’t know the best way to end this letter other than to say, I’m so, so sorry. I’ll never forget you.

Forever yours,

Damien

The Silent Air in Here

It was a rhetorical question. Mostly sarcasm, veiled with a lilt.

Mr. Luther knew that every one of these 5th graders had done their homework. Their parents paid $11,000 a year for them to do homework. He knew that these kids managed to squeeze in as much homework as they could between swimming, piano, Chinese and martial arts. They did homework on busses and in cafes with the nanny and at the dinner table and in locker rooms and in the lobby of music academies while waiting for their lessons.

So, asking these kids “Who did their homework?” was like asking a Brooklyn sidewalk if it had ever met a pile of wet dog poop. Of course they did their homework- instinctively, and without hesitation.

He asked this question because if he didn’t keep it light- if he didn’t play the role of the  fun-loving and supportive launch pad into middle school- he would have to find a new job. This was a cushy job. Even if his own humanity was united with boredom, and his own wants and needs seemed to have softly evaporated throughout the years, until he simply became an educational accessory, rather than a teacher. Besides, he was nearly 50. Finding a new job at this point was not an option.

Every morning he tied his tie a little tighter, so that his head stayed on.

It wasn’t that he didn’t like these kids. They were fine. They were butt kissing overachievers, with their sights set on retirement, which made his life easy. They were mostly devoid of personality, but again, that took some of the complication out of the job. They didn’t really understand jokes and they didn’t want to goof around and they were about as lively as a room full of tiny human robots could get, but he never had to deal with any conflict in his job, ever.

Today, however, when he looked up from his papers and saw every hand raised straight up through the fibrous ceiling tiles, he was overcome by a wave of pure rage. It shot through him like a train, leaving him feeling overheated and filled with steam. Before he could register this surprising new sensation, he mumbled softly:

“I’m gonna freak out.”

Every hand stayed lifted in the noiseless classroom, but all 17 baby faces looked back at him in confusion.

He hadn’t said it very loud. But the kids were well behaved, and the room was quiet, and his words were a pin that everyone heard fall to the ground.

They waited in silence for Mr. Luther to move on. But he couldn’t.

“Did you hear that?” He asked.

They nodded.

“Please put your hands down.”

They did. Neatly so.

“Can anybody tell me what I just said?”

All hands shot back up, so he let them suspend. He loosened his tie. He let one minute go by in silence. Nobody put their hand back down. Nobody would, until the question was answered.

Another minute ticked by, and the hands stayed raised towards the heavens. He scanned the room for signs of fatigue, but these were not quitters. There was no fidgeting feet or trembling fingers. No shifting or moving at all. Not even one student switched arms in a moment of weakness. They would wait him out.

“Does anybody know what it means to freak out?” He asked, curiously.

Their hands stayed raised. Their eyes stayed dead.

“Mina, what does it mean to freak out?” He selected a lithe blonde girl in the first row, who looked like she had been ready for middle school for nearly 40 years.

All hands lowered.

“Freaking out is slang, it means to lose control.”

“Very good Mina.”

Mr. Luther continued to loosen his tie.

“Has anybody here, in this room, ever freaked out?”

This time, they lifted their hands slowly. He felt himself grow lighter. Perhaps today was the day they would all get in trouble.

He pointed to a boy in the back, with large front teeth and an unfortunate bowl cut, who had just become a recent media sensation for breaking a 30 year old golf record at a PGA Jr. event.

“Clark? Have you ever freaked out?”

He answered without hesitation. “No, sir.”

“Are you lying, Clark?”

Clark, who was an uncomplicated 10 year old boy who just wanted to do what he loved and be a professional golfer, looked around at his peers for help. They stared back at him with blank expressions. This was not a question he was used to be asked. None of them were. He began to hiccup.

“N-no sir.” Another hiccup.

Mr. Luther realized he was being unfair.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to put you on the spot.”

“It’s ok-ay Mr. L-uther.”

Mr. Luther walked back to Clark’s desk. Heads turned to follow him like wind blowing through tall grass. He felt this. Were they finally interested?

“Clark,” he said gently. “What would you tell me if I was going to freak out?”

This time Clark did not need advice. He managed to swallow his hiccups. He smiled.

“I would tell you to dream big. Always focus on your dreams, and have fun.”

He gave Clark a little pat on the shoulder. Then he walked back to his own desk at the front of the room and sat down. The children watched in anticipation, wondering when he would start today’s lesson.

Mr. Luther undid his tie, pulled it from around his neck, and finally released his head.

It floated up to the ceiling, higher than any hand could reach.