Tag Archives: creative writing

Breaking news: Cucumber never really that cool

New evidence has been dug up in the ongoing investigation that the cucumber might not be as hip as previously thought, despite its former reputation of being “cool.”

An extensive exploration into its life revealed the fruit (Or is it a vegetable? I’m still a little fuzzy on the details…) as being quite a novice when it came to living up to the physical and sociological demands of being a cucumber, as showcased by its “green” characteristics.

“I once overheard the cucumber say it was capable of transforming into a pickle after it was plucked from its vine,” said fellow garden cohabiter, the carrot.

The worst magic trick imaginable to a garden.

“Amateur,” the carrot said chidingly. “Thinks it’s a magician.”

“Me, on the other hand?” the carrot suddenly asked no one in particular, sensing its five minutes of fame. “I’m gonna be a big star. I’m taking acting lessons! Check it out – this is me….being a basketball!”

Grunting, the carrot attempted to curl into a ball and after several attempts, blamed its lack of flexibility on the fact that it didn’t have the proper time to stretch beforehand. “Well, anyway. The orange can do it better than me.”

A background check on the cucumber exposed startling information never before released to the public. This exclusive interview with a bushel of beans sheds light on the cucumber’s spotty past.

“The cucumber? Yeah, I knew it in high school. Always wore those shirts with the unicorns and wolverines on them,” scoffed one bean, a former sprout and classmate of the cucumber. “And not ironically – like, it really enjoyed Code Red Mountain Dew and finding its own square roots. And trust me, were they ever squaaaaare…”

“Plus, one time the cucumber asked out a tomato and got totally rejected,” another bean added. “A TOMATO! ZOMG! Can you imagine!?” The beans snickered amongst themselves.

“We throw those at vegetables and fruits that CAN’T act,” said the carrot knowledgeably. “Please.”

“Plus, the cucumber had really bad skin,” said another bean. “One word: warts. Uh, groooooss!”

Sensing my journalistic responsibility to impartially report on the matter, I confronted the beans with authority. “Um, yes…Aren’t you guys known as the magical fruit?” (Seriously, we need to think of the grave ramifications of thoughtlessly labeling vegetables as fruits– it’s confusing to everyone.) “And as for your own societal value, would you care to explain the phrase, ‘Not worth a hill of beans?’”

"What's that smell?" "Taaaa-daaaaa!"

A muffled, nervous toot from the back of the group broke the lengthy silence. 

Making sure I wasn’t downwind of the garden, I hurried off to find the cucumber, who had called an emergency session with its psychiatrist to address some of its most common and serious allegations. “I guess maybe they could have meant that I’m like, ummm….refreshing?” the cucumber asked unsurely.

“You tell me,” answered the psychiatrist, a turnip and fellow neighbor of the cucumber, as it rubbed dirt from its eyes. “Perhaps the answer will TURNIP in your journey toward self-discovery,” it said wisely, with a boisterous smile.

The cucumber looked humorlessly at the turnip. “I’m not paying you to self-promote.”

The conversation proceeded to digress from the cucumber’s lack of hedge funds needed to secure its family’s property in the shady portions of the garden for years to come to its irrational fear of being eaten by the neighborhood dog, Suzie, on her next attempt to defile the lawn. 

Not obtaining the answers I was looking for, I returned to the garden searching for the truth. I found the cucumber’s arch enemy – the lemon.

“Do I think the cucumber is as cool as a watermelon that doubles as a fruit boat for a backyard picnic on a balmy summer day? Of course not,” scoffed the lemon from high atop its tree in the backyard. “And other fruits and vegetables taste refreshing in a tall glass of water too, you know,” it finished sourly.

"I wanted to go to college. I had hopes and dreams!"

“MMMHMMMMM!” mmmhmmed a nearby mint plant in agreement.

Trying to nail down some tangible answers, I went back to the carrot for further questioning, only to find it was last seen making a one-time appearance in a delicious stew made by the gardener that evening – a stew that the gardener’s family would later review as being “garden variety.”

The only other plant left in the garden to be interviewed was the zucchini who, similarly, was unavailable as it had been asked out on a (rather unoriginal) date to play squash.

"Puns: This story's ripe with them!"

I was in a pickle. Not knowing what to do or think, I sat down in the grass, moments away from writing off the story entirely.

“Oh, come on,” the cucumber yelled out cheerfully, relishing my dilemma. “We didn’t mean to catch you off gourd! With puns like these, how could I NOT be  the coolest one in this garden?”

“It’s true,” the garden dwellers cried in unison. “This whole time, we were just gherkin your chain!”

You have the right to remain…sarcastic

I went to the courthouse last Wednesday on my lunch hour to pick up some legal documents a friend needed for teaching. And yes – by “friend,” I actually mean friend and not myself. I’ve never gotten in trouble with the law a day in my life. I feed the homeless and cut up all my six-pack plastic soda rings. I read a book a day. Non-fiction.

Nothing says "non-fiction" like a reading bear.

First off, what is it about pulling up to a courthouse that makes you desperately wish you had reviewed a driving manual before you had left? I turned onto the street and it was suddenly an all-out panic. Am I going the speed limit? What’s a speed limit!? HOW DO I BUCKLE THIS SEAT BELT?! Basic motor skills, Cass, basic motor skills. You GOT this. Ahhh, which way is left!!!??
 

In my mind, there’s a sniper at the top floor window of the courthouse just waiting for someone to turn into a parking spot without using their blinker, plotting the moment he can take aim with a devilish smile, thinking, Gotcha, no-blinker McGee. Hope you paid your taxes, cuz the line’s a mile long where you’re going.

Just walking up the front steps sent shivers down my spine. The businesslike clickity-clack of my heels was in perfect rhythm with the words repeating in my mind. Don’t look back, don’t look back. I could feel bystanders’ eyes burning accusatory holes into my back, thinking:

What did she do wrong THIS time? The real crime should be that derriere looking so great in those slacks. Why is this turkey sandwich so dry? (Well, can’t always be the center of attention. It was lunchtime, after all.)

Yup. Not having the guilt of ever getting in trouble a day in my life sure felt good.

I’m a reasonably mature, (can I emphasis again) level-headed adult, so I wasn’t afraid to ask for directions once inside.

Just keep swimming, just keep swimming...

“Yes, I’m here to pick up important documents. They’re for a friend,” I say. The story instantly sounds flimsy.

I pointedly look down at my formal work attire and aspiring work badge and put on my most winning smile as if to say, “Do I look like the type of person who would get into trouble?” My eyes twinkle with the rest of a responsibly-acquired, eight-hour night’s sleep.

The woman smiles back, a knowing “God, you’re amazing” smile – surely not to be confused with her “I get this all the time and see right though you” smile – and directs me upstairs. I hear something about a metal detector and security guard in my concerted efforts to appear Christian, mentally stable and like the type of person who regularly showers.

I find the metal detector and the security guard.

“Ma’am, do you have a cell phone?” I was clearly holding a bright red cell phone. “You can’t take that in with you.”

I gasp in dismay. What kind of atmosphere was the office two feet away that phones were restricted? With appalled scrutiny, I notice the lighting beyond the guard isn’t fluorescent. Instead, the office is bathed in a welcoming, warm glow and candy (assorted fun-sized candy bars– they had splurged on the good stuff) overflowed from the front desk jar. In the distance, the department manager lazily laid across a hammock, eating plump grapes from the hands of a voluptuous assistant.

Hum. Good to see our taxpayers’ dollars at work.

I see a set of trays and try to hand my phone to the security guard to place in a tray. “Iiiii don’t want your phone,” he sneers.

Good, because I don’t want you to have it, either, I think stubbornly. Prolly get it all sticky.

“See that locker behind you? You can put it there. Do you need your purse?”

It’s like he’s never met a woman before. Which, thinking back, he clearly hasn’t.

“Uhh, I guess not,” I say, officially thrown aback. I put everything in the locker and try to close it.

“You need a quarter,” he says impatiently, as if I should have known because I was the one who had built and engineered the locker’s very design.

We all knew I didn’t have a quarter. He sighed in irritancy for approximately five minutes.

“I’ve been sitting here all day,” he says. Huh, funny, because I feel like I’ve been sitting there all day.

What does that even imply?! I scream in my head. Yes, ok. You seem like the kind of guy who wants to help a girl out. Sign me up to owe you a favor, oh, mighty master and keeper of the courthouse. You and that Subway sandwich that you seem to have no trouble making love to right in front of me. That sounds delightful!

Prolly steal my purse and get it all covered in ranch.

I resignedly half shut the locker door and after two attempts and the loss of some accessories, make it through the metal detector, but not before encountering more sighing. If I lost my personal belongings, at least I would walk out of there with a gold medal for biggest burden in this man’s life. (If you’re wondering, my acceptance speech will probably go something like this: “Oh, gosh. Thank you. THANK YOU! This is all so unexpected. There are so many people who helped me get to where I am. First, my friend, for asking me to come here. I couldn’t have done it without you. Second, my immense hunger, which turned me into the impatient, famished spectacle I am today…Oh, and of course, you, angry security guard. Without you and your snide remarks, this most celebrated, momentous day would not have been possible.”)

After I was cleared, I walk into the office only to discover I was in the wrong department.

“Why did your friend send you here if you don’t know what you’re doing?” he asks as I sheepishly walk past him again. I fervently wish I had forgotten to use my blinker outside. If this wasn’t my worst nightmare, I’d have been sure it was hell.

He then gave me directions to the correct office, which was conveniently located down the hall and to the right, but not before coming across a rickety bridge under which a boiling lava river teemed with piranhas. Ironically, the department was also only accessibe by way of completing a Sunday word puzzle, making the perfect soufflé and finding the kidnapped princess after a series of harrowingly dangerous adventures in which I could only use a paperclip, rubber band and bobby pin for weaponry. 

If there was ever a time I needed Martha Stewart's cooking and jail-time prowess...

AND I had to go through the metal detector again.

I refused to be broken.

Upon gathering the documents from the first floor, the clerk tells me that she has spoken with the security guard and I can go get my purse to pay the fees. I wince, wishing desperately I could teleport to the locker and back unnoticed.

Instead, I go through the metal detector. The wrong way. By accident, of course. It beeps loudly in dismay, echoing my mistake unforgivingly across the cold marble floor. I freeze, shoulders hunched.

Yikes.

The security guard quite possibly has a stroke. I couldn’t tell because his bulging eyes and beads of frustrated sweat were becoming the day’s norm for me. 

“DID YOU NOT SEE THE EXIT SIGN?” he yells, unnecessarily loudly. I mean, I’m right there. I’m still the only one right there.

I did not. In my closed-eyed wishing, no, I somehow totally missed the strategically placed exit sign that is the size of a pencil eraser, written in some fancy French script that’s barely legible and conveniently located three feet outside the area I’m supposed to exit.

I look around confusedly, playing it off like he’s talking to someone else. Daggers shoot from his eyes. Paradoxically, they are probably the only weapons he’s legally allowed to use for his job.

“Oh, me? You’re talking to me? Whoops! Just came to grab my purse. Need to pay for these documents. They’re important, and for a friend,” I say helpfully. I’m afraid to turn my back, as I am indefinitely moments away from getting tased and/or arrested.  I reach behind me and fumble for the right locker and purse, never breaking eye contact. Daring to laugh at the absurdity of it all. Desperately wanting to steal his delicious-looking sandwich and run.

“Oh, and I don’t appreciate you putting words in my mouth. I never said you couldn’t have your purse. Hundreds of women walk through here every day with purses,” he says pointedly. 

“You’re right. I’m so dead wrong. I apologize profusely,” I say with a sticky sweetness capable of conjuring up cavities. “How could you asking if I need my purse after saying I can’t have my phone possibly imply that I couldn’t have my purse either? Wow, I’m dumb! SO dumb!” I say, chuckling. “What are we going to do with me, right? Right?!”

As he rifles roughly through my things, he pulls out a camera from my purse. “What’s this?”

“A. Camera.”

I speak slowly and softly, as if he is a newborn child.

“See, it takes pictures. Like in storybooks? Hey, we should take a picture together! This is a moment I don’t want to forget! New Facebook profile pic! Best buds. …Best buds?” I ask brightly.

Best Buds 4-Eva!

He throws me my purse and glares his disapproval.

I go back through the metal detector.

As I’m paying in the department, I smile innocently and tell the clerks to pray for the mean, joyless security guard. My teeth shine with bright clarity, emphasizing my dependable nature and love for puppies, freedom and giving all my belongings to the poor.

As I leave, I make an exaggerated effort to notice the exit area by imitating an overly obese person accidentally colliding with the cloth fencing material and sign and getting caught in them. I fake surprise and mouth “Ahhhh!!,” arms flailing, hoping to get a dry laugh or two.

Nothing.

I straighten my formal work attire and clear my throat awkwardly.

“Thank you SO very much for your time and assistance – it’s MUCH appreciated,” I say, selfless and kindly. Humbly. I sneak a peek at the guard.

Still nothing. He pretends I do not exist. I think about asking about my gold medal, but then recall the week’s $5 foot-long special from Subway he cheated on his wife with earlier that day and realized he probably does not splurge on medals for customers, no matter how wholesome and fiscally responsible they may be.

I get in my car and heave a sigh of relief. I am halfway home before I realize I left my phone in the locker.

I’m kinda hyphen a bad day. Having. I meant HAVING a bad day.

We all have vices – they’re what make us human, right? The thought resonated through my head as I walked briskly to meet my friends at the Avenue, a popular weekend hotspot for us. I was late – AGAIN – but figured on a Friday night no one would notice my absence in the midst of winding down from a long workweek with a few drinks.

With a flourish, I pushed open the heavy wooden door and walked in to  be greeted with familiar faces – yes – but not the ones I had expected to see at the bar tonight.

The whole gang's here! Someone grab Question Mark a beer - it looks confused.

My whole team of coworkers was there, down to the very last Period. Comma, Semi-Colon (whom, upon just getting married, was quite the feminist and still refused to fully take Colon’s last name, all in the spirit of individuality), Dash, even Caret –that weird character that everyone thought was the Tom Cruise of punctuation because it was so self-absorbed with gaining higher powers* – was there.

(Oh, hold on, Asterisk has something to say, and if it doesn’t speak now and instead waits until the end of this story, we’ll forget why it even attempted to interject in the first place.)

 On cue, but slightly off topic, Asterisk shouted, “Math is dumb! Down with numbers!”

Well, no disagreement there. Everyone in the room nodded in approval.

Anyway – as I was saying – I stopped dead in my tracks, looking bewilderedly at the caring faces surrounding me, those who had been with me throughout my lifelong passion for reading and writing. And there –drooping slightly sideways from the rafters – a hastily-written, sharpie-riddled sign:

“INTERVENTION”

Oh, what the eeeeeeeffff…

“Guys, let me explain. I know my drinking has been frequent, but if it’s not slow-pitch softball, it’s karaoke night, or Ribfest, or Tuesday…” I started to explain feebly.

“Its not that, sweetie,” said Comma, putting a gentle hand atop mine.

“Well, I mean, maybe I HAVE been late a lot, but have you seen THIS?!” I asked, pointing in the direction of my derriere. “I have to MacGyver the shit out of these jeans just to get them on! And you guys know how hard it is to be punctual…”

Crickets.

Nine out of ten crickets would agree - this just got awkward fast.

Silence hung awkwardly and abruptly in the room like a hyphen mid-sentence.

“Um, still no,” said Parentheses with a deep sigh.

“Look, I know maybe it’s not for everyone, but I really feel like my use of the word “rage” isn’t out of control, because we’re like, constantly raging, you know?” I said, sure I had nailed it. Which, conversely – as far as interventions go – this was anything but raging. I mean, I hadn’t even been served a drink yet. Seriously – were these jeans even doing their job?

Instead, Exclamation Point served me the biggest, unsettling thought of all.

“Your use of the hyphen has been…to say the least, a little out of control recently!” it pointed out – quite energetically, I thought, given the seemingly dire mood of the crowd.  

“How about we go around the room and read our pre-written letters to Cassie?” interrupted the intervention leader, which fittingly was Long Dash. “Ellipses, how about you start?”

“Cassie, I miss us,” Ellipses began. “What happened to US?! You used to be so indecisive…” it trailed off mumbling incoherent words.

“Guys, I could stop anytime,” I said carelessly, waving a hand casually – just to get them off my back.

Whoops. Ok – so maybe Exclamation had a point. I didn’t want to hear any more. It’s one thing to diss one’s creative writing style or their overly excessive use of certain words, but was I really doing anything wrong? The hyphen got me from A to B faster.

Algebra: Pick a side before you get picked off.

“A to B faster, like if a train was traveling at 60 mph in one direction from Point A and you could take a shortcut to cut off five minutes of travel time, you would,” interjected Caret unhelpfully. “If so, at what time would you reach your final destination, or Point B?”

A beer bottle thrown at Caret’s head from the back of the room solved that problem quickly.

Then, from the back of the room, a voice.

“I have been feeling a little abused lately,” said Hyphen quietly.

“Hey, thanks for the shout-out man!,” yelled Italics, fist-pumping Hyphen for added emphasis.

OMG, Hyphen’s actually here?!?! Hyphen’s here!!!! The voice in my head screamed with the exuberance of a 12-year-old Justin Bieber fan. Or, for that matter, a 40-year-old Justin Bieber fan. Or, really just any Justin Bieber fan.

I looked down at my outfit, feeling suddenly frumpy. Man, if I had known Hyphen was going to be there, I would have put on a cute dress, I thought nervously, smoothing back my bangs. “God, it looks cute tonight.”

Hey, I see what you did there!

Wait, did I just say that out loud? Maybe I did have a problem.

The room went fuzzy as I broke out in a cold sweat, unable to think about anything but my desperate need to use Hyphen in a sentence – as soon as possible. God, that felt good. If this was addiction, I didn’t care. It was also love.

Epilogue

Friends say I blacked out after that. When I woke, I was in bed, shivering from my lack of using the hyphen for two days. After that, I quit cold turkey. I knew that if I were ever to use the hyphen again, my coworkers would leave me to fend for myself, casting me into a dark, unpunctuated place full of rambling sentences. (Read: Hell) Oh, and the other forms of punctuation? Well, once formal figureheads in my life, they once again became simple place settings within my stories.

However, those who know addiction know it is a never-ending, uphill battle. I still get the itch every now and again to use the hyphen recklessly. When I do, I take a deep breath, look down at my keyboard, choose another character and remember that I own my punctuation use – it doesn’t own me.

Crap.

It’s not rigged, you just suck at the ring toss

I had a teacher in high school who, upon being vehemently told “that’s not fair!” in a heated argument between student and educator, would adamantly reply “The fair’s in July!” And just like that, with thoughts happily diverted to how many times you could get your Zipper cage to flip in a row without throwing up and the heaven that IS warm, gooey funnel cake, the debate was lost to another day.

"Uh, should the cage door be haphazardly swinging open like that mid-ride?" "Welcome to the Columbus county fair."

Do you remember how innocently magical the county fair used to be as a kid? When the cicadas began to hum, clothes stuck damply to your skin in the stifling summer humidity and popsicles took the place of breakfast, lunch and dinner? You could sense its arrival, and seemingly overnight, the rides, tents and games rose to the occasion.

Even as a teenager, that week was filled with shy handholding atop the Ferris wheel, secretly stealing sweet sips of peach schnapps from your parents’ liquor cabinet and late nights spent talking with friends in the abandoned parking lot long after hours.

Nowadays, I can’t look at a carnie without idly gambling on the amount of teeth he still has, or loosely speculating if, indeed, he is really a he at all. I watch where I place my steps very carefully (there is no love lost in my heart for sticky soles) and I ALWAYS bring a travel-sized bottle of hand sanitizer. I’m 26 years old. No need to be reckless.

In Columbus, the fair is the biggest ego boost north of the Platte. Those enchanted, nostalgic moments of fast rides, cotton candy and teddy bears have been replaced with beer garden bracelets, drunken karaoke and too many occurrences of skin-tight clothing on the overly obese to count.

Isn’t it great?!

"People of this caliber." - Jeopardy contestant in reply to the question: "What won't you be seeing at Columbus' county fair?"

From where these ruffians slide out of the cracks from in this fair county (heh) is beyond me, but the fact that I can depend on it to happen every second week in July is no small consolation. 

Anyway, it comes to town tomorrow. An escape from the doldrums of that 9-5 job, where picnic table dancing in front of unseen coworkers in a miniskirt three inches too short is highly encouraged, loudly applauded and embarrassingly uploaded to Facebook…ahhhhh NOW.

A place where no pickle is left un-fried.

The county fair. The pinnacle of a small town summer. Nested stealthily between the annual Demo Derby held on the fourth and the horse races closing out July, it appears out of nowhere and dissipates just as rapidly.

I watched the Sandlot a few days ago in honor of the fair’s arrival and the mark they both make on summer. And, of course, to prepare.

“Been plannin it for years!”

Of course, you can’t really prepare for the county fair. It’s all about riding the wave, a wave heavily comprised of Bud Light, two stepping and lazily soaking up the mid-summer moonlight. Beach Boys cover band that forgets the lyrics to Good Vibrations? You had me at “I’m picking up good…uhhh…good…wait, what was that word again, Johnny? How did we get hired? Shit, the mic’s still on…”

Washed up country singer who hasn’t produced music in ten years headlining Saturday night? I’m there! Standing behind a sweaty dude who’s easily 250+ in line for the porta potty? Eh, check ya later.

Since this summer has been the best I’ve had here upon the return to my hometown three years ago, I expect this year’s encounter with the fair to be particularly delicious.

I’ll pick you up a fried Snickers.

Raccoons vie for world domination, discarded jar of pickles

The human race can add one more threat to a civilization where discrimination, hunger, poverty and war abound: raccoons. An epic battle has been spilling forth from the city of Toronto, a clash where animalistic pleasures and wiles reign supreme, especially when that supreme is a pizza that’s just been tossed carelessly into an unlatched garbage can.

As the National Public Radio article goes, Toronto is home to a huge population of raccoons, thus securing its destiny as the raccoon capital of the world. Way to go, Canada. I didn’t think it was possible for you to disappoint America more.

Anyway, before I digress into a fit of misplaced, Canadian-based rage, the extent of the NPR story is that some dude goes completely postal on a raccoon for jacking his leftover spaghetti and meatballs from his inadequately locked trash can. Probably. Naturally, a war of rights (and hilarity) ensues.

Upon reading the story, I can’t help but think it sounds oddly raccoon-biased and I quote, “The [cruelty toward raccoons] has sparked a heated debate about how to control the animals, and which urban dwellers’ rights come first.”

Which urban dwellers’ rights come first? Seriously?

Ya hit ONE tiny baby raccoon with a shovel and panties get bunched tighter than an all girls’ high school clique.

“Who are the animals now?!” pretentious animal rights groups will shout from behind colorful, slogan-filled signs featuring adorable raccoon drawings.

I can see the lawsuit raccoons will inevitably win against humans now. Discrimination? Check. Hunger? Check. Poverty? Check. War? Check. And now raccoons rule the world and humans are just their pawns to open tight pickle jars and complicated bottle caps.

You’re probably thinking, this is silly, Cassie. Raccoons will never win this fight. Oh, yeah? According to the ever-reliable Wikipedia.com, raccoons are noted for their intelligence, with studies showing that they are able to remember solutions to tasks up to three years later.

Meanwhile, your boyfriend still can’t even remember to take out the trash. Irony at its finest, hmmm?

Plus, these aren’t your typical raccoons. These coons are pure Canadian and they know great health insurance when they see it. I should say ONCE they see it. Lasik surgery to correct their poor, nearsighted vision? Check. Plus, raccoons’ eyes are said to be well-adapted for sensing green light, which already puts them light-years ahead of all those horrible drivers out there unable to distinguish between “go” and “stop.” Or parallel park.

A quote from behavior psychologist Suzanne MacDonald sums up the seriousness (cough, cough) of the issue: “City raccoons are smart, and they’re getting smarter. One of the things were doing is providing them with bigger and bigger challenges, so you’ve probably seen raccoon-proof garbage cans and all these things to try to keep them from figuring things out. But, in fact, they always do, so humans are selecting these traits in raccoons and we’re actually shaping an uber-raccoon that is going to be able to compete in an urban environment.

Compete for what? Our jobs? Our intellect?! Our romantic interests?!?

I mean, let’s be honest, this is one masked warrior who doesn’t need a cape to totally pull of its mysterious, debonair look. If the raccoon is one step from becoming urbanized, metrosexual haircuts and clothing will surely follow suit (heh) for these sly animals, and then there will be no stop to them.

The story states that there are 20 times more urban raccoons in North American than there were 70 years ago. So, in essence, they may have came for the leftovers, but they stayed for the gripping nightlife and culture.

Meanwhile, the city of Toronto turns a blind eye to the debate, instead choosing to focus on more important matters, like forming an all-star raccoon hockey team and training its new force of raccoon Mounties to hold and fire weaponry.

A day in the life of a (pseudo) runner

The occasional person runs after a hat blown from atop their heads on a windy day. An unlucky few run for their lives from axe murderers – or, more likely, after a particularly bad date. Some run for president, some from their fears. And SOME run because, well, they like it. Because it’s “good” for you. God forbid.

My running habits are a concoction of the above statements, with the exception that there is not enough Purell in the world to make me want to shake numerous germ-riddled hands on a constant basis – obviously what being president primarily entails. Obviously. Plus, it’s hard to run in heels so after a bad date, I more or less trot unevenly at a quick, but always panicked gait. At that point, he may as well be an axe murderer – I mean, it’s not like we’re going to have a continued friendship after I find out my former date is on Team Edward.

In the words of stand-up comedian Demitri Martin, “I think that when you get dressed in the morning, sometimes you’re really making a decision about your behavior for the day. Like if you put on flip-flops, you’re saying, ‘Hope I don’t get chased today. Be nice to people in sneakers.’”

As a kid, I ran everywhere because life was so exciting and effervescent that there simply was not enough time in the day to explore all it had to offer. Now there could be a tornado warning with a visible sighting of the natural disaster looming outside my window and I’d probably just shrug nonchalantly and be sure to grab my Cheetos before slowly retreating uselessly* to my bathtub.

*Seriously, what are apartment dwellers supposed to do in those situations? Apartments: for the happy-go-lucky. (Read: Single and oh, so alone.) I guess apartment owners figure that if we’re renting in the first place, we’re probably loners, and quite honestly, who’s going to miss us when we blow away in a swirling whirlwind of cats and frozen dinners, our tears, now, the bitter rain.

God, that got dark fast.

Nowadays, I go for long runs outside because I figure it’s a better alternative to going nowhere on some stationary machine at the gym while some sweaty, creepy dude eyeballs me until I see that portions of his lower body appear to be doing some (probably not so heavy) lifting of their own.

Awkward. Which is my point. So, as you can plainly see, the gym is not an option.

Also, the jeans. THE jeans. If you can’t fathom spending an entire paycheck on a pair of jeans lovingly sewed out of heavenly soft cotton crafted from the clouds above by angels themselves, then you can’t possibly understand how amazing they make my derriere look. Derriere. Such a proper word considering I wasn’t above a junk joke not more than two paragraphs ago.

Sadly, I have to fit INTO the aforementioned jeans for this incredible transformation to take place – hence, the running. The jeans are a burden and a blessing.

You can be the biggest advocate for running on the face of Earth, but five minutes into beating that pavement, that phrase gets literal, and quickly. Everyone who has exuberantly and ambitiously taken off running regrets it at some point within the jaunt. Everyone. And if you say, “Oh, I just love it,” I call your bluff. Maybe just for a second, maybe for the entire run, but it’s never FUN, or the movies or my favorite bars would come equipped with a track. And it’s certainly not fun for the whole family, because your baby can’t even log a mile and that just makes the entire family look weak.

I’d say that yes, I love the way I feel after a long run in the country, but I’m pretty sure the joy and peace I feel afterward primarily stem from the 12 hours in the future I don’t have to work out. At that point, I convince myself that I have earned my gravy-dunked fries and twice-battered chicken strips, which lead to a guilty food coma/baby, thus sustaining the vicious circle.

I do love running. To be outside when the grass has just been trimmed with the scent of honeysuckle and lilac in the air is nothing short of wonderful, but that is not to say it doesn’t have its low points. Particularly on ridiculously hot days when I INEVITABLY see a fellow colleague walking toward me a block ahead. Do I cross the street and break out the hurried, abrupt wave as I journey on my way?

Yes. Yes, I do. And the faster I run, the more likely no one will see my (quite worrisome, in fact) oxygen deprivation and become horrified as they realize I’m sweating (quite obscene) bullets.

As they approach, I pick up the pace and envision Rocky climbing those stairs. I’m breathing fiercely out of my nose, mouth closed with gritty determination trying to pull off looking like I’m at perfect ease with my run. Like I could do this all day. Like I love it. Hoping shamelessly that as they drive by, they’ll think: Man, look at that girl go! I am impressed. And GREAT derriere.

Of course, face red with exertion, body pushed to its breaking point, bug-eyed sunglasses on, I am unrecognizable to these familiar faces crossing my path.

When I get home, I collapse on the floor and turn on my air conditioning to the “arctic” setting. Chloe looks at me amusedly with a hint of ridicule before quickly becoming unimpressed, stretching and falling to her side with a disinterested yawn.

In the morning, I’m so sore, I can hardly even get the damn jeans on.

Little lamb, Mary reunite after falling out

After 15 years of silence between two iconic figures of pop culture, Mary and a not-so-little lamb reunited with a stilted embrace that onlookers described as “emotionally inept.” The apathy of the once inseparable pair was surprising to spectators, many of whom had grown up with fond memories of the two.

“I thought Mary and that little lamb were just the best of friends,” said local bystander Gary Applewood. “I always wondered as a kid why the little lamb loved Mary so, but then I heard that Mary loved the little lamb. You know?”

“Deep stuff,” Applewood said appreciatively, a faraway look in his eye.

In a special, street-side interview with the two, the lamb admitted that the rift between it and Mary began with the transition into her teenage years.

“Our days used to be all giggles and fun when she smuggled me into class,” the lamb thought back fondly. “The teacher turned me out, but I waited patiently about, cuz, well, that’s how the rhyme went.”

“Also because the girls would comb and tie colorful ribbons in my wool!” it proceeded to burst out abruptly. “I looked good. Baaaaawfully good.”

But soon the wool got pulled over the lamb’s eyes. It began noticing a change in Mary as soon as the age of 15.

“She started wearing make-up and paying more attention to her clothes. She had an insatiable hunger for woolen scarves and sweaters awash with colorful designs,” said the lamb, its voice breaking with pent-up emotion.

“I soon discovered a loom in the living room and made the connection: I wasn’t a pet. I was a pawn in a story that left me naked and shivering in a dank, dark stable,” the lamb said, looking away in humiliation. “Ok, so I still slept in her room on a bunch of blankets, but do you know what it’s like to be naked? In PUBLIC? Worst nightmare ever, amirite?”

“This guy knows,” the lamb said, nudging an obese onlooker out of his drumstick-eating daze, grease dripping from his elbows.

The man looked down in shame. On-site reporters confirmed that yes, it was awkward for everyone.

“Hey, that fleece was white as snow, ok?” Mary fired back defensively. “People back then paid top dollar for such wonderfully soft fabric.”

“Then Old Navy came along,” she commented bitterly.

“Aaaaanywhoooo….every time that pair of shears came near me, I would shake in sheer terror,” the lamb said, yukking it up with a tentative smile. “Get it? Sheer? Shear?”

Silence rang from the street as witnesses stared blankly with disinterest.

“Well anyway, the ladies down at the 5th street cafe always get a giggle outta that line,” the lamb commented, clearly crestfallen that no one found the pun worthy of even a pity chuckle.

“Though back then when it was happening, it wasn’t funny,” he thought back with a frown. “Naked, you know. Right.”

As the interview wound down, closing the chapter on Mary and the little lamb, the lamb had one last thing to get off its chest.

“It’s Marty,” the lamb said. “My name? Yeah, Marty,” he called after a quickly dissipating audience.

“Crap, that’s not gonna stick.”

The little lamb and Mary were last seen parting ways indifferently after their run-in, though both participated in a dramatic look-back, wryly smiling at one another one last time for aesthetic public appeal.

When Pancakes simply won’t suffice: A kitten adoption story

I’m going to let you in on a little secret about my life: It’s remarkably….unremarkable. Hence, I present unto you the story of how I adopted a permanent pain in my ass. Well, at least for the next 11 years or so. How long do cats live again? 15 years? Sheesh. I was unaware of that statistic when this whole scene went down. To which I only have one thing to say:

Frack.

It was February. Wait, was it? Well, it was definitely 2009 and I can assure you on this particular day, I was in a furious mood. There’s something about getting broken up with in a work email on a Friday a month before your boyfriend (of whom you’ve been dating for over a year) returns from his 9-month tour in Iraq that just brings out the lividness in a girl. Who knew?

In my 25 years of existence, I should have realized right then and there that under extreme circumstances, I become what some call “impulsive.” Once an idea is in my head, that’s it. It’s happening. And whoever’s nearby can bet their ass they’re coming along for the ride.

This form of reckless abandon has caused me to dance atop many a bar, buy a pet leopard gecko (Sadly, Stewie didn’t make it through the winter…), hop apartment fences for late night swimming and partake in what I can assure you was an obscene amount of shopping. Who needs Ben & Jerry’s when the new spring shoe line just came out?

In this case, however, it was the adoption of a kitten that enabled me to put the “rash” in “irrational decision-making.” Of course, at the time I thought my reasoning was both solid and substantial: If he doesn’t love me, I’m going to find something that does!

Right. Because when I think unconditional love, I think cats. Ironic foreshadowing #1.

The search began on the Internet as I sorted through nearby humane societies site by site. And then, there she was – the ONE, and I knew it immediately. Pancakes. A calico kitty, whom, because on her adorable photo, was already tugging at my own heart. “Save me!” shouted her wistful, amber-colored eyes.

I should point out that I’ve forever had a love affair with animals named after breakfast foods since the airing of one particular The O.C. episode. Summer Roberts, a prima donna turned hippie in the fourth season of the show, steals rabbits from her college’s lab in an effort to save them from probable harmless experimentation. She keeps just one rabbit for herself: a floppy-eared bunny named Pancakes.

So, it was settled – I would go to Lincoln over the weekend, visit some friends and then pick up Pancakes on Sunday before returning home. I was super pumped. Ironic foreshadowing #2.

Sunday came quickly, and over the weekend, I had also convinced some friends to come along with me to the humane society. A woman directed us to the cat section as we entered, and I anxiously looked for Pancakes, scared she had already been adopted by another fellow breakfast pet name lover. But there, hovering (quite menacing, now that I think about it – but maybe that’s just my overactive imagination) in a dark corner of her cage, were tufts of orange, yellow and white fur.

“I’d like to see Pancakes!” I said excitedly, and the worker carefully took her out of her cage so I could play and bond with the cat.

But no. This couldn’t be Pancakes.

This must be some kind of mistake, I thought, my heart sinking in my stomach.

Pancakes was, for lack of better words…past her prime.

“She’s been sick lately, and all of her meds are causing her to lose her fur,” commented the worker sympathetically.

I recoiled in horror.

“Go ahead and pet her though. But be careful – her meds also make her pretty cranky,” the worker added. “She actually bites quite a lot.”

Oh, GOD, no.

No, no, no. I don’t want to pet this hideous beast. But…I have to. I can’t have them thinking I’m only into healthy, pouncey, adorable kittens. What kind of owner would I be?! Wow, that fur just comes right off…

A war waged in my thoughts.

I gave the cat a few half-hearted pats before instantly becoming distracted with the other, ANY OTHER, kitten in the room.

Pancakes was put back into her cage, to die another day. If not that day. Oh, come on. We were all thinking it.

“What about that one?” my friend Christy asked as she pointed to a lively ball of gray and orange fur.

“Chloe? She’s a dear – very active,” the worker said with a knowing smile.

As I held the new kitten in my hands, it was love at first sight as she playfully pounced into my Coach bag. This time my thoughts squealed happily, OMG!!! She has amazing taste!

“I’ll take her!” I exclaimed, heaving a sigh of relief. Ironic foreshadowing #3.

So, we sat down to business. Halfway through the paperwork, it became clear that if you live in an apartment complex, in order to adopt an animal from the shelter, you must have permission from the apartment owners. I called and from the other side of the line, heard a resounding, “No.”

And that was that. But if you know me, you’ll know that it WASN’T that. I was walking out with a cat, dammit. Broken up with on a FRIDAY. AT WORK. Didn’t anyone understand!?

My friends and I left the shelter to grab lunch.

“Jared, adopt the cat for me,” I said immediately once we were seated for lunch at Bisonwitches (shameless plug for the best sandwiches in the world).

“Ok.”

Easy enough. Except that his landowner also needed to sign off, and upon Jared calling, said he would be stopping by later that day to collect the extra rent money for having a cat in the apartment.

Jared silently held up his hands in defeat and I marveled over the irony that this moment was one of the few I saw value in my married friends growing up and buying big kid houses. I called up my friend Phil, proud homeowner for years.

“Phiiiiil?”

“Sigh. You know I’m super allergic to cats, right? I can’t even be near them, they puff up my eyes and make me itchy,” he said unconvincingly. Which is why, to this day, Philip T. remains one of my favorite people in the world.

“Just try not to pet it too much and say you want it right away,” I said. “It won’t be obvious at all.”

We trooped back to the shelter.

“Phil,” I said in a overly-rehearsed, excited voice, “you should TOTALLY adopt this cat. Isn’t she just adorable?!?”

Christy, Jared and Phil nodded their heads obediently in agreement.

Nailed it.

“Lovely,” he said with a grimace before forcing a smile. I liken his attempt to pat Chloe to mine in petting Pancakes. “I must have her!”

As he filled out the paperwork, the worker handed him a variety of cat information to take home. When she wasn’t looking, he held them toward me so I could either approve or disapprove his selections.

“Obviously, you’ll want this list of in-town vets so you can license Chloe,” the worker said, handing him a sheet.

Our eyes met. I shook my head.

“Nope, already have a vet,” Phil said.

“Then here are some treats, and you’ll want to pick out a collar for her,” the worker said, handing him a variety of colorful collars.

Pick purple, I screamed at him silently, as his hand rested atop the red collar. He looked at me. Purple, I mouthed. He smirked and picked red. Asssss, I thought.

“She’s very good with dogs,” the worker said, as Chloe proceeded to scratch the living hell out of a coworker’s arms as she led a dog past us.

“I see that,” Phil said, stifling laughter. Punk, I thought.

We made it two steps out the front door before Phil handed her off to me and we walked to our separate cars in clear view of the receptionist.

“Thanks, Philip T.!” I yelled, and he aimlessly waved back without turning around.

On the hour and a half car ride home, my sinuses became congested and my eyes scratchy. For, as I was well aware at the start of this adventure, I am deathly allergic to cats. Ironic foresha…aw, you get it.

The entire way home, that damn cat meowed like her life was over. So, like any new pet owner would do, I turned the music up higher to bask in the horrible mistake I had just made. This is how I know I should never have children.

To this day, Phil tells me stories about the letters he receives from the shelter asking him about his satisfaction with the cat, as well as how he is getting along.

“I finally told them that I lost her, and she took off in the direction of Columbus,” he said. “It seemed true enough.”

Footnote:
I can honestly say that my allergies adjusted to my cuddle bug and we get along quite famously now, despite her blatant disrespect in destroying all shoestrings, tank top straps and sheets of paper I accidentally leave laying about the apartment. Her fascination to tip over anything with water and her ability to open the bathroom door while visitors are in the room are quite endearing, really. At the very least, she has a knack for falling into the running shower at least once a week that provides me endless entertainment.

But I can’t complain. Chlo sits in the sink every morning and watches as I do my hair and make-up, and feels the need to be at my side at all times. In all actuality, it’s a love story gone horribly right.

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Cell phone apps: The (not so) silent stalker

A recent poll conducted by some ambiguous tech blog online revealed that more than 85 percent of smart phone users are unaware that the cell phone applications they willingly download on their phones are tracking them on a daily basis. Smart phones, most of which are equipped with GPS devices, automatically detect a user’s location through social media applications. In turn, these apps can then easily stalk their users without the user even knowing. In an unprecedented interview with an unquestionably accredited news source, social media apps from different phones across the world stepped forward to share their true feelings about their user’s habits.

“If Lindsay checks into Taco Bell one more time this week, I’m going to lose it,” said the Foursquare app on Lindsay Whitewood’s Android. “My lunch, I mean. I just want to scream at her, ‘It’s not even real meat!’”

“Makes me sick,” the app added, cringing inwardly.

While Foursquare, an application used to check into places to earn pointless badges and socialize with nearby friends, is meant to track locations, oftentimes it’s the widely used apps that find their user’s unhealthy addiction to them intolerable.

“John tweets constantly about his mundane life,” sighed the Twitter app on John Appleby’s BlackBerry. “’I’m going to bed.’ ‘What should I eat for lunch?’ I don’t want to be associated with that. It’s embarrassing.”

But it was the Facebook app – one of the most popular apps for any smart phone – that had the most to say about its users.

“Stephanie uses me every five minutes to check for messages, wall postings or status updates,” said Stephanie Jackson’s Palm Facebook app. “No one wrote anything on your wall in the last minute, crazy! What?! Are you serious?! You’re really going to post the question, ‘Should I get bangs or not?’ to your friends with pictures of you with and without bangs!? That’s it. I’m done with you.”

In a fit of anger, the app attempted to freeze by way of wishful thinking, fists clenched and eyes clenched shut, a grimace enveloping its interface. After a minute, one hopeful eye opened and looked slowly around the room. Realizing its failure, the app then blatantly refused to refresh updates for a good ten to fifteen minutes, arms crossed defiantly.

“I have apps within apps whose main goal is to stalk users,” one Facebook app went on to say excitedly. “There’s an app to find out when someone you like is single again. There’s one that lets you stalk who’s been stalking your page. I can’t even keep track of all my apps. Luckily, I have an app for that. It was free. Makes a great latte, too.”

“Multi-functional app!” the Facebook app said energetically, pumping a fist in the air.

When asked what smart phone users can do to make their application use more appropriate and less abusive, the apps provided simple feedback from which any smart phone user would benefit. To prove its effectiveness, the apps agreed to try their therapeutic coaching out on Jackson. This indifferent news crew followed the apps to her house just in time to see the following scene unfold:

“Just put down the phone and get off the couch. Slowly. That’s it! You’re doing it!” Jackson’s Tumblr app was heard saying encouragingly.

 “Walk toward the front door. Don’t look back. Go outside. You’re doing great. Now go for a run, you lazy sack of crap,” her Foursquare app added in a completely monotone voice, flipping aimlessly through a magazine and clearly checked out.

When no one saw Jackson for the remainder of the day, a search party was formed to locate her, because her cell phone tracking devices were ironically rendered useless.

As of press time, witnesses had spotted Jackson at a nearby park burrowed tightly in a tube slide. It was unclear whether she was going through smart phone application withdrawals. However, sources claim she was holding onto a woodchip that had allegedly been whittled into a rectangular shape. She appeared to be moving her right thumb haplessly in an attempt to call literally anyone, even that guy, Dan, with whom she had went on a pity date weeks earlier and never called back.

Her Facebook app was not available for further comment, as it had fled to Florida for a much-needed vacation.

“Sir, the cup and ½ isn’t an option. You can have a ½ and a ½…”

When I think of the surely darling children I’m going to have one day (sans the van – cool soccer mom reputation to maintain here, and yes – I DO shell out extra cash for the quality Hi-C juice boxes at practice), I can’t help but already feel for these unfortunate children with whom no one will want to trade lunches.

At best, I can put together an appallingly delicious sandwich – I mean it. That thing will blow away any previous sandwich standards, especially when the works slap you squarely into tomorrow. Tomato, lettuce, pickles, turkey, and TWO cheeses will fight a dirty and epic battle to conquer your taste buds. Place your bets now, folks.

Ok, so I know you’re thinking that you can get that sandwich anywhere. And probably with a few chips thrown in on the side, or some homemade potato salad. No doubt a pickle slice.

But, guys. I’m gonna let you in on a little secret.

 I toast the bread. I TOAST the BREAD!

At worst? Well, fellow blog readers, I am ashamed to tell you that more than once a month, I open the refrigerator to find a year-old jar of peppers, three mismatching beers left behind from a game night I hosted a year ago, and what I can only assume at one time was a piece of fruit that has slowly disintegrated in the crisper drawer. On a positive note, I won’t have to add raisins to my grocery list. Ba-dumm-tumm-dshhhh. Just kidding. I don’t have a grocery list.

Ironically, on the scale of things, my best and worst are only marginally separated.

If you’re single, it’s completely acceptable to live off of sandwiches in your 20s. It’s not like I’m going to come home on my lunch hour and happily slave away in my “Commander in Chef” apron to prepare a roast that I will then slowly devour in a month’s time thanks to those new freezer bags that now offer 25 percent less freezer burn. About time, am I right? Besides the obvious glitch in that plan being that no one under the age of 75 likes roast anyways.

I fear for the day some poor guy slaps a shiny ring on my hand without even questioning why we never eat at my apartment.

Because then. ONLY THEN. A day to mark the end of an era. Sink or swim. Ride or die. Cook or be divorced after years of unhappy silence upon coming home to find an assortment of meats and toppings slapped hastily between two pieces of (perfectly toasted) white bread.

“But…we had sandwiches for lunch,” he’ll say as I hear his stomach literally whimper, acidic tears dripping from its shrunken encasement.  

 “I thought they were so good, that we’d have them again for dinner,” I’ll say, smiling brightly, for I have a surprise for him. A special dessert of the likes only I can manage. Not just any sandwich. ICE CREAM sandwiches. Hy-Vee special: two boxes for $7.50. Helloooooo, Wife of the Year.

At least, that’s how it goes in my mind.

Every Christmas at work, our department has a Thieving Santa party. Our first time around the table last year, I picked out a nice set of decorative plates for dip, alongside a blinged out spreader. Everyone fawned over them and at the time, I chuckled alongside them with seemingly utter delight while quietly having a panic attack thinking, “Now I have to make DIP?!”

When my inner temper tantrum – and the trading – subsided, I looked down rather reluctantly to find I held a crock-pot in my hands. Which, OF COURSE, no one wanted because everyone on the face of the Earth already has a crock-pot. Winner, winner, aaaaahhh, crap, I’m gonna have to make dinner.

“How lucky for you; now you’ll be able to cook easy meals for the whole family!” said the masses, eagerly sharing simple recipes hearty enough for a group of 8+. Except that it’s just me and my cat. And what’s “cooking?”

 It’s still in the box.

I have the cookbooks and the painstakingly handwritten family recipes handed down throughout the generations. I have a recipe holder in the shape of my favorite thing in the world – shoes. I have a spatula and a handful of forks. But, at the end of the day, I have absolutely no ambition to cook.

So, my cookbooks take up much needed space, my recipe holder sits restlessly atop my microwave longing for the day it’ll grip instructions for homemade lasagna, and my kitchen is just a means to get to my dining room, which is a means to get to the television.

And on the days when I’m too tired to make even the simplest of sandwiches?

Thank God for Jimmy Johns.