Epilogue

Once upon a time…no wait, the words Once Upon A Time mean a fairytale is to follow, and what happened is most definitely true.

Two years ago I got it in my head that I should try to write a short story every day for a year. I even told a few people about my idea, and then I panicked.  I can’t write 365 stories in a year, that’s crazy!  How will I come up with that many stories?  What if my computer blows up part way through?  What if my appendix blows up half way through and I have to go into the hospital? What if I’m too tired from writing commercials all day (my paying gig) to write a story at night?  What if someone at work reads them, finds them weird or offensive, and I get into trouble?  What if other people read them and think my stories are stupid?  What if no one reads them at all? 

I came up with all sorts of excuses not to take on the challenge and shelved the idea.  But then last summer I started asking myself other What If? questions.  What if people did read them?  What if they not only read them, but liked them?  What if this inspires someone else to take on a challenge of their own?  What if I don’t do this and find myself filled with regret on my deathbed?

So I put on my big girl panties and posted my first story on August 8, 2015, fully aware that I was now going to have to write 366 stories, thanks to 2016 being a Leap Year.  I got my first follower within a week (thanks Kendall!), and more afterwards.  Thanks as well to everyone who took the time to read my stories, for clicking ‘Like’, and for commenting.

If there’s something you feel driven to do, ditch the excuses and go for it.  You may surprise yourself.  You may surprise everyone around you.  At the very least, you’ll answer those nagging What If? questions.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a house I’ve been neglecting for the past year that I need to clean.

Thanks again and take care!

Advertisements

Sarah Tries On A New Pair Of Shoes

When Sarah Smith awoke Sunday morning, she had one question on her mind: What’s the craziest thing I can do today?  The answer came to her when she went to throw her carpenter husband’s clothes into the washing machine.

“I’m going to go into his woodworking shop and build myself a coffin,” she said while separating the whites from the dark colours.

Four hours later she had a crude, but still easy to identify what it was, coffin.  Then she drove over to the most visited park in the city and placed the coffin next to her on the ground.  She got a lot of funny looks from people when they walked past, but she also had quite a few stop and ask what her deal was.

“Like most people, I’m just sitting around waiting to die.  I thought keeping a coffin close at hand at all times would make it easier for my estate.”

She was so pleased with the reactions she received, she decided she would do something crazy on Monday as well.   First thing in the morning she prepared a peanut butter sandwich, took a bite out of it, brought it to work, and then asked whomever she passed in the hallway if it was theirs.

“Oh, I found it on the floor and thought you might have dropped it,” she said after they told her no.

Feeling energized by her naughty behaviour that day, she spent a solid portion of the evening thinking about how she could up the ante on Tuesday.  She went with designing a one-of-a-kind flyer.  The next day, five hundred car owners found a How Can You Be Sad When There Are A Million Cute Cat Videos On The Internet To Watch? message waiting for them on their windshield.

Wednesday, she alternated between a Russian accent and a posh British one whenever she spoke to someone.  Thursday, she did yard work dressed in an evening gown.  Friday, she told her husband that  Cherrios sprinkled with blue cheese “Absolutely is fuckin’ gourmet!  Fancy people eat this all the time in France!”   Then on Saturday, she wrapped the week up by asking everyone she encountered in the grocery store for their opinion on the nutritional value of apples versus bananas.

What would make a normally mild-mannered, boring, goody two-shoes woman suddenly act out in such an irrational way?  Being a normally mild-mannered, boring, goody two-shoes her whole life…that’s what.  Until this past week, Sarah hadn’t done one crazy thing in her thirty-three years.  She was never late with her homework during her school days, was never tempted to cheat on a test or to cut class, never so much as jaywalked or had to have a cavity filled, most definitely earned the white dress she wore on her wedding day, had never been in trouble at work, and politely listened to everyone’s tales about vacations and nights out clubbing while she dutifully sat at home paying her bills on time and saving for a rainy day.  No one ever thought to gossip about her because what’s there to say about someone who never does anything interesting?

That’s all changed, though.  Now everyone finds her interesting.  Sarah only wishes she had ditched her goody two-shoes way earlier.

Just Because Things Are Pretty, That Doesn’t Mean Things Are Pretty

It was the first thing Melanie spotted when she walked into the Kiwanis Club’s 8th Annual Craft Sale, and she wanted it immediately.  It was pricey, though, the wooden snowman peeking out from the bottom of an old white-washed window frame.  Fifty dollars pricey.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything as cute as this before.  I should buy it before someone else snaps it up,” she said to herself.  “No, don’t do that. You might see something else that you want more.  Walk around first.”

So she did.  There were over one hundred vendors at this year’s sale, selling everything from baked goods and hand-knitted baby clothes to wooden crafts and glasswork.  She contemplated buying a five dollar pound of chocolate fudge, but then walked away before the seller finished helping another customer.  She gently caressed the tips of a pair of sparkly earrings that caught her eye, then just as quickly decided they weren’t right for her.  She also stopped to consider a ceramic pumpkin powered by LED lights that she thought would look nice in her window this Halloween, but couldn’t commit to it.

Booth after booth, Melanie found herself having the same reaction.  Lots of things grabbed her attention, just not enough for her to actually buy them.

“I don’t get it,” she said after going back for a second look at the snowman that had first caught her eye.  “I usually buy at least a couple of things every year.   Why should things be any different this year?”

Because, everything was different this year, and that’s what was really bothering Melanie, not the crafts.  So much had changed since last year’s sale.  Eight months ago, her husband of twelve years walked out on her, and their son opted to go with him.  “I just have more in common with Dad,” he had said.

All of those pretty crafts she bought over the years made her home look pretty, and made it look like the sort of place where happy people lived, but that didn’t mean things were pretty for the Jameson family.  Nasty fights had led to prolonged silences.  Prolonged silences then led to separate bedrooms.  Separate bedrooms led to a legal separation.  There’s not a knickknack in the world big enough to disguise that level of ugliness.

For the first time ever, Melanie left the craft sale empty handed.

The Player

Hello there, pretty lady.

No, no…don’t you dare tell me that you’re not pretty, because you are. Everything about you is beautiful, from your soul to your out of control hair. Since when is out of control hair beautiful? Since you were born with it. You made it beautiful. Everything you do is beautiful. So you see, you are a pretty lady.

Unless you’re a dude; which would be good because it’s my fellow dudes I actually want to talk to. All you pretty ladies out there who are reading this…scamper along and busy yourself with the things that make you so pleasing to us guys; like getting a Brazilian wax.

Are they gone? Good. Okay boys, listen up. Are you still struggling to find the right woman? Can’t figure out how to make it work with the one you have? Don’t worry, I’m an expert on such matters. I’ve been playing the game since the age of fifteen. That’s thirty-five years if you’re the type who feels the need to keep track of such things.

I’ve dated lots of women in my time…tall ones, short ones, skinny ones, fat ones, blonde hair ones, fake blonde hair ones. Do you know what each and every one of them have in common? They all live for our happiness.

When I need my shirts ironed for work I say, “Go iron my shirts woman!” and whomever I’m dating at the time will plug in the iron and go to town. Mind you, each and every one of my shirts have come back with a giant hole in them where the iron burned through. “Iron your own damn shirts!” they usually say to me afterwards, but I refuse to give up on them. It’s important for women to have a purpose in life, and what greater purpose could there be than taking care of their man? Sooner or later their little heads are bound to figure out how my iron works.

It’s also important for you to order for your lady when you go out to dinner. I haven’t met a woman yet who isn’t obsessed with her weight, so order her a salad. When she asks you why you ordered her a salad, say something along the lines of “The last thing I want is for you to become a big fat cow.” A skinny woman is a happy woman. Really, you’ll be doing her a favour.

What are my thoughts on cheating? I have two. First, the more women you are with, the more you can expand your bedroom repertoire. As soon as you try a new trick on her, she’ll know you’ve been sleeping around and will be grateful that you went to the trouble to keep your love life interesting. Secondly, as soon as she discovers you’ve been cheating on her, she’ll go out of her way to dress better, earn more money, cook better meals, clean more often around the house and say nicer things to you…anything to stop you from leaving her.

Speaking of saying nice things, you know that bit I said about her looking great even though she has out of control hair? Save that for when you’re in public. She wants her girlfriends to be jealous that she found a sweet talking guy while they didn’t, but you owe it to her to be honest with her in private. After all, you deserve a woman who makes you proud.

Trust me, these things have worked with every dame I’ve ever dated. I think that’s why they’ve all left after only a few weeks or months. Too much of a good thing isn’t good for anybody, you know what I’m saying?

Anyway, good luck with the dating scene. Let me know when the wedding is, because I expect an invite.

Did You Hear About Tony?

It all started with a general e-mail to the staff at Waldon Distillery…

This is to let everyone know that Tony Esparado will be on sick leave over the coming weeks. We wish him all the best in his recovery. Martha Walker will be handling things in Tony’s absence. If you need anything before his return, Martha will be more than happy to assist.

Wait, Tony was sick? He seemed fine at yesterday’s staff barbecue. Did he eat something that made him ill? No, then more people would be off. Plus no one takes weeks off over food poisoning. It had to be something bad for him to be off that long. Really bad. But what? There was only one way to find out: head to the water cooler for the latest gossip!

“Did you hear about Tony?” Mark from Distribution asked Reg from Marketing.

“I know he’s sick, but not much else. What have you heard?” Reg asked in return.

“Nothing really. I know his family has a history of cancer. I hope it’s not that,” Mark said before heading back to his office.

Mark had no sooner turned the corner towards his office when Clarisse from Accounting joined Reg at the water cooler.

“What were you and Mark talking about?” she asked.

“Tony,” he replied.

“Oh,” she said in the hushed tone people use when discussing things sensitive in nature or incredibly salacious. “Any idea what’s wrong?”

“Mark thinks it might be cancer.”

“How terrible!” Clarisse said. “Although I can’t say I’m surprised. He had a brother who died last year from brain cancer. And another who died a few years ago from liver cancer. I’m no expert, but you’re pretty much done when you get it in those places.”

Reg and Clarisse then went their separate ways. Reg arrived back at his office first and was inundated with questions.

“Where the hell have you been?” Debra, his office mate wanted to know. “You missed three calls to your desk in the last five minutes alone. What’s going on?”

“Sorry, some of us were just discussing the bad news about Tony. It looks like he might not have long to live.”

“But the email said he’d be back in a few weeks,” Debra said, shocked by what she had just heard.

“Well they’re not about to say Tony’s due to die a horrible death in the next few weeks, now are they?”

“No, I guess not,” Debra said.

Debra then went to the washroom to collect herself, where she ran into Anna from Public Relations.

“What’s wrong, Debra?” Anna asked when she noticed the tears in the woman’s eyes.

“It’s Tony,” Debra said in-between sniffles. “He only has weeks to live, but management’s trying to keep it quiet, so don’t say anything, okay? Stupid cancer!”

“Tony has cancer?” Anna said genuinely surprised. “I heard he caught some weird virus while was in the Caribbean last month. Likely from a hooker. He seems like the type.”

“He does seem like the type,” Debra agreed. “Men are such pigs. I hope his penis falls off!”

Soon word spread that Tony’s penis had fallen off; although some said it had likely been hacked off by his wife once she found out about the virus he caught from a hooker. “Oh no, he didn’t catch a virus from a hooker,” others said. “He was poisoned from the chemicals used to sanitize the bottles here at the distillery. He’s been complaining about that stuff for years.” “Do you think that stuff’s poisonous?” someone else then asked. “Maybe that’s why I have so many headaches.” “I have headaches, too!” someone else said, sounding a little frightened. Before the day was through, everyone had paid a visit to the plant’s nurse, complaining of headaches, sore throats and dizziness.

“We don’t want what happened to Tony to happen to us!” someone shouted during an impromptu rally in the staff parking lot.

“Yeah! I don’t want my penis to fall off!” someone else shouted.

“His penis didn’t fall off. It was bit off, by an irate emu at the children’s animal farm,” said another.

“His penis is fine!” a fourth person said.

“How would you know, Jane? Personally inspected it, have you? I always knew you were a slut,” a fifth person said.

“Yeah Jane, you’re a slut!” chimed in someone else.

Then word got around that Jane was a slut, and that she was the one who gave Tony a deadly virus. Or was she the one who had ordered the chemicals that was slowly poisoning everyone? No wait, maybe she was the one who was filling in for Tony while he was away. Or was that Martha? Why would they get Martha to fill in for Tony? Didn’t she used to be a hooker? Or was that Tony’s wife? No one could keep anything straight anymore.

Meanwhile, Tony sat in the waiting room of a therapist his family doctor had recommended to help him deal with the stress brought on by his negative workplace environment.

In Defense Of Seagulls

I went to school for a little while with a kid named Stephen McCracken. You likely went to school with a kid very similar to him. Stephen was the kid who ate the tops off of erasers the way other kids ate candies. We all made fun of him for it naturally, so he stopped. But then he moved on to eating glue. We made fun of him for that as well, so he stopped. He replaced that gross habit with another one: picking his nose and munching on whatever he dug out of it. You guessed it, we made fun of him for that, just as we made fun of the crusty goobers that became caked to the ends of his nostrils once he replaced using his middle finger with a tissue. It took a few years, but Stephen eventually came to learn what was socially acceptable and what was not. The last I heard, Stephen grew up to be a well-groomed bank manager with a wife who had spent time on the beauty pageant circuit. You’re welcome buddy.

I say “You’re welcome” because if it hadn’t been for us, Stephen might not have learned the social graces necessary to succeed in life. That’s why I worry about the kids of today. They’re no longer allowed to make fun of the freaks of the world. That would be considered bullying, and bullying is wrong. Don’t get me wrong, I agree that bullying is wrong; it’s just there’s a difference between being nasty to someone in a wheelchair (something they didn’t choose for themselves) and being honest enough to say to someone who opted to wear their underwear over their pants, “Dude, you look like a fool.” One’s just being mean for the sake of being mean, while the other’s trying to help someone clean up their act before it’s too late. Could we have been more diplomatic in our approach? Sure, but this all happened before we had even reached the compound fractures portion of our academic careers. We had our own life lessons to learn.

I guess the point I’m trying to make is: making fun of someone in a wheelchair is not cool. First of all, a person can’t help that they’re in a wheelchair. Secondly, it’s not as if you making fun of them will make them go, “Oh my God, being in a wheelchair is stupid! I’m going to get up right now and walk away from this thing on my own two feet. I may even flip a cartwheel. If only I had thought about ditching these wheels earlier!” It is what it is, and you being an ass about it won’t change a thing.

That’s why I hate it when people are mean to seagulls. No one’s ever terrible towards crows, even though crows wake us up at the crack of dawn with their squawking, and dig holes in our lawns, and tear open our garbage bags in the middle of the night; only you don’t notice they’ve torn a hole in your garbage until you’re pulling out of the driveway to go to work, and then you’re like, “Shit! My garbage’s all over the sidewalk! Now I have to clean it up and I’m already running late. Crap! Is that the garbage truck down the street? Great, now I have all of three minutes to get this mess cleaned up!”

Still, though, everyone just lets the crows do their thing. But when it comes to seagulls – well, it’s all out war. The second one comes around, everyone throws a hissy fit and tries to shoo them away as though they were being pestered by the Laridae version of a snot encrusted Stephen McCracken. It’s not as if seagulls had any say on whether or not they were born a seagull. “What’s that God? Do I want to be a beautiful swan? No thanks, I’d rather be the bird that everyone hates!”

Poor seagulls. They’re just trying to make their way in the world, much like you are, and save your life at the same time. That’s right, I bet you didn’t know seagulls have rescued more human lives than any of those melodramatic doctors on Grey’s Anatomy could ever hope to save. Every greasy French fry they steal from your plate while you’re not looking is one less heart attack for you. Every second you spend chasing them away from your picnic spread is another calorie burned. Every minute your kid is distracted watching them fly is sixty seconds of sanity saving “Me Time” you weren’t expecting to get that day.

So the next time you’re down by the water or at the park and encounter a colony of seagulls, toss a treat their way and say thanks. And if you happen to see an old guy in red suspenders and a trucker’s hat doing the same, well that’s just me. Gary, the biggest fan of seagulls that’s ever lived.

Code Word

Neither Jared nor his wife Rosalind had any desire to go to his coworker’s dinner party, but they both knew there would be hell to pay if they didn’t make an appearance at Peter’s place.

“Peter’s still convinced Jessica in Inventory hates him because she once gave him a box of pens with red ink instead of black ink. ‘She could have at least given me blue pens,’ he said to me. ‘They come across as somewhat professional, unlike these red ones that make my reports look as though they were signed by a teenage girl.’ I do not need to face the wrath of Peter,” Jared said. “He’s on track to become the next Sales Manager.”

“Fine,” Rosalind sighed. “Maybe we should bring him a box of black pens for a hosting gift, instead of this bottle of wine.”

Jared loved his wife’s sense of humour, just as much as he loved her willingness to support his career and to put up with the crazy coworkers that came with it. Peter Mulligan was the worst of the bunch. Every time they ran into him somewhere, he would spend the whole time staring at Rosalind’s ample bosom while pretending to be paying attention to what Jared was saying.

“We won’t stay long, I promise,” Jared assured his wife.

“We should come up with a code word for when one of us wants to leave,” Rosalind said.

“Asparagus,” Jared suggested.

“Asparagus? Why ‘asparagus’?” Rosalind asked.

“It’s a common enough word that people wouldn’t think it too weird if they heard it, but still different enough for it to stand out in our ears,” Jared explained.

“But what if Peter serves asparagus tonight?”

“Who serves asparagus at a dinner party?” Jared asked genuinely confused.

Peter Mulligan, that’s who. Bacon wrapped asparagus, to be exact.

“Would you like some bacon wrapped asparagus?” he asked while looking down Rosalind’s blouse shortly after they arrived.

“Why yes, I would like some bacon wrapped aspara…”Rosalind said before catching herself.

“How do you like your bacon wrapped asparagus?” Peter then asked the two of them a short while later.

“It’s great! I didn’t know you could get aspara…it, this time year,” Jared said before almost saying the word.

“Can I offer you some more bacon wrapped asparagus?” Peter then asked when he saw that their plates were empty.

“No, thank you,” Rosalind replied. “I find that if I eat too much aspara…vegetables all at once, it makes my tummy cranky.”

Two and a half hours later, the two of them were desperate to leave.

“Asparagus,” Jared said as softly as possible, although not softly enough.

“What’s that, Jared? You want more bacon wrapped asparagus? Coming right up!” Peter said before dashing off to the kitchen.

It took another hour and two servings for Jared to finish off the bacon wrapped asparagus.

“Thank you for a lovely evening,” Jared said as he and Rosalind were leaving. “I’ll see you at work on Monday!”

“What an incredibly rude man,” Peter said after the two of them had left. “He ate most of the bacon wrapped asparagus. I barely got to enjoy any myself. I’ll remember that for sure.”

As they drove home, Jared and Rosalind decided that they were going to have to do a better job of coming up with code words in the future.

“How about, ‘Just kill me. Just kill me now!’?” Jared asked his wife.

“It may lack subtlety,” Rosalind said.

“You’re the best,” Jared lovingly said to his wife.

“Better than bacon wrapped asparagus?!” she joked.

It was good she had such a good sense of humour about such things, because two weeks later Peter was promoted to Sales Manager and Jared was the first person he fired. It would be a good long time before they could afford asparagus themselves, wrapped in bacon or otherwise.

Awful Aunt Alison

Alison Culligan would be the first to tell you that she’s a big believer in the old adage, “You birth ’em, you raise ’em.” And if you were to tell her that really isn’t an adage so much as her way of letting people know she has no desire to babysit their children, she’d be the first to agree.

Alison dislikes children the way other people dislike the thought of being in a head-on collision. At least with a head-on collision, Alison reasons, you can collect the insurance money and get yourself a new car – if you live. Once you have children, however, you’re stuck with them forever – unless you’re lucky enough to die young; say, in another head-on collision, for example.

There are zero exceptions to Alison’s No Children Are Allowed In My House rule; other than her older sister’s two kids, and she only allows them in because Veronica, who has no money to pay a real babysitter, has threatened to tell her and Alison’s mother the truth about how the fire in the bedroom they shared as teenagers started many years ago.

“You know what Mom always says…’I don’t care if I find out five years or fifty years from now. I will find out eventually, and when I do I will wail your ass!’ Do you really want Mom to know it was because you were smoking pot and that you didn’t just leave a hot curling iron on your bed?”

“I hate you,” Alison says to her sister every time she hangs that over her head, even though what she really hates is the thought of her sixty-five year old mother wailing her ass like she used to when she was a kid, because Alison’s mother could totally do it no problem, even with her arthritis.

“I’ll pick them up at seven,” Veronica says to her sister after letting seven-year-old Gavin and five-year-old Gabriella track their muddy boots through Alison’s front hallway. “No scary movies and no sweets until they eat their dinner.”

“Can I at least dangle them by their feet from the roof?” Alison asks.

“Ha, ha,” Veronica fake laughs.

“So you’re cool with that then, awesome!”

Veronica’s stern look tells Alison she’s not cool with that, to which Alison responds with a fake laugh of her own as her sister heads out the door.

“Alright, you little miscreants,” Alison says to Gavin and Gabriella who are still both too young to know what that word means. “Who wants to make some money?”

“I do! I do!” they both shout.

“Great! I’ll give a dollar to whomever cleans my bathroom and fifty cents to whomever sweeps my floors.”

“You want us to do housework?” Gavin says. “Yuck.”

“Yeah, yuck,” Gabrielle says.

“It’s either that or I make you take a nap for the next four hours. At least this way, you can make some money,” Alison tells them.

“What if we tell our Mom what a meanie you are?” Gavin threatens her.

“And what if I tell her I caught you stealing money from her purse?” Alison counter-threatens her nephew.

“I didn’t steal money from her purse!” Gavin says.

“She doesn’t know that. Now what’s it going to be, kid? The bathroom or the floors?”

“The bathroom, I guess,” Gavin acquiesces.

“That a boy,” Alison says while handing him rubber gloves and a sponge.

“You’re awful, Aunt Alison,” Gavin says.

“Yeah, you’re awful,” Gabriella agrees.

“Not as awful as the mold in my shower. Now hop to it,” she says.

Alison watches them trudge off to do their chores, and as she does she thinks for a moment that maybe she now gets why people have children.

“Wow, talk about cheap labour,” she says to herself.

Just then she hears the drinking glass in her bathroom shatter and her nephew cry out.

“Gabriel! Are you alright?” she shouts as she races up the stairs.

“Yes. Don’t worry. I didn’t cut myself,” he replies, surprised that his awful aunt has shown concern for him.

“Good,” Alison says genuinely relieved. “I do not need blood stains all over my bathroom. I’ll be deducting the cost of a new glass from your pay, of course.”

Of course, because Alison Culligan truly is an awful aunt.