Running into Something New

by Jason Tudor

Amongst the accomplishments of a lifetime, count “completed running a marathon” amongst those for my friend Yvonne.

Just a skosh over five feet tall, with two children and a full-time job, she woke up one morning staring at the new running challenge the same way some people stare at mountains and go, “well, I’ll climb that because it’s there,” but she saw it with three facets: she could get in shape, she could challenge herself, and she could say she ran a marathon.

“It’s also a cool thing to do,” she added.

To cover the 26 miles and 385 yards needed to finish, she enlisted the help of a friend who motivated her to first walk long distances every day. “We had a goal and we wanted to finish. We knew the whole process would benefit us. Not everybody can do a marathon. It’s a recognizable achievement.”

Shorter distances grew longer. Lunch hours turned into agonizing training sessions. Her feet hurt. Eventually, however, the first wave of training paid off: she walked the Maratona di Roma in 2010. She did it again the next year, earning the medals and taping the times on the front door of her office.

Still, she knew she had to run a marathon to really tamp down the anxious thing beating inside her. So, in May 2011, she started running, working toward finishing the Dublin Marathon on Halloween.

Yvonne said the Maginot Line in this process was her own mind. “About halfway through the training, my inner voices kept telling me to stop. But I wasn’t going to let myself down. I knew that if I gave in, I wouldn’t finish.”

With every Facebook update, the training distances increased: five miles, 10 miles, 15 miles, 20 miles. Rinse and repeat, with more aching feet, sore muscles and weakness fleeing for the doors.

Halloween arrived (also a public holiday in Ireland) and so did the rain. “It was pouring. It was ridiculous.” Still, when the starting gun went off, so did she. About three-quarters of the way through, rain beating down, those pesky inner voices returned telling her to stop. “I just turned the music up louder and shut them up.”

Throughout the training, she felt that four hours, 30 minutes was a realistic goal to finish. Five hours, tops. Unfortunately, the rain and the hills conspired against her.  “When the guys carrying the five-hour balloons passed us, I cried and THAT really hit hard. (My husband) mentioned they had started a little late so I knew there was some wiggle room in there. When I saw the finish line, I broke off and ran as fast as I could, because I wanted that five hours BAD.”

Save 63 seconds, it worked. With 13,000 others in front, beside and behind her, Yvonne finished the 2011 Dublin Marathon in five hours, one minute and three seconds.

She hasn’t run much since, mostly due to work and family obligations. With a move this summer, however, she’ll be back into it with her husband. She has no desire to stop tallying lifetime achievements or trying new things.

“I wanted to challenge myself to see if I could do it. And I did it,” she concluded. “How many people can say they ran a marathon?”

Jason Tudor is an American writer and illustrator who lives in Europe. His short story, “The Lives Magda Made,” will appear in the anthology “No Rest for the Wicked” in June 2012. He is also the co-host and creator of “The Science Fiction Show,” a weekly podcast about all things science fiction in pop culture, film, television and elsewhere. For more, go to www.jasontudor.com.


Of Scary Things and Open Mic Nights

by Harley May            

Scary things. I like doing them, and I don’t mean jumping out at joggers from behind a tree. I mean “things that thrill and push me.” As a mother of small children I can’t in good conscience jump out of an airplane or wrestle alligators, but I’ve always wanted to try standup. With this month’s Erma theme – “try new things and report back” - I found a comedy club in my area and reserved an open mic spot. 
I practiced my material in front of EVERYONE. A horrifying thing happened: no one laughed. I’d get a smile here and there, but a smile wouldn’t be enough. I re-wrote it, cutting and adding, rehearsing in front of different people. They laughed more than the first group. I edited again, practicing and repeating until I felt I had solid laughs.
A week before the performance, I called the club to reconfirm and they explained the show was completely sold out. None of my friends had a ticket. My own husband didn’t have one. I mentally prepared, imagining the nerves associated with doing this ON MY OWN.  I could do it.
The night arrived. We got to the comedy club and it was honestly the calmest I’d felt all week. I KNEW the material front and back and only needed to get through it without freezing or throwing up. If I happened to throw up, I planned on working it into the routine. “How many of you can puke on cue? Want to see it again?”
We checked in at the box office and the ticket lady directed me to the bar where all the open mic folk waited. There was a piece of paper with thirteen spaces for names and a shot glass with slips of paper inside. Seemed simple. Draw a number, write your name. My paper read, “2.” I could live with two.
One of the other comics had an extra ticket and offered it to my husband (super nice). He found his seat while I talked to the other comedians. Thankfully, I wasn’t the only newbie or woman. Show time came and they ushered us into a hallway the size of a walk-in closet. It felt so glamorous. While the first girl went, I breathed in and out, listening from the hall, picturing what standing up there would be like.
The host announced my name. At this point, I really wasn’t nervous. I’d spent the entire week being nervous. Now? I was ready to do this. I walked on stage and a thrill ran through my body as the words came. Everything I hoped would get a laugh, did. All the improvised moments fell flat. A few parts received more laughs than I anticipated, or the laughter grew as people got the joke. I struggled to pause for that.
When it was over, I stood in the tiny hall, my back against the wall and eyes closed. My immediate thought was, “I could have done that so much better.” So I signed up for another one in April.
After the show, my husband and I grabbed dinner at Moe’s. Quietly, I held his hand, internalizing all that happened. We went through the line and Led Zeppelin’s “Going to California” came on over the radio. Leaning against his side, I just felt PROUD. As a lover of laughter, I’d made people do exactly that.
Smiling at the teenager behind the counter, I said, “I just did standup. Me. Just now. I did it.”
He nodded in a non-committal way. “So will this be for here or to go?” 

Editor's note: Harley, we're so proud of you! Next time though - video or it didn't happen.  ;)


Onion Oops

by Jeanette Levellie
When I planted my first garden, I was as green as an onion top. The closest I’d come to gardening was when Grandma Viola sent me out to her berry patch behind the garage to pick strawberries. I was all of six then, so a few decades had warped my memory enough to convince me that gardening was simple and sweat less.
When I got my brilliant idea to become a gardener, the Los Angeles suburb we lived in rented spare land from a factory, which in turn rented 10’ x 10’ plots to gardeners. Although the gardens were over two miles from our house, I figured the rewards would outweigh the travel time. My imagination salivated with images of steaming vegetable stew and bright green salads harvested from our own patch of earth. Naiveté at its worst.
            While buying onion sets, I wondered why they came in such huge packages. Who needed a hundred onions? They must know what they’re doing, I thought as I drove to the garden, maybe not all of them will come up.
            I pulled out the instructions. “Plant 10 inches deep, 2 inches apart.” How will I ever get them that far into the soil? I muttered, wiping sweat from my forehead, eyes, and neck. And I hadn’t even opened the package yet.   
            I trudged to the car, hunted down a pencil, then stomped back to the garden. All afternoon I punched and jabbed until the final bulb—and I—lay exhausted in the soil.           On the way home, a doubt crept in. Had I read the instructions right? At a red light, I grabbed the empty package and saw, “Ten inches apart, two inches deep.” Oh, great. Now what?
            Rushing inside the house, I called our neighbors, grand scale gardeners from Kentucky who could make sweet corn grow from a pile of sand and a smile.
            “Lucille, what should I do?” I cried. “I planted my onions ten inches deep.”
            Did I hear a smile hidden behind her sweet Southern drawl?  “My lands, child, they’ll never come up. You’ll have to replant. They’ll just sit in the ground and rot.”         
The following day I tromped back to the garden with another hundred onions. Planting the second set over the first ones, I made sure they were only two inches deep.  I surprised my family a few weeks later with a plateful of lovely green onions on the supper table. I passed it around, grinning. I hardly noticed that I was the only one who ate any.
            “Did you forget we don’t like onions, Mom?” teased my son. “They look pretty, though. How did you make that fun shade of green for the tops?” I wanted to smack him with my holey gloves.
Instead, I swallowed my pride and took a few onions to Lucille, who allowed herself a loud laugh over my crazy planting mistake.          
            But I had the last laugh when several weeks later the original hundred onions popped up, their whites a full ten inches long. They were the best onions I’d ever killed myself over.


Doodling My Way into Spring

By Tricia Gillespie

I adore spring and I love that it came early this year.  It’s a time of new life, sunshine, and getting out of the winter rut.  Isn’t it easy to do the same thing day after day?  Before you know it, the seasons blend and another year is gone. 

Not this year!

This spring I’m on a mission to discover the “new”.  I want to shake off the ugly winter caterpillar and transform into a lovely butterfly.  I want to try new things.  That’s why I enlisted the help of my family.

When asked what new adventure I should try, my husband thought for about twenty seconds and said, “Maybe you should buy one of those little Nintendo’s the kids have and learn to play video games.”

Huh?  My husband is a game hater at heart.  I knew it all stemmed from a video he saw of a ninety-six year old woman keeping her sanity by playing a DS every day, but I still have fifty-three years before I hit my nineties and lose all my marbles.  I want to spread my wings and fly, not fold them around a video game, so I went in search of my children and a better suggestion.

My daughter said, “Learn to play video games.”

That apple didn’t fall far from the paternal tree, but my son was a bit more creative.  “Get a job at McDonalds.”

I want to be a butterfly, not a french fry!

That’s when I decided to ignore those closest to me and try Zentangle®.  They say it’s “doodling with purpose” and I was sure I could do that.  You should have seen my notebooks in high-school.  They were doodle-licious!  

I’m already a doodling fool, I thought.  I can bust out some “Zen” and “tangle” with a pen and paper.

Little did I know there are patterns to learn, and squiggles must be planned and precise.  Zen-doodlers are serious about their craft, so I studied shapes and patterns and learned the art of Zentangle®.  Realistically, I suspect I’ll be learning it for many years to come, because I am hooked.  It’s so relaxing, it’s better than therapy.

Hormones gone haywire? Zentangle®
Kids gone wild? Zentangle®
The boss getting on your nerves? Zentangle®
Bad hair day? Zentangle®
Bank account at zero? Zentangle®
Pipes burst? Zentangle®
Snow till July? Zentangle®

When you Zentangle®, it’s like being in another world – a happy world where it’s spring and you’re a butterfly.  Your family will stand in awe of your doodles.  They’ll forget they ever wanted you to play video games and work at McDonalds. 

How about it?  Want to try something new this spring?  Will you join me?  Grab a piece of paper and a pen and doodle your little Zen heart out.

Here are two websites to help get you started: 


Bio:  When Tricia is not doodling, she’s telling funny stories and sharing mishaps from her life on the fringe.  You can visit her @ TheDomesticFringe.com.


Because Asterisks Make Me Happy

By Pauline Campos

* If black is the new brown, then anti-depressants are the new happy. And Siri has been a very good girl when it comes to reminding me to pop the happy every morning, especially when I get cocky and think my brain will manufacture visions of unicorns and rainbows without the pills.

*Of course I’m not seeing unicorns and rainbows because of the pills. It’s not that kind of drug. I was simply illustrating the point that seeing a unicorn would make me as happy as taking the medication does. Probably happier, if I really stop to think about it.

*Now I just want a unicorn.

* But since I’m pretty certain I won’t be seeing a real, live, and in-the-flesh unicorn anytime soon I’m settling for the pharmaceutical definition of happy. Copay? $5.

* Humor is a wonderful coping mechanism, isn’t it?

* Yes, I’m still a certifiable mess. But these rose-colored glasses are kind of making everything look a bit pretty, so I’m taking things slow in the Getting Back on the Wagon department.

* Forget the counting of calories, the number on the scale, or labeling of Good versus Bad for the foods I am consuming. Instead I’m focusing on how I feel and taking note of and acknowledging the setbacks, as well as the steps in the right direction.

* How I feel is also a factor in deciding to take the plunge and make an appointment with a local naturopath because traditional doctors either don’t want to listen to me when I tell them the tests stating I’m normal are all lying, or they want to help and just don’t know what to do with me. I don’t know how to describe it other than telling you that I am certain there are autoimmune issues and possibly serious allergy issues that need to be addressed. 

* How do I know this? Because one day about six months ago I woke up to find out my Mexifro had morphed into straight, flyaway pieces of straw and it was breaking off at my neck. The new growth was fine. Which made me realize that…

* That fluke thing that happened to me when Buttercup was a baby that lasted for six months and then suddenly went away and I woke up with normal hair and a smile wasn’t a fluke thing. Still, my doctors think I’m crazy. And I think most of them are idiots.

* It’s kind of a stalemate.

* Of course, me cutting off all my hair with the scissors in the junk drawer just because I suddenly thought it might be a great idea but mainly because I had so much break off it was either that or a wig might give some credence to the doctors’ argument, especially if you focus on the Suddenly Great Idea and Scissors part, but since I don’t have paparazzi hanging out in my garbage cans and my name isn’t Britney Spears, I’m totally fine with that.


Feral Faucets

By Bill Mullis

(Based on an actual conversation, which was, in turn, based on actual events. That's my life: A reality show gone horribly wrong.)

Mr. Thomas? Hey, this is Bill Mullis. Yeah, the duplex out in Sugar Tit. Fine, fine, thanks for asking. Yes, sir, it's been a while. Well, I hate to disturb you at your office, but there is an issue. See, the thing is, the hot water faucet in the shower's been dripping, and I was thinking, You know, I could save Mr. Thomas a few bucks and myself some aggravation...Yes sir. I thought I'd -- Well, I said to myself, How hard can it be?

You're exactly right, Mr. Thomas. That was a stupid question, and I did find the answer.

Well, to begin with, did you know there's no shut off valves for the shower? Exactly. I really wasn't expecting that. So I borrowed a water key and shut off the supply to the house. Yes, sir. The whole house. Both apartments, kinda.

Now, I did give Judy next door a heads-up.

Um. About three hours ago.

See, there's a funny story about that. I was trying to unscrew the faucet, and it was being kinda stubborn, you know how faucets can be, so I kinda gave it an extra twist with an extension on the wrench. It did move, yes. The faucet. And the pipe. Together.

Mr. Thomas? Are you there?

Oh, good. I thought we had been disconnected.

So anyway, the pipe seemed intact -- mostly -- so I thought I'd better leave well enough alone and give you a call before you heard about it on the news.

Yes, sir, pretty funny. Except, actually, we haven't got to the really funny part yet. Yes sir, there's more.

Are you OK?

Well, I didn't want to leave the water off for everybody, and it's not like we couldn't use the hot water, so I thought I'd turn the water back on. That's when I heard the thud. Where was I? Up by the road at the meter. The thud? That was from the house. So anyway, I went back in to investigate....

Hello? Mr. Thomas? We must have a bad connection. It keeps getting real quiet on your end....

The good news is we won't have to replace the tub itself. The dent is really barely noticeable, and the faucet missed the mirror by a good foot when it ricocheted. And I can spackle over the hole in the wall, no problem. Also, the tub contained the water just fine, so there wasn't any water damage, either.

And I doubt the dog's going to be drinking out of the toilet any time soon, even when the knot on his noggin's gone down.

Right now? The water's back off. Yes sir, to the whole house. Believe me, Judy's fully aware of the situation. My wife? Hard to say, since she's not really speaking to me at the moment.

Yes, sir. I understand.

Well, I'll be here whenever the plumber's ready to come over.

Well, thanks for being so understanding, Mr. Thomas.  I'm sure we'll look back and laugh one day. I know I will.

'Cause today I put a wrench on my pipe and broke it.

Bio: Bill Mullis has a long history of destroying apartments piece by piece. He accomplishes this, and many other things, in the Upstate region of South Carolina.


I'm all wet: making my own dowsing rods for fun and profit

This month I asked the Ermas to try something new, stretch themselves a little and see what talents they could bust out. For myself I decided to try constructing something. I'm not, ahem, the most adept at power tools so I started with vise grips -- after my daughter showed me what they were. The concept was easy: bend a piece of steel and see if I could find water using two rods as dowsing sticks. I figure if I use them in ghost hunting, I'm going to make my own and find that gusher I know is on this mountain somewhere when I need a new well.

How to use: Dowsing rods have been used for millenia as a way to tap into the Earth's natural electromagnetic fields. They may be constructed of wood, copper or steel and are as easy to use as walking around in the forest looking like a dork and hoping the rods cross. Once they do, it's possible you have tapped into a water source -- or a ghost. Just be careful of what you're digging up, Sparky.

First: steel and grips (which I had been calling a wrench this whole time, who knew)

Second: Bend the steel and grunt like this actually takes effort

Third: Resting the rods easily in your hands, head out into the aforementioned forest and watch for them to cross. The rods are in one hand for this photo, otherwise it's one each, Tiger.

Bonus: I'll be using these tonight at a hotel I'll be exploring for ghosts. I'll keep you posted!

Stacey Graham's newest book, The Girls' Ghost Hunting Guide, will be released May 1st from Sourcebooks. When not wandering the woods, she uses perfectly good faucets for water and scares maids in hotels by trying to record EVPs (electronic voice phenomena) while sitting in dark rooms. Please visit her website at Late Bloomer, on Facebook and on the Twitter.


The Bread Wars

By Sara Spock

I recently waged war on excessive gluten in my diet, but it wasn’t without provocation. Let’s be clear, gluten launched the first attack. I know how to cook, bake, sauté, soufflé, flambé, grill, and fry, but I never learned how to make bread. After asking around, I landed on a tried and true recipe for a plain old loaf of country bread. I stocked up on flour, yeast, and 5 pound wrist weights for kneading muscle conditioning.  

The first step was to bloom the yeast. How hard could it be? I’ve got thumbs that are greener than Kermit The Frog and can bloom just about anything. My water was the appropriate temperature and soon, little bubbles started to appear. I was in the bread baking business!  After mixing up the perfect ratios for a delicious dough, those massive muscles came in handy. A cookbook informed me that kneading was the most crucial step for perfect bread. Being nothing less than a kitchen perfectionist, I attacked that dough the way Magnus, the Swedish Masseuse, attacks the knots in your spine. Gluten was developing, I felt it in my gnarled fingers. Press. Push. Fold. Repeat.

The dough was shiny, smooth, and ready to rise. I found a draft-free spot, covered my bread and walked away, dreaming of fluffy mounds of warm, fresh baked bread. After 60 minutes of data analysis, I was ready to punch that dough right in the face. Perhaps as a self-preservation tactic, the dough refused to rise. I went back to my tedious Excel sheet in the hopes that the dough would grow up and take the hit.  It didn’t. Hours into this process and I was no closer to my dream of fresh bread. I pressed the dough into a rectangle, topped it with some olives, and made foccachia. It tasted like a brick. An olive-covered brick.

I bought new yeast. I changed my flour. I used bottled water. I tried three more times. Three. More. Times. My dough refused to rise. I took it personally. I tried a bread mix. It flopped.  I bought pre-made dough. It burned. I gave up. I know my limitations and baking bread does not fall within the spectrum of what I can do. Perhaps one day, years from now, when the dough forgets how hard I wanted to punch it, I may get a rise out of it. I refuse to eat another slice of bread until I see the white flag of defeat rising from that well-oiled bowl. Gluten and I are at war until that day. Or until I smell the bakery’s fresh baguettes. Whichever comes first.

~Sara Spock is a Mom, Wife, Penn State Graduate, Substitute Teacher, Freelance Writer and Chocolate Addict.  When she’s not looking for punchable dough, Sara can be found over at The Hero Complex where she tries to save the world, one. recipe. at. a. time.


The Hawkeye Experiment

By Beth Bartlett

It’s not something I would ever voluntarily do again. But I did it.

Remember the episode of M*A*S*H when B.J. bet Hawkeye he couldn’t go without telling a joke for 24 hours?

I did it. Replicating Hawkeye’s task was one of the scariest and hardest things I could imagine. Humor is my armor and my coping mechanism.  It’s my Prozac, my Muzak and my LSD. When other kids were reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, I was reading The Neurotics Handbook. I snuck out to the living room to watch George Carlin, Steve Martin and Elayne Boosler on late-night talk shows, stayed up late every weekend for Belushi and Radner on SNL. I wrote parodies of songs, movies and television shows. If I were stricken by cartoon lightning, you would be able to see knock-knock jokes engraved on my skeleton. Yes, I am made from funny bones.

Considering my influences, it was only natural to turn to 1970s television for my experiment.  I would go 24 hours without making a joke, throwing out a pun or cracking wise in any way. Staying true to the episode, I could only tell one person: my BJ Hunnicutt of choice was fellow smart aleck Angie Mansfield. I figured she wouldn’t tempt me with too many straight lines, because she knew not being able to make a joke about BJ would be tortuous enough.  I would also continue normal, everyday interaction, including Twitter and Facebook, but I stopped short of flying to Korea and performing surgery.  

Surgery might have been easier. 

As we walked the dog that morning, my husband remarked that our Black Lab isn’t really a hellhound; he’s more of a darn-it dog. I smiled and allowed the dog to head-butt my kneecap so the pain would distract me from a snappy comeback. 

I turned on the TV. “Hot Booties!” exclaimed an overexcited pitchwoman.  I sobbed.  Reading tweets from Discover Magazine should be fairly safe, right? No, not when they’re discussing the audible cracks heard in penile fractures. Before I could stop myself, I nearly sent a reply mentioning AFV crotch hits.  

“Go read the news,” I told myself. “It’s always depressing.”  Apparently I forgot about the tiny (okay, life-size) Jon Stewart living in my head. A certain talk show host calling a law student by a nasty slur? “Sir, you are no Chevy Chase, but Jane Curtain could still kick your butt,” started to pop out of my mouth, so I slapped my hands over my pie-hole and just hummed “Werewolf of London.”

I bit my tongue during “Two and a Half Men,” and scalded myself with tea water when my husband talked about his day, because he has sea monkeys for co-workers. 

At 12:01, I limped to the door, stuck my head out and yelled “THAT'S WHAT SHE SAID!” before my head exploded. Thank goodness laughter is the best medicine; Dr. Benjamin Franklin Pierce will help me heal while I bolt on a breastplate woven from the finest snark.

Beth Bartlett is a freelance writer by day, a humorist by night, and a caffeinated procrastinator by mid-afternoon. She is recovering from her joke-free ordeal by injecting massive doses of ‘The Daily Show’ and ‘Mystery Science Theater 3000’ directly into her brain. Once rehab is complete, she’ll go back to blogging, so drop by and visit www.plaidearthworm.com, find out if the stars are laughing behind your back at www.wisecrackzodiac.com, or get your geek on at www.puregeek.me.


An Experience to Remember

by Janna Qualman

It was said that we Ermas should, for this month, try something new. Step outside the box. Spread our funny little wings and then write about it. I accepted the challenge, and when pondering the full plethora of possibilities, one idea kept resurfacing: Internet dating.

What does "Internet dating" mean? I have no idea. But here's where I went with it, and why.

I was many years married, now some time divorced. I am largely content, because I have me and I have my two kids, a faboo family and network of friends, and some pretty rockin' work that keeps me busy. But then there are the moments when work is done, my kids are with their dad, when I am alone and don't entertain me enough. That leaves a little niggle of disappointment. Because I'm missing someone (of the opposite sex, yo) to connect with. You know?

Since I'm not typically the kind to go out in public where there are, like, people, and since I thrive on the interwebs, it made perfect sense for me to try the "romantic social networking site" sort of avenue. (It's not lame. It is not lame.) And what was the next step but to use my word skills and rely on my (cough) virtual charm to set up a profile. Which I did late one night when my brain was wired, my confidence was up, and all was right with the world.

I told myself, This doesn't have to be anything serious. Just a casual float in the sea, to see what kinds of fish happen to be around. Yeah?

So I did what all the lonely girls do. I listed the traits I look for. I talked about me, modestly. I uploaded one of my favorites pictures. I straight-up represented, and got a little more excited with each keystroke.

Then I neared the end of my effort, and up popped a window that said, “Your profile is being processed and will go LIVE within 24 hours.” Which made me panic, and in two seconds flat I deactivated the account.

So do I get credit for trying to try something new?

Janna Qualman juggles a lot of hats these days, which (sadly) don’t include that of a popular Internet dater.


One Bite at a Time

by Terri Coop

New skills? 2011 was nothing but learning things the hard way, by experience. Life’s unexpected twists left me single, with a struggling business, and a new home. Did I mention that new home was in a 300 square foot office tucked inside three stories and 12,000 square feet of damp drafty Civil War era bricks with a roof that is more of a suggestion than a reality? For the first three months I had no kitchen, hot water, or shower. 

Today, I was upstairs sweeping P4 (powdered-petrified-pigeon-poo) and thinking about this article. While some of my new skills will translate well to the zombie apocalypse (such as the ability to build a sump with an aquarium siphon and a kerosene pump), I realized I have honed one skill that will see me through whatever life throws at me.

 A few months ago, I remembered an old joke.

Q:  How do you eat an elephant?
A:  One bite at a time.

Those eleven words got me through winter when my tarp drains ruptured and water thundered onto the first floor and continue to see me through a clean-up that most men would have hired three guys to handle. 

The secret?

Since I can’t eat my elephant in one sitting, I carve off a hunk, slather on some ketchup, and swallow it one bite at a time. The cleaning never got done upstairs because the men in charge always wanted dumpsters and contractor bags and gigantic industrial brooms! Instead, I sweep the plaster and P4 into small piles and shovel those piles into Wal-Mart bags. When I come down the stairs, two bags of flotsam come with me. It isn’t a fast process, but it is relentless one. I know I’m only about twenty percent of the way there. Who cares? Architectural Digest hasn’t offered me their front cover.

I do get damn tired of elephant, day in and day out. Like someone who thought the thirty-five pound turkey was a good idea because it was on sale, I cringe every time I see the carcass. It never seems to get any smaller. Yet, when I least expect it, I get to throw away a bone.  

As winter slowly gives way to spring, I’m polishing up my elephant recipes and to-do list. My shower is framed in exposed 2X4s, the refrigerator is out in the warehouse, and I don’t have a stove. Who cares? The queen isn’t coming to visit any time soon and with my tankless hot water heater, I can shower until I am cozy and pruney. It took two cauldrons of salsa-stewed elephant to achieve this marginal level of liveability, but here I am. And I know that every elephant ka-bob brings me a bit closer to the finish line. 

My next goal, besides stalking unguarded trash cans to dump my bags of P4, is to apply this same principle to my novel. I am so busy that the prospect is daunting. Then I tell myself to not worry about the whole project. Just concentrate on the first act. 20,000 words. Shouldn’t take more than a couple of Dumbo-Delight club sandwiches to get that far. Then I can worry about the middle and the end. In fact, I think I’ll knock off a page right now. Elephant-in-a-blanket anyone?  

Terri Lynn Coop, along with being an accomplished elephant epicure, is a lawyer and writer. She and her two Chihuahuas dream of a day when the roof doesn’t leak and the garbage man picks up every week without a nasty phone call. It’s the simple things that make life grand. She writes about writing and tacky lawn art at www.readinrittinrhetoric.blogspot.com and stalks creepy clowns at www.whyifearclowns.net. She would be eternally grateful if you said hi to her on Twitter @TerriLCoop.

Image credit: Terri Coop


Stepping Out

by Amy Mullis

“I do what?”

“A half step. Like a baby step. But with bigger feet.”

The Captain and I are standing face to face in the living room. We’ve decided, after a half century of ignoring choreographed moves, that we should learn the proper way to do the Carolina Shag, the official dance of the South Carolina coast.  Around these parts children learn to Shag before they learn to blame broken dishes on their little brother.

Just now we’re stuck at the most difficult part. Getting started.

“Which direction do we step?”

“I guess toward the beach.”  We are presently five hours and six more weeks of winter away from the shore. We pause and gaze serenely eastward in honor of the ocean.

“What are you doing?” The Captain wipes his eyes with the sleeve of his Jimmy Buffett t-shirt and peers at me.

“I’m gazing eastward.”

“You’re gazing toward the kitchen.  East is the other direction.”

“It’s the thought that counts.”

 “You’re thinking of the cheesecake in the refrigerator.”

“It reminds me of the beach”

“Because it’s round like the sun?”

“Because they both remind me my swimsuit doesn’t fit.”

We observe a moment of silence in honor of the good things in life and traitorous swimwear.

He takes my hand.  “So where were we? Half. . .”



We immediately step in opposite directions, then back, then smash each other’s toes into the biological equivalent of strawberry jam.  Our arms are locked around us and we’re stuck together like purse-bottom postage stamps. Every time he breathes, my glasses fog up in a half moon shape.

I glare at him through a sliver of light at the bottom of my right lens. “The men on the video were light on their feet.”

He grimaced and limped to a chair.  “I wish you were light on my feet.”

“You need to practice. You’re supposed to look like you’re hovering just above the ground.”

“The last thing I saw hovering was just above swamp level in a bad science fiction movie.”

 “What happened in the movie?”

“The hovering thing got beat up before I got the butter on my popcorn.”

“So you don’t want to learn the Shag?”

“I’d rather line the bed of my truck in taffeta and throw an afternoon tea for the Sugar Tit chapter of the Hell’s Angels.”

“The only motorcycle in town belongs to Old Man Pirkle, the Volunteer Fireman and Assistant Mayor.”

“We could just watch You Tube demos and eat cheesecake.”

“Turn on the laptop. We have six more weeks to buy a swimsuit.”

Join Amy Mullis at Mind Over Mullis for more Don’t Let This Happen to Me Moments.  She lives in a suburb of Sugar Tit, which is possibly the best thing that could happen to a humorist. Cheesecake is her Muse.  

Credit for totally awesome photo to: danceshagcorner.com