Stories and Essays


Drip, Drip, Drip

Forget oil, try on some sugar

Fat cats on the hill

Lying on their backs

Hedons drinking their fill


Gulp, Gulp, Gulp

Overweight, obtuse

One can, forty grams

Can you lie to an ignoramus?

Say it ain’t so syrupy friend


Big Sugar, Big Sugar

You led us all astray

A soda can a day

Makes fifteen pounds a year

That’s one fat pay out


Say it ain’t so (diabetes)

Say it ain’t so (heart disease)

Say it ain’t so (cancer)

Say it ain’t so

Big Sugar


My sister entered my apartment to pick up a baby gift that had been sitting by my door since before Oliver was born. We just celebrated his first birthday.

“About time we got this, right?” Jessica asked.

“Yeah, I should be charging you rent,” I said.

This was the first time my sister actually came inside my apartment since she moved across the river. She would sit in the car and honk when it was time for me to come out.

“It smells funny,” she would say. I didn’t smell anything, but I am a boy, so I didn’t protest.

“Daniel, what is this?” she asked.

“What?” I said.

“You’re a little obsessive compulsive aren’t you?”

“What are you talking about? You’re the one that brushes your teeth ten times a day.”

“But look at all these chopsticks!”

some chopsticks not shown

“So? I collect chopsticks? So what?”

“So you admit it.”

“Admit what?”

“That you’re OCD.”

“Because I have a chopstick collection?”

“Yeah, that’s right. You’re a collector. Collectors are obsessive compulsive.”

“You’re crazy.”

“Crazy right.”

“So you’re saying we’re both OCD then?”

“You admit it!”

“Do you?”

“No.”

“Me either.”

“But look at all these chopsticks!”

This conversation literally went on for about 15 minutes, but I will spare you the torment. My sister and I have revisited the subject multiple times since then, but have more or less agreed to disagree.

So – am I OCD? Are people who have collections, whether they be coins, trading cards, dolls, chopsticks, whatever; obsessive compulsive? Inquiring minds want to know. I leave it up to you and trust your input.

Unless you agree with my sister, in which case I have some chopsticks to introduce you to.

And a sword.

Yeah.

I love dogs. I love hot dogs. But I hate ‘hot dog’ dogs. I would like to eat them, however, very much so. Dachshunds. German? Ja. Also known as wiener dogs. Definitely more appropriate. Also German? Ja, naturlich.

Male, alpha. I puff out my chest and roll back my shoulders, head high, chin up, eyes straight.

Top dog. I walk from cart to cart with a high strut, through heat, extreme, unflinching.

Threat, alert! I growl and bare my canines, white, long, sharp. “Back!” I bark. “Back!”

The crowd startles; uncertain of their situation, the event unfolding not a common one. I: the sight before them; strange, imposing, frightening. Drool escapes my lips. I am mad. I am feral. I am hungry.

Barking does not cause the effect I require. I get down on all fours and lunge about. They label me a lunatic. Not far from the truth. Nevertheless, they disperse, afraid of contracting whatever fictional disease I possess that they have constructed for me in their minds.


I gallop, freely, to the cart.
I breathe, deeply, to much delight.
“Give!” I say.
“You must pay!”

With a grumble I fork it over. Dollar forty nine. In condiments, I pile on far more than that amount could buy. Goops and gobs escape from either end and overflow from the edges, creating a masterpiece on the hot pavement. Jackson Pollock would be proud. I am.

I lift the dog to my face, ketchup and mustard covering my arms, pants, and hands, when I pause, mouth half-open. I am encircled. The crowd did not disperse completely.

Do they wish to return to the line, but are too afraid of my presence?
Do they plan to attack, taking revenge upon my intrusion to their peaceful and (falsely) content lives?
Or are they merely watching, I, a spectacle for their amusement?

Whatever the case, I decide indecisiveness could quite possibly jeopardize my prize, and thus, my sanity. See, dogs are my life, ja?

I stuff the condiment covered dog into my mouth. All manners of juices squirt, spit, and dribble down my face, out into the air. I use both hands to force the final few centimeters of the bun down my gullet. Cries of horror and disgust ring loudly.

I belch, deafeningly. This, of all things – not barking, not growling, not drooling and raving mad on all fours, but this, this is too much. They disperse, all of them. One woman covers the ears of what could only be her son. I laugh, a whole fit of it.

The owner of the cart, old, fat, yet somehow jolly, now opposite of that, arms crossed, face twisted. Not happy, I conclude. He confirms by yelling obscenities and pushing his cart away. Takes all his dollies and goes home.

The square: empty, peaceful, serene, beautiful.

I: alone, prefer it.

I: messy, the same.

I: content, dog in belly.

Still, I wonder about the Dachshund, in texture, in taste. I lay down, in the middle, look up. I dream, eyes awake, each cloud a tasty morsel, stretched long and thin in my mind, colored various shades of brown. I lick my lips. Ja, naturlich.

Coffee is great

Coffee is grand

I drink it black

I am a man

 

Food is good too

Bacon and ham

Give me meat

Or veggies fried deep

 

Once I drank eggs raw

Like Rocky Balboa

He was a great

Grand man

 

I lost breakfast that day

Coffee, bacon, fried veggies, and ham

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Isn’t the Bialetti guy cute? Go coffee!

Now for something a little different. And yes, this is still technically food writing, sort of.

Recipe for the Night

“Hello?” James asked the cup. He felt silly at times, pressing the paper against his ear and then back to his mouth, but no other option existed. “Sarah?”

Every day at nightfall they talked, falling asleep to the sounds of each other’s voices, alternating who spoke naturally, without prompting. Every time James submitted to slumber first, he dreamed of open fields on bright sunny days, where the flowers grew straight and blossomed towards the sky, yearning to be touched by the warm golden fingers of the sun. Sarah danced among them in a cool, billowy dress that eagerly followed her every graceful twirl and pirouette. She sang too, though she never sang in life, at least, that he knew of, but in his dreams her voice drew him to her in a trance. He didn’t have to move to reach her, for the song carried him through the air all on its own.

But when Sarah fell asleep first, nightmares plagued James’ mind. Darkness surrounded him; with just enough light available to see all manner of shadowy figures darting through the cold air. Inhuman howls filled the night, piercing his courage and sending him towards the ground in a shivering, huddled heap. But his own pain meant nothing compared to seeing Sarah suffer. She hung by her wrists from a high, black tower, stripped and naked, her body covered with long scars both fresh and old. An imperceptible figure appeared and whipped her repeatedly. She tried not to cry, tried not to give in to the pain, but she always succumbed. James climbed the tower, but every time he came within arm’s reach, his foothold gave way and he fell for what seemed like an eternity…until suddenly awakening in a cold sweat.

“Sarah, are you there?” James asked, but still, no response. Something must have happened to her. James dropped the cup and peeked through the window. Nothing, he couldn’t see anything through the darkness except a few feet of taught, dirty string. He picked up the cup and tried again and again to reach her. He wept into it, staining the paper with his tears.

James sat on the floor, defeated, when a tug came at the other end of the string. “Sarah?” The string tugged again, a little harder this time. “What are you doing? Answer me!” Then the string pulled so forcibly that it flew out of James’ hand and through the window. In an instant, it vanished. James stared after it in disbelief. His only lifeline, his only contact with anyone…gone. James sprung into action. He put on his backpack and removed the barricade from the door. It creaked and groaned from a lack of use when he opened it, and a thick layer of dust covered the floor. James closed the door carefully behind him and then sprang down the steps three at a time.

When he stepped out of the building and onto the street, the bitter wind slapped him across the face with a dusty paw that penetrated his coat and found its way directly into his eyes. James reached into his backpack and put on a pair of goggles and a tight ski mask to protect himself. The wind howled next to his ears, screeching as it tried to bypass his outer defenses and rip his very soul from his body. James put one hand in front of him and pushed onward.

In the blink of an eye a long thin shadow passed by in front of him. James spun around, searching in the darkness. He fumbled in his backpack, before pulling out a small cylindrical device. He pointed it out in front of him and scanned in every direction. No more shadows. James hurried across the cracked and uneven pavement before finally reaching the building across from the one he lived in. He tried to open the door, but without success, it was locked from the inside.

A howl penetrated into the pit of James’ stomach. That was not the wind. He froze and turned his head around extremely slowly. The beast stared at him; its ethereal form changed shape constantly, remaining ever indefinable. It growled and seemed to shrink towards the ground, ready to pounce. Without thinking, for he could dare not, James turned and pointed the device at the beast. A beam of light shot out of the end and struck the shadow. Instead of illuminating it, the beast simply disappeared with a hideous scream.

James turned off the flashlight immediately, but not soon enough. Over a dozen howls filled the night, both near and far. James turned on the flashlight again, desperately searching the sides of the building. The howls grew closer, and angrier. He saw an opening about twenty feet up the dilapidated building. He turned off the flashlight and began to climb. The building had plenty of footholds from the war, but in the dark…with the wind…and the shadows…the howls grew closer, and angrier.

He could feel them. They flew by on either side. The hairs on his neck stood straight up and his stomach shrank and shriveled. His skin felt colder than humanely possible and his entire body trembled violently. His left foot gave out from under him, but he held on and regained his footing. James climbed on in the darkness, praying that he could reach the opening in time. They circled him, clawing at his sides, at his feet, and at his neck. James’ head spun, faster and faster. Blackness encroached on his eyes, coming from within him. Just as all light left him, James fell.

He fell five feet through the opening and onto the second floor of the building. Life flushed back into his system. He turned and pointed the flashlight back towards the hole in the wall. Screams could be heard outside. James propped the flashlight at an angle towards the opening with his backpack and hoped the battery would give him enough time. He abandoned his only line of defense and ran up the stairs. He reached the floor where Sarah lived out of breath, but fear kept him going, fear for her.

“Sarah!?” he cried hoarsely while searching the empty rooms. A single door remained locked. “Sarah, I’m here! Are you in there? Open the door!”

James banged on the door, but no answer came from within. He backed up and rammed into the door with his shoulder. He bashed into it again and again, his shoulder about to explode. Finally, with one final effort, James found an inner strength no boy should ever be able to possess and broke through the locked door.

“Sarah?” he asked, almost in a whisper. He walked to the window through which they communicated all those long nights. He never saw her, never knew what she looked like, except in his dreams. In his dreams she remained an angel of light, ever penetrating the darkness that separated their two windows. As he approached the edge of the window, James heard a crunch beneath his foot. He looked down at a smashed paper cup. A single piece of string snaked away from his shoe, connecting to another cup. James wondered if he stepped on his own or Sarah’s.

Below him, the howls began anew. The light could hold back the shadows no longer. James closed his eyes, and tried to dream.

Night Recipe

-two paper cups

-one long piece of string or thread

Punch a tiny hole through the bottom of each paper cup. Thread the string through each hole and knot it from the inside. Pull each cup apart until the string is tight. Alternate between speaking into the cup and listening to the person you love on the other end. Never let go.

The Antagonistic Cookbook: A Family Affair is a collection of stories and recipes that celebrate familial animosity, because hey, families make both love and war; why always focus on the love? Love is boring 😛

An excerpt!

Brownie Boy

I survived the desert wasteland. My foes fell before me. I braved the ancient catacombs. Nothing could stop me. I explored the depths of the ocean. I fought countless horrors high and low, far and wide…until I came face to face with…

“My turn!” my sister said.

“But I’m almost there!” I said.

“You’ve been playing for over a half hour, it’s my turn.”

“But I can beat it!”

“Mom! Dan’s hogging the game boy!”

“It’s Jessica’s turn Dan,” Mom said.

“See, Mom said. Give it,” Jessica said.

“But I can save Daisy! I know I can,” I said.

“No you can’t, she’s always in the next castle. Now give it.”

“No, she’s really there, she has to be!”

“I told you we never should have gotten that damn thing,” Dad said.

“Just give it to your sister,” Mom said.

“Fine,” I said. I handed the game boy to Jessica and slumped down in my seat.

I almost cried, after coming so far, hundreds of miles, all for Daisy. She needed me. I needed her. I started shaking, twitching in my seat. I tried looking out the window but the view didn’t satisfy me the same way Daisy could. The scenery passed by too quickly, uncontrolled, on rails. I desired control!

I found my thumbs moving all on their own; running, jumping, and slinging fireballs through the nothingness my hands so desperately tried to grasp. With a final anxious twist I undid my seat belt and looked over the bench seat at my sister.

“You’re doing it wrong,” I said.

“Get out of the light, I can’t see!” Jessica said, squirming away from me.

“Come on, let me watch.”

“No Dan, stop it!”

“Hey! Do you want me to take that thing away? Put your seat belt back on!” Dad said.

“No, sorry,” I said.

“See what you did?” Jessica asked in a whisper, “Now leave me alone.”

I retreated back to the window, drawing the seat belt tightly around my midsection. The pain seemed like a sufficient distraction for the time, but then a brilliant idea came to me. I pulled the belt tighter and tighter, hoping I would pass out and sleep through the rest of the car ride. The insides of my chest grew larger than my body could allow. I became hot and started sweating, my cheeks puffed out and red as a red delicious apple. My head started flying up towards the clouds, the trees outside blurred by like a green superman, but in the end my lungs refused to grant me my wish. I gasped for air, happy to be alive, at least.

“What now Dan? Be quiet back there or I’m going to take that thing away from both of you,” Dad said.

“But Dad, that’s not fair!” Jessica said. Angry silence filled the front of the van.

“Okay Tom. Hey, who wants a brownie?” Mom asked.

“ME!”

“I DO!”

“Okay, but you have to turn off the game boy,” Mom said.

“Can I have it back after?” Jessica asked.

“We’ll see,” Mom said.

“Come on Jessica, I want a brownie!” I said. Jessica reluctantly handed the game boy to Mom. She put it on the dashboard, safely out of reach of both of us.

“There, that wasn’t so hard was it? Here you go, watch for crumbs now,” Mom said. I Jumped over the front bench seat to grab the brownie from Mom.

“Ew, do you have to sit up here?” Jessica asked.

“Yes,” I said.

Jessica rolled her eyes at me, but I just smiled at my brownie. My head swung from side to side, unprompted, in a state of uncontrollable happiness…until I looked at my sister’s brownie. I couldn’t believe it. My head stopped, tilted at an almost unnatural angle. Not only did she take my chance to save Daisy away from me, she got the bigger brownie too.

“MOM! Jess got more than me,” I said.

“No I didn’t,” she said.

“Yes you did!”

“Whatever.”

“Mom, do something!”

“Dan, just eat what you have, it doesn’t matter,” Mom said.

“See, told you so,” Jessica said.

My sister gave me a triumphant smile and took a long, slow bite of her brownie. I tried to grab it from her before it could reach her smug face. She pulled back and pinched my arm.

“Ow!” I cried. I pinched her back. We fought.

“Stop it!”

“Mom!”

“You are such a brat!”

“I hate you!”

“I hate you!”

“That’s it!” Dad bellowed.

The tires screeched as he pulled off to the side of the highway. I fell forward from the bench seat; realizing seat belts only work if you keep them on. I stared up at the ceiling at my fuming Dad. He looked down at me, then at my sister, seemingly at a complete loss for words. No-one said anything for what seemed like an eternity. I didn’t even dare breathe. Somehow, by divine intervention or karmic retribution, his eyes found the game boy on the dashboard. He rolled down the window and threw it out onto the highway.

Without missing a beat Dad rolled up the window and resumed driving. He looked much happier. Daisy’s actual location would remain a mystery to me forever.

I risked a quick peek over the top of the couch before dropping back down to the floor. She didn’t see me. I checked my gun, snapping the ammunition into place as quietly as possible. I pushed the angry memories of the previous night out of mind; I couldn’t risk my emotions getting in the way of my mission, not today, not on my birthday. The lives of countless individuals, my friends, depended on it. I rose above my cover and fired the gun in one smooth motion.

“BANG! You’re dead!” I said.

A mass of swirly gray fur slid and scampered across the laminated kitchen floor and out of sight. I reloaded and jumped over the couch in pursuit. I slid the last five feet across the slick tiles in my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles socks and rounded the corner into the living room. I fired a hasty shot as she leapt up the stairs with uncanny speed. The rubber band sailed through the air and hit the bookcase, missing my prey by mere millimeters.

I chuckled and reloaded my gun deliberately, savoring the moment of my imminent victory. She turned right at the top of the stairs – a deadly mistake. Escape meant coming back down the stairs, and more importantly, going through me. Not going to happen.

“You’re finished Smokey. I won’t let you hurt anymore innocent people. The citizens of Ol’Town will finally be free of your tyranny!” I said.

I thought of the village inhabited by all of my various lego peoples. From knights, to pirates, to citizens of the modern age; they all co-existed in a peaceful harmony (well, sometimes) until that fateful summer day when their lives changed forever.

Smokey, the raving she-beast from hell, stormed the battlements of Ol’Town Keep, flinging soldiers left and right with the swipes of her fat, mighty paws. Her lack of claws didn’t stop her from bashing the heads of knights and pirates alike. Motorcycled police officers provided moving target practice for the furry menace and little more.

Towers crumbled, ships tore in two, and the streets grew littered with countless dismembered bodies. The city fell in a matter of minutes. I found the princess’ once pretty head on top of the highest tower, mangled body in the moat, and crushed legs under the mast of a pirate ship.

Ol’Town fought valiantly, but their strength paled in comparison to the demoness’ lust for carnage and destruction. They needed a champion, someone who could stand tall and defend their honor. I accepted the call with a vengeance. Once I killed Smokey, Ol’Town could be rebuilt, bigger and better than ever before.

I crept up the stairs slowly, obstructing as much of the path as possible with my body in case she tried to slip by. The door to my sister’s room stood slightly ajar, which Jessica would never do, and I closed my own door during the preparations of the hunt, preventing a last-ditch retaliatory attack on Ol’Town.

The final resting place of Smokey the Terrible laid just a few feet before me. I snuck up to the small opening and peered in.

Jessica rested on the bed, reading Teen magazine, oblivious to the fact that a war criminal hid in her very room. Harboring such a heinous monster marked her as an enemy of Ol’Town by association. Much as I hated the possibility of my sister getting hurt in the crossfire of battle, well, part of me enjoyed it.

I kicked the door open with such force that it bounced off the opposite wall. I flew through the opening and hedged the angle so Smokey couldn’t escape before the door closed behind me. My sister jumped on top of the bed and started screaming, “What are you doing in my room?”

I ignored her and rattled a rubber band at the beast but missed once again as she darted into the closet. I tossed the gun aside and dove in after her with as fearsome of a battle cry as I could muster. Care Bears and Barbie dolls erupted all around us.

“Are you crazy? Get out of here!” Jessica said.

Smokey and I wrestled like animals. Just as I pinned her body against the pink play house, a meaty and powerful back leg found its way to my face. I recoiled with a stinging pain that cut from nose to ear. Unlike her front paws, the brute’s back paws still contained claws of death.

Smokey broke out of the closet and leapt on top of the bed behind Jessica. The burning physical pain across my face brought my full emotions to bear; the mass of bodies from the Ol’Town massacre filled my eyes with hateful tears. The cry that left my lips sounded inhuman as I pulled myself up and flew on top of the bed.

“STOP IT!” Jessica said.

Blows fell in every direction, the lamp crashed against the wall, shattering, and what used to be a nicely made bed transformed into a twisting heap of fabric chaos. Jessica screamed at the top of her lungs, cursing the day of my birth and every day since, but I never lost sight of my target.

Despite my determination, the wily one escaped my grasp once again. Somehow, she managed to pry open the door and in an instant disappeared. I let Jessica hit me a few more times as punishment for my failure before chasing after Smokey.

Blinded by liquid rage, I collided with my Mother as she came into the house and nearly toppled her over.

“Slow down Dan,” she said.

“Sorry,” I said, wiping the rage from my eyes.

“There’s no running in the…what happened to your face?” she asked, immediately turning my head up to the side to get a better look at my war wound.

“Smokey,” I said.

“You should leave that poor cat alone. She might not scratch you then.”

“But Mom, she, she…”

“Well we better put some ointment on it.”

“No, I don’t need any.”

“Don’t be silly. Come here.”

“No Mom! Ow!”

“Oh hold still.”

“It hurts.”

“There, all done. Have you decided what you want to eat for your birthday yet?”

“Dead Cat.”

“Fine, Dead Cat it is, but you leave Smokey alone from now on. Okay?”

“Okay,” I said.

“MOM!” Jessica yelled from upstairs.

I ran to my room and locked the door before Mom could react. Throughout the murderous cries of Jessica and the firm commands from Mom to come downstairs, I rebuilt Ol’Town. I instituted a few changes to the community, all for the better, and maintained a strict closed-door policy from that day forward.

My sister forgave me, eventually, Ol’Town remained prosperous for over a decade before an earthquake destroyed the town for good, and I ate Dead Cat for my birthday that year, and every year since.

Cindy’s DEAD CAT

LAYER 1

1 ½ sticks margarine, softened – ¾ c chopped walnuts – 1 ½ c flour

Mix above with fork and press into 11 x 7” baking pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Cool completely.

LAYER 2

½ large (13oz) Cool Whip – 8 oz cream cheese, softened – 1 c sugar

Mix above and spread on cooled crust.

LAYER 3

1 lg box chocolate instant pudding

Prepare as directed on box for pie filling. Spread on cream cheese layer. Chill till firm.

LAYER 4

Spread remaining Cool Whip on top of pudding. Sprinkle with nuts if desired. Chill several hours.

Recipe courtesy of Cindy Hollander

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