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Stories Tragedy

Aunt Frankie’s Family Fun

Uncle Louie’s Shock-Toberfest was too big to be called a carnival—it was a goddamn World’s Fair. Customers streamed in between columns covered in gauzy cobwebs and jaunty skeletons. The box office, tricked out like an insane asylum, was manned by sexy nurses selling tickets, swiping credit cards, and taking in loads of cash. As experienced…

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Stories Tragedy

Some of Them Kept Records of Their Troubles

As the last two customers finished their enchiladas, Joslynn began to close for the night. She preferred being at work—or even school—ever since her mother’s boyfriend had moved in. He liked drugs and so did her mother, but his leering eyes made Joslynn’s stomach tie itself into knots. Mothers are all slightly insane, Joslynn had…

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Tragedy

That Creepeth Upon the Earth

“We’re getting slammed,” Frank grumbled to Tony. He tapped the call bell twice. “C’mon Jennifer—pick up orders for tables 11, 5, and 25. You gotta hustle during the lunchtime rush…” Jennifer wheeled around and flipped the cook the double bird. Without breaking her stride, she refilled glasses with lukewarm water. “Jennifer—!” Frank bellowed. Without a…

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Stories Tragedy

Gold & Black Balloons

Of course, Missy was making a scene at the reception’s welcome table. Thirty-five years had not blunted Missy’s expectations that she should be greeted by anything but a bevy of uncaged doves and a fanfare of trumpets. She seemed disappointed with us. “I don’t see my name,” she asked, blinking at the table cards. “Do…

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Stories Tragedy

Butter & Cream

I have fed the cat butter and cream before he dies. Dairy is terrible for a cat’s gastrointestinal tract, but then again, so is abnormal dilation of the colon. I’ll take the blame for the dairy. God can take the blame for the rest. For the hundredth time in a week, the cat valiantly tries…

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Stories Tragedy

L’odeur of Summer 1794

“Find us a good place to sit, Suzanne. In front of the scaffold, but not too close.” “Absolument. I know just the spot.” “I will be back shortly.” “Where are you going, Jacqueline?” “To buy a nosegay.” “Who’s selling flowers on such a day?” “There’s a stall near the tumbrels—next to the prisoner carts. The…

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Stories Tragedy

The Smoke of Her Burning

Part I: It was so terribly cold. It had always been cold in Denmark, especially on New Year’s Eve. The wintry winds brought a desperate chill to those unsettled and impoverished. Wars continued to ravage the land. Treaties were torn up as soon as they were signed. Industrialization poisoned Scandinavian cities and its people. The…

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Comedy Stories

Yogattabekiddingme

“So, what’s the catch?” “There is no catch. Cover my yoga class this evening, and I’ll pay you fifty bucks.” “But I’ve never taught a yoga class.” “Well, don’t let that stop you.” “I’ve never even been to a yoga class…” “And I’ve never gone out with Troy Henderson. Tonight will be a night of…

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Comedy Stories

Sol’s Sunshine

“You cannot hit Jeremiah Brown in the face.” “But Pop Pop, JB is the worst boy in the entire 2nd grade!” “Sunshine, I don’t care if he’s the worst boy in the entire state of Tennessee. You are not the kind of girl who uses her fists to talk for her. I’ve taught you better…

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Comedy Stories

The Temperate Wyvern

“En garde, Devil’s Spawn!” “I beg your pardon?” “Hellbeast! Talketh not to me. I come in the name of mine own sov’reign king.” “Why?” “To bring glory to his name.” “Bring glory to some old goat’s name? That’s quite the undertaking.” “Silence! I shall not listen to another word slithering from your forkéd tongue!” “Then we…

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Stories Tragedy

How to Kill and Butcher a Deer

The Bellagio was known for having the hottest bartenders on the Las Vegas strip. Cassidy had been making eyes at one before Tommy DeMartino sat down beside her. “You alone?” “I am now.” “I saw you earlier on the dance floor—with your friends.” “My friends have to work tomorrow. I don’t,” she replied, crossing her…

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Comedy Stories

The Auctioneer

“Never lie to cows. You act like you gonna feed ‘em—then feed ‘em.” Irritated by her father’s reprimand, Kelsey rolled her eyes, exhaling in a huff that materialized into soft clouds in the winter morning air. She wanted to kick the icy water trough on her way out of the barn, knocking it over to…

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Comedy Stories

The Less Things Change

Today’s the day you change. You mean it this time. Everything. You’re going to change every jot and tittle. You are unsure what a jot and tittle is—an expression your overly religious grandmother uses—but it seems like a good phrase to use today. You pull out your iPhone and google “jot and tittle” → [The…

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Comedy Stories

The Bibliophagist’s Magic Shop

Ever since the new Wal-Mart opened by the interstate, there wasn’t much for us to do except throw rocks at the old sock factory. Someone tried to get an Anklebiter football team going, but no adult we knew had the time or inclination to volunteer—since working the night shift at Gas-N-Go takes a toll on…

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Stories Tragedy

Ipsa Historia Repetit

“Thank you for coming in, Mrs. Sampson,” the principal said, smiling thinly. She motioned for the anxious mother to sit in the chair across from her desk. The bookcases behind Mrs. Sampson’s seat were filled to capacity, mostly with well-annotated history books that the principal kept from her years of teaching. Holding her designer handbag…

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Comedy Stories

The Dewey Decimal System

It’s a rare thing to find fulfillment in maintaining order, carving it out of chaos, keeping the Barbarians outside the gates. But it’s been my life’s pursuit. Case in point, I return from my lunch break to find all hell has broken loose in the library. How much anarchy has been unleashed in the quarter-hour…

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Comedy Stories

Honestly

“O Woman That I Used To Love, what should we get for dinner tonight?’’ “Honestly, my Greatest Disappointment? I don’t care.” “You do care. You want me to suggest a place to eat so you can shoot it down. Whatever I say, you will wrinkle your little nose like I decided that we should eat…

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Comedy Stories

Kaleidoscope

You never asked for this much insight. But you can’t have both innocence and experience. Experience. A charming euphemism for pain and suffering. Either one will drive out innocence altogether. Isn’t that what you’re really after—a return to Eden? Minus the snake. Minus the apple. Minus Adam, for that matter. However, if you had stayed…

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Stories Tragedy

Far Away and Fast

There were too many of us, Lizzy thought, tucking herself behind a door jamb. Her father smoked in stony silence in front of a television, while her mother swatted her brothers who snatched fingerfuls of mashed potatoes from a large bowl on the dining room table.In various sizes, her brothers pushed and yelled, whining about…

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Comedy Stories

The Last Time I Was Beautiful

“I hope you don’t mind me asking,” I say, “but aren’t you a little old to be a new hairdresser?” The fifty-something woman in the reception area looks up expectantly, holding her job application and freshly-minted beautician’s license in her hands. “I earned a perfect score on the cosmetology exam,” she offers almost apologetically, with…

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Comedy Stories

Like a Baseball Bat to the Face

“I need your car.”“Carrie, it’s the middle of the night—” “Simms,” she says in a low voice, unnaturally calm. “Walk back to your bedroom, tell your wife to shut up, grab your keys, and bring them to me.” “C’mon, Carrie,” he whines. Simms is as petulant as a boy whose mother dotes on him too…

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Comedy Stories

But wait—there’s more!

Are you staring at your phone, waiting impatiently for a monosyllabic message from your mercurial lover to magically appear?Are you tired of sharing the intimate details of your life over cold nachos and watery margaritas with some bae from Bumble—only to be discarded three weeks later? Do you find yourself being a magnet for megalomaniacs,…

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Comedy Stories

Tetherball

Much like deciding to work as a summer camp counselor, playing tetherball with nine-year-old boys is exhausting, pointless, and stupid. After my easy serve, one of the bucktoothed brats miraculously hits the ball back. The ball is actually an old volleyball, hung like a church thief on a dirty rope affixed to the top of…

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Stories Tragedy

Ace of Pentacles

It’s easier with the drunk girls—especially the loud-mouthed ones who travel in packs. Dressed in sparkly tops, short skirts, and wobbly heels, they wear “Bride To Be” paper tiaras or “Nifty-to-Be-Fifty” ballcaps. On weekends, I expect them after the bars close. They burst through my door, tittering, eyeing the darkened reading room with glassy cows…

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Comedy Stories

Love & Flowcharts

“All right now, listen up. You cannot get two people to fall in love by shillyshallying. This is serious business. We’re talking about love—passionate love. The kind of love that eats away at you in the dark hours of the night. The kind of love that makes you crazy enough to hate. The kind of…

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Stories Tragedy

For the Rest of My Life

Their high school friends had gone on ahead, laughing and teasing one another, yet the thought of entering the Fall Festival’s “Howl-O-Scream” terrified her. It was the not knowing what lurked in the darkened corners that bothered her the most. She hated being surprised. “Are you ready?” her boyfriend asked. Boyfriend. What an insubstantial word…

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Comedy Stories

No Class Room

“You’re sharing a classroom with Mister Galanis,” Principal Twomey says, heavyset and out of breath from climbing up the stairs to the 3rd floor. The 3rd floor is the inner sanctum of the English Department. We don’t appreciate visitors here, especially ones from administration. Rarely do they bring good news. And notification of sharing a…

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Stories Tragedy

Fin

Maybe the lights won’t come back on. Maybe you can sit in silence in the back of the community center next to your ex-wife for a little while. She’s been remarried for years. You try to remember where what’s-his-name works. You hold her hand. She squeezes your hand back. 🜋 🜋 🜋 You know the…

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Comedy Stories

To One Not Sociable

The tail lights of a Mercedes E-class blink off as it accelerates through the stone gate pillars. An exhaust pipe of a BMW 5-series coughs up a plume of fetid smoke. On occasion there is a slight wave from a Lexus RX 350’s window—a white hand, manicured nails, rings with rocks worth more than my…

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Comedy Stories

Tatterdemalion

“Tatterdemalion. Ragamuffin. Slubberdegullion.” David’s great-aunt knew a dozen ways to call him slovenly and unkempt, but he paid her little mind. Since the Catholic Mass she dragged him to each day was tedious, he found crawling under the pews much more fun than listening to Latin. As usual, his great-aunt pulled him up by the…

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Comedy Stories

Shuttered Hearts

Weddings prove to be the perfect hunting grounds. My brother—with his ridiculous scythe—prefers them, harvesting the overly excited elderly in the midst of their joy. He finds those who’ve imbibed too much, attempting to drive home instead of into a telephone pole. On occasion, a jilted lover will show up, armed and reckless, doing most…

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Stories Tragedy

Incapable of Her Own Distress

There is something liberating about losing the love of your life. Compounded with all the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, it makes the choice to lose one’s mind easier—not to mention the choice of losing one’s life. I guess that answers the question whether to be or not to be. If I were still…

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Comedy Popular Stories

What You Can Do With Your Book

You present me with a gift bag as if legions of angels will descend, trumpeting your thoughtfulness in remembering my [insert celebratory event here]. I’m gracious, of course. You shouldn’t have! And I mean that. You shouldn’t have. Because now you are stepping over the line. We are simply: co-workers mothers with children at the…

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Comedy Stories

The Good Soil

“I’m going—I’m going,” she mutters, pushing her three-wheeled shopping cart out of the alley. As the proprietor glares at her, hands on his hips. She stops to inventory her possessions, often rifled through by miscreants in the middle of the night. “I warned you about coming back here,” the man says, menace in his voice.…

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Comedy Stories

How To Slash A Tire

Step One: Let some air out. “You have to depressurize the tire,” the older boy explains, pulling out his switchblade. With a flick of a button, a two-inch blade appears. My eyes grow wide—I have never seen anything like it. With a vulpine grin, he hands the knife to me to hold. I shake my…

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Comedy Stories

Growing Sideways

“Grow up.” “Get out of my room.” I cross my arms. We stare at each other. “$275,” I say. “It’s going to cost $275 to replace your retainer.” “So?” “So? So—do you have $275 to replace your retainer?” I ask my son, exasperated at his indifference. “No,” he replies, dismissing me. He begins to shove…

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Stories Tragedy

Homewrecker

🏅“No, she isn’t my daughter,” he corrects a colleague. “She’s my wife.” On cue, I beam at my husband, innocent and doe-eyed—like I did in my 20’s when he was in his 40’s. His friend invariably elbows him, making comments about cradle robbing and spring chickens. We laugh. I say something clever in reply. His…

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Stories Tragedy

Spider Silk

“Where’s Papa going with that ax?” My sister Lizz holds up the book she is reading to her 3rd grade science class. The eight-year-old students go wide-eyed at seeing a picture of little Fern attempting to wrestle away an ax from her father. He has planned to kill a newborn pig, the runt of the…

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Comedy Stories

Hack

🏅 Your cursor blinks. Your cursor blinks ceaselessly. You delete ceaselessly. Adverbs are not your friend. Adverbs are indicative of weak diction, but you cannot think of a better verb to express the action just the way you want. Certainly you can use an adverb occasionally. You delete occasionally. You delete certainly. You can use…

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Stories Tragedy

War Crimes

Andriy watched his father move an anti-tank mine out of the roadway using his bare hands, all the while smoking a Chinese cigarette, the tobacco loose and pungent. “Your name, Andriy, means manly and strong,” his father explained through clenched teeth, delicately carrying the explosive. “I named you for days like these. You will be a…