30 or so Stories I’ve written in 2018 that have been rejected: Oscar

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A week ago, the gray cat showed up on my porch again. It’s Jerry’s from next door. I hate this cat. He claws at my fertilizer bags by my garden and occasionally tries to sneak into my house. The jingling of his collar always gives him away. I’ve talked with Jerry about this, he said he would keep an eye on him. Jerry lied. Before my early run, I chased it’s sassy ass back into his yard. Jerry must have been up, a light was shining through one of his blinds. Once I got back, the gray bundle of joy wasn’t anywhere near my blue lilacs, or even Jerry’s overgrown bushes. Mission accomplished.

A few days later, the same gray cat darted from underneath my Yukon.  I hit the panic button by mistake and he barreled into my legs. Coffee flew all over my red shirt and I had to change. On my way back, I found the gray cat rolling in the yard and grabbed the back of his neck. I carried him past my fresh cut grass to Jerry’s dandelion field. He hissed as I dropped him by the oak tree. I walked past the growing oil blob underneath the Dodge Neon to my yard. Jerry had really been letting this place go. I considered knocking on the door but I had to hurry if I was going to make it to work.

Saturday night was game night. I was playing Yahtzee with my nine year old. I slammed the dice down on the wooden table and began adding. She yelled “Kitty!” and pointed by the window. The gray cat meowed and ripped the wire mesh with his claws. I slipped out and blocked the entrance into my house with my foot. The gray cat peered at me and let out sassy taunt.

I marched past my yard and into Jerry’s property. His tall grass made my shins itch. I could see the same light shining through his blinds. I stomped up the small stairs to his faded white door and pounded my fist at the wood. I waited for a moment… No response. This time, I screamed out “Jerry!” and tried to put a hole in the door with my foot. Seconds passed… Still no response. I jiggled the bronze door knob and found it was left unlocked.

Slowly, I cracked the door open and yelled, “I’m letting your cat in Jerry!” The cat crept in the open crevice and a rank smell punched me in my nostrils. The odor was like a mixture of rotten egg and burnt hair. I coughed out and stuck my red elastic collar over my noise. The door creaked fully open and I found Jerry hunched over his kitchen table. An orchestra of flies played around him. A sliver gun lied on the floor below him and I made out a blackish-red stain all over the front of his Hanes crew neck. To his right, the alphabetic magnets on the fridge spelled out “I’m Sorry, God Forgive Me”.

Without thinking, I grasped the phone from my pocket and dialed the police. As I waited for the operator, I felt something push against my leg. The gray cat stared up at me. I reached down and started petting his head. He meowed with delight. My fingers made their way down the back of his head to his collar. I grabbed the jingling chain and looked at the oval shaped tag. It had Jerry’s address on the top line and below it read Oscar.

30 or so Stories I’ve written in 2018 that have been rejected: Nouns & Verbs

 

The last non-broken kitchen light flickered overhead as the fan circled around. The other two bulbs were taken out by a thrown coffee cup. Mark sat at the table below, sipping his Budweiser. He hadn’t moved much during the whole fight, only to cover his head. The once clean checkered tile was covered with broken dishes, beer bottles, and plastic bags from Target. B.B. King played over the stereo in the other room. He was surprised the record didn’t skip as she stormed off to her sister’s house.

Mark put the bottle to his lips. “Was it affect or effect?” He thought. I’m pretty sure it was affect. Affect is a noun, that’s how I remember. Effect would be more like how she effectively left that damn door open again– the thing that started the whole fight. He looked over by the edge of counter and saw it still open. The wind forced the blinds into the air. He let out a half smile as he set the beer down. They’d been together for 10 years and she still had a way of getting under his skin.

Mark adjusted his posture. The worn leather chair made a popping noise. Carrie hated that, but she hated that they still had this old kitchen furniture more. It was Mark’s job to find a new set and she liked to remind him more frequently now that the rest of the kitchen was fixed up.

“Effect is normally used as a verb. I know it. I watched a Schoolhouse rock on it back in grade school.” He thought. See, I don’t have to teach 3rd grade like you Carrie to know my nouns and verbs. He crossed his boots under the table and kicked a Campbell’s Chunky Soup can. It rolled on the floor until it got stopped by a box of spilled elbow macaroni.

A meow came from the open door behind him and a black cat slithered its way to the table. It stopped at Mark’s chair.

“What?”

The cat meowed again.

“Not you too.”

He reached down to pet his head. The cat ran towards the fridge.

“Oh great, just like Carrie. Figures. You are her cat after all.”

He grabbed the bottle and pointed the end at him.

“You know I didn’t want to start arguing. I had a long day at the factory. Michael was on my ass from the moment I punched in. I wasn’t the one who came in here yelling about some ass hole at Target and how it effected, or affected, or whatever the hell.

Who gives a shit!

She did that. She’s the one who left the damn door open. If she would’ve closed it, I wouldn’t have made the joke about how letting in the cold was effecting the heating bill. How was I to know that it would lead to a blow up about money and how I haven’t been pulling in my fair share.”

He was about to say more but B.B’s guitar made him stop. He took a giant swig of his beer. Foam poured on his stained white t-shirt but he continued on.

“B. B. gets it. You know, she always acts like this is all my fault. She didn’t seem to give a fuck when I was gone working all that overtime. We had all types of money for the kitchen then. But now? Ha, the broken dishes affected that!”

He picked up a piece of a bowl from the table and hurled it towards the wall. The black cat darted into the other room. The record skipped, interrupting “The Thrill is Gone”.

“Damn cat!”

Mark stared down at the bottle and flipped the label towards him. It said, “Mass conception of Alcohol can lead to impaired judgement and other hazardous effects.”

“Shit.”

He tipped the brown bottle back and felt the last of the warm suds hit his throat. He placed the empty bottle on the table and a half smile came over him. “ Well fuck me, effect is the stupid noun. She’s right,” he thought as he stood up. The chair kicked a piece of a plate. He stepped over fallen Fruit Loop’s boxes and walked to the closet. Mark grabbed the broom and started sweeping up the broken porcelain.

Actual Cover Letters I Send To Literary Magazine Editors Pt. 2

Dear Editor,

000000000000000000000007777777777777777777777777777770000000000000000000000000

00000000000000000000000000000000000000000007777777770000000000000000000000000

00000000000000000000000000000000000000000077777777700000000000000000000000000

00000000000000000000000000000000000000007777777000000000000000000000000000000

00000000000000000000000000000000000007777777770000000000000000000000000000000

00000000000000000000000000000000000777777770000000000000000000000000000000000

00000000000000000000000000000000777777770000000000000000000000000000000000000

00000000000000000000000000000777777777000000000000000000000000000000000000000

 

….I bet you were waiting for me to start off the cover letter like a professional and not some 90’s retro computer game. Well expect the unexpected, my friend. Here I would love to tell you that there is some deep significance to the number seven that applies to the story I’m sending, but there isn’t. I thought it would be fun to draw.

If you couldn’t tell, this letter isn’t going to get any different from what’s above. I’ll probably ramble a few more sentences about nonsense and sprinkle in some inappropriate jokes here and there, because well screw it. I really don’t care if you publish my work or not.

Trust me, it’s not that I don’t think my work is good. Everything I write is fireworks on the 4th,  including my name. I would like you too, if you feel it fits you journal. But if not, we’ll do this song and dance again soon.

You see for whatever reason, I measure my success by the amount of times I hit the green submit button. That’s the gold metal to me. Whatever happens after that is a bonus. This year I’ve submitted 30 pieces, which means I’ve kicked ass 30 times. Chicago Marathoners have nothing on me and you best believe 31 is coming in a few brief seconds. Well, that is, until I figure out how to tie in a solid joke at the end.

………

………

……………………So I got nothing. I was trying to out smart you by making a pun with a movie quote from Se7en. But I’m done. I wasted all my creativity on this this piece. …Okay and this cover letter that you probably won’t read. So you won this round, but I’ll be back. You can count on that one.

P.S. Please enjoy my my 700 word piece entitled “Oscar”.

P.S.S. I really loved your last piece “Mooncake” by Grace Prasad.

Sincerely,

Darby Cashed

Aka the people champ

Aka the Voodoo Child

Aka the Italian Stallion

Aka the most successful deadbeat writer you’ve never heard of

 

Part 1 Here

 

Drunken Photo Shoots

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*Click *Click*Click

The shutter on the Nikon went off as the back patio of the bar. The flash poured on the two while the rest of the group was oblivious around them.

“Just one more, this time a little closer together,” the camera woman said. She was excited to use her camera on someone other than her husband and dog for a change– a statement she made many times throughout the night.

The redhead grabbed me closer while I pretended this was the Royal Wedding shoot. I stared at her and made jokes that I looked like blonde Prince Henry with less hair.

“So you’re prince William?”

I glared at her and moved her chin.

“Stop moving my face.” she said through her grin.

“Stop trying to pose! We need to make this authentic for the readers of Teen People.” I said.

She looked down and laughed into my chest. The camera girl worked ferociously.

“Oh my god you guys! this is too cute! I’m feeling something here between you two!”

I knew just what she meant. I felt it too. I felt it the first time I walked into their party that afternoon and greeted my friend’s redheaded sister. The last time I saw her she was drunk and asking about this girl I was seeing. That was five years ago. She had outgrown her parent’s divorce issues, or so I thought.

It’s always a weird feeling when someone likes you. Your gut takes a hold of you, knowing you have this power over someone. In the past, it gave me a rush and I’d want to reciprocate. Now it happens more often, and it makes me wonder. Is this a curse? What do I want? When am I going to feel this way about someone else?

*Click*Click*Click

The redhead looked back up in my eyes. I knew that look, but ignored it. We posed in more ridiculous ways, ending on a vogue. The Camera girl and the redhead consulted among the pictures. I excused myself and went to the bathroom.

“Hurry back!” the redhead yelled.

“Ya! Hurry! You have to see these pictures! They’re soooo cute!” The camera girl said.

I walked into the bar, past the rows of empty stools. Typical for a Sunday night. The bathroom was dimly lit, yet I still make out my face in between the rust spots in the mirror. I splashed cold water on my face and took a deep breath.

Fuck.

 

I Wrote a Piece for McSweeny’s

I wrote a piece for McSweeny’s. It was about an argument I had about this guy’s laptop bag.

Or according to him it was an “Attache”.

Not a laptop bag, even though the leather bound container was only stuffed with one electronic item.

I guess when you pay over $150.00 dollars for a bag, you need to call it something else to remind yourself you didn’t just do that. As a guy who once made a $400.00 drunken ray-light eye protection purchase, I can respect that.

But at the same time, I don’t have the fucking urge to correct someone when they give me a complement. I can’t choose that someone digs my scuffed up Aldo boots I bought at Ross’s but not my new shirt that totally acknowledges the fact I step foot in the gym.

You don’t hear me stop someone mid-sentence:

“Wow, I really like your–”

“Astute observational humor. I know me too!”

I don’t do that.

Anyways, I was in the middle of typing this monster out on wps–the poor man’s Word Processor– when I read a section of the requirements of submission. Embedded is a hyperlink titled “It wouldn’t hurt to read this” explaining how to write a humorous piece.

Something about this bothered me.

It was like Lean Manufacturing meets Creative writing. It was literally bottling up the formula for humor. I’m surprised no one tried to sell it for ten easy payments of $19.99.

I expect this from someone teaching an 18 year old how to get laid, but not McSweeny’s. I understand upping the bar of your submissions, sure. Editors get a lot of shit. I know this, because I send out a lot of it myself. But you’ll never get any feeling out of a process. Worst of all, a reader knows when a writer is going through the motions.

I feel like to get published by McSweeny’s, I would bitch about Trump like everyone else. It would follow the exact formula outlined about how humor pieces should be written. Some fat dude on would tweet that “I won the internet”, like that is a measurable merit badge I can impress some rando girl four Vodka Sprites deep about, yet somehow I pull it off.

The next day, I would wake up in a strange bed, hangover, and a pounding sense of shame. I’d try to get a pick me up by staring at my published article, only to find it lower on the main page. Above my words of glory, someone would post a different piece, yet the same outcome.

The world keeps spinning.

McSweeny’s keeps publishing.

And I wasted one of my precious 10 minutes of fame, on a girl who thought if she joined the cross country team at DePaul, she would “so be skiing all day”. Sounds like we’re both in for a rude awaking.

…So long story short, I submitted, fingers crossed.

The Dead Man

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This is a story about a dead man, although he’s not dead yet. That part happens later.

No, at the beginning he was driving his new Porsche down the Florida Turnpike and I was sitting next to him. We’re really getting after it. I mean we were weaving in and out of cars like Dominic Toretto. We were going so fast, I could barely hear Journey over the sound of the wind. The palm trees dropped out the rear view mirror like Paul Bunyan was working. That fast!

Now, I’m from Idaho. We don’t drive like this. Even when I lived in Miami, I didn’t drive like this. I fit in with all the other snow birds going 65 in the middle lane. So here I am in the passenger’s seat, just clutching the ‘Oh Shit Handle’-begging the Dead Man to slow down. But he laughed and kept on cruising. Hey, that’s the Dead Man for you.

We met years back at a car show when I lived here. I held an unlit cigarette in my hand while I scoped out this GTO. It was a gorgeous machine. The dead man came up to admire and asked me if I have a light. We talk about the car for a few hours, and the next thing I know, we’re meeting up for drinks once a week. I meet his family, and he gets invited to my wedding. Sometimes you just click with people.

Anyways that day in the Porsche, I was just visiting. The dead man really wanted me to come down. He said he had to see in me in person for this one. Needless to say, I was shocked when he showed up in the 911 Porsche at the airport. That was his dream car! I couldn’t believe he bought it! I jumped in and we took off down the Highway.

“So you hungry Jeff?” the Dead Man said.

“Yea, I’m starving,” I said.

We exited the highway and I finally let go of the roof handle. I guess I felt safe with the slower pace of traffic or something. We drove around looking for a good spot when I saw a Halal Guys. I couldn’t wait anymore. We had to stop. At that point, I was way past the stomach growls. The Dead Man just shook his head and we pulled over.

Now at the restaurant he started acting a little funny. It’s like he’s got something to say but there’s a clog going on upstairs. His blue eyes start shifting around and he starts using his hands a lot to talk. Finally I say something.

“You doing okay man?”

“Not really, I got something to tell you.” He took a deep breath.

“I have stage three lung cancer.”

Wow. I mean talk about out of left field. The Dead Man and I talk a couple times a month. This never came up once. It’s like I didn’t even know the man, and he gave the toast at my wedding! I wanted to ask him all the usual worry questions, but what came out wasn’t anything close.

“So, is that why you bought the Porsche?”

He laughed. He had that kind of laugh that made it okay not to answer the question. We finished our lunch but it was quiet. I don’t even think the fans in restaurant were on anymore. We got back in the 911 and took off down the highway. Hauling ass of coarse.

This time on the Turnpike was different . I didn’t grab the overhead handle like before. The speed was just an afterthought. I didn’t even flinch when a little custom Civic tried to play with us. I mean I should’ve. Looking back, I can’t believe I didn’t say anything. It’s completely unlike me. Maybe if I did, the scene would’ve been different. But then again, maybe not.

The Civic pulled up to our left and honked. The driver flipped us off and juiced it.  The dead man just smiled and the 911 chased after him. I flew back in the seat. I’m pretty sure my eyes were glued open. As we caught up to him, the Dead Man started flipping him off. And that’s the last thing I remember before the crash.

After that, I woke up in hospital bed wearing a gown and covered in stitches. My wife was beside me. She grabbed my hand and told me everything. How the semi truck in the left lane next to us blew a tire. How it fishtailed into our lane. How the custom Civic driver saw the whole thing and called 911. And finally, she told me how Jerry was thrown from the driver side window,

and was pronounced dead.

Everybody Wants to Rule the World

 

I was six beers deep on that Sunday, a common site after my break up. I’d get off my short morning shift at the restaurant, and drink until my head stopped pounding from the night before. The process was simple, just one bud light at a time. The amount it took never mattered since I road a twelve speed Schwinn everywhere.

The new server worked that morning too. She was recently divorced with two boys. I pegged her age at 46 -double mine at the time- but I never clarified with her. She got the job as a waitress after the separation. Before that she was a stay at home mom, so it’s only fitting that she fell into this industry. On that morning, she told me her husband got the seven year itch, which was term I never heard before. That’s why she got short when I asked what it meant.

The Cubs got their ass kicked by Cincinnati that day. I’ll never forget because she wore a Reds T-shirt instead of her uniform. She sat down after her shift and pretended to ask the score. Even though I was already four beers deep, I resisted the urge to punch her in the tits.

She was very handsy, and always had to touch you when she spoke. You know, a hand on the back for a secret, or an arm grab when she got excited about something. Everyone hated it, except me. I think, I just enjoyed anyone who enjoyed me. But that’s typical during a break up.

After her first drink, she told me she had to pick up her kids. She also said that she had plans with her new boyfriend, a tall, dark, and handsome type with a motorcycle. Yet she still ordered another Vodka Sprite. And another after that one. It’s funny how quick plans change when drinks and good conversation is involved.

On the 8th inning, we stopped watching the massacre and quizzed each other over the bar music. I was good. Within the first guitar riff, I knew the answer. She didn’t stand a chance until I finally got stumped. It was that one famous 80’s song, I know you’ve heard it before. It says something about mother nature and ruling the world. I couldn’t think of the name, but I knew the song because my Ex played it all the time.

Anyways, she was shocked that I couldn’t answer, and punched me in the arm. I smacked my bud light and it flew into the air. The bottle shattered against the mirror behind the bar. I don’t remember who the bartender was but she kicked us out right after. Some bullshit right? I mean, we made a mistake sure, but we worked there. I made a joke that I’d been kicked out of nicer shit holes than this. She grabbed my arm and walked out.

We stood by the side of the building and I lit up a cigarette. I’m not sure if she smoked but she accepted it when I passed it over. She took a drag and started talking about her new Boyfriend. She said he was great, and told me she liked him, but paused. I blew out smoke and she went on.

“I don’t know, I just don’t think I’m ready yet.” She said.

“Ready for what?” I said.

“You know. He just gives me this look, like he knows his future or something. And, I don’t know, I guess I’m somehow apart of it.” She said.

“Sounds kind of heavy” I said.

“It is. But at the same time, it’s not. I know none of that make sense but maybe you’ll understand when you get older.” She said.

“Nope, I’m staying 23 forever.” I said, smiling before I continued.

“But I get it. You just had your plan just get rocked by life. Sounds like you kind of want to hang out a bit. Maybe just take it slow, smell the roses, get lost in an adventure of the day. Have a drink with a cook and get your ass kicked in song trivia.” I said.

“You didn’t even know that last song.” She said.

I was going to take the joke further but she kissed me. I didn’t see it coming. I was so drunk I don’t think I close my eyes. I was going to ask if she wanted to get another drink but there was an interruption.

A guy pulled up in a Suburban and started yelling. He ran out and left his door open. He was a shorter guy, about my height and he just kept screaming at her. She tried to play it off like she had to stay late, but her words slurred at every vowel. I couldn’t tell you what was said, but I remembered him pointing to the two boys in the back of the SUV. Tears rolled down her face and she ran to her car. The guy flipped me off as he got into the Suburban and drove off.

I took a step back until I hit the building. My back slid down the wood until I hit my ass on the cement. I dug in my pocket until I found another Camel. I sat there quiet and kept my eyes down on the white parking lot.

The next day she put her notice in, but it wasn’t until a few weeks later that I saw her again. She popped in on a Sunday for her last check. I was at the end of the bar, nursing a Bud Light by myself. I said hello, but the conversation didn’t go far. She has a motorcycle helmet in her hand and said her fiance was waiting outside.

She left and I ordered another Bud Light. I looked in the cracked mirror behind the bar and gave myself a toast.

She was finally ready.