Dead Meat

Do you remember that time I put the cat in the dryer? He sure does. Or at least he would, if he were still alive.


Brad had eight dead birds.


I never cheated on a test or peed in an elderly couple’s well, like the really bad kids, but I’ve done my share of sinning.


My junior year was spent in a depression so deep and dark that Ronald McDonald cries at its recollection. At one point I remember looking in the mirror and wondering when small animals were going to inhabit the burrows of my dead eyes. My facial muscles lost all tone, requiring me to manually lift the corners of my mouth to smile. My posture rounded to a hunch against the biting winds of self-loathing.


It wasn’t a very good idea to put a dead bee on his pee-pee. But he did it anyway. And you’ll never guess what happened: it stung him. Stung him right in the pee-pee. The bee wasn’t fully dead, as you must have suspected by now. It had been tormented into a state of shock, and lay in its hospice bed, making its peace with God, awaiting Jesus Bee’s appearance at the end of the tunnel of light and honey. With its last breath, the bee had its revenge on mankind, hoping to render at least one 1st grade boy infertile for eternity.

The Guitar

Johnny played guitar, so I wanted to play guitar. Everything he did was so cool (except that kleptomania phase), and everything he liked was so awesome (except Dorothy—that girl was bad news). Overall, he endured my copycatting with patience, partially because of his even temperament, but also because, with a 5-year age difference, there was no real competition between us--his long fingers were always five years more adept at Guns ‘N Roses solos.

Portland Sucks

Anywhere would have, because, the summer I lived in Portland, my life sucked. Could have been in Hawaii or Paris and found fault with the disgusting coconuts and crappy crepes, the stupid palm trees and Awful Tower. As it was, I had decided to explore the Pacific Northwest after my sophomore year, before studying abroad in Scotland. What began as a good idea turned out to be poop on a stick. Don’t quite know what that means, but sorta captures my own confusion at how such an adventure could go so adversely.


Something a boy finds exciting.

What's in the DNA of little boys that causes them to take pleasure in destroying life? Is it a coincidence that the "Y" chromosome is shaped like a slingshot?


For a few years the Jukeberry family possessed two rabbits. Count them, one, two. Mine was named “Mopsy” after the Beatrix Potter bunny. Johnny’s was named “High-tops” because, at that point, Air Jordans were all the rage.


Cats cats cats. I’ve had so many cats. Some were small, some were tall; some were black, and some we killed. That one was an accident. We wrapped him in a slip and buried him over the hill.

Work Study

Lots of on-campus, part-time jobs are designated “work study” positions. These student jobs are funded by the government, which gives the college free labor while giving poorer students first dibs on work. Allegedly, it also gives the government educated, civic-minded graduates. Everyone WINS! The jobs themselves are generally a breeze, only requiring that you show up and not drink on the clock. Some kids worked in the campus bookstore, others drove students around town in Ford Focus cabs. Some slopped baked beans onto cafeteria trays, others buzzed keyless students into dorms.

But I secretaried in the Philosophy department, which, over the course of one semester, unearthed my dark secret.

Homegrown Comedy

In college I wrote a paper on the philosophy of humor. It was, by far, the least funny thing I’ve ever written. It was so unfunny that even the strategically inserted clip art of bananas slipping on human peels failed to produce so much as a chuckle. But I haven’t learned my lesson, so I’m going to compose another comedy paper ... right before your very eyes! This time, however, I’m just agonna tell ya about the people in my life who are Funny Bunnies. Hopefully it won’t be as dry as Saltines.

Here is an outlandish and unprovable claim: my friends are funnier than any comedians who joke on-screen. The most entertaining earthlings seldom choose a career in comedy—being funny is who they are and how they see the world, rather than something they pursue or do. They have influenced me beyond any professional because I participate in creating comedy with them, as opposed to watching someone perform it. We don’t even think of it as “creating comedy”; we just hang out and funny stuff happens. Once someone laughed so hard they threw up. Multiple people have peed their pants. We have, on occasion, even peed each other’s pants.

Do you want to meet my hysterical homies? Okay! Introducing …


You know them, you love them, munch munch munch. They’re crackers. Crunchy, salty, crumbly holders of dip, melted cheese, and guac. Sprinkled on soup tops from Maine to Manitoba. Served as horse devours from Fort Collins to Fort Lauderdale. Let’s talk a lot about them!


As a world-renowned author, my team of lawyers and publishers has advised me to exercise extreme caution when writing about real people. Turns out everyone is so offendable these days. They’re just standing around ready to seize all my assets. You know, I’ve got so many stinkin’ assets that I’ve had to clear out the linen closet to fit another row of them on top of the holiday decorations. Among my greatest assets are the coral engagement ring from a failed engagement to my husband, a “used but acceptable” paperback edition of Anne of Green Gables, and upwards of three boxes of nubby crayons. I can’t imagine having to start over if someone successfully sued me.

The Rezzies

Every December 31st I contract the Rezzies.
“What are the Rezzies? They sound terrible!”

White Fang

The tree was trimmed, the hall decked, the cookies iced. But little Grabby’s stocking was full of anxiety. It was December, and Mom was going to ask me for my ... Christmas list.

30 Rock

We can either rock our thirties or get rocked by them.

The Curse of the "K"

Does your last name start with the letter K? If so, prepare to be offended, because we all know that you are such a weirdo.

Dead Tired

It’s possible to die from being tired, you know. In fact, I’ve come close enough to hear the pearly gates creaking—the problem is, I'm too tired to walk through. Once I made it partway through only to be called back by someone “on earth” who needed their diaper changed. Here is a sample of my near-death experiences this week:

How it Works: a college to baby manual

Here’s how it works: You have to get your degree. An absolute MUST. And then you should probably go straight into your master’s program since a bachelor’s won’t suffice to position you, especially given ‘the economy’ and ‘the ever-changing global marketplace’ and other such serious and mysterious forces. It doesn’t matter so much what your degree is in or where you get your degree, you just MUST get that degree! Oh, and of course you know that concurrently you will intern, volunteer, and lead student organizations (during the summers, it’s crucial that you find opportunities OVERSEAS or with NON-PROFITS.) Then you graduate with a resume that requires 9-point font to fit on one page.


My parents must hold the record for longest game of hide-n-seek—I think it's still going on. Basically it goes like this: my dad searches for a household object that he accuses my mom of hiding, taking, or moving somewhere irrational. My mom then seeks out the object, inevitably finds it, then exhorts him to hone his own seeking skills. Below is a sample dialog, this time related to some missing mustard:


HarvardHow could I not be admitted to Harvard's freshman class? Surely I was the only applicant wearing a 1980's Bruce Springsteen t-shirt and bellbottoms scrawled over with Chinese characters. (FYI, that's the ivy league's most troubling quota category to fill each year. I was a shoe-in.)

Creepy Things

Alf Tennyson trapping some plankton with fine-meshed beard puff.

If poetic transport hadn't dulled my reflexes, I would have run. But instead, I just sat there staring at him, half stuck in 19th-century England.

New Car

When I started shopping for my first car, I was convinced that the used car salesmen would prey on me. Before leaving the house, I sharpened my teeth and narrowed my eyes. On the lot I walked purposefully straight up to the slouching, sweating sales associate. I was NOT going to be taken advantage of, for I had a clipboard.


Growing up, I just wasn’t that into dolls. Even though the Barbies had awesome hair, you had to brush it frequently or else endure severe matting that only scissors could remedy. It sprouted out of head holes ½ an inch apart, resembling a shower head more than a human head, but either way, I used to chew on their legs when I was grounded from dinner.

The Little Puppy

Every Christmas I asked for the same thing—a little puppy. In my dreams, it was a cocker spaniel nuzzling the lid of its gift-wrapped box, like in Lady and the Tramp. My Uncle Walt had a cocker named Goldie, and she was the first dog who inspired in me the hope of meeting my emotional needs through a beast. Goldie would stand on his chest, pressing her forehead against his as they “talked” to each other in whines and whimpers. I thought it would be nice to have that kind of relationship.

Child's Play: Truth, Dare, or ... FIRE?!?!

“Fire” is an egregious “Dare.” I never chose Fire, but Gorko always did. The flames cracked in her dark eyes, daring us to conjure the most horrific Fire imaginable for her, then she would jump up and complete it with cocky indulgence as we turned our faces away and sometimes begged her to stop. No, I can’t even tell you what some of them were (but one may have involved a cat and licorice and—no, I better stop).

Child's Play: Secret Spaces

My best friend growing up liked the Chucky films about demonic baby dolls. She’d sit in the dark, close to the TV, and lap up the horror. But this story isn’t about Chucky, it’s about me. Me and my friends playing in secret spaces away from our parents’ unmagical faces. We weren’t bad, like Chucky, but we were silly, and sometimes, to grown-ups, that is more unnerving. Maybe it reminds them of a time of color and freedom that has slipped away. Or maybe they are raw inside and out trying to keep things together. Either way, we stole away to avoid their eye-rolls, head shakes, and sighs.


We lived a heartbeat away from Andrew Carnegie heartland, which must have deepened our love of public libraries. (You know that he was the steel baron turned philanthropist who spearheaded the public library movement, right?) My mom bubbled with joy reading to us and no doubt hoped it would turn us into lifelong book lovers. (In my case it worked; in my brother’s case it didn’t. His apathy toward reading eventually evolved into hatred, and I remember the day he flatly refused to complete the reading comprehension section of the statewide testing. Once there was a book that he liked about an Indian that lived in a cupboard, but that was about it. As adults, he and I have landed an arrangement of mutual benefit—he pays me to read books for him and give him the gist.) Are you ready for the topic sentence??? There were three libraries that my mom took us to, and I’m going to tell you about them right now in the order of how good they were.

Oh boy! (Part 4)

College Dud #1: Jack

“I’ve never had a problem with girls,” he’d smirk on the long, smoky exhales. He used his smoothness to full advantage, like a peacock uses its feathers.
Oh boy - Jack

Oh boy! (Part 3)

Famous Dud: Jamie

After an outdoor Pop-Rock concert in Buffalo, New York, I told the backstage security guard that I was with a local newspaper writing a story on ticket scalping—which I was—and would like to interview a band member for the article. I walked with purpose over the gravelly area where the tour buses were parked, determined to be casual and professional despite internally gushing. The bass player came around the fender with a towel around his neck and a hand around his beer. I made eye contact, stuck out my hand, firmly shook, and relayed my objective. Because he was tired, the interrogation began with him reclining on an equipment crate as I modeled perfect posture and journalistic ambition on an adjacent crate, which was much shorter and unstable.

Oh boy! (Part 2)

Early High School Dud: Matt

He was a senior, and I was a freshman. He a Montagu, I a Capulet (in that the relationship was destined for an untimely end … not that he would mistake me for dead and then poison himself). How cute was Matt? I’ll tell you. He was so cute that I could only look at him when clouds passed over his face.

Oh boy - Matt

Oh Boy! (Part 1)

Given my shocking number of duds in the Boys Department, I am alarmed every morning to find a husband in my bed—my husband, to be clear—an amazing husband who has things like “initiative” and “integrity” and “feelings” besides hunger and rage. There is no earthly reason why this happened to me, but thank God I am saved from being eternally logged into eHarmony clicking and hoping, hoping and clicking … or worse yet, trapped in a terrible relationship with one of these spiders from my past …
(Note: Not all spiders are bad per se; some are harmless, like the lovable Daddy Long Legs. But all spiders are yucky. You do not want to wake up next to one, much less find yourself committed to cherish one in the sacred bond of matrimony.)

Fall Festivals

The Pumpkin Festival

“Are you going to the Pumpkin Festival?”
“Yeah! My mom’s in it this year. She’s selling those rice-crispie-treat-pumpkin-heads-on-sticks. I ate halfavum already!”


Church I

Church I

He had auburn hair and a matching beard. I called him Pastor Red. Halfway through the service he would call all the white children forward—there were only white children—to sit on the steps with him and listen to “the children’s sermon.”

On the Road

If I was to run away undetected, I would have to use the escape ladder. And run away I must. You see, I was fifteen, and my parents were insufferable.


Never before and never since have I more deeply yearned to escape prepubescent society … than at camp.

Nursing Home

Chuck’s black feet were cracked, terminating in long toenails. His feet were black because he was black. In fact, he was the only black patient at the nursing home. But that wasn’t why I adopted him as my “buddy.”


I. Scouts Honor

Scouts Honor, I hated scouts.


Bethanie always got Ho-Hos in her lunch. Brendon got Lunchables. Adam got fruit roll-ups. I got oxidized apples and smashed PB&J.


And I don’t mean mini Girl Scouts. I mean the brownies laced with laxatives awaiting me at Becky’s 4th grade birthday party.

Grandparents Day

Every year our elementary school celebrated grandparents by having them come for a luncheon. In Art class that week we'd make crafts with construction paper or dry macaroni to present to them when they arrived. A couple kids from each grade would read little poems at the mic that made the grandmas cry.

But my grandpa was always dead on Grandparents Day.


How “Ranger” was voted the best name for the 2nd grade’s guinea pig, I’ll never understand.

I'm In TV!

Mrs. Weaver,* Kindergarten teacher extraordinaire, won a golden apple for 3 decades of excellent teaching, and she deserved it.


The school secretary was round and glossy. She was also Caucasian. Her name was Pearl, and she loved that fact.


You could hear him coming by the jangle of his keys and the shortness of his breath. It was Digger. Digger the Janitor. He wasn’t “faster than lightning” like Flipper, and no bounce was in his step like Tigger, but boy could he buff a floor. He was hardy and hard-working, like a beef-stew-eating ox.

Miss Capillaro's Vein

Miss Capillaro flew a single-engine plane and had a monstrous forehead vein. It pulsated when she ate scrambled eggs.


Every Friday was “Chapel.” Girls had to wear a skirt or a dress, and boys had to wear a tie. I would rather have worn a tie because you can still play kickball at recess with a tie. In a dress you can only play with those banana-shaped scoopers and a wiffle ball.

Middle Schooled

After the Brownie Conspiracy I went to public school for 6th grade, to which several former classmates sarcastically replied, “Darn!” Over the course of the year, I missed more than two weeks of school from faked sickness and downright refusal to go. If I hadn’t maintained good grades, the administration would have held me back for so many absences.
harley 4(Our female Principal was sighted joy-riding one of these! Can you believe it?)


There’s a lot of corn in Western Pennsylvania, or at least there used to be before the Super K’s landed and popped it all. In fact, the only thing there was more of than corn was old people. Those two facts led to a regional form of adolescent terrorism. We didn't invent corning—it was more passed on by older siblings. I guess you could say we just grew up around corning, or that it grew up around us!

Student of the Month

I got this once because everyone else in the class already got it. I guess they didn’t want me to feel left out and then kill myself at 19.

A Night To Remember

In 5th grade a mob of pony-tailed girls threw me off a 10-story building then steamrollered my remains.

Nachos & Apples

I like slapping things out of peoples’ hands.

Book Nook

I pledge allegiance to the Book Nook of the United States of America, and to the Book Nook for which it stands, one nation, under Book Nook, with liberty and Book Nooks for all.”


That’s how Cora spelled “butterfly,” and that’s why she was eliminated in the 1st grade spelling bee's qualifying round.

Foot-In-Mouth Disease

“I hate vests,” I said in disgust. “They’re so ugly!”
Annie’s eyes waxed into full moons.
“What?” I intoned. “What’s the point—to hold your lungs in place?”
Her eyes pointed discretely but imploringly at Beth, who was right behind me doing her math homework ... in a big ol’ patch-worked vest in bright shades of suede with half dollar-sized silver buttons.
“I mean, on guys," I quickly qualified.
Beth looked up from her homework. My lips twitched into a smile. I stifled the urge to compliment her on how well her vest held in her lungs.

Take a Whistle

We were lucky to have the end duplex. It was situated for adventure.

What do you mean I can't be black?

In 3rd grade each student had to dress up like their hero and give a presentation to the class on why they wanted to be like them. Naturally I was Michael Jordan.

Aunt Peg

Aunt Peg wasn’t really my aunt. She was my grandma’s long-time friend, and “Mrs. Swanson” and “Peg” both shot wide of the mark. Her windows leaked, her car rusted, but she never aged.

The Wee Store


“3 lbs. of ground chuck, please, Mort.”

A Boot, an Angel, and a Nazi walk into a bar...

A Boot

For messy projects we had to wear a smock. They were stored in a crate in the art closet, and had been donated by dads whose pens leaked through their work shirt pockets.


Yes, I have rode in a limousine. Twice in fact. It wasn’t for prom; it was for getting the most magazine sales!

Señorita Holmes

Call: ♫ “Como te llamas? Como te llamas? Como te llamas, tu?”
Response: ♫ “Me llamo Juan. Me llamo Anna. Como te llamas tu?”

That’s how I learned Spanish from our phenomenal, blind polyglot.

Ronni Riser & Blood Mountain (Part 1)

My excuse for picking on Ronni Riser is that I was in 4th grade, developmentally incapable of empathy.

Ronni Riser & Blood Mountain (Part 2)

One by one classmates sensed the imminent showdown, growing silent and wide-eyed.

6th grade cafeteria

In 6th grade Jackie shoved my face in a plate of spaghetti.

Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin.

This is one of the only things I know about history after decades of history class.

To a 7th Grade Bully

"Dear" Ryan B.,

It's been a while ... but not long enough to heal the emotional scars.

A Cover Letter

“Dear Sir or Madam—I can’t tell which from your picture:

I am confident that I have the necessary body parts to succeed in this job.

Mayonnaise stirs up hatred in the human heart

This must be the most detested condiment of all.

No Trespassing!

Dear Cellulite and Acne Ad Makers,

Nearly every time I log into my email account I am assaulted by rapidly shrinking and expanding stomachs or butts.

Hotels vs. Motels

I like hotels better than motels because hotels are higher than motels, which are not very high.

The Bus

I hated riding the bus. I hated it so bad. But you know what I hated almost as much? Waiting for the bus! Oh boy, that was the pits.