Tag Archives: short story

Good News, Bad News

“Do you want the good news or the bad news first?” the doctor asked in a playful tone.

“Look, I’m really not in the mood for games. Please just tell me if I’m going to live or not.” said Daniel, eyes closed and pinching the bridge of his nose.

“Well you know what I’m not in the mood for?” The doctor caught himself before continuing with that train of thought. “Uh, nevermind. Sorry. Look, I prefer to end on a high note, so here’s the bad news: My best guess is that you’ll be dead in a week.”

“Wow… that’s—I. I’m at a loss.” After a few seconds Daniel added, “What do people normally say at a time like this?” He spoke timidly and began to perspire. 

“Nothing terribly interesting or original, I’m afraid.” said the doctor with a little too much candor. “Uh, well, they normally want to make a phone call. Is there… anyone you’d like to call?”

“No. No, I think I’ll just head home. Thanks for everything… I guess.” On the way out, Daniel paused by the door. He had almost forgotten. “Hey, I might as well ask— what was the good news?”

“Oh, that? The good news is that I’ve been wrong about seventy-percent of the time with terminal diagnoses… So odds are you’ll be fine,” the doctor said with a little laugh.

Neither man said much after the doctor was punched unconscious.

Fifth of July

July 5th was always an abysmal day in our household growing up. My father so loved the Fourth of July that he would attempt to out-do himself year after year. The summer I was nine years old I distinctly remember hearing him argue with my mother through the thin walls of the house that we could barely afford (mostly due to the exorbitant firework and flag budget). 

My mother had been trying to reason with him, telling him that things had gotten out of hand. He called her a communist and told her to move back to Russia (my mother was Canadian, by the way). She got so angry that she stormed onto the back patio and took to cutting up his favorite apron—an American flag patterned one that said “Kiss me, I’m a Patriot.” We were soon to find out, however, that he had about six more of these in his gun safe. 

That was the same year that our neighbor, old one-eyed Janice, had come into our backyard screaming at my father about the inappropriateness of the all-night firework display on a Tuesday night. My father muttered a comment about her being a treasonous prude as he lit the fireworks he was holding in his hand. Then he removed his cap and started singing the star-spangled banner while launching the fireworks directly at Janice, who had been known as two-eyed Janice before this particular incident.

I still remember how hard my dad laughed, holding his hand over one eye and mocking her wales of pain. But no matter how good of a time he had on the Fourth, and he usually had quite a good time, the Fifth of July brought with it a freedom hangover that would rival the most dismal opioid withdrawals. 

My dad would shuffle from his bedroom, his brown hair knotted and tangled in a strange nest on his head, his bloodshot eyes wincing at even the dimmest of lights, and wearing nothing but his favorite apron, holding a warm half-finished beer from the night before in his shaky hand. I was young, but even then I remember knowing that the beer smelled cheap.

He sat at the breakfast table, simmering in his barely contained fury and disappointment. If his coffee, newspaper, and hearty breakfast didn’t appear within a few moments, his wrath would be uncontained. 

Of course, it didn’t take long of him looking at the newspaper to find something or other to curse the world over. He seemed incredulous and angry that his celebration of America had not fixed the turmoil, strife, and conflict across the nation. He could never understand why people refused to honor his country like he did every Fourth of July. He would look as though he’d never be happy again.

Maybe he never was. Less than a week later he had a heart attack while berating his doctor. The poor doctor was new to the clinic and didn’t read the note in my dad’s chart that said “Offering medical opinions will send him into a blind rage.” 

His last will and testament stated that he was to be buried on the Fourth of July. That his tombstone should be in the shape of a steely-eyed eagle, and the firework display should last from mid-afternoon until the next day. 

My mom refused to do any of those things (for obvious reasons). Within 24 hours he was cremated and his ashes were spread over the gun counter at his favorite Walmart Superstore. All in all, I think he would have been fine with that.

Stuffed Animals – AITA

So, I’ve got a situation and I just want to know if I’m the A-hole here: My son is two years old and loves animals, and naturally, wants stuffed animals. My wife and I have never really bought him any stuffed animals before. He had a couple when he was a baby, but they got so slobbered on and grimy that we tossed them. Well, now he really wants some stuffed animals.

I didn’t see why not, and my wife agreed. She was out of town for work though, so it was my job to pick out some cute stuffed animals. Which I did. Well, she’s back from her little work trip and is Furious (capital ‘F’) with me about the animals I chose.

I got my son 3 stuffed animals: A dog (Dachshund), a cat (orange), and a squirrel. I even went the extra mile to make sure I wasn’t buying them from some terrible corporate oligarch, or from a company that outsources their work to sweatshops. I also went organic, all-natural stuffed animals to produce the smallest carbon footprint I could (because I care about the environment!). 

AND I got a discount because my friend was the taxidermist (See, I’m even financially responsible! But again, decide for yourself who is right).

Long story short, my wife wants to get rid of my child’s treasured stuffed animals because they used to be alive (or something like that). I think she’s making a mountain out of a mole-hill, much like how my friend once made a lamp out of a platypus. And also, my son already fell in love with them! He says they smell kinda funny, but insists on sleeping with them anyway.

So, there’s the situation. Am I the A-hole??

If you liked this story, check out more here!

Madden ’07

“Gooood morning sports fans, this is John here, along with my longtime partner in the booth, Pat. Pat, we have quite the match-up here today, truly a clash of the titans.”

“That’s right, John. The two best players in the household, 14-year-old Dennis and his brother Christopher, who is a few years older, are going to face off in a classic Madden 2007 showdown on the XBOX 360.”

“Pat, isn’t that the system with constant skipping disk errors that can sometimes completely ruin a game by giving the disk a long, circular scratch?”

“That’s right again, John. Some games for the XBOX 360 only make it a week before becoming functionally useless. $70 well spent indeed. Now to focus on the game at hand. Dennis has had a string of bad luck; he’s currently on a losing streak that pre-dates our records. However, I expect to see Dennis finally put together that underdog victory here today.”

“Now that’s where I disagree with you, Pat; once a loser, always a loser in my book. Look for Christopher to once again mop the floor with his younger brother. And here go, they are picking their teams.”

“Fans will remember that Dennis has often suggested that they use the ‘random’ feature to allow each of their teams to be picked at random, evidently hoping that one day he will get the Falcons and his brother will get one of NFL-Europe teams that are for some reason available.”

“Unquestionably. And of course, per their agreement, The D&C pact of 2003, ‘No player, neither Dennis, nor Christopher, can willingly choose the Atlanta Falcons as their team (Or whatever team Michael Vick happens to be on in a given year).’ A fair rule, Pat.”

“As we know, however, Christopher has never agreed to use the ‘random’ feature because he could always see right through Dennis’s ill intent. Rather he prefers to let Dennis choose a team first, and then strategically picks a team that would be best suited to dominate that opponent. A strategy Dennis could neither replicate, nor understand. Isn’t that right, John?”

“Without question. Alright, looks like the teams are set. We have a selection of the Indianapolis Colts for Dennis, no shocker there, but we have a pick far out of left field for Christopher, the Detroit Lions. Now, I don’t need to tell you that no matter what year of football this is, the Lions are never a smart pick, Pat.

“Well, John, would you like to switch your pick for today’s winner now? (haha) It appears that after such a long and illustrious win-streak, Christopher is getting pretty cocky, thinking even with a team such as the Lions that he can still beat his younger brother.”

“I’ll keep my pick, Pat, although this should be an interesting game to watch. Dennis is laughing hard as we head to kickoff, apparently unaware of how insulting Christopher’s decision actually is… And we’re off!”

“There’s the ball soaring through the air, landing in the hands of number 88, the kick-return expert for the Detroit Lions. He’s running, easily dodges a tackle and is brought down around the 35. But wait! The ball appears to be loose. Dennis is jumping up and down on the verge of joyous tears as the Colts recover the ball.”

“Now that’s what we call a big mistake, Pat. In the game of football, when you have the ball, you want to make sure that you don’t drop it at any point while the play is still going on.”

“Well said, John.”

End of 1st QTR:

Detroit Lions – 0

Indianapolis Colts – 3

“Well, John, here we are at the end of quarter one, and a surprising turn of events as the perennial underdog Dennis has the lead.”

“That’s right. Dennis appears to be playing a little smarter today, rather than using his typical strategy of always going for it on 4th down, he is actually allowing his punting unit on the field. As we all know, his ‘Touchdown-or-bust’ offense has seldom paid off in the past.”

“Right you are, John. I wonder if he will be able to contain Christopher’s offense in the second quarter as well as he was able to in the first. Christopher starts the second quarter on his own 20.”

(Seconds Later)

Detroit Lions – 7

Indianapolis Colts -3

“Boom! I guess that answers your question, Pat. First play of the quarter is an 80-yard pass for a touchdown, and the extra point is good. Dennis can’t believe, he’s swearing like a sailor at the tiny computerized cornerback on the screen. (haha) They can’t hear you, Dennis!”

“Right again, John! It’s hard to imagine Dennis winning this game if he can’t get a grip on those emotions.”

“He’s passionate, Pat. Passion is an important thing in a game of football, although this might be a little too much passion for a virtual game of football.”

End of Half:

Detroit Lions – 10

Indianapolis Colts – 3

“Well, John, things aren’t looking too terrible for Dennis. It’s halftime and he hasn’t cried or turned off the game just yet, so he must still think he has a chance.”

“Yes, indeed Pat. With just a little luck and a level head, he could be right back in this game.”

“Dennis steps back with Manning, he has all his receivers going deep, a favorite call of Dennis’s that has never paid off, but there’s a first time for everything.”

“He launches the ball, it has a chance… and it’s picked off. Intercepted by the defense. Well, you have to— Wait! The defender fumbled the ball! Scooped up by Colts and he ran it in for a touchdown. Can you believe it!?

“And the extra point should be—what’s this!? It’s a fake… And the two-point conversion is good! Oh my!”

“Now that’s football!”

“It’s hard to imagine any better luck than that. Christopher can’t believe it! He is slamming his fists down on his thighs, letting loose some expletives of his own.”

“I’ve never seen Dennis smile so big, he’s right back in this one! Let’s see how the rest of the quarter goes, Pat.”

“Here’s the kickoff… and Christopher starts off the return— and another fumbled! Dennis scoops it up for a score! Christopher is beside himself!”

“Dennis is now air-thrusting and biting his bottom lip. It’s hard to imagine this is true, but it looks as though this is the best moment of his life! Have you ever seen anything like it, Pat?

“I can’t say that I have, John. But thankfully Dennis has settled down long enough to get the game started up again and is now wearing a look of moronic determination. He thinks he’s gonna win!”

“Boy, Pat, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Christopher this red. If he loses this game, I don’t think he’ll be able to handle it.”

End of 3rd QTR:

Detroit Lions – 10

Indianapolis Colts – 18

“Here we go, Pat. One quarter of football left, and Dennis is entering with the only fourth quarter lead of this years-long rivalry. Can he hang on to it?”

2:00 Left in 4th QTR:

Detroit Lions – 10

Indianapolis Colts – 18

“It’s been a slow quarter so far, with Dennis unable to add to his lead, he punted to Christopher for one last drive. Two minutes left, Chris is out of time-outs. I tell you, Pat, Christopher needs to do something now if he has any chance of winning this and saving himself from the insufferable victory-dance of his little brother.”

“Well, here we go, two quick completions over the middle and Christopher is past midfield. He’s not giving up yet, John!

“And a trick play! A flea-flicker way down field… it’s caught and he’s all alone! He’s at the 20! …the 10! …still at the 10. What the heck is he waiting for, Pat?”

“Well, John, the screen says ‘controller disconnected’, the batteries must have died. And he is tackled at the 10 with the clock running down low. Maybe just enough time for one more play.”

“You see, Pat, that’s why I’m a fan of the old school. With a wire, the controller stays connected until someone disconnects it. You know what I mean?”

“Yes, of course, John. Oh my! Christopher has had it. He threw the controller to the ground in frustration. It has bounced over and smacked the side of the fragile gaming system.”

“The game has cut off! The game has cut off! Can you believe it! They are checking the disk now and… oh no, it’s all scratched up. The whole game is ruined now!

“No one could have predicted this at the beginning of the day, John. There’s sure to be some conflict due to the ending of this one!


Strangers will often surprise you. That’s one of their worst qualities. I enjoy predictable strangers, who will stand quietly as we ride an elevator together, sit quietly next to me on a plane, or in general, never acknowledge my existence in any way. That would be ideal. I try to be this type of stranger to others. A glaring violator of my preferences is the man who ate at the table near mine during lunchtime yesterday at my favorite Chili’s.

I was there with a co-worker who admittedly is irrelevant to this story, but important to the image I am portraying because I don’t want to be seen as a man who eats alone. We had just received our meals when a man approached our table while his lady-companion took a seat at the table next to ours. I will call the man Jeff because that is what I heard his annoyed companion call him a short time afterward (A saint of a woman if you ask me).

“How much did that cost?” Jeff asked me, gesturing at my bacon cheeseburger and fries in a plastic basket. The fact that he spoke to me at all nearly ruined my meal, but his tone made it worse. He asked the question like he had just walked up to the hotel clerk and asked the wi-fi password. I don’t work here (in case I haven’t made that clear).

I looked up at him and collapsed my eyebrows down further on my face, and then glanced back at my meal as if considering how much it had cost. I knew how much it cost. The prices were right there on the menu, $12.95. “Nine bucks,” I said. You may wonder why I chose to lie, but I don’t see it as a lie. If you ask me a question that you have no right to ask me, it’s not a lie if I tell you the wrong answer. Misleading you is an appropriate response to your rude behavior. You don’t deserve a correct answer.

Now, due to this forced interaction, I can’t help but to keep tabs on Jeff through various sideways glances in his direction. He’s got shaggy hair, in badly need of a cut, but has decided to wear a tattered baseball hat instead. He must be married to the unfortunate woman across the table, because no self-respecting single woman would be seen with a man who puts so little effort into his appearance. My critique is broken by the vibrating phone in my pocket —my brother Josh is calling.

I ignore it, but not just because I’m at dinner. I wouldn’t have answered anyway, even if I wasn’t busy. I don’t have a strained relationship with my brother, but he is the one who wants to talk to me. I’m not going to make myself available just because someone has something to say. Your phone call is just a request to talk. I will respond to your request at a convenient time for me since I’m doing you the favor by making time for whatever crap you want to talk about. Ignoring phone calls isn’t rude at all if you actually think about it. Who are you to dictate 1) that I have to talk to you, and 2) that I have to do it right this instant? You think you can decide those things just because you happen to have my phone number? Get over yourself, a lot of people have my number.

But anyway, making great points about phone etiquette is not the point of this story. The point is, Jeff opened himself up to being judged and I will continue to judge him. I now notice that he has on a Turkey Trot 5K T-shirt (it’s June by the way). But for the sake of expediency, I will ignore the season discrepancy of his attire. A 5K shirt? really? Does everyone you interact with need to know that seven months ago you walked 5K? Is that part of your identity? Between the stupid T-shirt and aforementioned head aesthetics, I determine he’s a shlub. Or maybe, he’s just cheap. I mean, it is a free T-shirt, and he did have the audacity to ask the price of my meal.

As the afternoon rolled on, I picked up more evidence that Jeff is, in fact, one cheap bastard. He suggests some bottom-tier menu options to his wife and then allowed her to order first. A gentleman? Far from it. After she orders, he then quickly slaps his menu shut and says to the waiter, “We’ll be splitting that.” The woman shot him a look that made it clear to me, and anyone else that was as absorbed with that table as I was, that they had not discussed this decision beforehand.

But alright, maybe they are just not very wealthy. Fair point, me. I decided that I would do further research. I look across that table at a clearly annoyed co-worker, so I decide to let him into the investigation, “What do you think?” I say to him, “Is that guy cheap or poor?”

“What guy?” he says, oblivious as a child.

“What guy?” I repeat, incredulous that I work with such a dullard, “the guy that asked me how much this food costs.”

“Oh,” he says dumbly, “That was like… 10 minutes ago. Have you been thinking about him this whole time?”

I shrug and go back to silently eating my food and subtly watching Jeff be insufferable. With most of his food gone, he calls the waiter over to show him something, a hair in his food. Jeff got angry and really animated after the waiter politely suggested that it could be his (Jeff’s) hair in the food. Upon further examination that is a quite reasonable suggestion since its length, waviness, and color all exactly match the hair of the person eating the meal. After some back and forth and one-sided politeness on behalf of the waiter, I see this poor servile man apologize and excuse himself.

Jeff quickly became in good spirits and gave his wife a nod and smile as if to say, “See? It worked.” I know Jeff so well at this point that he hardly feels like a stranger; he now feels more like an awful acquaintance. I finish my meal and see my eating companion is distracted by his phone. That feels rude, but I choose to ignore it since the waiter was heading back to Jeff’s table with the check. Jeff seemed confused that the meal wasn’t free, and then started to pat the pockets of his jeans and the imaginary pockets on his tacky 5K t-shirt before giving his wife an unconvincing look of shock. This show is clearly for the benefit of the waiter who needs to believe that Jeff accidentally forgot his wallet in the car. Jeff left for his car and never came back.

For fifteen minutes I watched his unfortunate wife(?) become more flushed and embarrassed, constantly checking her watch for the time. Finally, I see her look around and then covered her face with one hand as she took hurried steps out of the restaurant and into the parking lot. Jeff then pulled up in a newer model sports car and apologized to his wife until she finally got in. I knew it, a damn cheapskate.

Moments later the bill arrived for my and my co-worker’s meal. “You got this?” I say as I turned to leave. I was already late getting back to work.