Category Archives: humor
Schumacher’s novel is written in the form of letters from a beleaguered professor of English to a cast of thousands. Normally I don’t care for epistle fiction–too cut into bitty pieces–but this one has a narrative arc! And (spoiler alert) a poignant ending. I laughed until I cried.
The attention to detail in these funny, zippy, ripped-from-reality letters is so perfect. I loved the subtleties of how the prof (Jason Fitger) signs each letter, the understated sarcasm interspersed with blow-ups so honest no one in real life has ever done them–but we’ve all fantasized. Oh, how we’ve fantasized.
Among other places, Jason writes letters to assorted entry level places his students will go to work–funny in itself if you were an English major. Food service. Retail. Computer places.
My favorite was his letter for a girl who’d received an F for plagiarism. I’m not quoting it here, because you have to read it in context. But I taught that girl he describes so perfectly – five or six times, under different names in different years. Schumacher’s depiction is flawless.
Here instead is a letter in its entirety:
“October 16, 2009 Avengers Paintball, Inc. 1778 Industrial Blvd. Lakeville, MN 55044 Esteemed Avengers, This letter recommends Mr. Allen Trent for a position at your paintball emporium. Mr. Trent received a C– in my expository writing class last spring, which—given my newly streamlined and increasingly generous grading criteria—is quite the accomplishment. His final project consisted of a ten-page autobiographical essay on the topic of his own rageful impulses and his (often futile) attempts to control them. He cited his dentist and his roommate as primary sources. Consider this missive a testament to Mr. Trent’s preparedness for the work your place of business undoubtedly has in store. Hoping to maintain a distance of at least one hundred yards, Jason T. Fitger Professor of Creative Writing and English Payne University (“Teach ’til It Hurts”)”
Now go read the book. If you’re not in Academia, it’s still funny. If you are, it’s funnier than life. And good therapy.
I won’t go into the early months, but let’s just say I’ve been looking after myself for some time now. I gave birth to two lovely boys a month or so back, and although times were tough, I did my best. We were living in the parking lot behind a department store, near a heating vent. Not a lot to eat, but I could keep them warm. Two ladies came by with food from time to time, and that helped a great deal.
So you can imagine how I felt when Tom and David disappeared: beside myself. Temperatures were plummeting and I was out there searching everywhere, calling them, and suddenly SWOOP! Some sort of net cage fell over me and, well, I figured that was it. I’d never see my boys again.
But my captors were the ladies who brought me food! They took me to some sort of facility, and wouldn’t you know Tom and David were there–just leaving, but so long as I knew they were safe and happy. Both have been adopted into loving families, as it should be. I’m so pleased to have done right by them.
Just in time, too, because after a few hours at the hospital, I began to feel woozy. And then–ehm, we needn’t go into details here; let’s just say there were many things inside me that needed to come out. And they did.
As I lay there in my hospital bed, groggy and nauseous, a face appeared. Wearing one of those Queen Cone collars. A white cat, squinting at me, asked, “Feeling better, ducky?”
That’s how I met Sweet Pea (Queen Bee, as I call her, because of the collar, you know). She showed me around the hospital when I was back on my feet again, introduced me to the staff –such nice girls– and gave me pointers on where to get extra blankets and what to do if I wanted more food.
You know how it is, one minute someone is showing you the ropes, all business and efficiency, and the next you’re sharing cups of tea and talking nine to the dozens and you can’t remember a time you weren’t friends.
SPQB (sorry, my little joke) is such a sweetheart. You know, she can barely see. Her own life was even harder than mine; some of her kittens died of preventable illness before they reached the hospital, and she’s not sure what happened to the rest. SO hard for a mother to bear. Plus, her eyes. She caught a virus–and yes, it would have been treatable, but when one has no resources…. ah me. The long and short of it is, she’s left with a permanent squint and some vision loss.
She isn’t blind, of course; you should see Ms. Pea Bee bat a jingle ball! (We are Lady Cats, but perhaps when the staff aren’t looking we’ve been known to kick a few field goals.)
So really, my life improved in ways I couldn’t imagine since coming to hospital. My fur is long and silky again – with the children and the cold I just didn’t have time to care for it properly; the boys are set for life; and I have a new best friend.
I couldn’t imagine not being there for Sweet Pea. To separate now would break our hearts, and besides she needs me to help her find her collar in the mornings, and sometimes she thinks furniture is people, silly old girl, so we are counting on a home together. Surely someone out there wants two confirmed bachelor girl cats (still beautiful so celibate by choice, I hasten to add; we’ve had it with Alley Cat promises and stale catnip bouquets). We’re not much trouble, fastidious about our toilets and perfectly content in each others’ company. We love a head rub and a cuddle now and again; it’s lovely to sit together in the same lap.
So if you’re interested in us, please drop by Powell Valley Animal Hospital and ask for Mandy or Kendra; they’ve been our primary care team here, such sweet souls. We look forward to meeting you, Queen Bee and I. Now I think she’s got the cards and the teapot out, so we’re going to play some Speed Poker. (I don’t know who taught her, but she’s wicked good at it.) I must go, but I’ve enjoyed this little chat and look forward to meeting you.
When the all-powerful “They” announced it would start snowing Thursday night and not stop until Saturday evening, I went into supply overdrive. Since I was in Richmond doing the annual advocacy for rural meetings, while I careened down I-81, Our Good Chef Kelley was drafted into buying:
- two boxes of wine (don’t knock it until you’ve tried the Malbec)
- Three bags grain free cat food, two 32-packs can boxes, and some tins of Ol’ Roy (yes, the dogs are hard done by)
- chocolate – dark for Jack, milk for me. Easier on the marriage that way
The rest we could take care of for ourselves. Jack stepped across the street to the liquor store and laid in two bottles of the cheap and one of the finest. You know, just in case company came by. (And no, we didn’t buy this house because it was across the street from the liquor store, but it’s worked out well.)
Then we started trolling the bookstore shelves. For me, eight of the new arrivals I’d not handled coming in, ranging from historic fiction to a couple of memoirs to a cheap romance and one history volume. Plus a couple of recorded books, so I could get some crocheting done.
Jack pulled Scottish politics, a couple of conspiracy theory books on assorted points in history (pick one) and – wonder of wonders – a sci fi. When I pointed that out to him, he frowned, “1663 by Dave Weber is fiction? Never mind, then.” He put it back.
And when we woke up Friday morning, snowpocalypse in full fall, we checked our emails, posted our Facebook cats, put on another pot of coffee, and settled in to enjoy the treasure trove.
Yes, being snowed into a bookstore is exactly what it’s cracked up to be.
Go by, mad world.
In which Jack moans about the weather –
Well – I woke up this morning to a blanket of snow, it hasn’t stopped yet and there’s more on the way. You would think that, coming from Scotland, I’d be used to it!
The trouble is that I come from the lowlands and not only that but most of my life I lived close enough to the Forth estuary to get the ‘salt water effect’, which usually kept the snow away. That changed when Wendy and I got married and moved to higher ground that was a bit further inland. Almost every year after that our village got snowed in good and proper for a couple of weeks every January or February and we weren’t a high enough priority to warrant early attention from the county snow plow; and since we lived up the only side road, when the plow eventually went through it created an even bigger bank of snow across the end of it!
That pattern seems to have followed us to Big Stone Gap and this is shaping up to be the third winter when we will replay our experiences of New Gilston.
Last year we had a series of storms every couple of days that eventually dumped nearly three feet of snow and had the whole area shut down for weeks. The town administration eventually ran out of grit and salt so their best efforts (and they were mighty) were eventually in vain.
It’s not so bad as we live below the shop, we have plenty of supplies in, the liquor store is across the street and the supermarket is within walking distance.
However, Wendy’s job required her to drive to Richmond and remain there until Friday, which is when an even bigger snowstorm is due and forecast to last through Sunday, so she is very likely to be delayed getting home.
Meanwhile I am preparing to make a big batch of Chicken Madras curry which is my comfort food of choice and will keep me happy and warm me as I watch the snow piling up outside.
Y’all take care out there, dress warm and don’t drive if you don’t have to!
Ever have one of those marriage moments? Jack and I were divesting the upstairs landing of an old loveseat we picked up cheap someplace. The overstuffed seat, useful at first outside the Second Story Cafe for customers waiting on pick-up orders, was now in prime time bookshelf real estate. Time to say goodbye.
But nobody wanted the ancient paisley green thing, not at a yard sale, not donated. We’d have to carry it out to the trash. It was a solidly-built piece in its day–as Jack and I discovered once we’d eliminated the cushions, taken up the spare change, and unscrewed the solid wooden legs. Thing STILL weighed a ton.
Threading it down our 100-year-old staircase, past the rabbit tunnels of bookshelves between us and the front door, seemed unwise. Too many delicate pottery items and squishable foster cats. So we opted for the back staircase and the long, cold hike across the yard in the dark; we started the whole operation about 7:30 pm.
That probably has a lot to do with what happened next. I’d had a stressful day at the college trying to get some paperwork finalized, and Jack had been alone all day in the rather swamped bookstore – not that custom is a problem, you understand, but we were both feeling a bit hard done by and underappreciated.
So by the time we got The Great Green Monstrosity of Paisley Demonhood (as I may have called it once or twice, because remember by 7:30 pm I’d had a glass of wine on an empty stomach) onto the upstairs landing, I was pretty fed up. Jack standing with his back to the open stairs, the couch aimed at his midriff, yelling “Push, dammit!” was just too much temptation. I set my end down and peered over the railing into the front yard.
The front yard, about twenty feet down as the crow falls, would have to be reached by us carrying TGGMOPD all the way around the side of the house. Unless…..
I looked up. Jack was looking at me. “I will if you will,” he said.
Together we ensured all cats were accounted for behind closed doors downstairs, and that the outdoor flap available to our dogs was closed with them on the correct side. We then maneuvered TGGMOPD into a seesaw position on the railing. I can only imagine what the neighbors thought as we shouted “CHALKS AWAY!” and let go.
Sucker went straight down, taking one branch from our apple tree but no further collateral damage with it. We peeked over the side; the sofa lay on its back like a turtle on the half-shell, implanted in the ground. Jack and I gave each other a high-five.
As Quakers, we practice non-violent solutions and problem management. But perhaps once every ten years or so, tossing a really heavy piece of furniture off a second-story balcony is most satisfying.
We take pleasure in reprinting here a seasonal blog from 2013. Read it and laugh. Us, we drink heavily….
Here, in random order, is a list of our favorite customer sayings complied from Christmases past and present (hee hee, get it, present? Oh, never mind):
A woman asks: “Do you have any books about how to be a good husband? Maybe two or three.”
Extended family, browsing, grandmother says to daughter: “Books for the kids? I dunno. Shouldn’t we get them something they’d really like?”
“I’m looking for a book, it’s about a small town, and the people are kinda sweet and backwards.” Against our better judgment, we tried Adriana’s Big Stone Gap series, Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, and Jan Karon’s Mitford books. The customer wanted “Winesburg, Ohio.”
Customer points to a shelf: “You had a book somewhere around here last week; it had a red cover, something about a bird, or maybe it was a dog? I thought my sister would like it. I think the title started with ‘A Day’ or maybe it was ‘My Dog’ or ‘The Day.’ You know, something like that.”
After child rips page out of a picture book while mother browses nearby: “I’m not going to pay for that. You shouldn’t have the children’s books lying about where children can reach them.”
“Do y’all sell Christmas presents here?”
Christmas Eve Day, noon: “So the Christmas books are half off now, right?”
Christmas Eve Day, 3 pm, man enters with little girl, takes her straight to children’s room: “That’s right, honey, anything you want. Mommy said we can’t come home until 5.” Closes children’s room door with daughter inside, turns to staff: “Got any coffee?”
Christmas Eve Day, 4 pm: “…and I wouldn’t normally think of shopping at a bookstore for him, but y’all are right near the house and still open.”
Christmas Eve Day, 5 pm: “I need a gift for my mother-in-law. I don’t care what it is. Just make sure it’s big and heavy. And wrap it for me.”
Christmas Eve Day, 5:50 pm: “Excuse me, do you know a lot about books? OK, pick me out something a 14-year-old will like. Quick, I’m in a hurry.”