The Day Mamie’s Heart Stopped
by Rowan McConnell
The day Mamie’s heart stopped,
she’d just got her hair done.
She always had it done for special occasions –
church, birthdays, funerals –
and she’d been refusing to see her doctor about that
nauseous, gassy feeling in her chest,
because she hadn’t been to the beauty shop in a couple of weeks,
and her hair was just a mess –
like an old worn-out scouring brush.
You can’t go to the doctor looking like that,
especially when you’re over seventy.
They already treat you like a child.
They’ll think you can’t take care of yourself,
and put you in a Home,
and that just won’t do.
They don’t get the good cable channels at the rest home.
So she kept eating Tabasco on her eggs,
and munching on Rolaids,
and scrunching up her face like a constipated baby,
and canceled her next hair appointment because she
didn’t feel well.
On Thursday, it was her birthday,
(usually such a surly girl)
had offered to come over and
do up her hair for her.
Teenagers don’t know what
their grandparents want –
and who needs more hankies
and bracelets and pins?
A hairdo – that’s the ticket.
Cutting-edge cosmetology, plus
the joy of spending time
with the favorite granddaughter
(even if she is the black sheep
emo Goth-child of the family,
she’s still the only one who cares
about your pictures from Japan in the ’40s).
Having done her own hair
in three cuts and sixteen colors already,
Haley felt the urge
to make someone else
Her teacher at beauty school
had just taught them cornrows,
and this wasn’t easy to do
with your own hair.
They had a nice visit.
They talked about TV,
and how Drew Carey was no Bob Barker,
and Jay Leno was certainly no Johnny Carson.
They talked about steampunk
and compared Sherlock Holmeses.
They ate chocolate Ho-Hos
and drank Dr Peppers.
It was the best birthday ever
until it wasn’t.
picked the color
Grandma Mamie was always
a huge Tennessee fan
and orange would be
a nice change
from the old-lady blue
that Miss Birch
rinse and set.
Haley will probably never have another customer
gasp in amazement, hands fluttering to her chest,
the way Grandma Mamie did that day
when she looked in the mirror,
but if anyone else ever falls to the floor
with a bloodcurdling shriek,
she’ll remember to call 911 right away.
She’ll know they probably aren’t just excited
about their new ’do.
She’ll remember that the med techs would rather you didn’t
paint an unconscious person’s nails with Blue Rapture #162,
no matter how nervous you feel while you wait
twenty minutes for the ambulance to show up.
Maybe she won’t be such a wreck the next time.
Maybe she’ll be psychopathically calm,
cool and collected, the next time she finds herself
putting the finishing touches on a dead person.
She’ll certainly remember to tell the family
about the radical new hairstyle,
the next time that happens.
But not this time.
No, this time there’ll be
a seventy-four-year-old woman
tarted up like a punk whore,
her close family stunned
to see her laid out like this,
in her sedate pink-lined casket
with the doves and the Bible verse –
something about going home with Jesus,
taking on a whole different slant
with Mamie’s face frozen in a smirk
the mortician couldn’t rearrange.
Maybe next time they’ll find
a verse about not judging.
Then the funeral:
How quickly they turn
from raging on Haley,
the medics, the death staff,
each person involved with
Miss Mamie’s demise;
how swiftly their anger
disperses into branches
of family less treasured:
the out-of-town relatives,
nieces and nephews,
long distant cousins –
how could they not recognize Grandma Mamie
just because she had orange braids in the casket?
Oh, the thrill of self-righteousness,
the vindictive snark of
griefstricken, worn-down, put-upon family:
“Maybe if you’d visited,
helped out more often,
she wouldn’t look like a stranger
© Copyright 2015 by Rowan McConnell
Header photo via Morguefile.
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Springtime at the Speedway
Photo via MorgueFile.
by Erin Abernethy
Welcome to “Race Week,” y’all!
Bring us your hicks, your drunks,
your gas-guzzling RVs,
your big-ass campers and overgrown pup-tents,
jockeying to park in a nearby churchyard.
That’ll be $20, son.
Bless y’all. Jesus loves ya.
Bring us all your bad habits –
we don’t have enough of our own –
all your trash and your spit,
your sweaty sun-stink,
your potbellied, yellow-toothed,
your brassy blonde women
overflowing their shorts,
your children more monstrous
than all of your trucks.
Come and jam up the traffic
bring it all to a standstill
while cousins with roadside stands
make a few bucks
from selling you tickets and
t-shirts and caps sporting
Earnhardt and Petty;
pocket the cash and
don’t tell the tax-man.
That’s the American Way
Never mind all the locals,
so lucky to live here with all this
Excitement. Oh yes,
it’s a great big adventure,
trying to get out to work
when the cops fix the stop-lights
to let trailers through.
Watch the race car parade:
look, it’s Bobby!
Is that Greg’s Ford?
We may die of amazement,
so impressed by these strangers
you call by first names.
Like a biblical plague,
this infestation, this
visitation of fools;
smell the diesel, the smoke,
as the cars run in circles,
the dinosaur roar
scaring dogs miles away.
How much gas do you think
will be wasted this weekend?
This is what our troops fought for:
more American horsepower!
So welcome to Race Week, y’all!
Get to the grandstand,
grab a beer and sit back.
If you pay close attention,
some driver might wreck;
you could be there, ringside,
see some cars crash and burn!
Oh, sweet Jesus!
It’s the American Way!
blood and brains on the track.
Welcome to Race Week.
© Copyright 2015 by Erin Abernethy.
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Edgar Heard the Bells, All Right
by Erin Abernethy,
with apologies to Mr. Longfellow and Mr. Poe
I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play.
YA’LL HUSH FOR TWO MINUTES AND PLAY NICE!
AND QUIT MAKIN’ THE DOG PEE ON THE CHRISTMAS TREE!
Hear the loud alarum bells–
What a tale of terror, now their turbulency tells!
MAMA! MAMA! MAMA! HE TOOK MY FIRE TRUCK!
YOU PUT THAT DOWN RIGHT NOW!
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of Peace on earth, good will to men.
WAH! WAH! WAAAHH! WAAAAHHHHH! WWWAAAAAAAHHHHHH!
HUSH, OR I’LL GIVE YOU SOMETHIN’ TO CRY ABOUT!
In the startled ear of night
How they scream out their affright!
DADDY, SHE HIT ME! MAKE HER QUIT!
I thought how as the day had come
The belfries of all Christendom
Had roll’d along th’ unbroken song
Of Peace on earth, good will to men.
SOMEBODY TAKE THE DAMN BATTERY OUT OF THE SMOKE DETECTOR!
IT GOES OFF EVERY TIME I OPEN THE OVEN DOOR!
Too much horrified to speak,
They can only shriek, shriek,
Out of tune
In a clamorous appealing to the mercy of the fire
MAMA, THE CENTERPIECE IS BURNIN’!
SISSY KNOCKED THE CANDLE OVER!
And in despair, I bow’d my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
YA’LL BETTER SETTLE DOWN RIGHT NOW OR AIN’T NONE OF YA GOIN’ TO THE CANDLELIGHT SERVICE WITH ME AN’ MAMMAW!
Oh, the bells, the bells, the bells!
What a tale their terror tells
IF YOU DON’T GET TO GO TO THE CANDLELIGHT SERVICE, SANTY CLAUS WON’T COME AN’ BABY JESUS WON’T LOVE YOU AND YOU’LL GO TO HELL!
“For hate is strong and mocks the song,
Of Peace on earth, good will to men.”
MAMA SAYS YOU’RE GOIN’ TO HELL, SO THERE!
OPEN THE KITCHEN WINDOW AND CLEAR SOME OF THIS SMOKE OUT!
How they clang, and crash, and roar!
What a horror they outpour
GRAMPAW SMELLS FUNNY, AND HE AIN’T SNORIN’. IS HE DEAD?
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep;
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
WHAT’S A SEIZURE? CAN I HAVE ONE TOO?
And he dances, and he yells;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a Runic sort of rhyme
I AIN’T TAKIN’ NONE OF YA’LL ANYWHERE WITH ME EVER AGAIN–
NOWHERE, NO WAY, NO HOW!
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With Peace on earth, good will to men.”
NOW HUSH AND SAY THE BLESSING!
HURRY UP BEFORE IT GETS COLD!
Keeping time, time, time,
As he knells, knells, knells,
To the tolling of the bells
To the moaning and the groaning of the bells.
AMEN. YA’LL DIG IN.
© Copyright 2004 by Erin Abernethy. Republished 2007, 2011, 2014, 2015.
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Winter Holiday Affective Disorder (WHAD)
by Patrick Redding & Rob Colfax
Memo to staff psychologists: please insert the following sheet into your copies of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). At this time of year, it is likely that you may see an increase in complaints of depression. Be aware of the diagnostic criteria for the specifier Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD) as well as this new category, Winter Holiday Affective Disorder (or WHAD).
Criteria for Winter Holiday Affective Disorder (WHAD):
At least five of the following symptoms have been present over the majority of a two-week period, and represent a change from previous functioning. At least one of the symptoms is either (1) Winter holiday-related complaints or (2) general lack of jolliness.
NOTE: Do not include symptoms that are clearly due to a general medical condition (for example, pregnancy) or delusions or hallucinations (for example, seeing dancing sugarplums during alcohol withdrawal).
1. Winter holiday-related complaints
2. Marked lack of jolliness and good will
3. Loss of interest in nearly all activities (do not include sitting in a stupor in front of the TV during football playoffs)
4. Significant weight gain or increase in appetite (especially cravings for “special” foods such as turkey, fudge, rum balls, etc.)
5. Insomnia (including sleeplessness due to carolers outside who just won’t shut up) or hypersomnia (including overdoses of tryptophan from excessive turkey consumption as well as repeated viewings of “Frosty the Snowman” reruns)
6. Psychomotor agitation (including twitching and “bite reflex” exhibited at the sight or sound of Salvation Army bell-ringers, but not including seizures due to those little chasing lights)
7. Repetitive vocalizations (such as “fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la” or “Ho ho ho!”)
8. Fatigue or loss of energy at the mention of weekend shopping at the mall
9. Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt when unable to come up with “the perfect gift”
10. Discoloration of extremities (such as red nose – do not include redness due to excessive alcohol consumption from self-medication)
11. Paranoia, as evidenced by random vocalizations such as “He knows when you’re sleeping! He knows when you’re awake!”
12. Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, particularly when changing lanes in downtown traffic
13. Recurrent homicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a homicide attempt (including attacking the mall Santa with a picket from the fence around the “Santaland” display) or a specific plan for committing homicide (do not include shooting at the neighbor’s plastic rooftop reindeer)
Statistics indicate that WHAD symptoms may be more apparent in individuals employed in retail occupations, but WHAD has been diagnosed over a widespread range of demographics.
In most cases, WHAD symptoms decrease significantly after 6-8 weeks, though flare-ups may continue until St. Patrick’s Day.
There is currently no treatment for WHAD, although symptoms may be alleviated by mild sedatives, antipsychotics, or a weekend in the Bahamas.
© Copyright 2003 by Patrick Redding & Rob Colfax. Republished 2007, 2011, 2014, 2015.
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The Narcissistic Parent’s 10-Point Guide for a Happy Thanksgiving
by Patrick Redding
[Author’s note: I trust our readers to be intelligent enough to know that this is satire and intended to be humorous. Although it’s not my intention to offend, it could happen. Sorry about that.]
1. Invite all the relatives you can possibly think of, no matter how long it’s been since you saw them. If you haven’t seen them since a funeral, be sure to mention that. Forget love and money; guilt’s what really makes the world go ’round!
2. Invite some other people too – church acquaintances, people you see occasionally at work, your mail carrier – whoever you can drag to the table. Thanksgiving is about sharing. If certain family members don’t seem keen on traditional clan gatherings anyway, having strangers there is sure to put everyone at ease!
3. When people offer to help cook, twist it around and ask them why they don’t like your cooking. If they offer to bring some fancy-pants special dish like cranberry-nut-almond-brussel-sprout stuffing, graciously accept their offer but again, make sure they know that you know they don’t like your cooking. Don’t worry if you sound offended. They’re family; they should understand!
4. If you know that certain individuals in your family have special dietary needs, such as diabetics or vegans, be sure to go out of your way to let them know how special you think they are. Take pains to assure them that you’re making dishes just for them; ask them for recipes if you have no idea what they can and can’t eat. If they feel self-conscious or think you’re being a condescending bitch, that’s really not your problem, is it?
5. Alcohol or no alcohol? It really doesn’t matter; the alcoholics are going to drink in their cars on the way over anyway. If you don’t drink, you can self-righteously criticize everyone who can’t get through a nice family meal without self-medicating. If you load up yourself, though, you have license to say and do pretty much whatever you want and not worry about apologizing later – not that you’d do that anyway, because you’re always right.
6. Before you eat, make everyone hold hands and say grace. You certainly don’t need to kowtow to the sensitivities of a couple of atheists or pagans in your family. After all, they embarrass you every year by not showing up for your church’s Easter programs or Christmas cantata. What would Jesus do? Jesus was a hippie! Don’t listen to that long-haired peace-and-love crackpot.
7. If you skip grace, you can still make people wish they were somewhere else by making everyone around the table take turns telling what they’re thankful for. You may want to skip this part if you have any children who have recently married someone you don’t like, as they’re likely to gush about how thankful they are for their loving spouse, and no one wants to hear that crap at the dinner table.
8. Even though other people’s lives aren’t nearly as interesting and fulfilling as your own, make certain you include everyone in dinner conversation, even if you don’t know much about what’s been going on with them. Surefire topics to start a spirited conversation might include the recent elections, your son’s “friend” and how much he reminds you of that Boy George fellow, your youngest daughter’s weight gain, your oldest daughter’s failure to produce grandchildren. After all, just because you’ve opened a can of cranberry sauce doesn’t mean you can’t open up a can of worms too!
9. After dinner, insist upon making up take-home plates of leftovers for each and every guest, especially the ones who didn’t seem to eat much. There are starving children in Ethiopia who’d be grateful for a good plate of food, and you shouldn’t be shy about pointing this out to the uncooperative little brats who are trying to slip out the door before you’re done with them!
10. Once everything’s done and your guests have managed to escape, take a moment for yourself to reflect on what a good person you are to provide such a loving family home for such undeserving little buggers. Take out pen and paper and dash off letters to let them know how disappointed you are that they seemed upset with you for no good reason. Don’t forget to mention how they embarrassed you in front of everyone by not helping out with dinner or laughing at your jokes. Make sure they know that attendance at Christmas is mandatory and you expect them to be on their best behavior!
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100% Pure Genuine Government B.S.!
by Erin Abernethy
[Editor’s note: Back in the early years of the 21st century, when George W. Bush was occupying the White House, Erin Abernethy kept a blog called “Brimstone Bites,” which consisted of equal parts political snark, overheard conversations, and general silliness. The blog was put on hold when she enrolled in her Advanced Statistical Analysis class, and it was taken down when a hacker turned it into some sort of bizarre real estate phishing scheme. However, some of her original posts were recovered, and we thought you’d enjoy seeing a few of them from time to time. Here’s a series that dates back to the days of the spinach contamination scare of September, 2006. – R.C.]
Need to Bury a Body Fast? Well, Too Bad.
And you know how long it takes to get a committee to agree on anything….
flea (‘flE) n. a small wingless bloodsucking insect
The government and most civil service agencies love acronyms. We’ve got the FBI, the CIA, the DEA, the DHS, the NSA, and you’ll need your ID and SSN or at least a PIN pretty much anywhere you go.
Considering all that, I find it interesting to note that in press releases and news stories, no one ever uses an acronym to abbreviate one of the lengthiest and most common phrases we hear today:
Federal Law Enforcement Agencies.
Exercise Leads to Weight Gain. Don’t Let Those Infomercials Fool You.
Overheard between a sporting goods associate and a very hefty guy shopping @ a local Wal-Mart:
Assoc.: So can I interest you in one of these exercise bikes today?
Hefty: Nope, I just need some fishing line.
Assoc.: Didn’t your wife say the doctor told you to lose some weight?
Hefty: Yep, that’s what she said.
Assoc.: You oughta get yourself one of them weight machines, start workin’ out.
Hefty: Nope, don’t think so.
Assoc.: Well, you ain’t gonna lose no weight fishin’, I can tell you that right now.
Hefty: No, but I can’t start workin’ out, because muscle weighs more than fat, see? I start workin’ out, next thing you know, I’m gainin’ weight. I can’t be buffin’ up an’ puttin’ on muscle if I’m supposed to lose weight. They don’t tell you that on them infomercials, that muscle weighs more than fat. They don’t want you to know that. They’re tryin’ to sell machines, see. How many you reckon they’d sell if they told everybody muscle weighs more than fat?
Drug Companies Are Evil.
Oh, you want proof? Fine.
Now you know. But hey, don’t let that ruin your buzz.
“A state of war only serves as an excuse for domestic tyranny.”
“The great error of nearly all studies of war… has been to consider war as an episode in foreign policies, when it is an act of interior politics…”
100% Pure Genuine Plastic!
Does the word “luxurious” really belong in a description of a shower curtain?
For that matter, should the words “luxurious” and “vinyl” ever be allowed next to each other?
Bad Spinach: Christian Cow-Eating Government Plot?
I almost hesitated to post this one because I was sure no one would believe what I overheard some big bubba-boy in coveralls saying this morning in a local grocery store:
“You know, that spinach thing, it’s a government deal. Y’all remember how they used AIDS to try and get rid of the homos? See, they’re usin’ this e-co-lie spinach to get the vegetarians. Them vegans, you know, they’re the ones always causin’ trouble, wantin’ to save the owls and keep the ten commandments out of schools and all that kinda stuff. That’s why the government ain’t gettin’ in no hurry to figger out this spinach thing. They’re hopin’ the vegans’ll starve to death and then we can get on with business.”
© Copyright 2006 by Erin Abernethy. Republished 2015.
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This Week at Gatewood: August 30–September 5, 2015
by Frasier MacKenzie
Hello, and thanks for stopping in!
This week we have a question for you, and we’d like to ask you to cast a vote to tell us what you think. But before you do, I should assure you that Dr Nicholas is not leaving Twitter. We’re just considering the possibility of adding a human presence, and would like your input.
Now, then, here are our features for the week of August 30–September 5:
Remember, the Friday photo can be downloaded for free as a meditation card for your phone, tablet or computer. Share, print, ponder… enjoy!
Be sure to follow @docnicholas on Twitter for daily updates on Journal posts as well as humor, literary opinions, animal pics and rescues, and all your behind-the-scenes Journal action.
Did you know you can subscribe to Gatewood Journal and receive a monthly newsletter with all our features for the month? Like a weekly wrap-up, only monthly, so your e-mail box won’t get cluttered. Like a magazine, only digital, because we love trees.
That’s it for the Gatewood Weekend Wrap-Up for the week of August 30–September 5, 2015. Enjoy your weekend, and visit us again soon!
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