Like Me


by Johanna Rigby

I bought the house where I live now mainly because my friends said it was a great place to live.

“We like this neighborhood!” said a dozen of them, giving me that cheesy thumbs-up sign that I thought had died when Happy Days went off the air.

“I don’t live there, but I go there four times a week!” said another. “It’s 1.2 miles from my favorite coffee shop!” I don’t know why he told me that, but I guess I appreciated the input.

On the day I moved in, a neighbor I didn’t know came over while the moving van was still being unpacked. “That’s my house over there,” she pointed. “Look at it! I just put up new shutters and curtains! Cute, right? Do you like it?”

“Well, yeah, it’s a very nice house,” I nodded as I nervously watched movers juggling boxes of my grandma’s dishes.

“But do you like it?” she persisted. “I like your house!”

“Yeah, sure,” I agreed. “I like your house.”

“Great!” she beamed. “We’ll be friends!”

One of the friends who’d talked up the neighborhood to me appeared just then and slapped a big red star on the moving van. “Thumbs down for you guys!” he shouted. “I saw how you just dumped that box on the porch. Bad, bad movers!”

“Really bad!” agreed my new friend, giving my pal a thumbs-up. “Want to be friends?”

“Maybe,” he said. “Do you like puppies?”

“Do I like puppies?! I have SO MANY PUPPIES!” she screamed. “Come and look!”

They went off to look at puppies while the movers finished demolishing my belongings. As they closed the doors on the van, one of them approached me with a stupid grin and a clipboard. “Are you happy with our service today?” he asked.

“Are you serious? My boxes are all opened and just thrown around in the yard and on the porch. No, I’m not happy!” I said.

“Would you like to take a survey and tell us how we can improve?” he suggested.

“For starters,” I griped, “you could carry the boxes inside and set them in the rooms where they belong. I marked them very clearly.”

“Great! That’ll be a big help when we move the next people. How about signing up to get mail from us once a week?” he pressed. “We’ll give you a coupon for 10% off the next time you move!”

“How about getting your truck out of my yard and leaving me alone?” I yelled.

They ran over the mailbox as they left, and I would have stopped them to point it out, but I was suddenly hit in the head with a chicken.

“What the…?” I held the squawking, flapping hen as I inspected both of us for damages, but we seemed to be unharmed. I felt a sharp poke in my back, and jumped, startled to see a retired friend grinning at me from under the brim of his straw hat.

“Hey, there, neighbor!” he chuckled. “Couldn’t help but notice you don’t have any animals yet. Would you like to feed my chickens until you get some of your own?”

“I hadn’t planned to get any animals,” I said. “And why would I want to feed your chickens?”

“Well, somebody needs to feed the chickens! And you’re my friend, right?”


“Nice house, by the way. I like it!” He gave me a thumbs-up. “So, you’ll feed my chickens, right?”

“Sure. Sure, I’ll feed your chickens,” I agreed, mainly to get him to leave me alone.

“Great! Hey, I pulled the weeds from your garden, friend!” I heard him calling to an other neighbor as he left.

“Thanks, friend!” the neighbor shouted. “I’ll be over and milk your cow later!”

I was really beginning to wonder what I’d gotten myself into by moving into this place. I decided to shift some of my boxes inside and unpack a few things. I had barely gotten started when there was a knock at the door from a lady I’d worked with a few years ago.

“Hi!” she smiled. “Remember me?”

“Kind of… do you want to come in?” I asked warily.

“Of course! You’re one of my best friends! I wanted to welcome you to the neighborhood!” She came in and handed me a giant bowl of hard candy. I wondered why she was bringing me Halloween leftovers, but I didn’t want to be unkind. She took a look around and then sat down at the kitchen table. “I like your house!” she nodded, giving me the thumbs-up. “Got anything to drink?”

“I just moved in, but I think I might have a soda or two,” I said. I offered her one from the fridge.

“Perfect!” she said. She scattered a few pieces of hard candy on the tabletop and, to my alarm, began cracking them to bits with the bottle.

“What are you doing?” I cried.

“Winning!” she hooted, smashing the last piece of candy. She turned up the bottle and started to pour it over the bits of sticky sugar, but I stopped her and took it away. “You want to play too? FANTASTIC!” she shouted, bouncing up and down in the chair.

“Play? No, I want you to leave!” I said. “I don’t know what’s wrong with you people but this whole neighborhood is just plain weird!”

“Leave? But I’m your friend!” she protested as I dragged her by the arm toward the door. “Aren’t we friends?”

“No! No, we were co-workers, and now we’re acquaintances, but we’re definitely not friends!” I said firmly as I kicked her out.

Two more of my new neighbors were waiting on the porch.

“Hi, friend!” said the guy with the baby in his arms. I vaguely recognized him from the gym. “This is my girlfriend,” he nodded, “and this is our new baby! Look at our new baby! Isn’t it the most precious baby you ever saw? Aren’t babies the best?”

“I wrote a poem about babies,” his girlfriend said. “Do you want to hear it?”

“No. No, I don’t want to hear it, and – well, I know you think it’s grand because it’s your baby but really, they all look pretty much alike to me,” I confessed.

“I don’t like her. I don’t want to be her friend,” she frowned.

“But we’re in a relationship. You have to be her friend, because I’m her friend,” the guy explained.

“We’re not friends,” I said. “I see you at the gym sometimes.”

“Well, that settles that,” said the girlfriend. “You’re not her friend anymore. Either we’re both friends with her or neither of us are, and she thinks our baby’s ugly and she says she doesn’t even know you, so you’re not friends! OH! MY! GOD! ARE YOU SLEEPING WITH HER?”

“We’ve never even spoken at the gym!” I said.


I could see that this was getting nasty so I slammed the door before the troll could continue, although she was loud enough that everyone in the neighborhood could hear her now.


Naturally, all the noise woke the baby, who began to cry.

“What kind of person hates babies?” I heard the guy say. “Jesus said babies are good and baby-haters are evil! It makes me very sad to say, and it hurts me to lose such a treasured friendship, but I don’t think I can go on being friends with a baby-hater!”

“Get off my porch!” I shouted. I locked the door and went into another room where I couldn’t hear them. Outside the window I saw my first two visitors clamoring over the puppies, who were dressed in sailor suits and posing beside mugs of beer.

My phone burbled and I answered it, probably sounding a bit sharp. I heard crying on the other end. “I’m sorry, I’m just having an odd day,” I apologized. “What’s up?”

“I’m so upset,” my cousin said, sniffling. “Would you pray for my husband? He’s lost his job at the cheese factory because of his tinnitus. His doctor wrote him a letter because she thought this new treatment might help, but his boss refused to let him participate in the program!”

“What? They can’t – wait, there’s no cure for tinnitus,” I said.

“I know, it’s horrible!” she sobbed. “There’s no cure, but the doctor said she’d seen some very good results with this new treatment. They use mice as companion animals, you see, but his boss won’t let him bring his mouse to work!”

“At the cheese factory. Well… um…”

“Just pray for him,” she bawled. “If you pray for him, God will bless you with a new friend within the next five days! If you can get ten other people to pray for him too, you’ll be blessed with fifty new friends and a unicorn carrying a rose in its mouth!”

“I’m not – mice? As companion animals for tinnitus. Really?”

“If you don’t pray for him, God will kill bunnies,” she hissed. “Tell all your friends!”

I shoved my phone into my pocket and wondered how hard it would be to get my old house back.

Then I heard something at the back door. Opening it very cautiously, I saw a cross-eyed tomcat with his tongue sticking out. “I heard someone mention mice!” he said. “I like mice! Do you like mice?”

He dashed into the room, turned a cartwheel, juggled some butterflies, and then began to waltz while he hummed Strauss. After he was finished, he took a bag of kibble from the cabinet, poured some into a bowl, and sat there munching away.

I stared in disbelief. Then I scooped up the cat and the bowl of kibble and ran out into the yard.

“Hey, FRIENDS!” I shouted. “Come look at my new CAT!”

The cat picked up his bowl and paraded around the yard. “AND HERE’S WHAT I’M HAVING FOR DINNER! YUM YUM, now, that’s a #hashtag!!!” he shouted, waving his little paw. It was a little hard to tell, but I’m pretty sure the gesture was meant to be a thumbs-up.


© Copyright 2015 by Johanna Rigby.

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10 Reasons You Should Watch Blindspot


by Johanna Rigby

While I swore I never wanted to write about TV again, or at least for a very long time, the Fall Season has come around with its grab-bag full of new shows. While most will be crap, I’m actually seeing a few that I think will be worth watching, so I may relent and share those with you when I find them. Blindspot is one such show.

I also feel the need to do this because most other people who write about TV seem to do so with an eye toward ratings and the entertainment industry, which is just not my thing. I don’t watch TV just to watch TV. I need something more from it (otherwise I’d be spending my time reading), and that’s why Gatewood runs these pieces. I believe that despite its most prevalent use as entertaining pap for the mindless masses, TV – like film – is capable of being artistic and thought-provoking.

The fact that networks will only give us high-quality shows if ratings are at a level they consider high enough shouldn’t make us despair; those levels vary greatly from one network to another, and networks’ requirements for “success” are arbitrary and capriciously subject to change. However, one thing remains constant: if no one watches it, they’ll replace it with something else. This is why I feel the need to let you know when something of quality turns up on my TV-radar.

Now, back to why you should watch Blindspot. If you’re unfamiliar with the premise of the show, here’s the concept: a naked woman with amnesia is found in Times Square with her body covered in intricate tattoos. (If the phrase “naked amnesiac tattooed woman” isn’t sufficient to pique your attention, let me add “incredibly hot” to that.) The most prominent tattoo on her back is the name of an FBI agent, which, of course, gets the ball rolling, as they begin to analyze her tattoos and Jane Doe begins to rediscover her identity. So we’re talking about complex psychological issues plus enough standard crime-show procedural drama to allow the less discerning audience to feel comfortable.

“But I’ve got crosswords to do, dogs to walk, New Yorkers to read!” I hear you saying. “Why should I take an hour of my evening to watch a woman with amnesia tag along while dour FBI agents crash around chasing bad guys?”

I’m glad you asked. Here’s why:

1. Contrary to what many TV reviewers seemed to feel, Jane Doe does not come across as flat or without personality. That would certainly be a possibility with a lesser actress, but Jaimie Alexander does a fantastic job with bringing a fascinating character to life. Think Trinity from The Matrix trilogy meets Charly Baltimore from The Long Kiss Goodnight.

2. Amnesia is fascinating to those of us who don’t have it. We tend to romanticize it somewhat: a chance to start over, a new beginning, etc. But for anyone who looks at things from a neurological or psychological perspective, this is like catnip to kittens.

3. We need to let the networks know when they’ve done something worthy of our appreciation. NBC gave us The Blacklist, and that went well enough for them to take a chance on something like Blindspot rather than more of the same old mind-numbing lackluster crap. The best way to encourage them to give us more quality programming is by watching the good stuff so it gets the highest possible ratings. (Remember what happened with poor Kyle Killen’s excellent Awake when people thought it was too complicated for their little brains to enjoy?)

4. Some of you may enjoy Sullivan Stapleton as the aforementioned dour FBI agent. I found his character flat, but possibly that’s just an artistic pilot-episode choice in order to give room for us to get to know Jane Doe first. I’m willing to cut some slack on this because character development in pilot episodes is extremely difficult. It really is hard to do much more than scratch the surface in the first episode of a show. (For a classic example, look back at the first episode of Big Bang Theory and compare Season 1 Leonard to the Leonard of any recent episode.)

5. The procedural framework is balanced well against the amnesia/tattoo-map concept. These are two intertwining threads, each story moving the other forward. Neither takes over the show.

6. Marianne Jean-Baptiste is always a treat to watch, and her character here is no exception. She’s capable of showing highly complex situations with minimal screen time, and does so beautifully in the pilot. I certainly hope we see more of her during the series. I also hope the writers will allow her to continue to be more than a stock character of harried-supervisor-trying-to-rein-in-her-loose-cannon-agent.

7. The doctor actually sounds like a real human-being doctor. It would be easy to make up credible-sounding-but-inherently-flawed theories for him to expound upon, just to further the plot. And there may be some fast-and-loose “facts” created for him to utilize in his explanations, but it comes across as reasonable, plausible, and not unlike things your own doctor might say if insurance company constraints weren’t a factor.

8. The supporting cast is unobtrusive and mostly believable. Again, character development in a pilot episode is difficult – supporting characters especially so. There may not be much more to them than we already have, and that’s OK. I do think their resident tech geek is questionable, but that may because she just doesn’t seem quirky enough (yet) to be a tech geek. Again, these are supporting characters. It’s not a big deal if they never develop much more than this, provided the main characters can continue to pull off the story as brilliantly as they are so far.

9. We need to give the networks a reason to show us something besides “reality” programming. You’re probably not reading Gatewood if you watch a lot of “reality” TV, but if you’ve somehow stumbled here and truly believe that what you’re seeing on those shows is real, then I need to fix you up with my Nigerian half-brother who’s a professional wrestler.

10. Somewhat related to #3 and #9, when a network steps out of their comfort zone and goes against their typical programming to give us something amazing (I’m looking at you, USA Network, with that fantastic gem of a show Mr. Robot), we need to do whatever we can to support it if we want to keep it. Watch it, tell your friends, tweet it, announce to anyone who’ll listen that you’ve found something worth watching that has absolutely nothing to do with weight loss, singing lessons, or people making big fools of themselves just to be famous for being famous.

So there you have it. I’m definitely watching the next episode. If you missed the pilot, you can catch it on the NBC website here, where you can also read more about the show, characters, cast, etc. Blindspot airs on NBC, Mondays at 10:00 p.m.




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This Week at Gatewood: July 26–August 1, 2015


by Frasier MacKenzie

Hello, and thanks for stopping in!

Here are our features for the week of July 26–August 1:

Monday:Dead Roses,” black and white photography by Nez

Tuesday:That Awkward Ride Home,” poetry by Erin Abernethy

Wednesday:Fogged Doorway” photography by K.C. Collins

Thursday:Not Coming to TV This Fall,” humor from Johanna Rigby

Friday:Human Nature & Society,” photography by P.L. Miller with a quote from psychologist Abraham Maslow

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 puzzled commentary on current events, animal pics and rescues, cartoons, and all your behind-the-scenes Journal nonsense.

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 July 26–August 1, 2015. Enjoy your weekend, and visit us again soon!

Photo by Alain Audet via Pixabay.

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Not Coming to TV This Fall

Family Watching Television

by Johanna Rigby

It’s that time of summer, when the networks start advertising their new fall shows, attempting to entice viewers with new shows that really don’t have a very fresh feeling. doc

kipMaybe it’s a movie which was originally a short story that someone’s now decided would make a great TV series (Minority Report). Maybe it’s yet another medical drama (Code Black) or cop show (fill in your choice) – goodness knows we don’t have nearly enough of those. I consulted with a couple of TV experts (OK, I asked Doc Nicholas and my dog Kip) about what they’d like to see on TV this fall.

America’s Next Obscure Writer

(Competition) Follow a dozen writers no one’s ever heard of as they scramble to come up with stories, gnash their teeth over rewrites and formatting, submit their work, and get judged on the whim of someone who has absolutely no credentials other than having once seen a movie that might have been based on a book. Watch the agonizing nail-biting and chain-smoking as they suffer through weekly elimination rounds! Cheer as your favorites get work accepted to magazines no one but English majors have ever heard of!

Possible spinoff: revisiting the rejected writers next season after they’ve had time to become firmly entrenched in alcoholism and soul-crushing day jobs.

Pet ER

(Medical Drama) See Spot. See Spot run along inside his fence, chasing cars and barking his silly head off. See Spot leap the 10-foot-high fence and catch a Prius! Who knew Pomeranians could jump so high? See the conscientious Prius driver search in vain for Spot’s caretaker, who’s stuck at work. See Prius driver rush Spot to the nearest emergency vet. Blood and gore abound, but Spot will be OK! See Spot prance around happily in his new satellite-dish headgear. See the Prius driver faint upon seeing Spot’s vet bill.

Swan Lake

(Documentary) Swans mate for life – or do they? Watch the weekly adventures of four swan couples as they raise their young, forage for food, and try to sort out what the heck those bands are on their legs. Sylvia thinks they were born with them, but Sam is sure they were put there as tracking devices by the humanoid creatures who tranquilized them as they slept one night. Don’t worry, there’ll be plenty of gratuitous sex and violence as Sara and Su-Su lounge naked in the grass with glistening feathers after swimming, while Steve and Sven have a water battle royale over who has the longest neck. Big honkin’ fun for the whole family!

Watch Your Language!

(Game Show) It’s teens against parents in this game show about words! ROFL at the stumped parents as they try to use words like “bae” and “shade” in a sentence. Laugh at the youngsters as they wonder WTF a “gal” is or how you “high-hat” someone. It’s fun and educational!

Book Club

(Reality) It’s like your local library or neighborhood book club, except they talk about interesting books they’ve actually read instead of drinking wine and pretending to have opinions to impress the others.

D.C. After Dark

(Comedy-Drama) There’s a bar in The District where everyone knows your name, and they’ll gladly sell it to the media along with photos of you passed out on your bar stool after a hard day of filibustering! Every week is chock-a-docket full of spilled secrets, congressional capers, and boozy barristers.

Ten Is Enough

(Comedy) When Don Dale, his husband Tim, and their housekeeper Amanda decided to rescue four kittens, two dogs, and one jolly pot-bellied pig from a neighbor who was being evicted, they had no idea what they were getting into, but now they couldn’t imagine life without their wonderfully quirky family. Hairy hijinks abound!

Are You Smarter Than a Supreme Court Justice?

(Game Show) Contestants answer questions about the law, using the assistance of their friends on whatever social media forum they choose. Winner gets to explain (to a panel of law professors and actual attorneys) their theory of why the Supreme Court was wrong about something. If voted down, the contestant is banned from spouting uninformed opinions on social media ever again.

Undercover Temps

(Reality) Follow temps wired for sound and video as they go to work for major companies, exposing ethical violations, harassment incidents, illegal activities, and office pranks. What women’s magazine is actually run by a fourteen-year-old boy? Which weight-loss supplement manufacturer has birthday parties with chocolate cupcakes every afternoon? You’ll be shocked to see which high-end design firm actually works in a building with no electrical lighting!

Liar, Liar

(Action) Each week brings a new case to political consultant Rick Dixon, who knows that everyone makes mistakes and everyone lies; it’s just a matter of figuring out which lies are the least damaging and how to leverage the lies of your enemies. The season kicks off with a gripping 2-hour pilot about a fast-food magnate considering running for the Senate. It’s a white-knuckle episode as Rick Dixon uncovers who’s been stretching the truth about this weiner-meister!


© Copyright 2015 by Johanna Rigby.

Header photo “Family watching television 1958” by Evert F. Baumgardner – National Archives and Records Administration. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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This Week at Gatewood: July 12–18, 2015

clockwork heart

by Johanna Rigby

Hello, and thanks for stopping in for the weekend wrap-up! We’ve been continuing to add a few tweaks to the site as well as updating our publishing schedule. This week we culled outdated links from our blogroll; it’s now been renamed to “Writers We Like” because we’ve added some new sites that aren’t blogs. There are some really good writers in that list (which randomizes itself every time you visit so that no one’s on the bottom all the time), so when you’ve finished reading here, be sure to check out some of their work too.

Our publishing schedule has now moved to a 6-day format to give you visual arts Monday and Wednesday, poetry and other writing on Tuesday and Thursday. The meditation card photo stays on Friday, and Weekend Wrap-Up stays on Saturday.

Here are the features for the week of July 12–18:

Monday:McCovey 44,” painting by Zengael

Tuesday:To a Lover on the Other Side of Time,” poetry by F.X. MacKenzie

Wednesday:Fractal with Purple Lensing,” art by Devin Moore

Thursday:Iraqnophobia,” satirical humor by Erin Abernethy

Friday:Art and Healing,” photography by P.L. Miller with quote by psychologist Rollo May

The Friday photo can be downloaded for free as a meditation card or wallpaper for your phone or tablet, or you can print it as a standard 4×6 from your computer. Share, print, ponder… enjoy!

Our Special Assistant Dr Nicholas brought us some good humor this week:

special assistant

Be sure to follow his Twitter feed. It’s the official Gatewood Twitter account, and he posts an interesting mix of Gatewood announcements, poetry links, mental health articles, and general silliness.

Just a reminder, you can now subscribe to Gatewood Journal and have it delivered monthly to your e-mail. It’s quick and easy, and you’ll never miss a feature. We won’t spam you with a bunch of other stuff, and your information stays completely private. Hit the subscription box and make an e-pigeon happy!

That’s it for this week at Gatewood. Have a great weekend, and visit us again soon!


Header artwork via MorgueFile.

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This Week at Gatewood: May 3-9, 2015

Rooster Park PL Miller

Photo © 2015 by P.L. Miller. Used by permission of the artist.

by Rob Colfax

Hello! I hope your week has been good. The weather has turned balmy here with some days in the 80s, and the air conditioners have been turned on. I always dread that, because as much as I enjoy cool air, I hate how the volume of everything increases to compensate for the noise. And once the A/C comes on for the year, it pretty much has to stay on until late fall. That’s a long time for everyone to shout at one another.

But that’s a small thing. A friend in east Texas lost the biggest part of her house this week to a tornado (although her dog was saved, thank goodness). Another friend lost his father to pneumonia. My heart goes out to both of them, and I’m sure that they’d trade places and take a noisy air conditioner over what either of them are going through right now.

It’s just a reminder. Whether you know it or not, everyone you meet is going through something, so try to be kind.

Here are our features for the week of May 3-9:

Monday:Portus,” some very intricate artwork by Scottish artist Robert Kelly

Tuesday:Now We Are Old,” poetry by Rowan McConnell

Wednesday:12 Reasons Why Your Book Isn’t Finished Yet,” some great writing-based humor by Johanna Rigby

Friday:The Tangled Way,” photography by P.L. Miller and quote from Stanley Rosenthal

Remember, our Friday photo can be downloaded for free as a meditation card for your phone, tablet or computer. Share, print, ponder… enjoy!

Here’s a favorite posted by our Special Assistant Dr Nicholas this week:

too much catnip

If you liked this, you’ll want to follow @docnicholas on Twitter for cat humor, grammar gripes, and of course, daily updates on Journal posts.

That’s it for this week at Gatewood. Enjoy your weekend, and visit us again soon!

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12 Reasons Why Your Book Isn’t Finished Yet

Oscar Wilde

Photograph of Oscar Wilde from Public Domain.

by Johanna Rigby


“This morning I took out a comma, and this afternoon I put it back again.” – Oscar Wilde

key1Your family members who think that “working at home” is a code phrase for “available to run errands.”


key2The couple in the apartment above you, who seem to rearrange their furniture, have wild sex, and throw dishes at each other every time you sit down at your keyboard.

key3The dog, who thinks that your ankles are chew-toys.

key4The librarian who calls to inquire about the book on pelicans you checked out two months ago when you were researching the beach novel you were thinking of writing before you remembered that you hate beach novels.


key5The cat, who thinks that your keyboard belongs to him. (Your chair is also his personal property, but he’s willing to let that slide while he prances around the Ctrl, A, and Delete keys.)

key6Cable TV. Even worse, high-speed Internet (which you got so that you could research online more effectively, even though you’re mainly using it to stream movies to make sure your book’s plot doesn’t have the similarities you’re concerned it might).


key7Should you use a colon or a semi-colon in this instance? Better research that.


key8Oh, the scads of friends you have (now that you’re trying to work on your book) that you didn’t have last week (during the time you’d purposely set aside for lounging about and doing nothing), all of whom have interesting things happening that they desperately need to discuss with you.


key9Twitter. You intended to cultivate a “social media presence,” but now you’re addicted to hashtag games, and these people are so much funnier and more interesting than your so-called “real life” friends.


key10The neighborhood grill that doesn’t deliver. In theory, it’s faster to call ahead and have your lunch ready to pick up. In practice, you end up eating there, having a beer, and watching your team lose on the big-screen TV, which means you need another beer or five.


key11Your grandmother is in a flame war on Facebook. You didn’t even know she was on Facebook, but apparently she’s now picking fights with other septagenarians and wants to use you as a reference (“since you’re a writer”), even though you know nothing about growing African violets.


key12The neighborhood liquor store, which does deliver. Rum. Yum. Ruuuuummmmmm.



© Copyright 2015 by Johanna Rigby.

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