Category Archives: humour

Hellecchino by James Secor


Hellecchino, which means “little devil,” is the pre-popular, peasant name of (Harlequin) of Commedia dell’arte fame (most people will probably know this via Moliere). He came into existence because I saw the need for a new kind of hero, for our modern heroes, resurrected versions of old heroes, is just as violent and destructive and obsessed with his rightness as the villains. And, in the end, he never vanquishes the enemy; the enemy keeps coming back–or more enemies arrive to wreak havoc. I felt the enemy, the bad guy needed to be made to be ridiculous; and the good guy needed to be more non-violent. And, intellectually, a trickster is far more powerful than a big, brawny, masculine hero. Hellecchino follows directly in line with prior tricksters. I am sorry a female did not become involved; but a disabled guy did. Even more than women, the disabled are counted out of society. Hellecchino has affected my writing in general and, also, my life: I’ve watched myself lead “villains” on–and enjoyed it tremendously.



Out-take from a Hellecchino story

set in Chokepointe Piste in the

East Coahila Brazos River Basin


Nobody knows how it happened, but the next morning found Hellecchino perched atop the hitching post before the house of Hacienda loco plátano. In the dawn’s early light, Hellecchino was proudly beheld in all his pink-and-magenta-and-purple majesty by an incredulous Gyorgy Yabu.

“What the hell,” Yabu muttered from behind his big plate glass window and stepped out on the porch. He took a sip of his hot coffee from his extra big clown cup as if he owned the world and Hellecchino was a speck of dust. “What the hell you doin’ on my ranch?”

“Well,” drawled Hellecchino, “I come to talk to a man who done got some enlightenment. Ain’t never met one before.”

“Well, here I am.”

“You don’t look no diff’rent.”

“Diff’rent from what?”

“From anybody else.”

“Looks is deceivin’.”

“I must say. . .tell me about your journey.”

“Up Merengue Montaña?”

“You go anywhere else?”

“Nope. Nowhere else to go for enlightenment these days.” Hellecchino waited. Yabu shifted his teddy bear slippers on the porch. “It was a jolly good time. But Merengue Montaña was larger and higher than I expected.”

“It should be. It’s the most famous mountain in the world. Was there anything interesting at the top?”

“What a silly question.” Yabu sipped his coffee. “Nothing special, ya know. After we entered the state of Roswell we stayed over night at the foot of the mountain. There was a crowd of pilgrims, of course, and in the course of conversation, we younger men thought it would be fun to put a paper bag over Merengue Montaña. The older folks thought it was impossible and laughed at us. We said he could. So. . .” Yabu shifted his teddy beat slippers about, “we brought out bamboo spoons and, each holding one in his mouth, two in his hands and two more in his toes, we began to make paste. In no time, we made it as high as the mountain. Next, we collected all the paper from the provinces of White Sands and Truth or Consequences. I figured we were going to make a huge bag but my fellow journeymen began to paste paper on the mountain sides and, in no time, we were at the top of Merengue Montaña. It was all clothed in a paper bag. Ain’t that a unheard-of thang?”

“Nah! That ain’t so unusual. Last year when I went over to Wasatch-Cache province, the young’uns brewed tea in the Great Salt Lake and then drank it all up. The entire lake.”

“You cain’t trick me! How could anybody drink up an entire lake?”

“Listen. They said, let’s make tea in the lake and they gathered up all the tea leaves, irrespective of quality, from the five neighboring provinces. In no time there was a pile of tea leaves as high as Dante’s View. Well, they put it all into the lake using their mulberry brooms with handles one hundred feet long and began to sir it up. When they was done, they blew off the froth and drank it up just like that. In fact, they drank the whole lake dry but the froth they blew off still remains and it’s known as Plain o’ Froth.”

“What a yarn! The Plain o’ Froth appears in the tale of Paul Bunyan.”

“But you don’t know the new Plain o’ Froth right beside it, which appeared last year.”


“If you think it’s a lie, you just go and look for yourself.”

“Wa-all. . .I ain’t about t’ argue with ya, but. . .” Yabu sipped his coffee and shuffled his slippers, “just you listen to this! A few years ago when I went over into the western part of the country, I saw a bull lay down in the Mojave Desert and feed on the Sandwich Islands. Imagine that!–feeding himself across mountains, rivers and the sea. Some big fucking beast, eh?’

‘That’s not so wonderful. Why, when I went over to the Black Hills, I saw a drum nine miles in circumference.”


“Circumference. Around.”

Yabu nodded his head. Smiled out the side of his mouth. “That’s ridiculous, of course. You may be able to make a ring out’n wood slats but you’re not gonna find a hide nine miles large, that’s fer shur.”

“What th’hell do you know? I’m telling the truth. I can verify it was the hide of that bull you saw laying down in the Mojave.”

“Great Scott! You don’t say.” Hellecchino nodded his head. “Well, I’ll be. How come you know all these stories? You’re so clever.”

“Oh, tall tales come easy, though I never tell outsiders my secret.”

“What secret?”

“The secret to successfully makin’ a fool outa people.”

“Shore which I knew it!”

“Well, you got your enlightenment, I got mine.”

“Aw, c’mon. We’re brothers in arms.”

“Oh, alright. But ya gotta promise not to tell anyone.”

“Cross my heart and hope to die.” Yabu did it, spilling the remaining coffee out of his cup.

“There’s a special seed for stories anybody’d believe no matter how outrageous and unfounded. It’s called. . .” here Hellecchino leaned in conspiratorially, “Geoffrey Crayon’s Wives of old Burghers Seed.” Yabu nodded his head and waited. Then he leaned in. “Would you like to have one?” asked Hellecchino.

“Hail yes!”

“Just you wait here a few minutes, I’ll go off and get one.”

Hellecchino jumped down off the hitching post and sauntered down the trail out of the ranch. When he was out of sight, he picked up a round pebble, unlike any other round pebble beside the road, and spoke to it in all earnestness. “Pebble. . .can you believe this shit? He wants a seed of lies and I’m going to give him you. What do you think of this?” The pebble said nothing. “There certainly are some fools in this world, eh what?” Then he loped back to the Hacienda loco plátano hitching post and held up the pebble. “There it is. A Geoffrey Crayon’s Wives of old Burghers Seed. There’s more out there.”


“Buried it just outside your entrance gate, I been told.” He held the little pebble up to his ear. “You hafta dig it up or it ain’t worth nothin’.”

“Hot damn! You jest wait a sec, I’ll git my shovel an’ we’ll go on down t’th’gate and start diggin’.”

“We, white man? If’n you want the secret to tall story tellin’, you gotta dig it up yourself. I can’t help you.”

“What the hell! Fer a prize like that, I’d walk acrosst Kansas.” And with that, Yabu ran round back of the house, hunted around in the tool shed and came back with a flat edge spade. “Let’s go!”

Hellecchino shook his head sadly–this man obviously hadn’t ever been on the business end of a shovel. The ground out here was hard and a pointy-ended shovel was what was needed. But, who the hell was Hellecchino to tell a man what to do?

When they got to the gate, Yabu turned to Hellecchino. “Where is it at?”

“Right there, as I recall,” said Hellecchino, pointing to the right post foot.



Yabu began digging. Or, rather, he jammed the shovel down onto the hard, hard earth and watched it jump right back up at him. He scowled and slammed the spade down on the ground again.

“Maybe you might try puttin’ the corner of the shovel into the ground. Gettin’ yourself a little hole.”


Yabu did this and, lo and behold, he began to dig himself a hole. But after an hour or so, he stopped digging. He wiped the sweat from his high brow. He leaned on the handle of the shovel.

“You shore it’s here?”

“Dig a little deeper.”

“Hell! I cain’t dig no deeper!”

“You don’t see it down there?”

Yabu bent over and looked in his hole. “No. I cain’t find nothin’.”

“Ah. Well. Perhaps it was over to this post.” Hellecchino turned around, stopping every once in awhile to consider. “Yes. That’s it. I was standin’ the other way round. It’s here. I remember now.”


Yabu dug into the dry, dry earth, Hellecchino reminding him to put the corner of his square spade into the ground first. After awhile, though, Yabu stopped digging and looked into his little hole.

“I don’t see nothin’.”

“You ain’t dug deep enough yet.”

“The hell you say!”

“Well, if you want the Geoffrey Crayon’s Wives of old Burghers Seed, you’ll keep digging, even if you dig all the way to China.”

“You think the Chinese got it?”

“Could be.”

“Well, I’ll be damned!”

“You come get me when you found the Geoffrey Crayon’s Wives of old Burghers Seed. I got business in town.”

“Alright. I’ll do that.”

And Hellecchino went jauntily on down the road to Chokepointe Piste just a-whistlin’ Dixie to a shovel counterpoint.


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Okay, folks, here is a test. Leave a comment after you’ve read this post and tell me which of these five jokes are funny and humorous, and which are not. If you want to keep it simple, just write the number of the joke and Yes or No. If you want, you can explain your answer. Hey, here we go.

1. What has four legs and an arm? Answer: A happy pit bull.

2. A family of mice were surprised by a big cat. Father Mouse jumped and said, Bow-wow!” The cat ran away. “What was that, Father?” asked Baby Mouse. “Well, son, that’s why it’s important to learn a second language.” Submitted by BH LEE

3. Want to get people excited? Just put Alka-Seltzer in your mouth and pretend you’re  possessed by the devil.

4. Whoever invented “Knock-Knock” jokes should get a no-bell prize.

5. A man walks into a bar with a small dog under his arm and sits down at the counter, placing the dog on the stool next to him. The bartender says, “Sorry, pal. No dogs allowed.” The man says, “But this is a special dog – he talks!” “Yeah, right,” says the bartender. “Now get out of here before I throw you out.” “No, wait,” says the man. “I’ll prove it.” He turns to the dog and asks, “What do you normally find on top of a house?” “Roof!” says the dog, wagging his tail. “Listen, pal…” says the bartender.” Wait,” says the man, “I’ll ask another question.” He turns to the dog again and asks, “What’s the opposite of soft?” “Ruff!” exclaims the dog. “Quit wasting my time and get out of here,” says the bartender. “One more chance,” pleads the man. Turning to the dog again, he asks, “Who was the greatest baseball player that ever lived?” “Ruth!” barks the dog. “Okay, that’s it!” says the bartender, and physically throws both man and dog out the door and onto the street. Turning to the man, the dogs shrugs and says, “Maybe I should have said Dimaggio?”

What are the correct answers? The point of course is that it’s hard to say because humor is often subjective, and we don’t agree on what’s funny. What’s a knee-snapper to one person is stupid, offensive, or simply pointless to another. What doubles up your Aunt Matilda in helpless mirth leaves your Uncle Walt unfazed. Whatever you do, though, be careful joking about politics or religion. I once pissed off a friend by telling a brief Mitt Romney joke.

What about dirty jokes—do you like them? Say, have you heard the one about the travelling salesman and the one-eyed whore? She… Naw, I better not tell it. Okay, do you know how to tell who’s a virgin in Virginia? (or supply your own state name). The answer: By her out-of-state license plate.

You don’t think the last joke is funny? In addition to it being flat, dumb, and in bad taste, it’s sexist, discriminatory against women. Perhaps you believe that jokes which offend people shouldn’t be published.

Well, I think people should be offended sometimes. Their feathers should be ruffled and even plucked clean off on occasion. I for one love some dirty jokes and those which are often politically incorrect. I love Aristophanes’ classic sexual comedy Lysistrata in which Grecian women go on a sex strike to stop the Peloponnesian War. However, there is a limit. For example, I just checked some jokes online about Jews, Blacks, and Catholics, and they are REALLY offensive, so you won’t see them here.

You see, I do have some taste.
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What about your writing? Your short stories and your novels, your biographies, essays, and poems? How far are you willing to go in using humor? What chances are you willing to take? Do all your jokes have to be “clean”? Perhaps if you write a book which doesn’t offend anyone, which only supports what is safe and acceptable, your book wasn’t worth writing in the first place.

Do you like jokes at your own expense? I do, as long as they aren’t mean-spirited and go too far. I like to poke fun at my unique dancing style, which causes my partners to duck and run for cover. We know that comedians sometimes deride themselves and find humor in their personal and painful experiences. If they came up the hard way in poverty, they may work it into their routines. As a comedian, Jack Benny depended largely on three self-deprecatory jokes: (1), he was always thirty-nine years old, (2) he was a notorious tightwad, and (3) he was a terrible violin player. I believe the last two are false.

We often use humor in satirical works to ridicule and correct human vices and follies. Vices are much worse than follies. They include such sins as greed, hypocrisy, and cruelty. Plus corrupt political and social systems. Think of Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels and A Modest Proposal. Orwell’s Animal Farm. The humor is sometimes biting and laser-sharp, as well as deliciously delicate, capable of eviscerating its targets without mussing their hair. In a presidential debate, Ronald Reagan once used a critical question concerning his advanced age to demolish his opponent. He said, “I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.” When Megyn Kelly recently said Donald Trump called women derogatory names like “fat pig” and “dog,” did he go too far when he said, “Only Rosie O’Donnell”? Bad taste or not, his interruption received the biggest laugh of the first Republican debate.

Have you ever watched the skits on Saturday Night Live which lampoon political and entertainment leaders? C’mon, you know you’ve howled at some of them, ignoring your better (and less interesting) nature. A guilty pleasure is still a pleasure, right?

Many jokes and cracks will offend somebody. Hell, they are meant to. As for you, Dear Reader, use your own judgment but be willing to take chances now and then. And if you are personally offended or attacked, try to live and let live. Above all, remember what Geoffrey Chaucer wrote concerning the brilliant but outrageous Miller’s narrative in The Canterbury Tales. Whatever you do, do not “maken earnest out of game.”



John B. Rosenman, a retired English professor from Norfolk State University, has published over 300 stories and 20 books. His work includes science fiction and dark erotic fiction. “The Blue of Her Hair, the Gold of Her Eyes won the 2011 annual readers’ poll from “Preditors and Editors.” In 2013, Musa Publishing awarded his time travel story “Killers” their Top Pick. He is the former Chairman of the Board of the Horror Writers Association and the previous editor of Horror Magazine.

A Day In The Life of a Writer 



The rain beats furiously against the window, interrupting a restful, dream-filled sleep, in which I am floating in a sea of acceptance slips, signing book contracts, and arranging to fly to California for the Letterman show. The menacing buzz of the radio alarm clock goes off every ten minutes, the exact time it takes to drift back to sleep. At 7 A.M., there is no good reason to be awake. I don’t have to attend school; nor do I have to leave for work, a bone of contention among those in my family who fervently believe that I should make them a hot breakfast before sending them out into the real world.

Misery, the fifteen-year-old dog who has lived up to her name, lays her large, shaggy head on my pillow, and pants morning breath into my face. The bluish glare of her cataract-coated eyes warns me that she will not be held accountable for what may happen if I don’t let her outside immediately; a realistic deterrent to further lazing in bed.

By 8 a.m., the house is quiet once again. Even the pounding rain has tapered to a fine drizzle. My four-year-old grandson Ian, dropped off by my daughter, walks into the kitchen to announce that he is “here”, as his eleven-month-old brother, Jesse, babbles nonsense from the playpen. The baby’s voice has the penetration of a well-known grease-cutter.

It’s Monday morning and another non-work week is about to begin, during which time I will babysit two lovable, but precocious boys, run business inventories on two computers, manage a three story home, do freelance writing and count my blessings that I don’t have to go to work.

By the time I gulp two cups of coffee, and complete three fourths of The New York Times Crossword Puzzle, Jesse’s insistent soprano voice is reaching high C. I consider doing a warm, grandmotherly article on minding toddlers, but when Jesse leans over the playpen and spits up on the dog, my enthusiasm wanes.

The next hour consists of what my “new age” daughter calls creative playtime. That translates into letting the children do whatever they please. I am as modern as the next person, but after Ian poster paints the white Formica countertop in black stripes, insisting it’s his pet zebra, free expression ends. Jesse’s creativity is limited to the realization that his diaper is detachable, presenting endless possibilities. By noon, I’ve put the house back together, made lunch for the boys, driven Ian to nursery school, and tucked the pit baby (so nicknamed for his tenacious grip on breakables) into bed for his one treasured nap.

Two hours later, I’ve compiled inventory, mailed overdue bills, and sent manuscripts off to the literary meat market, while the Apple works its internal magic with the numbers I’ve posted into it. I’ve hung up three times on a telephone computer robot, who wants to know my vital statistics, and tried to convince another telemarketer that I did not want to win a cruise to Tahiti.

While the Apple is printing out evaluation reports, I type a short story into the Dell, inspired by the momentary peace and solitude. Engrossed in my work, I don’t realize that Ian has been dropped off from nursery school, until he plops a hideous (I never said that) green lump of clay sculpture on my keyboard. Seven pages of manuscript disappear, lost forever in that mysterious story-eating gray box–just when Mary was lusting after John.

The type of calmness that sometimes precedes insanity washes over me. I make Ian a healthy snack, and even manage to tell him how much I missed him.

“You didn’t miss me, Grandma,” he says. “You’re the one who took me there and left me.”

I’m tempted to say, “You’re right,” but I hug him instead. Ian settles in for some violent cartoons, and the siren-like wail of the pit baby marks the end of creative writing.

The teenager, made into an only child by the absence of five grown brothers and sisters, storms into the house. She throws her books on the table, raids the refrigerator, and gives me a twenty minute discourse on her first day of high school; heavy on boys, light on scholastics. She informs me  that much as she would love to watch her nephews for me, she must get to the Mall at once. Owning only four new outfits, she doesn’t want to repeat herself in a five-day school week. Everyone (related to the infamous “they”) will notice.

By now it’s 4 P.M., and my manuscripts are still in the mailbox, soggy from the misty rain. The mail carrier, over five hours late, neither knows, nor cares that I wait anxiously each day for acceptance/rejection slips. An hour later, I spot him running down the street, new on the job and obviously frightened. Misery, in a rare moment of bravado, must have given him a toothless, raspy snarl, for now the mail dropped in haste on the unprotected porch stoop is as wet as the outgoing mail. It’s mostly brown envelopes, signifying returned manuscripts, and I’m in no mood for rejection. I’ll open them later.

As Jesse methodically empties all the kitchen cabinets and drawers, I concoct a simple dinner of chili with beans and brown bread. Dining with small children will either cause compulsive eating or pseudo anorexia. Ian detests all healthy food, and Jesse concentrates on feeding his supper to Misery, whose sense of smell has deteriorated to the point where she indiscriminately devours scraps of bread and shredded napkins.

The last hour before my daughter comes to collect her sons is spent re-stocking the cabinets, brushing crumbs out of the dog’s eyes, picking up the fifty or more toys that Jesse has hurled from his playpen, and bathing the boys. Ian has an inborn aversion to having his hair washed, and Jesse likes to scuba-dive, giving me heart failure and more gray hair. By the time their bath is completed, the bathroom is under water and smells like wet dog. Misery, in her senility, refuses to relinquish her spot on the soft rug next to the bathtub.

Their mother arrives and asks the same daily question, “Were they good?” I give the same answer, “Perfect!”, and she carts them off to her car. I am alone; at least for another twenty minutes when the breadwinner comes home. My husband walks in the door with that “don’t even ask me about my day,” look on his face, and heads for his recliner. The pile of damp, warped mail catches his eye, and he rummages through it.

“Hey, I think you might have sold something,” he says. “Don’t you want to open it?”

I move in slow-motion, back pain radiating down my legs from constantly plucking Jesse off the staircase, and listlessly open the SASE. (self-addressed stamped envelope)

“Look at that,” my husband says, glancing over my shoulder. “You just sold another article, made $100.00, and you never had to leave the house.” He grabs his paper and settles into his chair with the martyred look of a man who has battled rain, fog, and bumper to bumper traffic to provide for a wife who sits home and nonchalantly collects honorariums and checks. I hate that look. After a full ten minutes of savoring my sale, I trudge back to the Dell, free to write for three more hours. But by now Mary is no longer lusting after John.


Bio: Micki Peluso writes humorous slice of life stories based mostly on her family and friends. No lawsuits yet but she has been removed from several wills. These stories, published in various newspapers and magazines led to her first non-fiction story, . . .And the Whippoorwill Sang, and will be published in 2015 in a collection called, “Don’t Pluck the Duck.”

Finding Inspiration in the Every Day by Dellani Oakes

Dellani Oakes glasses in hand

My kids are weird. I say that with the most love possible. They are funny, unique endearing and strange. Just now, I was sitting in my office and I heard beat box noises and laughter, so I wandered out to see what was going on.

My eldest son was sitting on the arm of the couch, improvising lyrics to a song, while one of the neighbor boys played guitar and did a beat box. The closest example I can give is Alice’s Restaurant. One played and the other came up with lyrics, with a smattering of harmonica thrown in for spice.

All I can say is, I wish we’d recorded it. I haven’t laughed that hard in awhile. My son is one of the best at improvising lyrics. When his brothers were younger, he would play guitar and tell tales to put them to sleep. They loved it. Of course, he couldn’t always remember it later, but they always begged for particular songs every night.


My children have been a constant source of material. I don’t often write about them, because I don’t want to embarrass them, but I frequently use things they’ve said or done, in my books.

A prime example, also from my eldest son. His friend had been visiting and was heading home. They exchanged insults, as they often did. (Male bonding, I’ll never understand it.) The exchange stuck with me and I ended up using it in one of my sci-fi novels, Shakazhan. The last exchange between the men is the quote. The names have been changed to protect the innocent (Me) from being sued:


Ben chuckled, winking at Matilda. “Yes, Ma’am. Duty would work.” He risked a wicked glance at Wil. “The fact that you’re beautiful and desirable, and the sexiest woman I’ve ever met would have nothing whatever to do with it.”

Wil was furious until he recognized the subtleties of the remark. He chuckled. “Ben, you know what you can kiss.”

“Yeah, Wil, and you know what you can blow.”


I don’t always copy exactly what they say, but more the way they say things. Their mode of expression is unique and it fascinates me. Laced with sarcasm and double meanings, they communicate on an entirely different level from other people their age. I have to wonder how much of this my husband and I are responsible for, and how much is simply from them. Their friends have picked up on it, too, so our influence spreads.


Anyone who has read my books, knows that I use a lot of humor in them. I don’t purposely try to be funny, because that’s hard. Instead, I involve myself in the conversation and let the characters find their own humor. I’m not the one being funny, they are. They also have running jokes throughout a story, something that others don’t know about, but always makes them laugh.

In Conduct Unbecoming, the men are always twitting Joel about his bright blue Civic named Bluebell. Though I didn’t borrow any exact conversations, the way that the men comment and tease Joel is so like my sons and their friends, I have to give credit to them for it:


“Boys, enough,” Vivica said. “Joel, your car is cute—just like you.”

They moved toward the back door together.

Joel crossed his arms, frowning. “Why do women always tell me I’m cute? Men don’t want to be cute.”

“Then don’t drive a car that looks like it should be covered in Hello Kitty stickers,” Teague remarked, dodging out of his cousin’s way as Joel took a swing at him.

“My car is not gay!” Joel yelled as he flung open the door.

“Okay. . . .” Jasper held up his hands. “It’s not gay. It’s bi-curious.”

“You can ride in the Pinto O’Death,” Joel said.

“I’ll ride with Joel,” Aileen said. “Shotgun,” she called as she walked out the door.

Nadeya followed her. Teague and Vivica walked toward the truck, bypassing the Pinto. Disgusted, Jasper followed them.

“Okay, I know it’s lame,” he grumbled, “But it was all I could get my hands on.”

“That car’s almost as embarrassing as Joel’s,” Teague said as his truck motor roared to life.

Joel started his car and purple neon lights flickered underneath.

“Jesus,” Jasper remarked. “There is no expression sorry enough to describe that.”


In my historical novel, Indian Summer, there are continuous comments about Manuel’s well appointed pants, because of a remark some old lady made at a party:


“Your young man there.” She pointed with her cane somewhere below Manuel’s waist. “He’s well appointed, indeed he is.”

She smiled toothlessly, cackling happily and hobbled off to sit beside Manuel’s aunt on the settee. I looked over at Manuel, finding him scarlet faced. I couldn’t imagine what had made him blush. I leaned toward him a little whispering to him.

“What did she mean well appointed?”

He reddened even more deeply and moved nervously from foot to foot. Dropping his head and his voice to a whisper, he turned slightly away from my parents to answer me. “Well, it’s not really polite for me to repeat its exact meaning. But it means….” He looked around to make sure we were not overheard. “It means that I fill out these pants well—in the front.”

He looked at his feet and turned as red as the roses in my hair. I’m sure I did too.

“Oh,” was all I could manage. “Oh, indeed.” I giggled nervously and couldn’t help adding. “Well, she’s right.”


I should add that the character of Gabriella, who tells Indian Summer, is patterned after my daughter. Though she is only fifteen, Gabriella has core of strength and determination is patterned after my only girl. She was, and is, a formidable opponent and I wouldn’t want to get on her wrong side. Nor would I want to get on the wrong side of Gabriella.

My point throughout this piece is that inspiration can come from anywhere. It might be a conversation overheard in the grocery store, or between friends and family members. It can hit like a lightning bolt from the clear, blue sky, knocking an author on her backside. Or, it might drift in through an open window like a spring breeze.

Let life influence your writing. It’s there and a part of you. Don’t separate yourself from it, embrace it and allow it to flavor your words. Make it part of your imaginary world. Doing so will make your characters more real. I don’t mean that you should simply write what you know. That’s some of the most foolish advice ever given. Instead, write what entertains you. Use what you know to bring it alive.


joe and joseph 1996


Dellani Oakes is an author who currently lives with her husband, Joe, her three sons & the eldest son’s fiancée. It’s a crowded house! In order to retain some semblance of sanity, she writes. The above is something she wrote for the Fun in Writing class she leads through the local Council on Aging several years ago, but still holds true today. Her friends and family are a constant source of inspiration.

Look for Dellani:

On Amazon:

Smashwords: Second Wind

Smashwords: Tirgearr


Life as a Writer…

I kind of chuckle to myself now when people “ooh” and “ahh” over my life as a writer. If they only knew what it entailed I think that they might idolize it a bit less.

Being a writer is most definitely not your usual 8:00 – 5:00 (or 9:00 – 5:00) job. Nope. There’s no clocking out; no truly free weekends and no ‘normal’ night’s sleep. Creativity seems to be synonymous with spontaneity – this means that inspiration can (and will) make an appearance at any time of the day (or night).

Oh, I’m sorry – you’re not a morning person? Well, guess what? Your muse doesn’t care…

When my inspiration strikes at 3:00 A.M. (whether I’m already in bed, or just about to retire for the night) I’m faced with the choice of either getting up or staying up until I’ve committed the words to paper or computer; otherwise they will be gone with no intent to ever return.

Oh, I’m so sorry – you’re friend or significant other is at the door waiting for you so you can go to the movies? Well, that’s too bad because this is the precise moment when the light bulb of epiphany sparks. Running through your mind in its entirety now is the article (or chapter) that you’ve been trying to cohesively formulate for the entire prior week…

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that all writers experience these things, but I’d be willing to bet that most can relate to some.

Other writer ‘side’ effects?

  • The addiction to coffee (or some type of caffeinated/energy beverage).
  • The need for said item at any given hour of the day (or night).
  • The new love of any food(s) that provide a quick energy boost. (Hello candy! I’m certain my dentist will be happy that you’ve entered my life).
  • The ability to have multiple ‘open’ lines of chatting/dialogue. You know – there’s your real-life friend and/or family member, as well as all those characters from whatever novel or story you’re currently writing. It’s like Tourette’s for the writer’s brain – the person across from you says something and in your mind you can clearly hear a response from your novel’s leading protagonist.
  • And sleep? Pfft! Who needs it?! Apparently my characters sleep enough for all of us…

Regardless though, at the end of the day (when I finally put down my pen or close the keyboard) I’m glad to have the calling of a writer. Just like the bards of days long gone, we writers soothe the world with our voices; and for brief moments we bring peace and happiness to others.

Candy, Coffee, Sweets






Have a great rest of your day!


Charline Ratcliff

Author: The Curse of Nefertiti, The Princess, The Toad & The Whale, and The Further Adventures of The Princess, The Toad & The Whale

Way Back When by Sharla Lee Shults


Stepping back in time is so interesting . . . in fact, it is often just plain, simple fun! Whether you are a teenager wanting to learn about the eras in which your parents grew up or the adult who wants to relive the memories, the nostalgia is an alluring invitation for a trip down memory lane.

More than likely at one time or another you have said, or heard someone else say the phrase way back when. Its context could be in reference to good times or bad times but in either case reflects upon events of the distant past—a different year, decade or even a different era. Some folks refer to it as back in the day. But, whose day? Before indoor plumbing? Before electricity? Before the phonograph? Before the automobile? Before radio? Before television? Before the cellphone, iPhone, iPad?

Regardless of how you say it, distinctive spans of time become identifiers for each individual. There are countless, precious moments held dear to the heart before time erases all memory. Each footnote has its own unique melody playing out the music of life. Looking back provides reflections into who we are, how we have evolved and in some instances, where we are going [again]. Making comparisons of how things were ‘back in the day’ to present day is often hilarious. The changes in fashion, cars, appliances, entertainment and sayings about the future (which is now the present) can have one doubling over with laughter or simply smiling in amazement.

Conversations can quickly turn to making comparisons of the amenities that are commonplace today but totally void in the past. Such things as living in houses with dirt floors, having to complete private business in outhouses, boiling clothes to get them clean, bathing once a month with or without soap, etc. are considered primitive by today’s standards. Of course, we don’t have to step that far back in time. Simply disregard the cellphone, TV and Internet. Without those three, some people would not know how to survive.

Many comparisons to way back when or back in the day are derived from the changes in the state of the economy. For instance, think about the cost of gasoline. Today excitement abounds if to fill the car, truck, lawn mower or farm equipment with gas costs under $4.00 a gallon. Also, if a trip to the doctor’s office or a prescription is under $100, shouts of jubilation can be heard! It has not always been that way. Can you date either of these scenarios? Do you remember when…

Who would have thought gas would ever cost 25 cents a gallon? I hear it will soon go up to 26 cents. Up a penny now, another penny later. The rate it is going gasoline will reach a dollar a gallon before we know it. What’s the world coming to?

At $15.00 a day in the hospital, no one can afford to be sick anymore. All those doctors want to do is make their lives easier at our expense! Maw, what’s that home remedy for sore throat?

These are only a random sampling of conversations today that ultimately begin with I remember when or back in the day. These examples would place one’s when in the 50s.

Another inevitable change through the decades is the use of catch phrases. These are expressions used repeatedly until at some point in time they are replaced or simply have worn themselves out. See if you can date any of the following:

Look at that cat’s ‘zoot’ suit. It’s crazy, man.

You are ‘lighting up the tilt sign!’

‘Are we having fun yet?’

Can you dig it?

Say what?



If you recognize the ‘zoot’ suit, your memories have dated back to men’s fashion of the 40s, which consisted of a long jacket with wide shoulders and pants that were wide at the top but narrow at the bottom. ‘Lighting up the tilt sign’ was slang of the 50s when someone was not telling the truth. ‘Are we having fun yet?’ is the most famous quote by bizarre, non-sequitur-spouting comic strip character Zippy the Pinhead. This caught on quite rapidly with the general public in the 60s. The phrase ‘Can you dig it?’ was first used in the awesome cult classic “The Warriors.” It became synonymous with ‘groovy’ in the 70s. The wild and funky decade, the 80s, spawned ‘Say What’ and ‘Mikey Likes It,’ both of which ran the gamut. ‘Whatever!’ was made popular in the 90s and is the one that has been dubbed the most irritating in the English language. Then, there is ‘Wassup!’ stemming from a Budweiser commercial that definitely bludgeoned itself to death in the beginning of the new millennium. It thankfully died!

Movies are a great source of entertainment with certain movie lines sticking in our heads, much like the catch phrases, to be repeated just at the right place and time in real life. Here are but a few. See if you remember using them upon occasion, perhaps even recently.

“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” Gone with the Wind (1939)

“Well, nobody’s perfect.” Some Like it Hot (1959)

“Bond. James Bond.” Dr. No (1962)

“May the force be with you.” Star Wars (1977)

“I’ll be back.” The Terminator (1984)

“Houston, we have a problem.” Apollo 13 (1995)

The memory triggers during a visit to the past vary greatly. Hopefully those shared here are ones that have brought on smiles, adding a bit of humor to the day. To end our trip down memory lane, do you recall who said…

“Love is being stupid together.”

“Ever notice how “what the hell” is always the right answer?”

Both are still very apropos in the 21st century. The first is credited to Paul Valéry but made popular by Lucille Ball in the I Love Lucy show. The second is said to be attributed to none other than Marilyn Monroe but not credited to her as an original.

And life goes on beating to the rhythm of the changing times…

Way Back When


Way back when could be days gone by

When leisure reigned and time didn’t fly

Back in the day brought a blissful vision

Summer nights with no television


We’d play hide-n-seek way passed dark

When shadows played tricks as we embarked

Wearing socks emitted soundless steps

Muffled strides which slowly crept


Good ol’ days forged many a fable

When conversation ruled the dinner table

Freshly cooked chow incited a snicker

“Peas, please, and the pot liquor”


Way back when could be days gone by

When things remembered made you cry

Reminiscing brought an unwelcomed vision

Summer nights with no television


We’d play inside after Jack Frost

When darkness reigned and time was lost

Sounds of the night repeated all week

Rocking chairs that steadily creaked


Now the days pass much too fast

Memories still linger holding on to the past

Remembrances prompt the slyest grin

“A way of life, way back when!”


©2009 Remembering Sharla Lee Shults

“Let each day begin with happy thoughts that return to remember when.” ~SLS


Poem excepted from Remembering ( by Sharla Lee Shults. Sharla’s passion for writing is poetry: Historical and inspirational. Become acquainted with her writing by visiting where links are accessible to her books, blogs and social networks. Sharla previously shared here at The Write Room:  A Woodsy Morning, A Day That Will Live in Infamy: December 7, 1941, Why do you celebrate Memorial Day? and joined Linda Hales in Turning Winter into Summer




I’m lying in bed next to my wife when Stella McMasters lifts the covers and slips in beside me.  She taps my chin.

“When are you going to do it?” she asks.

I glance over to see if Stella has awakened Jane.  My wife usually takes a dim view of me sleeping with two women at the same time.  Fortunately, she’s snoring.

I turn back.  “Going to do what?” I ask.

She snuggles closer.  “Tell the rest of my story.”

I sigh, for she’s asked this before.  Stella’s the cyborg heroine I created in Beyond Those Distant Stars, a SF action-adventure romance published by Mundania Press (  Twice I’ve tried to write a sequel, Star Warrior, but I’ve been stymied each time by my friends’ substantial and valid criticisms.

I try to brazen it out.  “Listen, honey, you’re my creation, and it’s up to me to continue your story or not.”

This doesn’t fly.  Stella’s face hardens, and she raises a fist.  Two-thirds of her body is synthetic, and she could crush me with a single blow.  “I rule an empire of a thousand worlds,” she says, “and I’ve got enemies who want to destroy me.  Hell, there’s enough for a whole boatload of books.  I can be an even bigger hero than Miles.”

That’s Miles Vorkosigan, the creation of the multiple prize-winning SF author Lois McMaster Bujold, whose name inspired Stella McMasters’ name.  “Look,” I say, “I tried twice to continue your saga, but my writers’ group found too many implausibilities.”

Stella gives me a chaste kiss, which is unlike the passionate ones she gave her unfaithful lover in Beyond Those Distant Stars.  “Screw the implausibilities.  Just write it.”  She smiles.  “I feel great adventures ahead of me.  New challenges, new men, new triumphs and revelations.  Sweetie, my saga is just getting started.”

My name isn’t Sweetie, but I don’t tell her that.  “I can’t do it,” I say.  “I tried twice—”

Her hand squeezes me below the covers, but not as a lover.  I moan in pain.

“Do it,” she orders.  Seeing Jane roll over beside me, she taps my chin again and disappears.

Jane sighs.  “Stella again?” she asks.

Great.  My wife heard.  “Yes.”

She moves closer.  “It was worse this time, wasn’t it?”

I don’t need to answer.  Jane kisses me gently.

“Honey,” she says, “why don’t you do what she says.  Only in the sequel . . .”


She giggles.  “In it, you kill the bitch off.”

* * *

Being haunted by your own character is no fun.  If Stella wants sequels, why doesn’t she take charge and sweep me along plot-wise like other authors’ characters do?  Doesn’t she recognize writer’s block when she sees it?

Two days later, I enter the shower to find Stella waiting there for me.

“Look,” I say, “we have to stop meeting like this.”

Nude, she taps my chin.  “Then you know what to do.”

* * *

After I dry off, I sit down and start Star Warrior again.


John has published twenty books and three hundred short stories, most of them science fiction, speculative fiction, fantasy, horror, and paranormal romance.  He’s the former editor of Horror Magazine and Chairman of the Board of the Horror Writers Association.  Recently, he’s focused on his Inspector of the Cross series which features a 4000-year-old hero fighting to save the human race from seemingly invincible aliens.

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College Athletes: Why Stress them Out!



Universities spoon feed athletes with gilded promises while also making out checks of gold to them on the sly, oh and perish the thought if the athlete is injured and then suddenly all the help they were promised, for a degree for a profession, by staff dries up – oops! Out of luck! So, what’s a college student to do without the promise of big money, new car and lots of empty promises? Greed sounds about right. Hoping for big money in a contract, thinking that scouts might be interested in them and not realizing that most team owner are mainly focused on making money than being good role models for their players. What would any of these kids do for a million dollar contract or better yet 2 million? Poor examples are not only set by coaches and team owners but by major league players who set the tone for those to come. Going on strike if they do not get that 6 figure contract and big raise they think they deserve. So, what would happen if someone finally put the Cabash on salaries and actually made them work for the pleasure of playing a sport they claim to love?


Young college athletes learn from the best, or the greediest and are so overwhelmed with what they think will be their future they fail to see what is at the end of the yellow brick road: GREED, MONEY AND hopefully good health insurance incase they get hurt. Teachers and doctors work hard to instruct students and save lives and if they went on strike every time their unions did not pay up with big money or insurance companies skimped on payments, what would your nation’s medical care be like. Of yeah: Doctors are not any different than athletes everyone wants more and more money. Why do athletes feel they should be handed everything they want and have to not strife to earn it? Oh Yeah! Because they are athletes, good at what they do or maybe just okay and the school needs the revenue from the games and the concessions to keep the athletic department afloat.


“The pressures faced by young college athletes are too overwhelming and often drive these poor overworked students to drink, take steroids, drugs or even worse have no time for the mundane assignments required of them,” says the head coach of a small college. “Sometimes the pressure,” he continues, “ can be so unbearable, so great that while taking courses like beginning ceramics or pottery in this way they will be able to create their own casts if they have any broken bones remembering that they can put harmful stress on the players fingers and hands, and caution has to be heeded to make sure that they don’t burn themselves when using any of the tools like the kiln or ovens. Making sure they have extra accident insurance would help too. Football players might be offered a course in basic geometry in order to learn the differences between circles, diamonds and triangles and how these shapes might come in handy when reading their play books or formulating new plays. Baseball players might be offered courses in batting practice or hitting a piñata in order to strengthen their arms and enhance their batting averages. Basketball players might profit from the courses in basic shapes in order to be able to tell the difference between a sphere and a circle, which would help them find the hoop.


Athletes put themselves on the line every time they enter the playing field, the basketball court or just enduring a strenuous workout or practice. The academic curriculum and course load puts undue stress and pressure on these young people requiring them to stay up past curfew to study, to assignments and unfortunately have brain overload which might prevent them from doing what they are really in college to do and that is win games.


So, let’s be realistic and come to an understanding of how we as college coaches and college officials can lower the bar for them in order to attain some type of success. Incentives are the answer and eliminating the worry of having to live up to the high GPA of 2.0 is another way to prevent failure and insure that no one will be cut from the team. After all these athletes have a short lifespan on the field and within three or four years they will have outworn their worth and be ready for a more lucrative career working in McDonalds or even pumping gas.


Academic overload is dangerous and these young people should not have to bear the headaches, bodily aches and fear of getting cut from the team when many should have a course load of no more than one or two classes of their choice. But, these athletes provide such pleasure to spectators and bring in the funds that support the athletic department why not pay them for their skills? Getting into college must have been difficult if not traumatic for them until they either got daddy to hand over a big donation to the school or maybe someone wanted a star athlete and looked the other way when viewing their grades. Not every athlete cannot handle the workload but let’s be fair: the average athlete has to do his assignments, practice before and after class and on weekends, have weight training, conditioning and be sleep deprived. So, rather then stress them out the school should fund the bill for tutors to help them with their assignments, a massage therapist to work out their kinks and a heavy paycheck to make it worth their time. Minimum wage would not suffice after all they can get that working in Burger King or Subway. The colleges might even want to come up with pay scale based on athlete productivity, which team wins the most games and pay players accordingly. Incentives do work and paying them to score big points, practicing and doing the job they came to college for seems to be a step in the right direction.


Sports for profit that’s what it has come down too. If actors can demand their fair share of the million dollar pie then why shouldn’t young athletes get paid some big bucks too after all child stars get money to star in movies so why not pay for their services too. After all it’s only temporary. How long can they last? Legs, arms and bodies burn out, muscles can be strained, discs can rupture and even worse trigger thumb or finger from signing autographs. It’s all about money: Education needs to take a back page to the importance of paying a young superstar what he is worth. Is it really sports for profit? Have we lost sight of why people enter the sports arena? What happened to playing football, basketball and other sports because you have a passion for it? Money, Greed, Five Star Contracts and maybe even a stint as a host on ESPN. Is that what being an athlete has become? What’s Your Opinion?

 Fran Lewis


Fran Lewis: Fran worked in the NYC Public Schools as the Reading and Writing Staff Developer for over 36 years. She has three masters Degrees and a PD in Supervision and Administration. Currently, she is a member of Who’s Who of America’s Teachers and Who’s Who of America’s Executives from Cambridge. In addition, she is the author of three children’s books and a fourth that has just been published on Alzheimer’s disease in order to honor her mom and help create more awareness for a cure. The title of my new Alzheimer’s book is Memories are Precious: Alzheimer’s Journey; Ruth’s story and Sharp as a Tack and Scrambled Eggs Which Describes Your Brain? Fran is the author of 11 titles.

She was the musical director for shows in her school and ran the school’s newspaper. Fran writes reviews for authors upon request and for several other sites. You can read some of my reviews on and on under the name Gabina. Here is the link to her radio show,


 Sal relaxing on Virgie's porch in Yukon.2003
Thomas Marshall is reported to have said nearly a century ago, “What  this country needs is a good five-cent cigar.”  But what did he know! As Vice President of the United States in President Woodrow Wilson’s administration (1913-1921), he once told a bodyguard that his V. P. job was pointless. “Nobody ever shoots a Vice President.”


Let me add that since the Surgeon General’s report in 1964 linked smoking to lung cancer, cigars, cheap or otherwise, along with cigarettes, are best left unlit.


So what then does this country really need? My father used to say, “If you want answers, go ask somebody who knows what he’s talking about.” So don’t you think it makes good sense to ask King Solomon, reputed to have been the wisest man who ever lived? Looking him up in the Good Book, I found, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine” (Proverbs 17: 22). Ah hah! A merry heart, of course.


And what does a merry heart do? Henry Ward Beecher said, “Mirth is God’s best medicine.” Mirth is gladness expressed by laughter. Of course, his sister Harriet might not have agreed. The abolutionary author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin was all seriousness, and in that novel, rightfully so.


How can laughter be precisely what our country needs? Looking around, can we find much of anything to laugh at? Wars and natural disasters are not so funny. Neither is hunger and homelessness. Politically, we are at the mercy of two parties who have traded in their dedication to service for a senseless Mexican standoff. Ecologically, our beloved Earth is in a heap of trouble, inspiring naysayers to predict our planet’s imminent demise. How can laughter in some small way smooth the wrinkles on the face of our nation?


Norman Cousins (1915 – 1990) was an American political journalist, author, professor, and world peace advocate, who suffered a massive heart attack in 1980. Three years later,W.W. Norton and Company published  his book The Healing Heart. Its main premise stated that laughter could heal a literally broken heart.


I have always believed in the health value of laughter. To me it is truly the best medicine (except where a good strong prescription is required; let’s say, in the case of contracting a flesh-eating virus. You want to laugh, but honestly, it’s hard to laugh off a virus with a voracious appetite).


As a child growing up, I delighted in making my parents and siblings laugh. I told jokes. I performed ridiculous slapstick that usually backfired and earned me a few slaps from Mama or a belt, in absence of a stick, from Papa.


My older brother Alfonso once reassured me that I would never suffer a heart attack because I knew how to laugh away stress. My sister Anna once warned me, “You do that one more time and see what happens.”


My father was my best fan. He loved my humor. I’d get him laughing so hard, tears would pop out of his eyes, he’d reach for his back pocket and withdraw a large white handkerchief that he’d wave for truce. Mama would beg me to stop when Papa would laugh that hard. She’d pull on my arm as if the jokes were flowing out of my fingertips. She’d shake me like a jar of Ovaltine and milk, but I kept it up until my father wiped the last of his tears, sat down, and shook his head. If I said a word, his hand shot up and I knew he had had enough medicine for one day. An overdose would not have been in his good interest nor in mine.


I like reading stories and novels that make me laugh. In my younger days, I read Max Shulman’s hilarious novel Rally ‘Round the Flag, Boys; Jack Douglas’ My Brother Was an Only Child and Never Trust a Naked Bus Driver; Joseph Heller’s Catch-22; Erma Bombeck’s  If Life Is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits?


Humor, like music, soothes the savage beast, and while we have so many bloody novels about zombies, vampires, werewolves, serial killers, and spies, I think authors should try their hand at comedy. Come on, make us laugh! Remember that during the Great Depression (when almost everyone was depressed), folks spent their nickels at a picture show. They’d go to the movie houses and howl at the silent antics of Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, Ben Turpin, Mabel Normond and a monkey barrel full of other very funny stars.


For some writers humor comes easily. One of them I know is Bob Rubenstein, author of Ghost Runners, which is not a funny book, a rather serious one set at the 1936 Olympics, but Bob is one of those people from whose mouth and pen gushes out humor, sometimes unintended. On the death of Sid Caesar he wrote on Facebook, “I remember his zany antics … the Japanese theater when he introduced his lovely daughter …Schmata. He was a man who fought alcoholism, drugs, and maybe that was the reason his life was cut short at 92. Who knows?”


Have I made my point that laughter is just what the doctor ordered? An apple a day is good but a laugh now and then everyday is even better.


I’d like to end my article with a truly funny event that literally knocked me off my feet


Many years ago at a dinner party in our apartment, my friend Pete told a very funny joke about an old Englishman who had loved going on safaris when he was much younger. Speaking in the British dialect of royalty (the old man was an earl or a duke), Pete told how one day while hunting the ferocious tiger, the beast suddenly lunged upon him and he screamed, “AAIYY!“ then fired his rifle, explaining that, out of fear, he had embarrassingly soiled his trousers.


Changing his voice somewhat, Pete spoke for one of the old man‘s young friends, “But Sir Henry, that is quite understandable. After all, it was a ferocious tiger that attacked you, and ––” Then back to the old man’s voice, Pete delivered the punch line, “No, you do not understand. When I just now screamed ‘AAIYY!‘ I soiled my trousers.”


Well, we all laughed for a long time. I let myself drop to the dining room floor. Then John followed suit, then his wife Barbara, then Tony and Rosalye, and then Pete and his wife Barbara.


At that point, all of us still rolling on the carpet, my ex-wife, the only one standing and the only one not laughing, made this prediction, “Sal one day is going to die laughing.”


From her mouth to God’s ear.





Sal Buttaci is the author of two flash-fiction collections Flashing My Shorts and 200 Shorts, both published by All Things That Matter Press and available at


He lives in West Virginia with Sharon the love of his life.





FLASH BULLETIN: Today’ s the perfect day to order copies:



Lucille Ball

It is a fact of life that all the mechanical lemons of the world end up in my home. I have reason to believe that there is a collective intelligence among electrical appliances that prey on unobtrusive women like myself.


I became suspicious of deliberate sabotage after moving into my first home, with all its modern conveniences. The vacuum cleaner, for instance, only ran in reverse. I never complained, until the day I vacuumed myself out the front door, which had an automatic lock. Three hours later, my husband came home from work and let me in. He tried to convince me the belt was on backwards, but I was reluctant to believe him.


The kitchen appliances were hardest on me, perhaps because I relied on them the most. The blender had twenty-five speeds, and all of them did the same thing – mixed everything together and spewed it across the kitchen. The coffee maker was particularly cruel. I set the timer for 7 A.M. and never got my coffee until 7 P.M. I was impressed with the pot-scrubbing dishwasher, until I realized that it washed only what it felt I needed, grinding the rest into an unrecognizable mess. My sixteen piece china setting was reduced to four in that many weeks. Fortunately, I gave small dinner parties. I gave up completely on the electric can opener. If I wasn’t a fresh food faddist, I might have starved to death.


The microwave oven sat smugly on the counter, daring me to try it. The first and only time I used it to defrost a bagel, it flashed HI at me. I never knew what that meant, but it seemed an obvious ploy to intimidate me, reminding me of my neighbor’s talking refrigerator. Every time she broke her diet, it told her husband. They’re divorced now.


My well-meaning husband bought me a miniature vacuum, knowing my problems with the upright. It ignored the crumbs on the rug, but greedily sucked up the freshwater pearls that hung from my neck, before it coughed and died. I considered getting an outside job in self-defense. I don’t want to tell you what my electric toothbrush did. It was too horrible for words.


I also owned one of the notorious sock-eating washing machines. Mine returned the socks, but only after I threw the survivors away. The machine was a rogue, bent on vibrating itself out of the laundry room, and dragging the hot water tank with it. I had no idea where it planned on going.


When my mother-in-law gave me a whirlpool for my bathtub, I screamed in terror, ran into to my bedroom and hid. The woman never forgave me for marrying her son. I wasn’t safe, even there. The air-conditioner tried to freeze me to death in my sleep.


Only my faithful sheepdog shared my aversion to appliances. My husband brought home a set of electric dog grooming scissors, which didn’t please either the dog or myself. When I turned them on, they jumped out of my hands and attacked the poor animal, who howled, took off down the street and spent the next two days with neighbors.


Even the iron turned on me, spitting every time I tried to fill it with water, giving me a healthy jolt when I shook it to make it stop. It scorched two out of every three shirts, getting especially steamed up over silk.


I thought that eventually my friends and family would accept the fact that appliances despised me. But no, they just kept buying me more. I threw the electric eyebrow tweezers away as soon as I unwrapped it. The possibilities of the pain it could have inflicted were limitless.


I didn’t particularly appreciate the weed trimmer I received for Easter, either. It tore across my once lush, green lawn with a mind of its own. After ripping up six feet of sod, it headed for the flower bed, where it neatly decapitated my tulips, roses, and the little ceramic elf that was supposed to bring good luck. In a final splurge of fury, it wrapped around my Dogwood stripling, and strangled itself to death. I sighed and walked back into the house, ignoring the startled looks of my overly inquisitive neighbors.


Don’t try and tell me that my appliances weren’t vicious. The electric garage door slammed down on me when I was half way into the garage. I swear I never touched the remote control button. Even my car had it in for me. It was a new model with a lot of buttons; entirely too many buttons. All I needed or wanted was OFF and ON. The first time I drove it, windshield wipers danced wildly on a sunny day. The temperature inside the car had to be over a hundred degrees, and messages flashed all around me; fasten seatbelt, close door, get gas, water, oil, etc. I never was able to figure out how to get into the trunk of that car. It suffered a major nervous breakdown on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, and had to be towed away; supposedly because I poured water into the hole where the oil went.


It was rumored from time to time that I was abusive to my appliances. There was absolutely no truth to that. If the vacuum hadn’t rebelliously pulled away from me, it wouldn’t have fallen down the stairs. And if the food processor hadn’t choked on a carrot, I wouldn’t have stuck the wooden spatula between the blades and…well, you get the picture. I certainly had nothing to do with the washer’s escape attempts. The manual stated quite clearly that the machine could handle two king size pillows, which should equal six regular size pillows. The only time I may have been a touch abusive was when I kicked the refrigerator to make it stop humming. And it worked, although the automatic ice-maker spurted fifty pounds of ice cubes at me in retaliation. No, it wasn’t me that was abusive. Appliances hated me.


Initially, I harbored no animosity towards modern conveniences. After generations of roughing it, the human race deserved a little help. I just resented mechanisms that tried to outsmart me.


The computer was good at that. It chewed up discs like fourteen year old boys at a pizza party. To humble me, it flashed SYNTAX ERROR, STOP, and DON’T TOUCH ANYTHING, refusing me access to any of my programs. Eventually, I discovered the secret of control–and unplugged it.


The most recent present I received was a digital calculator. It not only added, subtracted and did calculus, it also called the IRS. I knew then, my days were numbered.


Memoirist and humorist Micki Peluso is the author of  And The Whippoorwill Sang