Tag Archives: humor

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: A Critical Analysis

Last week I decided to find a new home for my fake Christmas tree. Formerly it resided in an awkward and difficult-to-navigate corner of the basement, and I’ve finally relocated it to the upstairs closet with the rest of the Christmas stuff. Logically I know I ought to just get rid of the stupid thing. It’s a pain to put up, the branches are all bent way out of shape, a chunk of the topper is missing, and it’s still wearing tinsel from 2006. Yet somehow I’m never able to do it. It always surprises me how attached I am to that tree, even though I know full well the reason why – it’s because it’s exactly like the one my family had when I was growing up. I’m ordinarily not the nostalgic type, but to me that big ol’ fake tree with its pretty, colorful blinking lights is what makes Christmas Christmas. That and my one other indispensable holiday tradition – 1970s Christmas specials!

Yes, it’s true – Christmas was never more meaningful than it was during that wondrous era in which we celebrated the most important holiday of a child’s year not by going to church, not by singing carols, not by hitting the mall at midnight on the day after Thanksgiving, but by plopping our butts down in front of a nineteen-inch black-and-white at eight pm on Saturday nights in December and losing ourselves in these classic tales of childish wonder. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the story of an outcast who saves Christmas. Santa Claus is Coming to Town, the story of an outcast who invents Christmas as we know it today. How the Grinch Almost Stole Christmas, the story of an outcast who… Wait, I’m starting to sense a pattern here.

Now, I am not going to confess that I still watch these specials every year, and sometimes more than once, even with no children in sight. I will decline to admit that I have all of my favorites on both video and DVD, or that the one day of the year in which even I will almost certainly tear up is when I witness The Grinch having his big change of heart. I will, however, be happy to share my thoughts on that most thought-provoking of Claymation creations – the story of Rudolph.

Yes, because there’s more to the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer than the patently obvious lesson about the worth and value of misfits. This 1964 Rankin and Bass drama is chock full of enough subtext to satisfy the most diehard of film enthusiasts, and it is still, nearly fifty years later, remarkably evocative of the socially progressive era in which it was born. Let’s look at how.

1. The authority figures are jerks. There’s the nasty coach, who, after Rudolph’s secret is revealed, informs the other children snidely: “From now on, we won’t let Rudolph play in any more reindeer games, right? Right.” Look at Rudolph’s dad, Donner, who forces him to wear a fake nose, which is not only uncomfortable, but wholly undermines Rudolph’s budding self-esteem. “You’ll like it and wear it!” he commands. “There are more important things than comfort. Self-respect!” Consider Clarice’s father, who reaffirms Rudolph’s worthlessness by rejecting Rudolph on sight: “No doe of mine is going to be seen with a… with a red-nosed reindeer!” And how about the mean elf-boss, who yells at Hermey and then (illegally) refuses to give him his break until he finishes his work?

And then there’s the big man himself, Santa Claus. Not content with merely trashing the new elf song his pint-sized slaves have spent weeks writing and rehearsing, he quickly turns his temper to the subject of Rudolph. “You should be ashamed of yourself,” he tells Donner. For what, we wonder? For siring a red-nosed son? “What a pity – he had a nice take-off, too.” In other words, Santa is so closed-minded that he can’t even consider the possibility of putting someone who’s a little different on his team, no matter how good he is or how much potential he has. It’s the attitude of guys like him that gave rise to the idea of Equal Opportunity Employment.

The message is as clear as a bright red bulb on a foggy winter night. Don’t trust anyone over thirty!

2. The one authority figure who isn’t a jerk is King Moonracer, that good-looking lion. Although he speaks smoothly and with conviction, he is unfortunately an idiot. Every evening he circles the entire earth, collecting toys that no little girl or boy loves, and bringing them to his Island of Misfit Toys. Yet practically the first thing he says to Rudolph on meeting him is, “When one day you return to Christmastown, would you tell Santa about our misfit toys? I’m sure he could find children who would be happy with them.”

Okay, Your Highness, you may seem majestic with your wings and your crown and your cool castle and all, but you need better advisers. You’re telling me that you circle the entire earth every night seeking abandoned toys, but you never once thought to stop off at the North Pole and talk to Santa yourself? Heck, I mean, it’s not even that far – no farther than one can travel by ice floe, at any rate. The misfits may be all right, but the ruler of the misfits… Well, he obviously isn’t roaring with a full mane.

I’m not quite certain about the intended lesson here, though. Is it merely a dig at autocratic rule, or are we being taught that monarchy consists largely of pointless exercises in futility? In either case, it’s none too flattering to the man in charge – and in the end, it’s the brash young upstart who actually solves the problem of the misfit toys.

3. There’s a hint of underlying feminism. When Rudolph goes missing, Donner naturally decides to go out looking for him. “Mrs. Donner wanted to go along, too,” narrator Burl Ives assures us. “No! This is man’s work!” Donner blusters in response. But the days of mindless obedience to one’s husband are passing. “No sooner did the man of the house leave than Mrs. Donner and Clarice decided to go out on their own…” It’s also interesting that all of them – male and females alike – wind up in the cave of the Abominable Snow Monster. The buck, it seems, really was no better equipped to take care of himself than the ladies.

Notice, too, that the women aren’t jerks like the men are, perhaps because they have no actual authority. Why, that Clarice is downright sweet. She doesn’t laugh along with the others; rather, she compels Rudolph to keep his promise to walk her home. She sings to the unfortunate misfit to ease his dejection and pain. She even defends his “deformity,” declaring, “I think it’s a handsome nose! Much better than that silly false one you were wearing.” She’s kind of a forward gal, too. The way she whispers “I think you’re cute!” into Rudolph’s ear just before takeoff practice, the way she nuzzles noses with him on their first date – this is not a doe who is suffering from sexual repression.

Strong, independent, free-thinking females – you can practically see women’s lib being born right in front of your eyes.

4. It’s about coming-of-age. Because there’s no need for Rudolph to actually get rid of his red nose. He just needs to learn to control it. Am I right? The young Rudolph’s “blinkin’ beak” goes off at random, shocking nearby observers with both the shining light and the horrible high-pitched whine that accompanies it. Indeed, his secret is discovered during one such unexpected episode – and worse, he and his friends are almost caught by The Abominable during another. But by the end, Rudolph is flicking that thing on and off on command, and that’s the point at which it becomes useful – even desirable – to Santa and the others.

“Control! Control! You must learn control!” Yoda scolds Luke Skywalker, another youngster with unique and special powers. And what about Harry Potter? There’s a story that’s all about learning self-control. Misfit or no, Rudolph, too, must gain mastery over his body and his emotions before he can become a productive member of society.

And that, of course, is the quintessence of growing up.

5. It’s about the growing acceptance of babies born out of wedlock. Surprising, but quite possibly true. Have you ever noticed that Hermey has rounded ears? Strange, isn’t it? Not only is he the only elf who doesn’t like to make toys, he’s also the only one with round ears. Indeed, except for his stature and classy powder-blue attire, he might not be an elf at all. He might even be – gasp – a human!

Of course, among elves, the outcast would naturally be human; the anti-Vulcan, if you will. But why did Rankin and Bass decide not to give Hermey pointy ears? Why did they decide to make him a misfit not just by personality, but also by physical characteristic?

The answer seems obvious. Hermey is – as such children used to be called – illegitimate. Because if Santa and the Missus are the only humans in Christmastown, then where did Hermey get those rounded ears? Hmm, maybe Santa’s a jerk in more ways than we thought; taking advantage of an employee – oh, no, wait. There’s also Yukon Cornelius. Maybe he popped into town one day and decided to pop in on some cute girl-elf’s cottage. Oh, wow. What if Hermey was, in fact, Yukon Cornelius’ son? Think about it – they reunite, escape death, hang out, solve problems together… I may have to compose my very first piece of fan fiction.

There’s no question that the ranks of single mothers grew in the sixties – all that free love was bound to have consequences, after all – and perhaps, in a time in which the term “bastard” still prevailed, Rudolph gently reminded us not to judge the child by the actions of its parents. It’s a lesson that we’ve evidently learned, because look at us today – even our most respected celebrities are having babies without ever getting married, and without having to apologize for it, either. And their children, too, are no longer scorned or held down by society because of their birth; they are quite as likely to succeed in life, perhaps to become celebrities in their own right, or even, if they’re very lucky and study hard, dentists.

Programs like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer are arguably the reason why children of my generation grew up the way we did. Consider the lessons it teaches. Question authority, especially when authority is wrong. Make your own decisions. Judge people by their actions, not by their appearance or their circumstances. Respect those who are different from you. It’s liberal thinking in its broadest, least political sense, and it was born in an era of idealism, in which people really thought it was possible to change the world; in which they truly believed that one person could make a difference.

Rudolph lights the way.

***

Want to share the story of Rudolph? This essay is now available in AUDIOBOOK on the following sites:

Amazon

Itunes

Audible

Rudolph Audiobook

Weekend Away: An Almost-Erotic, Almost-Love Story

I am pleased to announce the publication of my long short story Weekend Away: An Almost-Erotic, Almost-Love Story, now available in eBook exclusively on Amazon for only $0.99, or free with Kindle Unlimited.

“And then we were standing, rising up from the water, and as the droplets cascaded down my naked body I imagined myself as a mortal and less awe-inspiring version of Aphrodite, and Jesse as Poseidon, except with, um, only one prong in his trident.”

Cindy’s friend Jesse is great – especially when he gets out of her way after the “benefits” part of their evening is over. So when he proposes a weekend excursion at a nearby lake, she’s naturally suspicious – isn’t that the kind of thing “couples” do? Now she might never be able to get the smell of him off her…

weekend-away

 

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: A Critical Analysis

Last week I decided to find a new home for my fake Christmas tree. Formerly it resided in an awkward and difficult-to-navigate corner of the basement, and I’ve finally relocated it to the upstairs closet with the rest of the Christmas stuff. Logically I know I ought to just get rid of the stupid thing. It’s a pain to put up, the branches are all bent way out of shape, a chunk of the topper is missing, and it’s still wearing tinsel from 2006. Yet somehow I’m never able to do it. It always surprises me how attached I am to that tree, even though I know full well the reason why – it’s because it’s exactly like the one my family had when I was growing up. I’m ordinarily not the nostalgic type, but to me that big ol’ fake tree with its pretty, colorful blinking lights is what makes Christmas Christmas. That and my one other indispensable holiday tradition – 1970s Christmas specials!

Yes, it’s true – Christmas was never more meaningful than it was during that wondrous era in which we celebrated the most important holiday of a child’s year not by going to church, not by singing carols, not by hitting the mall at midnight on the day after Thanksgiving, but by plopping our butts down in front of a nineteen-inch black-and-white at eight pm on Saturday nights in December and losing ourselves in these classic tales of childish wonder. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the story of an outcast who saves Christmas. Santa Claus is Coming to Town, the story of an outcast who invents Christmas as we know it today. How the Grinch Almost Stole Christmas, the story of an outcast who… Wait, I’m starting to sense a pattern here.

Now, I am not going to confess that I still watch these specials every year, and sometimes more than once, even with no children in sight. I will decline to admit that I have all of my favorites on both video and DVD, or that the one day of the year in which even I will almost certainly tear up is when I witness The Grinch having his big change of heart. I will, however, be happy to share my thoughts on that most thought-provoking of Claymation creations – the story of Rudolph.

Yes, because there’s more to the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer than the patently obvious lesson about the worth and value of misfits. This 1964 Rankin and Bass drama is chock full of enough subtext to satisfy the most diehard of film enthusiasts, and it is still, nearly fifty years later, remarkably evocative of the socially progressive era in which it was born. Let’s look at how.

 

1. The authority figures are jerks. There’s the nasty coach, who, after Rudolph’s secret is revealed, informs the other children snidely: “From now on, we won’t let Rudolph play in any more reindeer games, right? Right.” Look at Rudolph’s dad, Donner, who forces him to wear a fake nose, which is not only uncomfortable, but wholly undermines Rudolph’s budding self-esteem. “You’ll like it and wear it!” he commands. “There are more important things than comfort. Self-respect!” Consider Clarice’s father, who reaffirms Rudolph’s worthlessness by rejecting Rudolph on sight: “No doe of mine is going to be seen with a… with a red-nosed reindeer!” And how about the mean elf-boss, who yells at Hermey and then (illegally) refuses to give him his break until he finishes his work?

And then there’s the big man himself, Santa Claus. Not content with merely trashing the new elf song his pint-sized slaves have spent weeks writing and rehearsing, he quickly turns his temper to the subject of Rudolph. “You should be ashamed of yourself,” he tells Donner. For what, we wonder? For siring a red-nosed son? “What a pity – he had a nice take-off, too.” In other words, Santa is so closed-minded that he can’t even consider the possibility of putting someone who’s a little different on his team, no matter how good he is or how much potential he has. It’s the attitude of guys like him that gave rise to the idea of Equal Opportunity Employment.

The message is as clear as a bright red bulb on a foggy winter night. Don’t trust anyone over thirty!

2. The one authority figure who isn’t a jerk is King Moonracer, that good-looking lion. Although he speaks smoothly and with conviction, he is unfortunately an idiot. Every evening he circles the entire earth, collecting toys that no little girl or boy loves, and bringing them to his Island of Misfit Toys. Yet practically the first thing he says to Rudolph on meeting him is, “When one day you return to Christmastown, would you tell Santa about our misfit toys? I’m sure he could find children who would be happy with them.”

Okay, Your Highness, you may seem majestic with your wings and your crown and your cool castle and all, but you need better advisers. You’re telling me that you circle the entire earth every night seeking abandoned toys, but you never once thought to stop off at the North Pole and talk to Santa yourself? Heck, I mean, it’s not even that far – no farther than one can travel by ice floe, at any rate. The misfits may be all right, but the ruler of the misfits… Well, he obviously isn’t roaring with a full mane.

I’m not quite certain about the intended lesson here, though. Is it merely a dig at autocratic rule, or are we being taught that monarchy consists largely of pointless exercises in futility? In either case, it’s none too flattering to the man in charge – and in the end, it’s the brash young upstart who actually solves the problem of the misfit toys.

3. There’s a hint of underlying feminism. When Rudolph goes missing, Donner naturally decides to go out looking for him. “Mrs. Donner wanted to go along, too,” narrator Burl Ives assures us. “No! This is man’s work!” Donner blusters in response. But the days of mindless obedience to one’s husband are passing. “No sooner did the man of the house leave than Mrs. Donner and Clarice decided to go out on their own…” It’s also interesting that all of them – male and females alike – wind up in the cave of the Abominable Snow Monster. The buck, it seems, really was no better equipped to take care of himself than the ladies.

Notice, too, that the women aren’t jerks like the men are, perhaps because they have no actual authority. Why, that Clarice is downright sweet. She doesn’t laugh along with the others; rather, she compels Rudolph to keep his promise to walk her home. She sings to the unfortunate misfit to ease his dejection and pain. She even defends his “deformity,” declaring, “I think it’s a handsome nose! Much better than that silly false one you were wearing.” She’s kind of a forward gal, too. The way she whispers “I think you’re cute!” into Rudolph’s ear just before takeoff practice, the way she nuzzles noses with him on their first date – this is not a doe who is suffering from sexual repression.

Strong, independent, free-thinking females – you can practically see women’s lib being born right in front of your eyes.

4. It’s about coming-of-age. Because there’s no need for Rudolph to actually get rid of his red nose. He just needs to learn to control it. Am I right? The young Rudolph’s “blinkin’ beak” goes off at random, shocking nearby observers with both the shining light and the horrible high-pitched whine that accompanies it. Indeed, his secret is discovered during one such unexpected episode – and worse, he and his friends are almost caught by The Abominable during another. But by the end, Rudolph is flicking that thing on and off on command, and that’s the point at which it becomes useful – even desirable – to Santa and the others.

“Control! Control! You must learn control!” Yoda scolds Luke Skywalker, another youngster with unique and special powers. And what about Harry Potter? There’s a story that’s all about learning self-control. Misfit or no, Rudolph, too, must gain mastery over his body and his emotions before he can become a productive member of society.

And that, of course, is the quintessence of growing up.

5. It’s about the growing acceptance of babies born out of wedlock. Surprising, but quite possibly true. Have you ever noticed that Hermey has rounded ears? Strange, isn’t it? Not only is he the only elf who doesn’t like to make toys, he’s also the only one with round ears. Indeed, except for his stature and classy powder-blue attire, he might not be an elf at all. He might even be – gasp – a human!

Of course, among elves, the outcast would naturally be human; the anti-Vulcan, if you will. But why did Rankin and Bass decide not to give Hermey pointy ears? Why did they decide to make him a misfit not just by personality, but also by physical characteristic?

The answer seems obvious. Hermey is – as such children used to be called – illegitimate. Because if Santa and the Missus are the only humans in Christmastown, then where did Hermey get those rounded ears? Hmm, maybe Santa’s a jerk in more ways than we thought; taking advantage of an employee – oh, no, wait. There’s also Yukon Cornelius. Maybe he popped into town one day and decided to pop in on some cute girl-elf’s cottage. Oh, wow. What if Hermey was, in fact, Yukon Cornelius’ son? Think about it – they reunite, escape death, hang out, solve problems together… I may have to compose my very first piece of fan fiction.

There’s no question that the ranks of single mothers grew in the sixties – all that free love was bound to have consequences, after all – and perhaps, in a time in which the term “bastard” still prevailed, Rudolph gently reminded us not to judge the child by the actions of its parents. It’s a lesson that we’ve evidently learned, because look at us today – even our most respected celebrities are having babies without ever getting married, and without having to apologize for it, either. And their children, too, are no longer scorned or held down by society because of their birth; they are quite as likely to succeed in life, perhaps to become celebrities in their own right, or even, if they’re very lucky and study hard, dentists.

 

Programs like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer are arguably the reason why children of my generation grew up the way we did. Consider the lessons it teaches. Question authority, especially when authority is wrong. Make your own decisions. Judge people by their actions, not by their appearance or their circumstances. Respect those who are different from you. It’s liberal thinking in its broadest, least political sense, and it was born in an era of idealism, in which people really thought it was possible to change the world; in which they truly believed that one person could make a difference.

Rudolph lights the way.

***

Want to share the story of Rudolph? This essay is also available as an eBook on the following sites:

Amazon

Itunes

Barnes and Noble

Kobo

Lulu

rudolph-2015

 

Book Review: Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle by Geoff Le Pard

Geoff Le Pard’s debut novel Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle is pure solid entertainment. That’s the best word for it – entertainment. There’s no standing at the edge of the pool, wondering whether you want to get your feet wet; instead you dive right into the story and don’t come up for air until you reach the end of it. It’s an engaging tale, and deftly told, spiced generously throughout with a sense of humor that can only be described as witty. Le Pard excels at clever and unique turns of phrase that will make you laugh but also make you think.

The characterization is realistic and in-depth; the bad guys aren’t all bad, and the good guys aren’t all good. Indeed, in Harry Spittle’s world, people are rarely what they seem, which is what makes his life so darned complicated. But it’s our hero himself who is the most complex character of all. He’s the ideal kind of character for a coming-of-age novel because when we see him behaving stupidly or behaving badly, it makes sense to us; he does the same sorts of foolish things that we did when we were nineteen. And oftentimes, like us, he pays the price for his errors – but in a funnier fashion.

The story unravels in the same manner in which Harry’s life unravels, thread by thread, and string by string, so that we follow along with Harry, experiencing his consternation as he uncovers the truths behind a series of mysterious events. Indeed, it is not until the very end that the suspense is lifted, on numerous fronts, drawing the reader into a full and satisfying conclusion. The structure, too, of the novel lends itself well to maintaining reader interest – you can literally feel “the bad guys closing in” as the book progresses.

It’s a great story, and wonderfully told. It’s rollicking entertainment at its finest. I can’t wait to read more books by this author!

Funeral for Charlie

I absolutely love this story. I think it’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever written and I’m eternally grateful to Australia’s that’s Life! Fast Fiction Quarterly for publishing it in their Winter 2013 issue. Unfortunately, they had to edit out some of my best lines for length and content, and I didn’t think the published version was quite as good as the original. I did, however, think the picture and blurb they posted with it were hysterical. As the rights have now reverted to me, for the curious, here is the full original story:

FUNERAL FOR CHARLIE

Charlie was dead. It was hard to say what had done him in, but given that his roommates Rusty and Redhead had passed away unexpectedly the week before, my husband suspected environmental causes. Not me, though. I suspected Fishy.

The teeniest of all of our goldfish, Fishy had outlived not merely several new fish, but several entire sets of new fish, of a variety of breeds and sizes. We had often remarked on the unquenchable virility which seemed to sustain his minute form while our other fish went belly-up all around him. When poor Charlie got sick, he took to lurking in a corner of the tank, scarcely flapping his large fins, not moving, not eating; barely even breathing. We had watched him anxiously for days before the end. That night I had slept restlessly. Waking up long before dawn and failing to fall back into sleep, I finally got up and went into the kitchen to fix a glass of warm milk. Flicking on the light by the fish tank, I was startled to discover that Fishy had taken up residence in Charlie’s corner, and was, as nearly as a fish can, sitting on Charlie’s head as if trying to smother him. He quickly swam away but it was too late; I had already seen him. And the next morning, Charlie was dead.

I couldn’t prove anything, of course. But I did examine the body pretty carefully when Bob brought it sadly to the surface in the fraying green net, and it seemed to me as if Charlie was missing an awful lot of scales for a domestic goldfish. There were also some detectable gouges on his underside, almost as if he had been fighting. But it was pretty hard to pin anything on Fishy. He swam about as enthusiastically as ever in his empty tank, now entirely bereft of playmates, but not appearing to suffer from either loneliness or a renewed sense of his own mortality. And if he looked with fond or melancholy recollection at the plastic bridge that Charlie used to like to hide behind, or the fake coral that his brothers had favored, it never showed in his face.

“I’ll be right back,” Bob said, holding his hand under the wet mesh to prevent drips from falling all over the floor.

“Wait, where are you taking him?” I asked, alarmed.

“Um, to the toilet?” he replied, as if it were a stupid question.

“Charlie’s not going to fit down the toilet!” I answered indignantly.

“Sure he will!” Bob assured me. “He’s no bigger than a turd.”

“Are you crazy?!! He’s at least twice as big around as a turd!”

“Not my turds!” Bob answered proudly. “And if those will go down the toilet, this goldfish will, too, you’ll see.”

“Okay,” I said, trying hard to comprehend why we were arguing over this, “Okay, let’s just suppose that Charlie really is no bigger than a turd. He’s still not a turd, he’s a fish. A turd breaks up in the water; a dead fish will not. He will get stuck halfway down the pipe and you will be stuck trying to plunge up dead fish.”

“Listen, sweetheart,” Bob said, his tone bearing none of the affection implied by the term, “I’ve fixed plenty of toilets in my day, and I know how big the opening in the pipe is. That fish is going down, mark my words.”

I marked them and followed him into the bathroom. I bowed my head as he plunked our deceased friend respectfully into the deep. I listened quietly as he somberly activated the flusher. And then I watched as the water swirled away, taking Charlie on one final miraculous journey to the home of his ancient ancestors, to the ocean the abrupt end of his short life had precluded him from ever going to see. And then I flushed again for good measure.

It didn’t take. The water backed up into the toilet, causing Bob to flush again, full red in the face this time.

“He didn’t go all the way down,” I observed.

“There’s probably something else stuck in there,” Bob reasoned.

I made hissing noises that can’t be translated into words before finally spluttering, “That fish is stuck in the toilet! Do you hear me?! Stuck in the toilet. There is a dead fish in our toilet!”

“He can’t have gotten stuck; he was too small. And even if he did, I’m sure he’ll break loose and go down eventually.”

“Break loose? Break loose eventually? No way, uh-unh, mister. I am not peeing on that toilet knowing that Charlie’s in it. And we don’t even know where he got stuck. What if a rotten fish comes popping back up into the bowl?”

“That’s unlikely,” Bob assured me.

“Darn right it is,” I answered huffily. “Because you’re going to get that fish out of the toilet no matter what you have to do. And you know why? Because it’s your fault he’s in there.”

I resolutely returned to the kitchen, accompanied by the comforting cadence of Bob’s creative cursing and the gruesome gurgling of the plunger as it sought to resurrect the unfortunate former member of our household from his watery grave. I sidled nonchalantly over to the fish tank. Fishy was still nibbling a leftover bit of his solitary breakfast, flicking his tail-fin contentedly, his conscience apparently as untroubled as the calm unruffled waters which now surrounded him.

“I know it isn’t really Bob’s fault,” I conceded, now that he was out of earshot. “It’s yours. You may have gotten away with it this time, but now I’m on to you. And you know what else? Charlie might not have fit down the toilet, but there’s no question in my mind that you’ll go down quite nicely. One day, one day, Fishy… whoosh!!” I threatened.

Fishy just spat out his chip of orange fish food and swam carelessly away.

***

I have to offer full credit to boyfriend “Bob” on this one for unintentionally providing most of his own dialogue. In spite of all of the evidence to the contrary, he persisted in refusing ever to admit that Charlie just didn’t fit down that pipe.

We did, however, mutually agree to stop buying fish after that.

***

“Funeral for Charlie” is one of the stories featured in my autobiographical short story and essay collection Stories from My Memory-Shelf: Fiction and Essays from My Past (only $2.99 Kindle, $6.99 paperback). To learn more about it, please visit the book’s webpage or subscribe to my newsletter.

That's Life Fast Fiction Quarterly Publication and Author Commentary: Funeral for Charlie

“Funeral for Charlie” on Story Shack Magazine

My humorous short-short “Funeral for Charlie” is now up on Story Shack Magazine:

http://thestoryshack.com/short-stories/comedy/funeral-for-charlie/

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Story Shack Magazine, it’s a daily flash fiction site operating under a very cool premise. If they accept your story, they will team you up with an illustrator to do an original drawing for it!

This time I was fortunate enough to receive custom artwork by artist Daniele Murtas (http://dmurtas.blogspot.com/). Hope you enjoy it!

illustration-funeral-for-charlie-940x540

“I watched as the water swirled away, taking Charlie on one final miraculous journey to the home of his ancient ancestors, to the ocean the abrupt end of his short life had precluded him from ever going to see…”

***

“Funeral for Charlie” is one of the stories featured in my autobiographical short story and essay collection Stories from My Memory-Shelf: Fiction and Essays from My Past (only $2.99 Kindle, $6.99 paperback). To learn more about it, please visit the book’s webpage or subscribe to my newsletter.

“Goat” on Every Day Fiction

My flash fiction piece “Goat” has been published on Every Day Fiction:

http://www.everydayfiction.com/goat-by-lori-schafer/

Yep, “Goat” is a true story all right. That was me, the shy, nerdy middle-schooler who couldn’t stomach being the center of attention, yet who suddenly found herself in a bright and unwelcome spotlight thanks to a careless remark by a well-meaning teacher. That was me getting my ponytail yanked by the boy who sat behind me, and suffering the embarrassment of inadvertently drawing a wiener on the blackboard. That was even me once again changing school districts and having to overcome my natural introversion with a whole new crowd of people. How I wished I was still “Goat” then – at least I would have had something to talk about!

What I really enjoy about “Goat” is the way it allowed me to take a humiliating situation and craft it into something positive, and this was true both in the fictional version and in the real-life story. Although I never actually carried that nickname to high school (thank goodness!), oddly enough, the “goat” incident and aftermath proved to be a real turning point for me in terms of my ability to relate to other students, maybe because even at the tender age of thirteen, I was able to have a sense of humor about it. Oh, I would pretend to fume and glare when the other kids made fun, but I never really minded it much. I rarely got the impression that the teasing was mean-spirited. And in any case, it was still way less embarrassing than the time I won that classroom limbo contest. I jumped up and down in celebration for a good minute before another girl came over and whispered in my ear that I’d ripped the seat of my pants making the winning walk under that final stick. And I’d thought that all that cheering was in honor of my victory!

Sigh. Embarrassing moments. We’ve all had our share of incidents we’ll never forget, but wish we could. I know, I know, we should be grateful that we’ve had those experiences, because they’re what’s made us who we are today. But let’s not lose sight of the real value of our lifetimes of humiliation in front of our peers. Inspiration for fiction!

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“Goat” is one of the stories featured in my autobiographical short story and essay collection Stories from My Memory-Shelf: Fiction and Essays from My Past (only $0.99 Kindle, $5.99 paperback). To learn more about it, please visit the book’s webpage or subscribe to my newsletter.

Goat with Tongue Out