Tag Archives: So that happened

Murder on the Menu

by Christie Robb

I’ve been friends with a few vegetarians over the years who have made passionate, rational pleas for me to halt or at least cut back on my ravenous devouring of the animal kingdom.

I’ve read books and watched documentaries that explain in detail the often cruel practices that go into raising and processing my protein. And yet, to quote Pulp Fiction, “Bacon tastes good. Pork chops taste good.”

And I can’t help it, I loves me a good steak.

In the 30+ years that I’ve been a carnivore, I’ve never been directly responsible for what I’ve eaten. Delicious meats seem to appear magically.

At the grocery store, animal parts are wrapped up in pristine white paper or in glossy plastic like little delicious presents.

Despite my intellectual knowledge about where my food comes from, I still find myself fundamentally ignorant because I lack a concrete experience of when the animal becomes the meal.

So, I set myself a goal: to kill and then prepare my own dinner.

My initial plan is to bag a fish. But after a day out on the creek, I left with nothing more than a wicked sunburn. Sure, I saw some fish, but only around the marina docks…where you aren’t actually allowed to fish.

Don’t tell me that fish aren’t possessed with some sort of intelligence. These guys know how to hide.

Now, my options are limited. The bunnies in my backyard are too clever and adorable to seriously consider. So I decide to become the Grim Reaper to one of the only live animals sold regularly at the grocery store…a lobster.

The decision is both convenient and light on the guilt meter. Lobsters are tough and pointy and I figure their claws give them a fighting chance.

So I drive myself to the Clintonville Giant Eagle and nervously wheel my cart over to the fish counter.

The helpful fish guy is pretty chatty. “This one,” he said, “I named it Lefty because he was missing his right claw.”

Great, I thought. They have names.

I select two 1 ½ pounders that the guy wrangles out of the tank. To schlep them home I receive a lobster box—the same sort of box my childhood gerbils came in, except without air holes and with a recipe printed on the side.

At home I open the box, experimentally stare into the eyes of the lobster on the top, and poke it gently on the back. Its eyes retreat into its head. I shriek and shut the box.

I’ve read online that you can put lobsters in the freezer to lull them into a dormant state before killing them. Supposedly this helps dull their pain. So, I pop the box in the freezer, pour myself a glass of Sauvignon Blanc and hop on my laptop to research how to kill these beasties humanely.

I watch a few videos demonstrating the technique of splitting their heads in half before boiling. (This severs their nervous system and is apparently a much quicker path out of life than the hot tub version.)

I steel myself for the kill.

I extract the lobster box from the freezer and open it on the counter. The lobsters have shifted position. Now they seem to be hugging each other with their rubber-banded claws. The scene is full of pathos.

Placing a cutting board and a chef’s knife on the counter, I check that the water is boiling in my big stock pot. I remove lobster #1 and place it on the cutting board.

Tapping the tip of the knife at the center of its head, the lobster’s eyes again retreat, but this time less far. I hope that this indicates less sensitivity. I drag in a deep breath. This is the moment when I discover if I have what it takes.

I look into the beady little eyes of the crustacean and thank it for its service. Then, I angle the knife up and plunge it down.

My aim is bad.

Either I winced or the knife was too dull. But instead of a nice, neat slice right between the eyes, the cut is too far too the left. A third of the thing’s head is now flopping to the side, still kind of connected to the body.

I scream.

There is diluted bloody water streaming off the cutting board and onto the countertop.

“Is anything wrong?” my husband calls from the living room.

I jump up and down quietly in socked feet, flapping my arms around, the knife flinging droplets of lobster blood across the kitchen. I swallow a squeal.

“Everything is fine,” I choke out.

The lobster is starting to wiggle on the counter. Clearly it’s starting to thaw out and is probably at the very least inconvenienced by the massive head wound. My hand clenches on the knife and I approach the counter, taking careful mincing steps to avoid the lobster blood now pooling on the linoleum of the floor.

I reposition the knife. The lobster squirms in a seeming attempt to flee.

“There is no escape,” I mutter as I swing the knife down.

My next cut is cleaner and I sever its head lengthwise and throw all the lobster bits in the boiling water.

I turn to lobster #2.

“Sorry you had to see that,” I say.

“Are you talking to me?” my husband hollers.

I ignore him, trying to think my way through my next kill.

All the experts say that the clean slice through the head is the best way to go. But probably not if you botch it. I look back over my shoulder at the pot. Any more delay and I’m going to have to deal with two separate cooking times. I’m already feeling stress about having to clean up so much lobster blood.

So, I pick up lobster #2 and dump it, still wriggling, into the pot on top of the body of its mangled companion. Its legs wiggle. Its tail flexes and curls around the edge of the pot. Is it attempting to climb out? I wonder. I stab at the tail with my knife and poke it down into the pot.

Slamming the pot lid on and slumping against a section of unbefouled countertop, I realize my heart is thumping against my ribs and my hands are trembling with an excess of adrenaline.

Twelve minutes later dinner is served, bright red and steaming. As we crack open the lobsters with kitchen shears and a garlic press (not owning the correct tools) my husband turns to me and tells me I did a very good job with dinner. Then he screams when he discovers a greenish bit inside his lobster.

“Is this his guts? Is this his guts?” he asks.

I have no idea.

This dinner is tasty and somehow more real than any other dinner I’ve ever had.

I don’t think I have it in me to become a vegetarian. But I might have it in me to become a murderer.

So that happened…

Uneasy Rider

Next weekend we finally fit George’s Harley with a sissy bar. For me. The sissy.

So George is already planning our open road getaways. One option he’s suggested is the Easy Riders Rodeo.

We went several years ago, and I don’t recall that it went well enough to recommend a return visit.

Back when George was on a country station (in that time I now blissfully call the past), a listener learned that George was a licensed rider without a bike. This generous soul offered to lend George his own motorcycle, but there were strings.

George sprung their idea on me, saying Easy Riders was a big biker holiday kind of thing, and that the listener thought we might drive to his house, borrow his bike for the weekend, head out to Easy Riders on Saturday, and camp with him and his.

I adore strangers, country music and camping. I was totally in.

I said no.

If there is one thing I will not do for love or money, it is camp.

Eventually we compromised. We decided to borrow this generously offered loan, get the chance to ride a motorcycle on a beautiful late summer weekend, meet this man and his family, hang out for a few hours, try not to get killed, and then go home.

George mentioned our plans to attend the Easy Rider festival to our friend Richard, who responded with terror.

“You’re going there?” he queried, his face drained of color. “I’ve heard it gets pretty rough.”

My mind immediately flashed to that scene in the cinematic classic Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, with Harley dudes shouting, “I say we stomp him, then we tattoo him, then we hang him, and then we kill him!”

George was sure it wouldn’t be so bad. He could protect us with the Big Shoe Dance, if need be.

We got a little lost finding the event, somewhere in the Chillicothe area of southern OH, so we pulled into a gas station where several very hard looking couples on motorcycles were fueling up.

Thinking we were all headed in the same direction, George asked.

“Oh, no,” one grizzled, scary man answered, eyeballing me with a smirk. “That place gets a little wild for us.”

Oh, this sounded promising.

He wasn’t going, but he did direct us to the fairgrounds that would be scene to a sea of campsites and a midway with food, tattoo artists, vendors of assless leather goods – that kind of thing. Outstanding people watching.

We lined up with other incoming traffic, and as we moved slowly between the chain link fences outlining the fairgrounds, my eyes wandered to some of the officially posted signs.

They said things like

  • no in and out on a single ticket
  • no firearms
  • no below the waist nudity

I’m sorry, what?

That last sign was reposted about ever 50 feet or so.

Below the waist – should that level of specificity be necessary? And how comfortable are we with above the waist nudity?

Apparently, quite comfortable.

As my mind pondered what it could possibly mean that this crowd would need so many reminders to keep their junk covered, I saw the day’s first visual encounter with out-in-the-open intercourse, just the other side of the chain link fence.

Perhaps they’d forgotten about the holes in that specific type of fencing?

The balance of the afternoon went far more mildly. We enjoyed fun carny food, looked at some nice bikes, shared the company of the very friendly family and the man who’d lent us his ride, and basked in the beautiful weather.

Everyone was very polite. I wouldn’t quite call this my crowd, but who is, really? I must admit I was on the receiving end of an awful lot of weird smirks, but still, every person there was exceptionally nice, chatting pleasantly and passing out beers.

Then, at about 7pm, a parade of sorts hit the midway, and those interested in showing off their wares hopped on a bike and made the circuit.

By wares I mean breasts.

Every single female – young, old, matronly, overweight, mild mannered – every last one took her shirt off. Boobs ahoy.

Mardi Gras has nothing on Easy Riders.

You have never seen me run for an exit so fast.

So, I have found the one thing that freaks me out more than camping.

And the point is, we are not going back.

Price of Dignity < Price of Shampoo

The Reluctant Volunteer

by Hope Madden

Years ago, we took the family tour of Orlando theme parks. Much to the chagrin of my son and me, my husband, George, declared this the vacation to volunteer. Every attraction in need of a villain to shoot Indiana Jones or a handsome prince to dance with the princess, George was their man.

I’m not a volunteer by nature. I like to mind my business in the stands and enjoy the show. Not that it actually matters to George. You see, at Nickelodeon Studios, when the emcee announced he was looking for “some brave soul to volunteer,” George’s hand shot up.

Then the emcee finished his sentence with the words “their spouse.”

Wait a minute, what?

I’d been volunteered.

They dressed us like giant beavers, or more specifically, like the “Angry Beavers” in the Nick cartoon. I swear to God. I wore a beaver head and tail and my team battled a squad led by a similarly, ridiculously clad George in building a dam using giant Lincoln Logs.

My team won. George remembers it differently.

What brings this memory back? George volunteered me again.

This time it was during a Columbus Clippers baseball game.

Barely into the first inning, as George and I were trying to tune out the annoying banter from the teenage date going on behind us, a representative from the Clippers’ promotion team approached me to enter a contest.

They needed three participants with long hair.

Move along, sir. This is not for me.

But George was so excited!

“What would she do?” he asked.

“She’d just need to pull her hair up into a hat, and then take the hat off,” he explained.

“You could do that!” George encouraged.

“I don’t want to do that.” I thought I’d been clear.

He pursued the issue. “What would she win?”

“A bottle of Pert,” explained the Clippers guy.

A bottle of Pert.

“Come on!” George urged. “We’re low on shampoo!”

George often persuades me to do things I don’t want to do just because of his giddy enthusiasm. But I also felt a little sorry for the Clippers guy who had to try to lure contestants to look like idiots, all for a $4 toiletry item.

Plus, George was right. We were low on shampoo.

I caved.

The staff was lovely. They even moved us to seats directly behind the dugout – despite the fact that George had just finished directing his loudness at the chatterbox teens, “I’ll buy you the damn lemonade if you’ll just stop talking!”

As we waited for the fourth inning, when the Clippers rep would return to lead me and two other contestants to the field, George coached me on how to make the most of my time in the spotlight.

He urged me to do my impersonation of Cousin It.

Sometimes, I’ll pull all my hair in front of my face and put a pair of sunglasses on top, transforming into the old “Addams Family” character. It’s a big hit with kids. It’s nothing I’m willing to do in front of several thousand people, however.

Eventually, the time came and I headed onto the field to face my fate. As they fetched me from our new seats, George shouted: “Do the Cousin It!”

And then he said, “Show no mercy! Don’t stop with shampoo. Hold out for the creme rinse!”

“It’s called conditioner, George,” I shot back. “We’ve talked about this!”

“C’mon, stay focused! Eye of the tiger!”

I ignored him, fearing a complete medley of 1980s “jock jams” was next.

As I walked to the holding area, I met the other contestants: Barbara, a cute blonde with her wee grandson in tow, and Mark, a sweet mountain of a man. Mark had more beard than I have hair, and on his head was a glorious mane: long, thick, shining, dense, gray and spectacular. I had no chance.

Clippers fans would vote by applause for their favorite contestant: Grizzly Adams, an adorable grandma with a cute kid or some lady who did not do the Cousin It.

I went home without the coveted bottle of Pert.

But at least no one dressed me like a beaver.

First Dates Happen…

Thanks, Mom

by Christie Robb

About five minutes through my first date I realized something was going horribly wrong.

When I met the boy I was 15 years-old and trying my very best to be unconventional—which pretty much meant that I had a bad haircut, wore entirely too much eyeliner, and sported a pair of white fingerless gloves that I wore so often that the palm had permanently taken on a grayish-brownish hue. Not surprisingly, my love life to that point consisted almost entirely of one-sided crushes suffered in silence.

But this time I was determined to woman-up and ask the boy out. One day, while milling about in the auditorium lobby after a school play, I pointed the boy out to my mom.

“That one,” I said. “I’m going to ask that one.”

“What, that one with the black hair over there?” she asked.

“Yeah,” I said, suppressing a grin.


I turned, suspicious. “Yes. Why?”

“No reason.”

In the weeks leading up to the dance I was a wreck, unable to eat solid food, fueled almost entirely on Dr. Pepper and social anxiety adrenaline. The notes I passed the boy in between classes were damp with flop sweat. Our phone calls had pauses where I tried and failed to ask the question I imagined was hanging in the air.

Eventually I asked, but I couldn’t tell you how I did it as I think I blacked out in mortification while doing it. However, I eventually came to and it seemed like he had, in fact, agreed. So, this was happening and I needed something to wear.

At my school, in the grungy ‘90s, the Sadie Hawkins tradition involved, not only girls asking guys, but for the couples to attend dressed in drag. So not only was I going to be trying to make it through a first date without humiliating myself, I was going to have to do it while dressed as a dude. Fine.

After many trips to thrift shops, I settled on a pair of black leather pants and a small man’s tuxedo jacket with tails (and the ever present gloves, now even more dingy as a result of all the sweating). Apparently the look I was going for was Punk Oscar Wilde Madonna.

On the big day, being 15-years-old and unable to operate a car, my mom drove me over to the boy’s house and dropped me off in the driveway. After shutting the door behind me and struggling not to hyperventilate, I heard my mom’s tires squeal as she peeled out of the driveway and fishtailed around the curve of the subdivision.

She was usually so overprotective. I’d expected her to come in to meet the boy’s parents like she did with the parents of every other new friend I’d ever had.

I mentally thanked her for granting me my privacy and recognizing the woman that I was struggling to become.

Taking a big breath to calm my battered nerves, I slogged up the driveway and knocked on the door. I was starting to see spots. Breathing, I reminded myself. You gotta keep breathing.

The boy’s mom answered the door. She explained that he was still getting ready upstairs. Then she peered out into the darkness of her yard and asked if my dad had dropped me off and if he was still out there.

This seemed like an odd question, but I figured maybe she wanted to meet my parents and reassure herself that we weren’t all psychos. I shook my head, unable to say words.

His mom ushered me into the living room and sat me down on a couch and asked me if I wanted a soft drink while I waited. I nodded and looked around a little, wringing my hands together in an attempt to keep them from shaking.

Her house had a unique decorating scheme. There were a lot of tchotchkes bolted to the wall. A lot of them looked sharp and pointed. Old timey farm equipment? I wondered. Gardening tools? I gulped. Instruments of torture? In a few minutes the mom returned and handed me a cold class of soda and a photograph.

I reached out and grabbed the photograph, my gesture a reflex more than anything else. I looked at the picture. Faded and wrinkled, it featured a bunch of people wearing the autumn color palate of the ‘70s. The picture showed a youngish man feeding a woman something from his fork. I gave her a vague smile and wondered why my date’s mom was showing me this.

“Recognize anyone?” she said.

This feels weird, I thought. Is this how dates normally go? The overhead light glinted off the prong of some sharp thing on the wall. What were the consequences of getting this question wrong?

I looked closer. Ok, the woman in the picture kind of looked like the mom, but younger. Maybe this was a picture of her first date? I squinted at the man in the photo trying to see features of the boy in the youngish man’s face.

I had to admit the man did look familiar.

But not because it looked like my date. It looked…like the old pictures of my dad from my parents’ photo album.

“I used to know your dad,” my date’s mom said.


It’s taken me about 20 years to realize this, but I have finally decided that there was no graceful way to react to being shown this picture. At the time I stammered something inane like, “that’s nice.” Then, my date came down the stairs dressed in his mom’s little black dress, a pair of Doctor Martin’s boots, and full make up. I took a sip of my soda and glanced at his features out of my peripheral vision. Do we have the same nose? I wondered. Or is that just contouring?

It occurred to me that there was a very high probability that I had accidentally managed to ask my half-brother to a Sadie Hawkins dance.

Once we were out of sight of the house walking towards the school gym, the boy pulled aside, turned his back, and extracted a squished up soft pack of Marlboroughs from his pantyhose.
“Got one of those I can bum?” I asked.

Once I got home, my mom sniffed me and looked at me with disappointment. “Did you smoke?”
I brushed her off.

“You got something you want to tell me, Mom?”

She blushed. “I didn’t want to ruin your first date,” she said.

“You were going to let me commit incest?” I asked.

“What?” she asked. “No.”

Apparently, the night of the play she recognized the boy’s mom as her friend from back in the day—a good friend whose friendship had been strained a bit due to the fact that my mom may have stolen my dad from the boy’s mom at a holiday party sometime before 1979.

It was a fact she’d apparently decided to keep to herself, first dates generally being awkward enough on their own.

Thanks, Mom.

So that happened…

Hypnosis Happens

by Hope Madden

Desperation encourages odd, sometimes uncharacteristic behavior. I, for example, once saw a hypnotist.

I clench my teeth, a habit that creates gigantic head pain. It’s the kind of debilitating headache that might send a person to bed. But if you clench your teeth when you sleep, relief is hard to come by.

Let’s just say I spend more money on Advil than many do on rent.

This is what has driven me to the heathen sciences. I did exhaust the regular sciences first, rest assured. No help. Hypnosis it is.

When I called the downtown office, I half-expected to let the idea die. But the therapist – he answered his own phone, which should have been a warning sign – was very lulling and informative. He spoke slowly and reassuringly, with rolling l’s. I think he may have hypnotized me over the phone into making an appointment, but I’m not sure. Still, it suggests a level of skill, doesn’t it?

Dr. Bob, a skinny older man with a flesh colored Abe Lincoln beard, believed he would solve my problem. He claimed to have helped a woman just that week heal herself of cancer.

Surely if he could do for this woman what medical doctors, hospitals and years of cancer research could not, he could do for me what a bite plate couldn’t.

My first concern was that Dr. Bob kept asking me if there was anything else I wanted him to fix while he was “in there.”

This whole idea put me ill-at-ease. He even asked my husband if there were any other things he should fix while I was “out.”

Wisely, George could find no faults needing attention. But still, how was I to know that they wouldn’t program me to do his bidding while I was under? God forbid I woke up an attentive wife who remembers to write down debit card uses.

So I was uncomfortable before we even began, but I was supposed to relax. Really relax, as I could tell by the number of times he sing-songed the word “re-lax-aaaaaaaaaaa-tion.”

But I couldn’t relax. For one thing, I had an issue with the fluffy clouds. I was meant to visualize myself bouncing safely through a series of ten fluffy clouds, relaxing more with each cloud. How do you visualize yourself in a cloud? They’re made of water vapor. No way that could support me. I’d fall to my death. This was not relaxing.

Alarmed that I was failing already, I alerted Dr. Bob to my issue. He switched to a different technique, but it may have worked too well.

I fall asleep easily and at one point, when I was mentally descending my set of ten safe, hypnotic stairs, I realized as I hit the bottom step that I was surrounded by zombies. Oops. Sleeping. Who knows how much hypnotherapy is missed while you’re battling zombies?

I explained about the zombie situation to Dr. Bob and he honestly seemed concerned that the zombies themselves were causing the teeth clenching. I know this because he said, “These buggers might be the cause of the whole problem.”

I’m open to a lot of ideas but I feel safe in saying that the living dead do not control my mandibles.

I was pretty sure they were just cartoon villains that had popped into a dream – they didn’t have to be zombies at all. It could have just as easily been Thundercats. It was a dream.

The doctor disagreed. He looked at me as one passing down wisdom to a Padawan and asked, “Have you noticed their eyes are only red if you look directly at them?”


Unfazed by my skepticism – indeed, oblivious to it – Dr. Bob told me to relax and just say the first thing that came to mind as he asked me questions.

“What’s the first number that comes to your mind?”


“OK, of the 8 of you inside Hope, how many of you have heads.”

“Um, what?”

“No, no, just relax and let me know the first thing that comes to mind. How many of you have heads.”

“I don’t know, 4?”

“OK, you four who have bodies, look into the light. You’ve never been punished in the light, have you?”

What the hell? Was this an exorcism? Because I’m Catholic and we don’t take exorcism lightly. You’ve seen the film.

He continued in this vein for the balance of our time together, but eventually I stopped paying any attention – an important part of hypnotism, truth be told, so it wasn’t like I was cheating. And anyway, my head really fucking hurt and trying to puzzle through this whole exorcism thing was more than my brain could process at the moment. One thought did keep recurring to me, though.

I just spent $300 on this shit.

Think of how much Advil that would buy.

So That Happened…Local Wildlife

Local Wildlife

by Hope Madden

Did you hear the one about the Southern Ohio man who purchased a mountain lion at a flea market and promptly lost it?

The punchline is, that’s a true story.

There are so many things wrong with that sentence I don’t know where to begin.

I was writing a short magazine article on Ohio’s updated exotic pet laws. I got in touch with Terry because I was looking for some kind of counterargument to balance the seemingly reasonable limitations recommended by Columbus’s health department.

Terry sold exotic animals, so the new restrictions would limit his business. They also meant getting rid of his beloved pet Smiley, the 5-foot gator who roamed free through his store.

That wasn’t dangerous?

Terry guaranteed that captive-born animals were harmless, and that garden variety pet stores carried much deadlier wares than anything I’d find in his store. I glanced at the toothy, venomous, cold-eyed whatnot behind glass all around me.

“In fact,” he began, lifting a small box taped for shipping, “what’s in this box here is one of the most dangerous animals you’ll find in this state.”

He shook the box at me for emphasis. I’d had surgery on my left foot and was wearing an orthotic boot, so outrunning a predator seemed unlikely. This suddenly felt like a problem. Then Terry took out a pen and began to tear open the packing tape.

“You can buy these at almost any pet store, and I guarantee they do more damage to the human body than anything I sell.”

Again with the shaking.

Tape gone. Terror rising. Immobility problematic.

It turned out to be a small, non-venomous reptile, bright green and not un-gekko-like but prone to biting. A let down of sorts, but I’m not ashamed to say Terry had scared the living shit out of me.

I’d lost my train of thought due to the anxiety and relief cycle, and when I began paying attention again Terry was telling me that Ohio needed no laws at all to regulate the ownership of exotic animals.

Certain that I’d misheard, I tried to clarify with the most obvious question that sprung to mind.

“What about, like, lions?”

“Most zoos turn to private collectors when they want to acquire a rare exotic.”

“But certainly there are animals that people shouldn’t own.”

“Other people,” he answered. “I mean, you don’t even have to get a license to raise a child, but you need one to own an alligator.”

Wait, but…I mean…children rarely eat you.

Terry went on to tell me of a middle aged man with an intellectual disability whose mother died, leaving him alone with his 8-foot gator and 40 rabbits. The tragedy, in Terry’s eyes, was that the state intervened and made the man give up his gator as well as his rabbits.

Hold the phone – there was an 8-foot gator living in the city of Columbus? Inside city limits?

I’m sorry, did you say 40 rabbits?

What the hell?

Terry went on to share other pet owner misfortunes. In all Terry’s stories, the tragedy is that the owner is separated from his animal. Even in the case of an apartment manager who kept 10 gators in his 2-bedroom basement flat.














The other tenants were unaware.

And you couldn’t trust the state, the health department, the humane society, not even the cops. Terry told the tale of a Cincinnati man infected with rhino venom. I don’t even know what that is, but it sounds nasty, doesn’t it?

Terry maintained that the cop on duty knew of the only stash of rhino anti-venom in the state, and he neglected to share this information, rendering him the Cincinnati man’s murderer.

But the snake is really the killer, right?

“No. The cop knew where the anti-venom was.”

“But, what if he wasn’t the cop on call? Then would the snake have been the killer?”

“But the cop on call knew where to find the anti-venom.”

“But the man’s deadly poisonous snake bit him. Doesn’t that lead you to believe that he shouldn’t have had the snake in the first place? Maybe that poisonous snakes are too dangerous for ordinary citizens?”

“No Ohioan has ever died due to poisonous snake bite.”

“You mean, except that guy in Cincinnati?”

“The cop on call could have saved him.”

“But he did die.”

“But the snake didn’t kill him. The cop did.”

The real villains, as the spreadsheet taped to his stockroom door would prove were I only to hobble past the register to see its evidence, were not the exotics or the cops, but domestic animals. More Ohioans perish due to cattle, horses, and dogs than to venomous snakes, gator bites, or constrictors every year, said Terry.

I’m no rocket scientist, but isn’t that because they’re Ohioans? Cows outnumber people in some areas of this state. What’s the dog-to-constrictor ratio in Ohio, I wonder?

This guy is nuts, I thought to myself as I began the arduous limp-marathon from the front of the store to the door with the statistics. Then, as I passed the register, I met the pet who’d replaced Smiley.

I nearly stepped on an enormous yellow python, piled up on the floor.

Free. Loose. Open for business.

As I halted my one good foot just inches from pissing off a natural predator, my own rarely tapped survival instinct kicked in.


Hobbling backwards was easier than I’d have guessed.

In fact, hobbling right the fuck out of the store took me basically no effort at all.

So that happened…a spider in the eye!

Oh No, Not Again

by Christie Robb

I’ve always had a thing about my eyes. Which is why having a small spider land on my left eyeball recently effectively ruined my day.

There’s a primordial memory floating around in my brain of my mother sitting on my toddler body, pinning my arms to the carpet with her knees while my father wrenches open my eyelid in an attempt to apply medicinal eye drops to combat a bad case of pinkeye.

I’ve loathed the concept of anyone’s wriggling fingers getting anywhere near my sockets ever since.

Unfortunately, this aversion was rather inconvenient as my eyesight started to deteriorate in elementary school. I knew what would happen if folks found out that I had trouble seeing the blackboard. They’d take me to that office where the people forced my head back against the chair and tried to wrangle stinging liquid under my clenched eyelid.

I became sneaky. When adults came into the room, I’d yank the book that I held three inches from my face out to a respectable distance and pretended to read until they left. I’d try to get into the classroom early and casually stand next to the blackboard to glean any information that was there. I’d get into fights with kids sitting next to me so that I’d have to be moved up to the front row, next to the teacher’s desk, so she could monitor my behavior. On vision test day, I’d memorize the eye chart while waiting in line and recite it as best I could when my turn came.

But, despite my best attempts at childhood subterfuge, I was eventually found out and by middle school I was outfitted with the thickest pair of glasses I have personally ever seen a human being wear. I’m sure there are people out there with stronger prescriptions. I assume they are legally blind.

In middle school I attempted to get contacts. Unfortunately, in order to get fitted for contacts you have to let someone touch your eyes to measure them. Despite my appearance-driven motivation and the assistance of several eye doctor staffers holding me down, I was unable to let anyone measure me for the contacts, much less put one in.

I attempted to train myself at home by putting a drop of water on my index finger and slowly trying to introduce it to my eyeball. The few times I managed to keep my eye open and accomplish this, the feel of the water against my eyeball caused me to fling my body across the bathroom and crash into the closet door. Eventually my parents asked me to stop, fearing for the structural integrity of their bathroom.

So, when the laser eye surgery option came along I was determined to get it. This was not only my chance at escaping the magnifying glasses permanently strapped to my face, this was an opportunity to avoid ever having to go to the eye doctor again. I made an appointment, asked them for a ton of valium, let five people pile on top of me to put the Clockwork Orange eye prier-opener on me, and then slice off the top of my cornea and shoot a laser into each eyeball for a full minute.

The next morning, I could see. A miracle. No one was going to need to get their fingers near my face for the rest of my life.

Until I somehow managed to get an arachnid under my eyelid.

I was trying to take the trash out back to the Columbus-issued trashcan. In order to do this, I needed to pass through the gate of my privacy fence and go around to the alley behind my house where the trash can lives.

I suppose an inexperienced juvenile spider must have been building a web in between the fence and the gate and I broke the web when passing. All I know is a black speck appeared to get slightly bigger as something sailed into my eye.

Dropping the garbage bag to the pavement, I shrieked and flattened myself to the walkway as if somehow assuming a prone position could possibly help. My hands cupped protectively over my eye socket as I rolled on the ground. Then I felt movement. Suppressing a desire to vomit, I sprang to my feet and bolted toward the house, screaming incoherent guttural sounds.

I raced into the bathroom and looked in the mirror. Snot and tears everywhere. Screwed up left eyelid. Dragging in a ragged breath and, bracing one foot behind me so I wouldn’t fling myself backwards, I used both hands to pry open my eyelid.

Inside just peaking out from under my eyelid, I saw it: black and with entirely too many legs.

I screamed and shot back, falling over the edge of the bathtub and collapsing into it, my head striking the wall. I had a spider in my eye and was alone in the house and likely would be for hours. I had to remove it myself.

My first attempt at spider-extraction was to run tepid water into my cupped palms and lower half my face into it while straining to keep my left eye open, mumbling, “ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod,” over and over. This proved to be unsuccessful.

So I ran to the kitchen and grabbed a large stock pot and filled it with water. Pulling my hair back into a quick ponytail, I submerged my entire head in the pot. I shook my head from side to side to try to dislodge the persistent interloper. No dice. In an attempt to scream I inhaled some water.

Sputtering and now thoroughly damp, I surveyed my eye in the mirror. Spider was still there, appearing to wear my eyelid as a blanket.

By now the adrenaline of my initial series of panic attacks had metabolized. I was tired, defeated and disgusted. I raised my hands to my face, took a deep breath and on the exhale screamed and flipped my eyelid inside out. I flicked at the spider, sailed back into the bathtub at the feel of my finger grazing the sensitive inside of my lid, and prayed for death.

After a minute, I extricated myself from the tub, stood, and saw a tiny exoskeleton on the white bathroom tile.

I lifted my foot and stomped the shit out of it.

Later, I made a phone call I’d hoped never to have to make again. “I need an appointment,” I said. “Somehow I got a spider in my eye and I need the eye doctor to check it out.”

After the receptionist stopped laughing, I said, “And make sure a lot of people are working that day. It’s going to take at least a few of you to pin me down to get the eye drops in.”

So that happened…Let’s Do Lent!


by Hope Madden

In Vermont recently I was trying to find my way to the spa on Church St. where my sister Joy works. Her husband had nabbed me from the airport and dropped me off in the town’s small bohemian coffee house and art district with directions to my sister.

As I wandered onward, a handful of teenage girls walked behind me and I could not help but overhear their conversation because, as a rule, teens are loud.

Said one: My mom and I are both giving up chocolate for Lent.

Responded a second: You’re not even religious.

A third chimed in: That doesn’t matter. I’m doing Lent and I’m Jewish.

Another said: I think people just do Lent so they can say they do Lent to other people to make them feel bad.

By this point my mind had blown and was no longer capable of processing sound stimuli, so I can’t report what other fascinating ridiculousness flowed from their mouth holes.

I was cranky, this being a Friday in Lent and me without any decent meal options at the airports. I wanted badly to grimace at them in utter disdain. I may have wanted to punch them in their dumb ass faces. At the very least, I wanted to shout that you don’t “do Lent.” Lent is not a cartwheel, ladies.

Lucky for them I’d given up mocking and abusing vacuous teens for Lent.

Oh, wait…

Damn, I guess I’ve already broken that penance, haven’t I? And so soon into the season. Lent’s always so much harder than you think it’s going to be.


So That Happened…Meet the Chirpers!


By Hope Madden


I edit college textbooks for a living, with all the associated hoopla, madness and zaniness you might expect to go along with that job. Exactly that much zaniness. My wing of the building is routinely referred to by our sales reps as The Mausoleum.

Yes, we’re quiet, we’re boring, we’re nerdy. We’re also under attack, forever harassed by the encroachment of the sales force. When I first started working here, our sales group’s wing ended about ten feet to the left of my office door.

But they constantly hire more sales people, and so began the cubical creep.

First, new cubicles lined the short wall across from my office.

Then they mushroomed in what was once the free space just beyond that wall.

Now they sit butt-up against the editorial assistants’ cubes.

If you look out my door, sales cubes are to my left, directly across from me, and to my right. I am surrounded.

With the sales force comes a different vibe than the one you find in editorial. There are a lot of happy hours, a lot of games, decorations and confetti and sometimes costumes. But mainly, with those cubicles comes sales people.

Like that one pod of cubes very near my door, and the new neighbors who work there: a revolving set of eager, young, shiny, chatty women. Very chatty. Chirpy, even.

And try as I might to ignore their constant chirping, sometimes it seeps through.

Like yesterday:

Chirper #1: Selena Gomez and the Bieb are back together

Chirper #2: Nuh-uh

Chirper #1: How do you spell ‘combination’

Chirper #2: C-O-M-B

Chirper #1: Is it C-O-M-B-O?

Chirper #2: No.


Aaah, Chripers. The adventure begins.