Ten Books That Have Stuck with Me Off the Top of My Head as I Make Them Up

1. Teddy’s Skin by Margaret Wise Brown—The peculiar recurrence of furry animals and fur-lined rooms in Brown’s work becomes apparent in this little-known and strangely horrifying entry in the author’s whimsical oeuvre. Uncommonly, Brown is a character in her own children’s book, having been made by the Color Kittens when they mixed together “all the colors of the world rejected by God.” The Brown character is locked in a room with only two chairs. She sits in one, her childhood bear in the other, mute but obviously too, too alive. It is unclear how long she’s been in the room, or if the room exists. An example of a passage from the book:

“Miss Brown had spent the morning (was it just this morning? Or another?) purchasing parsnips and leafy green vegetables from the local grocers, when she was overcome by a wave of nausea. The world went black and she awoke in a windowless, doorless room. The farthest wall wavered in her sight until she approached it, at which time its infinitude coalesced into a blank, bleak solidity. She imagined she heard a duck kicking at the wall outside, cursing her with quacks and heaving small pebbles at the house for spite.

‘Goodnight, room,’ said Miss Brown.

‘Goodbye, Margaret,’ it replied in her father’s voice. She fell to the floor, chattering, and counted the seven shiny brass buttons on her jacket.”

Throughout the book, Brown is taunted by her beloved Little Fur Family, who appear through orifice-like openings in the very air, demanding that she explain what the fuck they’re supposed to be, and why the fur son found an even smaller fur-being living in the ground, before snapping shut with disgusting liquid sounds. “I don’t know! I don’t know!” sobs Brown, before Scuppers the Sailor Dog appears in his yellow rain slicker and hat with a large baling hook. He swings at her, but vanishes before connecting, representing her deceased mother’s distant personality.

Eventually running out of parsnips and leafy green vegetable, hunger and cold gnaw at Brown. She looks to her bear who would surely provide SOME sustenance and warmth, but at the cost of removing her fondest memories, and perhaps her sanity. The illustrations by Garth Williams are soft and edgeless yet filled with Much-like anxiety. Here is a man tired of drawing cute fluffy animals and filled with a desire to see the world melt and burn, as hinted at by the cover of Wise’s other collaboration with Williams’ Fox Eyes.

The book ends with Brown eying Teddy over her shoulder, fondling a Opinel knife left behind by Mister Dog/Crispin’s Crispian after he appeared in the form of a fur tornado and dared her to finally “belong to herself…or belong nowhere.” Brown weighs the possibilities in her mind and the knife in her hand, but the final page shows only a wordless illustration of a crib filled with flaming autumn leaves. What it means is left to the reader’s imagination, but it probably has something to do with fucking.

Oh, Henry!

Wrote this about six years ago. Its message, however, is ETERNAL.

The Gift of the Magi by Way of Mr. Dan Kelly

Biff and Muffy married against their wealthy parents’ wishes and were subsequently disowned and left to survive on their own devices. Still, though they had little but a few sticks of furniture and the clothes on their backs and survived on generic brand gruel, they were in love.

Muffy was famed for her fine black hair, which she had grown since childhood into a long flowing mane. Biff too had a single treasure: his grandfather’s gold pocket watch, which he carried wherever he went. On Christmas Eve, wanting to give her husband a lovely gift, Muffy went to the village wigmaker and had her hair cut off and converted into toupees for the town fathers. Afterwards, she popped by the jewelery store and used the money she’d earned to purchase a platinum watch fob that would look spanking fine on Biff’s watch.

For the purposes of this story’s plot twist, assume that Muffy is wearing a hat and that Biff doesn’t immediately realize she’s as bald as an egg.

“Darling, here is your present. Oh, I love you so very much,” said Muffy.

“A watch fob?” said Biff, “Why, this is wonderful! It will look so smart on my grandfather’s watch”

At that moment, a Christmas partridge flew through the room and knocked off Muffy’s hat, revealing her bald cabeza. Biff gasped.

“My darling, what happened to your hair?”

“I… I… sold it, to buy your present!”

“Gasp! Such sacrifice! Oh you DO love me!” said Biff through tears of joy. “I only wish I had as fine a gift for you as this watch fob.”

“Oh… I see… So, you don’t have anything for me?”

“Good Lord, no. We’re poor, remember? Ah well, it’ll grow back. And hey! I have a new watch fob!”

And he happily attached it to his grandfather’s watch.

The End

I Can Haz Cannibalizm Bacon?

Let’s imagine that through some set of circumstances, you end up attending a soda pop bottle collectors’ convention. Perhaps, like me, you collect soda pop bottles, and turning up at such a convention wouldn’t be a surprise to you (I haven’t attended any myself), but in this instance let’s assume you don’t give a damn about soda pop bottles. You don’t hate them, but they fail to set you afire, let’s say.

At first, as you walk around, you might be mildly impressed by the beauty of the bottles on display: some possess eye-catching art, others have pleasing shapes. Perhaps some of the collectors are perfectly lovely people, plainly excited about their hobby and willing to share the joy of soda-pop bottle collecting with you. Some are more exuberant and/or socially awkward than others, but mostly they seem to be a pleasant, harmless lot. You may not be able to follow their conversations about grading or ACLs, but it’s clear they’re enjoying themselves, and no one is buttonholing you to joyfully scream about the 1952 seven ounce Grapette bottle they discovered in a Muskegon landfill.

Still, after a time, you tire of hearing about bottles. That’s understandable. The convention center exits are clearly marked, and you’re not chained to a column, so there’s nothing keeping you there.

Yet, you remain, and you continue to walk about. But now the tone and endless onslaught of soda-pop bottle trivia and trading is growing grating. I must stress, you could leave, but instead you visit each table, hoping someone will start talking about flyfishing, SOPA, Artemisia Gentileschi, or Indian food. You bring up these subjects, and you generate a mild conversation or two about them, but soon you’re back to bottles, bottles, bottles. You exhale a sigh of disgust and walk off to another part of the center.

Eventually, you find a group of your friends—all of whom, for the purposes of analogy, are exchanging empty bottles that once contained Heep Good orange pop, Top Hat seltzer water, Kayo chocolate soda, O•So•Grape elixir, and others. They’re having a grand old time, and when they see you they wave you over.

“Aren’t you guys SICK of talking about bottles?” you ask.

Startled, they look to one another, and your best friend says, “Uh, no. It’s fun! what’s your favorite soda pop bottle?”

“But it’s NOT fun,” you gripe. “It’s just so overdone. I’m sick of hearing about it.”

They look at you sympathetically—these are your friends, after all—but ask, “Well… You do realize you’re at the annual soda pop bottle convention, right? And Bob and Jane over here, well, they’ve just gotten into it.”

“Yeah! It’s superduper fun!” says Bob, happily. You shoot him a withering glare.

“But you’ve been talking about it for days now. Isn’t it time to discuss something else?” you say.

One of your friends shrugs and says, “I… guess… but we’re really enjoying ourselves.”

“But I’m not!” you say. “I want to talk about something else! Like jai alai or French cinema or Anjelica Houston.”

“Hey, you’re in luck!” another friend says, cheerfully. She points to a staircase across the center. “Upstairs they’re holding the convention for aficionados of French movies starring Anjelica Houston as a jai alai player! And it’s free! Actually, I was thinking of going up there after this, so we could…”

You begin to stomp your feet and shake your little fists in the air.


Your friends look at you askance.

“Maybe you could go home for a little while and then come back later? You know, take a break. We’ll be done soon.” says your best friend.

“Yeah, let’s go to the bar next door and have a drink. And we’ll talk about whatever you like!” says your cousin. “Before we go though, check out this hilarious soda pop bottle I found! It has a kitty-cat on it!”

“NO, NO, NO, NO, NO!!!” You scream. You start overturning tables and breaking bottles like Christ cleansing the Temple.

“Everyone must talk about things according to my schedule! Everyone must cease enjoying a hobby when I declare it! Anyone who hasn’t laughed at a joke by a certain time and date MUST BE FORBIDDEN TO LAUGH AT IT EVER AGAIN!” you bellow. “Arrrgggh! This is why America is in danger! This is why people are stupid! Once things were good, but now they are bad! Argggh! Evil has a face, and it is soda pop bottle collectiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiing!”

When you finish, you find yourself panting, sweaty, and standing on a mountain of glass, the collectors dazed and breathless and more than a few—your friends included—glaring and wondering why you’re so damned worked up.

Then you look across the center and see someone eating a ham sandwich. Except the ham isn’t stuck between two pieces of bread… IT’S STUCK BETWEEN TWO LARGE SQUARES OF GRAPE JELL-O!

“Ha ha ha! Hey, look guys!” you say, stumbling with bloodied feet across the field of glass. “A Jell-O sandwich! Ha ha! Well, if that isn’t the ever-living, ever-loving end!” You take a picture of it, intending to share it with everyone you meet on the way home. “Say, guys…” you ponder, turning back to your friends, “What other things could you make with Jell-O!?! Ha ha! Bacon Jell-O! Badger Jell-O! Zombie Jell-O! Lutefisk Jell-O! HA HA HA HA! Man, this is KOOKY!”

At once, everyone in the convention center forgives you, and you all begin amassing and sharing thousands upon thousands of Jell-O recipes and photographs.

Something you know you’ll never ever get tired of doing.

The Proper Preparation of Haint Meat: A Pamphlet for the Edification of the Public

In times of economic distress and great privation, it seems fitting to peruse the afterworld for alternative comestibles. As the price of animalistic meat, by example, becomes more dear, one must seek quasi-organic venues for the basic proteins. But whereas the restrictions of species, edibleness, poisonous issue, extinction, fictionality, taboo, ethos, vainglory, and mobility forbid and/or forfend the consumption of sundry animals and protozoans, no laws of man, god, daemon, or avatar prevent the butchering, preparation, and mastication of homo espiritu, more casually known as the human ghost.

Allay your fears, gentle reader! Though our society teaches the avoidance of dearly departed souls, modern science assures us that to invite the ghost-creature into our diet (and thus our alimentary canals) is to ensure a longer, more salutary, and fulfilling existence for ourselves.

While difficult to apprehend, please to remember that the ghost desires to share its essence with the animate. They of ectoplasmic construction who spend centuries flitting about, moaning with melancholy, and rattling chains in search of acknowledgement and validation from the material world would graciously lay their non-corporeal corpuses across our barbecue grills, subjecting themselves to momentary soul-death for the knowledge that they yet exist, if only in our abdomens. Consider these simple admonitions and instructions in capturing, cooking, and consuming the departed, and how unlife can raise the quality of your life.

Q: I am discontented and nerve-jangled. Is this not anthropophagy?

A: It is not cannibalism. Forfeiting life, the ghost ceases to be true humankind. Likewise, the substance one consumes does not occupy the selfsame status as human flesh.

Q: Does this not destroy the ghost’s soul, preventing eternal happiness or damnation?

A: It does not cost the ghost either for overlong. The soul is vast. limitless, and self-regenerating. By absorbing and entangling its nutriment essence with your physical form, you permit the death-beast a new level of existence. Unsurprisingly, the gratitude of the dead is substantial and warming. You will feel the salubrious effects of spectral digestion almost immediately. It is considered, though not widely reported, that 95 percent of all major deities shall gaze down upon you during the eidolon repast, praising your munificence of grace.

Q: Does this not destroy my soul in turn?

A: Nay. Alongside the aforementioned benefits, your soul shall be replenished, indeed cleansed with ectoplasmic roughage, if not burnished entirely. You shall furthermore be appended with a golden corona perceptible by the living and dead as a feeling of ease, well-being, and slight euphoria. And your bowel movements be pronounced and glorious to behold.

Q: Truthfully, is there no haint meat that is harmful?

A: No haint meat is harmful, in that there is no injury to the consumer’s physical well-being or even spiritual health. But consumption of criminals or the guilt-ridden who have passed on may create a feeling of ill-ease and dyspepsia. Their souls are saturated with condimental emotion ridden with evil and heartsickness. Best to equivalent them with a hot dog purchased at the faire.

Q: And how-so, wise consul, does one capture the spiritual esculent?

A: With forbearance and time, and a few simple household materials. Gather together the following:

* A silken cord
* Three (3) iron nails (unbent)
* The ulna of an ungrateful man
* Star gravy captured in silver-threaded sack
* Seven (7) thylacine feathers
* Sealable plastic bowl (8 oz.)
* Candy, pref. with a hard outer shell and a warm inner life.
* Two (2) eggs, enfolded with the aether
* One (1) cup of brown sugar, emboldened
* Holy text (pref. written in the angels’ tongue)
* Angel tongue
* Ball-peen hammer
* Emotional wrench
* Spiritual Inculcator, 230 V (pat. pending)

1. Visit the place of haunting, and seek, through local lore, the terminus of the spirits.

2. Combining the worthy ingredients in the sealable bowl, mix them throughly until they have vanished, never to be seen again, except in one’s nightmares.

3. Place the bowl centrally in the preferred loci. Have a care that you do not wear a color of offense to the revenants.

4. Wait in the darkness with cord and hammer, chewing unmindfully on the angel’s tongue. You may become aware of a slightly bitter taste of fear. ignore this, or be branded a coward and wear the white feather of the cozening poltroon.

5. Plug in the Spiritual Inculcator. If you cannot find a 230 V outlet in the Western Hemisphere, alas.

6. Activate the Spiritual Inculcator with your smallest impulse. Stand back apace and travel abroad as it warms up, for this is the time of challenge.

7. As the silhouetted tendrils dance about the phantasm, weave and gambol to avoid the spirit’s psychical hooks. If caught in your brainpan, they may lead to discomfort, hectoring, and harrowing of the soul. Remove with tweezers and a suspension of cornstarch and blood.

8. Soon, soon, the tendrils shall ensnarl the eidolon. Calm its postmortem madness with a gentle, rhythmic stroking of its hair or exposed skull, reciting, “All is well. All is well. Within my belly soon thou shall dwell.” The shade will quaver with relief that its eternal wanderings are no more. As a side benefit, a becalmed spirit produces the sweetest and juiciest meat.

9. Release the spirit from its bonds, shake whatever appendage it offers, then direct it to a butcher’s block made of hamadryad wood.

10. Stretch out the specter across the block. Taking a butcher’s knife blessed by a vagabond, begin cutting the silver cords along the astral joints.

11. Whilst cutting, sing merrily of life’s pleasures to remind the spirit of what it once had. if it joins in, harmonize, stepping aside during alternate verses. Should the ghost possess a mandolin, allow it the joy of a final solo during the bridge.

12. Removes the cuts of beef in this pattern, and observe the raisons d’être:

Necks and clods—For smooth hair and strengthened bonework

Chuck and blades—For sanctity and clean teeth

Silver loin—For bamboozling of the underworld and magnificent thighs

Rump—For the heartstrings’ lubrication and the lungstrings’ education

Silverside—To mock the gods who punish us with their capricious frivolity. Also good for soups.

Topside—For the brain cells, that they do not become bedizened with vanity

Thick rib—To increase the vision until one gazes beyond time and space and into one’s own soul, for that is the truth of our existence

Thin rib—To increase the vision until one can discern street signs from very far away

Brisket—To ameliorate the shyness of the sex organs, so they may emerge from their shells and enjoy the company of other shells

Shin and leg—To increase the pituitary gland’s endurance until it can hammer through the hardest substance known to man—the heart of a wicked child

Flank—To emblazon the circulatory system with inner tattoos declaring in pre-Adamic language humankind’s emancipation from fear, ignorance, and want

Thick flank—To provide regularity

Feather blade—To bolster the efficiency of the earlobes, so their true purpose may be revealed, bringing the consumer of haint meat the powers of invisibility, telepathy, and echolocation.

Q: And how shall the meat of ghosts be prepared, I ask thee?

A: In much the same manner as other flesh: broiling, frying, souring, sweating, blanching, creaming, blackening, shirring, pickling, steeping, trepanning, embellishing, broadening, punishing, embarrassing, adjudicating, demolishing, and parboiling.

For picnics, barbecues, and icebreakers, marination is recommended. Slither the haint meat into a large trash bag filled with chopped onions, walnuts, soy sauce, blackberries, garlic, catsup and ketchup, vile intentions, elbow grease, shoe leather, bricks from the path to Hell, and an F minor chord (Puréed). Stow it away in your attic, beside the holiday decorations, unfashionable clothing,  and unknown dreams, and forget about it until the day of the event.

That morning, gasp aloud at your idiocy, and rush to the attic to recover and perhaps save the dish. But it will be too late. Far, far too late. Throwing open the attic door you will behold a Gigglebeast, vilely propped upon its haunches and supping most indelicately upon your stores. At this point, you must order takeout.

Or die trying.



P.S. After a idle search for “ghost meat” online, I discovered Tracy Morgan/Jordan (probably) coined the term. Foo! I have changed the title of the story because I hain’t no plagiarist.