25 February, 2012

Something Else I Cannot Eat

Today I arrived at the conclusion that I can no longer stomach the prison's Salisbury steak. The sight of it — a brownish, oblong, near-gelatinous slab — draping in a lewd curve over the tray's dome of rehydrated potato flake was enough to make me think twice about allowing it anywhere near my mouth. It wasn't even trying to resemble meat, just something meatlike. Only in some parallel nightmare reality, where fourth generation vegans held uncontested control over the world's food supply, might someone look at these patties and suspect they were made of things once living. The only birth they appear to have undergone was through the machine tube that extruded them as uniform ovals onto the chain conveyor whose perfect pattern of equidistant dimples offer the steaks' sole textural element.

Well, okay, if you want to quibble, these steaks do have plenty of bone fragments. One only encounters those, however, if one is inclined to chew. It's generally accepted wisdom that the less time a patty spends in your mouth, the better. For this reason, I contend that few ever actually notice those grains of shattered skeleton. I certainly won't anymore; the next time Salisbury steak appears on the menu, I'm requesting a vegetarian meal. It's hard to mess up beans... mostly.

12 February, 2012

My First Paid Writing Assignment

My father put me to work when I was twelve years old, authoring pissy letters to customers with long-outstanding debts to his home business. I suppose Pops just recognized and sought to reap some benefit from my innate talent for witheringly blunt criticism. So while the closest thing other kids my age had to a trade-teaching chore was lawn-mowing, I sat at a PC, learning how to write abrasive, tongue-in-cheek missives to debtors.

My letters often went something like this:
Dear Sir,

Our records indicate that you still have not remitted payment for your outstanding bill of $325, incurred for services rendered on November 6th, 1991. As previous notifications of your delinquence confirmed that you are at least capable of picking up a ringing telephone and carrying on a semi-coherent conversation, we have revised our original hunch that you lack sufficient intellectual capacity for blowing your own nose, let alone tending to financial affairs. It is our current belief that you are deliberately withholding payment, perhaps based on some notion of entitlement to a "free lunch." We can assure you that any such conceit on your part is wildly misplaced — you are not that special.
Then I'd threaten legal action. Only rarely did I need to turn to the software's thesaurus to find just the right scathing term. I would have done it for free, but my father insisted on paying me. When he did, it was always in a timely fashion. Maybe he was afraid of getting one of my snarky letters.

08 February, 2012

The Moment Now Available

From the people at SMITH Magazine, perhaps best known for its popular Six-Word Memoir book series, comes this collection, The Moment, full of great personal stories about how a single moment — a phone call, text, e-mail, conscious decision, accident, or other happenstance — wrought a profound effect on the author's life.

My contribution is titled "The Verdict," and it's likely even darker and more claustrophobic than you think. But there are many other stories, photographs, postcards, and miscellanea from a variety of people, famous and not. By turns tragic and weird and hilarious and heartening, The Moment is, above all else, deeply human. Click here to buy a copy and find out what I mean.