Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Coffin

I was asked to be part of a "spooky" author panel this year. I read the following short story:


The Coffin


Note: This is a retelling of a classic Halloween story.


I was looking forward to the peace and quiet. It had been three days since my wife and kids had left to visit her parents. We had three daughters, all under the age of four, so moments when a baby wasn’t crying, screaming, or banging on something were rare.

The first two nights were wonderful. I came home with fast food, turned on some loud music, and sang at the top of my lungs without fear of waking up whatever child was asleep at the moment.

The third night, however, was something completely different. It was late October in New England. There were a few leaves that still clung onto the trees for dear life, but most had given in to peer pressure.

I was sitting in our living room, watching TV and relaxing after a long day at work. A storm had rumbled in during the day and covered the sky. Although it wasn’t raining, wind was blowing steadily, and the heavens were lit now and again with streaks of lightning followed by growling thunder.

The TV show was about to end when the power went out. No power meant no TV, no computer, no internet … nothing. I remembered thinking, What had people possibly done at night before electricity? I sat there for a moment debating my next move. I decided to light a candle and read—even though flickering light gave me headaches.

I tried to remember where my wife kept the candles and matches when there was a thump on the front porch.

It sounded like something heavy landed on the porch. I thought it was probably a branch that had broken off in the storm. I was about to get out of my chair to investigate when there was a loud bang against the front door.

I froze in place, the hair on the back of my neck bristling. That couldn’t have been a branch. Someone, or some THING, had hit the door. I sat there, hands gripping the armrests and listened.

There were no other sounds aside from the howling wind. And to think, I had been looking forward to a quiet night.

Nothing happened for several moments aside from the occasional flashes of lightning. It took me a moment to realize that even though I was seeing the lightning, the thunder had stopped, though the storm had increased in its fury.

Finally, I gathered my courage. I decided I was not going to let things that went “bump” in the night get the best of me. I took a deep breath and stood.

At that very moment, the front door burst open with such force that it ripped off its hinges. In the doorway, silhouetted by the lightning, was a coffin. It was deep black in color—so dark, in fact, it seemed to swallow the light around it.

I tried to will my feet to move, but they wouldn’t. I tried to look away, but my eyes stayed locked on the coffin. I tried to scream, but the sound wouldn’t come.

Slowly, the coffin tilted up, as if someone was standing it on edge. I couldn’t move. It continued to rise until it stood up completely.

Thunder sounded so powerfully that I thought the windows would break. It was as if all the thunder for the last few minutes had been stored up and released at once. At that same moment, the coffin lid swung open. It was empty.

For the briefest of moments, I was relieved. Part of my fear came from what could be in the coffin. That relief soon vanished as the coffin slowly, purposefully, moved toward me.

Whether it was the coffin moving, or the thunder sounding, I’m not sure, but I was able to get my body to move. I ran to the closest room in the house—our bathroom. I locked the door and backed up into the tub, the only window to the room at my back.

I could hear the coffin scraping along the floor as it continued to approach. I realized that coming to the bathroom left me few options. The window was too small for me to fit through. There was nowhere I could go.

My mind raced. What could I do? What was the old saying? Fight or flight. I had tried fleeing and that hadn’t worked. I was left with the only other option. I looked around the bathroom, catching glimpses of objects here and there when the lightning briefly lit the room. I needed something heavy to use.

There! On the countertop was a large bottle of Robitussin. I took one step out of the bathtub and grabbed it. There was a loud bang at the bathroom door, but it stayed closed.

I retreated back to the tub, wielding my new weapon as if it was Excalibur.

Again, the lightning came, but no thunder. I stared at the door. I could feel my heart pounding in my chest.

Nothing happened for a long, drawn-out moment. I thought, Maybe it went away. Maybe it could sense I was going to defend myself.

The bathroom door crashed open and there was the coffin, the lid still open. It seemed to pause for a moment, and then again it started to move toward me.

With all my strength, I threw the bottle of Robitussin. The coffin stopped.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Scare the Hell out of you

I shouldn’t admit this, but I’m a sucker for when people try to sell me something at my door.

I’ve had sales jobs, and generally hated them, and so I often buy whatever is being sold out of pity for the person, more than a desire for the product. Granted, Girl Scout Cookies and Boy Scout Popcorn are pretty darn yummy.

On a recent trip, we had pulled off at a McDonald’s to use the restroom and get a quick bite. While in the parking lot, a young man knocked on our driver’s side window. I thought this was odd, but he didn’t look scary so I rolled down my window and asked him what he wanted.

“I’m selling Krispy Kreme donuts for my church. Would you like to buy some?”

My wife was still in the restaurant, so she couldn’t save me from myself. I agreed to buy some. After all, they were Krispy Kreme donuts!

I paid the young man and he thanked me. He walked back to a minivan that was parked a few spaces away from us. I noticed on the back of his van there was a big sticker—several times bigger than a bumper sticker. It said something along the lines of “Want to go to Hell? Keep doing what you’re doing.” The words were surrounded by flames.

It was weird, but I didn’t give it much thought until later when we opened the box of donuts. Inside of it was a little booklet stapled to the box. This is what the cover looked like:

My wife and I looked at each other like, “What in the world?”

She put it aside and I told her I wanted to look at it when we got to our destination—if for no other reason than morbid curiosity.

When I was able to glance over it, the booklet was filled with disturbing cartoon-like images, all of them warning about the power of Lucifer. Here’s an example:

Those who know me, know that I have certain beliefs about spiritual matters that I hold sacred. I don’t force on other people, though I’m happy to share with those that ask. I don’t try to convince anyone to my point-of-view. It doesn’t work. Yet when I do get to share my beliefs, I try to do so in a positive manner.

I don’t believe scare tactics, like those found in the booklet we were given, are effective. Why? I believe that people are influenced by what they focus on.

In the 2012 presidential campaign, I’ve seen time and again how politicians (and their supporters) from all viewpoints spend their energy focusing on the negative aspects of their opponents. Often it turns into name calling.

Many Facebook postings are filled with “facts” that point out the flaws of the “other guy.”

All this negativity isn’t a good thing. If all you focus on is the negative, then you’ll become negative.

Some may argue that many of my blogs are negative—meaning I’m pointing out something that is “off” in the world. But, my goal is to give a different perspective on various topics, hopefully a rational one.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Non-medical vaccinations

Before heading to Mexico to live for two years, I was given several shots. One of them felt like peanut butter being pumped into my hindquarters—chunky, not smooth. It wasn’t a pleasant experience.

I’m not a doctor, and I don’t play one on TV, but as I understand it, vaccinations are basically injecting a person with a small amount of whatever disease you’re trying to protect them from.

When I learned about that, I thought it was the dumbest thing ever. Why would you expose someone to a disease you don’t want them to get?

I remember being told that a small amount won’t cause you to get the disease, but instead, it will allow your body to learn how to fight the disease if it encounters it in a big way.

In the LDS church, there is a saying that members should be “in the world, but not of the world.” What does that mean? Well, my take on it is this: members need to exist in society, but should live to a higher standard than society. I think it’s a great idea. Just as there is peer pressure to do bad things, there can also be those who are an example of making good choices.

And here is where I may upset a few people—which won’t be the first time and I doubt will be the last. Sometimes I feel that there are those, and not only of the LDS faith, who focus too much on only part of the phrase “in the world, but not of the world”—that being the latter half.

As a parent of four daughters, three of them teenagers, I understand the desire to keep children out of harm’s way. Yet, if I shelter them too much, I’m doing a different type of harm: they won’t know how to deal with worldly issues if they aren’t exposed to them.

My vaccine metaphor is imperfect. I do not advocate that any parent should give kids drugs, or hand them a magazine of pornography, or swear at them so their children can learn the “bad words.”

But neither do I suggest that parents should never talk to their children about the vices of the world for fear that the children may become curious enough to seek them out.

What I’ve seen firsthand are young adults who leave their parents’ home and cannot interact with people in the “real world.” They’ve never had any exposure to what is out there, “in the world,” and when they are faced with it, they haven’t learned how to deal with it.

And if people can’t interaction with the world, how can that be a positive influence on it?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

What else was I supposed to do?

A middle grade student was sent to in school suspension. He’d chased a girl around the lunchroom and was caught. The teacher asked him, “Why were you chasing the girl?”

The young man said, “I was eating my lunch and minding my own business. I wasn’t bothering anyone. She came up to me and hit me in the neck with an apple. So, I got up and chased her.”

The teacher responded, “Are you supposed to run around the lunchroom?”

Exasperated, the student explained again, “She hit me in the neck with an apple. What else was I supposed to do?”

“You didn’t answer my question. Are you supposed to chase girls around the lunchroom? For any reason?”

The boy replied by slowly pronouncing each word: “She   hit me   in   the   neck   with   an   apple.   What   else   was   I   supposed   to   do?”

Friday, October 12, 2012

Some fun with 21

Yesterday was October 11, 2012—also abbreviated as 10/11/12. That won’t happen again for another hundred years.

I heard people try to attach some cosmic significance to the date. Was the world going to end? Would this be the day I won the lottery? Will I meet that someone special?

As far as I can tell, the world didn’t end. Someone may have won the lottery. Someone else probably met that person they will spend the rest of their life with. But I don’t think it had anything to do with the date being in sequential order when abbreviated.

However, for those who like to look for significance in such things, I thought I’d have some fun with today’s date: October 12, 2012—or 10/12/12.

What’s special about today? It’s my 21st anniversary.

That’s right, 21 years ago I married the woman of my dreams—and we’re still happily married to this day.

On to the finding significance!

Today is the 12th, which is 21 backwards!

If you add 10 + 12 + 12 and then divide by 1.6190476 you get 21! (.6190476 = 13/21 and 13 is 12 + 1!)

21 divided by 7 (7 = 1 + 0 + 1 + 2 + 1 + 2) is 3. And 1 + 2 = 3! (Also 2 + 1 = 3!)

I was 22 when I got married. That’s 21 - 1.

My wife was 19 when we got married. 19 + 2 = 21!

Each month of the year has at least 21 days!

In the card game blackjack, the object is to get as close to 21 as possible. Today, it’s cold, so I’ll be wearing my black jack(et)!

We’re living in the 21st century!

The number of letters in the Italian Alphabet? 21! And my wife and I like Pizza.

Lastly: There are 6 people in our family—me, my wife and my four daughters. When you add 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 6 you get 21!

Monday, October 8, 2012


For my mom’s 70th birthday, we had a family reunion at the outer banks of North Carolina.

We visited several places and took a lot of pictures.

At one of these places, I sat on some weather-worn steps and stared at the cobblestone walkway. I noticed something and my storyteller mind formulated it into pictures and words.

I took some photographs and added text to them.

This is the result.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The new normal?

Warning! This post may offend some people!

A few years ago, I was living in Connecticut. A certain man of the LDS (Mormon) faith was making a run at the White House. A liberal paper in Connecticut ran a scathing article about this man—about how his LDS beliefs were weird and out of touch with the common person in America.

They even provided proof: a copy of a declaration published by the LDS church that was so absurd that any reasonable human being could see how it posed a threat to common sense.

That document? The Family:A Proclamation to the World.

In this document, it stated clearly that the LDS church believed “that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God” and “mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.”

How dare they be so bold!

Never mind the parts that say, “fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners” or “husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children.”

The LDS church should be ashamed because it had made a stand about what it believed—and how close minded of them to think differently than others.

And then, in 2012, a TV show premiered on the NBC network called “The New Normal.” What is it about? Here are some quotes from the NBC website about the show: “It’s 2012 and anything goes” and “Bryan and David are a Los Angeles couple, and they have it all. Well, almost. With successful careers and a committed, loving partnership, there is one thing that this couple is missing: a baby.” What do Bryan and David do? They hire a woman to have their baby.

And this is clearly “the new normal.” Therefore, if you aren’t like them, you’re abnormal, right?

The creators of the show should be applauded being brave enough to state their beliefs—right? How open minded they must be to think differently than others—right?