From: Elizabeth Kronoff
Date: Wed, Dec 16, 2015
Subject: R. Aicha

Dear McSweeney’s,

Please tell Ms. Aicha that as the mother of two little girls who may some day become hijabis, if they wish, her columns mean very much to me. Her writing is superb and her insights are more important than she can imagine. I know in high school it is easy to get discouraged no matter what people say to you, no matter how good they say you are. But I have saved her columns on my hard drive and I eagerly await the new ones. I would like to tell her how much it means to me that she is putting herself out there like this — anonymous or not.

Thank you, and of course, thank you for the wonderful space that McSweeney’s is. You make my internet.

Kind regards,
Elizabeth

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From: Ben Close
Date: Tue, Nov 17, 2015
Subject: Do the twist

Dear McSweeney’s,

I read Mara Altman’s Reviews of New Food submission “Mulberry Jam with a Twist” agape, and by the end I was physically bracing myself, as I have a real gag-reflex thing with live larvae. My emotions roiled with this piece. Starting with light, sweet anticipation of a homespun tale, then jerking left into a churning revulsion, then screeching to a pleading, bargaining, horrified end, the story left me wondering why, wondering how. The lasting image of gelatinous red goo teeming with wrigglers is worthy of a Troma flick — just add a scream and a big discordant pipe organ hit. How Ms. Altman did not immediately decide, in what must have been a jolting moment of discovery, that the trash can was too good for this mess is beyond my power to reckon. Worms in one’s jam is a “toss it far outside the house, on the property line, maybe a little over, like the burned oil from a beginners’ failed tempura night” situation. To have tasted it and offered it to a loved one pushes credulity. “No god-blessed way,” I mumbled aloud here at my desk.

Then I thought: It would be the first jam to offer a complete protein, ha-ha. And, if you really can’t tell or taste it too much, wouldn’t that make it something desirable, nutritionally? Before refrigeration or technological dessert-making tools, before readily available chocolate or refined sugars, jam and preserves were special and treasured, playing a prominent role in the food pantry, one of the few pure gustatory pleasures that was easily available to the non-wealthy. They must have encountered this very phenomenon on the frontier, and never batted an eye — before wasting the precious pectins and fructose simply for the sake some insect embryos, they cooked the bejeezus out of it, made it unrecognizable and digested the protein as a nutritional bonus to their sweet treat. Betcha they did. And Ms. Altman, if I may submit a snappy name — yours free — should you ever decide to jar and label the stuff, call it “Wormpote.”

With writhing admiration,
Michael Close
Pittsburgh

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From: Jodi Rives
Date: Fri, Nov 13, 2015
Subject: Ways to get thrown out of Waldorf!

Hey, Timothy,

My husband is a Waldorf teacher — and, thus, VERY invested in the “philosophy.” I, on the other hand, remain solidly in the unconvinced category — which is made even more challenging by the fact that our 7-year-old daughter is a student at the school where my husband teaches (but where she only went to one year of kindergarten, so, we’ll have to face those consequences at some point, apparently, when she commits mail fraud or murder or reads before her teeth or bones are long enough).

I am including some items for your Waldorf list that may or may not have actually happened to me. (They so totally did.)

Cheers!

— Jodi Rives

11. Ask “Where is the bookshelf?”

12. Say “Does the color of the walls REALLY matter?”

13. Say “You know, these verses sound a lot like prayers.”

14. Be direct.

15. Be skeptical of organic.

16. Say “I don’t see how Longaberger baskets are worth their exorbitant price.”

17. Ask “Doesn’t it seem kind of dark in here?”

18. Or “Is there air conditioning?”

19. Doubt pantomime can cure your liver cancer.

20. Wonder what time it is.

Also, alternate title: “Things All Waldorf Teachers Do When They Think No One Is Watching.”

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From: Cynthis Crooks-Garcia
Date: Wed, Nov 4, 2015
Subject: More Fake Massachusetts Towns

Smelrose

Severe

Mehford

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From: Christopher Thomas Scott
Date: Thu, Oct 15, 2015
Subject: It’s decorative gourd season

Dear McSweeneys:

I bought three of your profane holiday mugs. I kept one for seasonal faculty meetings at work, and sent two to my best friend and her husband.

Here is her reply:

Sub: thoughts on the holiday coffee cups:

1. Use them to hand out trick-or-treat candy — make sure the lettering faces the kids

2. Serve my mother’s afternoon tea in them — this will start an interesting conversation with her, rather than the mundane topics that we usually discuss

3. Text a photo of them to my 7 year-old-nephew — as a laugh — tell him to show the photo to his mom

4. Put them in the cup drawer when we have company and tell our guests to help themselves to a cup of coffee — the cups are in the drawer

5. Send an email to Chris to ask him what prompted him to send them to us

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From: K H Holmes
Date: Sat, Oct 3, 2015
Subject: Buy the book

McSweeney’s,

I’m still finding my way around your site and loving it. Read an entertaining article about the book/collection Rusted, Lusted, Busted: Contemporary Southern Fiction but cannot figure out how to order it.

Help, the invitation to the book signing and panel discussion was so entertaining and funny I’d be going if it wasn’t on the other side of the country. Love the Tilted Kilt in Paso Robles, CA.

Thanks for any hints which might direct me to the purchasing process. Didn’t see it in the McSweeney store.

— KH

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From: Eric Kang
Date: Sat, Sep 19, 2015
Subject: Beef Jerky Literature

Dear McSweeney’s,

One of my favorite pastimes is to walk through fresh paper bookstores. My parents must have had limited space in the home when I was born and jammed my crib into the same room as their office. Instead of twinkling stars and bubbling music, I’m convinced that I lay next to the printer — the exploding fusion of ink needle ice skating across newly grafted groves of paper wafted as an irresistible aroma in my nostrils, programming neurological patterns of addiction like burnt toast. While others were soothed by words ringing audibly through vocal murmurs of parental love, I was scientifically plugged into the DNA of those very words through the nasal whistle of inkjet violin. This is the only explanation for the idyllic high that sweeps over me as I saunter through the aisles.

This is why I keep going back. When I do, I frequent the bargain section, not as a cheap Asian looking to barter for an extra penny or page, but as a relic hunter looking for lost pearls. Over the years, I have uncovered a secret. Society is not prone to buying great books – good, maybe, but not the kind you put your back into, reaping the everlasting benefits of sweat and blood . As a result, some of these gems end up on the shelves for far too long, according to the impatient capitalistic rule, and low and behold, the discount chest of gold!

But what, may I ask, is McSweeney literature doing in this section? Are you surprised, dismayed, or reminded of resolute original conviction? As I grab hold of its artistic cover and creative smell, something surges through my system. I rage over injustice, demanding that the attached coffee shop put these books on display along with McSweeney’s beef jerky. The Pavlovian mystery of meat candy salivation can create a similar sweet tasting sensation on the palate of our Neanderthal state as people leaf through the pages while chewing away, feeling like superstar pro athletes. All this for literary addiction.

But I get ahead of myself. I just said that the bargain section was potential home to treasure. I should just let it be but not without this statement.

I once moved and lived in a small farming town with lots of millionaires moping around, wondering how to save their money. An elderly grandma once had a leak on her roof and instead of calling an able-bodied trained person to investigate, she found her way up in the sky all by her shiny self. She slipped, took a tumble to ground zero, and broke her hip.

It was in this mentality that I took my nephew, a native of the land, to the gas station to buy all the various flavours and brands of beef jerky. We sat in the car, sampling and critiquing each kind until we were sick. It was a sacrifice we had to make. What came out on top was McSweeney’s. But the only way to make this discovery, to value good taste, was to spend a little money.

I live in an oil and gas city that holds very little artistic accomplishment and investment. It can be summed up like this — a friend of mine just spent 1000 dollars on a pair of shoes but won’t spend 1% of that on a recommended book, changing her life forever. It turns out we are not sophisticated city dwellers after all.

— Eric Kang

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From: Robert Booth
Date: Teu, Sep 8, 2015
Subject: Purchase

To whom it may concern,

I would like to make a purchase of bowling balls. This is an individual order. However I would like you to get back to me with some types and prices you might have available for sale so that I can reply back with what I am looking for, including your name and contact number. Let me know if you take credit cards as a form of payment, and I would like it to be picked up from your location.

Thank you very much for the opportunity and I will be looking forward to hearing from you.

Regards,
Mr Robert Booth

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From: Peter Clarke
Date: Thu, Jul 23, 2015
Subject: Suggestions for Urban Dictionary

Dear McSweeney’s,

The definitions for “McSweeney” on Urban Dictionary are fittingly random, clever, and sexual. In case you ever want to add to the lexicon, here are a few suggestions:

McSweeney: While giving a speech before a large group of prudes, you carefully wriggle out of your underwear without anyone noticing. “I dare you to McSweeney at the Traditional Values Coalition tonight!”

McSweeney: A recurring nightmare involving a gigantic uniboob suffocating you to death. “I thought I was having another McSweeney, but woke up to find my cat, Lynyrd Skynyrd, sleeping on my face!”

McSweeney: A euphemism for gunt, especially applicable in the context of wedding photography. “Let’s have the bride sitting the whole time, just to guard against any hint of McSweeney.”

McSweeney: The honorary title in Jamestown, North Dakota given to any citizen who reads every western by Louis L’Amour in the public library. “It’s not Jack Schlong to you, son; from now on, the name’s McSweeney Jack Schlong.”

McSweeney: The mating call of an extraterrestrial race from the Porpoise Galaxy. Chanting the word quietly invites the Porpoisonians to use one’s soul as the vessel of alien life. “McSweeney… McSweeney… McSweeney…”

— Peter

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From: Jodie ‪‬
Date: Fri, Jul 17, 2015
Subject: On language

Dear McSweeney’s,

You may remember my letter to McSweeney’s last year shortly after the July 4th holiday in which I declared my undying love for my country (please note that no one else has offered citizenship or free heath care or spa vacations in other nations as of today). Since my last correspondence, some issues with our language have come to my attention.

Because I am a mother and used to doing unpleasant duties involving dirt, body fluids, and other seemingly toxic substances, it has unfortunately fallen to me to clean up American English. It’s become rather sloppy of late, sagging its acronyms around its knees, with hyperbole settling heavily into its midsection, and routine, compulsive use of expletives while picking off the skin around its fingernails and chain smoking Marlboro Ultra Lights. Somebody MUST step in and clean up this deadbeat before its too late and it comes home and confesses it never liked pot pie and is moving to Panajachel to join a commune that processes tofu or starts following the Grateful Dead around, not realizing that they just gave what is hopefully their last farewell concert, which is both sad and woefully uninformed.

I am starting this gargantuan task with a simple pack and removal like one of those home makeover shows. I’ll be deleting several words from the language in an effort to pare down and simplify. These words include, but are not limited to: innovation, opportunity, growth, development, amazing, unique, receptivity, communication, and associate.

You might be complaining, “Hey, I need those words!” All I can say is keep it up and I’ll take away enthusiasm and commitment. There are plenty of other ways to indicate how creative you are without the i-n-n-o word. Why don’t you be creative and think of one? In fact, if you use any of these words, chances are you are spending your evenings watching re-runs of Scandal and eating bags of Chubby Chuck’s Orange-Colored Food-Style Rings.

It’s sad that someone like me, a sometime victim of Chubby Chuck, is left to do the dirty work of fixing up American English. Again, I need to emphasize it is not by choice, but sense of duty. As a true patriot, after I finish tidying up the language, I’ll probably spend some time throwing out America’s bigger clutter like Donald Trump, website comments sections, and most of the stuff at my dad’s house.

Your friend and fellow patriot,
Jodie Leidecker

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From: Matt Gassan ‪‬
Date: Thu, Jul 16, 2015
Subject: Cliffhangers

Dear McSweeney’s,

It is 1:30 AM on a Thursday, and due to some changes in my scheduling priorities I haven’t read any of your pieces in months. I say this not to needle you but to underscore how strange it was five minutes ago when I, sleepless, thought to myself “I wonder whatever happened to MM Locker.” I used to read regularly, and now (at 1:30 on a Thursday morning) feel strangely invested in the outcomes of a writer of articles from a couple years ago. I get that open-ended conclusions are very literary and play to the hyperrealism crowd but I have questions that need answers. Did she quit her sorority? Has her grad school boyfriend have the inevitable meltdown that all Gras students have? Did they make it through? Or is she somewhere doing a modern day On the Road thing? Is there any chance we could just get yearly Christmas-card style updates, or is that too Truman Show-y? Alternatively, is this a thing you already do and I’ve just missed it because I fell out of the loop?

Aware this might seem creepy, but legitimately concerned,
Matt

P.S. I’m too lazy to write an artsy food review but you should really try Apple pie moonshine (or whiskey) and cream soda. It’s worth the time of anyone with a sweet tooth.

Editor’s Reply: There have been updates to the column, yep. You can find all of them here.

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From: ‪Page Bass‬
Date: Thu, Jul 9, 2015
Subject: Peter Higgs vs. D&D

Please:

You could save me hours of research if you would just tell me—did this really happen? I find it difficult to believe an entire room full of college students would disrespect the man’s request to be serious after the second question. Also, difficult to believe he would call on any other students with obvious fantasy tee shirts after the second question.

But if you tell me it’s real, I’ll trust your answer.

I saw your article on Facebook. It’s making the rounds in Geek/Nerd culture. Thanks for taking the time to answer.

— Page Bass

Editor’s Reply: We are a humor site, so of course every word in the article is completely true.

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From: Kate Shuster
Date: Thu, Jun 25, 2015
Subject: Correspondence to Update You on Local Insect Issues

Dear McSweeney’s,

Almost exactly a year ago I wrote to you about my attempted killing (and subsequent heroic rescue!) of a ladybug. I know that your readers must be curious about my latest attempts to communicate with-slash-exterminate our insect friends. In the public interest the following is an update that continues to obsessively reference Infinite Jest:

I am standing at the large kitchen window overlooking our yard. It is almost 10 at night. While we look forward to The Daily Show and some evening rest, a substantial Alabama thunderstorm brews. The light from the repurposed gas lamp hanging from the ceiling gradually mutes until it reaches the wide outside sill where three junebugs struggle on their backs. My last letter to your fine publication insulted these creatures. I am not writing to take back my comments.

Junebugs are not the smartest of insects. They fire their pale brown bodies like buckshot into evening wear from here to Washington, careening off with the right feint to race back into the night. If you’re out in a nice dress with a cool cocktail in hand, a junebug is a horror to be squeaked at. Here in the safety of my kitchen, they are irreducibly sad. Their legs wave from pale undersides with feeble purpose. Is it a signal or the mute instinct of immanence?

I drink the remains of a cocktail. Thunder threatens, but nobody takes June seriously around here. The three junebugs fluster. I don’t claim to be a Buddhist, but at this moment, I think that I am just terrible. Why do I let these creatures suffer? Why do I pay someone to spray this windowsill, and others like it, so that these tiny and miraculous bugs will shiver slowly into their deaths?

Maybe you are not someone who thinks on these matters too much. Perhaps you exterminate ants or spiders with abandon. As someone who bears an irrational fear of cockroaches, I can relate.

But they mean no harm. They strive only to feed, mate, and fly blindly about. Who of us doesn’t know a more evolved person who fits that description? An hour later, I return to the kitchen to refill my water before bed. A lone survivor twitches once, twice. It is trying to generate momentum for a reversal before the poison kicks in. I know this creature will be dead before I see it again. If it were in the house, I’d freak out for someone to evacuate it. Here on the sill, outside my reach, I find myself wishing someone would save it. Its robust junebug body has much to offer. Surely it could find a mate to carry on its genes.

The second day I wake up remembering that bugs brought me to Alabama the first time. My New Mexico high school had qualified for the National Science Olympiad at Auburn. I was, improbably, the entomology specialist. Someone who is content to leave dead cockroaches under glass jars for days rather than pick them up herself (and this before reading Infinite Jest) seems like an unlikely fit. Two factors worked in my favor.

First: the insects were dead. There was no wiggling or flapping, which was important not just because I am skittish, but because insects are really incredible to look at when there is no risk that they will blindly land in your hair or crawl on your arm. You notice their colors, their interlocking parts, their alien eyes. Second: the task was merely organizational. You couldn’t bring a guidebook, but you could make one. I did not plan to memorize elaborate taxonomies, but I was happy to design an illustrated decision tree for bug identification in a spiral-bound notebook. I picked up and examined a lot of bugs. The last time I was this interested in insects, I’d run a short-lived childhood “roly poly” farm after discovering the armadillo-style creatures were attracted to geranium leaves. This turned out to be toxic, perhaps poisoning me forever for a love of insects. In any case, we didn’t win the Science Olympiad.

Through the next day the last junebug (Phyllophaga) lies there. It bakes in the sun. I think about how slight it seems. How should I read its final pose? Is it supplication or resistance? Where are its colleagues? Why hasn’t an enterprising bird—maybe one of our yard’s flock of cardinals—picked it up by now? Dusk arrives. Dinner is cooked and eaten; I do the dishes in the quiet of the laundry’s hum. And then it moves. The segmented legs pedaling up and down in the front, side to side weakly in the back. How can it be alive after all this time? What ancient instinct woke it at dusk to struggle once again?

I decide that I want it to live. More precisely, I decide that I can’t watch it die. I walk outside into the sweltering heat. I convey it to a shady part under our climbing roses. I watch, hoping it will right itself. I nudge a bit with the corner of the folder that once contained “AT&T BILL.” I notice that its head is actually a splendid red sienna, a contrast to its duller body. I notice the delicacy of its legs, the way each surprisingly hairy part precisely moves in time with its partners. Its eyes are shielded, while its antennae slowly feel out the new landscape.

By the time we return from a baking hot dog walk, it’s gone. Did it walk off? Did one of the cardinals snap it up? Do I care because I am secretly obsessed with my own mortality?

I eagerly await your response in this matter.

Best,
Kate Shuster
Montgomery, AL

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From: Andrew Cohill
Date: Wed, Jun 24, 2015
Subject: Day three of chili dog purge

Things did not go well today. I was not sure what to expect when I started this, but I did figure that the word “purge” was a clue. I had started on Saturday so that my body could get used to the heavy diet of chili dogs before work today. I had another restless night, and kept waking myself up with numerous loud eruptions of excess vapors. After yesterday’s overdose on six chili dogs (two per meal), I decided to go with what seemed safer for breakfast: a chili omelet. It was actually pretty good. And things seemed under control as I headed off to work.

But it was probably the second mug of coffee at work that triggered an intense bout of vaporous eruptions, punctuated with intermittent but highly embarrassing flatulent reports. I work in a cubicle farm, so I have many co-workers in close proximity. I was hoping that the sulfurous discharges were mainly confined to my cubicle, but that was not the case.

At about 10:15 AM, my boss called me.

“I need to see you in my office right away.”

I could tell by his tone of voice that something was awry.

I was having a sharp bout of abdominal pain when he called, so I crab-walked as best I could down the hall to his office, hoping fervently that I could contain the pressure until the meeting was over.

I entered his office, and he was terse.

“Shut the door.”

I shut the door and sat down gingerly, not wanting to set off an explosion.

“What’s going on?” he asked.

“What do you mean? I replied in return.

“It is a few minutes after ten on a Monday morning, and four of your co-workers have already been in here demanding that I move you or they are moving. Are you having some kind of medical problem?”

I was mortified; apparently the gaseous emissions were more noxious in their discharge than I had presumed. I explained that I was on day three of a “colon cleanse.” I refrained from calling it by its real name, the “Chili Dog Purge,” because all of a sudden that sounded ridiculous.

He asked me how long I had to be doing this. I replied that I was day three, and had four more days—until… At that moment, as I was about to utter the word “Friday,” the pressure that had been building since I entered the office discharged all at once with a sound like someone ripping a long piece of cardboard. And the chili-laden fumes instantly filled the office.

I don’t know who was more horrified—me, at the utter shame of that horrible flatulent release, or my boss, who seemed overcome by the mass of hydrogen sulfide that was filling the room.

We stared at each other, both dismayed by the absolute awkwardness of the situation. He stuttered for a moment, and I realized he was choking… he finally managed to compose his thoughts, and said, “You have my permission to work from home for the rest of the week. Now get out of here immediately.”

I fled down the hall, grabbed my hat and my briefcase, and rushed toward the exit, with what seemed like everyone on the floor following me with their eyes, like I was some kind malformed circus freak.

Once I got home, I settled down at my desk, fired up my laptop, and tried to get some work done before lunch, but the constant chili gas discharges was making my eyes water. I gave up, logged onto Amazon, and ordered a GasBGon flatulence seat cushion, and paid extra for overnight shipping.

I gamely had two chili dogs for lunch. I had two more for dinner, and sat morosely at the kitchen table after dinner, unable to stop thinking about the events of the morning.

Your obedient correspondent,
Andrew

Editor’s note: We have not received any further updates from Andrew. This causes us some concern.

- - -

From: Andrew Cohill
Date: Tue, Jun 23, 2015
Subject: Day two of chili dog purge

This morning, I approached the kitchen with some trepidation, as I had slept restlessly through the night. The spicy chili had my pyloric valve slamming open and shut all night long, and there were times when I was not sure if I was hearing thunder from storms in the neighborhood or it was just the gaseous rumbling of my distressed intestinal tract.

Since I had not actually had any chili dogs on Day One, I decided to start with chili dogs for breakfast. And it occurred to me that the spongy white bread hot dog buns might slow down the purge effect. I got out two buns, and fried two hot dogs by splitting them down the middle and searing them in a frying pan. I placed the nicely browned hot dogs in their buns, and loaded them with chili. Delicious! As usual, the chili tends to improve with age.

Sunday church was a bit of a trial, and I ended up in the crying room where the smell of poopy diapers helped mask any emissions by yours truly.

I decided to go all in and stick with more chili dogs for lunch… after all, this is the chili dog purge. Two more delicious dogs, buns heaped high with chili, grated cheese, and some extra Sriracha hot sauce just to keep things spicy. The Sriracha may have been a mistake, because as I started on the second dog, I began sweating profusely and turned quite red. I bravely finished the meal, but had to lie down until I returned to my normal Scotch-Irish pallor.

Dinner was two more chili dogs, and it may have been two buns too many, as I began to feel quite bloated after dinner. The buns seemed to be stopping things up, and I began to have sharp wrenching abdominal pains, which continued unabated until I drank two liters of ginger ale, which usually helps with stomachaches. Initially, the highly carbonated soda seemed to increase the internal pressure even more, but after a few minutes of screaming punctuated with prayers for a quick death, things “loosened up” rather violently.

With five days to go, this may be difficult.

Your obedient correspondent,
Andrew

- - -

From: Andrew Cohill
Date: Mon, Jun 22, 2015
Subject: Day One: Chili Dog Purge

Day one of the Chili Dog Purge: Made six quarts of chili on Friday. May have gone overboard on the jalapeño peppers. Accidentally got pepper juice in a cut on my hand while I was chopping them. Fell writhing to the floor in pain; poured a quart of milk over my hand, but then slipped on a milk puddle and sprained my wrist.

Ace bandage is very uncomfortable in this hot weather. Had chili scrambled eggs for breakfast on Saturday morning. Washed it down with two cups of coffee.

Purging started almost immediately. Burning sensation is continual and not very pleasant. Lunch was better; had chili burritos. Useful side effect: my allergies have completely disappeared; have not breathed this easily in many months. Dinner was a bowl of chili; actually pretty tasty with lots of grated cheese and washed down with a beer.

Probably should not venture far from a bathroom; purging continues unabated. Tomorrow I will actually have a chili dog. On a low carb diet, so trying to avoid the white bread buns.

Your obedient correspondent,
Andrew

- - -

From: Brendan Hogan
Date: Mon, Jun 22, 2015
Subject: Rubrics

Greetings,

Please tell Susan Harlan that I will be posting her memo on rubrics for my other college colleagues to take due note of outside my faculty office.

I will call her when I am called into the dean’s office to explain my lack of team spirit.

Best wishes,
Dr. Brendan Hogan

- - -

From: D. Cooper
Date: Mon, Jun 8, 2015 at 10:32 PM
Subject: Unusual Jobs

Hi! I was reading an Internet Tendency from September 2014 and ran across a tiny curiosity that neither Suzanne Yeagley nor her interviewee could understand. The interview was with a person who creates images and proofreads text for tombstones.

… There are also strange days. Like yesterday I sent a proof back that made so little sense, I was like, “Are you sure this is right?” It was for an old woman who had died, and it said, “He paid it all.”

Q: Maybe it was a situation where the husband paid for everything?

A: That’s the only thing I could think of. Sometimes people just have to get the last word…

The phrase is a reference to a hymn commonly sung at the end of a normal worship service in Southern Baptist churches. At the end of the service, the pastor invites people to come “down the aisle” (to the front, that is) to talk to him about joining that church or being “saved” (becoming a Christian, which Southern Baptists believe can only be done after you’re capable of understanding the concept for yourself).

During that time, the congregation sings a quiet, meaningful song that is easily repeated. More than likely, her favorite hymn was “Jesus paid it all,” which was very popular as a closing hymn in the mid-to-late 1900s. Here are the two most relevant verses of the song, the refrain of which is sung over and over (and over and over) if the pastor isn’t done talking to the people who’ve come down the aisle. (By Elvina Hall, 1865)

When from my dying bed
My ransomed soul shall rise,
“Jesus died my soul to save,”
Shall rend the vaulted skies.

(Refrain:)
Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.

The woman’s tombstone was her way of showing she was a Christian. I hope that cleared up their confusion!

— D. Cooper

P.S. My parents were fervent Christians, so I spent WAAAYYYYYYY too many Sunday mornings in the 1970s and 1980s waiting for the service’s closing hymn! Often the people at the front were quietly crying while the pastor counseled and prayed with them, but when the hymn got dragged out for a while, people would get restless. After a while, though, my dad’s patience would wear thin and he would lean over to my mom and try to whisper in his deep Texan drawl, “He oughta cut that out. There’s old people here needs to get to lunch.” He was genuinely serious that he felt the pastor was doing a disservice to the “old” people there, even though we all knew he was just hungry. I found his cynicism charming!

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From: Theo Compernolle
Date: Fri, Jun 5, 2015
Subject: LET’S TAKE THIS OPEN FLOOR PLAN TO THE NEXT LEVEL

Dear McSweeneys,

My son in law sent me “Let’s Take This Open Floor Plan to the Next Level” because since the late ’80s I’ve been on a crusade against open offices. I wrote a free and copyright-free booklet The Open Office Is Naked that can be downloaded at www.brainchains.info.

From now on I will quote the URL of your article on the handouts of all my workshops and keynotes and lectures on the subject, which I give 2-3 times a week.

I missed one issue in the story: The goal of these companies is to make the offices so unbearably bad, to dislodge their employees to the corner of their kitchen table at home and reduce office cost to zero (or just the cost of renting a few meeting rooms).

With kind regards,
Theo Compernolle

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From: Sofia Abraham
Date: Sun, Apr 5, 2015
Subject: Refrigerator Door

Are you still accepting submissions for your Refrigerator Door? If yes, I am submitting screen shots taken from the satellite on Google Maps of people photographing the World’s Seven Wonders. I know that you only have six magnets, so I made one page containing two or three photos with the title of the Wonder. The photos deal with how we see the world and at the same time the world sees us. So it is about viewing and being viewed, and what we are told to see while maybe eating a sandwich from the frig while looking at people looking at wonders. Here are the pictures I selected:

Thanks for your review!
Sofia

- - -

From: Emlyn Addison
Date: Sun, March 29, 2015
Subject: Some More Academic Bar Fight Insults

Applying Lips To My Anus As A Manifestation Of Free Will In Context Of Reforming The Social Hierarchy

“Get Lost, Fuck Face”: Redefining Personal Space Boundaries Through Sexual Personification

Establishing Modes Of Expectation By Invoking The Literalist Prerogative: “You And What Army?”

Verbal Sororicide: The Madonna-Whore Dichotomy As A Proposition Of Deficient Heredity

— Emlyn

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From: Katrina Gray
Date: Sat, Jan 17, 2015
Subject: McSweeney’s tattoo

Dear McSweeney’s,

Your quarterly concern is fantastic and has been a big part of my life since I was a kid. You may remember me from a talk you gave in Madison, Wisconsin about 7 years ago. I was the girl with bright orange or pink hair. Check out this tattoo I just got! I think people are going to assume that I am dating a man named Timothy McSweeney and that I got his name prominently tattooed on myself, and that makes me laugh.

Have a nice rest of your winter,
Katrina Gray

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From: Stephanie Small
Date: Thu, Nov 6, 2014
Subject: Thank You!

Just wanted to send a quick thank you!

My son just graduated from USMC Parris Island. I would print and send my son and his friends various pieces from your site weekly to give them a needed boost. He wrote that they loved the columns I sent and were anxiously awaiting more. Toward the end of their cycle the platoon and some of the DIs had read and reread! So thank you all for giving those guys some humor at the end of a hard day!

Proud Mom and McSweeney’s # 1 Fan,
Stephanie Small

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From: Cassidy Toner
Date: Thu, Oct 30, 2014
Subject: Submission for your refrigerator door

The drawing I’ve submitted for McSweeney’s Refrigerator Door is from a series called, “Stick Figure.” This body of work deals with the consumer. The stick figures are meticulously hand drawn with various highly rendered accessories ranging from Whole Foods Bags to Calvin Klein Boxer Briefs. The piece I am proposing you hang on your fridge is a stick figure with a yoga mat and a Whole Foods bag. This will ideally encourage/ guilt trip you into eating a carrot instead of a pudding pop.

This piece can easily be held up by several magnets and is about 11 × 15 inches (the ideal size for a fridge.)

Thanks for taking the time to review my work,
Cassidy

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From: Jim Fielder and Amy Fiedler
Date: Sun, Oct 26, 2014
Subject: Re: A Small-Scale Organic Farmer Wants You to Know a Few Things

Hi -

I got the “rant” from Claire Boyles via McSweeney’s from my organic farmer/daughter Amy Fiedler of Springhouse Farm in Vilas, NC. I worked 40 years in the oil industry and then Wall Street and thought I had made enough money to go back to the family farm where I grew up. To make a long story short “I should have worked 10 more years.”

I thought Claire might enjoy my rant back to Amy. Excuse me for thinking McSweeney’s was Claire and referring to her as a he!

I finally got around to reading it and got through the F-words 15 times and S-word another dozen and a few others ones I forget. At first I thought his language was a distraction and not needed. Then I realized he was not a for-profit farmer but had turned into a charity because you can’t make money with green washers who steal your sales with lies & crap, Dior wearers who are rich and yet want your stuff at half price and McDonald’s who sell their food for less that you pay for a packet of seeds. You can only save the world that wants to be saved. Reminds me of the NYT article a while back called “Don’t Let Your Son Grow Up To Be A Farmer” by the guy from LI. Now tell me again why you want to be a farmer?

— Jim Fiedler
Fiedler Family Farms
Rome, IN

From Jim’s daughter Amy:

As a market vendor myself, I can totally relate to this article. I also have a CSA and just finished my end of year evaluations, which always kill me. Too many beets, not enough beets, where were the blueberries you promised us?! Anyway, farming is a lifestyle and what I’ve learned over the past six years is that you just have to do the best you can, and hope that the weather, pollinators, and God are all on your side. It also helps when all the planets align.

And my response to my dad:

Because well because… I love it! The people I meet, the interns and volunteers I work with, the work I do… my pigs & veggies & bees, the lifestyle, my fellow farmers, my CSA members, even the random people I meet who stop at my produce stand. I love the seasons and watching how everything is constantly changing. Yeah it’s a shit ton of work and stress, but I never lay down at night regretting this decision. I consider myself lucky. Oh, and it’s in my blood. I have you to thank for that. Anyway, one day there will be a great book that comes out of this whole experience. You’ll see.

— Amy Fielder

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From: The Clairsense Team
Date: Mon, Oct 6, 2014
Subject: Psychic Readings for McSweeney’s

Dear McSweeney’s,

Here at Clairsense, we read your site all the time, and, time permitting, we go around our circle, either connecting with your writers’ Spirit Guides to see if they have any important messages for you, or sending you batches of good healing energy so that you can continue to write the things that we so enjoy reading (often with our minds).

However, for a while now, we’ve been picking up a certain negativity in your work sphere—a lack of initiative and ideas. So, this weekend we consulted the cards in our conference room and even did a séance to talk to the Spirits who have passed—we want to better understand what’s happening at your publication. Our Guides confirmed that you are going through a somewhat unpleasant period right now, but that everything will work itself out in the near future—at most within a few months (otherwise within the next year).

In any case, since we’re always visiting your site in order to augment your visibility (and notably I might add – our special powers make the SEO expert attempts on fiver look like mysterious energy flows gone bad), we thought you ought to come visit us and maybe even talk about us a little.

For now, namaste (though we haven’t quite figured out what that means yet).

In light and love,
The Clairsense Team

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From: Douglas Bayern
Date: Thu, Sep 11, 2014
Subject: Rubber stamps

I like your story on rubber stamps for teachers. My favorite stamp, which I own, is a 1950s corporate office DESTROY WHEN READ rubber stamp. This is handy for teachers and in many other contexts.

— DB

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From: Frank Lukas
Date: Mon, Aug 18, 2014
Subject: Tank order

Hello Sir/Madam

My name is Frank Lukas and I do understand that you handle some Tanks in stock for sale. I will like to see the model that you have and prices range on each. I will also like to know if Credit Card is accepted as a form of payment.

Thank you.

Best Regards,
Frank Lukas

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From: Leah Bush
Date: Mon, Aug 11, 2014
Subject: APA Conference Proposal

Professor Goldstein,

The conference’s theme, which I agree is unorthodox, nevertheless aligns with my personal and academic ventures. As such, I would like to submit my research regarding the role of herd immunity in eradicating ablutophobia, or the fear of bathing. Ablutophobia relates to sharks because sharks live in water and people bathe in water. The obvious question, then, is do sharks cause ablutophobia?

Title: You’re Gonna Need a Bigger Tub

Abstract: Herd immunity, a term usually applied to the efficacy of vaccinations when most but not all of a population is rendered immune, also shows promise in the underwater arena. Specifically, preventing contact between those at risk for fear of bathing with those with an active fear of it can halt the spread of ablutophobia and eventually eliminate it permanently when the affected people die. However, people often associate deaths with sharks, compounding the issue at hand.

Methods: Eleven subjects were divided into four groups: two groups that, while bathing or showering, were exposed to no shark-related imagery and two groups that, while bathing or showering, were exposed to various factual depictions of sharks in their natural habitat. (Depictions included scenes from Jaws, Sharknado, and Sharknado 2: The Second One.) One non-viewing group was allowed to interact with one test group; the other two remained isolated from each other.

These groups each consisted of four people, respectively, except for one control group (see: Limitations). Their reactions to bathing, both as a concept and as a daily event were recorded in three ways: fMRI scans when shown images of sharks, fMRI scans when shown images of bathtubs and showers, and fMRI scans when shown images of subjects in bathtubs or showers with sharks uncomfortably close to them in a warm and cuddly embrace. Additionally, videos of facial reactions to bathing were recorded and analyzed and may add to the televisual appeal of my proposal.

Results and Conclusions: In all three scans, the amygdala, the part of the brain associated with the processing of fear, of each subject in both groups exposed to shark visuals lit up like a shark’s eyes when it smells blood. That is to say that the difference between test group amygdalae and control amygdalae was statistically significant, as was hypothesized. Additionally, fear was recorded in the group that interacted with the shark video viewers but, notably, not in the true control group. Therefore, sharks conclusively cause ablutophobia. The causal relationship can be applied by isolating ablutophobes and perhaps feeding them to the sharks. Conversely, the media can capitalize on this relationship by establishing an ubiquitous shark-related presence

Limitations: Subjects either showered or bathed; neither was standardized across the board due to the calculation that the cost of disrupting the daily bathing routines of the showerers or the daily showering routine of the bathers outweighed the potential benefits of such standardization. Additionally, one subject was dropped from the control group for refusing to shower or bathe; however, he should not have been recruited for the study in the first place, when my research group and I became aware of the questionable stench emanating from his body.

I have not attached a picture of myself due to the probable need for a surrogate presenter should you accept my proposal. See, though I’m a post-pubescent woman, I weigh about 60 pounds: I’m lacking in not brains nor breasts but legs. A shark attack in my youth, spent as a lifeguard in Ft. Lauderdale, resulted in the loss of about half of my right leg and two-thirds of my left. Unless an FDR-style podium can be assured, I think it’s best for you, me, and the audience that a surrogate presenter be used.

I have no conflict of interest to declare. No sharks were harmed in the undertaking of this study.

— Leah Bush

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From: Scott Harper
Date: Sun, Aug 10, 2014
Subject: I know what you did

Dear McSweeney’s,

I was reading your quarterly, yesterday, when I happened to notice a number of bees eating a June bug alive in the hollow of an oak tree—making you an accomplice. I understand that cruelty in nature is unavoidable, but you are a literary journal and have no excuse. As people, or literary journals, we must challenge ourselves to rise above the inky baseness of our savagery: to be more than appetite. To gobble with mercy, peck-ish though we may be. I aim at you the following request, accordingly: don’t eat June bugs alive, please, McSweeney’s.

I appreciate your considerations.

Sincerely,
Scott Harper
Toronto, Ontario

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From: Leah Bush
Date: Mon, Jul 28, 2014
Subject: RE: THE ASSOCIATION FOR THE STUDY OF ROMANTIC LETTERS PRESENTS THE FIRST ANNUAL CONFERENCE ON HOW TO TELL SAMANTHA I REALLY LIKE HER

Hi Bobby (Jason? Can I call you Jason?),

I’ve never written a proposal before—project proposal or love proposal—but I have engaged the questions you asked even though I’m not actually engaged. Actually, I’m a high school senior, but more on that in the abstract and C.V.

Title: “Love in the Time of High School.” (I have to read Love in the Time of Cholera, among other books, for my AP English Literature class. I’m responding to your call for submissions because I feel like procrastinating. There’s still some summer left, right? Right?)

Abstract: High school is an often overlooked breeding ground (of knowledge), one where learning takes place both within and beyond the classroom. The knowledge borne of my research experience—and it’s not complete; I still have one year of high school to go, assuming I don’t fail again—has shed some light on the murky shadows that surround love. Specifically, when I read Plato’s Symposium in 10th grade, I wrote an A+ research paper comparing Aristophanes’ notion of the soul mate to a similar notion that appears in the Hannah Montana song, “He Could Be the One.” That same year, I also read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. I found the number of semicolons in the novel unbearable, though, so don’t use too many semicolons in your note or tweet or whatever the conference guides you to choose. The moral of Jane and her eventual husband Mr. Rochester’s story is that even if you do something so outrageous as conceal an insane, undivorceable wife from your current lover as Mr. Rochester did to Jane, things still work out in the end. Basically, it’s harder than you think to fuck up.

As a sophomore, I tried my hardest not to fall for anyone, and it was a pretty miserable year. Junior year, however, I started to like like a young man named David. We didn’t have AP English Language together—he had it 6th period, and I 7th—but we did have chemistry together. (And how fortunate! AP Chem is a double-period class at my school, and we were together 3rd and 4th period). Near the end of this past year, though, our English teacher, Mrs. Crawford, assigned a project on any dystopian novel of the students’ choice. We had the option of working individually or in groups, and the groups could consist of students within a class or across multiple classes. Naturally, I asked David if he’d like to work with me. He was hesitant at first, but he was hooked after I read him the first line of one of my favorites, Catch-22: “It was love at first sight.” (Two comments: 1. Catch-22 Isn’t technically a dystopian novel, but, according to Mrs. Crawford, all literature falls in one of two categories: satire or dystopia. (When I asked her which Twilight fell into, I expected her to say dystopia because society can disintegrate into nothing lower than sparkly vampires. In all her cunning insight, Mrs. Crawford responded, “That’s not literature.”) 2. Further research is necessary to determine whether a novel whose description of “love” consists almost entirely of one night stands is an appropriate novel with which to tell someone you might love him or her.) The project went so well that in my yearbook David asked for more book recommendations! He even drew a potato in my yearbook! If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.

Future projects, which I plan to undertake this school year, include making David a Valentine’s Day card that says in white Comic Sans, “I have a Major Major Major Major crush on you” on top of a background of a WWII plane to make clear my allusion to Catch-22. Also, even though schedules for the coming school year aren’t available, I’m pretty sure we’ll have at least one class together: physics. (My school isn’t huge, and there’s historically been only one AP Physics C class, which we both requested to take.) And isn’t chemistry just applied physics, and physics applied chemistry?

C.V.: I’m a girl. (I don’t know how to highlight in email, so I redefined “highlight” to mean “change the font color to pink.”)

The abstract covers my relevant high school love experience. I hope it is of value to you even though it is from the perspective of, rather than about, the unrequited love of a girl.

I tutor, which has been a nice way of getting paid while improving upon my social interaction skills.

I got a 2330 on my SAT. David got a 2330 on his SAT. Coincidence? I think not. (For all of the old people out there, College Board added a writing section in 2005. Like the math and verbal sections, the writing one is scored out of a maximum of 800 points.)

I play tennis. I highlighted this because my mom happened to see David’s mom at the airport—my mom doesn’t know I <3 David. I don’t know if David’s mom knows what David thinks of me. I don’t know if David knows what David thinks of me. Love. It’s complicated—but my mom told me that David’s mom told her that David has started to pick up tennis.

Statement of the Author’s Estimate of how likely it is that Samantha will simply laugh at the note and post a pic of it on Instagram, thereby ruining [your] entire life: I think it’s highly likely that Samantha will post a picture of the note on Instagram. See, the whole purpose of a female’s teenage years is to get the maximum number of likes possible on all pictures posted to Facebook, Instagram, etc. When I was asked to senior prom as a junior—by another boy in my chemistry class, no less—I made a picture of the _prom_posal my cover photo on Facebook. It garnered 86 likes, which far outnumbers the sum of the likes of my 8 other cover photos, which totals 25, for an average non-prom cover photo likeage (that’s a technical term) of 3.125 likes per picture. The only logical conclusion is that the demonstration of love in a cover photo has resulted in a 2,752% increase in my cover photo’s likes, and there’s no reason to think that Samantha’s experience should differ greatly; female teenage humans comprise a very homogenous population. However, I don’t think she’d “simply laugh at the note.” I wouldn’t at least. To ensure no hurt feelings, I hope we can discuss the content of your note further at today’s conference, which can only happen if you accept my proposal. Maybe then we can talk about the possibility that your note becomes a part of her Snapchat story.

— Leah Bush
Teenage Girl

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From: Steve
Date: Wed, Jul 16, 2014
Subject: This New Rap Song…

Hi, interesting article but nowhere do I see the rap song in question. If this isn’t some sort of vague joke, I think it’s likely an oversight. Can you please fix up the article with the relevant details. ty.

— Steve

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From: JJ
Date: Fri, Jul 11, 2014
Subject: Fake Massachusetts town names

There really IS a town in Massachusetts named “Braintree”! Really!

I don’t know what they were thinking (or smoking) when they thought that name but it is true.

— JJ in R.I., somewhat near Braintree

Editor’s response: [Sigh.]

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From: Jodie Leidecker
Date: Thu, Jul 10, 2014
Subject: Our Great Nation

Dear McSweeney’s,

Our country just celebrated another year of freedom, which has caused me to become reflective. I am very patriotic and so glad I was born in the United States because if I were born in India in the social class I come from then my parents would have sold me to somebody who would have cut off my arms and legs and made me roll in the dirt begging for alms, just like in a Charles Dickens’ novel but in modern times. Although if my ancestor John had stayed in Prussia and not come over to Kentucky after the failed revolution in 1848 and the bloodline had survived the other crop failures, famines, political upheavals, and major problems like World War I and World War II, then I (and my cousins on my dad’s side) would be now enjoying free government-sponsored health care and six weeks’ vacation at a spa resort in Baden-Baden every summer instead of spending the 1980’s driving around Paducah in a Camaro looking to score some weed and working at Long John Silver’s. I’m just saying.

Ancestors seem to always have been worrying about themselves instead of their descendants’ well-being. It was just a failed revolution—how bad could it have been if John could afford to pay passage across the ocean and buy 500 acres of good real estate a few miles out of town? Where’d he get the money if he was running from the king? (I am pretty sure that the only way any ancestor from my mom’s family could afford to get to America was as a member of a new penal colony—all expenses paid, of course.) I love my country, but a spa is nothing to turn your nose up at, either. Unless it would have turned out that I would have been one of the sweepers or the mean woman who makes you pay to use the bathroom of the spa (or beer garden). In that case, forget it and God Bless America.

I also harbor a very strong love for my state, Kentucky. Kentucky IS the best state in every way and its attractions are too numerous to mention here ( but just check out our state health insurance marketplace to get an idea), so suffice it to say that the physical beauty of the landscape is matched only by the charming character of the residents. I have lived in Kentucky for forty years except for six weeks in Europe, six months in India, and an occasional week here or there in New York and one big splashy road trip to see the southwest. After two weeks with just my family in the tiny rental car for ten hours a day, I threw a fit and we drove home in silence all the way through Kansas until a tornado-producing storm blew up and I started freaking out and praying to find a hotel. After all these times, I couldn’t wait to get home to a normal environment where there are package tobacco stores so that you can drive up to a window to pay for cigarettes and not have to drag your oxygen tank all the way out of the car (so inconvenient). Some even have pharmacies on the other end of the building so you can pick up your COPD medicine in the same stop. Now that’s what I call progressive.

I don’t mean to be biased, though, because I know we have some problems. For example, I went walking in town recently for my health and I saw a bumper sticker that said “Elect Jesus king of your life.” All I could think was that this driver may have had twelve years or so of public education Kentucky’s schools and still couldn’t tell the difference between democracy and the divine right of kings. Kings aren’t elected is the point I’m trying to make. Just ask my ancestor, John, who was ready to give up his descendants’ future rights to free health care and long summer vacations at spa resorts just to get away from his king. I need my own bumper sticker that says “Somebody around here robbed Peter to pay Paul.”

Another problem in Kentucky is that not many people are taking health walks like me. Of course, there is the danger of being run down by those on the way to the package cigarette store, so I have to be watchful, but there was the opportunity to pick up a free sock on the road. Some of my socks have holes, so I was considering getting it, but it looked too small, so I left it for the next lucky person who would be walking that way. I also used to pass by some thong underwear that had a cute butterfly sewn on the front that lay near the road for weeks, but I wasn’t tempted to take them. I was getting exercise, finding treasures, and communing with the cigarette smokers and political Christians (via their bumpers), so I felt like overall it was a good time and would like to encourage everyone to get out there and get to walking, but to also watch out!

Because I am so patriotic, when I die, I hope my kids take my remains out of the acid bath that dissolved me (if there are remains after that) and sprinkle them into one of the beautiful creeks I played in as a child in north Graves County. My “ashes” will mingle with broken whiskey bottles, cigarette butts, and straight-flush toilet contents from whence I was made and I will be happy, just floating and dreaming that I finally made to that big spa in the sky.

Your friend and fellow patriot,
Jodie Leidecker

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From: Kate Shuster
Date: Tue, Jul 1, 2014
Subject: Correspondence Loosely Related to Issue 46

Dear McSweeney’s,

I killed a ladybug. It was after nine on a Friday night in Montgomery, Alabama. I was relaxing in the clawfoot bathtub we’d installed in our old house. Understand, please, that we had not gotten the tub because we were rich or indolent, but rather because the old bathroom’s floor was falling in from a century of neglect and poor construction work and termite damage and who knows what else, and also because we live in Montgomery and needed a refuge from the complex historical background radiation that steeps this place. I’d settled in with a mystery from the excellent collection in No. 46, the one that takes place in a sanatorium where a man awakens with ants crawling across him.

Please understand that bugs were a major reason I didn’t want to move to Alabama, despite relocating from Claremont, California—a place built on a warren of ants. My father was briefly stationed in Pensacola after I was born, spending the years after Vietnam flying reconnaissance missions into hurricanes while my mother was left to fend for herself against, the way she tells it, an army of giant flying roaches. “They call them Palmetto Bugs,” she would say, scorning the local delusion that these things were not giant flying cockroaches. This was a woman who had previously spent years in Guam rooming with geckos who would supposedly climb on the ceiling above the bed and poop on the sleeping military bride below.

When I announced to her that I was moving to Alabama seven years ago, she said, “God, but the roaches.” Fortunately, we haven’t had much of that in our particular house. We have everything else, it seems. For example, our neighborhood is infested in the summer by nefarious-looking and dumb as hell cicadas, whose tragic life is the subject of another letter. There are giant incomprehensible rectangular bugs with wavy sinister antennae, glittery green beetles who seem alive even when dead perched on the collection of axe handles that inhabits our outdoor shed for some reason, and absolute hordes of mosquitos. And there were, at least when we moved in, mysterious rafts of ladybugs who would enter the house only to be found dead in the seeming hundreds on window ledges and just under doorframes, mingling with dog hair and forgotten bits of paper in grotesque and fading collages. Years of caulking and weatherproofing reduced their mass extinction somewhat. We also suspected that the cats were eating any stragglers; in any case, they diminished and I’d forgotten their attempted collective migration until tonight.

I didn’t think of these devastated refugees from the conflict-ridden out-of-doors when I reflexively swatted at the flying insect from my perch deep in the water. I lunged with a fancy hand towel that was the last item I’d bought and described to my mother in detail before she died, something much too expensive for me to actually purchase (much less a set) when I got it in Birmingham. That’s where you shop, incidentally, if you live in Montgomery—it’s that or the Internet, as the self-named City of Dreams doesn’t boast much in the way of meaningful retail for those of us who want some meaning in our retail.

I got it in a second when it flew confused down from the small wood-framed window, trapped it against the curved rim of the online-ordered tub. As I closed the towel around the intruder triumphantly, I saw that it was a ladybug. In that same moment, I was crushing it, bringing it down to the floor. My chest felt expanded but tight, as if I’d had too much whiskey and accidentally met in the street an old lover that I had wronged. As I dropped the towel I actually said out loud “I’m sorry, I didn’t know.”

To an insect I said this, in the bathtub in the house by myself on a Friday night. Which is not that normal, the latter part, as I usually have a husband with me doing various things while I relax after the week. I say this not to be defensive, just to set the record straight on the larger context of events. Was I sorry? In retrospect, the case is dim. Seeing the flying thing above, I carefully placed my bookmark (a drive-through bank receipt) in your fine periodical in the beginning-ish of the marvelous story by Rodrigo Rey Rosa, set the book on the sink to my left, and grabbed the killing towel.

If that is not enough evidence to convince anyone of my not-sorry-ness, I proceeded after a few seconds of regret to pick up the story and begin again. I didn’t think to check if it was actually dead, or to interrogate the nature of my guilt as it related to the cuteness of the ladybug (as opposed to the manifest un-cuteness of a possible roach or other flying critter, which our yard spawns like crazy all summer). But I did feel shame for offing the thing, whose only crime was impeding my luxury soak at the end of a thoroughly bourgeois day of working at home.

I read several pages more, got to the point in the story (spoiler alert) where the protagonist (the hedonist, he’s called in the story, I’m sure there’s a moral here somewhere) escapes the sanatorium and decided the water had cooled enough to leave the bath. I deliberated on the ladybug’s fate. I decided that the decent thing to do would be to flush it down the toilet rather than to leave its carcass in the trash can for the cats to pick out and eat. Let me say that the matter of disposal was not easy for me. I have been known to leave roaches under glass for days for others to deal with (even before I read Infinite Jest) or closing off whole rooms because a rogue wasp had taken up residence. But I was determined to give this ladybug, to which I had attributed some measure of personality and value, a proper burial. I toweled off and put on clothes, then shook out the hand towel onto a cloth rug with the apprehension befitting a corpse.

Excelsior! It moved! It tucked in disheveled back wings and tottered toward the center of the rug, moving its red shell carefully side to side along the contours of our Etsy-sourced hand-loomed Maine rag rug. I was thrilled, feeling that all was forgiven. I could now return it to the outside to seek its own destiny! My childhood took over and I reached down to see if it would crawl onto my finger. No dice. Maybe it knew better? I reached into the trashcan and pulled out a piece of plastic, leveling it to the tiny insect’s legs. It crawled right on, and I sped out of the bathroom and outside, to my dog’s evident astonishment. I deposited the ladybug on a shrub and felt very proud of myself. So proud, in fact, that I sat right down to write this letter and have not finished your fine collection.

I don’t have much more to add, except this: after it rained, I took the dog out and was repeatedly buzzed on the neck by a fat June bug. I was exceptionally annoyed and returned inside to the sound of Miles Davis playing “Someday My Prince Will Come” streaming on my stereo.

Yours,
Kate Shuster
Montgomery, AL

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From: Jaime Lowe ‪
Date: Tue, June 10, 2014
Subject: in response to your post yesterday

My Facebook feed and Twitter went nuts yesterday, mostly because friends and former editors and current editors thought I had written Jaime’s post. Jaime Lowe and I get confused all the time since we basically do the same thing (write about things, photograph things). We first met over email because she was getting letters about my book and eventually met in person for coffee. Anyway, I kept trying to explain to Facebook and Twitter that I did not write the excellent post by Jaime Lowe but maybe this will clarify things, I wrote my own bio based on hers.

AN ARTIST (BY THE SAME NAME) BIO GETS REAL.
BY JAIME LOWE

Jaime Lowe is a thirty-something-year-old writer and photographer and terrible painter who is not the same as the other Jaime Lowe, though she shares many of the same characteristics. Jaime Lowe has often been mistaken for Jaime Lowe. She lives in Brooklyn in an apartment with a couch and very little internet. She’s been mistaken for the other Jaime Lowe by readers, friends and by her own brother who once complimented an article written by the other Jaime Lowe thinking it was written by Jaime Lowe. For entertainment, she also watches one of six mediocre rom-com DVDs that she bought for five dollars at Goodwill and also Tootsie. She loves Tootsie. She personally owns three pairs of pants, no furniture, and very few earthly possessions plus many things she has found on the sidewalk and determined to be bed bug-free. How, you might ask? Jaime Lowe has incredible vision and does not care too much about bed bugs. She earned no MFA at any point because when faced with a choice—an MFA or taking a poorly-paid, mediocre job at an airline’s magazine, the in-flight seemed like a better prospect than debt. The other Jaime Lowe did meet and workshop stories with Jaime Lowe’s friends at a liberal arts MFA program, which was funny because they said, Jaime Lowe, you should meet Jaime Lowe! Her photographic work has appeared on her Facebook feed and sometimes Twitter but not Instagram, but let’s not fool anyone—do they even pay anymore? (No.) Her writing has appeared in a bunch of large publications. She also wrote a book about Ol’ Dirty Bastard and boxes at Gleason’s gym and edits a website about animals. She might be interested in shooting your shitty airy campaign, or your new one-word-titled expensive quarterly with Sans Serif hybrid font and white border and the ’70s-looking model on the cover. (Because this Jaime Lowe thinks she has a very good eye, that’s what her mother says.) Gallery owners need not inquire because she doesn’t photograph nubile, naked rich people setting off smoke bombs in the back of pickup trucks in the desert. Jaime Lowe totally will. That sounds fun. And if you ask her if she’s seen the show Girls with a knowing, I-pegged-you look on your face, she’ll probably slap you in the mouth. That’s true. Jaime Lowe would do that but with Jaime Lowe’s boxing background, it will likely be a stiff jab or uppercut.

Are there any other Jaime Lowes? Jaime Lowes of the world unite!

Feel free to follow her on Twitter or Instagram or like her Facebook page so she can achieve some false sense of entitlement and success.

— Jaime Lowe

- - -

From: David Harper ‪
Date: Thu, May 29, 2014
Subject: Jordan Jeffers: don sterling/parks & rec.

Mr. Jeffers article was a good read, looking into the “mechanics” of hating the sin and not the sinner—let alone loving them. It really IS hard. I think a stepping stone to that is justice. It’s rational, not emotive. So, I found it surprising that Mr. Jeffers glossed over the question of trying to force sterling to sell the team as “vaguely interesting… suited for a college civics class”. On the one hand, It’s clearly appropriate for the NBA to disassociate itself from Sterling and to ban him from direct involvement in the league; on the other hand, being offended isn’t grounds to try to financially harm others either. The issue is renouncing sterling’s bigotry. Banning him from direct involvement does that. Mr Jeffers’ quote of MLK saying “… not to defeat an individual” speaks to that. It should be enough to put him out of sight where his comments were in the first place. Being overzealous can easily become a threat to freedom of speech and freedom in general.

Sincerely,
David Harper

- - -

From: Stottlemyer, Eric
Date: Wed, Apr 30, 2014
Subject: Just a few thoughts…

Dear McSweeney’s,

I was thinking of you this morning as I poured rancid milk into an empty coffee mug. Don’t misunderstand me; the rancid milk has nothing to do with how I feel about you. I find you quite fetching, actually, and it was just a simple coincidence that you were on my mind when I discovered that the milk I wanted to use in my coffee was rancid. Because we had no more milk in the house, and because I really wanted milk in my coffee, I decided to use it anyway. It has recently become a habit of mine to pour the milk into my mug first, which I then carefully position on the microwave’s turntable, set the time for twenty-five seconds, and watch as it spins, somewhat haltingly, in circles. (This gives me time to reflect on the fact that I’m using my favorite coffee cup: a conical-shaped, yellow NEW MEXICO mug, complete with state facts [year of statehood; square footage; state bird, etc.] that I picked up at the Albuquerque International Airport when I presented an essay at a conference there a few years back. The essay more or less successfully [probably less successfully] explored the philosophical ramifications of evolution pertaining to mountain lions in the Pacific Northwest in the current era of global mass extinction. I bought the yellow mug as a gift for my then-pregnant wife, who, god bless her, had to endure a week alone during her seventh month without my nightly foot massages, water bottle re-fillings, and chocolate feedings. At the time, we found the whole prospect to be terrifying, having absolutely zero idea about how adept we might be as parents to a child who, also at the time, was little more in our minds than an abstract concept. The yellow mug hardly made up for my absence, but served as small token, I had hoped, of the fact that I was thinking about her and that I understood first-hand the terror that accompanies the monumental life changes we sometimes must confront entirely on our own.) I knew that the milk was rancid because when I unscrewed the cap from the half-gallon container, I was overwhelmed by the odor. Actually, I had been smelling this odor for several days, and every morning had noted its growing potency, but had simply chosen to ignore it and blamed it instead on a piece of food that simply must have fallen into the crack between the stove and the countertop. Perhaps all of this is to say that, the only thing more amazing than how quickly the mind can generate a completely irrational and unnecessarily complex solution to a particularly simple and obvious problem is just how quickly we accept it.

Eric Stottlemyer
Winston-Salem

- - -

From: Thomas Peyton
Date: Fri, Apr 25, 2014
Subject: Congratulations!

Dear McSweeney’s,

I am happy to inform you that your website was recommended to us by our 9th grade Accelerated English teacher. This shows comedic value across ages. Your site is very enjoyable and humorous. The Internet Tendency is enjoyable for all people. I hope you are not a criminal who is living in their mother’s basement.

Sincerely,
Thomas Peyton and Elizabeth May
General McLane High School, Pennsylvania

- - -

From: Jennifer Page
Date: Wed, Apr 16, 2014
Subject: List of “fictitious” Massachusetts towns.

BRAINTREE EXISTS! Curious why you would list it in that list of yours?

Sincerely,
Jennifer Pagé,
Native New Englander

Editor’s Response: As we’ve explained before, yes, we are well aware that Braintree is a real Massachusetts town.

- - -

From: Daniel O’Malley
Date: Wed, Apr 2, 2014
Subject: Tortoises

I seem to have lost some notes—wildebeest, gorilla, kudu, giraffe… I hate to think these trips have been for nothing, and if the notes turn up, I’ll send them, but at the moment I’m in the Galapagos Islands, and happy at last to find an animal I can ride.

According to historical accounts, when Spanish explorers encountered these enormous tortoises, the shells reminded them of a certain type of saddle, a galapago—hence the name of both the animal and the island chain. The tortoises vary in size and shape—some have dome-shaped shells, some saddle-backs, some tabletops—but they’ve all got a prehistoric look about them. Their skin is scaly and rough to the touch, almost sandpapery. Females are identifiable by their short downward-pointing tails and typically reach sexual maturity at twenty years. Males take nearly twice as long to develop sexually, and their tails, which house the penis, are longer and point upward and to the side. The males have concave undersides to accommodate the females’ shells during coupling, which occurs from behind and often lasts for several hours. Afterward, the females burrow into the soil to lay their eggs, and the sex of the offspring is determined by the temperature at which the eggs are maintained during incubation.

Like smaller turtles, they withdraw into their shells, retracting limbs and head, when they perceive a threat, though they appear remarkably calm, indifferent even, to the presence of humans here. There’s a serenity in their eyes that isn’t really surprising in a creature that can live up to 200 years. Looking at them, you get the feeling that nothing surprises them anymore, they’ve seen it all.

Their faces aren’t what you’d call expressive, but they appear agreeable to the idea of load-bearing. They seem not to notice actually. After lunch, I carefully straddled one, gradually lowering my weight onto its back, and it continued its march as if I were merely a leaf that floated down and landed there. Then, as a joke, I grabbed a stick and speared a piece of lettuce left over from my sandwich and dangled it in front of the tortoise’s face. Sure enough, its speed increased appreciably. This isn’t to suggest any lack of intelligence on the animal’s part—they’re actually quite smart. One of the researchers here on Isabella Island told me about studies in which some of the tortoises have learned to respond when called. She said some of them even recognize their own names. Not to mention they’ve had the wherewithal or instinct or whatever to develop symbiotic relationships with some of the finch varieties Darwin talked so much about—what the tortoises do is stretch their necks out and allow the finches to peck at the parasites that hid in the folds of their skin.

My tortoise—a good-sized male—appeared not to respond to sounds though. Which didn’t really bother me. Just being able to ride the animal was triumph enough. I actually started to cry a little, though I have to admit I’ve actually been doing that a lot lately, and I swore I wouldn’t get into this, at least not here in my notes, but this project is taking a lot longer than I expected. And it’s hard too because I don’t even understand why I’m here. I’m sure this fits into your larger plan somehow, but I can’t help wondering sometimes. Sometimes I get the feeling that there’s no point at all, that you’re just trying to keep me away. Or that I’ve misunderstood—you’ve always said I have a tendency to “miss the point.” Maybe I’m missing the point here too. I don’t know. What I do know is I miss you. I miss home too, but if you were here with me I don’t think I’d miss home at all. Sometimes at night I’ll be in my tent and I’ll catch myself crying and I won’t have any idea for how long and I won’t be able to stop. I try jogging sometimes. I put my boots on and run laps around the ten until I feel like I might pass out. But then when I lie down panting in the grass and look up at the sky, I think of you. I think about how no matter how far apart we are, it’s the same moon up there, and then I’ll start wondering what you’re doing—maybe you’re looking at the moon too. But that doesn’t always make sense, since so much of the time we’re in different time zones and when it’s night where I am, it’s the middle of the day where you are… but then there are other times when we are on the same side of the world and it is possible. Like right now. Right now the moon is almost full—I don’t even have to use my lantern, as long as I keep the tent flap tied back, and I’m wondering if maybe you’re looking at the moon too. But probably you’re not. Probably you’re inside, asleep beneath your ceiling fan and dreaming about things I don’t even know. I know, I know—babbling. I’ll stop now. I was talking about tortoises. I said I was happy to finally find an animal I can ride, and I am happy, in a way. I will say you were right about one thing—this has been a learning experience. I don’t know that I’ve “grown,” but I have been learning a lot, loads of things I didn’t know before. More than I could possibly get down on paper. I’ll keep going though. I’ll keep working my way down the list until you send word and tell me either that I’m doing this wrong or that I can come home. And if those notes turn up, I’ll send them along so you can do whatever it is you do with these things. Should you decide to send word now, you can reach me in Salta, Argentina. I’ll be there by the time you get this. Up next is the capybara, which, if you don’t already know, is the world’s largest living rodent. I’ve been asking people about it, so I know what to expect. So far all I’ve heard is that capybara can be “a real bastard.” I have no idea what that means, but I’ll let you know when I find out.

Yours,
D

- - -

From: Henry Lane
Date: Thu, Mar 20, 2014
Subject: Potential Content Contribution

Hello,

My name is Henry Lane and I am an insurance consultant. For years I worked in the insurance industry working as a claims expert and one day decided to venture out on my own. Presently, I work as a freelance consultant advising businesses and individuals.

Writing has always been a passion of mine and I combine this passion with my years of experience in the insurance industry. I have ghost written a number of articles and have been published in reputed journals. I specialize in all aspects of auto and travel insurance and could come up with a really interesting article on the subjects.

I am keen to feature a guest post on your blog as it would do wonders for my portfolio as a writer. I realized it was time I stopped ghostwriting for others and built an online reputation for myself. Here are a few ideas that I feel you might like:

1) A Look at How Auto Recall Affects Your Car Insurance

2) 10 Car Insurance Discounts You Simply Should Know About

3) 13 Myths About Car Insurance Busted

4) How to Find Yourself the Best Car Insurance

5) A Look at the Stages Involved In An Auto Insurance Claims Process

6) How Much Car Insurance Do You Actually Need?

7) 10 Things that Can Impact Your Car Insurance Premiums

8) The Different Types of Motorhome Insurance Available
Today

9) Things to Keep In Mind When Shopping for Motorhome Insurance

10) How Much Motorcycle Insurance Is Sufficient?

11) A Look At What Classic Motorcycle Insurance Is All About

12) Things You Should Do Following a Motorcycle Accident

13) Tips On Choosing the Right Motorcycle Insurance

14) Secrets to a Cheaper Auto Insurance

15) Step Involved in Insuring a Classic Car

16) How Your Credit Scores Can Affect Your Car Insurance

I am also open to any ideas or suggestions that you might have. Lastly, I am willing to part with $30 for you efforts in publishing my article, as I know it would be a sound investment.

I hope your reply is in the positive, so your readers get the opportunity to benefit from what I have to say.

Regards,
Henry

- - -

Editor’s Note: The following letter is posted as a precautionary tale about the risk of writing overly clever cover letters. The name of the author has been redacted to save him/her from embarrassment should he/she happen upon this letter when he/she is much older than he/she is now and no longer thinks he/she has life all figured out.

From: REDACTED
Date: Fri, Mar 28, 2014
Subject: Greetings!

Dear McSweeney’s,

Greetings. My name is REDACTED. I’m an ensuing college dropout from REDACTED, having withdrawn for a semester to see the world, as they say. I’ve been hitchhiking for the past four months en route to the World Cup—and it’s been real, to say the least.

Now reader, what I am proposing to you is for you to give me a chance to let me show you my literary chops, my comedy, my brio. McSweeney’s, I am proposing that you let me appear consistently in your publication. Why? Because I believe (with only the pomposity that a young aspiring writer can have) that I can offer you something a bit beyond conceptual humor, something more than post-graduate, big-city-living irony. I mean, your Internet Tendency’s cool and all, but I can’t help but feel that your material, conveyed through quirky design and antiquated font, needs something more than tongue-in-cheek chuckles written on a MacBook Pro in a coffee shop. You want substance, but when substance’s scarce, the next best and easy thing, this generation’s default for humor and quip and fashion, is irony. It’s that manic-depressive hyperrealism. Reader, it’s better to be clever than good, as we all know, but rarely demonstrate, and I can give you good.

So take me, McSweeney’s. I will be your sanctioned flagship of literature’s up-and-coming, your protégé to mold (and whose eventual success to take credit for), your latest and newest out of McSweeney’s Academy. So gild my writing in left-aligned Garamond, make me a diva, make me a star.

Regards,
REDACTED

- - -

From: JoyAnne O’Donnell
Date: Mon, Mar 24, 2014
Subject: Short Story Prompt

Hi –

I wrote a short story using the short story prompt from a man who needs $5000 by tomorrow. I hope you like it.

“The Traveler”

Scott Bender had a couple of degrees. One day he decided to go on an adventure. None of his previous jobs were making him happy and they never worked out for him. So he planned to go and travel around the world to find his true identity.

But there was one exception: he needed five thousand dollars to get from Virginia to California on an airplane so he could stop in each state in between to visit every publishing house. So he borrowed money from a loan shark named Harry, nicknamed “Harry the Scary.” Scott told him that when he got to California he would wire him the money.

So Scott enjoyed the sunsets, all fifty of them, sparkling pink, white, and blue. Looking out the plane window, he kept faith in the sky and into the night, finally reaching San Diego with his briefcase of about ten manuscripts, holding on to them with his life. He was trying to get his book published, stopping at each publishing house along the way but had no luck.

Then he fell into a deep sleep, into his book of good-luck dreams. Like the dewfall that almost escaped the windfall, he fell a sleep on the flight and all the passengers were off board. Surprisingly, he awoke to see an editor, dressed in his best grey suit, shaking him awake.

Editor John Wilders said after waking up Scott, “Come with me. I will buy you a cup of coffee.”

While at a small café, Scott learned that the man trying to wake him up worked at a publishing house in Los Angeles. John Wilders told him that he would be so happy to read his manuscripts.

So then the next day he published all three of his books. His dream turned reality; his typing like a thunderstorm paid off. His many pages of ink-stained fingers gleamed like fresh white paint that turned to bestsellers’ sunrise.

He got five thousand dollars right away, plus a contract to write more books.

— JoyAnne O’Donnell

- - -

From: Daniel O’Malley
Date: Thu, March 6, 2014
Subject: Hippos

Not sure how much time has passed, but I’m in Africa now, studying the hippopotamus, whose name is a combination of the Greek words hippos and potamos, which the dictionary tells me means “horse of the river.” Indeed, these animals spend much of their time lolling in rivers and lakes, but their body shape more closely resembles that of a rhinoceros, or a big potbellied cow, than a horse. Their snouts are bulbous and their undersides appear taut to the point of rupture. They have tough-looking skin that bunches at the neck like a thick gray sweater they can’t quite fit into.

Their eyes, ears and nostrils are located high on their heads, and they can stay submerged for five minutes at a time. Even mating occurs beneath the water, with the female’s head occasionally bobbing up for breath.

To mark their territory, males defecate underwater and spin their short, rope-like tails to spread their waste over the widest possible area. We saw a display of this once, at the zoo in St. Louis—perhaps you remember? There was a cartoon hippo painted on the wall with a plastic propeller pinned on for a tail, and we were sharing a snow-cone, and I kept spinning the propeller, and you said it made you sick. Remember?

Anyway, it’s because they spend so much time submerged, letting the water support their bulk, that hippos have such puny-looking legs. They’re deceptive though, those legs. Around dusk, when the temperature finally drops a few degrees, the hippos come lumbering out on land to graze, and they can walk around just fine. They can even run for short distances, when they want to.

Against the advice of my guide, R.J., I stepped out of our jeep and attempted to follow the animals on their evening feeding. I will admit that R.J.’s warning was well-founded—the hippopotamus being, despite its appearance, generally considered the most deadly animal in Africa. Earlier in the afternoon, we actually witnessed a display of their power when a crocodile lunged at a young hippo wading in the shallows, oblivious, and in a matter of seconds two adult females were powering through the water, bellowing, mouths open nearly 180 degrees, flaunting those ivory canines poachers so prize, and sending the crocodile scrabbling back up the bank. It was awesome.

Now, following the evening migration on foot, I picked out what I believed to be a juvenile female near the back of the herd. She was shorter at the shoulder than the others, and so seemed easier to mount. I stalked slowly, breathlessly, lasso in hand, but the animal’s hearing was acute and the crackle of reeds under my feet must have been enough to startle her. She took off at a gallop, triggering panic in the rest of the herd, and they all thundered away in a cloud of dust. It felt the way I imagine a small earthquake might feel. R.J. refused to give chase in the Jeep.

— Daniel

- - -

From: Jason Cromwell
Date: Sun, Feb 23, 2014
Subject: Content Ideas You’d Like

Hello,

My name is Jason Cromwell and I run a swimming pool supplies business. Writing is as much a passion of mine, as my business is, and the two often cross paths. I have ghost written a number of articles and have been published in reputed home improvement journals.

I am keen to feature a guest post on your blog as it would do wonders for my portfolio as a writer. I realized it was time I stopped ghostwriting for others and built an online reputation for myself. Here are a few ideas that I feel you will like:

1) 10 Great Tips to Take Care of Your Swimming Pool

2) How to Set Up a Spa at Home Without Spending Much

3) Things to Keep in Mind When Building Yourself a Swimming Pool

4) Keeping Your Swimming Pool Water Clean Without Using Harmful Chemicals

5) Easy and Economical Ways to Protect Yourself from Swimming Pool Chemicals

6) How You Can Make Your Swimming Pool More Fun for Your Kids

7) Tips on Looking After Your Outdoor Swimming Pool During Winter

8) How Do You Decide On the Kind of Swimming Pool You Want In Your Home?

9) Things to Remember When Buying a Pump and a Filter for Your Pool

10) What Every Potential Pool Owner Must Know

11) Factors You Need to Consider When Buying Yourself a Hot Tub

12) Useful Tips for Removing Brown Stains From Your Pool Liner, Walls and Stairs

I would be glad to write an article on any of the above topics and am open to any ideas or suggestions that you might have. Lastly, I am willing to part with $30 for you efforts in publishing my article, as I think it would be a sound investment.

I hope your reply is in the positive, so your readers get the opportunity to benefit from what I have to say.

Regards,
Jason

- - -

From: Vashthi Nepaul
Date: Sat, Feb 22, 2014
Subject: On Bream Gives Me Hiccups

Dear nice people at McSweeney’s,

Even though “hiccup” is not a recognized spelling for anything in my country, I love this column. I assume that, because he occasionally moonlights as a famous person, the author cannot receive feedback directly. Please pass on my thanks for the continued story of Bream Gives Me Hiccups boy. I am always horrified by my inevitable amusement at his sad childhood. How this is accomplished is beyond me, but I hope it does not stop soon.

Kind regards,
Vashthi Nepaul

- - -

From: Daniel O’Malley
Date: Thu, Feb 20, 2014
Subject: Emus

Dear McSweeney’s,

Emus are large flightless birds with long legs and long necks native to the Australian continent. Their plumage is thick and shaggy and brownish gray, a shade sort of like chocolate milk, with streaks of black. They have eyes the size of ping pong balls situated on the sides of their heads and their pupils skew to the center, so that when you see one up-close it has a natural cross-eyed, crazy kind of stare, as if it’s being hypnotized by the tip of its own beak. And though the emu’s size and its long, flat back may seem to indicate a suitability for riding, actually mounting one, I found, can prove quite tricky.

Having located a lone bird scratching in the dirt not far off the road, I attempted mounting it dozens of times, approaching slowly, inch by inch, then extending my hand and holding it steady while the bird gently pecked at the sunflower seeds I held in my palm. It actually hurt quite a bit, this pecking, but I still say “gently” because there was a tentativeness about all of the bird’s movements. It seemed more puzzled than aggressive. Even when it grunted—at a register much louder and deeper than I’d previously thought possible for a bird—it seemed more curious than threatening.

When I finally managed to convince the animal that my intentions were pure, I was still only able to get one leg up over its back before it bolted for good, vanishing into the bush. Later, at a tavern on the outskirts of Kalgoorlie, where I’d made camp, I met an old man who knew a thing or two about these birds. I believe the man was of Aboriginal descent, though I can’t confirm this. “You’re lucky,” he told me. “How so?” I asked. I thought he meant I was lucky to have spotted an emu in the field, which didn’t make sense, considering how common they are here in the western part of the country. “I’ve seen one could kick through a fence post thicker than your leg,” he said. “Oh,” I said, “I see,” and then he went on to detail the damage the birds can inflict with their feet, which—something I failed to notice earlier—have three toes sharp as spear points. The old man claimed to have seen a cow disemboweled by an emu on a farm operated by his former brother-in-law five, maybe six years ago.

These days the old man works as a safety inspector at one of the smaller gold mines here, but I told him I wasn’t really interested in that. Of course, he wanted to know what I was doing here, but I spoke carefully, telling him nothing. I said I was just a curious traveler, killing time in “the Outback.” I didn’t say a word about you. Instead I flagged down a waitress and ordered another round of beers for the old man and me, and he told me about the emu’s place in Aboriginal mythology. What he said sounded reminiscent of what I’ve heard American Indians say about the buffalo, but when I pointed out this parallel, the old man said he didn’t know anything about any buffalo.

— Daniel

- - -

From: Gianluca Daniela d’Errico
Date: Tue, Feb 11, 2014
Subject: Sottosuolo

Hello people there! I appreciated Observer interview with P.S. Hoffman. He was one of those actors, but I want to say persons, that when you have met them, in his case when you see him in a film, you feel something beautiful in your mind although you can’t tell the reason why immediately. OK, I’m saying some bullshit that probably is only in my stupid head.

Anyway I want to tell that I studied literature together with languages, I had a “tesi,” I don’t know how you call it in English, about David Foster Wallace, and after graduation I started to think that literature is not profitable (and this is the time I finally open my heavy dictionary), especially in south of Italy etc. I worked as receptionist, shipping agent for seven years, and after dismissal (another short visit to dear old dictionary), I started to plan in order of appearance: country life, agriculture, b&b, English school for children, and so on.

OK, that’s the point, these days I realized that my life is in “sottosuolo” like Dostoevsky’s Memorie del Sottosuolo, (in English: Memories from the Underground?) It’s not only this book, it’s the way people who live in this kind of world, that is the world of literature that I want to call “sottosuolo” (that in English is underground but haven’t same semantic burden)—that is your world, P.S. Hoffman—people that do not necessarily have to live their life personally, searching for money, for family, for oldness… Hoffman said, “It’s pleasurable, like smoking, it’s not a duty.”

OK, don’t care, regards from Italy.

— Gianluca

- - -

From: Abiodun Osho
Date: Wed, Feb 5, 2014
Subject: Join a cult

Please I want to be member of a cult. How do I do?

— AO

- - -

From: Chelsea Lewis
Date: Wed, Jan 29, 2014 at 12:53 PM
Subject: Katelyn Sack’s wonderful borscht recipe

I’ve liked a lot of McSweeney’s columns, but never enough that I felt a burning need to get in touch with the author to tell her how wonderful it was, until Katelyn Sacks’ borscht recipe in “The Twelfth Batch” of Reviews of New Food. I loved her voice and her recipe. Thanks for publishing the column!

— Chelsea Lewis

- - -

From: Ryan Jacobs
Date: Thu, Jan 23, 2014
Subject: Death Star Garbage Disposal

I recently read the article about the Death Star’s trash disposal problem when it was retweeted by the Star Wars twitter page. I have some possible counter-arguments:

1. The only vent we know of that leads to the disposal unit is in the prison block. Is it unreasonable to suggest the empire did this on purpose to torment its prisoners? Taking this into account, it would make sense Leia knew where to shoot as she had been there for some time.

2. Perhaps the reason the walls both move isn’t to crush trash, but to guide it to one area prior to flushing. Imagine the size of the door mechanism required to expel trash from that area. Who’s to say the walls move all the way in at all? Maybe they stop short and a third wall (the camera wall) has a part that pushes the trash through the gap created by the other two walls out of the room? Or maybe there’s an opening in the floor there.

3. My question is this: If you are expelling trash from a space station, doesn’t there have to be an airlock so as not to jeopardize the lives of the crew? That’s where my theory in number 2 comes in. Trash gets semi-compacted and pushed or dropped into a trash airlock and expelled.

4. I have no answer for the organic creature in the trash. There is literally no explanation for why it is there unless put there as it is in space. The only thing I can come up with is maybe it stowed away on a cargo ship and death star personnel shot it and, thinking it was dead, tossed it into the trash.

— Ryan

- - -

From: MhStevens
Date: Sat, Jan 19, 2014
Subject: This Is My Day

Hello.

My name is Miranda.

At 10:30 am, yesterday morning, I rode for five hours on a bus from Chefchaouen, I slept on a midnight train in a light-bulb-less compartment (like a downgraded version of the Darjeeling Limited compartment) for the worst part of seven hours, then dragged myself to a sticky toffee taxi, and walked, waddled even, to a hostel that “had no room at the inn.” I slept, in triumphant glory, on a makeshift bed in the hostel, and was woken up to leave IMMEDIATELY.

The next day went as so: a waddled walk to a taxi; a less stick-stuck taxi ride to the airport; arriving earlier than an early bird as a consequence of unwelcome presence in hostel; a flight to the UK; and a subsequent and currently current five-hour wait in a flat-packed faux-cozy glorified coffee-making capitalist money-munching café. All this occurred just before London trains yawned into action.

I am bathing in the brilliant horror of a two-day traveling stint. My armpits have not seen this much natural living. Ever. Nor have my trousers—which are also my pajama bottoms—that I wear at present.

I have no money and four jobs. I am 22. I graduated in July 2013 from King’s College in London. The month before I finished my degree, I was taken to hospital and diagnosed with Sepsis: multiple organ dysfunction. I wrote my dissertation from a hospital bed. Five days after leaving the hospital, I was mugged with a knife and forced onto live train tracks, missing them by a few inches. These two days of traveling, and the five days of preceding merriment, was my gift-wrapped, prepared and planned reward for living still. And graduating.

And I have read AHWOSG, and read it again. And maybe again. It is my perspective, it offers me the perspective none of us ever really possess. Because I am often trapped in the monotony of trauma, the boring monopoly game in which ivory cells toy with a daily game of heaven or hell. Something objectively menial—being ill, we’ve all been ill, and being mugged; come on, shit happens—has played master and beat-maker to my humdrum life for most of this year, and only this great swathe of physically draining and mentally stimulating travel has altered this, facilitated by Dave Eggers’ first book. I look at McSweeney’s, like a personalized Eggers etymology, and see that it gives me the opportunity for influenced hope in hopelessness.

So I am grateful. That’s what I’m saying; I am ever so grateful. For the book, of course. And McSweeney’s, I follow from afar, in England, queue-loving, pub punting England.

I am grateful.

That is my day in my mind mapped out, and I wanted to pointlessly share it with you.

— Miranda

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From: Mary Alice Wilson
Date: Tue, Jan 7, 2014
Subject: The Circle

Finished reading The Circle. Felt very awkward accessing Google. Set up a monthly Paypal donation to Wikipedia.

Thanks,
Mary Alice Wilson

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From: Kevin Voll ‪
Date: Sun, Jan 5, 2013
Subject: Relation?

Are you any relation Rev. Msgr. John J. McSweeney St Matthews Catholic Church, Charlotte, NC?

— Kevin J. Voll