No. 1

TITLE: “Embarrassing Restaurant Story”
NARRATOR: My friend Molly

In this short farce, Molly embarks on what she thinks will be a pleasant dinner with friends. However, it quickly devolves into a night of many horrors. While at the bar waiting, alone, for her dinner mates, she encounters a man with whom she once had an unsuccessful date. She is careful to avoid him, he meets his own date, and they sit down to eat. Later at the table, Molly’s friend (who, coincidentally, is also named Molly) relates a pregnancy scare, prompting another friend at the table to exclaim, loudly, “So Molly, you think you’re pregnant?” Of course, this gets the attention of the lost date (and his own date) and another man, who turns around and recognizes his old friend Molly, the narrator, from high school.

EVALUATION: The appearance of a second surprise ghost from the past provides a nice twist to the conventional mortification play, but in general the account’s lack of dialogue and vivid detail keep it from transcending the genre.

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No. 2

TITLE: “Horrifying Date Story”
NARRATOR: My cousin Lisa

My cousin Lisa had considered setting me up with one of her acting classmates, who seemed from all indications to be a perfectly eligible and attractive, dateable person, until he told her his own date story, a story that revealed that he possessed a dark side on the level with, say, Tom Berenger’s white supremacy surprise in ‘Betrayed.’ The acting classmate had asked a woman out, but nothing came of the date. He had footed the bill, but decided in retrospect that her failure to pay needed to be rectified. So he e-mailed her two weeks later informing her that she owed him money for her half of the dinner check. He received no response, but sometime later saw her at a party. Lisa can’t remember what he said to the woman, but can confirm that it was something “just awful and mean,” and then he walked away.

EVALUATION: What makes this tale so engaging and original is that the perpetrator is so oblivious to his date crime that he not only confesses but considers himself a victim. Adding to the drama is the revelation of my narrow escape from a similar fate at the hands of this mean dating-person. However, the loss of the mean dating-person’s final blow at the party — the actual quote, that is — is an unforgivable omission, and the tale ultimately deflates.

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No. 3

TITLE: “Amazing Courtroom Story”
NARRATOR: My coworker Pete

My coworker Pete was on jury duty a few months ago. As he and the other jurors sat in a half-stupor through an uninteresting case, Pete heard a guttural cry from another floor, then saw a body pass the barred courtroom window on its way down. No one else saw it, and Pete was forced to sit in shock until recess, when it was confirmed that the man in an upper courtroom, reacting to losing an appeal, had screamed and jumped out the window. His body fell in the prisoner’s entrance alleyway, on top of the very van in which he arrived.

EVALUATION: Pete now has a really exceptional response to the question, “How was jury duty?” His account was later confirmed by news reports, but he managed to convey the suspense, detail and aftermath that made it an anecdote worth hearing again and again. If you ever meet him, ask him to tell you his jury duty story. It’s worth it.