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“Helping the Detectives,” by Christine Brandel

Crime Scene Sketch BW

Dear Detectives,

If you are reading this, it means one of two things: I’ve been arrested or I’m dead.

If I’ve been arrested, you’d damn well better have a search warrant before you go nosing around my private business. Instead of reading any further, just have a good think about yourself and your life choices, you fascist pigs.

If I’m dead, however, I’d like to help you out. I don’t mean to imply that you’re incapable of doing your jobs, though I confess I don’t have much faith in the police (see Par. 2). I’m just saying I don’t want to end up a name scribbled on a cold case box hidden away in your station’s basement.

First, we need to decide if my death was the result of natural causes, suicide or homicide. Have you found me crumpled on the floor underneath a tall ladder, my body bruised and covered in white paint? There’s your natural cause, my friends. Would you mind taking a minute to look up and admire the ceiling I managed to get to before my fateful fall? Thanks.

Otherwise, the causes aren’t likely to be natural. I am super duper fit and have no family history of anything bad at all, except narcissism, which is annoying but not fatal. On a day-to-day basis, I am ever so safe. The electrics and other utilities in my house are regularly tested and maintained. My emergency plan for bad weather is foolproof (I’ve done a trial run and all). If I’m dead, it was a human—not fate or a terrible accident—that killed me.

Suicide or homicide? Well, at this point, I can’t be sure. But there’ll be obvious clues. Most suicides don’t leave a note, but you know what? I’m not like most suicides. The letter you’re holding in your hands should be evidence enough to the fact that I love the sound of my own voice. If I’ve topped myself, trust me, there will be a suicide note. It shouldn’t be difficult to locate. You’ll find a sealed envelope on my desk or, if I was feeling particularly dramatic, clutched in my right hand. Pry it away from my pale, stiff fingers, and your case is solved. Of course, a clever murderer might just be trying to fool you. Don’t be suckers. Any spelling or grammar mistakes in the note? If so, I didn’t write it. I wouldn’t be caught dead including typos in any suicide note of mine.

If you’re still not sure, you’re probably thinking you need to talk to my closest friends. Here’s where you’re going to hit a roadblock. See, I don’t have any closest friends. I don’t any friends. I guess that’s partly why I’m offering you this help. I know that the police, despite your being fascist pigs, have a heavy workload, and I’d hate to be a contributing factor in your own premature deaths by stress-induced heart problems.

Check the calendar on the kitchen wall for a date with a red circle around it. Move ahead twenty-one days. If my time of death falls within that week, there’s a chance I was suicidal. I once wrote a story called “Helping the Detectives” about my own demise; find the file on the computer and note when it was last edited. If it too coincides, well, maybe I was feeling preoccupied by thoughts of my own mortality. See if you can find the final image ever recorded of me—you’ll want to look at the security tapes at the gas station up the road (fast forward to an hour before closing time the night I died). Enlarge it and focus on the eyes. Do they look as empty as the eyes of the corpse currently toe-tagged in your morgue? If so, suicide’s looking better and better.

If not, I’m afraid you’ve got a homicide on your hands, gents and/or ladies. Who did it? Obviously, I can’t tell you, but I hope I can keep you from barking up any wrong trees. I’ve got three ex-husbands, but don’t bother trying to finger one of them. All three were nice enough chaps but each took the money and ran, so there’d be nothing to gain from bumping me off. I was never that important anyway. None of them would risk his now prosperous life just to rid the world of me.

Workplace motivation? No. I’m a coatroom attendant at a restaurant. I work on my own, and the patrons don’t acknowledge my existence. I doubt even good detectives like yourselves could describe the face of the last coatroom attendant who hung up your jackets. Being inobtrusive is in my job description, for Christ’s sake. No work interaction led to my slaying.

Alas, I’ve really got nothing in terms of solid leads for you. I mean, in sixth grade, Bobby Lee threatened to tie my body to a tree and leave me to the grizzlies, but I’m sure that anger has subsided by now. Besides, I think I read in some alumni newsletter that he succumbed to cancer a few years ago. Survived by a wife, three kids and a brand new grandchild—how he found even one person to love him, I have no idea. I flipped the bird to a guy who cut me off on the freeway last week; I didn’t get the license plate number, but he was driving a blue hatchback. I’m sorry, I’ve just never been into cars, so I can’t give you the make or model. I was in the right lane, driving only a little above the speed limit, so if he came after and killed me for that, be sure the prosecutor trying the case drives home my stellar record behind the wheel to emphasis I was an innocent victim.

I’ll be honest with you: the perpetrator is going to be a stranger. I know you don’t want to hear that, they’re the hardest cases to solve. But there’s just no one who knows me well enough to want to kill me. That’s why I keep my house so incredibly tidy (I bet one of your officers has already commented on this). It’s the only other thing I can think to do to help you. There will be no fingerprints anywhere in this house, save mine and my landlord’s (you’ll have his on record from a drunk and disorderly arrest about eight years ago). If you find anyone else’s, you’ve found the killer.

I hope I didn’t die naked. If I did, would you mind keeping that detail out of the papers?

Thank you.

About the Author:

Christine Brandel is a writer and photographer. In 2013, she published her first collection, Tell This To Girls: The Panic Annie Poems, which the IndieReader described as a “well-crafted, heartbreakingly vivid set of poems, well worth a read by anyone whose heart can bear it.” To balance that, she also writes a column on comedy for PopMatters and rants and raves through her character Agatha Whitt-Wellington (Miss) at Everyone Needs An Algonquin. More of her work can be found at clbwrites.com.

Image Credit: © Kreatiw / Dollar Photo Club

“Santa’s Christmas List,” by Kayla Pongrac

Santa Sketch

Dear All Grandparents Residing in America,

Santa Claus here (you know, the guy who has filled stockings and piled presents underneath your family’s Christmas trees for many, many decades). It’s been awhile since I’ve compiled a Christmas List of my own, which details what I think YOU should get ME for Christmas. All I do is give, give, give, give, give and this year is the year when I will take, take, take, take, take. Please note that this is a milestone for me, as I only take a year off every century.

None of you know what it’s like to fill the position of Santa Claus. None of you can say, “I so understand what Santa’s responsibilities are every year,” or “What a tough job Santa has!” Unfortunately, my job description failed to mention that the saints of yesterday bred the sinners of today, who have bred the devils of tomorrow. These kids (yes, your grandchildren!) just can’t get enough. The longest Christmas List I received last year was poster-sized and in 10-point Times New Roman font. C’mon now. You all must take responsibility for these monsters who think it’s charming to sit on my lap and scroll around on their iPads, pointing to every little toy that they added to their “Wish List” on their “favoritest” app.

Please understand that every year, I have to sit down and read millions of emails (that’s right—I don’t get letters anymore) from these little boys and little girls who don’t know how to spell or punctuate. These kids are lucky I don’t hit the “Reply” button because you know what I would give them? Grades. Bad grades. And then they could go write about me on “Rate My Santa” or whatever that tacky website is called.

You can’t possibly deny that your grandchildren want gadget this, gadget that. “Give me an iPad, Santa, or I won’t believe in you ever again!” “By the way, do be sure that my new iPhone is the yellow color!” Yeah, okay . . . you’re a kindergartner with an iPhone in your pocket and an iPad in your lap. Real sweet. All you’re missing is some headphones so you can walk around like all the rest of ‘em.

Honestly, folks, all I want for Christmas from each family this year is a huge keg of beer and some pretzels. If you all could just send these gifts to the North Pole addressed to me, (NOT Mrs. Claus—she and I may be getting divorced), that’d be fantastic. So, just to recap:

Santa’s Christmas List:

  1. One keg of beer
  2. Pretzels

See that? Simple. Now, if only you could teach your grandchildren to be more like Santa Claus because he asks for little and gives a lot. We’ll see ya’ll next year.

Tell your angry little snugglemuffins I said hello,

About the Author:

Kayla Pongrac is an avid writer, reader, tea drinker, and record spinner. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Vinyl Poetry, Split Lip Magazine, Oblong, HOOT, Right Hand Pointing, and Nat. Brut, among others. When she’s not writing creatively, she’s writing professionally—for two newspapers and a few magazines in her hometown of Johnstown, PA. To read more of Kayla’s work, visit www.kaylapongrac.com or follow her on Twitter @KP_the_Promisee.

Image Credit: © asmakar / Dollar Photo Club

“An Office Memo,” by Rose Burke

Waste basket sketch



Your Dream Accessory Line

To: All Staff

From: The Boss

Date: 10/19/2014

RE: Employer Appreciation Month


D.U.M. Accessories invites you to participate in Employer Appreciation Month, a mandatory program carefully designed by the generous founder and innate leader of our company. Adapted from a program trending on the West Coast, it is intended to unite employees by simply encouraging them to demonstrate their thanks for being fortunate enough to find themselves employed during such appalling economic times. By performing the acts of gratitude suggested below, D.U.M. employees will be greatly rewarded with the satisfaction of knowing they’re contributing to the incline of company morale, which inevitably will lead to increase in customer satisfaction, increase in sales, and the possibility of one day introducing an annual salary increase of 0.21%. Additionally, an Employee of the Month certificate and a 15% discount coupon to Office Max will be gifted to the single employee who demonstrates the most heart and commitment to the program throughout the month.

Acts of gratitude include:

Making New Friends

  • Keep snacks and candy at your desk and encourage others to help themselves.
  • Wake up early and make a coffee and bagel run for your department.
  • Engage in digital small talk amongst coworkers before or after office hours. This includes texting, FaceTime, E-mail, Facebook pokes, Instagram likes, Snapchat stories, sending Candy Crush invites, and sharing tweets. Be sure to include our HR and Accounting teams working hard for us over in India.
  • Skip your lunch break and eat at your desk with your cubical neighbors to improve company unity while keeping a constant work flow.
  • Learn and take on the responsibilities of a coworker from the Customer Service department on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Signup sheets will be hung in the break room, please select 4-5 weekends per month. We will be running this part of the program until further notice.

Cleaning Up After Yourself

  • Empty your cubicle’s trash can into the company dumpsters on your way out one night a week. Driving directions to the dumpsters are hanging in the break room. Bonus: Take your supervisors trash with you!
  • Vacuum the carpeted area in and around your cubicle before or after office hours. A vacuum can be found in the company supply closet in the basement. The electrical circuit in the basement is currently out of service. We recommend a flashlight and the buddy system.
  • Scrub the toilet after each use. Cleaning supplies can be found next to the vacuum.

Conserving Electricity

  • Turn off your space heater and keep a blanket at your desk instead. Stand up at twenty minute intervals and do a dozen jumping jacks to ensure blood flow.
  • Set up call forwarding to your cellular phone and permanently unplug your desk phone. We will be collecting these to be recycled at the end of the week.
  • Save all documents that need to be printed for the end of the day. Then go home, and print them there.

Appreciating The Boss 

  • Practice and memorize the boss’ signature to enable him to work from home as often as possible.
  • Laugh loudly at and compliment all jokes the boss tells. If jokes are told via email or Skype, use the appropriate laughing emoji.
  • Engage in a conversation with the boss via text message, possibly with a tasteful selfie, to ensure he has the correct contact information for the occasional Sunday morning conference call. Bonus: Encourage him to return the favor with his own selfie!
  • When you see the boss around the office, take a quick photo of him in his new suit for your Instagram page. Suggested hashtags: #yummybossman #devilishlyhandsome #bringingsexyback

Have a suggested act of gratitude? Email it to you@dumemployee.com.

About the Author:

Rose Burke is a freelance writer and author of sexy thriller THE ESCORT DIARIES: Survival of the Lingerie Girls. Currently she is a Creative Writing and Literature MFA student at Stony Brook University, collage artist, horror fanatic, and self-proclaimed Queen of Sarcasm. Visit her website at www.roseburke.com.

Image Credit: © makar / Dollar Photo Club