Erma Bombeck Contest Entry

This is a short piece I wrote for a competition that involved writing something in the style of Erma Bombeck. I enter and lose every year because it's a tradition and Erma is a personal hero. I really liked the piece I wrote this year though, especially after surviving my Grandmother's 80th birthday wherein one of my aunts got hideously drunk in public and booed a band at a local bar. This is my life. Enjoy! 

Introducing my fiancé to my parents was easy. In fact I allowed it to happen way back when he was just my boyfriend. But I made sure a ring was firmly attached to that finger before I unleashed my extended family on him. Especially the Lashmet women.

My mother has three sisters, all of whom have names that begin with the letter K. Some say the Kardashians stole it from us, and by some I mean my Aunt Kelly, loudly, in a Target, every time we go to Target. They are extremely close, very loud, and I’ve often been known to describe their Christmas Eve party as entering a frat house full of old ladies. Do you mean a sorority house you ask? No. I do not.

My fiancé, a soft spoken man from a religious family assured me he was prepared for Christmas Eve with the Lashmet women but I also got the sense that he thought stories of my crazy family were exaggerated. That particular Christmas Eve was a bit tense because the year before we had broken my grandmother’s table in half during an especially heated round of the card game Spoons, so competitive games were outlawed.

The film The Hangover had just come out and all of the Lashmet women agreed it was the epitome of hilarity. So, when searching for something to fill the festive space after presents and before someone inevitably left crying, one of my aunts pulled the DVD from her purse. (I guess she just carried it with her at all times?) She suggested we watch it, and do a shot of Wild Turkey every time they said “the F-word.”

 My fiancé glanced nervously at my Grandma, apparently fearful of her delicate constitution. “Katrina!” My Grandma grumbled in disapproval. “It’s Christmas...Wild Turkey is for Thanksgiving! We do Peppermint Schnapps at Christmas!” I had seen my fiancé do shots once. On his 21st birthday. He didn’t like it. I gave him a nervous shrug. I had warned him. He just smiled and took the shot glass Grandma handed him. His family was probably silently curling into bed for the evening, full of milk, cookies, and the Lord’s light, as we watched a naked man jump from a car trunk onto Bradley Cooper’s face.

Watching The Hangover at Christmas became a new family tradition and my husband has learned to (mostly) hold his own with the Lashmet women. Although, I must say he still can’t hold his liquor like my Grandma. 

Ghost Stella Gets Her Spooky Groove Back

“This is where I belong now. This is where dejected women go,” Chelsea flung her sleeping bag dramatically onto the porch of Delphine mansion, spreading her arms like Jesus on the cross. 

“I think you mean like, rejected. Trevor rejected you. So, like, you’re a rejected women,” Britney replied. 

“Oh my god that’s so insensitive Brit!” Juliet shrieked. 

“I was rejected and now I’m dejected, and I’ve resigned myself to my fate. If Trevor wants to go to homecoming, our very first homecoming and therefor the most important, with Cindy Stevens and her big fake Sophomore boobs WHAT DO I CARE. Everyone knows whoever wins freshmen attendant eventually gets elected prom queen, but OH WELL. I’ll live in this abandoned mansion with the lady in white, and we’ll be buds, and we don’t need no man.” Chelsea collapsed onto the porch and began to sob.

Juliet sat down next to her and rubbed her back. “Ok, first of all Cindy Stevens is sixteen and I don’t even think you can legally get a boob job at sixteen. You can’t hate someone for having big naturals.” 

“YES I CAN,” Chelsea cried. “You’re taking her side.”

“I’m not taking her side,” Juliet replied. “I just think you should be blaming the person who’s really responsible.” 

“The media, for their unrealistic portrayal of female beauty?” Chelsea wept. 


“Oh,” she wiped her nose on her sleeve, “right…I guess it is Trevor’s fault. But I still love him so much. I can’t enjoy anything since we broke up. All food tastes like my grandma’s super dry thanksgiving turkey. Memes bring me no joy. Even my favorite cartoon characters aren’t adorable anymore. I’ll never feel better. Nothing will help.”

Britney cleared her throat. “Guys, I don’t know if this, like, helps, or whatever, but I grabbed a couple of bottles of my dads weird basement hooch.  He makes it from fermented apples. I thought maybe we could all get drunk and forget about Trevor,” She produced two forty ounce brown bottles from her backpack. “Well, I kind of always thought Trevor was a dick so I don’t need to forget about him, but you know, for Chelsea.”

“That...might help,” Chelsea conceded. 

Soon all three girls were huddled inside the decaying living room of the Delphine mansion taking turns sipping the extremely strong and only vaguely apple flavored liquor. 

“This place is a real dump,” Britney observed as she picked at a piece of moldy wallpaper. 

“Yeah can you imagine spending all of eternity here because some guy dumped you,” Juliet snickered. 

“Hey!” Chelsea replied.

“I obviously wasn’t talking about you. I meant the lady in white.”

“Oh, I’ve never heard why she’s stuck here. Juliet, tell it!” Britney begged. 

“I’ll do it!” Chelsea said dramatically. “As we are kindred spirits now.” She handed the bottle back to Britney and somberly began. Delphine DeLaurier was the most beautiful woman in all of Crane City. Every guy in town wanted to put a ring on that shit, but she was only interested in Henry Crane, the son of the towns founder.”

“Her parents were wealthy merchants. Her great grandfather had been one of the earliest French fur-trappers in the United States. The match seemed to be perfect. Both parties were young, rich, and attractive. That literally almost never happened back then, pretty much everyone had to marry old fat dudes like King Henry, of whatever.”

Britney nodded in agreement and handed the bottle of liquor to Juliet enraptured by the story. “So, on her wedding day everything is going great. The cake was perfect, the flowers were pretty and junk, Delphine is wearing an impeccable hand embroidered wedding dress made of French silk.” Chelsea was obviously vamping at this point, to build the suspense. “The entire town was there, and the groom was standing at the end of the aisle looking as handsome as ever.”

“Then it gets to the part of the ceremony where the priest says, does anyone object to this union, or whatever, and five prostitutes in varying stages of pregnancy stand up.”

“No!” Britney squealed 

“Yes! And normally that would be a scandal but no big deal, whatever, it’s the eighteen hundreds. It happens. Delphine was still prepared to marry him…except” Juliet passed the bottle to the cold hand of the person next to her. 

“Except he didn’t want to,” said the ghost of Delphine DeLaurier before taking a long swing of hooch that splashed on the rotting floorboards beneath her. She glowed with an otherworldly light, and her hair floated around her like Ariel in The Little Mermaid Or, like Sally ride in space, because that was what Ariel’s hair was based on. Anyway you can pick your metaphor. Either way she had ghost hair and it was creepy as hell. “He humiliated me in the front of the entire town and then he left me, a broken woman, at the alter, of his own volition.” 

Her voice seemed not to be coming from her mouth but from the very air that surrounded them. “So I threw myself from the roof of the manor into the nothingness below. My spirit was doomed to roam the woods on misty evenings, just like tonight.” 

There was a long pause before Chelsea stood, and with a slight slur in her voice announced. “I get you girl. I get you so hard. Girl, I am you. We’re the same.” 

Delphine’s hair ceased it’s creepy floating. “You’re a jilted woman as well?”

“Yeah, Trevor. He totally dumped me.”

“You are a young woman though. I waited for Henry until I was an old maid of seventeen. No upstanding man in town would even look at me at such an age. You must surely have one, maybe two more marrying years ahead of you.”

“Hey, don’t lessen my trauma ghost. I loved Trevor.” Britney and Juliet huddled together in fear behind Chelsea. 

“Maybe we don’t yell at the ghost,” Juliet suggested.

“I yell at who I want!” Chelsea screamed. “Nothing matters anymore. I hate you all.” She began to sob again. 

“I hate everyone as well!” Delphine gasped. 

“And everything?”

“Yes everything. Perhaps you do understand me. I’ve never met someone who understood my suffering as you do. I must admit this does provide me with this some comfort in my eternal torment.”

“Yeah, I…I think I feel better too,” Chelsea sniffled.I'm not so sad anymore. Now I'm angry." Unsure what to do with this new emotion she acted on impulse and ran to the closest wall, kicking it like David Beckham, if David Beckham were a 15 year old girl with limited leg strength. Luckily, since the house was quiet old the wall did buckle with a satisfying crunch. A grin bloomed across Chelsea's face.

"Angry! I love Angry. I'm like, always angry!" Britany chirped. 

"Let's kick things!" Delphine cried. She punch a nearby window and it shattered. Britney picked up a fireplace poker and slammed it repeatedly against the wall. Juliet hesitated but feeling the moment eventually began to punch the floor.

When the already decaying living room was pretty thoroughly wrecked the girls stood amongst the wreckage breathing heavily.

"That felt AMAZING!" Chelsea screamed. The agreement was echoed by the other girls, and the ghost of Delphine DeLaurier. "How about we take this party into town and smash up some mailboxes or something. Maybe one particular mailbox. Trevor's mailbox. Ooo, or his car."

"I don't know if that..." Juliet started but was quickly interrupted by Delphine.

"Yes, let's break more things! I haven't felt this good in 100 years." Juliet felt bad for the woman. 100 years of morning for some asshole. She couldn't imagine. If anyone deserved a night of fucking shit up it was this ghost. So, the girls walked down the hill from the DeLaurier mansion and descended upon the town armed with the fire place poker, a dislodged piece of living room wall, one empty bottle of hooch, and one half full one. 

They came down the hill with the wind. The older residents of Crane City felt a chill in their spine, brought in their dogs, and locked their doors tight. If there's any force on earth stronger and more terrifying than four angry teenage girls, I've never ran into it. "Trevor!" Chelsea screamed and deep inside a Pizza Hut five miles away Trevor's nose started to bleed for no reason. His date was not impressed. 

They stopped by Britney's farm at the bottom of the hill to pick up some gasoline and spray paint. There was an old pile of bicycles at the edge of the farm that Britney had always hated. They set it on fire just to watch it burn. 

Continuing into town Chelsea spotted a rickety bridge just off the highway that led to God's Acre, the old cemetery. It was the perfect spot to spray paint, "Trevor is a butt." Many people would see its bright red lettering and be warned of Trevor before even setting foot in Crane City. 

At the bridge Delphine paused and read the sign for God's Acre. "This is the road to the cemetery?" She asked. 

"The old cemetery," Juliet replied. "There's a new one across town. Everyone who died up until the late 50's was buried out there."

"Henry must be there." Delphine said, seeming to suddenly slip back into her old grief. "Oh, Henry. Henry left me."

"Hey! Focus, Delphine." Chelsea demanded. "Henry was a dick. Henry...can eat a dick." She was pretty drunk and increasingly less eloquent. 

"What's a dick?" Delphine asked, causing the others girls to break into a fit of giggles. 

"Oh my God, I love her!" Britney squealed. 

"You need to express your anger," said Chelsea. "We're going to find Henry's grave so you can yell at it, and maybe kick it too!" 

"Yeah!" Britney and Chelsea replied. 

"But I love Henry. I don't want to kick his grave." 

"Yes, you do. I know what you want Delphine. I know what's in your soul. I'm going to help you." With that Chelsea took off toward the cemetery, forcing everyone else to follow behind. 

It was an overgrown cemetery, sparsely maintain, not gated, and unlit at night. Using the light on their cellphones the girls searched the graves. Juliet found it and called her friends over. Though Henry Crane had been a rich man, his grave was plain by modern standards. It read Henry Archibald Crane, husband, father, businessman, fantastic card player. 

"He lived to be nearly sixty!" Delphine exclaimed. "He must have been the oldest man in town! And he married..."

"WORDS!" Chelsea yelled. "No more words. I'm pissing on his grave." 

"Nooooo Chelsea, no no no," Juliet cried. 

"Haha, yup, I'm into it." Britney laughed. Juliet moved to stop her but in one swift motion Chelsea had her skirt up, her panties down, and she was crouching over the grave. It was too late to stop it. They watched in horror was Chelsea relieved herself on the final resting place of Henry Crane. 

The wind picked up sending dead leaves rustling across the cemetery. Lightening struck in the cloudless sky. Chelsea quickly pulled her panties up and stumbled off the grave. The ground began to shake and from the grave stone a white vapor slowly leaked into the air. The girls screamed as the ghost of Henry Crane assembled himself before them. He wore a top hat and tails, even though he was over sixty years old there was still a hint of handsome mischievousness about him. 

"Who has made dirty water on my grave!" He demanded. Britney and Juliet were no snitches but these were dire circumstances, they both pointed to Chelsea. Henry floated to within an inch of her face. "Thank you my child," he said, wrapping his arms around her in a phantom approximation of a hug. 

"I have been waiting decades for someone to give me what I deserve. You see, when I was a young man I was foolish. I left a wonderful woman at the alter because I wasn't ready to give up my freedom and because of this she took her own life. I was a terrible drunk in those days, and an opium addict to boot. Her father found me in a opium den near death a few months after I left her and cursed my name. He said he would wait for me to die and send someone once a year to piss on my grave, and I knew I deserved it." 

"Yet, I cleaned up my act and lived to be an old man. Eventually, when I was ready I did marry, and led a long and happy life. I never faced punishment for the wrong I had done to Delphine so, I waited here for Mr. DeLaurier to send someone to piss on my grave, but no one ever came. So thank you, thank you little girl. By pissing on my grave you have freed me from my earthly bonds. I may now descent into what I can only assume will be heaven, my soul is free." With that he simply evaporated into the night. 

"Are you fucking kidding me." Chelsea whispered. 

"Where did Delphine go?" Juliet asked. For indeed, Delphine had missed her chance to confront her long lost love completely.

The girls returned to DeLaurier mansion a little worse for the wear. The basement hooch beginning to turn sour in their stomachs, and the wave of anger they had been riding beginning to recede. They searched every inch of the manor grounds, and even tried saying things that generally make ghosts appear like, "I don't believe in ghosts.” But, Delphine was nowhere to be found. 

A week later Chelsea wandered the dark stacks in the back of library when a gentile breeze knocked a large print edition of The Tempest into her path. She bent to pick it up and as she rose Delphine materialized in front of her. 

"Boo!" Delphine exclaimed playfully.

"Oh, my God! What are you doing here!" She tried unsuccessfully to hug her friends spectral body. "We looked all over the place for you that night but you were gone. Brittany said sometimes the hooch makes people hallucinate so Juliet thinks you weren't even real."

"When we arrived at Henry's grave I felt...better. I didn't want to see Henry. Not because I was nervous but because I genuinely didn't care what he was up to. I was finally completely over him. My unfinished business was finished and I could finally move on. I saw a tunnel and a bright light and all that, but I was just like, no thanks Jesus I want to hang out for a while."

"You blew off Jesus?"

"Just for a little bit, and he was pretty cool about it. I died so young, I missed so much life! I've been at this library reading all week. Have you heard of cars? That shit is crazy." Chelsea nodded. Cars are pretty crazy. "I'm glad I ran into you. I'm thinking I'm going to hit the road soon. Catch a bus to Washington DC, see the monuments, maybe the Smithsonian. I always thought Abraham Lincoln was kind of cute, maybe I'll run into his ghost!"

"Good for you girl." Chelsea said. 

"How are you doing without Travis?" Delphine asked. 

"Trevor? Oh, we actually got back together." Chelsea replied. 

Delphine rolled her eyes and disappeared forever. 

Cries From The Hamburger Patch

Happy Halloween everyone! Because it's Halloween, because I've been neglecting posting here, and becuase I was planning to post a ghost story which probably won't be finished until Christmas, I have a fun treat for you! It's something I never intended to see the light of day (or the criticism of the internet). I mentioned on Twitter that I finished a 5,000 word Hamburglar fan fiction the day of women boycott Twitter. I totally wasn't joking, and here it is for you now.

My goal was to fit every McDonaldland character and as much of the landscape as I could into a Noir story. It wasn't easy because there A LOT of characters including an alian and a monster named Denise. I've decided to include my Dad's review as a warning.

"I have to admit, the first time through I wasn't onboard with this, but the second time I came around. It's not funny, but it's high concept, and of course the concept it funny. It's like Sin City meets a McDonald's commercial while on acid."-My Dad. 

Yes my Dad read my Hamburglar fan fiction. Twice. So, I guess the question is: are you as cool as my Dad?



“Here we are now, no going back boys. Are you sure you want me to open this suitcase? Because once I do you’ll never see this town or anyone in it the same, ever again. Life is full of stories. There’s really no such thing as truth, only your truth. Please believe me when I tell you, you don’t want to know your truth. You’re better off not knowing.” The ghoulish speech was made even more so by the dim light of the street lamp under which Denise gave it. 

“Open the fucking suitcase Denise,” The Captain said. He wasn’t one for anticipation. It was probably the pirate in him. Denise popped open the suitcase and produced a manila envelope and held it out, pointedly to me and not The Captain. 

“This is for you, Ron,” she snarled. “You’re the only reason I’m not hightailing it out of McDonaldland right now.” She softened as she let go the envelope, a burden obviously lifted from her shoulders. “I thought you deserved to know.” I started to open it and she quickly stopped me. 

“Not here,” she whispered, “too public.” It gave me flashbacks to when we dated. Denise wasn’t much of a looker but she had a good heart. Our time together was brief but sweet. I nodded solemnly trying to match her paranoid tone. She leaned in and kissed me on the cheek. “Goodbye Ron.” Shooting a glance between the Captain and I she added, “and good luck!” Before fading into the shadows. 

“That’s one crazy bird.” The Captain laughed. “What do you think she was going on about?” 

I frowned, troubled. “I’m not sure. Denise was never the dramatic type. If something’s got her this concerned it must be pretty serious.”

“So what is she bothering you for? You’re not a cop anymore.”

I snorted. “Only because my last name isn’t McCheese. I’m still the best damn cop in this city, badge or none and whatever Denise needs help with, I’ll help her.” 

“Denise doesn’t need help with shit. She’s hightailing it out of town. Let’s go have a drink.” 

The Captain had a good point. Whatever was going on with Denise could wait until we’d knocked back a few pints at our favorite McDonaldland haunt, Uncle O’Grimacy’s pub, a bar just a few blocks from the shady part of town, where Denise had asked to meet me. We started toward our destination along the dimly lit sidewalk. 

Missing children posters were illuminated under almost every other lamppost. They had been disappearing from the hamburger patch on a monthly basis for a while now. One or two never budding was typical, but this was fully formed hamburger kids disappearing from the patch. 

“Damn the MPD is shit since you got kicked off the force,” The Captain commented. 

“To be fair they were shit when I was on it,” I replied. The bar was empty when we got there, a few underage fry kids, a stray McNugget or two, O’Grimacy’s nephew Grimace, the town drunk, and old man O’Grimacy himself behind the bar like always. He greeted us like the long lost soon to be drunken sons he never had and we knocked back a few in quick succession. Feeling the call of nature I headed to a bathroom stall and pulled out the envelope. I was suddenly reminded there was a half-full pack and cigarettes and a light in my front jacket pocket and I went ahead and lit up before opening the envelope. 

I have to admit I was both curious and nervous as I slid the contents into my hand. I had expected documents, something incriminating, maybe against Mayor McCheese, but all that came out was a single black and white photograph. I planted my cigarette firmly between my lips and lifted  the photo to the light for examination.

It was a teenager, tall and lanky in a worn peacoat. He squinted into the camera like he was angry or confused. He looked familiar. Suddenly it hit me, so hard that my jaw literally dropped. My cigarette fell onto my chest and quickly burnt my shirt. “Shit!” I screamed, swatting it into the toilet where it sizzled out of existence. 

I looked at the photo one more time to make sure I wasn’t mistaken. It was my little brother, Donnie. I stumbled out of the bathroom disoriented, clutching the picture in my hand. I flopped down next to The Captain and called for another beer. 

“You okay?” The Captain asked without preamble. 

“The…the envelope I stammered.” Unsure what else to say I slid the picture onto the bar. 

“Oh, damn you got a secret kid!” The Captain gasped. 

“No, what? How? I’m 24 you think I had a kid when I was ten?”

“Who is he then? Looks just like you but taller.” My beer arrived and I downed in one long swig. 

“It’s my little brother, Donnie.” I replied. 

“Donnie?” The Captain gasped. “I thought you said he died when you were 11.”

“He did.” 


Donnie’s disappearance was the talk of the town and the downfall of my family. He used to sneak out at night when we were kids. I never knew why and I never cared to join him. He had his own friends, our next-door neighbor, Big Mac McCheese, younger brother of our current mayor and future thief of my job, and a girl called Birdie. She was strange and a bit quiet. Always kept her hair in pigtails and had a far off look in her eyes. 

Birdie lived on the outskirts of town near the hamburger patches with her father The Professor. They used to play in the patches a lot as children. I supposed that was where they went when Donnie snuck out at night. Playing flashlight tag among the growing baby hamburgers. I assumed it was all innocent fun, until the night Donnie never climbed back in the window. 

It was winter, and they found a hole in Phil A. O’Fish’s frozen lake near a tree my brother was known to climb. The assumption was that he had climbed out too far and the branch snapped. Big Mac and Birdie both swore they weren’t with him that night, but I think they were. I think they left him for dead, but what were they going to do? They were children and that lake would have swallowed Donnie up quicker than they could even scream for help. 

When the ice melted they drug the lake but his body was never recovered. My parents never gave up hope the he was still alive; they left the light on for him every night until they died, far too young. They say stress gives you cancer, I guess my parents are proof. Now it’s just me and The Captain, and this cold bar, and a black and white photograph that says Donnie never died. He went somewhere and lived at least into his teenage years, but where did he go? And where was he now?

I stood and shoved the picture deep into my pocket. “Where are you going?” The Captain asked. 

“I’ve got to talk to Big Mac McCheese,” I said. 

“The Mayor's brother! Don’t go messing with Big Mac Donnie, you know he hates you.” He reached out and grabbed my arm, I knocked his hand away. 

“He was Donnie’s best friend,” I growled. “I know they were together the night he died. I need answers. I always figured Big Mac and Birdie wouldn’t talk because they were ashamed they couldn’t save him. What if they were afraid of someone? What if someone took him and I never even looked for him. I became a cop and I never even thought about it. I just wanted to prevent deaths like his. Stupid, reckless kids, dying for no reason like my stupid little brother Donnie.”

I sunk back down onto the barstool, tears gathering in my eyes. The Captain patted me tentatively. “You don’t know that’s him man. Maybe it’s a long lost cousin or something.” But I did know and I was determined to talk to Big Mac.

McCheese manor was a lonely dilapidated building. The McCheese’s had fallen from grace a few decades ago. Their grandfather lost all the family money gambling, or so town legend said. They were on the upswing now though, with their young sons running the town. You could see The Mayor had commissioned some work for the exterior, there were scaffoldings and ladders cluttered around the outside. 

    It was late but I was a bit drunk, and unwilling to wait for answers. I knocked on the door. The Mayor himself answered, still dressed in his work uniform a fuchsia overcoat, the stash that declared his title, and a top hat with a yellow silk band around it. A pair of reading classes were perpetually clutched in his right hand, designed to make him look smart. He was a perpetually nervous man and my appearance on his doorstep at such a late hour had done nothing for his constitution. 

    “Ron McDonald, this is unexpected, and at such a late hour” he declared. 

    “I need to speak to your brother,” I replied without preamble. 

    “He’s not home.”

    “Bullshit.” I pushed past the mayor into the decaying parlor.

    “Big Mac! Get your fat cheesy head down here.”  Big Mac appeared at the top of the stairs in a bathrobe. 

    “What are you doing here McDonald?” He snarled. I bounded up the stairs and shoved the picture in his face. 

    “This picture came across my path today. That’s my little brother Donnie, all grown up. I need to know about the night he died. You two were always sneaking out together, you and The Professor's daughter. I know you were with him. I never blamed you before but if he’s been alive all these years…” I realized the next words would be some kind of threat and that was never a good way to get a canary to sing. 

    A dead look crossed Big Macs face and he took two steps closer to me, although we were already in close quarters on the staircase. Hovering next to my ear he whispered, “Whoever gave you this picture Ronnie, you think they’re doing you a favor but they’re not. These questions are bad for your health.” He stepped back and loudly pronounced, “I told the police then and I’ll tell you know Ron. Your brother was alone. It was a tragedy. Now it’s late and you’re drunk. Get out of our house.” 

    “What do you know that you’re not telling me McCheese?”

    “I said get out!” He grabbed me by the back of my shirt and hauled me out onto the porch. Reluctantly, I was forced to admit that I had possibly not approached this case in the most professional of fashions. I blame it partly on the fact that I was no longer a professional in my chosen profession, and partially out of the sheer shock to my system.

 It was like someone had told me the sky was green and it turned out to be true. The fundamental elements of the universe were no longer arranged in the correct order. The dead were walking. Or at least had been walking. Part of me wondered if I even wanted Donnie to turn up alive. What would I say to him after 13 years? Nothing but an apology seemed appropriate. 

Whatever I ended up saying, I wasn’t going to fail him now. I was at least going to ask the question. I don’t care what Big Mac said. I wasn’t going to stop asking questions. Not now, not ever again until I got a solid answer on what happened to my little brother. 


  Three months past. I went looking for Denise but she had kept her word and skipped town, but why? Denise was sturdy woman. What could make her tuck her tail and run like that? The disappearances at the hamburger patch got worse. More and more kids seemed to go missing every day and I started to wonder if maybe Donnie was the first in the long line of kidnappings that was plaguing our town. Big Mac still refused to talk to me. The cop who had worked the case at the time was dead. 

I tried asking people around town who had been there since the old days but all I got was the same story over and over again. It was an accident. In fact there was so little gossip it was almost suspicious. In a small town there’s always some salacious rumor, some vicious take on even the most mundane actions. A pastor nods too enthusiastically at parishioner and the gossip mill starts whirring. How could the disappearance of the son of a prominent family, hell the family the town was named after, have not one dark notion attached to it? Something stank like O’Grimacy’s garbage on fish stick Friday.      

I figured maybe people just didn’t want to tell me unflattering things about my own family so I sent The Captain to ask around for me. He was the only one who turned up anything even remotely useful. 

“I think you're looking at this the wrong way,” he said. “I decided to come at it from a different angle. You’re focused on something that happened over a decade ago. I’m thinking about right now. Where did Denise get the picture? What was she doing right before she left town? And that yielded some interesting information.” I nodded for him to continue. “She was working for The Professor.”

“Birdie's Dad. That is interesting,” I replied. 

“He lives alone in that big creepy house on the outskirts of town. People say he does strange experiments at all hours of the night. I’m surprised no one’s questioned him about this business yet.”

“Me too now that you say it. Let’s head over there and shake some trees, see what falls out.”

The Captain shook his head. “This is your thing. I’m not messing around with that spooky old man. You’re libel to end up in a world of pain. I wish you would just forget about this Ron.”

I shook my head in disgust. “Forget my brother?”

“You did for 13 years.”

“You son of a bitch!” I lunged at him and O’Grimacy hollered at both of us to cut it out. I let him go reluctantly, storming out the front door, leaving him with the bill. In the end I knew he was just worried about me but I sure as hell was going to make him pay for my drink if he was going to be a dick. 

I headed to the Professor's house, determined not to make the same mistake I made with Big Mac and barge in like a hothead. The Professor's house was the mirror image of McCheese Manor. It was just as big, ancient, and imposing, but immaculately maintained with not so much as a single fallen leaf in the yard, even though it was autumn and the wind was whipping through the Milk Shake mountains and tearing through the town that night. 

I knocked and did my best to make myself look as non threatening as possible, shoving my hands deep in my pockets, and slouching my shoulders in the posture of a nervous teenager. “Ronald. Of course, you’ve come at the worst possible moment. I was expecting you much sooner,” he said and simply wandered away from the door leaving it ajar. It was the warmest or least unusual greeting I had ever received but I needed answers so I followed the old man into the house. 

He had wandered into the living room where he leaned against the mantle of the fireplace, a drink in one hand and a distant look on his face as he starred into the lit fire. Unlike the outside of the house the living room was in an absolute shambles. Two easy chairs were overturned, the upholstery shredded, pillowy white stuffing leaking onto the carpet. An upended end table gave way to the shattered remains of a ceramic lamp base scattered at the edge of a floral patterned love seat, one of the few things still in tact. 

“Do you have something for me Ronald?” The Professor asked. 

I reached, uncertainly into my pocket and pulled out the picture. “Just a question,” I said. “Maybe a few questions. Is your daughter still away at school? I’d like to speak with her too.”

“Birdie,” he smiled. “Birdie's here. I expect you’ll see her very soon. Do, have a seat. I want you to be comfortable.” He motioned toward a flower-patterned loveseat and I moved toward it. “Mind the blood though.”

I paused. That was when I saw the spots on the carpet, a bloody trail leading to and away from the door. “You’re bleeding!” I yelled, rushing to his side. He motioned very calmly for me to stop.

 “Yes. He got me.” A grim red rose began to bloom on the pristine white lab coat he always wore. “Right on the ribs bloody bastered. Worse than ever before, I think.” He made intense eye contact with me, trying to convey something in his eyes but I couldn’t tell what. Guilt, or regret? Pain maybe. “I thought I was doing the right thing Ronald. I thought I could help your family. The loss of a child is unbearable.”

“What did you do?”

“When Birdie and Big Mac brought the boy he was already blue. Nothing could have saved him but just a few weeks before I had been standing on the edge of the hamburger patch when a bright light appeared in the sky. It got closer and closer until is was right ontop of me. For a moment I was completely blinded by the light, and then a being appeared. It said it’s name was Cosmc and it was on a galactic trading mission. It wanted something from me right away. I had nothing to give it and it seemed rather in a hurry, so I’m ashamed to say…I picked a hamburger plant and gave it to it.

It seemed satiated, and in return it gave me a device. It said the device would solve the first problem that must be solved for humanities progress. I didn’t know what that meant until I saw the boy. I acted out of desperation. I brought him back to life, but I didn’t consider that he might come back…wrong. 

I thought if I kept him I could cure him. I raised him like a son, a son who I had to watch very closely. I thought we were making progress. Right around the time that picture was taken I started letting him out of the house again. Just into the backyard for short stints. He was just tricking me though, he never got any better at all. He always had such influence over the children, even before he died but after. I’ve never seen anything like it. He owns them. They eat the hamburgers Ron. They think it gives them power. They think they have some kind of nutritional value but they don’t! There’s no nutritional value at all!” The Professor trailed off suddenly and grabbed his side. The blood had spread quiet far down his coat. I helped him to the love seat. The poor man, he had plainly gone insane.

Footsteps behind me signaled another person entering the room. “That’s enough father.” An even voice announced. I turned to see Birdie, now in her early twenties. There was something wild in her eyes that made me pause. 

“I think you’re father’s been injured,” I said. 

“Leave him to bleed,” Birdie replied, each letter dripping with ice. “Come with me.”


“To meet your brother of course. He’ll want to meet you before he kills you. He’s formal like that.”


Everyone in this house of horrors was clearly mad as a hatter. The rest of the place was as destroyed as the front parlor. I had to assume that the Professor had lost his mind years ago and taken my brother, perhaps thinking that something really was wrong with him. Birdie was sharing in some kind of Folie a Deux with her father, his delusions had become her own throughout the years. But what lay waiting for me at the end of the basement steps I was following her down? And if they had kept Donnie alive, what would he be like after over a decade in captivity?

The answer waited for me at the end of a cement corridor. The Professor seemed to have made a functioning laboratory of immense size underneath the house. Gray cement walls and florescent light ornamented the hallways and heavy metal doors marked the entrance to as many as twenty rooms. 

At the end of the hall was a different kind of door, solid oak and elegant looking. Birdie opened the door and motioned for me to go through. As soon as I crossed the threshold the door slammed behind me. It was an office with plush green carpeting, bookshelves lining the walls and a high backed leather chair that was turned away from me. I approached the chair cautiously. A clock somewhere in the room ticked away the seconds. 

“I’ve thought a long time about what I would say when you finally came for me.” The chair spun and there he was, an adult man now, but my god it could only be him. He was the spitting image of our father, of me. It was like looking in a fun house mirror that made me taller and better looking, and damn I suddenly remembered how Donnie always made me feel inferior even though I was the older brother. 

“Donnie…I…I can’t believe it’s really you.” I moved rapidly to the desk.

“You look relived?”

“I am! I’m shocked but I couldn’t even imagine I would ever see you alive again.”

“Not surprising, since you’re the one who killed me.” 

    I backed away. “What are you talking about?”

    “Did you think I wouldn’t remember, big brother,” he spit the words at me. “I was changed when the professor brought me back but the image of you chasing me up that tree tormenting me as you always did. I realize now that you were jealous of my friends, my charisma. That’s why you beat me whenever Mother and Father weren’t looking. 

You shook the branch to frighten me when I went out further than you dared. When it broke you landed on the shore and I hit the lake. You ran when you saw what you had done, but my friends were there for me, and they still are.”

As he said it, long repressed images and feelings flooded my mind, the cold of the winter evening the sound of the ice cracking. I hadn’t wanted to remember, if you lie to yourself long enough you’ll believe your owns lies. After 13 years I had convinced myself that I was snuggled safely in my bed the night Donnie disappeared, now I recalled that wasn’t true at all.

“You took my life and I’m going to take back what I’m owed. I thought I would have more to say to you but, I’m an unkillable god-thing and you’re still so mortal. Why would a lion speak with to an ant. Fuck off pretty much sums it up.” He lifted a phone on his desk pressed a button. Birdie, Big Mac, Mayor McCheese, and Grimace all crowded into the room. Big Mac and Grimace each grabbed one of my arms. 

“I tried to warn you,” Big Mac whispered. 

“I think we need someone a little stronger to hold him, come on in my friend, don’t be shy.” My heart dropped as The Captain appeared in the doorway. “The newest acquisition to our little club,” my brother announced. “A man with a voracious appetite. The Captain looked ashamed. “Get his legs,” he sure moved quickly when my brother called though. With the Captain on my legs and a man on each arm I was completely and hopelessly trapped, although the fight was pretty much drained out of me anyway. I didn’t bother to resist. 

    “Bring in the old man,” my brother commanded. Birdie disappeared for a moment and returned with the Professor. He had a syringe in his hand. The world became fuzzy, I wondered if this would kill me but it seemed too kind a death from the insane man before me. My brothers face swam in front of me.

    “Don’t worry big brother. You won’t feel a thing, and when you wake up you’ll be part of the happy meal gang. The toughest bunch of motherfuckers in McDonaldland.”

    He was right, whatever they did to my brain didn’t hurt. I woke up tied to a chair wearing a black and white striped outfit like a convict in an old movie. There was dried blood dripping from my nose. It covered the bottom half of my face and stained the front of my shirt. 

    Birdie was leaned against the wall in the corner of the room. “He’s awake,” she called as my eyes fluttered open. 

    The room's heavy metal door swung open and my brother entered. “Good morning little brother,” he said. I didn’t respond. “How are you feeling?” I couldn’t respond. He knelt down beside me and patted my shoulder. “Exactly as I’d hoped,” he said. “I hope you like this cell brother. It’ll be your home from now on. It’s the same one where I spent the last 13 years or so, on and off. Birdie and Big Mac snuck me out when we could. We’d go to the hamburger patches and feast in the moonlight. 

    We’ll have to let you out sometimes of course, let the townspeople see what you’ve become, so they can fear you. Don’t worry their mayor will keep them safe, and the brave law enforcement officer that protects their town. Oh, and I can't I forget the first son of McDonaldland, entrepreneur and man about town Ronald McDonald.”

    He saw the confusion in my eyes and responded. “You see bringing Donnie McDonald back from the dead would be far too complicated, and might impede the work of some of my closest friends and colleagues. Donnie McDonald is long dead but Ronald McDonald, a quiet man who kept himself secluded but for a few close friends, why if he were to go away from a few months and return a changed man. Almost as if he had a whole new personality, he even seems a bit taller with all that confidence. 

    You think someone will notice but let me ask you, does anyone really give enough of a shit about you to care? Or do they pass you everyday like a ghost on the wind. You made yourself invisible Ron, and that’s terribly convenient for me. So, I’ll be you but who will you be?” He paced back and fourth in a cruel mockery of consideration. “Ah, I know. You’ll be my villain.”

We’ll need an excuse for why the children continue to disappear. Even as we add more hamburger patches to make up for the losses our resources continue to be depleted. A insane man, cloaked in mystery.”

“We should make him wear a cloak,” Birdie giggled.

“Yes, yes, maybe we should, and a little tie with hamburgers all over it.” The two of them threw their heads back in laughter. I started to struggle against my restraints in anger. 

“Oh, you think you can break free, how cute, even if you could what would you do? Tell the world who you really are. Tell me Ronald, tell me your name.”

My brain wasn’t working right, thoughts, ideas, words, they were all running together in a big pile. I opened my mouth. “R…ro..ble. Ro…ble.”

“What was that?” My brother laughed.

“Roble roble!” 

“I’m Ronald McDonald now, and we’ll call you…something menacing but on the nose for our purposes, I know, The Hamburglar!”

“Roble roble.” 


My Pitch For: The Secret Starring Katy Holmes

Apparently the self-help book The Secret is being made into a movie. Currently it’s being written by some hack named Bekah Brunstetter who has worked on This Is Us, and has rockin bangs, and generally looks like she would be my best friend if we ever met in real life. However, our future definite best friendship is in jeopardy because as soon as I heard The Secret was being made into a movie, I knew this story was inside of me just waiting to come out. So, I’m sorry Bekah Brunstetter. I’m sure you’re great but I’m about to steal your job. I’ve taken what we already know about the premise of the movie, which is this:

The film will center on a hard-working widow with three children who hires a handyman to fix her house during a terrible storm. When not doing home repairs, he shares his philosophy of believing in the power of the universe to deliver what we want.

With my extremely limited knowledge of what The Secret is about. This has resulted in the best movie pitch that has or will ever exist. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Lydia Bugg’s The Secret Starring Katy Holmes


A comet shoots through the sky, rocketing past majestic swirling planets, fading stars, and black holes. We pause on a desolated planet where the silhouette of a woman and child holding hands is visible. The comet continues on for some time, eventually passing Earth. We pause here and zoom in on the planet, then on the United States, then on Texas, then on Wegefarth county, then Big Hat Village, finally stopping on a crumbling Victorian home.

Outside the home stands our protagonist KATIE HOLMES (38) (a Katie Holmes type). In her arms is her beautiful young daughter SURI (8) (not necessarily played by Suri in the same way Katie Holmes does not necessarily have to play Katie Holmes if she doesn’t like my creative direction). Next to her is her mother DAME HELEN MIRREN (40) (a Judy Dench type).  Katie looks sadly at the home as her mother berates her over what a burden it is to have a daughter with such an ugly home. She then tells Katie to get it fixed or she is fired from being her daughter and she will not pay for Suri’s Fly Fishing classes like she promised she would.

Katie Holmes explains to her mother that she would like to fix up her house, but ever since the Big Hat hat plant, which manufactured those big hats Texas people like so much, closed down her family has been struggling. Also her husband recently died in tragic Big Hat related accident and she was planning to sue the hat plant but they went bankrupt and now she can’t sue them. Her mother is all, “I know Katie Holmes. Everyone in town is struggling since the Big Hat plant closed, but you’ll just have to make due like everyone else or I will daughter divorce you and Suri will never learn how to properly cast and then she will be homeless.” Dame Helen Mirren then disappears in a puff of smoke.

Katie Holmes goes into her crappy house where there is a blue crib with two baby boys in it. She picks up one and then the other, kissing them on the head. It’s very emotional. She is so desperate for money she has decided to sell her twin boys on eBay in order to fix up the house. We see her lovingly pack them into a box and hand them to a UPS man.


Katie Holmes has now recovered from the loss of her twin baby boys and is ready to start looking for someone to fix her house. She is flipping through the yellow pages when there is a knock on her door. It’s a handyman looking for work. What luck! His name is Splurch and he’s naked but for a pair of very tiny cutoffs almost smaller than his large tool belt, which for some reason only holds wrenches.

At first Katie is skeptical but Splurch offers her a great price and eventually she accepts. He begins to work on her house, and even saves her money by repurposing parts of the twin boys crib as building material. Katie brings him sandwiches and lemonades sometimes and they talk. One day he casually asks Katie if she knows The Secret. “What Secret?” Katie replies. Her mother enters the room to yell at Katie about how her hair is ugly. Splurch quickly exits the room as Katie apologizes for her ugly hair.  

Soon the house is finished and it’s time for Splurch to leave. Katie is very sad to see him go. Before he leaves he asks her if she thinks she could ever stand up to her mother? Katie Holmes says no and he turns to go. She yells “wait! Maybe I could if you had some sort of secret tip for me.” He smiles.

“Oh, I’ve got a secret tip.”

BAM Katie and Splurch are suddenly teleported to a Himalayan mountaintop. Katie shivers but even in his tiny shorts Splurch does not appear cold. “My name is not Splurch, sweet Katie Holmes. My name is Splurchawerchmomgimgam, and I am the last of my kind. I have been watching you for some time, Katie Holmes. Much tragedy has befallen you and the town of Big Hat. I will show you the ways of my people so that you, the kindest, purest woman in all of Big Hat can rectify what has been done to it and defeat it’s greatest evil.

Splurch gets on his knees and whispers in Katie’s ear. CUT TO: A training montage. Katie climbs the mountain with Splurch. Katie fights a baby goat. Katie sews Splurch a shirt from the baby goat’s skin. By the end she is feral, and snow-covered, but she has found herself. Splurch smiles as he places a hand on her shoulder. “You are ready Katie Holmes. Go fourth and save the town of Big Hat, but remember, always remember the secret.”

Katie reappears in her living room where Suri sits sobbing amongst discarded cereal boxes. Suri asks her mother where she has been. Katie has been gone for weeks leaving Suri to steal food and water to survive. She has been eating almost nothing but dry cereal for weeks. At night the rats came for her, until she started eating them as well. Katie is upset that Suri looks so haunted. At first she is distressed but then she remembers her training. “You are not traumatized by the last few weeks Suri,” she says, and suddenly Suri is visibly better.

She stands up straight and removes her hair from its pony tail. “You’re right mom! I’m not traumatized at all. In fact, I think eating rats made me a stronger person.” They hug. “The only bad thing about you being gone is that Grandma said she wasn’t going to waste her money on fly fishing lessons for a smelly orphan and the big fly fishing contest is today!” Katie is pissed that her mom wouldn’t take care of Suri while she was at her training.

She grabs Suri and they drive down to the fly-fishing contest. Katie tells Suri that she is the best fly fisher in the world so it becomes true and Suri wins the contest. All of the other kids who spent weeks preparing are super bummed. Except one little boy who asks Katie if he can marry Suri to which Katie explains Suri’s dowry will be very high since she is such a good fly fisher and he is probably too poor to afford her.

Suddenly, Katie’s mother appears from nowhere and begins to berate her for abandoning her daughter. Katie tells her she will stop talking in her best the secret voice but her mother just keeps going, berating Katie until she is curled in a ball on the ground. “No” Katie screams. “You have to do what I say. That’s the secret mother. You must obey the secret.” Splurch appears in front of Katie, shielding her from her mother but her mother pulls a spear out of her purse and stabs him. His blood spurts all over Katie.

Katie holds the dying Splurch in her arms. “You will live!” she yells, but he shakes his head.“Sweet Katie Holmes, I lied to you when I said I was the last of my kind. Your mother is one of us as well. She is the only person on earth immune to the secret. You must defeat her, or the universe is doomed. Remember your training.” With that he dies in Katie’s arms.

"NNNNOOOOOOO," Katie Shrieks. 

“So, Splurch told you the secret” her mother cackles. “Well that doesn’t matter. For years I’ve been growing strong from feeding off your sorrow. I pushed that big hat display over on your husband, then when it looked like you might get some money from suing the factory I ordered a whole bunch of big hats and didn’t pay for them so the company would go bankrupt, I made you sell your sons on Ebay to pay for Suri’s fly fishing lessons, and now I’m going to eat your daughter!” Dame Helen Mirren grabs Suri and opens her jaw super monster wide. Suri screams.

“I cannot affect you, but I can effect the world around you mother!” Katie yells. “A tree branch will fall on you but it will miss Suri and she will fly into my arms. Then lightning will strike the branch and it will catch fire. Then a satellite will fall on you and a nuclear bomb will also fall on you but Suri and I will be teleported far away to safety on another planet with only your charred corpse to keep us company!” Katie screams. WHITE OUT.


Katie Holmes stands on the desolated planet from the beginning of the movie. Recent smoking ruins are visible in the distance behind her. She is eating a piece of charred meat with the bone protruding from it. Suri approaches her from behind with a tiny version of the meat snack in hand. “This is delicious mother.” She says. “What is it?”

Katie Holmes gnaws off a large grisly piece. “It’s your Grandmother,” she says. Suri is momentarily taken aback. Katie Holmes squats down in front of her. “Someday you will learn that you only become stronger by ingesting the flesh of your enemies.” She places a hand on Suri’s cheek. “Someday you will learn THE SECRET.” FADE TO BLACK


A Fan Letter That I Wrote To…Myself.

Dear Lydia,

My name is also Lydia, because we are the same person. Just thought I would take a moment to let you know I’ve been really enjoying the work you’ve been doing over on Honestly, I wasn’t too sure about you working with people whom you’ve admired at a far for years. It seemed to me at first that you were really, really, really, really, like really, unqualified. Why you? I said to myself, who is also you. Of all the talented people who Cracked could have asked to write a weekly column why did they chose a girl who had only submitted six articles, three of which had been rejected.

I have to say, you’ve assailed some of my fears. Your article on Superman’s mustache being digitally altered out of the Justice League movie made me laugh. Then again, it’s almost impossible to make that article NOT funny. What I’m trying to say is, I think there might possibly be a universe in which you are a writer and against all odds, it might be this universe. Sorry that it has to be the same Universe where Donald Trump is president.

I know you’re not one for acknowledging how your feeling, because again, I am you. I just wanted to let you know that I’ve decided it’s ok for you to be overwhelmed.It seemed like submitting your first article was playing a baseball game, and you won! Then you realized that was the opening pitch of a tournament. Also, you don’t really know the rules of the tournament, or how long it will last. The tournament could end tomorrow and everyone will forget that it even happened to you. Or, you could become the next Babe Ruth. No one knows. Life is crazy, but that what makes it fun, but that’s also what makes it poo pants scary.

Lately you seem like a teenage girl in love. You can’t sleep because you’re waking up at 3AM to jot down an article idea in your iphone notes. You’re smiling all the time because you thought of a great fart joke about the Incredible Hulk. You remember what happens at the end of a teenage romance, though. That’s why you don’t date anymore. Well, mostly you don’t date anymore because you got married, but that’s beside the point.

In summation I just wanted to say, congratulations girl! You did it. Don’t be all #blessed all over the place, but fuck it. You earned it. How many whole novels have you written and thrown away without ever showing anyone? How many short stories have you written just for you? You worked your ass off to become a better writer and now you’re getting what you’ve literally always wanted. SO DON’T SCREW IT UP. Stop second guessing yourself, listen to the infinitely more talented people who are giving you advice, and if you need a day to be overwhelmed, fucking take it! You’ve got this…I’m pretty sure you’ve got this. Jesus Christ, I hope you’ve got this.

Family Vacation, 7AM.

EVERYONE AT ONCE: Where's Kim? Have you seen Macy? Where's Jordyn? Patty? Kelly? Has anyone seen Kim? Who made this mess? I haven't seen Kim all morning? Did all the kids get fed breakfast? Was it Macy? I think it was Macy. Oh there's Jordyn. Did all of you guys get breakfast? Kim is nowhere. Macy you need to pick up all these Tacos. Mom, you're so annoying. Is this a bathroom or a closet? Closet, but you can pee in it if you want. I didn't make those tacos. There are so many kids. Why would I even need that many Tacos. I think it was one of the boys. One of the boys made tacos last night. How many kids are there? I'm pretty sure Kim is dead. Can we count all the kids? That swimsuit is too revealing. We have all of the kids. Jacob get down here and pick up all these tacos. You look like one of the Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling. Welp, Kim is dead. Shut up Jacob. We didn't leave any of the kids at a gas station again did we? I'm not picking up all these tacos. The funeral for Kim will be at 3:15 today, after the volleyball game. You're picking up the tacos. We have an extra kid. Fine but I'm going to do it while making as much noise as possible. There's six here there should only be 5 right? It will be a closed casket since there is no body. Are you forgetting about the baby? Jacob spilled hot sauce on me! No, there is definitely at least one extra kid here. I did it on purpose. This one has red hair, no one has red hair. You could put some shorts on over that suit on the way to the beach if you want. Yeah, that's definitely not one of ours. If anyone would like to speak at the funeral I would encourage a theme of friendship be addressed in each speech, you know for uniformity. Mom you're being so controlling. Is anyone cleaning up the tacos? WHY DO WE HAVE AN EXTRA CHILD? I think Kim is on the patio. Just put the one that isn't ours outside. Is Kim on the patio? Jacob, I don't care who made the taco's, you're cleaning up the mess. I'm releasing this extra child into the wilderness. Hopefully it knows it's way home. Why won't you let me get my belly button pierced? Goodbye child. Oh, theres Kim. You can do whatever you want when you turn 18. Fine I'll pick up the tacos. Kim where have you been! I will do whatever I want when I turn 18. I took a walk on the beach. Has anyone seen Charlie? I just cleaned all this up and I'm hungry again. Oh, there were supposed to be 6. My son is missing. No he's not, he's right outside. Why were you looking for me? Oh, do you want a Mcmuffin. Actually I'm kind of cold, where are the shorts?