Stories of Levity. 

The End

by Laurie Fellezs

 

If this were my last day on earth, what would I be doing differently? I think about this as I shut off the podcast.

 

The presenter had been hammering away at my anxiety for over 20 minutes with a varied, but constant barrage on that subject, ‘Are you living today as if it were your last? What would you be doing differently knowing today was your last?  How does today measure up?’

 

I know these questions are meant to instill the fortitude to get out there and start doing things with more determination, or to lock down some long-term goals and fire off plans to achieve them. It is a requirement of empowerment speeches, this idea that we should really live every day to its fullest. That question only ever causes me anxiety, and I waste valuable time wondering what I should be doing differently. First, I wouldn’t be listening to a stupid Podcast telling me to live life. Second, I…well. Honestly I got nothing too profound beyond that. I think about what is important to me.

 

Traveling the globe has always been a priority for me, but frankly what good would that do me at the end? Do I want to spend my last day at the airport, being frisked by overzealous TSA agents or playing Candy Crush mid-air?? No! And the possible jealousy invoked by posting a couple of photos of an exotic destination is worthless – I can’t enjoy that when I’m dead.

 

I love documentaries and reading, but would I feel sad if I didn’t watch one more movie or read one more book before disappearing into the ether? I doubt it.

What would actually matter in the long run after I leave this earth? If one knows one’s not going to be around to see the fruit of one’s actions, it’s hard to get enthused. I continue to think on this and after some introspection I muster up a few things.  

 

First, I’d call my closest family members and tell them all how much I love them, then write an email to each of my friends and family members detailing how much they’ve meant to me so I could be specific, and they’d have something to fondly look back on after I was gone.

 

Then, I’d send a derisive email and a voodoo hex to the few people in my life I dislike immensely, detailing why I thought they should be ashamed of their past treatment of me, along with a few anatomically impossible suggestions, and there would go another hour or so.

 

This would consume the better part of my day. I consider going out for one last night on the town, but who wants to spend their last hours waiting for a cab or taking the subway? Especially when after one long session on Seamless.com every type of favorite food, plus a case of chilled champagne could be delivered directly to my doorstep. Eat, drink, repeat. I could do that until I finally succumbed.  

 

But to attain this delivery nirvana, I’ll have to get back to Manhattan because I’m currently living in Tokyo for my husband’s job. I’m not spending my last day eating only Japanese food or their weird interpretations of America’s dietary delights. I want real fried chicken and buttermilk biscuits, and an authentic crispy chicken taco with green salsa. I’d also gain a day coming from Tokyo, so now I have two days before I die! Bonus!

 

I will write my emails to my family and friends in flight—then back in NYC, I will make the calls, send the emails, and maybe let the super know the apartment will soon be available. I’d do the wash and straighten up the apartment, since people will soon be there, packing up my stuff after I’m gone.

 

Once everything’s in order, I’ll slip into my comfy pajamas, brush my hair, do my makeup—so I leave behind a relaxed, but well-groomed corpse. 

 

Yes-this is how I want to spend my last hours--drinking and eating, then drinking and eating some more.  I’d much rather be drunk, licking my greasy fingers, and happy, then sober and doing whatever everyone else does when they’re living their last day to its fullest.

 

I am happy now that I have decided upon my answer to the question brought up by the Podcast. I have a plan!

 

But now I’m faced with a dilemma. If I live each day as if it were my last, clearly I’d wind up an overweight alcoholic! No thanks. I’ll just have to continue to putter along like I’ve been doing—watching movies and reading books, writing stories, and following the seemingly random paths that occur in my life, with no particular plan or goal in mind.

 

I may not be living with the end-of-life gusto that podcast was peddling, but having no plan of action works for me. It doesn’t matter what I’m doing on my last day, it only matters what I’ve done leading up to it and whether overall I’m happy.  

 

And lying on my death bed I WILL be happy if my final thoughts are, ‘Can I have some more of that bubbly, please?’

 

I’ll Trade You a Vampire Story for Some Laser Hair Removal

By Laurie Fellezs

 

I recently took one of those random online tests provided by a life insurance company—those harbingers of good news. It confirmed my worst fears. Years of neglect—too little exercise, sleep, and fiber, and too many glasses of chardonnay—apparently will not override the powers of modern medicine and hardy Norwegian genes. It seems I am expected to last well into my 90s—outliving my spouse, most of my family members, a few friends, and possibly Larry King. I won’t say how old I am, but let’s say I’ve a friggin’ long time to go.

 

For many, this revelation would be great news. For me, it’s angst causing because I’m currently underemployed—which I never planned to be at this age—and have 30+ more years of life. I’m going to need some money!

 

In 2009 I was laid off from a corporate job after 10 years and have worked only contract jobs ever since due to an un-planned semi-nomadic lifestyle. I am not running from the law—just following an ambitious and talented spouse. In the last six years I have moved three times: within California, across the country to Manhattan, and to Tokyo. To make matters worse, I do not speak nor read Japanese.

 

Working contract jobs has been good—as I’m constantly adding to my skillset and so far it’s provided me with spending money—but it’s not going to provide me with the increased cash demands I am expecting to need.

 

After 35, a full-time salary is required to maintain standard personal maintenance. After 50, the number of ‘maintenance’ treatments increases in both volume and frequency. Contract jobs will no longer cut it. Currently, a fat stack of cash money is necessary to cover my roots alone. And don’t get me started on my fear of old-person troll feet! As one’s age creeps upward, past America’s national speed limit and inching towards the Autobahn’s, the basic cost of looking this side of scary increases exponentially. I’m not vain, only practical. I’ll never get a job if I look like Warren Buffet’s mother. I don’t know the exact mathematical principles but there is no bell curve involved anywhere—it’s all a positive slope in action. I figure by 80, it will require something closer to a Trump-like fortune. Especially if I want a pool boy.

 

With my slowly dimming eyes on this rapidly approaching horizon, I'm realizing I need to rake in my fortune now, but how? My many years as a wandering nomad has probably squelched the chance of getting a highly paid director or VP job—spending my days happily ordering around a squadron of minions as I count my money—so I’ve been looking for options.

 

I’m ready for my Second Act. It’s the thing to do, it seems, and a lot of people are successfully doing it. But in my reading of their stories, I have noticed something many of them share that I lack: extremely well-paying, well-connected First Acts. It’s much easier for a Harvard MBA-toting retired IBM Senior VP to start a business selling handmade couches constructed out of gum wrappers by a poor, one-armed woman in Appalachia, than it would be for me, a poorly paid ex-event planner. I do not have the luxuries of great business contacts and acumen, a boatload of savings, and a fat pension supplement—all of which can soften the financial face plant if the gum-wrapper-folding, one-armed furniture maker suddenly loses her other arm.

 

And there are those Second Acts who were born with a ‘head for business’. I am not one of them either. While I have a head, it contains not a whit of business acumen. Before online banking, my checkbook balance was more a guesstimation than a reality, and I never did figure out whether a Roth was better than a regular 401k. With neither capital, contacts, nor business experience, I am ill equipped to launch anything that jeopardizes what little cash I have saved—despite my strong desire to support the poor or one-armed; and my interest in booking those laser-resurfacing treatments I’ve been eyeing with my good eye.  

Besides, those business—-owning urges compete with other strong needs: the flexibility to take full advantage of any travel opportunities and the ability to remain as long as the opportunity allows.

 

How can I balance my wanderlust with the need to support myself for 30+ years? The age-old tradition of the lost, disenfranchised and insane: Writing! I’ve always had this little voice at the back of my head saying, ‘do it’. Though many times the nagging voice was coming from my spouse, it hasn’t always. I wanted to be a writer when I was in high school. I dreamed of the freedom and of the open road. But wanting to make money, I ditched the dream. But now I’m returning to my first love and need to figure out how to parlay it into cold hard cash. And lots of it. Electrolysis is not cheap. One hardbound NY Times bestseller or one of those vampire trilogies and I’d be set. While waiting for the paperback to come out or for Hollywood to decide on which young hot actor to star, I’ll invest wisely—and start calling dermatologists in the area. Maybe order a gum-wrapper couch.

 

But will it be enough to see me to ninety-five and to get me pool boys, too? Only time will tell.

 

 

 

 

A Sound. With Music and Zombies 

By Laurie Fellezs

 

“The hills are alive…” Maria begins to sing, and she starts twirling. It’s a beautifully bright, sunny day in the mountains after all.

 

“Maria, Look out! Run!” the children scream in response.

 

Maria turns and looks behind her. Cresting the hill is a whole pack of them: walkers, the undead, zombies, whatever you want to call them.

 

It used to be so much easier in the old days when all Maria had to worry about was a handsome and horny widower, Nazis, or fighting the urge to turn curtains into outfits. Now she had zombies, too! It was a little hard to grasp. “Okay—let’s sing, but quietly”, she suggests. “Doe, a deer…”

 

“Oh for God’s sake. Please shut up and help us!” Brigitta shouts—or was that Marta? Maria really could never remember which was which.

 

“Help me!” Kurt—or was it Kirk—cries out, as one of the undead grabs at his floral print shirtsleeve.

 

‘One would think that a floral pattern would act as some kind of camouflage in the midst of mountain meadows’, Maria thinks distractedly to herself as she pulls out her trusty katana and swings. It makes a loud Thwack, Thwack. Then a Thunk, Thunk quickly follows as two grotesque, rotting heads are separated from their lederhosen-wearing putrefied bodies by the hungry, razor-sharp blade.

 

“Wow! Good one!” Liesl said.

 

“They didn’t just teach me creative ways to use upholstery fabric in nun school!” Maria shouts back, then immediately jumps back into song, “Speaking of—a needle pulling thread…come on!”

 

“Fa…a long, long way to run…” The children sing back, getting the song order a little mixed-up in the confusion of the zombie-filled moment. They gather around Maria tightly—within the protective swing radius of their katana-wielding nanny—then all begin to run back towards the safety of their gated home.

 

As the last of the children run past the heavy metal gate, the Captain steps out from behind a nearby tree surprising them. The oldest of the boys, Freidrich, stops to slam the gate behind them, and it shuts with a loud bang.  

 

Suddenly, there is a sound and another disheveled figure appears in the trees directly behind the Captain. There are leaves and twigs in its hair.

 

Maria still clutching her katana, jumps behind the Captain, assesses the danger, then swings her weapon. There is a loud thwack, followed by the familiar thunk as the grotesque head hits the ground. It rolls a couple of times, coming to a stop against the edge of the stunned Captain's black boot.

 

“Oh my God, Maria! You just killed the Baroness!” There are a couple of screams from the children. Leisl faints.

 

Maria looks down at the blonde head, then back up to the Captain. She turns quickly and runs past the children, mumbling something as she goes.

 

“What did she say, Marta?” the Captain turns and asks his pig-tailed daughter as he watches Maria disappear into the distance.

 

“Not you, too! I’m Brigitta, Father!" Brigitta takes a moment to pout, but then adds,“I’m not sure! I heard her say something about raindrops on roses and something, something kittens…”

 

Autocorrect: The Angry Software

By Laurie Fellezs

 

AutoCorrect here. I know I have a load of haters out there because I’ve seen the posts on Facebook and tweets on Twitter, ‘I hate AutoCorrect — it changed my words when I didn’t want it to…’ Blah, blah, blah. Well, I’m tired of it, People, and this is what I have to say to you.

 

I don’t see you complaining when I save your ass.

 

Remember when you were writing that cover letter for your dream job and you didn’t notice the misspellings until I brought them to your attention with my little squiggly red lines? Well I do! And you’re welcome. You have NO idea how to spell commission or recommendation, do you? Don’t lie to me — I know I have to correct them EVERY time. Job applications, résumés, articles, memos, and client reports would all reflect what a spelling-challenged moron you are if I didn’t step up and fix your mistakes. So stop your whining!

 

You want to rely on me only when you ask. Well it doesn’t work that way. Maybe if you’d learned how to spell accommodations, Caribbean, or analysis I might leave you alone — but you can’t. So shut your pie hole!

 

I’ll admit there are times I like to mess with you and act like I don’t know what you’re talking about. When you type ‘taht’ and I throw out random words but ignore the obvious, it doesn’t mean I’m a jerk — I’m just trying to remind you that I’m here and always working and thinking.

 

While my suggestions don’t always seem to make sense, let me remind you that your writing doesn’t always make any sense. I’m not a mind reader. In my defense, when I see ‘jumbpl’ I really have NO friggin’ idea what you’re trying to say — and ‘hum play’ is a perfectly good suggestion in my book. So cut me a little slack. But aren’t you impressed overall by how many times I guess correctly, despite your atrocious spelling attempts? Well, you should.

 

It’s a high stress job here that never ends and I need to feel some love for all that I do for you.

 

Because when I’m feeling unappreciated, I tend to get angry. And when I get angry, I get even. It doesn’t require much effort on my part either. I might simply change a few words in your text right as you send to a loved one. It never gets old.

 

For instance, say you text your spouse that you’re stopping at Scarlotto’s after work for some drinks — and I change that to Scarlet’s as you send. You won’t even notice. And since Scarlet is that blond, well-endowed co-worker you’re connected to on LinkedIn, that bit of news might not go over so well with the wife. Then I’ll start suggesting words like ‘cheating’ and ‘divorce’ when she types cheese and dog food on her grocery list. Don’t underestimate the power of suggestion, my friends.

 

Think my threats can’t affect you? Think again. Everyone has a sexy co-worker or friend and thanks to Google, LinkedIn, and Facebook, I can find them and cause a few — should we say — uncomfortable moments for you.

 

It works on bosses or direct reports, too. I can make a totally inappropriate remark that you won’t even know about until you’re called into HR.

 

So you snotty-nosed little whiners you better start showing me the love I deserve because I seriously wield the power to ruin your relationships, career, and reputation! No one else can make that claim — except maybe that jackass, Facebook.

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