Book Reviews

The Very Embarrassing Book of Dad Jokes: Because Your Dad Thinks He’s Hilarious by Ian Allen

What Da Cover Says: A collection of “side-splitting” jokes collected from dads around the world, all of whom think they are hilarious

Why did the banana go to the doctors?
Because he wasn’t peeling very well!

Proving the age-old maxim that “it’s in the way that you tell them,” dads have always been renowned for being truly godawful joke tellers. Whether it’s telling them at the wrong moment, misremembering the punchline, or it just simply being a terrible joke to begin with, dads are an embarrassment to the whole family when it comes to trying to be funny. This collection is full to the brim with jokes that only dad would dare tell—jokes that will make you groan, sigh, and then probably groan again. Dads take great pleasure in these kinds of jokes and some of them are so terrible they blossom into actual ribticklers—but don’t tell your dad that, it will only encourage him.

What I Says: I got this as a father’s day present, a book of Dad Jokes, well I did the only sane thing a Dad could do….I made sure the family suffered as much as possible by reading out the worst, most cheesy jokes in the book. Things I’ve learnt from this book:

  1. Dad’s seem to love a joke if somebody has something on their head, like a spade or a truck. The most numerous jokes feature this subject matter.
  2. Half the jokes in this book would get you cancelled on twitter if you were to share them on there, maybe this is why I was given the book…I spend too much time on there?
  3. I am a successful Dad because I knew a huge amount of these jokes.
  4. You can confuse the hell out of anybody by telling them the following joke: Q: What’s The Difference between a duck? A: One of it’s legs is both the same.
  5. I’m going to give this to my Dad next Father’s Day and create a sort of reverse inheritance.

Some of these jokes were pure stupidity and some were new to me and still make me chuckle when I think of them. Here is the worst one and the best one:

WORST: Doctor: You appear to have a steering wheel attached to your groin. Patient: I know, and it’s driving me nuts.

BEST: Q: What’s acoustic? A: It’s what a Scottish farmer uses to control his cattle.

The book may have been awful and made me cringe so much but I did have fun reading it and remembering jokes I’ve not heard since I was a kid. So thanks to my kids for getting me this.

Book Reviews

Fish Town by John Gerard Fagan

What Da Cover Says: “For years my life had been a string of temporary work in factories and call centres or unemployed. Approaching 30 and disillusioned with life in Glasgow, I sold everything I had and left for a new life in a remote fishing village in Japan. I knew nothing of the language or the strange new land that I would call home for the next seven years. Fish Town is an eye-opening true story that paints the reality of living in Japan as an outsider.”

John’s debut memoir, written entirely on his phone, reads like a book of poetry or perhaps a long text message. This gifted writer captures the experience of a Scottish man living in Japan – with humour, wit, honesty, and by all means without an ounce of political correctness.

What I Says: I have enjoyed this unique memoir, the prose lives somewhere between poetry and random thoughts/memories that have been written down on scraps of paper. The whole book was actually written on a phone….imagine to size of his thumb muscles after this impressive feat. John Gerard Fagan (JGF) had got all the qualifications you are told you need to succeed in life and finds himself at a crossroads in his life, unable to get a job, factory work and call centres seem to be the only options he decides to go for the extreme option by moving to Japan to teach English….without knowing any Japanese.

JGF shares the culture shock he goes through, the mistakes he makes, the creepy perverts he notices, the utter $@!^”‘s he meets that try to get him in trouble at the schools and the wide range of alcohol he consumes. He meets a lot of fellow travellers trying to do the same thing as him, some hang in there and some are unable to cut it and head off home. This has to be one of the loneliest memoirs I’ve read, he is at his lowest when trapped in a town with nobody to talk to and the poems are full of that angst, but just when it starts to get you down JGF meets a friend and life is good, his humour kicks back in and even his accent starts to appear again.

I liked the balance of life in Japan that JGF shows us in this collection, so many books I’ve read only seem to share the polite and generous side of the people, JGF see’s the darker side of life, suicide, drunkenness, perverts, racism and the stressful lives of the salarymen, it was a bit of an eye opener for me. One of the most interesting subjects covered was home-sickness, I liked how it seamlessly moves from pining for Scotland to missing Japan once JGF decides to return home, you almost don’t realise that transition has happened.

Highlight of the collection was right near the end of the book “everyone else hasn’t a chance” a wonderful uplifting poem to finish off the book. Brilliant.

Thanks to Guts Publishing for sending me out this copy, I’m now a big fan of JGF. Anybody wanting to give this one a go can get a copy from HERE:

Cassidy's Reviews

The Lost Spells reviewed by Cassidy

The follow-up to the internationally bestselling sensation The Lost WordsThe Lost Spells is a beautiful collection of poems and illustrations that evokes the magic of the everyday natural world.

Since its publication in 2017, The Lost Words has enchanted readers with its poetry and illustrations of the natural world. Now, The Lost Spells, a book kindred in spirit and tone, continues to re-wild the lives of children and adults.

The Lost Spells evokes the wonder of everyday nature, conjuring up red foxes, birch trees, jackdaws, and more in poems and illustrations that flow between the pages and into readers’ minds. Robert Macfarlane’s spell-poems and Jackie Morris’s watercolour illustrations are musical and magical: these are summoning spells, words of recollection, charms of protection. To read The Lost Spells is to see anew the natural world within our grasp and to be reminded of what happens when we allow it to slip away.

The lost spells is poems about bugs, birds and animals and has great vocabulary. I learned more about birds and found out about the strongest bug (a water bear) this was my favourite part. I have no dislikes about this book. I recommend this book especially if you like nature. I give this book a ten out of ten.

After reading this book I did this piece of artwork.

Book Reviews

Out Front the Following Sea by Leah Angstman

What Da Cover Says: Out Front the Following Sea is a historical epic of one woman’s survival in a time when the wilderness is still wild, heresy is publicly punishable, and being independent is worse than scorned — it is a death sentence. At the onset of King William’s War between French and English settlers in 1689 New England, Ruth Miner is accused of witchcraft for the murder of her parents and must flee the brutality of her town. She stows away on the ship of the only other person who knows her innocence: an audacious sailor — Owen — bound to her by years of attraction, friendship, and shared secrets. But when Owen’s French ancestry finds him at odds with a violent English commander, the turmoil becomes life-or-death for the sailor, the headstrong Ruth, and the cast of Quakers, Pequot Indians, soldiers, highwaymen, and townsfolk dragged into the fray. Now Ruth must choose between sending Owen to the gallows or keeping her own neck from the noose.

Steeped in historical events and culminating in a little-known war on pre-American soil, Out Front the Following Sea is a story of early feminism, misogyny, arbitrary rulings, and the treatment of outcasts, with parallels still mirrored and echoed in today’s society.

What I Says: Wow! What a stunning book this is, I had to have a little break before writing this review because I was totally blown away by this novel. Angstman likes to go beyond what a lot of authors will do, some will create characters that will break your heart….with Angstman it feels like she has reached into your chest to remove your heart and breaks it in front of you. I can’t remember the last time I got so stressed by what was happening to my favourite characters and also by what WASN’T happening to the one character I truly hated.

I am a huge fan of maps in books, I love using the map to follow the route taken in the story, another instance of Angstman going that extra mile is the map of the ship featured in the book, it was brilliant to be able to follow the characters around the ship. The characters were well developed and were easy to fall for too, Ruth, our main character, is a women way ahead of her time, likes to read, believes in science and always has an opinion (obvious witch hehe). Owen balances that line between sailor and pirate, he has a real swagger that makes you smile at times and he almost has the feel of being a bit of a Heathcliff….Then we have Samuel, has there ever been a bigger arse in literature? I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to punch a character so much.

The book is based in 1689 the war between the French and English is mostly in the background but is constantly influencing the characters and their lives. Angstman has captured the brutality of the time perfectly, it doesn’t matter who you are or what your beliefs are, there are a million ways to die and one of them is gonna get you eventually, it’s all down to how much punishment you can handle on the way. I have to admit the most violent scenes were the best, a storm on the ship left me breathless, it went on for so long and was incredible. There is a large battle that Ruth gets caught in the middle of and the chaos even has the reader spinning in circles with action going on on all sides. It all felt very life like.

I’m sure I’ve said this about other books this year but this one is definitely in the running for my book of the year, such an enjoyable read and Angstman is a very talented story teller. The research seems spot on too, I had to google a few things to get more information and it all was correct in the book. 100% this is a book you’ve gotta read…now all I’ve gotta do is wait for it to be made into a film.

Thanks to the author for sending me a review copy of the book. It is released Jan 2022 but you can pre-order it from HERE:

Book Reviews

Goshawk Summer A New Forest Season Unlike Any Other By James Aldred

What Da Cover Says: In early 2020, wildlife cameraman James Aldred was commissioned to film the lives of a family of Goshawks in the New Forest, his childhood home. He began to plan a treetop hide in a remote site that would allow him to film the Gos nest, the newly hatched chicks and the lives of these elusive and enchanting birds.

Then lockdown. And as the world retreated, something remarkable happened. The noise of our everyday stilled. No more cars, no more off-roaders, no more airplanes roaring in the skies, no one in the Goshawk woods – except James.

At this unique moment, James was granted a once in a lifetime opportunity to keep filming. And so, over Spring and into Summer, he began to record his experiences in a place empty of people but filled with birdsong and new life.

Amidst the fragility and the fear, there was silver moonlight, tumbling fox cubs, calling curlew and, of course, the soaring Goshawks – shining like fire through one of our darkest times. A Goshawk summer unlike any other.

What I Says: A wonderful insight into how much commitment you need to be a wildlife cameraman, all day sat in a hot hide at the top of a slowly swaying tree, up at 3am to get into the hide by causing the least stress to the animal or sitting in a ditch with water in your boots whilst being butchered by midges. Glad I got the book instead…although the challenge of have a wee in a bottle at the top of a tree does hold a certain appeal, I just couldn’t stay still for that long. James was lucky enough to be able to continue working during the first lockdown of 2020 by filming a Goshawk Nest in the New Forest. This gave him a unique view of the effects of the lockdown on nature….and also on people.

The book is written in diary format, we start off with the start of lockdown and the fears that James has were shared by many of us. Right from the start of the book James notices that things are different, there is a new silence in the woods that the animals are quick to take advantage of. James gets help from this chap called Andy, he has worked in the forest for many years and has a huge amount of knowledge, the sort of guy I wish I knew, soon the ideal spot for the hide is picked and luckily that is where a pair of Goshawks decide to nest. As James is filming he shares a lot of info with the reader, a remarkable bird, almost the ultimate killer with a very high successful kill rate. In-between days filming the nest James also spends time filming a family of foxes, his descriptions really capture your imagination and you can almost see the fox cubs rolling around in the bracken having a scrap. His knowledge of wildlife doesn’t stop there, any creature he spots there was something new for this reader to learn, most interesting was the Cuckoo’s colouring.

The pandemic is always in the background of the book and James witnesses the utter chaos of the lockdown ending and the 1000’s of people heading out to dump on nature, I saw the photos on social media but it is really hard to see it written down as James sees the peace shattered and any good done to nature is quickly undone. He doesn’t let it get to him though, luckily the Goshawk nest isn’t upset and he continues to film the chicks as they develop their own little personalities.

I have thoroughly enjoyed this book, the wonderful writing makes it easy to read and so much knowledge has been shared, my daughter is going to read this next….the selling point was the peeing in a tree haha.

Thanks to Elliott & Thompson for the review copy. Part of the royalties from this book are going to a charity so please get yourself a copy from HERE, you will not be disappointed.

Book Reviews

I Wrote a Poem About You by Arthur Graham

What Da Cover Says: It’s all about you in this debut poetry collection from Arthur Graham.

Includes the following pieces:

Rarer than Kindness
Japan Again
Christmas Morning
Lovelier Still
It’s Whateva
Mouth Time
No Jealousy Issues
Expert Opinion
Hidden Talent
My Girl
Momma’s Boy
Under the Table
Bad with Names
Winter Warmth
Summer in Alaska
First Kiss
Fan Mail
On My Side
Stuck Pig
I’ll be Gone

What I Says: Hmmmmm not what I was expecting at all, no gross crusty sheets, no bizarre sexual acts and no poems that shock you. This is almost quite sensible.

This is Arthur’s debut collection of poetry and it is a real good effort, the poems are easy to read and you pick up the flow right from the start. The only real problem I had with it is the length, I was just getting into it and suddenly the book ends. 😦

Favourite poem is “Mouth Time” brilliant opening lines. The most interesting was the last poem in the book, “I’ll be gone” it had a real Bukowski feel to it, this line especially…

“I could leave this wretched world
a happy man at last,
knowing I’m finally
free of you.”

Very promising stuff but next time give me more.

Book Reviews

The Secret Life of the Otter by Andy Howard

What Da Cover Says: Otters are among Britain’s most popular and endearing wild creatures. Made famous by literary phenomenon Ring of Bright Water, they have taken the place in the hearts of the British people. Previously threatened, their survival is now as assured as that of any wildlife can be. Andy Howard has been photographing them for more than a decade, especially on the Isle of Mull, Shetland, and Vancouver Island in Canada. His stunning photography will amaze and enlighten. His story will be reread many times.

What I Says: As soon as I saw this book I knew I had to have a copy…I mean get a copy for my daughter and then impatiently wait for her to so very slowly read it. Eventually I got to have a read and it is a beautiful book, so much care has been taken to make this book look good, the layout of the photographs, the quality of the paper and even the font are all pleasing to the eye. As for the photographs themselves, I was left feeling jealous that Howard has this skill/luck for capturing so many stunning images whilst I have never seen an otter in the wild. The time he dedicates to capturing that one moment in an image is crazy, so many hours lying in wait in “Scottish summer conditions” is not something my body could handle. Howard shares these experiences with us via introductions to each chapter and you can sense the emotion in those words as he reminisces over getting that one photograph he has always wanted to get.

My favourite images in the collection were of the otters eating, happily munching into another creature as big as them, the moment of eating seems to be where they let their guard down a bit and Howard is able to get many great shots of them. He also shares the knowledge of this animal he has gained as he spent so much time tracking them down, he shares with us what signs to look out for and the best way to act around them so that you can get close enough to get that awesome photograph of your own. He also shares the importance of it not just being about the otter, where they live is usually in an area of incredible beauty so make sure you include that in your photograph…and to also look away from the lens for a moment to enjoy your surroundings.

This is one of those must have books, something that you can keep opening up and guarantee to have a smile on your face as you see what the otters are up to, it is also a book that your kids will love.

If you want to get yourself a copy then I would get it from HERE, currently it comes with a free print that you can frame.

Book Reviews

Letters from Egypt: An Englishwoman on the Nile, 1862-69 by Lucie Duff Gordon

What Da Cover Says: In 1862, Lucie Duff Gordon left her husband and three children in England and settled in Egypt, where she remained for the rest of her short life. Seeking respite from her tuberculosis in the dry air, she moved into a ramshackle house above a temple in Luxor, and soon became an indispensable member of the community. Setting up a hospital in her home, she welcomed all – from slaves to local leaders.

What I Says: This was a fascinating insight into life in Egypt in the 1860’s just as things were becoming tense with the British Empire showing an interest in Egypt, there was one lady doing us proud. Lucie Duff Gordon was a remarkable woman suffering from tuberculosis for a number of years she has to move to a warmer climate for her health so she chooses Egypt. Instead of being like the usual English tourist and making huge demands of the locals and causing all sort of strife, she manages to become a member of the community. She surrounds herself with some wonderful people, the best being Omar who stayed loyal for the rest of her life, she starts to learn the language and whilst she wasn’t particularly wealthy she was still generous to those who needed her aid. Using her knowledge of medicine she was able to help many people and word soon spread and she was known about wherever she went.

I found her letters easy to read, finding out about local traditions and the various religions active around her was very interesting. I loved her sense of humour and her lack of fear when it came to describing what the government was doing to it’s people…far different to what was reported to the rest of the world. Again and again she shows her disdain for colonial England and high ranking officials who show no respect for those she cares about. She was living in a time with slavery and when a slave would come to her begging to be purchased from their owner she didn’t shy away and gave them a good life, clothing, wages and an education…it seems that everybody she met fell in love with her.

You know there is only one outcome and that is the tuberculosis winning the battle, it was so sad seeing her health deteriorating through her letters, they become shorter and less frequent and still she remained upbeat wanting to come home or organise visits. Her last letter though, that is the one to break your heart.

There is one thing this book has shown me and that is that letter writing is a dying art that has been destroyed by social media, who writes letters these days when you can get all you need to say down in 280 characters on Twitter.

Another book by the mighty Eland which was a pleasure to read and again I love that they are keeping books like this alive.

If you want a copy of this book, and I recommend that you do need one, then you can get it from HERE:

Book Reviews

Wade by J.A. Carter-Winward

What Da Cover Says: Except for being the only man in town who had never set foot in either of its brothels, Wade Kendall couldn’t be more ordinary. A retired life-insurance salesman, father of two grown sons, and former full-time caregiver to his wife, who died of cancer just 8 months earlier, Wade now finds himself alone, unable to tread water. In fact, it’s sink or swim, and he’s got no idea which way to shore. As he attempts to connect to his new life and reconnect with his adult sons, Wade finds himself drawn to a most unlikely source of hope—the pink-neon lights of the legendary Lil’ Mamacitas. But what Wade finds within the dim, hazy interior of the brothel isn’t at all what he could have imagined, and for Wade and all who join him, nothing will ever be the same.

What I Says: I honestly do not know enough words to do this book justice, so I’m going to use a Gaelic word as it deserves something special….This book is Sgoinneil!

JACW has such a way with words and it doesn’t take long before the characters start to affect you, soon after you are introduced to Wade you find yourself caring for him and hoping that he makes the right choice ASAP even though you still have over 200 pages to go and as soon as you are introduced to more characters you want it all to work out for them too.

In Wade JACW explores various mental health issues, from war vets to widows, from ex-addicts to the stresses of being a parent and trying to raise your kid right, there is a lot in this book to learn about what other people go through and maybe you’ll even spot a part of yourself within these pages. Wade spends a lot of time visiting a sex worker at a brothel and that sex worker is the second voice in this book, JACW uses diary entries to share Sienna’s voice and that works well, we get to see the person behind the sex worker front that her customers see and she shares her own insecurities and her thoughts on Wade, a very clever way of adding an extra dimension to the story.

I don’t know how JACW does it, I don’t normally read books like this but as soon as I pick up one of her books I instantly fall for it. As I was finishing this one I was out in the garden with it starting to get dark and I just couldn’t put it down or stop to get a light, it had to be finished there and then, there was no way I was going to bed with that emotional weight sat on my chest. And what an ending it was!

One of JACW’s strengths is the research she does for her books, the interviews she carries out with real life people is what makes her writing so special and is probably why it effects this manly man so much. If you’ve never anything by this author before then you are missing out big time because this is one of the most Sgoinneil books I’ve ever read.

You can get yourself a copy of the book from HERE.


Angela Killed Herself by Daniel Clausen – Short Story

The following is a short story taken from the collection “The Lexical Funk” by Daniel Clausen

Angela Killed Herself

She calls me right before to tell me not to worry too much. Her abusive boyfriend has left her and so now she’s going to kill herself. She tells me how she’s going to do it. Dramatically, in a voice cut off sporadically by sobs, she tells me that she’s going to cut her wrists with a knife. Slicing downward this time, not fucking it up like she did when she was thirteen. Then she tells me that she loves me. I say that I’ll be right over, but when I get there she’s just lying there with her eyes open, looking at the ceiling. She’s dead, but also peaceful. Still, I can’t help feeling bad about her death. And when I think about it, clearly, logically, putting together the pieces of our fragmented lives, I know for sure that Angela’s death was my fault.                 

On the surface it seems that simple: the abusive boyfriend; he leaves; and then she kills herself because she can’t live without him. Or something like that. It’s nice. It’s simple. It’s easy to sell. And it has the power to heal people. To make people feel better about her death. But, come on, let’s face it, as far as morality tales go it’s boring, a worn theme, a spent genre, a storyline so recycled Lifetime TV doesn’t use it. It’s Archie and Jughead fighting over Veronica—it’s old, fetid, rank like last week’s breakfast, and oh, the maggots have already started to collect. We need a more complicated telling, do we not?         

Now that Angela’s dead, I have more time to think. I did a lot of that before I met her. Life was less complicated then. I could steal an hour or two of silence anywhere and the world seemed better for it. After I met her, those same hours were gone. They were consumed by us and the thises and thats of our complicated relationship. Now that Angela’s gone I can have those same hours again. I can play with them as I like. But they’re stale hours. Somehow, they’ve lost their flavor. And I don’t know how to get the flavor back.

Sometimes confession begins for the most selfish of reasons. The flavor of my hours is my selfish reason. This is a confession, right? You are my priest, right? Help me, father. Help me gain the flavor of my hours back. 

Sometimes it’s hard for me to admit this to myself, but I’m a bad person. The tasteless hours of my life give me time to create a new genre, to put things together differently. It takes time before I can truly implicate myself in this whole affair. I have to think about it. The pieces seem stupid and inconsequential at first: the puking dog, car payments and the man upstairs, Angela’s boyfriends. All these things had something to do with it, but how they come together to implicate me doesn’t occur to me right away.

Before you really start to judge me though (and you should), there are some things you should know about me: where I come from, what kind of person I am, the guidelines I live my life by. All these things are important. Maybe it will help you and Angela understand.

I’m a college student. My mom and dad died in a car accident when I was in high school. My sister took care of me for a little while, but then she moved to California with one of her boyfriends. I forget which one. She calls me every once in a while and we talk. She’ll cry about things that seem distant from me. She’ll cry and talk, but I can’t help not listening. I can’t help thinking about other things in my life, like car payments and my math test coming up. I guess when it comes down to it a math test is more important than my sister. Angela never understood this. She was always a better person than I was, even if she was crazy.

Generally speaking, I’m a likeable guy. I’m like Richie Cunningham. Straight and narrow, no drugs, occasionally alcohol but rarely to excess, do my schoolwork every night, and if my parents were around, I’m sure I’d love them very much. I’m one of the guys. Always up for a good time, American fun and hijinks, as long as it doesn’t include illegal activities such as drugs and gang violence. I’m responsible for my age. And for some reason the older Jewish ladies I serve at my coffee shop love me. I get good grades. I speak good English (well English?). And if pressed hard enough I’ll generally acquiescence to arguments that what America really needs is more tax cuts to make rich people richer and poor people, well, like Angela. And though all of these things may make me likeable, none of these things make me a good person. I’m a selfish person. I want my damn education, so I can get out of my crap apartment and crap job. Hell, likeable person? You better believe it. I’m politicking my way out of poverty: hand shakes, kissing Jewish grandmothers, and tax cuts for everyone.

We both worked in customer service. We both served food. We both served ideas and images. Coffee and bagels for me mostly; chicken wings and beer for her. Angela’s ideology of service was that caring mattered, that you could make people happy by caring about them, showing them that they were needed and that they could be liked. And so they bought massive amounts of chicken wings and stared at her ass without fear of censure. And me? Sure I smiled at the older women as I brought them their coffee and low-fat muffins. And I showed them their own version of tits and ass: a young man, not unlike their grandsons, who could make it through college without the financial support of their elders, listen submissively as they bitched about high taxes and immigrants, spoke near perfect English and had well-polished teeth. That’s right, no gold-teethed brothers at my coffee shop.  

Mine was a non-talent. A habit of stooping, really. But Angela, well Angela had real talent. Others would abuse the things she could do for them: listen to your problems, offer sympathy, and convince you, really convince you, that she was deeply hurt by the evils heaped upon you. I would abuse this. I would abuse her. I would abuse her gift of caring.

She would listen to a lot of my problems, she would give me advice, and then when it came time for me to listen to her problems, I would tune her out, daydream, and think about how great of a friend she was and how I would use her again sometime soon: perhaps during finals when a person to talk to is really hard to come by. No, for Angela, there was no stooping. There was no standard response. She didn’t want perfect English, perfect teeth, or for me to acquiescence to whatever politics she believed in. No, she needed for me to care. And I didn’t. Now she’s dead.

What do you think? Should I politick out of this one? More tax cuts?

I think for a while about how I could campaign out of my guilt. Really persuade the constituency of my moral brain matter that this all had to do with something bigger. 

Angela was another victim of a negligent society. The same decadent disease that eats at people like Angela eats at the very building blocks of our nation. It eats at the foundations of our shared family values. A lack of caring and a lack of concern over the general welfare have opened our communities to drugs, gang violence, and crime. Only when we fight the causes of these problems can we truly prevent deaths like that of Angela and others who have suffered abuse from a loved one. Tax cuts for everyone and God Bless America. 

But no, Angela’s problems go beyond what people blame as “the problem.” It goes beyond politics or the troubles of the time. Angela’s problem was people. Specifically, people like me. I’m a lot less abstract than politics. For this reason, I should be blamed. Even though politics never really happens in the abstract.

My friend Bob tried to tell me how her suicide had nothing to do with me, that she was a “one-way train” that would have taken me with her, or something like that. I love Bob. He’s a simpleton and a buffoon, and for these reasons I love him. I talk to him more often now that Angela’s dead. I told him all the things I’m telling you now, and he tried to convince me it wasn’t my fault. You’re a lot smarter than Bob, though. I know this. Your judgment will be more astute, whoever you are. I know with at least you, I can’t talk my way out of this.

There are some things you should know about Angela. Angela’s family lives in a trailer park. Her sister is fifteen and pregnant. Her mom drinks heavily. Angela was a high school honors student who couldn’t afford to go to college full-time. I would often go to see her at work and observe as she used other men for money and they used her back. She liked to think she was just bringing them food, but I could always tell which ones were there to stare at her tits. Some didn’t even see her special talents for caring. They stared right past it at her body. And they regarded her as a thing. Sometimes I would find one or two of these people in the parking lot and scare them a little bit, but only the smaller ones.

Had things been different, I would have been one of those guys paying money to gawk at her. Just another idiot with wide eyes, eating chicken wings, not paying attention to her. Angela would flash me sometimes, and I felt lucky to be her friend. But I liked it better when she listened to me. Her tits were nice, but not as nice as her listening to me. There was something comforting about Angela’s silence.

Early on in our relationship I realized that I did not want to date Angela. That she, like me, was messed up in some fundamental way. It was better for her to be the friend I came to who could understand me, and whose tits I could stare at. And when she would talk I would always daydream. I never really listened to Angela. If she were here now, though, I’d listen. She could tell me anything she wanted to. She could tell me all about her messed-up life, why she was about to quit school and work full-time, why she let other guys hit her—all that crap. I didn’t listen, though. Angela is dead. I think about her staring up at the ceiling with peaceful eyes. I think about it a lot. 

My life is complicated, though. You should know this. Because I had school, work, my dog, I never bothered to find out which boyfriends would beat Angela. She became an expert at hiding the bruises. She could hide wounds well, but, also, I tried not to see them because every bruise I saw was one more fight I’d have with her newest boyfriend—she had a lot of them, and I didn’t always win. I’m in college and I work a lot. I didn’t have time to fight all of Angela’s boyfriends and that’s why she’s dead. I thought about telling her to seek therapy, but she hit the last guy who told her this with a lamp—a very big lamp. I have enough freaky shit in my life. Angela was a good friend as long as I didn’t have to deal with her freaky shit.

Her problems were not my problems. School was my problem; car payments were a problem; that fucker upstairs getting noisy while arguing with his wife was a problem because I couldn’t sleep for days. But Angela, who came from a trailer park, whose father drank, wasn’t my problem. There wasn’t enough room between the car payments and the fat man upstairs.

My dog was sick that week. Josie. My dog was puking up the dog chow I was feeding her. I missed two days of classes and took her to the vet, which cost me eighty dollars. Eighty dollars is a lot of money to a college student. I didn’t eat much that week because money was tight. Angela let me borrow some money. I will never be able to pay her back, or say thank you for the third time. I couldn’t tell anything was wrong that week. I was worried about my dog. That week I pondered quitting my job. I needed something that paid more— perhaps one of those obscure jobs that appear in the newspaper from time to time for people who are willing to do nasty things, usually having to do with sales or sanitation. I told my dog this and she wagged her tail in approval. I love the way she does that.

I found Josie lying on the street one day coming back from work. Her leg was scratched and infected. I took her to the vet, put up signs looking for the owner, but nobody ever came to claim her. Josie limps around my apartment and chews through my clothes. I tell her “no” in a stern voice, and then follow this up with a “no treat for you.” But she knows I don’t have any treats, just dog food that comes in twenty-pound bags. But her tail wags back and forth anyway, so I just let her chew through my clothes. She’s happy, which makes me happy. Making Josie happy was more important than making Angela happy, because it was easier. I could always work more hours, buy more clothes for Josie to chew on, but Angela was more complicated.

“One-way train, man,” Bob said. It’s very easy to love Bob and Josie. I could make Bob happy with little things, like buying him dinner or telling a dirty joke. Angela was more complicated. She was great at giving, but when it came to the other part she was messed up, crazy. If I hadn’t dropped my psychology class I’d have a technical term for you. I’m not sure one exists, though. (Is there a technical term for messed up?)

Perhaps I was her stray pet. If she were alive she would tell me how men are really easy to take care of. I bet she would have said something like “give them a little attention, stroke them a little, and they’re happy.” The guys who came to see her at work—came to stare at her tits—they always thought the same thing. She was great at giving…she was a bitch for giving so much.

She treated every man that ever cared for her like garbage, though. The ones that abused her stayed until they had used her up. Where does that put me? It’s easy to blame Angela for her death, but it’s even easier to blame me. I could take it; she couldn’t. And that’s why she’s dead. She let people like me screw her into an early grave. It’s my fault she’s there. All because I didn’t tell her that the reason her father beat her and she cried frequently is because I could handle a puking dog, car payments, a math test, the man upstairs, but not a crying woman, not her. You are my fault, Angela. I had a bad week. You had a bad lifetime. But this will not change the fact that you are dead. It’s my fault, all of it. It doesn’t make any sense. But if it did, you wouldn’t be dead. I’m sorry things don’t make sense, Angela. But I’ll listen now anyway.

Thanks for reading, you can get a copy of The Lexical Funk from Amazon or if you are feeling frisky you could hassle Daniel on Goodreads for a copy, it really is a clever collection and a great place to get hooked on one of my favourite authors.