Story Thing (podcast thing)

Hello! I started a podcast called Story Thing, where I read some of my stories and essays out loud so you can hear them. Some of the stories originated here, but have been expanded and remixed for your listening/reading pleasure. Full text of the stories can also be found at I hope you’ll check it out. Thanks!

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Halloween 4 Sweatpants

My Instagram algorithm showed me an ad for Halloween 4 sweatpants. Sweatpants emblazoned with the words HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS on one leg, and some images both from and inspired by the film on the other. The sweatpants do not appear to be officially licensed. And the algorithm suggested that I’d like a pair of Halloween 4 sweatpants based on my interests. Namely, leisure wear and countless Halloween sequels. And it was at that moment, staring at my phone, finger hovering over the BUY IT NOW button under the ad for Halloween 4 sweatpants that I asked myself, what am I doing with my life?

Normal people don’t see ads like this. Normal people see ads for sweatpants that they could wear to brunch, because they’re nice sweatpants, and don’t feature the logo of a movie where a serial killer who was shot in the eyes and lit on fire two sequels prior is now back and not burned to a crisp and not blind. No normal person is waiting in line at the post office wearing sweatpants adorned with the image of a serial killer’s young niece dressed as a clown holding a pair of blood-soaked scissors, who through reasons that are never fully explained, has developed a telepathic link with her uncle. They’re probably just gray. The sweatpants that the person waiting in line at the post office is wearing. Maybe they’ll get a coffee or sweet treat from the bakery around the corner, and during the walk over, no one will look at their sweatpants and say, “Jesus christ.”

My issue with the sweatpants comes down to specificity. Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers. On a pair of sweatpants. Not just Halloween, or a picture of Michael Myers, or the classic jack-o-lantern that’s actually a big ol’ knife logo. No, when an individual wears Halloween 4 sweatpants they are making the following statements:

  • You think you like Halloween? Buddy, take a look at my legs and think again.
  • Do you remember the scene in Halloween 4 where Michael Myers is gingerly piercing the edge of a pumpkin with a large knife? Just kind of standing there? Well he never did that in Halloween 4 even though that image is printed on my sweatpants. And I’m such a fan of Halloween 4 that I know this off the top of my head, buster brown.
  • Hey you know what? Fuck you, pal. Just generally. This isn’t even about my sweatpants anymore, I just want you to know that this whole system? This society? Not for me, friend. Not today. Not ever.

In the long line of Halloween sequels, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers is fine. It’s fine! After killing him off in part 2, then going completely sans-Michael in the (after years of hindsight) terrific part 3, the titular Return of the main character was inevitable in 1988, and it’s fine. You take the basic outline of the original, amp it up a little, throw a trench coat on Donald Pleasance (the only returning actor from the first two), have him run around, done. But, the opening credit sequence, the first minute of the movie, is surprisingly beautiful. Lingering shots of farmland at dusk, old tattered Halloween decorations (some of which are featured on the sweatpants [there’s a lot happening on these sweatpants]) interspersed with close-ups of sharp, deadly-looking farming implements. It’s quiet and subdued and creepy, and could very well be the best part of the movie that’s fine.

That being said, stop trying to sell me Halloween 4 sweatpants. There was a time when memories of a movie weren’t constantly being sold to me. The algorithms are now so specific, so firmly implanted in my eye sockets, that if I accidentally glance at a production still from Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, an alarm sounds, a lever is pulled, and my feed demands that I buy a pair of sweatpants to pledge my loyalty to nostalgia. “REMEMBER THIS, FUCKO?” the algorithm asks as an ad for Saw 2 leggings slams a spiked bat into my brain. “SOOEY! PIGGIE LOVES HIS SLOP!” the algorithm screams as ad after ad for The Omen 3 lunchboxes tears me limb from limb like a pack of hunting dogs. Halloween 4 sweatpants were created in a lab. An A.I. was forced to watch Halloween 4 a hundred and fifty thousand times, then a few days later it threw up the concept of Halloween 4 all over a pair of sweatpants. They’re forty dollars. You can buy the blu-ray for eight bucks.

Ants this time.


I flipped through a magazine in the waiting room of the Urgent Care center. The quality of care I would receive from a medical facility in a strip mall between a deli and a perpetually thumping car stereo equipment store remained to be seen, but it was better than nothing. Plus, no appointments required, which I discovered when I called to make an appointment. “We don’t really do that here, just show up whenever.” I showed up on a Tuesday around 10:30 am, a very whenever time.

The three year old issue of Yankee Magazine was unreadable. I can’t read with music playing in the background, and the bass from the stupidly large subwoofers next door was bleeding through the walls. I also can’t read while an old woman sits across from me and coughs those useless old person coughs. She doubled over and spilled the contents of a plastic transparent envelope that was in the purse that she clutched to her chest. The floor was now littered with coupons. 30 cents off toilet paper, half off a carton of store brand orange juice, and a voucher for a sample of something called Brownie Dunkers. She got on her hands and knees, jamming coupons back into her purse with a wild look in her eyes. I returned to my magazine, and re-read a sentence about 2014 New England Summer Hot Spots again.


The nurse called my name, I followed her down the hallway lined with pictures of famous skylines. The first one: New York City. Easy. The second one… probably Chicago? Or Toronto. Or maybe Tokyo or maybe a recreation of a matte painting from one of those movies where they don’t make it obvious which city they’re in. Like, this could be anywhere. “We’re going to be in room B today.” She led me into room B.

I took my place on the table. “Val forgot to give you this depression test, so here it is, and here’s a pen, just fill it out and Doctor Shipley will be with you shortly.” She closed the door and I scanned the PHQ-9 Depression Test, jumping to the last question in case it was the hardest.

Thoughts that you would be better off dead, or of hurting yourself in some way?

Jesus. I slashed an X through the box labeled 1 – Not at all. Back to the top.

Feeling down, depressed, or hopeless?

I looked for a box labeled “I mean yeah sometimes but let’s not make a big deal about it.” Failing to find it, I marked 2 – Several days.

Trouble concentrating on things, such as reading the newspaper or watching television.

4 – Nearly every day.

Feeling bad about yourself – or that you are a failure or have let yourself or your family down.

Another 4.

I added up the score, and though I didn’t know what the sum meant (I flipped it over to see if there was a grading system on the back) I assumed anything higher than 1 signified “get a load of this very depressed man.” I felt my face get hot. I looked at the last question again.

Thoughts that you would be better off dead, or of hurting yourself in some way?

I changed the answer to 2.



Three knocks and the door opened. “What brings you in here today?”

I set the test down next to me on the table. “I’ve been having a hard time managing my stress.” The doctor made the “lift up your shirt” motion, which I did as I tried to put my symptoms into words. “I know what anxiety feels like, but lately I just feel…” The doctor placed his stethoscope on my back. “… wrong.”

“Lungs sound good, let’s take a look at that blood pressure.”

“Also there’s this other thing…” Still reeling from the test’s suggestion that I’m depressed and maybe I should think about killing myself, I attempted to slow my heart rate through deep breaths and the calming pastels of a picture of a healthy esophagus on the wall.

“Wow it’s really up there, do you have a history of heart disease in your fa- are you ok?”

“Yeah yeah yeah yeah I’m good.” Ringing in my ears. Eyes closed tight enough that I saw stars. I could hear the blood rushing through my head. And the ringing. My breathing intensified, my fists tightened, there was an audible pop and a second me landed on the floor with a wet thud. Its eyes opened and it started thrashing around on the floor, its naked skin slapping against the linoleum. Doctor Shipley stumbled backwards up against the wall as I wiped the blood dripping from my nose, hopped off the table and snapped the other me’s neck. It twitched, gurgled, then slumped.

“So is that something you’ve seen before, or…” I trailed off as the doctor rushed to other me’s side, laying there dead as hell.

“What the fuck just happened?”

I scanned the shelves, plucked a cotton ball out of a jar, hopped back onto the table and tilted my head back. “That? Yeah I don’t know, that’s why I’m here. I think it’s like… I can clone myself?” I shoved the cotton ball up into my nostril and continued my self diagnosis. I was feeling better already. “I get stressed and one of these guys show up all crazy and then I snap their necks. Like -” I made a neck snapping motion, then stuck my tongue out, much the same way the other me’s tongue was now sticking out of its very dead mouth.

“I mean Jesus Christ yes I can see that, but…” Doctor Shipley poked at the other me’s skin with a pen, slick with some kind of clone juice. I could sense the doctor was attempting to play back what he just saw. Looking up, looking at me, his brain adding details that weren’t there. He must have fallen through the ceiling. Yes, that’s exactly what happened. No, he fell out of me. Sort of. He was probably here and I just didn’t see him. No, there’s a naked and wet dead man in the middle of the floor, you would have seen that. How did he do that. “How did… how did you do that?”

I shifted my weight on the table. “Well the first time it happened after I sneezed really hard. Like, really hard. Like one of those ones that just sneaks up on you. The next thing I know there’s this naked guy tearing up the house, he’s just knocking shit over going all crazy, so I gave him a shove you know? Just shoved him like hey knock it off, and he fell backwards and broke his neck on the coffee table. Which gave me the idea about the whole, you know-,” again I made the neck snapping motion.

“So I’m wondering doc, do clones have weak necks? Is that a thing? Because you saw how easy this son of a bitch went down,” I motioned towards the body with a weak kick, though I was on the table and too high off the floor to make contact.


There was a quick double knock on the door. “Is everything alright in there doctor?” Everything was not alright in here, but he replied from the floor with a high-pitched, too friendly, “Yup, no problem, just finishing up, call the next patient, thank you, ok then,” rambling sentence. The doctor stood up, rubbed the back of his neck and continued staring at the other me. “How many times have you done this?”

I looked up, poked at the air with my index finger, and for a brief second the doctor probably wondered if a calculator was going to materialize in mid air to receive my addition.

“Probably,” I drew the word out, exhaled a long breath with puffed cheeks. “Like… I don’t know, 50? 60 times?” The implications of this statement hung heavy, but there was no remorse in my voice. Even I noticed that. I answered, “How many times have you murdered a clone of yourself?” with the same cadence that I’d answer, “How many times did you go to the supermarket last year, if you had to guess?”

“But… the bodies?”

“So that’s the really crazy part, you’ll see in a few minutes what happens next. But I was so pissed because the first time, I mean, technically I just killed a guy, right? So I’m going to Home Depot, I’m buying a shovel, the whole nine yards. And look, I never needed a shovel before, I live in an apartment so I’m not digging too many holes. I come back and the guy’s gone. And it’s not like I lost him, so now I’m stuck with this stupid shovel because I did lose the receipt. I swear to god I went from Home Depot to my car and back to the apartment and I lose the receipt in like 20 minu- oh whoops here we go.”

The other me, who moments ago was lying motionless in the middle of the floor, transformed into ten thousand ants and scurried single file under the door and into the hallway. “OH GOD GROSS,” screamed the nurse as she lead the next patient into examining room A or C.

“Well, there they go. Ants this time. Hah. Weird.” I checked the status of my nose bleed and slipped the sticky cotton ball into the slit on a box labeled BIOHAZARD. “So what’s the next step here, doctor? Do you want me to to uh…” I made a wiggly magic motion with my hands, “summon forth another one? Maybe you can run some tests on its weak-ass neck?”

A single ant had broken away from the group and ran in circles between our feet. Maybe it was all of the commotion outside. Can ants hear? Can ants that were once terrified clones, brought into this world and then just as quickly unceremoniously murdered, can they hear? Doctor Shipley crushed the ant under his heel. And I’d like to say I felt something, like a part of me died or whatever, but it was no different than killing the other me’s.

“Get the fuck out of my office.”

I slid off the table and walked towards the door. I forgot I was still wearing the blood pressure cuff. The tearing of medical-grade velcro reverberated off every surface of the room.


“Did you go to the doctor?”


“What did he say? Wait, he or she?”

“He. Not much. ‘Get the fuck out of my office.’ Ants this time, it was gross.”

Another me rubbed my shoulders. “We’ll figure it out.”

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Repealing and Replacing the Presidential Physical Fitness Test

Things are going to be very different in this country after inauguration day. Obamacare will be dismantled, illegal immigrants will be loaded into a rocket and shot into the sun, your mail carrier might goose-step down your block because it’s 2017 and sometimes people are Nazis, now. But the question that we’re all asking, the question that the mainstream media refuses to ask because they’re cowards, is will President Trump repeal and replace the Presidential Physical Fitness Test?

Started in 1966 under Lyndon Johnson, the Presidential Physical Fitness Test was meant to motivate out-of-shape kids by giving them presidential awards for excelling in various physical activities. Government mandated sit-ups, pull-ups, and rope climbing turned the hour-long free-for-all known as gym class into a boot camp for the world’s shittiest military.

My middle school gym teacher made us all gather in the auditorium to announce that we would be participating in the fitness test. Bill Clinton was our president, and he was challenging us, the disaffected youth of suburban New Jersey, to take a break from discovering the Misfits and our bodies to instead do a bunch of push-ups for the good of the country. Arnold Schwarzenegger was also involved for some reason, appearing via VHS tape with a message of encouragement and catch phrases. He didn’t have to do that. The man was filming True Lies, he didn’t have time to threaten teenagers into doing leg lifts or risk termination. Tom Arnold is in the middle of telling an incredibly funny story about doing coke with the second Becky from Roseanne, and poor Schwarzenegger has to interrupt him to go film this stupid thing? There’s no way Tom will remember where he left off.

Despite the encouraging words from my gym teacher and Arnold Schwarzenegger, I received zero accolades from the president for my physical prowess. I was a portly boy on the precipice of discovering that it’s cool to hate things you’re bad at. Things like squat-thrusts, moving quickly and wearing clothes that fit. I hung onto the rope like a frightened Donkey Kong Jr., gently swaying for 30 seconds. I climbed onto a folding chair to reach the pull-up bar, grabbed the bar, then hung there for 30 seconds. If “Quietly Hanging While Wanting to Die” was a Presidential Physical Fitness Test activity, I would have been in the top 1% in the county.



In 2012, Obama replaced the Presidential Physical Fitness Test with the Presidential Youth Fitness Program, which focuses on a “health-related, criterion-based assessment.” I kind of know what those words mean, which means Trump will have absolutely no idea what those words mean, which means it has to go. First of all that name needs to be flashier. Sexier. Something like The Trump Test for Tremendous Athletes Like the President. Next change: no physical fitness required. The gym teacher saw you do three push-ups in as many minutes? Well he’s a liar, you did 600, and everybody’s talking about it. Can’t climb the rope? That’s because it was made in China, and the loathsome Chinese are trying to sabotage our beautiful children with their slippery rope technology, which is not nice, and also very, very bad. Congratulations Billy, you drank four Diet Cokes before 8 a.m. Here’s your Certificate of Awardness, which if you flip it over doubles as a coupon for 5% off a steak dinner at the Trump Grill. Enjoy it Billy. It’s about as close as you’re going to get to government assistance for the next four to eight years.

An open letter to the pre-teen who rolled his eyes at me… the audio experience.