Short Works


Fourth of July

Being both patriotic and undiscriminating, I observe America’s birthday with the same zeal that I give to every paid holiday. This means that I sleep late, eat too much, and complain about the government. And I always top it off with 30 minutes of eye-shriveling fireworks.

Ghosts of the Past

Jake Robel was 6 years old when he was dragged to death last Tuesday during a carjacking. The tragedy is another in a long string of heart-breaking losses which includes, among many others, the deaths of Derrick Thomas and Pamela Butler. Christy Robel, Jake’s mother, frantically tried to disentangle him from the seatbelt by which he was dragged several miles. Just before the driver gunned the engine, she got one last look at her son’s terrified face. “It’ll be in my head until the day I die,” she said.

My Father’s Suit

My brother-in-law called me the other day to see if I wanted an old suit he’d been storing. Out of curiosity, I drove over to his house and waited while he retrieved it from a closet. It was dish-water gray, with narrow lapels, matching pants, and a JC Penny tag. The kind of ordinary corporate camouflage that depends heavily on a good tie. Not a BAD suit, nor an expensive one, but average; a costume for anonymity.

“This used to be your dad’s,” he said.

So long, Pete

My daughter’s teddy-bear hamster died the other day. Surprisingly, it was a milestone for both of us. Pete possessed as much charm as a fat and lazy rodent that does nothing but eat, sleep and poop right next to his food dish, can possibly muster. He was the only one of his species I have ever known that absolutely would not run on his little wheel. He seemed to regard it as a symbol of exercise in general, and with mild disgust. I considered this a sign of intelligence.

Men Without Spines

A young man recently boasted to me about one of his mid-week exploits at a local bar.

“I got SO drunk,” he said. “And when I woke up this morning there was this beautiful babe in bed with me. I didn’t remember bringing her to my house. I didn’t even remember meeting her.”

“Really?” I said politely.

“So I had a GREAT night, but I’m tired.”

This struck me as an odd way to end his story. So I said, “How do you know it was a great night?”

To My Daughter, on Thanksgiving


The other day you asked me to explain Thanksgiving. You may remember what I told you: about the Pilgrims coming to America so that they could worship God as they chose; about the first harvest; about the four turkeys they ate and the big feast they held.

I realize now that my explanation was insufficient. You will hear the story I told you many times as you grow up. Every Autumn you will see plastic pilgrim hats and cardboard turkeys dangling from the ceilings of grocery stores. You will see gourds on front porches, baskets of wax vegetables on tables and in living rooms. You may even hear whispers about the glorious blessings of God. Most people in America know this part of the Pilgrim story. You could have heard it anywhere.

But I am your father. You ought to be able to expect more from me. So I should not have told you only half the story, as though the fact that there were four turkeys settled the matter.


The Information Conspiracy

It turns out I was wrong about the reality of a sinister national conspiracy designed to enslave us all under the ruthless power of a few mindless automatons. However, I was wrong only about the source of it. The real threat to our freedom will not come from the trilateral commission, the illuminati, or the shampoo conglomerates. No, our freedoms are now being eroded by the tyranny of the corporate mailing list.

Applied Appliance Sciences

The doorbell rings. You answer. It is the refrigerator repairman, something you know right away because his name appears in big letters on the side of his Lexus.

“I’m here to fix your refrigertor,” he says.

You scratch your head. “But my refrigerator isn’t broken.”

He smiles, picking at one fingernail. “Not yet it isn’t.”


Christmas Story

They drove up under the overhang in a battered Toyota wagon all rusted at the seams. I waved ‘em off with my good arm. Pump one had been out of order all week. The driver saw me and circled around to pump three, which was already blanketed in snow. He wore no coat, but stood hunch-shouldered, shifting from foot to foot in the flickering yellow light of the station sign. I could tell he was down on his luck, because he only pumped three bucks into her, and in that kind of storm you fill up.


The moment has nearly come. We will begin killing them soon. I wish I could see you again before then, or at least have the soft pleasure of your voice. But I must be content with the pulse of your mind from the thought-tablet, already five hundred rotations past…


Copyright 2021, Daniel Schwabauer. All rights reserved.