- Rabbi promised this year’s service much more fun and upbeat
- Great time to brush up on your ABCs of Sin
- JC Penney having its annual Day O’ Sufferin’ White Sale
- One day of year that you get to make your “A-Toney the Tiger” joke
- Infidelities from previous six months pretty much taken care of now
- Fewer candy wrapper sounds than at regular service
- Terrific time to really read all 3,259 memorial plaques in temple hallway
- Silent Prayer – good time to think about all the bacon and shellfish you’ll be eating at break fast
- Silent Prayer – great time to imagine Cantor suddenly breaking into Battle of Evermore
- Pre-paid ambulances ready and waiting for post-break fast heart attacks and food comas
- Fasting and gorging good practice for future anorexics
- Fun visit from Yom Kippur Kevin and his Big’ Bag O’ Guilt
- Having to explain to older folks that YK is not a virus that will attack their computer
- Going into confessional booth to tell the Rabbi your sins
- You waited all year to hear the Shofar and now, finally – wait, what?
My piece, Rejected Ben & Jerry’s Passover Flavors is up at McSweeney’s.
Here’s a preview:
Why is this ice cream different from all other ice creams?
Bread O’ Affliction! – Sure, we wanted to use real bread, but who has the time?!
Gephilte Phish! – Random, minced fish pieces in a fabulous jellied froth!
Let My People Go Eat Ice Cream! – From Yahweh’s mouth to your freezer! Right now!
Karpas-tacular! – It really is!
Coupons available Next Year in Jerusalem!
My story Tundra is now live at Blue Skirt Productions.
Here’s an excerpt.
December 22, 1969.
Just turn around
was the scratched record endlessly repeating in my head.
This is stupid. I’m stupid.
I should just turn around.
But when I got to Dell Farms, and it was farther back than forward, my dogged, irrational Want kept me moving straight on, ahead.
The lukewarm water was taking way too long to heat up the thermometer. And then I noticed Dad’s cigarettes and lighter on the back of the toilet. So, I flicked his Bic and held the flame under the thermometer bulb, and with a quick, tiny POPit exploded, shattering glass and mercury everywhere. My heart beating furiously, I quickly unrolled sheets and sheets of toilet paper and sopped up (or at least contained) the glass and liquid metal, and flushed the whole thing down the toilet, praying it wouldn’t clog. It didn’t. And I found and opened a new thermometer and ran it under the now warmer water.
Last year, around Christmas time, three Santa Clauses – two tall ones, and a short, fat, jolly one – followed me onto the subway. I didn’t think they were following me, per se. But still, there they were. It was rush hour and the subway car was packed. Not sardines packed, but full. And I pressed myself up against the back wall, which is where I stand when I’m standing in a subway car. And the Santas were nearby, huddled together. One of the tall ones had an mp3 player turned up way too loud. The other ate a sandwich from a bag.
And after a minute I noticed that all three seemed to be staring at me and nodding and whispering. And I thought, nah, they’re not looking at me. But they were. And then everyone in the car was staring at them staring at me, some smirking. And I was creeped out and pissed. And then one of the Santas – the short, fat jolly one – lifted his hand and pointed a finger at my crotch.
And I looked down…and saw my fly was open.
So, I turned to the back wall, nonchalantly, and zipped up. When I turned back, the short Santa nodded and smiled: good job. The mp3 Santa gave me a thumbs up.
And I said the only thing you really could say at that point:
Yes, it’s that time of year to Give the Gift of Misery! Sure, you’ve already got your copy of Miserable Holiday Stories. Now’s your chance to ruin someone else’s festive season, with the gift that stops giving after about twelve-and-a-half minutes.
Here’s what Reviewers on Amazon are saying:
“These are some of the funniest holiday stories I have ever read.”
“Miserable Holiday Stories is, at turns, funny (Gypsy, Bicycle Boys) and heartbreaking (Balance, The Smoking Lounge, etc) and always edgy and engrossing.”
“The K-Rope is a genre in and of itself.”
“‘The #$@!# Bicycle Boys Save Christmas, Again’ is worth the price of admission (not to mention “Gypsy,” which is worth at least $1.63).”
“My personal favs are Blue Christmas and the quirky and surprising Smoking Lounge.”
“Wonderful Voice, Bright and Entertaining”
“This #$@!# is funny!”
Fewer Manischewitz-related DUIs this year.
Party hats good all year round.
Another chance to join elite “I Slept in Temple” club.
Dirge-like tunes actually increase lifespan.
Great day to reflect on poor, horn-less rams everywhere.
Highly fortuitous time to rob houses en masse when all Jews simultaneously called to temple.
Opportunity to resent fellow Jewish co-worker who took day off to go bowling.
Finally get to re-use handicap parking tag from when Grandma broke leg three years ago.
Seeing how many middle-age men yell “Tequi-la!” when Cantor blows shofar.
After 3 days of non-stop prayer, Apple beside itself with excitement.
When ball drops at midnight, everyone yelling Happy 5775!
Awareness that Rabbi can’t wait for it to end either.
Can finally let the dog grow his hair back out.
Not so much incentive to continue chlorinating the pool.
Great chance to see new Fall TV lineup before all shows are cancelled.
Excellent chance to catch up on moping.
Shorts with Velcro no longer ruining all clothes in the laundry.
High holidays always a rockin’ good time.
Less arguing with loved ones re what constitutes sweltering.
Neighbor had way more fireflies than you.
Couch occupied by children miraculously available again.
Harvest season looks promising.
Good time to stock up on batteries for upcoming hurricanes.
No more distracting, scantily clad women everywhere, all the time.
Great opportunity to pro-actively lower expectations for upcoming basketball season.
Irritation over everyone saying that went way too quickly! starting to diminish.
Thrilled to see Congress back in session and really getting some work done.
Not as concerned about whether or not people are effectively recycling their 3-D glasses.
Never had a tan, and don’t care anymore.
Not so bad if you’re an infant.
Reality that we adults never actually had the summer off abundantly clear now.
About the Easter Egg story.
So, it occurred to me when I was assembling Miserable Holiday Stories as an ebook that it might be fun to include an extra story in there, like a hidden extra track on an album. So, if you were one of the people that downloaded the book in the first 24 hours, the Easter Egg story was called “Too Much Snow.” (It was only a page long.) But within that first 24 hours, I was feeling uncomfortable about some of the language in that story and I decided to swap it out for a different story, which is what I did. Since the new piece was also only one page, I simply swapped it out and it didn’t change the formatting of the book or the table of contents or anything, really.
And then it occurred to me that – since this is currently an ebook-only format – I can do this as often as I want. So, no matter when you download the book, you’ll always get the 10 listed stories. But say, over the course of a year, 10 people could have 10 slightly different versions with 10 different Easter Egg stories, making each periodic “run” of the book a kind of limited collector’s edition!
I have no idea if this is actually innovative or not. But I don’t know that I’ve heard of anybody else doing it…
Since there’s currently no print version, I have no idea how this impacts the idea of a “first edition” or not. It’s all just virtual editions. At the moment, I’ve only swapped out the story once. But I like the idea in theory, and could imagine doing it again soon, depending on how people respond. And then maybe in ten years, if this thing goes anywhere, I can publish a book that’s just all the Easter Eggs.
And then maybe that book would have one Easter Egg story.
I’m extremely proud to announce that my first-ever short story collection – Miserable Holiday Stories – is now available as a Kindle ebook. The collection features 10 mostly holiday-themed pieces (actually 11; there’s an Easter egg buried in there), eight of which have appeared here and in various lit journals over the last few years. And the whole thing is an e-steal at a $1.99!
Here’s the blurb copy from Amazon:
Throw another yule log on the fire and twist that final menorah lightbulb! Author and humorist Alex Bernstein presents a collection of quirky, bittersweet tales calculated to ruin even the most blessed festivities. No matter which holidays you celebrate, these 10 stories will have you yearning for mid-January. Featuring the recent Glimmer Train finalist (but not winner) “Brownie Mix”, the infamous chapter-book parody “The #$@!# Bicycle Boys Save Christmas, Again!”, the never-before-printed “Blue Christmas”, and stories previously appearing in such eclectic journals as The Big Jewel, Litro, Corvus, eFiction, Dysfunctional Family Story, The Legendary, Blue Print Review, and Hobo Pancakes, Miserable Holiday Stories is the perfect gift for that special someone you’d rather not ever hear from again. And cheaper than wool socks, to boot!
And a big thanks – and Happy Holidays – to all of you who have supported Prom and these momentary distractions over the last few years!
Looking forward to the giant inflatable rabbi in the parade today.