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Drama Fiction Contemporary

“If it weren’t for cilantro, I’d be completely happy,” Lenny said.

The other members of the HOOD (Helping Others Overcome Depression) therapy group stared at Lenny. Some had looks of amazement on their faces, some nodded knowingly. Dr. Angstrom cleared his throat and popped an Altoids into his mouth.

“That’s some bullshit, Lenny. Nothin’ wrong with cilantro,” Rudy stated.

“Shut up, Rudy.” Belinda glared at Rudy after she spoke. She didn’t like Rudy; he was a pudgy, sweaty splodge of a man who always arrived at the HOOD meetings with alcohol on his breath and a creepy glint in his eye. She shifted uncomfortably when he turned his gaze on her.

“You shut up, Bel.”

“Don’t call me Bel. We ain’t friends.”

“So,” Dr. Angstrom spoke, “what is it about cilantro that bothers you, Lenny?”

Lenny stood up and paced around the front of the room. Dr. Angstrom kept turning his head to the left and to the right to keep up with Lenny’s movements. He finally gave up and stared straight ahead.

“It tastes like soap. And everyone uses it. I can’t get away from it. Hell, they even put it on onion rings!”

“You’re such a drama queen, Len. Just let it go,” Horace said. He chewed on an unlit cigar and leaned back in his chair, putting his hands behind his head.

“Let the man talk,” Belinda said.

“He did. It’s weak sauce. Some of us have real problems, you know. Screw him and his cilantro problem,” Horace said.

“Hear hear! Lenny, sit down and shut up. Let the real men talk,” Rudy said. He shifted in his seat, revealing a gut lovingly constructed by fried foods and beer.

“Don’t you think you might be overreacting, Lenny? Your affliction stems from a chemical imbalance, just like everyone else here. We are all here to find ways to cope with our disability and to offer each other…”

“Yeah. Ok, doc. But I know that my so-called chemical imbalance is caused by cilantro. I’d be so damn happy if cilantro disappeared from the face of the earth. Chemical imbalance? Balanced!”

“It doesn’t work that way…”

“Even my wife likes the stuff!”

“Why don’t you get rid of your wife?” Horace said, chuckling.

“Because that would be trading one problem for another. Don’t be a smartass, Horace. I got my issues, you got yours.”

“I have many issues, Len. Better issues than you.”

“This isn’t a competition…”

“Can I say something?” Belinda turned to Lenny. “I get you. I’d be perfectly happy if handblown glass vases disappeared from my life.”

Rudy and Horace laughed out loud and pointed fingers at Belinda. She offered them each a finger of her own. The laughter soon died out.

“Handblown…vases?” Dr. Angstrom cleaned his glasses with a handkerchief.

“Nice hanky, doc. I think the eighteenth century is lookin’ for that,” Horace said.

“Yeah, nice hanky,” Rudy echoed Horace’s statement. He wasn’t bright enough to come up with anything else.

“I don’t know what it is, doc. Handblown glass vases just give me the creeps. I feel like my skin is crawling and someone’s squeezing my chest. Then I get depressed because it’s so ridiculous. I stay depressed for a week.”

“You and Lenny are crazy. Plumb crazy. Who the hell ever heard of such nonsense? Cilantro and handblown vases? How about me? I have real problems. I’ll never be happy. The sun depresses me, the night depresses me, people depress me, animals depress me, television depresses me, diet soda depresses me, poultry meat depresses me, sidewalk cracks depress me, glass doors depress me, modern art…”

“Ok, Horace. You win! Take a pill and let someone else talk, for God’s sake. You and your damn issues would depress Jesus,” Belinda said. She stood up and stalked outside to smoke a cigarette. Rudy followed her until she snapped at him to stay behind.

“Oh yeah? Go blow a vase!” Horace yelled at the back of the retreating Belinda.

“Let’s all take a break, shall we? And I might remind you of proper etiquette during group. We respect each other’s faults and viewpoints. I feel like we’re letting our emotions get the better…”

“Ok, doc. My bad. Rudy, too. We’ll do better,” Horace said without any conviction at all. Rudy nodded without conviction, if that was possible. Dr. Angstrom was either polite enough to not say anything or he was obtuse enough to not notice.

Horace drank two cups of coffee during the five-minute break. He also ate three donuts and cleaned his fingers on Rudy’s tee shirt. Belinda came back in and grabbed a bottled water before sitting down. Another Altoids found its way into Dr. Angstrom’s mouth as he approached his chair, indicating that they should resume. Rudy sat heavily in his chair, causing Belinda to wince. Horace, though, remained standing. The rest of the group looked at him. He pointed to the back of the room.

“Hey, who’s that?”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dr. Angstrom could hardly be blamed for not noticing the stranger lurking in the shadows at the back of the room. His eyesight was poor and he only cared about getting through group sessions with the minimum of vitriol from the members.

Of the six members in the group, only four attended tonight’s session, and they spoke up vociferously. The other two, when they showed up, were quiet and unobtrusive. Dr. Angstrom liked them the best.

Although the good doctor didn’t care for these group sessions, he found value in them. The state paid him well for it, and he was afforded a couple of evenings away from home. Faye Angstrom was a wonderful woman, he would be the first to tell anyone, but she insisted on watching “Andy Griffith” reruns every night. His marriage was almost perfect, but Andy and his merry band of misfits kept perfection at bay. His colleagues could care less, but not by much.

“…I have nothing against the show, per se, but I do tire of his homespun wisdom. The man simply drips with cornball…”

And on it went. It was normally at about this point in the conversation that his colleagues would make hasty exits with contrived excuses. Dr. Angstrom, not one to let this topic die a dignified death, continued to mutter to himself until he was satisfied.

So, it was with some irritation and a slight amount of curiosity that Dr. Angstrom addressed the stranger. He hoped that the man wouldn’t be a problem.

“This is a closed group, sir. What is your name and your business here?” Dr. Angstrom said. He sounded whiny.

The man in the shadows came forward and stood at the edge of the semi-circle of chairs. He was smiling, but he looked wan. Haggard even, thought Dr. Angstrom.

“My name is Garrison Lombardy, and I will die from my curse tonight.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The theory of Black Swan events explains the psychological biases that blind people, both individually and collectively, to uncertainty and the substantial role of rare events in historical affairs. Simply put: just because you haven’t seen it or experienced it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

Recent examples of Black Swan events are the financial crisis of 2008, and a politician in Wales who actually said something insightful.

And then there is the Garrison Lombardy event. He uncorked a genie (or jinn) and received three wishes. He only got one.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“It was the wording, you see. I said that ‘I just want to be happy.’ Well, that one word did me in. ‘Just.’ He said that the other two wishes were null and void after I used that word. I mean, you can’t argue with a genie and hope to win. He holds all the cards.”

The members of the group stared at Garrison as if he had a cucumber growing out of his forehead. Dr. Angstrom cleared his throat and popped another Altoids.

“I see. The problem is, Garrison, that your, uh…experience with this genie fellow doesn’t quite…quite…”

“It’s absurd!”

“Ridiculous!”

“C’mon, man. A genie?”

“Really? That’s the best you can do?”

“…well, quite ring true. Genies are mythological…”

“Black Swan event,” Garrison said, still smiling.

The members murmured, confused and looking at Garrison suspiciously.

“Why don’t you just swan on outta here buddy. We have things to talk about,” Horace said.

“Hey, leave the man alone. Can’t you see he’s in bad shape? C’mon, sweetie. Sit down,” Belinda guided Garrison to a chair. He slumped down tiredly, his head resting against the back of the chair. Everyone crowded around him.

“Yeah, he looks exhausted.”

“Poor man.”

“He’s not one of us. He needs to leave.”

“Yeah, he needs to leave.”

Dr. Angstrom got closer and peered into Garrison’s face. Garrison’s eyes suddenly popped open, causing the doctor to back away precipitously and stumble.

“So. Buddy. What’s your curse?” Horace stood before Garrison, arms akimbo and a look of skepticism on his face.

“I’m cursed to be continuously happy.”

“Uh huh. Sure thing. I think you’re here to make fun of us depressives,” Horace said.

“Now Horace, the gentleman here doesn’t seem to be in any shape to…”

“C’mon, doc. People don’t understand us. They say what we have isn’t a real disability. You know how it is. Kick a depressive while he’s down,” Horace countered.

Garrison sat up and sighed resignedly.

“Let me tell you why you’re the luckiest people alive,” he said.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“The first few days were great,” Garrison said. “It was a euphoria that I had never experienced before. Nothing bothered me. In fact, everything made me deliriously happy. My father complaining about my lack of work ethic made me happy. My girlfriend demanding that we get married made me happy. My sister’s cat scratched my arm and drew blood; that made me happy.”

The members of the group sat around Garrison, scooting their chairs closer and closer. His eyes were kind and his manner gentle. His thin frame and lethargic movements spoke of a life of recent attrition. He used to be handsome, Belinda thought.

“But that happiness soon became…taxing. And it became a problem for those around me. My family, my girlfriend, my friends, they all started to shy away from me. Said I didn’t act like myself any longer. They were right, of course. I was always smiling. Always happy.”

“But still,” Belinda said, leaving the sentence unfinished.

Garrison leaned forward and gave each member a look. It was a beautiful, smiling look, but it disconcerted them.

“So, not only had I become alienated over the next few months, I was also tired. Very tired. I couldn’t sleep, but I was happy nonetheless. I had no impetus to do anything because…well…my happiness brought about a certain degree of lassitude. I didn’t want to do anything but just sit around and be happy. In fact, I felt like I was forced into laziness.”

“Hmm,” Rudy muttered. He couldn’t relate to this feeling. Nor the vocabulary.

“Interesting, young man. Very interesting,” Dr. Angstrom said quietly.

“Did you know,” Garrison looked at each member again, his head turning slowly to meet each individual’s eyes, “that there are twenty-eight types of happiness? Oh yes! I know them all by heart.”

“Wha?” Rudy said wonderingly.

“Truly. Take happiness #1, for example. The euphoric happiness. You are untouchable. Invincible. Nothing can penetrate the fog of well-being and goose-bump happiness. You are a god.”

“Wow!”

“Indeed,” Garrison said, sighing. “That happened to me only once, and that was at the beginning. I’ve been seeking that particular happiness ever since.”

“Chasing the dragon,” Horace said, nodding. He knew about that, as did other members of the group. Chemical solutions were always popular with depressives.

“And then there’s happiness #17. A muted happiness. Understated. Smug. You feel like you know more than the next guy. You’re superior. You give knowing smiles to no one in particular. A happiness that comes from feeling better than everyone else.”

“Damn!”

“And, of course, happiness #28. That’s where I am right now. My end is near and I feel happy about it. A relieved happiness. Resolution is coming. Happiness #7 is glee. Shining, bright glee. It never lasts long and leaves one feeling washed out, but it’s worth it. And happiness #17 is joy. Sheer joy at just…being. Inexplicable and uncontrollable. It can last a few seconds or a few days. You’ll giggle at nothing. And then…”

“Yeah, we get it. Happiness comes in different flavors. Why don’t you get married? That’ll cure you,” Horace smirked.

“Alas, no one will have me. I have tried, you know. To not be happy. I think of my death and how unhappy it will make my parents, and I am happy about it (#13). I think about the suffering of others and I’m happy (#5). I even hired someone to beat me up. The pain was terrific and I lost three teeth, but I was happy during the assault (#26) and I was happy after the assault (#11).”

Garrison’s head drooped from the effort of talking so much. Belinda brought him a glass of water and held it to his lips.

“So, this is where I can go no further. I am spent. Happiness has killed me, and I implore you to embrace your non-happiness when it comes. Without it, you will be doomed.”

“We’re depressives you know. Non-happiness is here way too much.”

“But not always, right?”

“No. Guess not,” Horace said, kneeling by Garrison. His bluster and bravado had given way to compassion. Even Rudy felt sorry for the man.

Garrison coughed and leaned back in the chair. His shallow breathing bothered Dr. Angstrom, as did his pale skin and sweaty brow.

“The secret to a good life is to never, ever be happy all the time. I…ah…I think I must die now. Don’t worry. I’m happy about…ah…”

Garrison winced, exhaled, and then sat back, trying to catch his breath. He smiled again, a smile of surpassing beauty. A genuine smile. It didn’t last long, though; he clutched his chest, groaned, smiled, and closed his eyes.

Garrison’s head slumped forward and Lenny had to catch him to keep him from falling from the chair. Dr. Angstrom moved quickly to Garrison and felt his pulse. He checked his eyes. Without saying anything, he called 911.

“The man has passed,” Dr. Angstrom said before sitting down heavily. He wiped his brow with his handkerchief. No one made fun of his handkerchief this time.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Ok, I think we should begin. First, though, I’d like for us to have a moment of silence for the passing of…uh…”

“Garrison Lombardy,” Lenny interjected.

“Yes, Garrison Lombardy. It’s been a couple of months since his passing. We only knew him for a short time, I know, but I’ve noticed a change in all of you. I think…”

“You’re right, doc. The man was the real thing,” Horace said.

Everyone looked at Horace, surprise written on every face.

“Well, I liked the man. He kinda changed my outlook on things, you know?” Horace sat up and looked at Dr. Angstrom. The doctor popped an Altoids before speaking again.

“So, yes. A moment of silence, I think, and then we can get on with our session.”

The scraping of chairs stopped. The only sounds heard for the next thirty-seven seconds was the ticking of the ancient analogue clock on the wall and the sounds from the street. Sunlight filtered through cheap curtains threw tessellated patterns across the far wall, the shapes a comforting blend of sharp angles and soft edges.

“Well, I loved the man. He pulled me back from the abyss,” Belinda broke the silence with soft, lilting words.

“Me too. I reckon the guy was happy to die and happy to help us out,” Rudy spoke up. He was wearing a clean shirt and had clean breath today. Another minor miracle.

“Deliverance,” Dr. Angstrom said.

“Huh?”

“He pulled us from where we were and pushed us to where we need to be. Like Moses did.”

“Moses did that?”

“Sort of,” Dr. Angstrom said. He sucked on his latest Altoids and remained silent afterwards.

“Well, I still hate cilantro, but I guess it’s better than being happy all the time,” Lenny said.

“And I can deal with the hand-blown glass vases now. Kind of. I just think of that poor man dying. The vases seem so…”

“Overblown?” Horace quipped.

“Shut up, Horace,” Belinda snapped.

“Yeah, ok. The guy made me see things a little better. I mean, you with the cilantro thing and you with the vase thing, that’s all minor league. I got real problems, but maybe they aren’t all that bad. I mean…”

“Shut up, Horace.”

“You shut up.”

“It’s weird, comin’ in here sober. Is it always this bright?”

“You shut up as well, Rudy.”

Dr. Angstrom listened to the arguments quietly, comfortably lost in a haze of curiously strong mints, and with images of Andy Griffith imparting some wisdom to the denizens of Mayberry. Yeah, Andy was ok. Even in large doses.

The meeting broke up early. Dr. Angstrom was anxious to get home to his wife. She and Andy were waiting for him.

He turned off the lights and locked the door. Nighttime was descending on the city, cooling the streets and sending the citizens off to home and hearth. A siren sounded off in the distance, heralding a vehicular mishap of not-so-epic proportions. Dr. Angstrom pulled out of the decrepit parking lot onto smooth asphalt. Bridges were crossed. Turns were made. A driveway beckoned.

Mrs. Angstrom was on the couch, watching “The Andy Griffith Show.” Opie was talking. Andy was listening.

Dr. Angstrom kissed his wife on the cheek and sat beside her. She reached out for his hand.

My type of threesome, he thought.

The rest of the night passed uneventfully. Happiness could wait until tomorrow.

 


March 08, 2023 09:11

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53 comments

Michał Przywara
20:48 Mar 16, 2023

Great opening. A good first line launches in a dysfunctional group therapy, with opinionated members and an apathetic doctor. But as I read along, pretty much every little scene break ended on a sentence that could have been a good opener. Lots of nice hooks here. Andy Griffith is of course cilantro, or a hand blown glass vase. It's an expression of Angstrom's frustrations. And while it might be small to us, it's big (enough) to him. "Recent examples of Black Swan events are the financial crisis of 2008, and a politician in Wales who a...

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Delbert Griffith
21:02 Mar 16, 2023

I don't know what you do for a living, Michal, but every time I read your reviews of my little tales, I feel like your calling is that of a book reviewer. I always find myself thinking, "Yeah, he got that...yeah, he got that, too...etc." You have this amazing ability to see pretty much everything I intended for the reader. All I can say is that I thank you very much for your sharp and astute insights into my stories. A Michal Pzrywara review is guaranteed to deliver insights and observations that no one else can (or will) offer. I treasure ...

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Michał Przywara
00:15 Mar 17, 2023

Well thank you for saying so, Delbert. I'm glad they're of use to you. Honestly, writing and posting the reviews helps me better understand stories - which is a great way to learn from others' writing. And some of the stories on this site are just loaded with treasure, and you can spend days pondering a ten minute read. I do think I need to work on my constructive criticism though. Well, always something else to improve. So it goes :)

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Aaron Vitatoe
01:42 Mar 16, 2023

I love the ideas presented here and the way they are presented. I'm always a fan of contradictions that shouldn't work, but do, and make you think. Very good job with this!

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Delbert Griffith
06:18 Mar 16, 2023

Thanks so much for the kind words and the nice review, Aaron. I'm pleased that you liked my little tale of woe. Like you, I'm a fan of contradictions that work out. Cheers!

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Ali Anthony Bell
22:27 Mar 15, 2023

Hello Delbert, Ali here from the Critique Circle. First of all, nice work. It had a nice twist and was well thought out. It's not cluttered with "wannabe a writer" extravagance, i.e., the style is simple and yet clever at the same time. It seems to drift away from the prompt a bit in that all of the characters (and not a character) would have happiness if it weren't for that one thing and that the principle character has a forced, unwanted happiness. Like I said, it's a nice twist. I don't get the title, to me it's more like the weight of un...

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Delbert Griffith
22:33 Mar 15, 2023

Thanks so much for the kind words and the critiques. The Lightness of Heavy Objects is a contradiction, much the way that we would think of happiness that kills. That was my idea, anyway. I took some creative liberties with the prompt, admittedly. Thanks for the review, Ali. I appreciate your insights and thoughts. Truly.

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Mike Panasitti
12:17 Mar 15, 2023

This story struck a nerve because it aptly demonstrates that most of the time there's no proper way to come out on top. Depression sucks and happiness is overrated. Thankfully, reality for most of us, medicated or not, dishes out a good measure of both highs and lows, and hopefully these balance out to form an even ground. A well-crafted narrative.

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Delbert Griffith
14:25 Mar 15, 2023

Thanks so much for the nice review, Mike. And you picked up on the fact that there's no good way to win this thing called life. Depression does suck. Happiness is indeed overrated. That was a big part of the message of the tale. Finding a balance, as you say, is what we should seek. I'm pleased that you liked the story, though it wasn't a terribly enjoyable one to write. The darker themes kind of overshadowed the humor. Cheers, my friend.

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Amanda Lieser
19:52 Mar 14, 2023

Hey Delbert! The story was incredibly charming. It instantly made me think of a quote by Nicholas Sparks(who I personally think has done some great work, despite his reputation). The quote is, “When you're struggling with something, look at all the people around you and realize that every single person you see is struggling with something, and to them, it's just as hard as what you're going through.” The way you introduced the story and the focus around cilantro felt like a captured that essence of the theme that Sparks is writing on. I th...

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Delbert Griffith
21:53 Mar 14, 2023

Wow. Thanks so much, Amanda. The kind words and the nice review really mean a lot to me. Yes, the doctor was my favorite as well. He was well-meaning, and his feckless nature made him lovable. Poor Garrison. Too much happiness. Moderation in all things is a dictum we should all live by. Garrison put the exclamation point on that. Again, thanks, my friend. Your insights and commentary are always stellar.

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Laurel Hanson
15:39 Mar 14, 2023

This is a super enjoyable story. You deftly create really distinct, vivid characters through details and their dialogue. Impressively, you create a lot of different characters, and their distinctiveness makes it easy to tell apart. The group takes on a character of its own as well, which I am guessing is a dynamic of 'group.' Each of them are dysfunctional, as is the group in total. It is quite funny in the process of all that character building. IE: "revealing a gut lovingly constructed by fried foods and beer." Nicely handled conversatio...

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Delbert Griffith
18:57 Mar 14, 2023

Thanks so much, Lauren. I figure that it's decent if a writer of your caliber enjoys it. The group was dysfunctional, as one might expect from depressives. Even the good doctor had his problems, though most of his problems stem from social awkwardness and his value system. At any rate, I'm pleased that you found it worthy of a positive comment. That means a lot to me, my friend. truly.

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Laurel Hanson
22:26 Mar 14, 2023

Oh, dang. I forgot to say that I also really appreciate the positive ending, with the doctor seeing the value in the time with his wife. It's optimistic, hopeful. I am a sucker for that in these times.

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06:57 Mar 14, 2023

I really enjoyed this! Made me laugh out loud several times, I loved the characters in the group. Some excellent descriptors and imagery and you mastered the art of multiple characters interacting in a group, which is TOUGH to do. By way of critique, a few little nit picky things, and maybe they're regional? But I was put off by "Altoids." I guess that's their name, but I would always say "he popped an Altoid." The plural is strange to me. I've also never heard some described as a "depressive," much less self described. But again, maybe tha...

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Delbert Griffith
08:16 Mar 14, 2023

Thanks so much for the kind review and the very valid critiques. I have to say that I appreciate the critiques as much - or more than - the compliments. I've been working on story flow, and this is just the sort of thing I need to improve my craft. The tonal change was on purpose. I stand by the tonal change, but I truly believe that introducing the genie and having everyone accept it so quickly was a mistake. I appreciate that you pointed that out to me. Now I can go back and improve the tale. I just didn't see that jarring note before. We...

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Noah Aylward
11:50 Mar 13, 2023

Hey, Lenny's got a point.

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Delbert Griffith
11:56 Mar 13, 2023

Damn right he does! Cilantro is horrible! LOL Thanks for reading, Noah. I appreciate it.

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Chris Campbell
11:35 Mar 13, 2023

Delbert, A dysfunctional support group too immersed in their own depressive feelings to see the light at the end of the tunnel. It took a deliriously happy individual to die in a group session to make them realise there are things more important in life than wallowing in forms of narcissism. Their depressive states - valid as they seemed - prevented them from socially interacting. However, it took the loss of someone they knew (if only briefly) to shake them awake. Loss created awareness, and misery breeds company. The happy person (Garri...

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Delbert Griffith
11:55 Mar 13, 2023

Thanks so much, Chris. I appreciate the thoughtful analysis and the kind words. Perspective is everything, right? Even the good doctor found some perspective. Again, thank you, my friend. Truly.

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Susan Catucci
12:22 Mar 12, 2023

Love everything about this, Del. The characters are well defined, the premise is full of meaning and so well executed. I devoured every word. Just how does the human mind come up with these stunning, well-formed tales of such great importance? (And there's that word "just" again - oops) And it's so obvious you're having fun along the way. I'd just say you've done it again, my friend!

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Delbert Griffith
12:55 Mar 12, 2023

Wow! Thanks so much, Susan. I had a little help (wink). I would love to claim extreme creativity, but the truth is that I basically just take ideas from other writers and modify their essence. I don't really have much of a gift in the creativity department; I simply steal with zeal. LOL Yes, I am having fun. I'm trying to write outside of my comfort zone and creating something worthy of reading. The challenge is daunting and I have a long way to go to get to where I need to be, but the journey, as they say, is the real reward. I know it s...

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Rama Shaar
09:55 Mar 12, 2023

This was a very good story about the nature of bliss. The 28 types of happiness we shouldn't get addicted to or even think too much about. The "many" characters were well developed, established and distinguishable which is hard in under 3000 words! Very well done!

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Delbert Griffith
11:04 Mar 12, 2023

Thanks so much, Rama. Yes, the nature of bliss. Very misunderstood, just like depression. Both are dangerous in large quantities. Again, thank you for the kind words and the nice review. I appreciate it, truly.

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Jeannette Miller
20:29 Mar 11, 2023

Delbert, This one is so strong. At first I was thinking that Dr has no control over the group! The discussion about cilantro is funny and original even though it's used in stories often. The transition to the stranger is dynamic and his story is quite intriguing. I really liked how you introduced his pain of happiness and all the examples of how he felt happy and how it really had the opposite effect. Then, how his story changed the group. Really well done!

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Delbert Griffith
21:16 Mar 11, 2023

Thanks so much for the kind words and the nice review, Jeannette. I always look forward to your commentary. Yeah, the cilantro thing. It's personal. I can't stand cilantro; it tastes like soap to me. And living in San Antonio doesn't make it any easier to deal with. Everyone here is in love with it. Just my luck, right? LOL The group did change, although it's only temporary. Hence the title: Delivered, for the First Time. Depression is never cured. Again, thanks so much for the comments. Truly. And your life doo doo thing? I sincerely hop...

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Jeannette Miller
22:01 Mar 12, 2023

Haha! I bet living there, you're surrounded by cilantro! It will get better, just gonna take some time I think. Thanks.

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Helen A Smith
13:32 Mar 11, 2023

This was a fun read with fantastic characters. Some great lines had me laughing out loud. HOOD. Great name for the group Having a stranger arrive who was so happy it killed him, made for a great twist. Certainly got things in perspective and cheered me up no end. Thanks Delbert.

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Delbert Griffith
14:06 Mar 11, 2023

Thanks so much for the kind words, Helen. I'm so pleased that you liked the characters in the tale. My favorite was Dr. Angstrom. Even the good doctor had problems! LOL Again, thank you. I truly appreciate the analysis and comments.

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Helen A Smith
14:14 Mar 11, 2023

Maybe in some cases, especially the doctor!! 😀

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Jack Kimball
13:26 Mar 11, 2023

Hi Delbert. I really enjoyed this and see why you've been short listed. The flow is extremely well done and you put me in the group, which I don't think is easy to do with multiple characters. When Garrison showed up I was intrigued, followed by a great message. Also, your detail kept me interested, 'The scraping of chairs stopped. The only sounds heard for the next thirty-seven seconds was the ticking of the ancient analogue clock on the wall and the sounds from the street. Sunlight filtered through cheap curtains threw tessellated pat...

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Delbert Griffith
14:04 Mar 11, 2023

Thanks so much for the kind words and the nice review, Jack. I really appreciate your thoughtful analysis and suggestions. The critique is so important, and knowing how readers view one's tales is invaluable. I'm pleased that you were "in" with the group. Yes, multiple characters are tough to write, and I hope I did it justice. You seem to validate that it did work, so thank you. Cheers!

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Rebecca Miles
21:54 Mar 10, 2023

This popped right from the first line. I was enjoying your dialogue so much and all the humour of the HOOD that the tone shift with the stanger in the shadows caught me unawares. Yep, I liked the structure here: the more moving mid section, with the Midas touch of happiness, (still better than the goldfinger me feels ,-)) which then ushered in the return to the crazy HOODsters; but they have been subtly altered by Garrison's curse and although the gentle teasing continues there's a real sense that they are moving on. I am consistently impre...

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Delbert Griffith
23:10 Mar 10, 2023

Thank you so much, Rebecca. I truly appreciate the kind words from a writer with such tremendous talents. And you grasped the tone shift! That, I felt, was the key in making the story work. The whole purpose of Garrison was to get the HOODsters to move on, to find some perspective, to have some hope. Yes, you saw what was there. I applaud you for that. Again, thank you, my friend. You are a fantastic writer and an amazing analyzer of tales. Cheers from Texas!

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Viga Boland
18:56 Mar 10, 2023

This is so clever. I love the way you turned happiness on its head, then upside down and inside out. As for poor old Garrison, certainly got more than he wanted. It’s a bit like those stories where people think they want to live forever until they realize the downsides of living forever. Excellent use of my two favourites: humour and dialogue. And as a newbie here, I’m thrilled to have found, and now be following you.

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Delbert Griffith
19:19 Mar 10, 2023

Wow, thanks so much, Viga. I appreciate the follow, and I really appreciate the kind words and the nice review. I think you pinpointed the important themes here; wanting something unattainable and then getting it will turn out badly. As you said, people that want to live forever don't realize how that will kill and joy in life. Again, thanks, my friend. Your words inspire me to continue to work on improving my craft. Cheers from Texas!

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Viga Boland
20:56 Mar 10, 2023

Seems to me you’re well on the way with “improving your craft” with already having 2 stories shortlisted. Wonder how long it’s going to take me to get a story shortlisted LOL. Hope it happens before I kick the bucket. Running out of time after losing faith in my writing abilities for 7 years, and now trying to restore them…not to mention the glut of talent here at Reedsy. Don’t think I’ll be entering future contests in hopes of being shortlisted, let alone winning. Dream on old girl 😂

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Delbert Griffith
23:00 Mar 10, 2023

Viga, I write because I love it. The shortlisted tales were a big surprise to me - an added bonus, so to speak. Yes, writing is difficult, but it's also exhilarating. I think you'll do just fine, Viga. As long as you write, you'll be rewarded.

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Viga Boland
23:29 Mar 10, 2023

I love writing too Delbert. I’ve been doing it since I was a child. Poetry stories songwriting. I’ve published seven books. I taught and coached memoir writing groups, not to mention I was in high school English teacher in my younger days. But, there’s an adage, that is always at the back of my brain: “those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” And there are days on here at Reedsy it’s becoming very clear to me which group I belong to 🤪

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Suma Jayachandar
06:11 Mar 10, 2023

I wouldn’t envy Dr. Armstrong his part time gig at all. But I would definitely not mind a ringside view of this closed group:)I appreciate that you have toed a fine line about a potentially sensitive topic and delivered quite a few legitimate laughs. Cilantro, though not a regular in my cuisine certainly delivered flavour to this piece. Well done, Delbert!

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Delbert Griffith
07:37 Mar 10, 2023

Thanks so much, Suma. As a person who finds cilantro repugnant, I can identify with poor Lenny. And the cilantro on the onion rings happened to me. There you have it: truth in fiction. LOL You touched upon the very thing that I struggled with: the issue of clinical depression. I did indeed try to walk that fine line between humor and empathy. I seriously considered making the group have a different issue, but decided to stay with depression. It worked better for the prompt, and highlighting how tough it is to live with such an affliction se...

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10:28 Mar 09, 2023

That is such a perfect first line. Cilantro! I LOL laughed out loud at that, after reading hundreds of these stories I don't get surprised easily, so something truly weird and unexpected is appreciated. And you hit an important deeper theme in the middle of the story, about what is happiness and why would we want to feel that all the time. Also very adjacent to the concept of 'toxic positivity' and how no one can relate to someone who's positive all the time. Great comic timing with the vase issue was overblown oneliner too. A fun story ...

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Delbert Griffith
12:38 Mar 09, 2023

Thanks so much for the kind and encouraging review, Scott. I don't like cilantro at all, so there is a part of me in this tale. LOL Yes, toxic positivity was at the root of this story, and you really picked up on the death of it to give everyone else a better perspective on life and happiness. Also, we all say we want to be happy but do we really know what it is we're desiring? A philosophical question that bleeds into existentialism and even religion. I'm so pleased that you saw so much in my little tale, Scott. Your review makes me feel ...

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11:52 Mar 10, 2023

Thats interesting i read that about cilantro a few months ago, some people have a taste receptor that picks up a soapy flavor. Im like that for raw tomatoes, ive eaten hundreds of them but still find an extremely unpleasant green bitter taste in them (that disappears when they are cooked) that no one else seems to taste. Most foods that were unpleasant in the beginming like natto or sauerkraut or asparagus ive learned to greatly enjoy over time but not that one.

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Lily Finch
20:52 Mar 08, 2023

Del, this is quite the story. The characters love each other like a family dynamic of "love 'em" but "they get on my nerves too" kind of family. I was curious to know what the silent members of the group thought of Garrison Lombardy sharing his thoughts and experiences of being "just happy all the time." For some reason, I thought these silent members would be our lesson tellers for reader takeaways. But I like how Horace, Rudy, Lenny and Belinda behaved before and after, maybe about their dislikes but not about each other (LOL). Demonstra...

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Delbert Griffith
21:07 Mar 08, 2023

Again, thanks so much for reading my stories, Lily. You are true blue and steadfast: two qualities that mean a lot. You're right about the silent members. Before the deadline, I need to go back and look at how to modify this. Thanks for the critique, my friend. If I win (ha!), you and Susan Catucci will get a major assist. You're a true friend, LF6.

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Lily Finch
21:32 Mar 08, 2023

Aww shucks! <toes pointing in, hands in pockets>. I would make them opposite to the loudmouths, perhaps. Just a thought. OR they could focus on pinning the Dr. to chair the meeting properly (maybe they hate unassertiveness, people who smoke, OR talk over others). Just spitjotting. LF6.

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Delbert Griffith
21:54 Mar 08, 2023

Yes, this all helps. I feel the holes in my story now. Thanks a gazillion (which isn't a real number, but it's still big!).

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Zack Powell
18:31 Mar 12, 2023

First, I absolutely love the title of this story. Beautiful. Ok, now onto the story itself. When it comes to Reedsy, I usually get exhausted with 'character soup' stories where there are more than, say, four or five named characters in a narrative that's under 3,000 words. People blend together, voices blend together, names blend together. I'm delighted to say that this story avoided those pitfalls. And all because you did what a good writer is supposed to do: you made each and every character feel unique, in the way that they spoke and the...

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Delbert Griffith
20:44 Mar 12, 2023

Wow! Thanks so much for the nice review, Zack. I really appreciate that you enjoyed this multi-character tale; this tells me that I did it correctly. I was totally going for dark humor. And cilantro tastes like soap to me (having had soap put in my mouth by my mother when I told her that Kenny was "an asshole.") The dead guy was giving them a sense of perspective, which is what most depressives lack, through no fault of their own. My brother is a depressive, and he helped me with the mindsets. One thing that no one picked up on (yet) is t...

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Delbert Griffith
00:05 Mar 13, 2023

Aaaand I referenced the wrong title. LOL Sorry about that, Zack. My mind has been elsewhere lately.

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