The Last Day of the Worst Year of My Life

Submitted into Contest #231 in response to: Write a story in the form of a list of New Year's resolutions.... view prompt


Fiction Funny Christmas

December 31st. Every year, the last day of the worst year of my life. A new chance to make the following rotation around the sun the one that turns things around. One single year marginally better than the last and I can tell – I know – the ones that follow will only get better and better until each year is the best year of my life.

And so this year, rather than tell them to my mom on one of our maybe five phone calls for the year and then forgetting about them until the following December, I have decided to write down my New Year’s resolutions. I will write each of them out and include context. In doing so I plan to really, truly follow them. And if I can accomplish all of them I will count that as a good year. Even if I only accomplish one of them I’d call that a pretty good year.

2023 was a rough year. 2022 rough before that. 2021, 2020, 2019…

2024 is my year. 2024 is my year.

Resolution #1: Shave

It started as sort of a joke. An experiment even. What would happen if I didn’t shave for a while? Would I grow a thick, bushy Paul Bunyan beard? Long and wispy like Dumbledore? Would it come out patchy and pube-like? It was 2020, after all. What did I have to lose that year? I was already cutting my own hair. I worked remotely; laptop camera always covered by a torn piece of Post-It. My girlfriend had moved out in January. Impeccable timing on her part. She did the sensible thing and moved back to Ohio and ended up spending the year with her parents getting free meals, free housing, free company. I did the un-sensible thing and stayed in New York when the COVID pandemic hit. I knew no neighbors. I had no pets, not even mice in my walls or cockroaches under the fridge. I needed a project, and that beard was it.

Only it’s been three years and still I wear it. The experiment proved that my beard was an unfortunate mixture of every beard style. Bushy, yes. Wispy in strange spots. Pubey, definitely. But it has become a part of myself. I’m scared to lose it because I’m scared to see what is underneath. Once, there was a smiling kid with hair only on his head and above his eyes. Would the man underneath the beard now be smiling? Are there skin tags or moles I don’t know about? Would I be destroying the 3-year home of a nest of fleas?

But its time. I even asked for a beard trimmer for Christmas. It’s sitting there, unopened, in the cabinet under the sink. Girls don’t like it. Men claim to want one like it but appear visibly repulsed by it. It itches. It smells. It catches bits of food and I’m so tired of saying the joke, ‘I’m just saving it for later’. Just a trim and a shave. This one shouldn’t be hard. I could be doing this now instead of writing this down. Only…

Resolution #2: Get a Pair of Scissors

This is more of a grocery list item, but I need a pair of scissors to cut open the plastic on the beard trimmer. Maybe this should have been resolution #1.

Resolution #3: Get a Single Ab

I can’t blame 2020 for my weight gain. In fact, I don’t know that I’ve ever gained a disproportionate amount of weight in any single year. Rather every year since my sophomore year of high school I’ve watched as the muscle I built from middle school wrestling turned into fat and then I gradually grew up and out. At 30 it’s only out these days. I don’t hate my body. I’m not even that big. But sometimes when I look down at my stomach I’d like to not be reminded of those cans of biscuits. You know. The ones that explode and then expand and sag. It makes me sad and then makes me hungry. This perpetuates the problem.

This year I want to see one single ab. I don’t need a six pack. I just need to stop drinking six packs. I’ve had a gym membership since I moved to New York. $60 a month for 7 years. I’ve gone maybe a dozen times. That’s $420 a visit. It’s impossible to cancel those things. Every time I go to do it my anxiety takes me to the Shake Shack next to the gym instead. They say you burn more calories eating a burger than you take in. Or maybe that’s with celery.

Resolution #3a: talk to a dietician.

Resolution #4: Call Dad More

I already mentioned I only talk to mom about five times in a given year. Maybe I should work on that too. But I talk to my dad even less. They divorced when I was in college. He moved to Savannah. When I asked him why Savannah he just said, ‘life is like a box of chocolates’. I never asked him again. As far as I know he’s still living there with his Spanish-speaking girlfriend. I don’t know how they met. I don’t even know what kind of Spanish she speaks. When I asked him, he just said, ‘yo hablo Español’. I never asked him again.

I loved him once. I don’t know if I do now because I haven’t talked to him in four years. He sends me money for my birthday and Christmas, but he lets the cards speak for him, never adding anything of his own. Not even, ‘love, Dad’. The only reason I even know they’re from him is his return address, which he sometimes forgets to add.

Maybe he’s just lonely, despite his girlfriend. Maybe he just doesn’t know how to connect with me now that I’m older. I don’t have any children of my own, but I’ve always thought it must be hard to watch your kids grow up. You can shape them, sure, but you don’t ever really know how they’ll end up. I wouldn’t want a kid that ended up like me. Maybe he wanted a kid that ended up more like him.

Resolution #5: Get a Cat

We had a cat, before my girlfriend left. Fiancé, I guess I should say. I loved him. We adopted him together. He was a tuxedo cat. I’m not sure why she got him in the breakup. I don’t even think we talked about it. I told her to take whatever she needed when she left. When I came back from a long walk across the bridge into Brooklyn and back again, she was gone. So was he. She left me with the full litter box. It sat there half a year before I finally cleaned it. Gross, I know. It's still in my closet. Empty and cleaned now, but still there, ready for my new boy. But I want him to meet me for the first time with a freshly shaven face. This leads me back to resolution #1, which of course relies heavily on resolution #2.

Resolution #6: Go to Therapy

I won’t spend too much time here. I know I won’t do this one. I’ve been meaning to do it for nearly a decade. I know it would be good for me. But something keeps me away.

Note: if I do finally get around to this, try not to go somewhere with a Shake Shack next door.

Resolution #7: End Lists on Even Numbers

I always find myself ending lists on odd numbers. I don’t know why that is. It makes me uncomfortable. Even when I count the numbers on my shopping lists its always an odd number. And then when I try to think of something to add I can’t think of anything at all. Or if I do it also reminds me of one more thing I need, and so here I am again stuck with an odd number of items.

This one is the least important, but I do think it could help my mental health enough to remove resolution #6. Or is that just me making excuses again? I told you #6 wasn’t going to happen.

December 31, 2023 21:05

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Martin Harp
16:58 Jan 08, 2024

I like this one but I wish there was more of a reason for the aversion to odd numbers. Like did something bad happen in the past that is attributed to the odd numbers, is it always unlucky? It makes them uncomfortable, but why?


Chris Riffle
18:16 Jan 08, 2024

Totally fair! There's no real reason odd numbers make him uncomfortable. I saw it as a comical way to showcase his absolute dedication to doing nothing on this list. He already knows he won't go to therapy. His first resolution relies on the second, which he may never get around to. All he had to do was make one more resolution and his final resolution would have solved itself, but instead he ends it on an odd number. Self-sabotage at its finest.


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Dena Linn
17:47 Jan 06, 2024

Chris .... I really liked this piece and it so made me a laugh and bet you could get it published but I'm voting here for you


Chris Riffle
21:56 Jan 06, 2024

Thanks so much! Had a lot of fun writing this one


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