Contest #142 winner 🏆

What You Can Do With Your Book

Submitted into Contest #142 in response to: Start your story with someone being given a book recommendation.... view prompt

239 comments

American Funny Friendship

You present me with a gift bag as if legions of angels will descend, trumpeting your thoughtfulness in remembering my [insert celebratory event here]. 

I’m gracious, of course. 

You shouldn’t have!

And I mean that. You shouldn’t have. Because now you are stepping over the line. 

We are simply:

  1. co-workers 
  2. mothers with children at the same school 
  3. neighbors with dogs 
  4. old-friends-from-college, or 
  5. spouses-of-old-friends-from-college. 

Regardless, we are not on gift-bagging terms. Especially the kind you immediately re-gift to other peripheral friends: scented candles, cheap chocolates, fuzzy socks, calendars, coffee mugs.

You shouldn’t have!

Because now I need to remember if you were born in March or April. I need to invite you to lunch at the Cheesecake Factory and overpay for complicated chicken salads and Diet Cokes. We will debate for a nanosecond about ordering a slab of artery-strangling dessert. We will joke about cheesecake being high in dietary protein. Yet when the waiter returns from clearing our half-eaten salads, we will trill together in unison: Oreo Dream Extreme Cheesecake! (What’s a little heart disease amongst gift-bagging friends?)

You shouldn’t have!

I’m holding the gift bag in my hands, both of us standing with frozen smiles on our faces. 

Now what?

You are expecting me to open the gift bag—like there isn't a googolplex of more important things that I need to attend to. But who am I to hold up the unveiling of your selfless act of generosity? 

Let’s just open up the frickin' bag, shall we?

Since you coughed up $13.99 for one of Hallmark’s finest, I take my time, appraising the bedazzled foil and colorful ribbons, as if it were the work of a 19th century Post-Impressionist. As expected, animal-related puns are splattered across the front: “Thinking of Ewe!” “Feline Fine!” “Let’s gopher a drink!”

Isn’t that clever? We both agree that it is.

Between forced chuckles, I wonder when we, as a society, quit taking the extra four minutes to thoughtfully wrap presents? At what point did we, collectively, agree that it was socially acceptable to shove gifts into a bag, not even bothering to remove the clear plastic hanging tag? And as a follow up, what’s the point of gift bags for wine?

All questions for another day. It’s time for me to cull through the vibrantly-colored tissue paper—fuchsia, electric blue, chartreuse—and see what treasure there is for me at the bottom. Midway down, my fingers touch what you’ve selected. 

Good god, woman. 

What. 

Have.

You.

Done.  

By the size and heft of your gift, it’s clear that you’ve purchased me a book. On purpose.

Let's get one thing clear: I like to pick out my own books. I have a stack of them by my bed that I'm never going to read, and now I have to add yours to the pile? To compound insult to injury, you're going to ask me about this book when I see you again. 

I use all of my remaining bandwidth to pull out this publication from your gift bag, read aloud the title like a sacred scroll, and then find some authentic way to say thank you for the worst present ever. 

In the meantime, let me ask you one thing: What were you thinking? 

I mean, let’s just say you bought me a cookbook. Neither you nor I are going to master the art of French cooking in our lifetime, and I don’t think I need Giada De Laurentiis’ hot take on grilled cheese. At this point in American cuisine, we have given up. We’ve ceded dinner to DoorDash or whatever overpriced shit is shoveled into the Home Chef or Blue Apron box, prepped in an airport hangar, ensconced in enough ecologically-toxic packaging and dry ice to make me think twice about driving thru Chick-fil-A for the third time this week. Look. Neither of us are mincing garlic or zesting an orange peel. Even if I do like one of these sixteen-part recipes, I’m going to have to hunt down tarragon at Food Lion, use an eighth of a teaspoon, and then let the rest rot in the back of the pantry. Pass. 

Poetry? If you purchased a book of poetry for me, it’s probably one of your friend’s or relative’s timeless works, and you’re just abusing the Amazon algorithm to jack up their sales. And fun fact: unless you are physically intimate with someone, it is illegal in most states to gift books of poetry. That’s just the law. 

True Crime—as opposed to fake crime? Dominick Dunne and Erik Larson notwithstanding, I don’t think I need to slog through the sick underbelly of mankind. Isn’t that what HLN is for? 

As for a mystery? At my age, most things are a mystery: the sociopolitical landscape, what’s going on with my neck, my spouse, the viability of my career, my belief in God, what my children do on the internet, and my cat’s ability to throw up exactly where I step. Why complicate a complicated world even further? I don’t need any more surprises. Keep your mysteries off my nightstand.

Fantasy. OMG. If you bought me the first installment of any fantasy series, I will drive over to your house and burn it down. Of course it is part of a sprawling six-part hexalogy with a companion guide listing all of the neologisms (with maps!) Why wouldn’t I enjoy an excruciatingly detailed realm with a hundred characters and settings? Although I appreciate the intensive world-building some author has conjured up in his parent’s basement, I’ll wait until Netflix buys it, effectively ruining it as only Hollywood can do, by ensuring there is a video game tie-in and family-friendly plush toys.

Science fiction? Re-read the above.

Romance? I mean, that is just cruel. You and I are far past the bodice-ripping stages in our lives. No one with abs is sneaking through our garden gate. And I’m less worried about the Deviant Duke of CastleWaterBridge tingling my nether regions and more concerned about my 401(k) being ravaged by inflation. 

Short stories? If I want paper-thin characterization, clichéd themes, and a mere hint at a plot, I’ll write it myself.

Oh no.

No no no no no.

I can no longer hold my smile as I choke back waves of nausea. 

You did it. 

You bought me the #1 New York Times best-selling self-help book.

You shouldn’t have!



April 17, 2022 21:16

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

239 comments

13:17 Apr 18, 2022

How dare you sully the lord of CastleWaterBridge’s name? That’s my dad. Though, he’s never admitted it.

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
13:20 Apr 18, 2022

Or is he really --- your long lost UNCLE??

Reply

Show 0 replies
Jay Mc Kenzie
06:40 Apr 20, 2022

Haaa!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 2 replies
K. Antonio
16:01 Apr 29, 2022

OMG OMG OMG, Deidra you stole the show this week! Congratz on winning! The take on this prompt was so clever, and I found it (as someone who often receives books as presents all the time) a delight.

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
16:36 Apr 29, 2022

That's high praise from someone I totally adore and idolize. Let's slay some more dragons this week :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
18:56 Apr 29, 2022

There is no smarter writer on Reedsy, not one. There may also not be one as versatile. You write well regardless of the prompt or genre. This was one of my favorites, so much so I read it twice just to enjoy it again. Congrats on the win. It was so well deserved.

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
09:16 Apr 30, 2022

Thanks 🙏🏻 Christina! I appreciate you dogged support more than you know. All the best ❤️

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Kevin Broccoli
15:59 Apr 29, 2022

Congratulations!!!!!! This was great news to wake up to. I literally shouted "Deidra!"

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
16:37 Apr 29, 2022

I'm standing right next to you and your endless procession of wins. Still think "Meep Meep" should be studied in all MFA courses... :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply

My goodness. One critique: Perhaps change [d***] to something else, like {stinking}?

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
11:47 Apr 18, 2022

Is "frickin" acceptable? :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Tony Coppo
13:27 Jun 26, 2022

Fantastic story, great format, creative take and many funny lines. Late to the party, but loved it so much. Tnx!

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
14:03 Jun 26, 2022

Always welcome to the party, Tony. :) Thanks for the love.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Nandini Panchal
12:39 Jun 06, 2022

Very engaging story! I was feeling down but it reminded me to take a break and have to good laugh!

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
13:06 Jun 06, 2022

Laughter is indeed the best medicine! That’s why I’m an Absurdist at heart. Life is too serious to be taken seriously… 🤪

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Kaylee Tinsley
14:43 May 19, 2022

The Nora Roberts of short stories.... except with a few less ghost writers ;) (Sorry, that's probably considered blasphemy in a lot of circles lol) You once again stun me with how versatile your writing is- it's literally amazing

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
18:24 May 19, 2022

As long as you laughed, I'm good with it :) haha

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
22:22 May 16, 2022

This is by far the best story I have read on here to date. I loved your original take on the prompt, and each line had me chuckling to myself. Your writing style reminds me of Frederick Backman’s ’Anxious People’, in the way it is relatable and humorous, with the right touch of cynical satire. I am so impressed with your work!

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
11:46 May 17, 2022

Thanks, Vladimir! There is a ton of talent on Reedsy. I love the various writing styles from around the world, but I had a lot of fun writing this snarky satire. Thanks for the book recommendation -- almost time for summer and I need a good read. All the best.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Danny
11:16 May 10, 2022

Congrats on the win, Deidra! I absolutelyyy adored this one, there's something about the way you write a character's inner monologue that makes it soo engaging to follow through with. I have to admit the ending caught me off guard, it's funny to think that this type of situation probably happened enough times to have your writing about it >w<

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
11:37 May 10, 2022

Thanks, Danny :) Truth be told, gift bags give me anxiety...and don't get me started on tissue paper.

Reply

Danny
02:13 May 11, 2022

No problem :) Right? Gifts could might as well be ~ a n x i e t y ~ in disguise

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Isabelle Perry
12:46 May 06, 2022

This is literally the best thing I have read in a while. This is amazing!

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
12:49 May 06, 2022

:)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
02:46 May 06, 2022

As a cynic myself I could relate to soo much of the inanity of gift giving. But what a great punchline, I didn't see that coming! This is pretty good, light and readable and fun, reminds me of Jenny Lawson, I'm guessing you could get this published if you wanted;)

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
07:18 May 06, 2022

Thanks for the introduction to Jenny Lawson! She seems fascinating. And we cynics and satirists need to stick together. It’s the only was society moves forward 😀

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Elayna B
02:45 May 06, 2022

Deidraaaaa that was amazing! read it twice just because it made me laugh and reminded me so much of the thoughts that run through my brain that are exactly like that! you are so wonderful!!

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
07:18 May 06, 2022

No YOU are wonderful 😊 Thanks for the support and the ❤️

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Graham Kinross
09:06 May 05, 2022

There are few phrases as confusing in the English language as self-help book. Open the cover. YOU DON'T NEED ME printed across two pages in the middle. Done. A well done self-help book is just the author's I Can Make Me Rich project. I have never understood them.

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
11:37 May 05, 2022

Snake oil salesmen abound, but the pseudo-psychology is kind of hilarious (and toxic). So.... Are we getting you on the podcast one of these days? https://www.readlotswritelots.com/previous/

Reply

Graham Kinross
00:34 May 06, 2022

Could you or Russell read out one of my stories? That would be amazing.

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
07:22 May 06, 2022

Of course! Email Russell here https://bluemarblestorytellers.com/ Depending on the story — he’s perfect with his Aussie accent. I’m not sure my Virginian accent does much 🫤 but Jools (in the Uk) will do it with her lovely accent. Drop me (or Russell) a line 📧 Lovegren.Deidra@gmail.com

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Holly Guy
14:46 May 04, 2022

This is such a humorous and great read! Loved it! I look forward to reading more of your work :)

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
15:05 May 04, 2022

Thanks Holly :) Some shorts are definitely better than others ... hahaha

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Tallia Booker
10:22 May 04, 2022

Well-written. I appreciate the humor so much.

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
11:19 May 04, 2022

I appreciate your compliment so much :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Lily Saylor
00:08 May 04, 2022

This is by far the best story I have read on here to date. I loved your original take on the prompt, and each line had me chuckling to myself. Your writing style reminds me of Frederick Backman’s ’Anxious People’, in the way it is relatable and humorous, with the right touch of cynical satire. I am so impressed with your work!

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
00:20 May 04, 2022

Thanks, Lily! Satire is always a blast to write. I appreciate your kind comments. :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Yanique Gayle
21:10 May 03, 2022

You are not friendly, lol. I can tell by your way of writing. I really enjoyed it and kind of identified with it 🙈💯.

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
23:48 May 03, 2022

Me, personally? I'm adorable. This story's main character is a bit of a beast :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Jeneane And Nuts
16:25 May 03, 2022

While I am sorry to insult past winners though this has been a throughly shitty morning (especially because I cant remember how to spell and it didnt correct on spell check) this is the ONLY submission entry winner I have gone to and been able to read the whole way through...loved it, the dark humor, the way you were able to work everything dark and dank about humanity (in the topic) and twist it around to have the bitcher look the bitch in the end (but not really). You just showed most humans as they really are, at least the really fun ones...

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
16:49 May 03, 2022

Welcome to SatireTown. :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Laura Eliz
14:12 May 03, 2022

You have really captured the awkwardness that is being given a gift by someone not close to you!

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
16:48 May 03, 2022

:)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply