The Living Parents Literary Support Group

Submitted into Contest #229 in response to: Write a story in which a cynical character gets amnesia on Christmas Eve.... view prompt

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Funny Horror

At the Living Parents Literary Support Group, Rebecca regretted every dad that died. With each, she lost a member.

“Roll call,” she announced. “Is everyone’s parents still alive?”

“Yes,” the man sitting on her left declared.

“Both Alive,” the next member said..

 “Yep.”

 “Yessirree.” 

One by one, the dozen attendees of the 23rd annual LPLSG Christmas Dinner acknowledged the sad fact that their parents were alive and well.

“Hmm…” Nicole Johnson mumbled, her voice barely above a whisper.

“Nicole?” Rebecca probed.

“My mother passed two weeks ago,. Nicole said, her cheeks flushing.

“Then why are you here?” 

“I will stay quiet. I’m here to support the other writers struggling with—”

“You shouldn’t have come,” Rebecca stated firmly. “I need to ask you to leave.”


As the chairperson of the LPLSG, Rebecca had no qualms about enforcing the group’s rules. If Nicole cared about the other members’ feelings, she wouldn’t have come. 

Everyone knew Jennette McCurdy’s literary career took off on with her debut novel about mom last year. And back in the year 2000, Dave Eggers, with his book about losing both parents, skyrocketed to the top of the New York Times Bestseller list. Prizes at literary competitions were also usually won by purple prose eulogies.


Nicole shuffled out, obviously feeling ashamed of herself.


Nicole faced the group. “Let’s get back to why we’re here. Does anyone have anything they would like to share?”


Angela raised her hand. “After reading a review of my novel Vegetable Gardening With Dad on Goodreads, that said it was ‘boring’, sometimes, I wish my Dad had died of lung cancer after a lifetime of working in a West Virginia coal mines.”

A man cleared his throat. “Are you from West Virginia?”

“I’m from San Luis Obispo, California. But no one wants to read about San Luis Obispo.”

“Thank you, Angela.” Rebecca then nodded to the next person holding his palm up, a nervous looking young man.


“Sometimes, I wish my dad had died so suddenly...that I didn’t have time to prepare for the impact it would have on my life…” He held his hands up to his face, his eyes welling up with tears. Between sobs, he cried out, “because that would make a great literary memoir. Eighty percent of Booker prize winners include a dead parent.”


"Thank you for sharing that," Rebecca said.


The person attending that evening that she was most concerned about was Mateo. Within the trickle of struggling authors who wanted to join the LPLSG, Sergeant Mateo Delgado appeared at her office two weeks ago. Delgado’s military memoir had been panned by the New York Times book review.


“Instead of the horrors of war, Delgado introduces us to the monotony of artillery logistics. The only person this book would be of interest to is an actuary wondering how many people might have died of boredom in this war.”


Yet, his prose was stellar. The best she’s seen in a decade of meeting with new writers.

Artillery gunner Mateo had come to her office after an appointment with a literary psychiatrist, who prescribed Wellbutrin and a membership at the LPLSG.


Mateo looked at the members in disgust. “Are you people insane?!” he shouted out. “How can you sit here and wish for your parents to die, just so you could write better literary fiction?”

“I think he's in a bad mood because his short story was rejected by McSweeneys,” someone mumbled.

“I heard that!” he said, his face turning red. “This is bullshit! You people wishing your parents dead. Your parents don’t need to die to write literary fiction about parent’s dying.”

Rebecca knew this might be coming.


“Yes, of course, it’s possible to write fictional family drama without a parent's death,” Rebecca said. “But everyone with living parents who’s tried, their novels have fallen flat, duds. Something doesn’t ring true. Only a lived experience can breath life into a tale of fiction.”

After a long silence, Mateo concurred, “I can see that. What you said about lived experiences.”

“And then there’s the jinx,” Rebecca said in a hushed tone

The people in the room gasped and held their breath.

“The first recorded case was Frank Richardson in 1923. He wrote a fictional short story about his father having a heart attack. And then…” Rebecca drew her hand across her throat, in the universal gesture for a sudden demise.

Mateo asked, “He had a heart attack?”

Rebecca nodded, and added, “And there were others.”

"Really?"

Rebecca gave Mateo a sympathetic smile. “So tell us, why are you here today, Mateo Delgado?”

“Because Carter, who I met on my first tour, wrote Captive in Kabul, which sold a million copies. Because Aaron, in special forces, had a hit with Finding The Heart Of Baghdad despite his writing being awful.” 


“I think you could write a great memoir,” Rebecca said. “I see soul in your wriitng."


His prose was magic. The best she’s seen in decades. She could see herself entering his name into the Alumni subsection of the LPLSG’s Wikipedia page in a few years.


So before dinner, she poured the scopolamine into Mateo’s mashed potatoes. Why do people choose to put the poison into drinks in fiction? Drinks are so easy to spill, or switch with someone else. No one ever exchanges mashed potatoes.


When Mateo began to feel faint, Rebecca offered to drive him home. She was the chairperson after all, so nobody questioned her decision.


**


Rebecca was with Mateo when he woke up.

“Where am I?” he asked.

“You’re at my home.”

“What?”

“You drank too much last night,” she said. “You were really upset about your parents’ death. The car accident last year.”

“That was traumatic, for me.” Mateo said. He looked disheartened, thinking of it. The false memories she implanted in him under the effects of scopolamine appeared to be holding.

“You should write about them. Fiction is healing,” she said. “And you should avoid the other members of the group for a little while. They might pull you down. And you embarrassed yourself quiet a lot last night.”

“No?!” Mateo groaned.

“It’s ok. Just write. Writing is healing.”

Mateo did what he was told, he holed up in his one bedroom in Yonkers. New York and started writing.


Three months later, Mateo finished “Military Orphan - Losing My Best Friend in War, And Then My Parents in Peacetime" and quicly found a publisher.

A clunky title, she thought, but it climbed into the top 100 in Military Biography.

If Mateo had been an established author, the publisher might have fact-checked whether his parents had indeed died in a car accident, but publishers were on a tight budget these days.


Their mistake she thought. The Hillbilly Elegy scandal still dogged HarperCollins. A decade earlier, Random House had lost millions giving refunds to purchasers of A Million Little Pieces when Oprah Winfrey exposed its author James Frey as a fraud.


Mateo's posts on social media also began to attract readers. At first, he posted a few angry tweets on X about being harassed by strangers. But when he wrote a full-length piece for Medium about the lengths two strangers were going to in order to disrupt his life, it caught the nation’s attention:


The Childless Couple Pretending To Be My Parents -

The bizarre lengths a middle age couple have gone to, including fake documents, bribing my relatives, obtaining pictures of me as a child, all in their quest to pretend to be my parents….


His article's reply section filled with comments from people supporting Mateo, asking why the courts haven’t provided a restraining order on the insane stalkers.

Under the anonymity of a fake social media account, Rebecca watched the chaos unfold.

When Mr. and Mrs. Delgado Senior received help from government offices in New Jersey to prove their claim, online netizens jumped in. Mateo had served in Syria. ‘The Deep State’ was trying to harass him for exposing government secrets. Being an Artillery Officer for the US Army, was obviously a metaphor for the other more classified work for the Pentagon.

The attention pushed Mateo’s memoir up to the Top 10 in Military Biography. There was talk of a Netflix miniseries.

Despite the controversy, Rebecca was happy for his newfound literary success.

She invented excuses to regularly call him.

“Mateo. I met the most amazing graphic designer. Let me send you some of his new cover art. Maybe there’s one you could consider for one of your international editions. And, how are you doing these days?”

“Thanks, I’ll have a look,” he said. There was a pause on the line before Mateo began speaking again. “I think there’s something I need you to know. I’d rather you hear it from me directly.”

“Yes?” Rebecca asked.

“I’m dating Nicole from the LPLSG. We connected, as we both lost our parents.”

“You did? That’s interesting to hear.” In her office, Rebecca began furiously tapping her fingers on her mahogany desk.

“I’m relieved to have gotten that off my chest,” Mateo said.

“Mateo. I’m happy for you, I have another call on the line, I will talk to you soon. Bye!”


**


“But I can’t attend!” Mateo protested. “I don’t have parents.”

“You’ve received a special award.”

“What sort of award?”

“Come to the city early, and I’ll tell you about it, and buy you dinner the night before.”

At the night before dinner, she slipped the scopolamine into his pasta carbonara sauce, and he was soon passed out. Under its hypnotic influence, she reversed the effects of last year’s suggestions. This had all gone too far.

Rebecca was at his bedside 8 hours later.

Mateo opened his eyes, looked at Rebecca, his eyes showing his mind churning with all the new information. “Why?! Why did you do it?!” he screamed.

It took Rebecca a moment to understand if he meant what she did this year, or the year before.

December 22, 2023 17:12

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25 comments

RJ Holmquist
18:40 Dec 23, 2023

"How to Murder your Parents" will be the next big thing, a real hit with YA readers... Lots of chuckles, thanks for the story!

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16:01 Dec 28, 2023

Thanks for reading and commenting RJ!

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Alexis Araneta
13:41 Feb 26, 2024

HAHAHAHAHAHA ! A riot of a story. I love the flow of it. The bemoaning that their parents are still alive. Hahahaha ! Great job !

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02:47 Feb 27, 2024

Thx! For a while every winning story on Reedsy was about a dead parent, and it was getting a bit silly. Oh.. I see your in SE asia too, I'm in hong kong. writing helps stay connected!

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Alexis Araneta
02:51 Feb 27, 2024

Yes, I'm from the Philippines. I was going to say it reminds me of the comedian Laura Laune, the winner of La France a un incroyable talent/France's Got Talent 2017 , who won the show by writing and performing a song that was pretty much about "Why did my dad's cancer go into remission ?! Now, who'd vote for me?". Hahahaha !

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02:58 Feb 27, 2024

hahaha, I thought i invented this joke, but seems its been told by artists before;) I thought maybe I should write a sad story about my parent dying, but my parents are still alive and i thought this would be such a bad karma, so I feel we lose out on the votes to these tragic story tellers. But, we can try to be funny. Hope to visit the Philippines someday, they opened a Jollebees close to me here, think I'm going to try that this week.

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Alexis Araneta
03:06 Feb 27, 2024

HAHAHAHAHA ! Jollibee ! Warning: Everything can be a little too...sweet. So, stick to the desserts, the ones that are supposed to be sweet.

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Michał Przywara
03:09 Dec 31, 2023

Hahaha! Love it :) The premise of the support group alone is gold, but the drugging and memories leading to the writing career - oh man, what a great place to take this. Love the inability of the parents to assert that they are in fact alive, and that we go to deep state instead. And, the fact this isn't even about parents or writing at all, but about Rebecca and Nicole :) Very fun satire - the kind of thing I wish I wrote :) Thanks for sharing!

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09:56 Dec 31, 2023

Thx for reading! I think the part of the parents trying to prove themselves could have been a few chapters of great slapstick comedy but I ran out of time.

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Marty B
20:48 Dec 27, 2023

A perfect story for a community of writers -trying to mine our own tragedies for a good story is a horror show. Rebecca helped Mateo find his own tragedy- to great success! (Other than losing his living parents!) But did he want to make that sacrifice? I thought the ambiguous ending was great. Thanks!

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02:04 Dec 28, 2023

Thanks Marty. Wrote this to have fun with the thought of how many overly melodramatic stories do well in literary circles, but its not really being my genre I feel a bit left out lol.

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Tommy Goround
21:09 Dec 26, 2023

"Everyone knew Jennette McCurdy’s literary career took off on with her debut novel about mom last year. And back in the year 2000" bingo. Nice use of voice to this point. Bingo on the satire target.... Let's see where you go. (First read here)... Small typo: "a lifetime of working in a West Virginia coal mins." Seems like sometimes Reedsy let's you edit and sometimes it don't (for a few weeks)... “Are you people insane?!” he shouted out. HAHAHHA “Yes, of course, it’s possible to write fictional family drama with a parent's death,” Rebecca...

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01:07 Dec 27, 2023

I couldnt decide how he would react at the end. Maybe he likes this new life of being a famous writer? Next year publishes “im Glad Rebecca Made Me Believe My Mom Died” Thx for all the great edits. Ill see if I can add a little bit to ease into pushing the fast forward button to get a year of action into a short story. Too bad fiction doesnt have the momtage like films do.

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Tommy Goround
05:20 Dec 27, 2023

When can I read I'M GLAD THAT REBECCA - made me think... -killed my mom for me -sexed my dad till he died. * I am a dive bar in st. Cruz that has no coffee. They are going to try to warm up coffee liquor and see if it works. Also: there is a place in Sacramento called "dive bar" where they actually have a human swimming with fish legs in a tank.

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05:58 Dec 27, 2023

I'm spent much time at dive bars, that's interesting, so underwater instead of passed out under the table

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Tommy Goround
06:45 Dec 27, 2023

When are you coming to visit? I bought a Porsche.

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Tommy Goround
21:05 Dec 26, 2023

The title works. Tried 3 or 4 by others and none has gotten to a point by the first few para. So hearty congratulations on a good title.

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Darya Silman
16:10 Dec 23, 2023

That's a great, entertaining satire on the modern writing community. Everybody is searching for a tragedy to write about. At the same time, we see more and more tragedies and crimes that were previously hidden behind the closed doors exposed. It's hard to find a balance... Thank you for writing such a story!

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16:01 Dec 28, 2023

Thanks Darya, yeah everyone is looking for the most tragic or darkest thing to write about, that's for sure. Beyond the clickbait on social media and short story competitions, I do think readers of novels are still looking for positive inspiring messages.

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Mary Bendickson
07:33 Dec 23, 2023

Got confused between Jessica and Rebecca. Does someone different lead each time? Or a new leader each year?

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12:13 Dec 23, 2023

Oh thanks for letting me know. Its the same person, just changed the name placeholder at some point. I usually put in a simple name and then do a find/replace later to something more unique

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Hazel Ide
03:30 Dec 23, 2023

I love where you’re going with this. Great idea, super interesting and dark.

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12:12 Dec 23, 2023

Thanks, yeah the idea of literary writers writing best sellers about deceased parent is kind of dark, so put the 'horror' tag on it Its sort of like how oil painters only becoming famous after they die it seems.

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16:10 Dec 26, 2023

💗😄 That was fun! Hehe. I wonder if there is such a group somewhere... so the theory is that if you write about something that's not true about your parents, it happens to you? Maybe someone should write about their parents winning the lottery. Now I'll be scared if I ever see a published book about killing your parents! 😁 (I must be thick - I don't get the last line 😅)

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16:19 Dec 26, 2023

The guy had his memory changed twice, once to implant the memory of his parents death, and the next year to erase that. Maybe he's angry he was tricked that his parents are dead. Or maybe, he's been so successful with writing thinking his parents died, maybe he's angry that she cancelled the false memory and that his parents are now live.

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