The Serial Killer Next Door (aka: I Dare You)

First of all, I am a big chicken. That’s probably obvious, since here I am, writing yet another blog post from my quiet little cave, where I observe the world without interacting. But anyway, it’s true. I could use a trip to see the Wizard about acquiring some courage.

That said, here’s the thing: I have a new neighbor. I discovered this as I was coming home from a soccer game the other night, and to my surprise, there was a car parked in the carport next to mine, and a stranger with his arms full of boxes. He greeted me and explained that he was slowly moving in. Summer Girl With Home Baked Ginger Cookies

“A new neighbor!” I cheerfully announced to my kids. “Should I bake some cookies for him?” My kids were enthusiastic, and for the next few days, we kept an eye on the house next door, waiting for an opportunity to pounce with friendly greetings and home-baked treats. However, the neighbor did not appear. Days passed. No neighbor, no car in the carport. Nope, not even at midnight. Once, we spotted the car and got all excited, but half an hour later, it disappeared.

We began to form outlandish theories. Maybe the new neighbor was a ninja. Or the ghost of someone who used to live there, but died. Maybe he was a psychotic serial killer who was only hiding bodies inside the house every few days. (And yet, I still wondered whether psychotic serial killers preferred chocolate chip or snickerdoodles).


What if my new neighbor is actually a psychotic serial killer?

Then my son said, “I dare you to peek in the windows to see if anyone’s in there.”

A dare? Oh wow. Suddenly, the urge to do it was overwhelming – the urge to part with practical wisdom and become the crazy stalker neighbor who peeks in windows. Did I dare make such a bold move just to prove that the new neighbor was not Jeffrey Dahmer? The fact that I was even considering it made me think, what is it about dares? What is it about the words, I dare you, that burns away our common sense and turns perfectly rational people into thrill-seeking daredevils with little fear of consequences? Sure, I’ll stick my tongue to a frozen pole! Sure, I’ll go skinny-dipping in the hotel pool! Sure, I’ll play Chinese Fire Drill at the next red light with a car full of people! (I may or may not have accepted at least one of these dares before). Is it only that we give in to peer pressure? Is it that we seek to prove that we are brave and capable people? Or is it that we really want excuses to be wild every now and then, and it is easier to blame our ridiculous actions on an external challenge than on our own dumb choices? Double Dog Dare You

Maybe it’s all three.

No, I did not accept my son’s dare and invade our new neighbor’s privacy. Because yeesh, what a poor example I would set. Instead, I will continue to peer out of my window to see if the car mysteriously appears again. Then, if I do not see the new neighbor dragging any corpse-shaped plastic bags out of the trunk, then maybe, just maybe, I will knock respectfully on his front door and welcome him to the community with a dozen homemade snickerdoodles. If I dare. Gladys



Weapons, Wars, and Wicked Witches

Andy FairhurstOur family has quite the stockpile of weapons. Last time I checked, we owned three swords, four handguns, one rifle, one crossbow, and one rather large scythe. My sons are becoming quite skilled at using them. In fact, just yesterday —

Oh relax. They are toy weapons. You know — Nerf guns, foam swords, etc. Yup…our household is a never-ending battle zone of good guys vs. bad guys, superheroes vs. supervillians, humans vs. giant alien robot vampires. Thanks to my 8 and 12 yr.-old sons, my peace and quiet are constantly disrupted as wars break out and foam bullets whiz past my head.

In the public schools where I teach, weapons play is strictly forbidden. But in our house, it is not only allowed, but I am happy to supply the toy arsenal and provide ideas for war strategy. Too violent? I disagree. Through their play, children work through the issues that frighten them, and have the ability to overcome or understand their fears. When my son swings his foam sword and slices off the head of the imaginary zombie, he then becomes more powerful than the creature in his imagination. When my daughter assumes the role of antagonist and becomes a wicked witch, the reversal of roles allows my daughter to lose her fear of the witch whom she portrays. And when my oldest son aims his gigantic nerf blaster at his me and shoots me in the forehead with a suction dart, he learns that I can become a monstrous creature who snarls and shrieks and takes all the weapons away.

(Well, okay. That’s a different lesson. No shooting mothers or other unarmed civilians). Andy Fairhurst

This Halloween, like millions of other typical American children, my three kids will dress up in costumes and go out to beg for candy. My youngest son, who was The Grim Reaper last year (hence the scythe in our arsenal), has decided to be a protagonist this year — a good king who only fights bad guys with his sword. My daughter will be a witch. My oldest son has decided to be a spooky ghost. As for me, I am thinking of dressing up in costume too. Maybe I will duct tape our entire collection of weapons to my body and go as a contestant in the Hunger Games.

Butterfly Wings

It could be the brush of butterfly wings,

a soft drizzle in early spring

gentle rays of morning light


just right


Or is it the moon’s golden glow?

A jazz guitar, smooth and slow

by candlelight, a glass of of wine


so fine


Sometimes it’s summer’s wildfire

burning passion of desire

stars colliding in the night


take flight