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January 26, 2022


Claire Hopple

Diane returns home from work to find their neighbor Lee depositing a slip of paper in the mailbox.

When she opens the car door, he offers her a saltine.

“No, thank you. I’m fasting for a medical procedure.”

“It’s okay. I rubbed all the salt off.”

She declines again, wading over to the mailbox.

Lee’s note reads:

Please allow us to continue using your pool despite the fact that you’ve turned into a dinosaur-shaped chicken nugget.

“What’s this all about?” she asks.

“Hey, are you planning on doing anything with that,” he gestures toward her husband’s SUV.

Diane reminds herself that Lee once superglued a Bentley hood ornament on his bicycle.

Phil walks out and aligns himself with the treed perimeter.

To Phil, Lee’s hands look larger all of a sudden, like they could grasp and dunk with ease.

Lee advances toward him.

“Here, use this.”

He hands Phil an excuse from the local school nurse.


Phil goes about the business of being a dinosaur-shaped chicken nugget.

Their son Blake brings home a foreign exchange student from a country Blake’s never heard of. He doesn't remember the student’s name either so he calls her Marcy.

They’ve avoided serving poultry at dinner since Phil’s identity crisis in order to keep a convivial atmosphere, but everyone’s tired of pork chops.

“Pass me the chops. And the peas. And the potatoes. I want it all,” Blake says.

“I want it all,” he repeats. “It’s the American way.”

He looks at “Marcy” to ensure she’s paying attention.

They air the news: this year’s prom queen tossed her tiara in the lake. She then rented some expensive equipment to immediately dredge the lake. But the tiara was reduced to pond scum and chipped plastic like an unforgiving friend.

“I’m done with tiaras. Being done with things: it’s the American way,” Blake says.


Since dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets don’t seem to wash the dishes or fold the laundry, they bring in a mediator.

His KEEP CALM & DRINK COFFEE mug—filled with an iced liquid—sweats down its sides.

Phil can already tell the mediator is speeding toward platitudes. He barters with a confession to get out in front of it.

“I’ll be the first to admit I wish I had turned into something else. Like Tupperware. Then I could be the container instead of the contained.”

“You see, now what am I supposed to do with statements like that?” There is a howl inside Diane’s inquiry.

The mediator situates photocopies of song lyrics in front of them without remark. They ignore them.

“I know what this is about. You’ve wanted to go live in the treehouse ever since you installed it.”

Phil thinks she’s halfway right. Though he prefers a theater loge for optimal heckling. He spies the mediator’s notebook page filled with 3D cubes and diamond-shaped Ss.

“Rescue your value from the mailer’s BOGO pages before the garbage truck delivers it to a new kind of soiled auditor,” mopes Diane.

Phil places their papers on the mediator’s lap and says, “Our photocopying days are over.”

“But I was the one who made these photocopies,” he says to their backs.

Late afternoon introduces the dinosaur-shaped chicken nugget and its wife to another visit from the exchange student. Somehow “Marcy” has been impaled by a mechanical pencil.

“Let’s make good use out of your wound by turning it into a bud vase. Resourcefulness. This too is the American way,” says Blake.

He leans in, grimaces, then turns away.

“You’re going to be the landing pad for my vomit helicopter.”

Blake and “Marcy” leave to observe the erecting of a new statue in town. A firefighter resting on a couch is cast in stone.

Upon Blake’s return, they reinstate a formerly abandoned family meeting. A conclusion crusts itself over their itinerary.

They put their house on the market and move into a grocery store where Phil can feel more comfortable.

Blake takes to initialing each item in the store, convincing customers that they’re wheeling around collector’s items in their carts.