Etymology for Dummies

After posting my story “Spooktacular,” which takes place in 1975, I worried I’d used the titular (and textual) word anachronistically.  Then I discovered these two articles.  I always go the extra kilometer for writerly accuracy.

“A Brief History of Spooktacular”

“Halloween 1969 Memories”


Flash Fiction (a Hundred Words or Fewer) #49: Spooktacular

October 1975:

Mr. and Mrs. Dow liked doing two things: namedropping their distant cousin, Tony Dow, who’d played Wally on Leave It to Beaver; and hosting parties, including their upcoming Hallowe’en (as Mrs. Dow preferred to call it) spooktacular, their first since 1972, right before Nixon got reelected.  (They’d cheered when the bastard had announced his resignation on TV two years later.)

As usual, the Dows mailed Cousin Tony an invitation; he’d never attended any of their previous parties or even replied, but this time, his career had hit a hiatus, and he might like a little costumed fan support.


Copyright © 2018 by David V. Matthews

Standard Procedure

October 1975, Conference Number Two:

Principal: “Mrs. Kazakis?”

Milo’s Mother: “That’s Ms. Henningsen.”

Milo: “My mom and dad got divorced.”

Principal: “All right, Milo.  Please have a seat, both of you.”  [Both of them sit down.]  “So, I’ve spoken with Tommy regarding the incident.  He says you did something to him, Milo.”

Milo’s Mother: “Did something?  What did he allegedly do?”

Principal: “Maybe Milo could tell us.  Did you do something to him, Milo?”

Milo: [No response.]

Milo’s Mother: “Cut the crap, Mrs. Goggins.  What did Milo allegedly do to deserve getting beat up?”

Principal: “Well, Tommy says Milo grabbed him.”

Milo’s Mother: “Grabbed him?”

Principal: “Grabbed his—butt.”

Milo’s Mother: “Oh for Christ’s sake.”

Principal: “Did you grab his butt, Milo?”

Milo: “No.  Why would I do that?  He has a fat butt.”

[Tense pause.]

Milo’s Mother: “Milo!”

Principal: “And if he didn’t have a fat butt, would you grab it?”

Milo: [No response.]

Milo’s Mother: “I hope you don’t go around grabbing boys’ butts, Milo.”

Milo: “No!”

Milo’s Mother: “Or girls’ butts, for that matter.”

Milo: “I don’t grab any butts!  I was just kidding!”

Principal: “You shouldn’t kid around about certain topics, Milo.”

Milo: “I didn’t grab his butt.”

Milo’s Mother: “All right, calm down.”

Principal: “I didn’t think he grabbed it.  I talked with the eyewitnesses, his classmates, and they all said they hadn’t seen Milo do anything like that.”

Milo’s Mother: “They why the hell’d you call me here?  I had to quit work early, and I need the money.”

Principal: “Standard procedure, Mrs.—I mean Ms. Henningsen.”

Milo: “My mom and dad got divorced.”

Principal: “You’ve said that already, Milo.”

Milo’s Mother: “He could say it a million times.  I couldn’t stand being married to his father.”

Principal: “Well, I’m sure your dad has some good qualities, Milo.”

Milo: “Yes.  He watches Spider-Man with me.”

Copyright © 2018 by David V. Matthews

The Child in Question

October 1975:

Principal: “Let’s get to the point.  Your son beat up one of his classmates during recess yesterday.”

Tommy’s Father: “He did?”

Principal: “Yes.  The child in question, Milo Kazakis, got not one but two black eyes.”

Tommy’s Father: “Is this true, Tommy?  Did you really beat him up?”

Tommy: “Yes sir.”

Tommy’s Father: “Why’d you do it?”

Tommy: “ ’Cause he grabbed my butt.”

Principal: “You sure that’s what happened, Tommy?”

Tommy: [No response.]

Principal: “If I asked the other students there—”

Tommy: “He did it when no one was lookin’.  He’s a fag.”

Principal: “Watch your language, Tommy.”

Tommy: “Sorry, ma’am.”

Tommy’s Father: “Now, now, wait, what if this Milo kid actually is a, you know?”

Principal: “We have no proof of that.  And even if he is—”

Tommy’s Father: “Tommy doesn’t lie.  If he says this kid grabbed his butt, then that’s what really happened.  Isn’t that right, son?”

Tommy: “Yes sir.”

Tommy’s Father: “Tommy’s was just defending himself.”

Principal: “A little too much, it seems.”

Tommy’s Father: “He’s an energetic boy.”

Principal: “Right.  As for Milo—”

Tommy’s Father: “Send him to a girls’ school, ha ha.”

Tommy’s Mother: “Ha ha.”


Copyright © 2018 by David V. Matthews


Flash Fiction (a Hundred Words or Fewer) #48: Why Does Peter Pan Fly?

Recess, fourth grade:

“Why does Peter Pan fly?” Tommy asked.  Pause.  “You’d fly too, if you got hit in the peter with a pan!”

Laughter from the other students.  Except Milo.

“You fag,” Tommy said.  “That joke was funny.”

“It was actually a riddle,” Milo said.

Tommy pushed him down onto the ground and commenced punching him in the face.  Their classmate Douglas cheered the loudest.

Four decades later, in traction after crashing his SUV, Douglas did not remember the beating, nor would he ever.  (Good thing for his health insurance, by the way.)  (He despised Obamacare—goddamn socialist medicine.)

Copyright © 2018 by David V. Matthews

Flash Fiction (a Hundred Words or Fewer) #47: My Spider-Sense Is Tinkling

His first day in fourth grade, during recess, the new kid, Milo, approached a group of several boys, the cool boys (they liked TV and hated girls), and announced “My Spider-Sense is tinkling.”  Then he sang “Spider-Man / Spider-Man / Always pees when he’s in the can.”  The boys’ leader, Tommy, picked up a rock and threw it at the fleeing Milo, missing him by a centimeter.  (The school had started teaching the metric system, prior to the national changeover that would end up never happening, inches and miles and so on serving as a vital component of American exceptionalism.)

Copyright © 2018 by David V. Matthews

Flash Fiction (a Hundred Words or Fewer) #46: The Planning Session’s Penultimate Intersectional Proposal

Renée made the planning session’s penultimate intersectional proposal: we should sneak socialist vegan brunch fliers into the free weekly alt-papers distributed at the gourmet coffeehouse (which attracts lots of progressive or at least not very reactionary customers, according to what her wife, a barista there, has told her) on the ground floor of the Republican law firm-slash-fossil fuel lobbyists’ skyscraper downtown.  Tanya, somewhat facetiously before offering the final proposal, suggested picturing a scantily-clad babe on the fliers to appeal to the Bernie Bros, causing Caroline to wonder whether a scantily-clad Bernie would work better.  Laughter ensued.  See, we have fun.

Copyright © 2018 by David V. Matthews