Scammers are Artists, too.

I’ve been getting a lot of spam from scammers lately. Reading these eloquently constructed, high concept emails, I’m starting to understand why they are called scam “artists”. They truly are masters of the written word. I still think they could benefit from the guidance of an expert in the craft, however, so I’ve taken the liberty below to critique these pieces and provide helpful feedback that they could incorporate to make their very-true stories even more compelling (and grammatically correct)…

Dr. Mikko Juho needs some serious grammatical help for his VERY IMPORTANT MATTER:

Scammer1

Before Ally Berg can be friends/companions/pen pals, she’ll need to focus on proofreading:

Scammer3

Mr (sic) Anvanith Gui has some issues with specificity:

Scammer2

Invisible Body

Mrrrrrrrr. The lawnmower was a hot bee droning back and forth across the grass. The unrelenting sunshine had pushed the grass up higher than usual. Watching the rows upon rows be shorn down gave Miranda the same feeling she used to get from watching viral videos of disembodied hands slicing mounds of kinetic sand: Dull satisfaction. The young man — either Dan or Don or Doug, something like that — pushing the mower across her lawn chomped fervently on a large piece of pink chewing gum. He blinked up toward the house but, of course, couldn’t see her staring out at him from the picture window.

It was the smell of the grass she missed the most, but she could remember it if she really tried. It was a damp smell. One of life. Of living. It’s hard to smell without a nose. It had been just long enough that she could laugh at the ridiculousness of the statement. But without a throat, the laugh was silent. She was and she wasn’t.

The remembering of smells and laughter made Miranda curious. It had been days, maybe weeks, since she examined her body. She glided up the stairs into the bathroom. Her body used to be slumped against the bathroom wall like she’d fallen asleep on a gently rocking subway car. Now, her body looked like a black-yellow-orange bloated person-shaped bag. She watched a documentary once about a body farm used by the FBI to help them identify stages of human decay, so she knew the how and why behind the dark fluids that pooled around her. It still didn’t make it easier to accept. She returned back downstairs dismayed. She was glad she couldn’t smell anymore.

——

In that moment across the country, an old high school friend opens his laptop. He checks the news. 104 dead in Kabul. Wild fires in California. A truck in London driven into a group of tourists, 4 dead, 15 severely injured. He shudders internally and pulls his bathrobe instinctively around him, as if it could shield him from the horror in the world. Searching for lighter fare, he opens one of his social media accounts. An inspirational quote has cycled to the top of his feed. It reads: “The secret to being happy is accepting where you are in life and making the most of everyday”. He exhales a sign of relief. It’s from Miranda.

——

Miranda floated down to her kitchen, as she’d done a thousand times before. She wasn’t hungry anymore, like she’d been in real life. She wished she could have felt like that while she was still alive. Her mother was always quick to intercept Miranda on the way to the fridge. Her mother had become thin and willowy after Miranda’s father left them for a size 0. She warned Miranda constantly that she’d inherited her father’s slow metabolism. That sugar will make you sick and and probably kill you. She died herself of malnutrition complicated by a smattering of other ailments. Miranda wondered if she was out there, somewhere, floating around.

She approached her laptop. It sat on the kitchen table, open, webcam set up on a tripod beside. It almost begged to be of use like a sentient furnishing in Beauty and the Beast. But it was dead. With no fingers to plug it in or turn it on or even worm over the trackpad, it remained a useless brick. Miranda kicked herself for the thousandth time for pre-scheduling her social media posts all the way to Christmas.

Shhhhttt. Flop. She rushed to the door. A new piece of mail had plopped on top of the small pile collecting in front of it. It was a letter from the Humane Society for the previous owner of the house. A reminder to donate. All Miranda’s bills were digitalized, so she never got any mail. Out the beveled door window, she watched the post woman waddle away with her laden bag. Miranda didn’t know her name. She didn’t even know her face.

——

In the Hague, a frazzled university student gnaws on his iPad stylus. He logs onto his online tutoring site. In his inbox, an old message reads: “Great work this week, Yorick. Looking forward to diving deeper into passive construction next week. Best, Miranda” He clicks on her profile. A photo that artfully combines approachability and professionalism. Under her name, orange letters announce, “Last online: 5 weeks ago”. He has an important exam coming up. He hastily clicks the link “Find a Tutor”.

—-

She drifted into the hallway. She was greeted by the smiling faces of the people she used to consider her best friends. Sandy, married in Florida with three kids. Expecting a fourth, according to a saccharine video uploaded to Facebook for all the world to see. In it, her three children, ages 7, 5 and 2, ask their father to look in the oven. When he discovers the bun inside, they break down into fits of giggles. Tears of joys are shed by the adults. Six months ago, Sandy sent an email apologizing for being so out of touch. She had promised then to come visit soon.

Hatty lived in Argentina with her life partner. Jane was climbing the corporate ladder in New York. Ella, who lived just a few towns away, just simply cut everyone out years ago like they never were. In terms of family, Miranda assumed she had a gaggle of half-siblings as far as her father could toss his seed, but she had never met any of them. Her father. Hank. He had stopped reaching out after Miranda made it very clear at 18 that she never wanted to speak to him again. He had never been one to respect her wishes, but for some reason that one stuck. He would be the last person to wonder if she was dead or alive.

——

In a downtown bar, Theo waits for his Tinder date Thea to come back from the bathroom. It’s been going surprisingly well so far, considering his success with the app. He had just been on the verge of deleting it permanently when she flickered across his screen. She super liked him, which meant something. A super like was special. It was more than a swipe. As he stares at the fake succulent in a tiny pot on the table, he marvels at how similar the names “Theo and Thea” looked, but how different they sounded. Just one letter off. Imagine how it’ll look on their wedding invitations. He’s getting ahead of himself. He reminds himself what happened last time with Miranda: Things were going so well — just like this —- then she just ghosted. When Thea returned from the bathroom, all smiles, Theo lies and says he has to go.

——

Miranda tried to remember Theo’s face. It was hard because they’d only seen each other a handful of times. One of those was also in a darkened movie theatre, so her memory was an eyebrow here, a nostril there, stubble, full lips, kind eyes. Most of all she wished she could explain to him that her sudden exit had nothing to do with him. He didn’t even know her address, so he wouldn’t come looking. She cried silent, nothing tears.

Through the window, she watched the neighbour let her bichon frise out into the backyard. Their last name was Milton, at least that’s what it said on a kitschy sign on their lawn — “The Miltons” — but Miranda didn’t know her first name. She looked weary, as if she’d been gently beaten all morning. She yawned an aggressive yawn she would probably never allow her kids to witness. She looked over to Miranda’s house bored as she waited for the dog to finish its business. Miranda waved to her for the first time ever. She didn’t see. Couldn’t see.

Back upstairs, her flesh was black and papery. How long now had it been now since she last checked? Her calculations were interrupted by Dan or Don or Doug, the bee mower boy, who had started up his machine. She peered over the frosted sticker that covered the lower half of the window. He worked hastily this time, rushing through the job, looking irritated. She glided downstairs to the front door. When he was finished Dan or Don or Doug stomped up to the front door. Instinctively, Miranda backed away, out of sight which was unnecessary. He looked right through her as he hammered the doorbell. BINGBONG. BINGBONGBINGBONG. The bell was like a bomb going off, shattering weeks of silence into a thousand invisible shards. She moved as close to the glass as she could, staring intently into his irritated face. BINGBONG. His finger driving itself into the button.

“Hey, Lady!”

He waited.

“Ms. Kawalsky!”

He waited more.

“This is the last time I’m cutting your grass for free.”

She listened.

“You only paid me in advance til the end of August.”

August.

“It’s almost October.”

October.

“I’m not going to cut it anymore, Ms. Kawalsky. Not until you pay me what you owe!”

Silence. He stepped across the porch to the living room window, peering in with both hands shading his young face. All he saw was a pristine, minimalistic living room staring back. Not Miranda’s aching non-corporeal form.

——

She once saw on HGTV that grass grows two to six inches a week, depending on the weather. She wondered how long it would have to be til someone figured it all out. Someone was bound to notice soon, right?

Excerpts from My Grade School Diary

Apparently I’ve always had a thirst for romance and a flair for over-dramatization.

June 12, 1995, age 10:

“Dear Diary, I want someone who I can hold hands with, tell them I love them all the time. I want a guy that will tell me to hold his jacket or sweater or something. I want a guy who will not be shy and he will tell me he loves me all the time, too. Basically, I want a nice, attractive, romantic guy.”

April 20, 1996, age 11:

“Okay, here’s my DREAM DATE!! First it’s about dusk and we take a long walk along the beach. Then we come to a gazebo and it’s got mood lights all around with candles and great supper. After we’re finished there’s a boat on the shore, we cast off. When we’re far away from shore we put down the anchor and take out the seats and we lay down in the bottom of the boat looking up at the stars and rock back and forth.”

December, 1998 (A Dream), age 14:

“I’m riding on an almost empty bus with Brad Pitt. I am sitting with him and talking for a long while. I’m sitting by the window and he’s on on the outside. All of a sudden I lean over and we’re kissing. We kiss for a long time (which is VERY good). We are on the way to Hollywood. But as we get closer Brad turns into a snot. The process is slow, but eventually he is really snotty with a snobby attitude.”

January 3, 1999, age 15:

“Only a year til the Millennium! Happy New Year! Me and X have been seeing each other for about a month now. That is a really long time for me. I’m not sure if I want to commit though. There are so many options, I don’t know if I’m ready to settle down with one person.”

April 7, 2000, age 16:

“Anyways, tonight I went to X’s house with Y and X. We had a big bottle of vodka and I had an empty stomach. Like, half a glass later– Lauren’s hammered. I couldn’t stand up straight, my eyes were fuzzy, I couldn’t see, I was dizzy, slurred words, trouble with co-ordination, etc… so it turns out I’m a destructive drunk.”

The TRUE Meaning of GoT “White Walkers”

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Here’s a fun ad-lib from the Game of Thrones Season 7, Episode 3 “The Queen’s Justice” in which Jon Snow and Tyrion basically just discuss climate change.

CLIMATE CHANGE = White walkers
GLOBAL WARMING = The dead
OCEAN ACIDIFICATION = The Night King

JON SNOW: GLOBAL WARMING is coming for us all… It’s hard for me the fathom, it really is. If someone told me about CLIMATE CHANGE and OCEAN ACIDIFICATION… You probably don’t believe me. Grumpkins and Snarks, you called them, do you remember? It was all nonsense.

TYRION: It was all nonsense and everybody knew it. But then Mormont saw it, and you saw it and I trust the eyes of an honest man more than I trust what everybody knows.

JON SNOW: How do I convince people who don’t know me that an enemy they don’t believe in is coming to kill them all?

TYRION: People’s minds aren’t made for problems that large. CLIMATE CHANGE, OCEAN ACIDIFICATION, GLOBAL WARMING, it’s almost a relief to confront a familiar monster like my sister.

JON SNOW: I need to help prepare my people for what’s coming.

30 is the new 30

Tomorrow, I turn 30. If you really put it into perspective, it is absolutely ridiculous or maybe even offensive that someone might have confused feelings about this. Many people never make it this far and would probably have given anything they could to experience the tingling promise of a new decade.

And, boy, was the last decade a blast. Maybe that is why my heart is heavy today. The same way I feel when I think about the pastoral childhood I was privileged enough to have and sense the pang of loss at never having another sweet day as an eight year old swinging from a tree in the sunshine. I guess now an hour before I am 30, I am beginning to understand why people have kids. So they can watch them swing and soak up the joy their children radiate. As a way of remembering in the present.

I know where I was exactly ten years ago, which feels peculiar. I usually have trouble remembering the details of the past, so it is strange to reflect with this level of certainty and clarity. It seems like that was a lifetime—a person—ago. Like a movie I saw once and have since forgotten the title. And when I examine the last ten years from a distance like this, I see now that I was an entirely different person. I read once that all the cells in the human body completely regenerate every seven years, so who knows, maybe I was a completely different person back then. I think I have improved at least a little, despite my own stubborn efforts to remain the same. Change is sometimes slow, sometimes fast, and sometimes not at all. I hope I changed.

19 years and 364 days, I had just moved to Berlin. I had just started an exchange in a faraway land. I was always a Mommy and Daddy’s girl (still am a decade later), but somehow my parents managed to make me feel close to them no matter how far away I went. I live far away now, too, but I still feel like my parents could be down the street since that is how intensely I can sense their love. Berlin was huge, exciting, terrifying and thrilling, all at the same time. And I remember sitting in a bar and thinking “My god, this is my last night as a teenager. I need to say goodbye”, much as I am doing so tonight.

21, I returned to Canada to finish my BA in English and German studies. 22, back to Berlin to teach English. 23, Toronto again working as a German Medical Market Researcher where I met my dear friend, Claudia (who will play a huge roll again at 26). 24, started my Masters in Screenwriting at York University and began my mid-twenties crisis. As a result (or possibly as a prerequisite) I started working at my beloved Sneaky Dee’s. 25 is pretty much a write-off, although I can thank my best friends for such a high level of fun and hilarity that it really is just a blissful blur in retrospect. 26, things started slowing down around me, inside me, and I finally opened my mind to the possibility of real love. Love like I had never permitted myself to have before. And that is precisely when I met my husband while visiting Claudia on vacation in Munich. 27, I dropped everything and moved across the ocean to be with my now-husband. A few months later, he waited patiently at the top of a mountain until the clouds parted to ask me to be his wife. 28, I cultivated my relationships and a calmness crept into my soul as I allowed myself to reflect on the internal for the first time in my life. 29. In June, I married the love of my life in a sun shower surrounded by our incredible families and friends. Even my Oma made it to the wedding after we were all convinced she wasn’t going to see Christmas (she is a constant source of strength and inspiration, no matter my age). It is true when they say it is really the best day of your life. A cliché is just that for a reason. And now I am here, snuggling under an orange blanket that we “borrowed” from my mother-in-law, wondering if I should be sad or happy or maybe equal shares of both.

Some of the best friends I have I can thank the last decade for (although, to my good fortune, many of them predate even the day I mourned and celebrated the passing of my teenage years). I have laughed so hard I got killer abs (securely hidden under a layer of life-loving, decadent chub). I have cried so hard I have actually hyperventilated on numerous occasions and my tear ducts got irritated and took a two hour lunch to spite my sobs. I learned love like I had never known. I have had friendships reach seemingly bottomless depths of respect and love. I have had to sacrifice very little and have gained probably more than I think I deserve. I have worked hard, quit too soon, struggled, given up, cared too little and too much, ached, rejoiced, fought and laid down my arms. After these ten years, I am both deeply disappointed in and profoundly proud of myself.

Tomorrow is just another today. Objectively, I will only be one day older, but suddenly, I will be a full blown adult, the kind I feared the night before my 20th birthday ten years ago. And so, with sorrow and optimism, I must embrace tomorrow as another new day. I hope it turns out as well as the last 3650 and I hope everyone I love is by my side to share them with me.

Here is to the big three oh.

143. Return

When a 20-year-old kidnapping victim is returned to her family after 10 years in captivity, she must struggle to reclaim her privacy, identity and her place within her community while living under the microscopic examination of the media and those around her.