Thursday, August 28, 2008


It makes pennies multiply in the dark. It is a close cousin of the paperclip monster. Its arch rival is any machine that can sort, count, wrap, or otherwise organize pennies. When it wants to be especially vile, it will transform half of the pennies from American to Canadian currency, making the coins worth even less, although they look deceptively similar and even weigh about the same. It punishes disobedient pennies by sending them in the direct path of a vacuum cleaner, often rendering the victims deeply scarred and choking the vacuum cleaner at the same time, a double guilty pleasure.

Experts Say It Could Be The Penny Monster

An area man was found buried alive for 48 hours beneath a mountain of pennies. Jeremy Lake of Buffalo Grove lived to tell his story:

“It started out small. I found a few pennies in the backs of drawers, behind the cushions of my car. Then, the other night I went to sleep. I kept hearing this strange jingling sound, like coins. But I ignored it. I thought I was dreaming, but I felt something pushing me in my sleep out of my bed. I ended up in the bathtub, luckily.”

Mr. Lake survived on water he drank straight from the tap. Concerned neighbors called police after they heard a pounding sound coming from the upstairs apartment. That would turn out to be Jeremy banging his fist on the wall of his bathroom. Firefighters excavated the 25-year-old man from the deadly pile of coins with special rescue equipment.

A volunteer bucket brigade helped Jeremy and his rescuers remove the coins from his apartment. The change was dumped into the bed of a neighbor’s pickup truck and was deposited by the bagful into the CoinStar machine of a local Dominick’s supermarket and converted into cash. For all their trouble, Jeremy and his twelve new friends will split exactly $153.79.

There is No Penny Monster, Feds Say

The U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve bank deny the existence of the so-called Penny Monster.

©2001 Tiffany Gholar

museum guard


at his own reflection

in the glass case

that holds

a statue of Narcissus


into a carved marble pool

that does not reflect back

©2000 Tiffany Gholar



black bird

pewter beak

gun metal sheen

of feathers

©2000 Tiffany Gholar

frustrated screenwriter

I've never used a lighter before and so it takes me many, many, many tries to finally get the little spark and flame. But anyway now it’s out and now I've got my worthless script in the sink. I'm going to burn it. I love the way the charred paper smells. I like watching the pages curl up. Character names and lines of bad dialogue are seared away. And there it goes, such beautiful destruction.

The gesture is more symbolic than anything else, now I think. The ashes are soggy. They will stick to this morning's dishes. The script is still well-preserved in five other places: on my hard drive, and on the Internet, and on a Zip disk at my boyfriend's house, on a disk I gave my friend Lisa, and regrettably on still another disk in the vegetable crisper of my refrigerator. But I at least have hope that it's been ruined by the cold and the dampness.

I am convinced now that they were all right about this story. Nobody wants to read it, and everyone who has says that if I revise it ten more times, maybe just maybe it could be a Lifetime movie of the week. Great. Just like the one about Laurie Dann killing those poor little kids in Winnetka.

Anyway now I'm trying to get the wet ashes to go down the garbage disposal. Now the kitchen has a nice burnt smell. I like the smell of burnt paper. Much better than burnt plastic.

Maybe I'll go do something else with my life. Why be a fabulous screenwriter? Why not just a humble painter? I'll continue to live alone, get into a series of M.F.A. programs and never leave. I'll subsist on loan money and never pay it back because I'll be in school for the rest of my life.

©2001 Tiffany Gholar

the angriest cover letter in the world

What do you see when you look at the résumé of someone who has attained two college degrees but has yet to attain significant work experience in their field? Do you discount them as insignificant and unemployable or do you see that same person as one whose dreams have been deferred for far too long? Do the retail jobs they have taken to cover their expenses in the meantime cause you to feel scorn, or do you see them as resourceful and responsible, with enough self-esteem to know that taking a job that is "beneath them" does not make them a lesser person? Do you ever think of the resilience and flexibility such a person must have in order to adapt to such circumstances? Would you ever stop to consider the useful skills an educated person might acquire from such a position? Do you fall into the conventional mindset that all applicants must have x years of experience with progressively increasing responsibilities, or do you have the wisdom and insight to know that experience is but one factor in what makes a great designer?

Or do you see someone whose intelligence and potential have been overlooked because some unenlightened person in HR was not able to "think outside the box?" Someone who has been typecast in a role she is ill-suited for simply because it is the role in which she has the most experience? Someone who doesn't have much experience because no one has hired her for a position that will give her the experience she needs?

Most interviewers tout the importance of experience, but passion is more important than experience. I have years of experience in a field I abhor--retail, menial, tedious and utterly uninspiring retail. Experience does not make me want to go to work in the morning or stay late to complete a project. But my passion for design is what keeps me coming back, interview after disappointing interview, hoping to get my foot in the door of a design firm, hoping for an opportunity to contribute my time, talent, and ideas.

I am applying for this job because I am still optimistic enough to believe that you are not as narrow-minded as your competitors, and am hopeful that when you advertise a position as "entry level," unlike your competitors, you actually mean it.


Once upon a time there was a young artist who loved writing as much as she loved to draw. As a teenager, she took a creative writing class one summer. She started writing a story about a girl who was a lot like her. Then, unexpectedly, she found herself consumed by it. She spent the next 8 years of her life in service to the short story that grew into a novel, then transformed into a screenplay. She was a good host to her literary parasite. While all her friends were being normal high school kids, she worked on her story. And while all of them were being normal college students, she adapted it into a screenplay.

It was a peculiar sort of madness, an exquisitely painful obsession. All she had was her story, and her story had her. Her characters were her mind's constant companions. Art can be a cruel mistress. Then one day when the girl had grown into a young woman, she reached the end of the screenplay. She turned it in for her thesis project, and for her efforts, she received a Bachelor's Degree.

Now that she was all grown up, she had to find a job. Everyone told her that no one would hire her with only a Bachelor's degree in her field. They said she would be better off getting an additional degree.

And so this was how she came to enroll in a Master's in Fine Arts program in Fiction Writing. Unfortunately, when she arrived, she was all out of story ideas. The creative fires in her mind had completely burned out and she did not have another story in her. Which was quite unfortunate, as she was expected to write another novel in order to graduate. These stories, vignettes, and memoirs are all that remains of that ill-fated journey cut short by a debilitating bout of writer's block.

Hers is a land of forestalled hopes, a city of hijacked dreams, a place where best-laid plans get crushed by the weight of other people's expectations. Staring into this void and longing for the abyss, she feels nothing but nausea and despair. Her face registers nothing but ennui and regret. She is the Tragedienne.

©2008 Tiffany Gholar

featured in the December 12, 2008 Just Write Blog Carnival