Booby Trapped by Courtney Mehlhaff

This past winter, I was sidelined slightly by a minor surgery that left me unable to do any strenuous activity for a few weeks. So when Mother Nature decided that would be the perfect time to dump a foot of snow on my corner lot every three days, I reached out to one of my friends, who happens to be my neighbor and also happens to have two young sons who were up to the task.

The first time they came over to tackle the wintry mess, I answered the door still in my pajamas and quite exhausted.

“How are you feeling?” was the first question from the 12-year-old, possibly the most empathetic kid I’ve ever met.

I said I was doing okay and gave them a few quick instructions. I then watched through the kitchen window as they dove in with the energy of youth but absolutely no efficient plan of attack, taking a break halfway through to both draw in the snow and eat it.

When they were finished, I invited them in for hot chocolate and cookies right before dinner, because I’m a responsible adult.

As they sipped their cocoa, I could tell the 12-year-old was mulling something over.

“So . . . what exactly did you have surgery on?” he finally ventured, and then thought better of it. “Unless it’s too personal.”

“Well,” I said, not quite knowing how to broach the somewhat delicate subject of a benign papilloma in a breast duct, “To be honest, it is a little hard to explain.”

He nodded with the wisdom of the oldest sages. “It’s too personal.”

Another minute passed, during which more cocoa disappeared and his mind was still working overtime.

“But . . . if you had to say what area of your body you had surgery on, what would it be?”

At that point, I knew I wasn’t getting out of this conversation. So I told him that the general area was my chest. This seemed to satisfy his curiosity, and I sent them on their way shortly after.

Looking back, I’m not sure why I didn’t think they could handle the information. After all, they’re the kids I inadvertently taught about the concept of “sideboob.”

“Sickboob” probably wouldn’t have been too much of a leap.

Throw-Down by Courtney Mehlhaff

I’d like to think these are the kinds of things that happen to every homeowner, but I think it’s more likely that they only happen to me.

One morning, I had to explain to my coworkers that I was late for two reasons. First, when I stepped into my porch on my way out the door, I saw a squirrel fighting a cardinal in my backyard. So of course I’m going to stick around to see how that shit ends. Who walks away from a battle like that? Not this girl.

Second — following the fracas, which the cardinal won, by the way — I accidentally threw my car keys into my recycling bin when I hefted my bag of plastic over the side.

But because this is an enormous bin, I couldn’t just reach in and grab them off the bottom. I had to dump out the bin, turn it on its side, and crawl all the way into it to retrieve them. Oh, the self-created indignity of it all.

So I arrived at work still dusting myself off and scrubbing out smudges, but having been thoroughly entertained by two of God’s very, very angry woodland creatures . . . and of course my own carelessness in the pursuit of a greener planet.

Nursery Crime by Courtney Mehlhaff

I was running errands today and decided to take a stroll through a local garden center.

As I stood checking out some plants, I noticed a woman down the aisle from me who was straining to reach some pots on the very top shelf. She was probably about my age, late 30s/early 40s.

“Would you like some help with that?” I offered. “I have very long arms.”

“Oh, yes,” she replied, “Just when I needed someone, you appear.”

So I lifted what turned out to be an enormous container full of small perennials down to her level.

“There you go,” I smiled.

Then she said, in the creepiest sing-song way you could possibly imagine, “Thank you, mommy!”

It was like the part in a horror movie just before things go wrong, when you’re waiting for the oddball character to say something weird to kick things off and confirm your worst fears.

So I think I muttered something like, “No problem,” but I also got the hell outta there. Because even though I’m reasonably certain my life story doesn’t end with a pair of pruning shears in my chest, I’m not hanging around the hanging flowers to find out.

Honestly, Abe by Courtney Mehlhaff

A couple weeks ago, I was playing a game with my sister and some friends where we all logged into a Playstation console with our phones.

We were partway through a sort of murder mystery challenge when the following problem appeared on the TV: “If none of you pushes the button, you all survive. However, if one of you pushes the button, everyone else will die.”

I turned to my sister to strategize, “Well, obviously nobody should push the button . . .”

I was interrupted by the sound of everyone’s characters immediately dying on the screen.

“I pushed it,” my sister said, nonchalantly. Then she began laughing hysterically. “I pushed it before you even finished talking!”

Every avatar for himself, I guess. You’ll be pleased to know I exacted my revenge later that evening, when we switched to a game that required us to fill in the blanks of this statement: “Abraham Lincoln referred to having sex as ______.”

I wrote “the Ejaculation Proclamation” and I think I won at life.

Stow Your Roll by Courtney Mehlhaff

About a year ago, I went to stay with some friends for the weekend, with the goal of helping them clean out their garage. When they’d moved into their house several months before, two of the stalls had become a catch-all storage facility for any random items that didn’t have an immediate place in their new home, and they were ready to weed through the junk.

A large rented dumpster was sitting on the driveway, and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t immensely fun to chuck things into it. Actually, the whole process was fun for me, since I didn’t have to make any command decisions about what to keep and what to ditch — I’d just hold things aloft and wait for the word on whether to set it aside or throw it away.

With three of us intently focused on this project, it was only a few hours’ work. And despite the fact that it had been pouring rain all day, I was pretty impressed that I wasn’t terribly wet or dirty toward the end.

Then my friend asked if I could help him move an old carpet roll that had been sitting outside.

“Of course!” I said.

To his credit, he did ask, “Are you sure?”

Yes, I was confident I could aid him in this task. He took one end, and I took the other. It was heavy and very soggy, but doable.

What I didn’t consider was that, as we attempted to hoist it over the edge of the dumpster, he would naturally be much stronger than me. So his end of the roll would be raised much higher and quicker than mine. And all the rain that had slowly soaked into the carpet and collected in the middle would rush down the tube and drench me, like the coldest, filthiest waterfall imaginable.

As I stood there dripping dirty muck, I couldn’t find any words. I just made a shocked, sort of horrified high-pitched noise, like “EEEEEEEH!” Then I walked directly inside and threw myself into a steaming shower.

It was sheer hubris that left me sopping in muddy rainwater after what had been such a successful day. Oh, and the power of physics, which is very, very real.

Ab Fab by Courtney Mehlhaff

Last weekend, my cousin visited me with his two delightful children. When his talkative and hilarious six-year-old son wanted to explore the storage closet in the corner of my living room, I said, “Go right ahead, but there’s nothing too exciting in there.”

I walked over to find him staring at a shelf holding two five-pound hand weights.

“I lift weights sometimes,” he said.

“Oh yeah?” I replied, knowing that his parents are quite active and health conscious. “You work out?”

The kid then sat on my couch and leaned back proudly. “I have . . . one ab.”

I tried my best not to double over laughing.

“I almost have two,” he continued.

Moments later, he asked if he could try my rowing machine, which also happened to be in my living room in an attempt to combat winter laziness. His mom coached him through the motions, and then informed him he only had a minute left.

“Noooo!” he shouted. “I need more abs!”

His little sister echoed this refrain when she got on the machine moments later, and when they finished, they checked the display. Together, they had rowed 37 meters.

“We got 37 abs!” they yelled, triumphant.

Never did I think I’d be so entertained by the youthful pursuit of exercise excellence.

Humor Me by Courtney Mehlhaff

My sister and her husband are both very funny, and they crack each other up constantly, even unintentionally.

Her husband once launched into a story that he was very excited to relate and thought was absolutely hilarious. She wasn’t finding it particularly amusing, but she was enjoying his animated telling of it immensely.

After a few minutes of this entertainment, she interrupted him with a simple question.

“How much did it cost?”

His story had nothing to do with money, so he stopped short, confused. “How much did what cost?”

“Clown school,” she deadpanned.

This caught him by such surprise that he immediately burst out laughing and couldn’t stop.

In their house, the saying is true. Everyone’s a comedian.

Mix It Up by Courtney Mehlhaff

In my line of work, grammatical errors are not only essential to job security, but also cause for very geeky celebration. I can’t count the number of times my colleagues and I have had a hearty laugh over something as nerdy as a hilarious misspelling, like a report advising someone to enhance their skillet (skill set) or referring to someone repeatedly as a handsome leader (hands-on).

Not long ago, one of my coworkers was reading aloud sections of a report that contained numerous and baffling mixed metaphors. She then asked how extensive we thought her editorial changes should be to the structure of the whole document.

“I don’t know how many hours you want to bill on this,” I said. “I’d say do what you can, but don’t dive in unless it’s on fire.”

She and I both realized it at the same time.

“Oh my god! Now I’m mixing my metaphors,” I said. “What’s wrong with me?”

Our other coworker slowly spun back to his computer screen.

“Well, you know what they say. You can’t make an omelette without breaking a few hearts.”