My father was terrible at gifts. Terrible at receiving them. You would break your back to find the most amazing, perfect gift ever, he would open it, pause, say, “Thank you!”, put it down, and never speak of it again. Over the years I bought him, among other things, a beautiful, strange coffee table book about Mexican churches, a silver wall hanging with a scroll of paper for note-taking, a wooden 3D puzzle in the shape of a gondola, a tiny statue of Molly Malone, which was the first song he’d learned and partly the inspiration for my name. The only gift I ever bought that I can confirm he used was a make-your-own-root beer kit. It was possibly the strongest root beer ever made. READ MORE
Alpacas: Eating stacks of Fig Newtons that equal them in height. READ MORE
Welcome to mid-April; or, that dark chasm of working days that stretches on with no holidays until Memorial Day. Joy! In that spirit, I've been hitting the Wikipedia hard lately, and these are the most gruesome sentences I could find. I consider it a public service to share them. I'm sorry. READ MORE
"The Fall of the House of Bedlam" READ MORE
All by Yourself? You Know There’s a Reason
Because I’m Worth It: How to Get Your Man to Realize You are a Disney Princess and Deserve to Be Treated as Such
Cuttings: Creative and Therapeutic Uses for the Numerous Heads of Ex-Boyfriends That You Cut Out of Photographs After They Dumped You
Do You Want to Be Rich? Stealing is Easier than You Think!
Equus in Pink: Getting to the Root of Little Girls and Their Somewhat Disturbing Love of Horses
Fix You: Self-Healing through the Ballads of Coldplay
Give Me an A!: How to Be Your Own Cheerleader (Includes Uniform Options, Basic to Advanced Cheers, and Easy-to-Learn Choreography)
Heaðufremmende Cásus (Fighting Words): How to Stun Your Enemies and Build Self-Confidence by Learning Old English
It’s Not You, It’s —No, Wait, It’s You. It’s Definitely You
Just the Way You Are: Face It, It’s Pretty BadREAD MORE
All Buttoned Up: It's sexy to have sex with your clothes still on, so the more clothes you have on, the sexier the sex. Both of you put on full-on snowsuits, and boy, will it be hot. READ MORE
Inhabitants: Children who play more than two hours of video games per day.
Punishment: Chained by the foot to a player piano in a nickelodeon, playing a game of Tiddlywinks in which the winks never run out. Buster Keaton answers all questions with a blank stare.
Bonfire of the Manatees
Inhabitants: People who kill animals as a leisure activity.
Punishment: Hundreds of ghostly animals, led by Christopher Lee, dress the offender head to toe in a fluorescent orange leopard print hunting outfit, tie them up and throw them in a bonfire, then dance around it, Wicker Man-style.
Call Me Maybe, or Suffer the Consequences
Inhabitants: The low, low people who promise repeatedly that they will call at a certain time, and yet somehow they always “forget."
Punishment: They will have their butt glued to a stool in a muggy phone booth with a phone receiver surgically attached to the side of their face, while they eat their way through a 1989 New York Yellow Pages, one page at a time.
Death in Detroit
Inhabitants: Grown people attracted to other people solely on the basis of youth and good looks.
Punishment: The imprisoned are trapped in a nightmarish, decaying Detroit full of fun house mirrors, doomed to forever chase laughing, beautiful young things around in circles to a soundtrack by Eminem.
Inhabitants: High school English teachers who make their students read The Scarlet Letter.
Punishment: Teachers are forced to take on the role of Hester Prynne. Gary Oldman plays Reverend Dimmesdale, but Oldman has decided to play the part of Norman Stansfield from The Professional instead. The teachers are pilloried and Oldman/Stansfield brands their ankles with little anklets of “A”s while shouting “Eeeeevvvverrrryyyyyoooooonnnnneee!!”
Inhabitants: Friends who “didn’t have the chance to go to the ATM” before meeting you at a bar they know full well is cash only.
Punishment: A running game of 1-2-3 British Bulldog played in a bar, wherein the punished must attempt to run a gauntlet of wily street children (who bite) without having their pockets picked. When they inevitably reach the other side of the bar with no money, they must consume multiple pitchers of centuries-old Kool-Aid and run back the other way. There is no public restroom.
Inhabitants: Co-workers who discuss far-too-personal matters on their work phones in overly loud voices.
Punishment: This level is situated in a large, elegantly appointed mansion populated with an audience of society matrons. The punished must bench-press the matron’s husbands while reciting aloud the cringiest bits of Fifty Shades of Gray.
Home for the Chronically Depressed
Inhabitants: Anyone who has ever told a clinically depressed friend or relation to “cheer up.”
Punishment: A very cheerful doctor indeed subjects the ‘patient’ to the Giles Corey Salem Witch Trial treatment: pressing. The patient will be laid on the floor underneath a wooden plank and then have rocks and boulders placed on top of it until their insides get squishy. The doctor sings “MmmBop”.
Inhabitants: Those who insist that they have no natural body odor and therefore do not require deodorant, even on a New York City subway platform in July.
Punishment: Eternal imprisonment in a Japanese capsule hotel, into which is pumped an incense combining whichever smells the individual hated most in life, i.e. rotting garbage, overpoweringly cheap cologne, three-day-old steamed broccoli, singed hair, three-day-old diapers, actual incense, etc.
J. Lo’s Eternal Day Spa
Inhabitants: Women who put on heavily scented hand cream and apply full faces of makeup in public places.
Punishment: The entire spa is a sauna where beefy masseuses, all named Helga, pummel the offenders with a “massage”, the end of which consists of being locked in a flotation tank. Instead of salt water, the tank is filled with 20 gallons of Glow, Miami Glow, Love at First Glow, and Glow after Dark. “Jenny from the Block” plays on a loop.
Kung Pao Chicken
Inhabitants: That man in the SUV that I saw hit the Chinese delivery guy on his bike, and who then tried to act like he wasn’t going too fast and it was all the delivery guy’s fault. (It wasn’t.)
Punishment: The offender, now on a Big Wheels, has to dodge a fleet of Formula 1 drivers in monster trucks with no headlights. The Formula 1 drivers will not be trying to dodge him. This will take place in the dark.
Inhabitants: Anyone who has tried to justify the prices at LuluLemon.
Punishment: In a cramped yoga studio with harsh overhead lighting and no windows, the guilty must stay in an eternal downward dog wearing the recalled see-through yoga pants, while instructors with better bodies batter them about the head with Ayn Rand paperbacks.
Madeleine Albright's Special Place
Inhabitants: The proverbial women who do not help other women.
Punishment: Forced to wander through a very elegant cocktail party full of male models, each woman is garbed in a pristine white dress, on the second day of her period, desperately, fruitlessly searching for someone who has a tampon.
Nobody Nothing Nowhere Nohow
Inhabitants: People who have to have the last word on every topic.
Punishment: They are outfitted in a spacesuit and sent off in a rocket, much to their pleasure. When they go on a spacewalk, they realize that they are Poole and this is 2001: A Space Odyssey and Hal is severing the oxygen hose and it’s time to drift alone in space for all eternity.
Inhabitants: Republican lawmakers who tried to stop Wendy Davis’ filibuster.
Punishment: Repeatedly dunked in a tank of ultrasound gel without being first told that it’s going to feel a little cold. Their brains are then removed through their noses with hooks, ala Egyptian mummies.
Inhabitants: Anyone who has ever organized a large parade.
Punishment: Trapped on an endlessly circling float in blazing heat and sunshine, their heads are strapped down on massive stereos, heavy on the bass, that play only "Turn the Beat Around" as drum majors pelt them with rotten ears of roasted corn.
Qirquit of Broken Qreams
Inhabitants: Bartenders who knowingly serve bad or weak drinks.
Punishment: The guilty cyqle the Tour de Franqe ad infinitum, parqhed with a relentless thirst. Every 65 miles a beautiful woman materializes holding a beverage, which the cyqlists gratefully gulp down, realizing too late that it’s a qhilled Qream qocktail, topped with a dollop of Bath and Body Works lotion.
Inhabitants: Saleswomen at snotty shops with two racks of overpriced clothes who try to make you feel bad by bringing you bigger sizes than you really need.
Punishment: All the loveliest creatures from mythology, naiads, dryads, sylphs, etc., prance about clad in little wisps of cloud while the saleswomen, dressed in gray sweatsuits, stand on industrial scales that continually creak and groan and now and then say “Ouch!” in a booming, echoing voice.
Siren Songbird Sing-a-long
Inhabitants: Police/firemen who play their vehicle sirens like they are DJs.
Punishment: Crows as big as people caw constantly through megaphones, just that one caw, over and over. Anyone who is not constantly cawing along will have his liver nibbled out a la Prometheus, every day, over and over.
Train to Perdition
Inhabitants: Public transport space-hoggers.
Punishment: A constant search for a seat on a crowded, un-air-conditioned train that slams on the brakes every two minutes. The lone seat, when finally discovered, is coated in boiling hot jam. At the last stop everyone else gets out and a new crowd gets on, and the whole thing starts over in the other direction.
Under the Boardwalk
Inhabitants: Men who like to position themselves strategically so as to better look up women’s skirts.
Punishment: The eternal damnation of a 110-degree day, trapped under a rotting boardwalk with gaps between the wooden slats. The boardwalk is frequented by a roving pack of Great Danes, horses, and elephants fed on a diet consisting solely of espresso and bran muffins.
Inhabitants: All the teenagers that helped make the Twilight series popular.
Punishment: Somewhat akin to the myth of Echo, they can only respond to questions with exact lines from the book, grammatical vagaries and all. In addition, their skin is coated with Wet n'Wild sparkle polish, so they glitter and flake at the same time.
Wrath of Spawn
Inhabitants: People who post embarrassing pictures of their school-age children on Facebook, oblivious to the feelings of said children.
Punishment: It’s that dream where you’re naked in front of everyone at your high school, except your audience is actually just clones of the one person you had a huge, desperate crush on. It’s that person, multiplied by 400.
X Marks the Spot
Inhabitants: Receptionists at specialist doctor’s offices who don’t take into account the fact that many of the patients are actually quite frightened and worried, and instead of being compassionate and competent, they loudly discuss evening plans, swear, and generally make things worse.
Punishment: Without the benefit of the lead apron, the guilty must lay on a table with a radioactive X taped across their belly buttons, and they are then x-rayed so aggressively that the X is actually burned into their tummy. There is xylophone music playing.
Inhabitants: Men who leave toilet seats up.
Punishment: Housed in individual cubicles modeled on a now-defunct Upper West Side dive bar named Yogi's where the toilet often just emptied itself onto the floor, one wrist is attached to the chain on the wall where the toilet paper is kept, and they must lick the seat clean.
Inhabitants: Any HR representative who deals with repeated allegations of sexual harassment with a warning.
Punishment: Condemned to a sprawling open plan office, the offenders will perform data entry into endless Excel spreadsheets, while being constantly slapped on the wrist. By dragons.
Previously: A to Z: Cocktails That Live Up to their Names
Molly Pohlig lives in Brooklyn and works in publishing. She does not own a hedgehog, but is hoping this situation will be rectified soon. She can also be found at Irish lady website www.fanny.ie.