Death by Christmas


DEATH BY CHRISTMAS: A New Year’s Tragedy in Two Insectile Acts


Act I. Christmas Eve. The curtain comes up on two young female mosquitoes, in pajamas, yawning and stretching.

“What’s going on with the weather?”

“What’s going on with the calendar?”

“Christmas Eve! When has the weather ever been warm enough to wake us up on Christmas Eve?”

“Can this be right?” (She flicks a wall thermometer with her fingernail, which is painted — of course — blood red.) “This says 70.”


“Well, let’s see, Sylvie. If it’s 70 Celsius, it’s 158 Fahrenheit. I don’t think it’s that warm.”

“Haha. Yer killin’ me.”

“I don’t have to kill you, honey. We’ll both be dead in six weeks.”

“You’re right. What a lifespan.”

“What a life! Less than 50 degrees, we’re sleeping. More than 50 degrees, we’re laying eggs every three days.”

“Yeah. To tell you the truth, Delia, I feel cheated. Other species keep making babies, babies, babies. Look at winter moths! But then there’s us mosquitoes. Nature cuts us off after 300, 400, maybe 500 eggs max.”

“Well, at least we get to see the world. Most mosquitoes spend their whole lives within a single square mile of their birth. But we’re marsh mosquitoes. We’re special. We can travel 40 miles over the course of our lifetime! Even a country skeeter from Rowley can see the big city!”

“Well, waddaya say we get out of these PJs and go suck some blood.”

“Yup. Market Street, maybe? Last-minute shoppers?”

“Yeah. Or catch some Episcopalians after their Christmas Eve pageant. They get stranded waiting to cross traffic on County Street on their way to the parking lot. You can get a neck or a wrist before they know what hit ’em.”

“Whatever. Nobody’s going to be looking out for mosquitoes on December 24th.”

“True. Hey, Delia, let’s try Shaw’s. Anybody who waited this long to buy stuff for Christmas dinner deserves to get poked.”


* * *

Act II. Five nights later. One mosquito is in a big hospital bed under an enormous pile of covers; the other is standing by, looking grave.

“I’m not gonna make it, honey.”

“Aw, come on, hang in there, Sylvie. Mosquitoes that make it into hibernation mode last until spring!”

“The weather turned on us. Wasn’t it 70 degrees last week? Now it’s so cold, my proboscis is chattering. I didn’t even know a proboscis could chatter.”

“I’ll find us a warmer hole in the ground in the morning.”

“Forget it, Delia. It’s too late for me. Save yourself.”

“It breaks my heart to see you giving up like this.” (She presses a button to call the nurse.)

“I’ve lived a long life. All eight weeks of it. I’ve done my part. My 500 eggs are laid. They’re beautiful. Tough little eggs. They’ll last all winter long, and come that first warm day in April, they’ll hatch. Even sooner, if another freakish heat wave hits: 250 little Sylvies, 250 little Sylvesters.” (She coughs weakly.)

(sensing the end is near, trying to bring some comfort) “Where did you leave your little ones, honey?”

“Outer Linebrook.” (She smiles evilly.) “Between the floorboards under some old fool’s screen porch.” (She laughs.) “Thinks he’s so smart, putting in screens. He’ll have more skeeters inside than out!” (Her laughter dissolves into coughing again.)

“Easy, there.” (patting three of her six shoulders) “Take it easy, Sylvie.” (She presses the nurse’s button again.)

“How cold is it, anyway?”

“Twenty-something.” (She pauses.) “Fahrenheit.”

“I would have liked to see 2016.”

“Stop talking like that.”

“Would have liked to see my children buzzing around all those backyard barbecues, making all those humans yelp and gyrate, running inside and slamming doors.”

“You will, Sylvie. You will.”

“Nice try, friend.”

“You will! At least in heaven!”

“No.” (She closes her eyes and sighs deeply.) “In heaven, nobody has veins.”

(taken aback) “Really? (She pauses to ponder this.) “Then I’m not going!”

(She looks at Sylvie. Sylvie isn’t breathing. Delia, a tear in her eye, sadly reaches over with four of her arms and slowly pulls the sheet up over Sylvie’s proboscis, making a sort of tent over the body.)

(A ladybug in a nurse’s uniform enters.)

“Oh. Are you playing a summer-camp game? Or——?”

(Delia glares at the nurse.)

“Too late, huh? Sorry.” (She shrugs and pulls the clipboard off its peg at the foot of the bed.) “Cold snaps are hell, ain’t they?”

(The scene darkens until there’s only a solitary, faint blue light on the tent-shaped bed sheet, a triangle of hope pointing heavenward in the midst of winter’s despair. Curtain.)



Doug Brendel, of outer Linebrook Road, is a struggling playwright, and you can see why. Follow him by clicking the “Follow” button.


Sweetheart of a Snarl


Tweets from the road — 140-character limit enforced by Twitter:

Driving east on Central St, toward 5 Corners.

Approaching 5 Corners.

Here comes 5 Corners.

Oh Lord, it’s 5 Corners.

5 Corners!

I’ve heard about 5 Corners. 5 Corners is notorious.

There’s no way to get thru 5 Corners.

Well maybe there’s a way to get thru 5 Corners, but there’s no way to get thru 5 Corners w/o writing/rewriting some traffic laws on the fly.

“Right of way.” “Right of way.” Repeat to self, approaching 5 Corners: “Right of way.” It’s the law. Say it again: “Right of way.”

Wait. I got that wrong. I forgot something. This is New England. You don’t have to know traffic law. You just have to be nice.

Not just nice. You have to be nicer. Nicer than the other driver.

Nice-looking lady in brown Volvo stationwagon trying to turn left onto Central from Market Street. What will she do if I don’t help her?

OK, I slowed down to let her in. Feeling good about myself.

Nice-looking lady in brown Volvo stationwagon noses halfway out into Central St. Didn’t quite decide to go ahead & make her left turn, tho.

Nice-looking lady in brown Volvo stationwagon looking left, looking right, traffic slowing in both directions, waiting for her to turn.

Nice-looking lady can’t seem to decide to go ahead and make her left turn.

Red Ford pickup truck heading toward me from S. Main Street stopping so nice-looking lady in brown Volvo stationwagon can make turn.

Silver VW Beetle convertible trying to get off N. Main Street turning right onto Central but held up by nice-looking lady in brown etc.

Traffic backing up on Market Street behind nice-looking lady in brown Volvo stationwagon.

Traffic backing up behind red Ford pickup truck on S. Main Street.

Traffic backing up behind silver VW Beetle convertible on N. Main Street.

Traffic backing up behind me on Central Street.

Traffic flowing north no prob on Market St, turning right onto S. Main Street — no, wait. Gray Honda Accord stopping to look at traffic jam.

Traffic backing up behind gray Honda Accord on Market Street.

Nice-looking lady in brown Volvo stationwagon now signaling red Ford pickup to go ahead before she makes her turn.

Red Ford pickup driver’s beard seems to be longer than when I first saw him.

Driver of red Ford pickup now signaling nice-looking lady in brown Volvo stationwagon to go ahead and make her turn.

Nice-looking lady in brown Volvo stationwagon now signaling somewhat more aggressively to red Ford pickup to go ahead.

Driver of red Ford pickup now also signaling more aggressively. Appears to be waving black ring box.

Nice-looking lady in brown Volvo stationwagon seems to have “look of love light in her eyes.”

Driver of silver VW Beetle convertible appears to be lighting cigarette, yawning.

Is gray Honda rusting? Or just my imagination?

Nice-looking lady in brown Volvo stationwagon still signaling driver of red Ford pickup. Appears to be saying “yes.”

Driver of gray Honda on Market Street applauding driver of red Ford pickup.

Nice-looking lady in brown Volvo stationwagon seems to be signaling “thank you” to gray Honda on Market Street.

Driver of silver VW Beetle convertible stubbing out cigarette, appears to be scrolling through smartphone apps.

Driver of red Ford pickup receiving toasts from various pedestrians.

Nice-looking lady in brown Volvo stationwagon trying on various wedding veils.

Silver VW Beetle convertible phoning an order to Ipswich House of Pizza.

Nice-looking lady in brown Volvo stationwagon chooses the “Juliet bandeau.”

White SUV three vehicles back on S. Main Street honks horn. Drivers on Central, North Main, and Market all give dirty looks.

Hope nice-looking lady in brown Volvo stationwagon, driver of red Ford pickup will be very happy together.

So glad I slowed to let her in, rather than ramming her to teach her a lesson about right-of-way! Starting to get this New England thing!

Gray Honda, silver VW Beetle convertible appear to be arranging neighborhood block party. Can’t wait!



Doug Brendel lived for some time on outer Linebrook Road, but can currently be found standing in traffic approaching Five Corners. Follow him by clicking “Follow” now.


But Only God Can Approve a Tree


I can’t attend Monday evening’s final public hearing on the controversial Rick Silverman tree sculpture, but based on what I’ve heard around town, I don’t think the public has actually heard everybody’s objections to the sculpture’s placement on the South Green.

Here are a few that I bet won’t come out in the hearing, but which seem to me to be worth considering:

  1. Putting this work of art on the South Green will force Public Works lawnmower operators to diverge from their historic mowing patterns.
  2. It honors artists, and the best artists in history were scorned or at least ignored. Think Van Gogh. Honoring our artists could ruin their work.
  3. It’s a sculpture of a tree. It dishonors our forefathers, who in their wisdom cut down all the trees to make the South Green in the first place.
  4. It will make Ipswich even more beautiful, and if Ipswich gets any more beautiful, people’s heads will explode.
  5. Approvals by the Board of Selectmen, the Historical Commission, and the Chief of Police are by no means enough. As a tree, this work of art should not go up at this location without the approval of the Shade Tree Beautification Committee, and possibly the Agricultural Commission. It’s a cultural artifact; was the Ipswich Cultural Council consulted? Public Works should be in there someplace too, and probably Cemeteries & Parks. And don’t forget the Shellfish Subcommittee.
  6. Every dog in Ipswich is going to want to use the most beautiful tree in town.
  7. Rick Silverman hasn’t been in Ipswich long enough to be mistreated so fleetingly. For a good deed of this magnitude, the abuse should continue at least another decade.
  8. People who live adjacent to the South Green will have to look at a work of breathtaking beauty, and some of them already have breathing problems.
  9. The sculpture will partially obscure some abutters’ views of the traffic on 1A, diminishing their enjoyment of a traditional New England pastime.
  10. A spectacular work of art donated to the Town of Ipswich can only make adjacent towns even more jealous of us, heightening our risk of vigilante vandalism by gallery owners from Essex.
  11. The tree is too small. It should be in proportion to the big dog sculpture that used to be there.
  12. People may stand around and admire the sculpture, which will be a violation of loitering laws, and we don’t have enough police officers left to meet such a law enforcement crisis.
  13. The tree sculpture may become such a tourist attraction that the U.S. Department of Transportation will reroute Interstate 95 up 1A, with an official “scenic view” rest stop at the South Green, complete with vending machines and nicely appointed bathrooms, which will cut into the Town’s historic use of Porta-Potties, thereby undermining an important sector of the North Shore economy.
  14. Sunlight glinting off the beautiful gold of the sculpture could temporarily blind drivers on County Street, forcing them to slow down and strain to see well, reducing the number of automobile accidents at County & Poplar to something less than one a week, adversely affecting our car repair and auto insurance industries.
  15. We just cut down the Old Elm Tree how long ago? It seems disrespectful to put up a fancy new tree without a proper grieving period.


Doug Brendel avoids controversy in his home on outer Linebrook. Follow him from afar by clicking “Follow.”


A fun Brendel Christmas



It’s becoming a beloved Christmastime tradition: Local author and actor Doug Brendel will present two original holiday stories at a free event on Friday, December 18th, at 7 p.m., at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 59 Main St. in Essex, MA.

“Dirty” is the amusing, heartwarming story of the first Christmas told from the perspective of an unsophisticated shepherd.

“The Day After Christmas” is a story in rhyme about an old man who works in “Refunds & Complaints.”

This year’s event will also feature a third story, “Christmas, Inc.”, a whimsical look at Santa’s own struggles with the season’s commercialism.

Voluntary donations will be received for Family Promise, an interfaith group dedicated to helping homeless families on the North Shore.

For more information, contact Doug via


Ipswich Thanketh Thee


Dear Lord, we bow our heads as we prepare to partake of this bounty, this undeserved and literally unexpected plenteousness — I’m referring, of course, to this awesome turkey, which as You know (since You know everything, if I understand correctly) we thought we were going to buy at Marini, but then that flock of wild ones, who usually parade all over the Crane estate, for some unknown reason came strutting down into town, and I guess I wasn’t watching the road, or maybe I was doing 40 in a 25 mph zone — I don’t think that’s a sin, is it? It’s just what Ipswich drivers do. Anyway, in that split-second, it simply wasn’t possible to avoid all those turkeys, and that one unlucky one was no match for the front bumper of my Volvo, I tell ya. That bird got bumpered right up into the air and dropped on our moon-roof like a gift. The turkey never felt any pain, I am sure, and for this, we are thankful. Also for the free meat. We had never plucked a turkey before, but we looked it up on YouTube, and we made it a family project, and except for the beheading, when Norman passed out and knocked Paula’s iPhone out of her hand, which ruined the video, it was a great experience. For which we are also thankful.

We also want to express our gratitude for the many blessings you have bestowed upon us over the course of this whole year, including our not having any run-ins with the Building Inspector, which we recognize could only happen by You helping us not get caught building that little room out there in the garage. I think Grandma is going to be very happy, provided the space heater doesn’t go all sparky again. So we would also ask You to help Grandma catch the fire in time again. Thank You.

You have blessed us more than we can say, Lord, by arranging things so that our family would come to live in this lovely little town. We realize that many folks around the world don’t have the conveniences and opportunities and advantages that we have, living here in Ipswich as we do. We never have to worry about finding a sub sandwich, or someplace to have our hair done, or an architect. We have complete peace of mind. Also, Lord, we want You to know, we never take for granted the constant, reassuring sense of safety and security that we enjoy here, thanks to the diligence of all the Ipswich police officers still on the force.

Thank You, Lord, for helping us all year long to dodge the worst of the potholes on Linebrook Road without crossing the center line into oncoming traffic, which we clearly recognize as a supernatural miracle of Your grace because it defies the laws of physics. We also thank you for the $3 million voted by the majority for that total redo on Linebrook, and we humbly ask that you send your angels with swords of blazing fire and strike the Town authorities with boils and leprosy to encourage them to get the work going, before another cyclist breaks a tooth jouncing along the shoulder.

And now, as we begin this glorious meal, we ask only two things: first, that you make us worthy of such gifts as You have seen fit to grant to us; and second, that the cranberries won’t make us sick, since the folks we bought them from sort of dodged the Food Inspector.

We lift a toast to the Board of Selectmen, who grant our liquor licenses and bring us so much happiness. Amen.