“Everything Strange and Unknown” by Joe Meno – selection #33 of Deal Me “IN” 2016

The Card: ♥3♥ Three of Hearts

The Suit: For 2016, Hearts is my suit for “Stories from Indiana magazines and Literary Journals”

The Selection: “Everything Strange and Unknown” from “Booth” a journal published by Butler University in Indianapolis. (this story is from October 2015)  You can read the story online at http://booth.butler.edu/2015/10/09/everything-strange-and-unknown/

The Author: Joe Meno (picture from Wikipedia) is based out of Chicago, visit http://www.joemeno.com/ for more info on his writing.


img_6202What is Deal Me “IN” 2016? I’m glad you asked! Before the start of each year, I come up with a list of 52 stories to read and assign each of them to a playing card in a standard deck. Each week, I draw a card, and that is the story I read. By the end of the year (52 weeks), I’m done, and ready to start a fresh deck. (For a more detailed explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up post. For a look at my deck of cards/storylegacy project seal of approval 2roster click here.) Since 2016 is my home state’s bicentennial, in this year’s edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection” of some kind. Deal Me “IN” is also now officially endorsed as a “Legacy Project” by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission.


Everything Strange and Unknown

“Everything becomes hilarious after my wife, Samantha, says she’s in love with a ping-pong player. Suddenly, everything seems like a joke.”

This story is the first person narrative of Paul, a young man whose wife – as you know from the quotation above – has left him for a “ping-pong” player.  Not even a “table tennis” player, as practitioners of that game as a sport prefer to be called. The reader also quickly learns how clueless Paul is now that his wife has left him. For instance, he tells us he has “three or four” kids (what?!  which is it?) and that “The hardest thing is their schedules. All these children have these places to go, at these different times of the day.  Some of them go to school, some don’t, but who can keep track?  Let’s be honest; mistakes have been made.”

After a bit, it seems Paul may actually “find love again” when he meets one of his kids’ music teacher, Nicole. Frankly, she’s not that much more on the ball than he is. She has delusions of grandeur involving starting her own business as an entertainer at children’s parties – specifically for children who are afraid of clowns, and the extent of her preparation has been to have 1,000 business cards printed. Somehow the two hit it off and go on an absurdly funny date.

Well, there’s not a lot more to this very short story than Paul’s  painful-to-read attempts to adjust to his new life. And Nicole, in my opinion, is probably his best shot at finding love again, but he’s well on his way to blowing that by the time the story ends.


♫ Personal Notes:  You don’t get too many opportunities to see serious table tennis on television, but the recent Olympiad was one of those rare times, and I did catch a little of it.  Also, my dad was serious player and even had a rating at one time in the USTTA.  Growing up, we had a “ping pong” table in the basement, and later a folding one we kept in the garage and periodically wheeled out into the back yard. My brothers and I had many spirited competitions, but the most memorable games to me were the doubles matches we’d play against my mom and dad.  Mom wasn’t as serious a player as the rest of us, and with my dad being clearly better than ALL of us, those teams made a doubles match a fairly even contest. Although the story above might not have been my favorite of this year’s Deal Me “IN” challenge, I am thankful that it led me to resurrect these memories of playing table tennis in the back yard growing up. 🙂

As my 2016 Deal Me In entries have gone so far, this may be the funniest one yet (though, honestly, I think this has been the only one thus far for which that was the primary intent. Vonnegut’s “Next Door” and Marian Allen’s “It Came from Burr County” are two others that come to mind that have made me laugh. :-). This was also the last of my 2016 stories coming from  Butler’s “Booth” journal.

What are some funny short stories that YOU have read lately?