Thursday, October 27, 2022



I love New Hampshire, but sometimes I think sadists invented the rules here.

For example, property-tax bills in my town are sent twice a year. The first one is due in June, which is okay, but the second one is due in December. And who wants to receive a bill for thousands of dollars during the Christmas-shopping season?

It’s a wonder the bills don’t say something like,  “Dear Resident…you owe us $5,220 for your half-year property taxes. Payment must be received by December 7th or you will be charged a late fee, compounded daily. Have a very merry Christmas, and I hope your friends and relatives enjoy your gifts to them from the Dollar Store!”

Same with auto inspections, which are due annually during your birthday month – and my birthday is this month.

So I took my car to the dealership for an inspection a week ago. For a change, I wasn’t expecting to hear any bad news. Why not? Because my car had been there for an engine job just four months prior, and I’ve traveled only 300 miles since then. In fact, since my last inspection a year ago, I’ve racked up a grand total of barely 1,200 miles.

I suppose you could say I don’t exactly have a thrilling or very active social life.

Anyway, at the aforementioned visit four months ago, I contracted Covid, so I felt a bit uneasy as I drove back to the dealer’s – the scene of the crime – for this inspection. But I figured I’d be in and out of there with my new inspection sticker in about 20 minutes, so armed with my mask and a bottle of hand sanitizer, I’d be safe enough.

As I handed my car key to the guy at the desk, I asked him, “By the way…did any of your employees have Covid the last time I was here four months ago?”

“Oh, yeah,” he said with a chuckle. “We all took turns.”

I was tempted to thank him for sharing, but instead I joked, “Well, I caught it while I was here, so I figure you owe me now. So don’t find anything wrong with my car, okay? 

“Okay, we’ll try,” he said. 

I took a seat in the tiny waiting room and waited. And waited some more…and then waited even more. I didn’t have to be Einstein to figure out the inspection probably wasn’t going to be the “breeze” I’d anticipated it would be.

Sure enough, the guy at the desk finally came in to talk to me. He was holding some paperwork and frowning…neither of which translated into, “You’re all set! Your new sticker is on your car and we’ll see you next October!”  

Nope. He said he was sorry but I needed engine mounts and bushings, and the total would be “roughly” $850 and the job would take at least six hours. In the meantime, he said they had no choice but to fail my inspection. That meant if I didn’t get the car repaired by the end of the month, I’d have only a 10-day grace period before I would be driving a vehicle with an expired sticker on the windshield…which most police officers have a knack for spotting from a distance of about five miles away.

As I drove home, a million thoughts raced through my mind, like which bank in my area might be the easiest to rob so I could afford to get my car repaired. I immediately nixed that idea, however. I mean, I walked into the local post office the other day and was wearing a baseball cap, sunglasses and a face mask, and the clerk looked up at me and said, “Oh, hi, Sally!” 

So I’m obviously easily recognizable by some body part other than my face.

The more I thought about the inspection, however, the more it gave me a feeling of “something just doesn’t seem right.”  I’d just had an engine job done there, so wouldn’t they have noticed the worn-out engine mounts then? I’m no mechanic by any means, but it did make me wonder.

If a doctor had told me I needed to have my spleen removed, even though I hadn't suffered any symptoms at all, I’d be sure to see another doctor for a second opinion before I agreed to go under the knife. So I decided that’s exactly what I was going to do with my car – take it to an independent mechanic, not another dealer. If he confirmed that I did need the parts I’d been told I needed, then fine, at least I’d know for certain that my car had deserved to flunk the inspection. And if it did need the work, then maybe the mechanic at least could do it more cheaply than the dealership.

One of my friends recommended her mechanic – someone she said was reliable, trustworthy and reasonably priced. Sounded good to me. So I called him and set up an appointment for the following Monday morning. I was honest and told him everything that had happened at the dealership. I didn’t leave out a thing…although after I hung up, I wondered if maybe I should have told him only to inspect my car, and then see what he might come up with on his own.

I’d never been to his garage before, and the online directions were vague, at best. The photo of the place online didn’t show a sign or any nearby buildings, either, so I knew I’d have to search a bit for it...on a busy road where the speed limit is 45 mph - which means the traffic usually does about 55. Even my friend who’d recommended the mechanic couldn’t tell me the exact location – only the general vicinity.

As I drove there on Monday morning, it began to pour so hard out, I could swear I saw animals lining up in pairs. Just what I needed when I was searching for a phantom garage. I made certain to let all of the other cars go ahead of me so no one would be riding my bumper as I searched.

Naturally, as luck would have it, the moment I reached the “general vicinity” of the place, a car zoomed up behind me as if it were competing in the Indianapolis 500. Wanting to ditch the car, I turned into the next parking lot I saw.

By then, I had only five minutes to get to my appointment, so I ran into the building that was in the lot I’d pulled into. It was a warehouse, where guys were loading steel beams onto huge dollies. I asked the first guy I came to if he knew where the garage was. He said no. I asked a second guy, who shook his head. I then wandered into an office, where a guy at a desk also had no clue about the garage's location, but he grabbed his phone and searched for me. He then said, “Well, it’s supposed to be around here somewhere.”

I’d already figured out that much on my own.

At that moment, another employee entered the office. The guy at the desk asked him if he knew where the garage was. He didn't (no big surprise there), then also took his phone out of his pocket and searched. Suddenly, he started laughing and led me over to the window in the office. 

Pointing, he said, “See that building right next door? That’s it.”

I left there thinking the guys who worked in that warehouse must pay really close attention to their jobs…and nothing else.

Anyway, I finally made it to the garage, gave the keys to the mechanic, and then sat in the waiting area and read a Cosmo magazine. I have to admit I wasn’t in the greatest of moods by then. I was soaked from the rain, chilled, and muttering under my breath that my car hated me and I should pull a “Thelma and Louise” and drive it over a cliff.

Twenty minutes passed and the mechanic came into the waiting area and said, “You’re all set.” His expression, however, told me nothing. I was thinking he’d missed his true calling as a poker player.

I felt like “dead woman walking” as I followed him out to the desk and waited to hear the laundry list of things my car needed – already knowing I wouldn't be able to afford any of them.

“That’ll be $39 for your new sticker,” he said to me.

“And then what?” I asked.

“Then nothing,” he said with a shrug. “Your car is fine – couldn’t find anything wrong with it. In fact, for its age [18 years] it’s in great shape.”

My eyes felt as wide as an owl’s and my mouth fell open. “You’re serious? My car is fine?”

He nodded. “And yes, I thoroughly checked everything the dealer said was wrong with it and saw no reason at all for it to fail the inspection.”

I honestly had to give the guy a lot of credit. He easily could have made some fast money by saying, “Yeah, you do need all of the work the dealership said you did, but I can do it for only $500,” and then tell me to drop off the car for the alleged six-hour job and not do any work on it. I would have been easy prey because I wouldn't have known the difference.

So I now have him as my new mechanic.

And I also have my new sticker, good until October of 2023.

And I won’t have to eat Ramen noodles for the next two months.

So I think my birthday just might turn out to be a good one this year. 


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Sally Breslin is an award-winning syndicated columnist who has written regularly for newspapers and magazines all of her adult life. She is the author of several novels in a variety of genres, from humor and romance to science-fiction. Contact her at:



Thursday, October 20, 2022



One of my favorite things at amusement parks is any ride that involves something haunted – a haunted house, cave, mine, castle, mansion, funhouse, etc. – it doesn’t matter which, as long as it has a good “scare” quality.

My late husband, however, was not the type of person who made an ideal partner on such rides. 

I remember our date at Salisbury Beach one night, where we went on a “haunted” ride called Witch's Castle, or something like that. We sat in a car that moved along a winding track through pitch-darkness. Now and then, a cutout figure of a ghost or monster would pop up and slide out toward us, or lights would flash. But the fake spider-webs (long threads hanging down that brushed against our faces as we passed through them) scared me more than anything else.

I screamed, frantically brushing at them, thinking they were real webs built by a colony of giant spiders that had made their way into the dark, dank old building and were breeding by the thousands in there.

A few seconds later, I felt something like fingers walking up the back of neck and then grasping me from behind. Again, I screamed.

By the time we got out of there, I was a wreck. 

“That was really scary!” I gasped to the couple we’d gone with, my friend Judy and her husband, who’d been in the car ahead of ours on the ride.

“Yeah, those spider-web things in my face made me jump!” Judy said.

“And what about the hand on the back of your neck?" I added. "How did they do that anyway? Have someone run up behind us on the track?”

Judy and her husband just stared blankly at me.

“What hand on your neck are you talking about?” she asked. "I didn't feel anything like that."

That’s when my husband started laughing. “That was my hand you felt," he said. "I thought I’d add a little more excitement to the ride." 

Even worse was when we went through the haunted mansion at Funtown USA in Maine. Back then, employees in scary costumes would hide in dark corners or behind doors and jump out at unsuspecting visitors, which induced a lot of screaming.

As my husband and I were walking through the eerie place, he happened to catch a glimpse of one of the costumed characters up ahead, moving into position behind a panel so he could scare us.

My husband spotted an open space near him and whispered to me, “You move on ahead and I’ll meet up with you in a second.”

Before I could ask him why, he disappeared.

I didn’t want to walk around the next corner alone, but I figured I didn’t want to stand in one spot either, so I rushed forward. Just as I was about to reach the spot where the creepy-looking employee was going to jump out in front of me, my husband crept up next to him and shouted, “BOO!”

The poor guy nearly needed CPR.


My husband dissolved into laughter while I wished I could have dissolved into thin air, I was so embarrassed. Luckily, the employee had a good sense of humor, or I might have been bailing my husband out of the local jail.

But the best haunted house we ever went through was the one held every Halloween in Bow, New Hampshire. In fact, we were so impressed after our first visit, we vowed it would become one of our annual Halloween rituals. Not only was it worth every penny of the admission fee, the proceeds also went to the Bow Rescue Squad, which was a worthy cause. 

Someone’s large basement in a house located on a quiet road in Bow was transformed into a true haunted house, guaranteed to scare the stuffing out of anyone who dared to enter. They even posted a sign warning visitors who had heart problems to enter at their own risk.

I thought the sign was a joke, a publicity stunt…but believe me, it wasn’t.

The line of people usually extended six abreast the length of the long driveway, but there never was any boredom while waiting to get inside. Costumed characters would creep up behind unsuspecting guests waiting in line and scare them. There also was entertainment, such as a platform set up outside where a screaming guy repeatedly would be led to the guillotine and get his head chopped off. The head then would land with a thud in a basket below. It was a great special effect.

Each year, the house had a different theme, from “Mad Doctor” to “Zombie Butcher.”

As my husband and I walked through each room, I clung to him as if I were made of Saran Wrap. I still can picture the butcher’s room where only half a woman was lying on a table covered with bloody entrails, as the butcher used a hatchet and a saw on her and she screamed in terror. Blood splattered everywhere as he worked.

In another room, the walls were covered with a psychedelic wallpaper and contained some scary-looking dolls. Everyone was so busy staring at the creepy dolls, expecting one of them to jump up and attack, we never noticed when the wallpaper began to come to life!  Characters dressed and painted in the exact pattern of the wallpaper, so they were completely camouflaged, suddenly leapt out at us. I can honestly say I came very close to needing a change of underwear at that point. Even my husband, the jokester, jumped a few inches 

It was fun to watch the people as they exited the basement. Some were laughing, others were shaking and in tears, and a few women even looked as if they might actually need to be revived by the members of the rescue squad.

Yep, it was a great place.

When an announcement was made that the haunted house was going to be discontinued, my husband and I were heartbroken. Just like that, our annual Halloween tradition was gone, cruelly snatched away from us. We felt as if we’d lost a good friend. 

Right about that same time, a place called Spooky World debuted. It was advertised as the best haunted adventure anywhere, with makeup, sets and costumes designed by Hollywood professionals.

My husband and I were excited and our expectations were high as we drove nearly two hours to Worcester, Mass., where Spooky World first was located. We even were hoping the crew of such movies as “The Exorcist” might have worked on the project.

After the long drive to Spooky World, we then had to wait in line for over three hours to get in, on one of the coldest October nights in years. I had no feeling in my fingers or face for two days afterwards.

Was it worth it? All I can say is sorry, “Hollywood professionals,” you didn’t even come close to Bow, New Hampshire’s haunted house.

Every Halloween, I still reminisce about our annual excursion to Bow, and remember how my heart would pound like crazy every time I walked through that haunted house. I sure do miss those days.

If the house were to make a comeback now and I went to visit it again, I honestly would expect my husband’s ghost to pop out at me from that psychedelic wallpaper.

After all, the place just wouldn’t be the same if I went in there without him (and I think he'd really be in his glory, scaring people).

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Sally Breslin is an award-winning syndicated columnist who has written regularly for newspapers and magazines all of her adult life. She is the author of several novels in a variety of genres, from humor and romance to science-fiction. Contact her at:




Thursday, October 13, 2022


Every time I drive through Bear Brook State Park and see people fishing, I think of my dad, who practically was addicted to the sport.

I know my dad would have loved to have spawned (pun intended) a son who was as passionate about fishing as he was, but unfortunately, he got stuck with me. I, however, was determined to prove to him that girls could catch fish just as well as boys could, so I often accompanied my father on his fishing trips. But even though I spent countless hours giving fishing my best shot, I never really got the hang of it.

Aside from all of the three-inch “kibbies,” as my dad called them, I, along with my trusty bamboo fishing pole, used to hook at Lake Massabesic every summer, my biggest catch usually was a tree branch...and that was on a good day. On bad days, I hooked everything from the crotch of my father’s pants to my ponytail.  


Learning the art of fly-fishing was even worse. I still believe I was the direct cause of the death of many of the trees and bushes surrounding New Hampshire’s lakes and ponds because they slowly and painfully strangled to death in the thousands of feet of fishing line I wasted trying to learn how to cast a line.

My dad introduced me to all types of fishing. When he first mentioned troll fishing, I was all excited to go – until I realized we weren’t actually going to be fishing for trolls. Troll fishing involved slowly riding around in a boat while dragging my fishing line in the water behind me, hoping I’d accidentally snag some big fish that liked to chase boats. 

I think I enjoyed troll fishing the most because it didn’t involve any particular skill…or trees. Most of the time I just sat in the boat and stuffed myself with food from the picnic basket until I felt like throwing up. Then I’d whine that I had to go to the bathroom until Dad, muttering under his breath, finally surrendered and took me back to shore.

My mother also claimed to love fishing, although I still suspect she said it solely to make my father happy. She was a pretty impressive fisherman, though, usually catching more and bigger fish than my dad did. The only problem was Mom had a worm phobia. Dangle a worm in front of her and she could outrun the Amtrak Express.

As a result of this phobia, Mom always made my dad bait her hook for her. One day, however, he refused, telling her he wanted her to be brave and try to do it herself.

I have to give my mom credit. She really made a sincere effort to bait her own hook…without actually laying a finger on an earthworm. I’ll never forget how my father and I hid behind a tree and giggled as we watched her. Mom found a flat rock, then jiggled the can of worms until one fell out.  As the worm wiggled across the rock, Mom chased after it with her fishing hook, trying to stab it. She kept missing it and stabbing the rock, however, until the hook was completely bent out of shape and the worm vanished into the underbrush. That was the day Mom decided to permanently switch to fly-fishing.

The two types of fishing I disliked the most were ice fishing and smelt fishing. One of the stipulations of ice fishing was I had to wear a minimum of 40 layers of clothing so I wouldn’t risk getting frostbite. Then my dad and I would spend the next six hours sitting in sub-zero temperatures, staring at a hole in the ice and waiting for a red flag to pop up on the tackle. The red flag meant we finally had some poor, half-frozen fish on the line. The only part I enjoyed was the thermos of hot cocoa Dad always brought to help keep my blood from solidifying.

And smelt fishing was downright scary. For some reason, it had to be done in the dead of night with the use of lanterns, nets and buckets.  Smelt(s) are teeny little fish that swim in schools – night school, I guess – and you eat them bones and all, because if you took the time to individually clean enough of them to make a meal, you would starve to death.

As if sitting on some rickety old dock in the middle of the night, surrounded by water as black as ink and mosquitoes the size of pigeons didn’t scare me enough, I also kept expecting the Creature from the Black Lagoon to pop out from under the dock and grab me. I usually ended up clinging so tightly to my father, he barely was able to fish.

When I finally reached adulthood, my dad was hoping I’d marry a guy who shared his passion for fishing and would become his devoted fishing buddy. But instead, I married a guy whose idea of fishing was opening a can that had a picture of Charlie the Tuna on the label.

Poor Dad.


Now that I think back to my days of fishing when I was a kid – the sun glistening on the calm waters of a beautiful New Hampshire lake, the ducks and loons swimming near the shoreline, the peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches that always tasted so much better when eaten out in a rowboat, and most of all, the look of sheer joy on my father’s face when he reeled in a plump rainbow trout – I have to admit…they really were pretty special days.


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Sally Breslin is an award-winning syndicated columnist who has written regularly for newspapers and magazines all of her adult life. She is the author of several novels in a variety of genres, from humor and romance to science-fiction. Contact her at:


Thursday, October 6, 2022



About three months ago, I received an email from Hallmark inviting me to write a romance novel for their publishing division. I was excited. I mean, they wanted ME to submit a novel to them – a novel that, if published, also had the chance to become a movie on the Hallmark Channel! I honestly believed my big break finally had arrived. 

But there were rules to follow. First of all, the book had to be between 75,000 and 90,000 words, which was a lot of words to write. But even more difficult was the letter said the novel could be submitted only between October 1st and October 31st.

That gave me very little time.

And there were other rules listed for Hallmark romances: no romantic suspense, no nudity, no sex, no violence, no swearing, no infidelity, no promiscuity, and nothing physical beyond hand-holding, hugging and kissing. Also, the points of view of both main characters had to be expressed (minus any impure thoughts).

Could I do it, I wondered? Was I capable of writing a romance novel that quickly, especially while adhering to all of the rules?

I had no idea, but I was determined to try. This was my big chance, I told myself, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And I wasn’t about to let it pass me by.

So I set to work. First I had to think of a plot I could stretch out for at least 75,000 words without it becoming a cure for insomnia.

Usually I come up with my ideas for stories while I’m out walking. So for about a week, I walked – the equivalent of to Canada and back. Finally, I came up with what I thought was a real brainstorm – something I didn’t think had been written about before, especially in a romance novel…and especially in a Hallmark story. I was ready to start writing.

So I wrote…and wrote some more…up to 12 hours per day. I cursed my body when it cried out for sleep because to me, sleep was cutting into my writing time, and time was ticking away too quickly toward the deadline.

I neglected my housework. I forgot to eat. And when I didn’t forget to eat, I didn’t feel like cooking anything anyway, because it took too much time. So I often lived on nutritious things like cookies and crackers for an entire day.

Finally, after nearly three months of blood, sweat and tears, I finished the book – all 81,300 words of it. I felt like breaking out the champagne and hiring a marching band. 

Then came the editing…where I went back over what I’d written and changed just about everything…about 20 times, until I was satisfied with the flow of it.

Whenever I tried to come up with a title for the book, however, I suffered a bad case of writer’s block. I wanted something catchy, something witty. Instead, because time was running out, I just titled it something I thought sounded kind of Hallmark-ish, and left it at that.

When October 1st arrived, I was ready…and proud of myself. I’d accomplished what I’d thought was impossible. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t dyed my hair in three months and had white roots that made me look like a skunk. It didn’t matter that my fingers were so sore from typing non-stop, I no longer could make a fist. And both of my dogs thought it didn’t matter that they’d gained five pounds each because every time they got noisy while I was trying to concentrate on my book, I’d give them a chew treat to keep them quiet.

What did matter was I’d set a goal for myself and I’d accomplished it.

So around 5:00 AM on October 1st, I prepared to email the first three chapters of my manuscript and a five-page synopsis, as requested, to Hallmark. I was excited, to the point where my stomach was in knots.

Long story short…as it turned out, the original email I’d received hadn’t been a special invitation to me to write a book, as I’d thought – it was a form letter. It actually had been published in Hallmark’s newsletter, which has about a gazillion subscribers, and it even made the rounds on several huge websites with another gazillion subscribers. So by the time I was ready to send my manuscript, Hallmark already was buried with them.

And as a result, they posted a notice saying they weren’t accepting any more submissions… indefinitely.

So just like that, my three months of hard work meant nothing and my dreams went up in smoke. I never even had the opportunity to send anything I'd written, never mind have someone look at it. I was, and still am, feeling crushed. 

I have no idea what to do with this book now. Just the mere sight of it on my computer screen induces chest pains.

Although, I’m seriously considering self-publishing it…just so I can order a copy…

And then have the pleasure of burning it.

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Sally Breslin is an award-winning syndicated columnist who has written regularly for newspapers and magazines all of her adult life. She is the author of several novels in a variety of genres, from humor and romance to science-fiction. Contact her at: