“My Favorite Thing,” by Phoebe Nir

Apr 20th, 2010 | By | Category: Prose

“The thing is,” I said, “I’m pretty sure I’m overreacting.”

“Maybe,” said the mailman.

“No, but really,” I said. “Like, I’m almost certain that I’m overreacting.”

“It’s possible,” said the mailman.

“But seriously,” I said, “this can’t be the craziest thing that they’ve ever seen happen. I mean, this sort of thing must happen all the time. I’m sure they have a sense of humor about it at this point.”

Harvard wanted an essay on my favorite thing, 200 words or less.

My favorite thing is whales, but I made a bit of a typo.

“My favorite thing,” I wrote, “is whores. They are majestic creatures. I love when they are big and smooth and slimy and wet. I want to swim with them in the ocean and run my cheek against their cucumbric dimpled flanks and help them to pick the krill out of their teeth. I want to be inside of one of them, like the man in the Bible was.” And so on.

“You know,” I said to the mailman, “this might even help my chances. I mean, I’m probably about the 40th most qualified marine biology candidate they have. But I must be a frontrunner among prostitution enthusiasts.”

“Can I please give you the damn envelope?” he said. “You’re holding up my route.”


He reached into his sack and pulled out a skinny envelope bearing the Harvard insignia and my name.

“Uh oh,” he said. “Looks pretty wimpy. I remember when I got my Harvard envelope. It was like a phonebook. My mother used it to cleave meat.”

“You went to Harvard?”

“Damn straight.” He unbuttoned the top of his jacket to reveal a Harvard undershirt.

“What did you major in?”

“Communications, obviously.” He closed his sack and moved on. “Tough break, kid,” he said over his shoulder, but I heard him chuckling under his bristly moustache.


I called up my friend Eric and agreed to meet him at a coffee shop; I didn’t want to be at home when my father got back from work to discover that I had been rejected from his alma mater for applying with a Craigslist ad.  Eric had applied to Harvard as well. He was ranked top in our class.

“I got rejected,” he said.

“You’re kidding!”

“Nope,” he said, paying for his latte.

“What happened?”

“Typo. I said my favorite thing was arson.”

“What did you mean to write?”


“Your firefighter uncle with the explosive personality?”

“That’s the one.”

“Tough break, man.”


The barista leaned over the counter. “I just got rejected from Harvard’s MFA program,” she said. “My resume said I was a Bachelor o Farts. Here’s your change.”


Eric and I sat down on the beat up sofa next to the trashcan and drank our coffees.

“Man, life’s unfair,” said Eric. “Like, two wrong key strokes, and your entire life is ruined. It’s all just a series of random accidents, isn’t it? Why do bad things happen to good people?”

An old janitor was limping towards the trashcan. He lay his cane down on the ground before lifting out the full garbage bag and throwing it over his shoulder like Santa Claus.

“You boys get rejected from Harvard?” he said.


“I did too, in my day.”

“How come? Typo?”

“No,” he said. “I’m black.”


He bent over to pick up his cane and limped away.

“That was awkward,” said Eric.

“Yeah,” I said. We drank some more coffee. It was still too hot to sip without scalding our tongues, but neither of us said anything.

“So. What should we do now?” said Eric.

“I don’t know. Wait for more letters?”

“But in the meantime, I mean.”

“I don’t know.” I put my coffee down on the table in front of us. “What do you say I go find a brothel, and you can burn it down?”

“Deal,” he said.


Phoebe Nir is a high school student in New York City. She has most recently been published in Xenith and Trellis online magazines, and she is currently a finalist to be a Presidential Scholar of the Arts.

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