My Annoying To-Do List by
(40 Stories)

Prompted By Procrastination

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With the summer drifting toward its equinox, shortening days, cooler nights, football back on TV, and my summer neighborhood’s annual social highlight, the Weenie Roast, coming up on the Labor Day weekend, celebrated with a bonfire on the beach at which we roast hot dogs followed by s’mores, and then ice cream, preceded by a cocktail hour on the veranda of one of the rambling beachfront houses to which I, fulfilling the family tradition introduced by my mother when the world was young, must bring an all-beef salami baked and basted (for hours) in yellow mustard and marmalade sauce, sliced and served with squares of black bread, always a big hit, and possibly the most unhealthy entry to the party, but not without competition, and definitely the most tasty (the mustard, marmalade and salami drippings make for a beautiful conglomeration, sweet, salty, spicy, oozy, chewy, and gaseous), my head turns toward the maintenance  jobs for my beach house which have been pending since last spring’s to do list, and are likely to be line items on this  fall’s to do list, with asterisks for items which cannot be deferred any longer and must be done immediately, but in any event before next summer, or the summer to follow, like the picket fence which is held up by branches of rosa regosa in season and good wishes after that, and the drain at the base of the basement stairs which was failing when pirates roamed this backwater peninsula, and buried their treasures in the sand dunes (now protected by the Federal government, so that digging in spots marked X on ancient treasure maps would require a dark night and a very good cover story).

I hope I can order the salami early enough to avoid the cost of last minute delivery via cab from New York City.

But no jobs today.  I can’t take my eyes off the ocean today, as it comes in and goes out and then comes in again, and the sun follows its ancient arc across the sky, illuminating all of us earthlings, including all plants and animals, and the breezes some cool like they would be at home in October but most still balmy and lighthearted, summery, move the air from here to there, inducing naps.  I hope I can order the salami early enough to avoid the cost of last minute delivery via cab from New York City, like almost happened as last year’s seasonal procrastination (aka the “Stupor”) reached new pinnacles of deferral and delay.

Profile photo of jonathancanter jonathancanter
Here is what I said about myself on the back page of my 2020 humor/drama/politico novel "The Debutante (and the Bomb Factory)" (edited here, for clarity):

"Jonathan Canter Is a retIred attorney; widower; devoted father and grandfather (sounds like my obit); lifelong resident of Greater Boston; graduate of Harvard College (where he was an editor of The Harvard Lampoon); fan of waves and wolves; sporadic writer of dry and sometimes dark humor (see "Lucky Leonardo" (Sourcebooks, 2004), funny to the edge of tears); gamesman (see "A Crapshooter’s Companion"(2019), existential thriller and life manual); and part-time student of various ephemeral things."

The Deb and Lucky are available on Amazon. The Crapshooter is available by request to the author in exchange for a dinner invitation.

Characterizations: been there, funny, moving, well written


  1. Thanx for your marvelous story Jon, so cleverly humorous on its surface yet to me both poignant and nostalgic. Bravo!

  2. Suzy says:

    Jon, you are an amazing writer! That first paragraph that is all one sentence seems like something only you could do and still make it comprehensible. You made me crave some of your salami in mustard and marmalade sauce even as I continued to read about the maintenance on the beach house and the federally protected pirates’ treasure. Then your second paragraph, much shorter, containing three sentences, perfectly crafted, bringing us to the ultimate consequence of procrastination, your having to get the salami delivered by cab from New York City! Wonderful!

    • Would that you were the fiction editor of The New Yorker! Thank you for your generous praise and appreciation. I am glad that you like the meander of the story, with its several distractions, and jokes. You know these salamis are hard to get in non-salami regions; after being met by blank stares over the telephone from all the nearby markets, I ended up ordering on Amazon, this afternoon, expedited delivery. Other ingredients to follow, assuming I don’t get waylaid on the dunes in the dark of night, with a shovel.

  3. Betsy Pfau says:

    I second Suzy’s comments about the deconstruction of your sentence structure, which, its own way, emphasizes the lazy last days of a beachy summer. I love the concept that your picket fence is held up only by branches of the rosa regosa in season, and good wishes after that. What a marvelous construct! And of course, fixing the failing drain at the basement stairs “which was failing when pirates roamed this backwater peninsula”, really gives quite the impression of long-term procrastination. Your to-do list must be very impressive, indeed, for those two items to jump out in such compelling ways.

    • My story seems to have generated some unexpected vigor on my home maintenance to-do list, in that I managed to find after several unsuccessful and (in retrospect) ineffectual attempts, probing all the usual hiding places in my I phone, and in the all-purpose junk drawer in my ocean-view desk (I say “my”, but my daughter has usurped it for the summer, but she and her family left for the Outer Cape this week allowing me the chance to temporarily usurp it back, and distract myself with its historically/biographically significant contents, mostly yuck to the touch), the email address of the handyman (who was recommmended to me by the owner of the local hardware store, who couldn’t remember his recommendation when I called) who did great work back in 2019 on the hinges of my windows (keyword: oil) and on my molting-in-place fence gate. I emailed him this morning, and, proud of my can-do diligence, am sipping coffee while the waves roll in, waiting for a reply.

  4. Laurie Levy says:

    I echo the comments above — this is so beautifully written that the matter of your procrastination to take care of maintenance tasks is unimportant compared with the beauty of the summer and that amazing salami.

    • Thank you for your generous comment. Regarding the salami, I am pleased to report that it has been timely delivered to me via Amazon (packed in a special cold package) (there is no procrastination in Amazon), and is ready to rock and roll. I can feel expectations for the salami rising up and down the beach; I intend to do some serious taste testing in advance of public presentation (there is no procrastination in my taste testing), and hope there is enough left for everyone else.

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