HOT SHEET: 2020 Sadness Machine cranks out two more blows; more jokes to learn and say; and trick-or-treat rules

Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, sergeant of the watch, Drake Neighborhood Station, Des Moines, Iowa.

ITEM ONE: Two dozen of us stood under and around a tent spiked to a hilly expanse at Highland Memorial Gardens to say goodbye to our beloved Lois Newcomb, mother, grandmother and great-great grandmother.

The pastor reminded us Jesus shared our grief. When Jesus went to the tomb of his old friend Lazarus, he saw the sadness in the faces of Lazarus’ sisters, Mary and Martha. Jesus knew he was about to perform the miracle of raising Lazarus. And yet he sanctified grief, expressed in perhaps the greatest sentence ever written: “Jesus wept.”

Family recalled Lois’ open heart, empathy and ability to forgive. Others remember her teaching grandchildren how to drive in the wide lanes of the same cemetery where Lois was laid to rest.

We prayed. A grandson played one of Lois’s favorite songs. We hugged. We shook hands. We cried.

The typist was silent. He saw Grandma Lois as the linchpin that kept a big family together. He hoped her death reminded us we are stronger together than apart and that periodically renewing our shared connection would be the greatest tribute we could pay her.

ITEM TWO: The typist learned late Friday that one of his closest friends has cancer. His wife, a respiratory therapist, contracted COVID-19 earlier this year. It passed to the typist’s friend. His symptoms lingered. Doctors eventually found a mass the size of an orange on one of his kidneys. Treatment includes the loss of a kidney. The prognosis is uncertain.

Again the typist is reminded of how precious life is. We live never really knowing how much time is left on the clock. The typist doesn’t believe in living every day as if it were your last. That would be exhausting.

Instead, look for a moment each day that you can be kind, extend grace and friendship or remind someone they are worthy of dignity and respect. Forgive. Love.

ITEM THREE: Left blank for you to allow readers a moment of peaceful reflection.

ITEM FOUR: Four more jokes to learn and say for Beggars’ Night in Des Moines:

Q: What is a tree’s favorite drink? 

A: Root beer.

Q: What do you call a broken window?

A: A plain in the glass.

Q: Why don’t ducks tell jokes while they are flying? 

A: Because they would quack up.

Q: When does it rain money?

A: When there is a change in the weather.

ITEM FIVE: The maximum age for trick-or-treating is 13 or eighth grade, whichever comes first. High school kids are close enough to jobs and driving that they can get their own candy. Stop begging off the neighbor.

ITEM SIX: Your trick-or-treat mask should be worn over your pandemic mask this year, but you still have to wear your coat over your costume if it’s below freezing.

ITEM LAST: Say thank you. This also applies for anytime someone gives you something or shows kindness.

One day, Daniel P. Finney held aloft his magic sword and said, “By the power of Greyskull …” and after a long pause realized everyone was staring at him, so he put the sword away and went back to eating lunch. is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. Visit

HOT SHEET: Trick-or-treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat … or I’ll give you COVID-19

Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, sergeant of the watch, Drake Neighborhood Station, Des Moines, Iowa.

ITEM ONE: Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie gleefully announced Des Moines will celebrate Beggars’ Night on Oct. 30 with masks (not just the costume kind) required and social distancing protocols active.

Mr. Mayor, can you give the public some idea of what your plan is to contain COVID-19 in the capital? You didn’t issue a mandatory mask order until late August, long after the businesses shuttered and reopened and people started working from home.

Now cases are on the rise in Polk County and you tell everyone, “Hey, take the kids out and collect candy from homes of strangers during the pandemic.”

The typist agrees that the loss of Halloween celebrations would be sad. Children only get so many Halloweens before they graduate from cute kids to just drunk fools in slutty costumes on Court Avenue. Still, having trick-or-treat in the pandemic with cases on the rise seems outright stupid and a little bit mean.

How many of our seniors who would normally welcome children to their doorsteps will have to keep their lights off because they are more at-risk for death from coronavirus?

How many cases of coronavirus will this public-pleasing move create because we all know despite the best efforts of parents, kids don’t always wash their hands well?

ITEM TWO: The Hot Sheet wouldn’t mind a year moratorium on Beggars’ Night because of the pathetic state of riddle and joke telling by our community’s children.

The typist has heard all the whimpering about how children get nervous and the tell a joke to get candy tradition is dumb or that they didn’t do it in the awesome city they used to live in before they moved here to be boring white people.

Bugger off, the ol’ Paragraph Stacker says.

It is not too much to ask a child age 5 or older to memorize two sentences of a G-rated riddle or pun in exchange for candy.

Instead of going out this year, go buy a couple bags of Laffy Taffy and just learn one of the jokes on the wrappers for next year.

ITEM THREE: The typist admits when he’s wrong and he was wrong about ESPN Sports Center super host Scott Van Pelt. When the sports network named him their lead host a few years back, I thought it was foolhardy. I probably tweeted something rude. But you know what? The ol’ Paragraph Stacker’s night isn’t quite the same without a visit from SVP. Thanks for making the pandemic brighter, sir.

ITEM FOUR: I’m just throwing this out there: Bring back Max Headroom. He’d be instantly better than all the current late-night babblers. Think about it.

ITEM FIVE: If not Max Headroom, what about Space Ghost? His Coast to Coast show was a winner for [adult swim]?

ITEM LAST: The typist is too tired to come up with a joke here.

Daniel P. Finney fell asleep three times writing this caption. is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. Visit