How Mary Shelley Ruined My Vacation

Tim Sniffen
7 min readOct 27, 2021

ME AND GEORGIE BYRON GO WAY BACK. Sorry! — I know these days everyone calls him “Lord”.

I grew up across the street from the Byrons. His mom borrowed sealing wax from us all the time. I would drag Georgie away from his books to skip rocks by the riverbank — he’d moan the whole way there, but believe me, he loved it. I still drop him a line every year around the holidays. He never responds, but with long-lasting friendships like ours, you don’t have to.

When I ran into him and heard he was renting a place down by Lake Geneva — well, I couldn’t help myself. “Switzerland, wow, that’s something!” I said. Georgie kept looking at snuff boxes in a window display. “I can’t imagine visiting a place like that. Lifetime highlight, right there!”

“Drop by, if you like,” he finally sighed, hailing a carriage. Well, Thad Grimes doesn’t have to be asked twice.

My first night there, we’ve just finished a huge dinner and everyone’s having cigars in the study. Percy Shelley’s there too, Georgie’s writer friend. Poet, I’m told, real sour look on his face. Along with Percy is the kid he just married. Molly, I think?

Georgie’s spinning a globe, letting his finger drag along the surface. He fixes the room with a mischievous stare and declares, “What if we each were to write… a ghost story?

Classic Byron. He’s always doing crazy things like this. I remember one time he challenged the entire church congregation to try knitting a sweater, right in the middle of communion. There is no predicting Georgie.

Percy says, “A curious challenge…”

Here’s the thing about me: I’ve always suspected I’d be an amazing author. It’s just been a matter of making the time. Plus, I can’t count the number of occasions I’ve reached the end of a novel and thought, someone was paid to write this garbage? I could do better with my other hand engaged in a fencing match!

I tell Byron, count me in.

Percy also agrees, and after a moment, Molly gives a little nod. Okay, kid, no one’s twisting your arm. We agree to share our work the next day.

That night I sit down and, bang, have the perfect idea for my story. Easy.

Tim Sniffen

Writing: Work In Progress on Showtime, The New Yorker, NPR’s Live From Here, Hello From The Magic Tavern, McSweeney’s, Jackbox Games | Twitter @MisterSniffen