Friday, November 27, 2009

I Thought I Knew


I met a Christian man I thought I knew
passing the homeless in the street.
I see it now, that God’s idea
was that he and I should meet.

As men are men; I watched him fall
to a place where words and deeds depart.
He tip-toed past the shattered glass
of someone else’s broken heart.

This ugly man, his ugly deeds
much more than I could fathom.
I grabbed his hand and prayed to God
that my words might bridge the chasm.

But as we stood face to face,
each glance a collective sum.
He wore my clothes, he bore my eyes,
he was the wretch I’d become.

He spoke to me like yesterday
as if both were still alive.
With grace-filled eyes and words like knives
he carved the cancer from inside.

“Once our eyes drift shut
hearts will surely follow.
You cannot help a fellow brother
if you yourself are hollow.

I grant you bread in loaves
and a cup that’s overridden;
not that you should store it all
and keep my blessings hidden.

You must give away your last
showing faith in whence they’ve come.
Until the needs of all are met
our work has just begun.”

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Straight From Hell

One night a week Kathy McKutchin volunteered at a soup kitchen. It should come as no surprise the daughter of a priest would be inclined to serve the community, but on the surface one might incorrectly assume many things. She was not the product of an illicit affair, but a sad set of circumstances, indeed. As an infant she was abandoned in a dumpster behind the rectory. Some choose to believe she was placed there by a remorseful mother who knew her child would be cared for. Others, including myself, quietly hold a differing opinion. Even when she was young, “Straight from hell” the parishioners would say; struck by the irony that God would place a demon in care of a priest. It is difficult to say how such an unfortunate entrance into this world might adversely affect the psyche, but in either case, Father McKutchin plucked her from yesterday’s trash and raised her as his own. God rest his soul—Father McKutchin did the best he could.

It was not his influence that prompted charitable work but more the coercion of those belonging to the Wednesday morning bridge club. Only when it became common knowledge that the aristocrats who came to play cards gave more freely of their time, was Kathy overwhelmed with an urge to help the needy. Dare I say it was not by accident she chose Saturday evenings to volunteer. At every opportunity she reminded them that a sacrifice of ‘premium time’ would certainly be judged more generously than their own.

When she arrived she parked two blocks away. The lighting was better there and if she slipped the parking attendant a twenty he made certain the car was toasty when she returned. If she slithered alongside the buildings, staying within the shadows, there was a fair chance she could avoid awkward conversation with those who waited in line. How difficult it was for her to interact with those cut from another cloth. Words were scarce, even between she and a young man named Marcus who also volunteered on her night. He was too much like those he served, living in the street himself, yet offering his time in the kitchen. Some things were absolutely too good to be true. Kathy watched him closely and made certain to count the silverware after he had gone.

On this particular night, when the last strangler had gathered their bundle and headed into the cold, Kathy busied herself with a single pan. Perhaps if she fiddled with it long enough Marcus would clear the kitchen and her nails might be spared.

“You know there’s plenty of soup, Marcus. Why don’t you have a bowl for yourself? The weather’s brutal out there.”

He held up a tattered Bible—an outward sign of his weakness. Oh how she despised the way he let it speak for him more often than not.

“My strength comes from the word. It says here, whatever you have to done to the least of them you also have done to me.”

Intended or not, Kathy would not ignore a direct assault on her character. As the words circulated her mind her blood boiled and in a mad dash she rushed him. With her left hand firmly wrapped around his throat, she did her best to separate him from the book, but Marcus was wiry and held it arms length.

“When will you put down that silly-ass Bible and take off your ‘Jesus-glasses’. Can’t you see you are one of the least of them?”

Flabbergasted by her aggression, Marcus’ stumbled over his words.

“Mis…Miss McKutchin—you’re wrong. There’ll be more to feed tomorrow—someone will come through that door that needs it more than I.”

With his back arched like a willow, he was pinned between a table and an increasingly confrontational character. The heat of her breath poured over him like an uncomfortably hot shower.

“Marcus, do you recall last year when you dropped your Bible in the crosswalk? Was it your Almighty God that sent the city bus into your path—was it his compassion that broke both your legs instead of your skull? Mark my words—that ridiculous book will someday be the death of you!”

Kathy drew in a deep breath and as a result the small space between them provided for escape.

“Miss McKutchin, the Bible speaks of people like you; those who are already dead without knowing it, but it is also filled with grace—the kind it takes to lift someone from a dumpster and give them a second chance at life. Perhaps you need my ‘Jesus-glasses’ to see that.”

Marcus forged his way up the street. The bank sign showed -20. His thin camouflaged field-jacket flapped in a brisk north wind. He was no more prepared for the elements than his father had been when he wore it as he marched into war. The streets were a battlefield of another kind—here, moving was the key to survival. More than hour passed as he circled the blocks. It was colder than he could recall and his joints became stiff and uncooperative. He paused at the steps of the cathedral and near its door made his resting place for the night.

As he settled an approaching vehicle slowed as it neared the steps. The driver pulled to the curb and as the window descended, Miss McKutchin grinned.

“Looks like you could use a fire, Marcus. If you had a lick of sense you’d see the fuel sitting next to you. You see—perhaps even tonight that book will be the death of you.”

For a brief moment he touched the matches in his pocket, and then glanced at the frost-covered Bible. Perhaps he could make it until morning if he did the unthinkable, but when tomorrow came, how quickly would the streets gobble up a man without faith?

Kathy blew a kiss before speeding away. Still preoccupied with waving and taunting him, the stillness of the night was shattered. Her white Mercedes slammed into a garbage truck pulling from the alley and burst into flames.

Like ants to a morsel, the homeless emerged from the alleys, desperate to warm themselves by a fire. Their hearts were not filled with malice, but their minds consumed with survival. Flames, no matter the source, meant the difference between life and death. Marcus made a valiant effort to stand but his feet were frozen solid. There was nothing more he could do to save her from the fire. In the end, no one could reach Kathy McKutchin.

Sunday, October 11, 2009



By definition a laureate is someone honored for significant achievement. When did the criteria become based on intentions? It reminds me of the Popeye cartoon and Wimpy exclaiming “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.”

Suddenly I’m struck with a fantastically progressive idea. Perhaps we should begin handing out diplomas at college admission offices simply because the fresh faces gathered there exhibit a reasonable desire to educate themselves. And as soon as that happens I’ll anxiously wait at my mailbox, certain the first two timely payments on my new vehicle will be enough to convince the lender to sign over the title. Oddly I’m reminded of a quote involving good intentions and the road to hell.

I do hear some opposition to President Obama receiving the Nobel Peace Prize; primarily based on the grounds he has not promptly withdrawn troops from Afghanistan, which in itself should preclude him from consideration. I’m perfectly content with that. A president should be concerned with the leadership of his country long before giving a thought of garnering hardware on a victory lap. I only hope President Obama has enough steel to resist the progressives long enough to ensure we finish a worthy battle. We’ve all heard plenty about the “illegal war based on lies in Iraq”, what exactly would be the reason for leaving Afghanistan? “It’s been too long—the road’s too hard—we’re sure Bin Laden is remorseful”?

Those blindly promoting peace seem to lack a basic understanding of good and evil. While the principle is worthy, all equations are not so easily solved. Two gaping holes in the Twin Towers= Evil. Do we somehow think that after eight years when a surviving family sits down at the dinner table no one notices the empty chair? Maybe it’s similar to the Roman Polanski sympathizers; let’s just forget that he admitted to drugging and sodomizing a thirteen year old girl—it’s been so long—who are we to judge, right?

Personally I felt the Nobel Prize was cheapened significantly when Al Gore received it. Only in America can one profit so obscenely from a questionable premise that began as manmade global warming and since been retooled as climate change…hmmmm. Seems like a simple achievement test question.

Which of these things is not like the other?
A. Desmond Tutu
B. Mother Theresa
C. Martin Luther King
D. the Dalai Lama
E. Al Gore

I’ll not deny President Obama has the potential to achieve great things, but it might not hurt to take a second look at the picture above.

Monday, September 7, 2009

I've begun working on a potential novel. I'm posting the first chapter in hopes of garnering some opinions. My wife has already given it a mixed review, so don't think I am easily offended. It's difficult to tell anything from such a short excerpt, but I'm just looking for some honest input.

Beck Conley lay motionless; listening for the noise she subconsciously believed had awakened her. Several quiet moments allowed a jittery mind to settle. With nothing to fear, her body returned to a peaceful rhythm, chest rising and falling like the bellows of a blacksmith. On the far side of a meadow, she observed a shack. Even as she contemplated moving there, she stood inside. So is the beauty of dreams—more than choosing a destination, the destination chooses us.

A burly man dressed in leather stooped to light a forge. Angry flames hissed and spit in protest, sending an orange flicker of light creeping across the floor. Satisfied with the settling flames, he returned upright and shuffled to the center of the room. His movements were slow and deliberate and soon he found the relocation of furniture to his liking. It seemed a pity the dinner table wore a thick covering of dust where a cloth of should have been, and as it were, a single chair had no match. A broken spindle in the back made for a toothless grin, but the man seemed none the wiser. Although he passed very near her, he did not acknowledge her presence. Becky could only imagine working in such poor lighting conditions had done nothing for his eyesight.

When he reached the north wall, he placed an open palm against it. The ground beneath her feet began to quake and crumble. She sought refuge behind the first piece of equipment she came to, and with only the top half of her startled eyes visible, she witnessed a small structure rising from where the table had been. The wooden floor splintered and an overpowering aroma of stale earth and time settled in her nostrils. As it grew vertically, the bucking and writhing of the house threatened to bring down the tired shack, but with a final quiver the walls exhaled, like the last ragged breathe of an animal lived too long.

The kiosk in the center of the room had four sides, the breadth of each just wide enough for a door. Becky watched as the man lit a torch and disappeared through the door directly in front of her. With the door standing ajar, she ventured from her hiding place. Beyond the entry was a stone staircase leading downward. She reached the last step and moved further down the corridor, as he lit torches mounted along the walls. Becky carefully maintained enough distance to remain undetected. Within the walls of the corridor were shelves that seemed to stretch into forever. Each row contained hundreds, if not thousands of objects. Some were polished and perfect, others cracked and faded, but each uniquely its own. Just ahead, the man paced before them, occasionally allowing his hand to hover, but never pausing too long. To do so would have signaled the value of one more than another. With his attention focused squarely on the shelves he spoke to her.

“Why is it you have tarried so long, my dear?”

Struck with fear of discovery, Becky conformed to the wall. She could not even grasp how she had come to be here, and now the eeriness of realizing her arrival was expected. Becky’s heart leapt to her throat as he turned his torch in her direction.

“Speak to me child, I must hear your voice.”

Devoid the luxury of thinking things through Becky was compelled to answer him as a daughter responds to the direct questioning of her father.

“Perhaps, if you describe what you are looking for, I can help you find it.”

His laugh filled the hallway and came at her from all directions.

“Your voice is the only clue I need.”

The man reached toward the shelf and retrieved an object. Becky could not explain the connection between them, but walked toward him. He drew the object close and the brittle of a laborer turned to velvet. He rocked the object back and forth like a newborn, and as he did, Becky experienced an unsettled feeling deep within her core. As she was now within arms reach, he held the object close for her to see. It was his troubled eyes she could not look past, as if handling such things brought great sorrow.

“It is so very heavy now—filled with unnecessary things, but as with all of them, it is salvageable. Regretfully, some must be broken before they can be repaired. Do you understand at all, my dear?”

Becky felt compelled to nod in confirmation even though she understood nothing. Her gaze returned to the shelves, perhaps objects there were the key to understanding. Her eyes settled upon one housed in a glass container. It looked no different from the rest, why should it deserve such shelter? Suddenly his eyes joined hers as he intercepted her thoughts.

“The one in the case belongs to me—and the one I hold in my hands is your own.”

Squinting of her eyes caused a furrow in her brow to deepen.

“Then I must ask an obvious question. Why do you care for others before your own?”

“Walk with me as we return upstairs and I will try to explain.”

As they walked, he reached for her hand and she gave it to him willingly.

“There are rules, of course. Each of us is provided the opportunity to affect any we choose—but the care of our own depends upon others. Mine sits behind glass because presently there are no others.”

He reached the top of the stairway and opened the door for her. Becky was in a state of confusion, but her mind was clear enough to realize they had made no turns in the corridor, yet had exited a different door than they had entered through. The four chambers were positively interconnected.

He walked to his workbench and selected a tool. Grasping the object with a long pair of tongs, he inserted it into the mouth of the forge. As the flames lapped at the glass, Becky felt a burning sensation in her chest. She watched the olive skin on her arms grow visibly pale, and a nauseous feeling roared inside her. When the discomfort became more than she could stand she launched a frantic search for the door.

Once outside, she knew nothing more than to run. The lush grass of the meadow passed quickly, and each hurried step propelled her further into the woods where the terrain became unforgiving. The darkness belonging to the forest quickly swallowed her trail. Moved by fear, she pressed forward through the brambles, imaging the thorns grabbing at her dress were gnarled hands of the dead. Becky’s mind quickly surpassed the fevered pace at which her legs were pumping, but in the darkness her foot lodged beneath a tangled root. She struck the ground violently, sending debris in all directions. For a brief moment, she was innately aware of the pounding of her heart, how it throbbed in her temples, but as the burly man at the forge loosed his hammer, the object exploded. When the last shard fell to the floor of the shack, the accelerated beating of a heart ceased also.

Her eyelids fluttered before slamming open. She remembered nothing of a dream. Upon hearing it a second time, she was positive the clanking of iron originated just outside her bedroom window. Shuffling towards the source, she parted the louvered shade and observed a strange man working. Glancing at the clock, she recalled their phone conversation. When they spoke yesterday, ‘Smokey Joe’ indicated an early arrival, but surely even a clod realized ‘suburban-early’ knew nothing of 5:17 a.m. Things in suburbia were not so structured. Early did not have an assigned timeslot, it arrived mysteriously, formed from the indecisive minutes between a first and second latte.

She offered a glance back at the bed where her husband Mike still rested. Despite a thirty-fifth birthday, his youthful face barely produced stubble. Perhaps she too could rest soundly if the relentlessness of time had not settled so harshly upon her. Passing years cruelly stole whatever they desired and left only sagging breasts, thickening thighs, and crow’s feet in their wake. As men became distinguished and stately, women simply slid further down the scale of desirability. Such inequitable results, drawn along sexist lines, were a bitter pill. It was much easier to believe superior D.N.A. was to blame because no amount of fretting could change that.

Becky would have preferred the freedom to plan her husband’s birthday celebration alone. She still believed joining friends for a round of golf at Medina or even a foxhunt in France were infinitely more desirable than a silly old-fashioned hog roast. The pool of party planning acquaintances she had accumulated over the years would be of no use. Their talents were many, but certainly they were not magicians. Even a fool realized the variety of apple stuffed in a hog’s mouth was insignificant; eventually the eyes of her guests would settle on the horror of charred flesh, and what would she say to comfort them? Perhaps more than anything, Becky resented her husband’s lack of appreciation for how hard she worked to maintain their standing in the neighborhood. Presently, Smokey Joe’s inconsiderate clanking presented a clear threat to that.

Joe stood over his cooker in a grease-smudged apron. His forearms were thick and covered with coarse gray curls, more resembling fur than hair. Deep laugh-lines began at the corners of his eyes and dipped out of sight beneath outdated sideburns. His cheeks were full like cherry colored dumplings. Only a cigar stub pasted to the corner of his mouth disturbed the conformity of fuzzy stubble lining his jaw. He hoisted the heavy iron lid with ease and stoked the coals beneath. Two measured raps against the baffle set the exhaust pipe belching plumes of white smoke, and his unlit cigar danced when he spoke.

“Sorry ‘bout the noise ma’am, but this here ain’t no Cornish Game Hen—takes twelve to fourteen hours to proper cook a hog.”

In Becky’s mind, taking the life of one of God’s creatures, searing the flesh, and calling it dinner seemed much like senseless killing. Had she not invited him here she had half a mind to phone P.E.T.A., but the careful process by which Joe went about his work gave the notion that it was of cosmic importance. Drawing of coals from one location to another oddly piqued her interest and she leaned closer.

“Ma’am, yer welcome to look all you care, but with that loose fittin’ robe, you’re a wardrobe-malfunction away from havin’ tender parts branded’.”

Becky tended the ‘V’ where the purple robe crossed her breasts. She doubted the furry man realized his naturally offensive air or the sensitivity of the subject. Despite such serious protocol violation, she decided against addressing him directly, instead choosing to fold her arms high across her chest. With barely a moments pause the gravely voice came at her again.

“Daddy taught me to run a tight ship—safety first. What’d the neighbors think if I was rollin’ you around in the grass tryin’ to put out a fire?”

With the mention of neighbors, Becky shifted her attention to a large home bordering the east, but only a security light illuminated an empty stone drive. To the west was Dr. Morrow’s large picture window, but at this hour, it too remained empty. Mrs. Morrow was a sweet woman otherwise, but everyone knew she liked to talk. Becky could only imagine the sordid tales of infidelity circulating poolside if Mrs. Morrow had been perched there.

“Ma’am, I can’t help but notice, you ain’t much on this whole concept—uncomfortable like. Most likely vegetarian or vegan, ain’t ya?”

With arms stiff and chin lowered, Becky had endured enough of his insolence.

“My eating habits are of no concern to you, not to mention my tender parts. Honestly, I cannot recall the last time I found intellectual conversation huddled around a cooker—or a cremation furnace, depending upon your level of enlightenment. I hired you to do a simple job; perhaps I’ve made a mistake!”

A pale sky announced the approaching sunrise and Becky swiveled again to check the homes for activity. A smile crossed Joe’s lips and the quivering of the cigar stub belied an urge to speak.

“Yer a feisty one ma’am, no doubt about that, but you are correct. I’ll tend to cookin’ and leave you to checkin’ on the neighbors.”

Becky adapted the shortening of words, as if mocking the manner in which he spoke would settle under skin.

“What do you mean, ‘Checkin’ on the neighbors’?”

“Jes seems to me, it ain’t much of a life if you go around worryin’ ‘bout what others think. There’s plenty of things in this world to keep people apart, but a very few that draw them together.”

Joe looked beyond the cold green eyes that wished him dead, up the hill toward the sliding glass window. He watched two young girls prancing and dancing with one another. They lived in a place where bedclothes were ballroom gowns and a kitchen was suitable for a promenade.

“Children’s one of them things that draws us closer.”

In a huff, Becky turned towards the home while Joe’s cigar drooped noticeably. He spoke slightly louder as he addressed her back.

“Backwards as you believe me to be, take notice of ‘em ma’am. Encourage the foolish, spontaneous things, ‘cause they won’t dance forever.”

Joe’s voice trailed off awkwardly as his mind began churning out memories. For a very brief time he watched his own cherubs flitting behind the glass, but they were grown now. Fine young women raised in someone else’s home, calling another man daddy. The other man was lucky. Myra was a peach, the kind of woman who didn’t aspire to much, long as she had a man who loved her and a couple of kids to dote over. These were complexities too abstract for a young truck driver, one who spent too many hours chasing dotted lines into the horizon and too few at home. Joe had not intended to ruin a marriage, but naïveté and youthful thinking was no excuse for poor judgment, and so a man who started out hauling hogs, ended up cooking them for a living.

As the hog’s juices began to flow the catch pan required his attention. After returning upright, Joe found the hand of a curly-headed man thrust towards him. He wiped his own against the apron, but instead of reaching for it immediately took the opportunity to describe the importance of a catch pan.

“Don’t ‘spect the misses needs every cur-dog in the neighborhood sniffin’ around. Truth is—dogs really ain’t the trouble—just a bad combination. You ever seent how grease runs straight through an ole hound? He’ll be leavin’ more than he takes, if you know what I mean!”

For a lean fellow, the stranger presented a firm grip, a sign of an honorable man. His eyes were made of a curious blue and twinkled when he spoke.

“Mark Conley—you must be Smokey Joe. Becky tells me you’ve got quite a personality.”

“Good to meet ya, Son, but I reckon she said more than that. Didn’t mean no disrespect, but I ain’t never been much of an attraction to the ladies, even when I was young.”

Joe’s mind wandered as he spoke, leading to uncomfortable pause.

“‘Cept for one pretty brown-eyed girl, but she had good sense enough to slip away. Straight-talkin’ gets me in trouble from time to time. Kinda like an old man ramblin’ about a dog’s loose bowels while yer tryin’ to enjoy a cup of coffee.”

Joe nodded towards the cooker, “Seems a damn shame, but dead critters and me get along best.”

Mark sipped from the cup while he circled the cooker, examining as he went.

“It took some time before Becky warmed up to me. Sometimes it helps to let a woman think they’ve changed you somehow—knocked off the rough edges. You know, made you into something more than you would have been without them.”

Joe drew his thumb and forefinger through the stubble until they met at the point of his chin.

“Seems to me, you kind of a package deal, Mark; eye-candy on the outside but a sharp mind to back it up. No Sir—young and dumb ain’t got no place here, nice house, good wife, and blessed with two fine young girls—nothing but blue skies ahead for you, Mark Conley.”

Sunday, June 21, 2009



There comes a time when you reach a destination. You have either arrived or find the place you were seeking does not exist. Blogging has become more a chore than pleasure. It is time to leave it to those who still find inspiration in it. Like sweet memories, those I met on this journey will linger with me. Although the majority I have not seen, I feel I now know better who they are and what they wish to be. My sincerest hope is that all find their destinations, for each life is but an unfinished story.

I cannot say with certainty I will not return here, but for now I must go

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Harvest House



Jenny used her purse to chase the rooster from the doorstep and warily watched for his return. His nervous strut indicated he too was uncomfortable with her presence here. She brushed the dust from her dress and exhaled deeply before rapping on the screen door a second time. Had anyone actually come to the door she would have fainted straight away. Earl Stevens was going on two years dead and his wife, her only daughter, had disappeared more than six months earlier.

The authorities called Jenny’s home to ask questions, but she could provide them no information. Her disappearance provided few details and eventually they concluded, although strange, her departure appeared to have come on her own terms. Ellen went where the wind carried her. Despite preaching against such rash actions of following hearts, Ellen became ‘her own woman’. At seventeen she left life in the city and moved to Kansas to marry Earl Hawthorn Stevens. The span since civil conversation between she and Ellen was something she rarely visited. They stood on separate islands; the years between them had become a fog, and details of hurtful conversations were often better left fuzzy and undefined. Under these strange circumstances Jenny was seeing her daughter’s home for the very first time. Perhaps the letter she held in her hand would indeed provide answers as it promised. Jenny knew no one in California, and it provided no return address, but the signature did appear to be her daughters.

Jenny entered through the screen door and consulted the map scratched on the back of letter. She ascended the staircase and found her daughter’s bedroom. In the southwest corner of the room she saw the picture on an end table. Jenny was but eighteen years old when the photo was taken and truly had forgotten how beautiful and full life had been. She placed the photo face down and moved the table aside. Beneath it she located the loose floorboard and lifted a dusty diary from its hiding place below.

Jenny had endured a four hour drive to reach her daughter’s home and her sciatic nerve kept tally of every bump. She wiped the dust from a rocking chair near the window and took a seat. Before the troublesome nerve had time to settle a cold chill traveled up her spine. She knew without question Ellen loved this chair.

June 16 Harsh words were spoken as my mother and I parted ways. It is not so much she believes she is right, but more she knows I am wrong. Too much time has passed and admittedly I am weak as I do not pick up the phone but neither does mine ring. I’ve found there are wonderful things beyond city lights, things I was encouraged to deny. Cycles of life present themselves more clearly as I work in the garden. As she has promised life is difficult on the farm, but there are things and people here that nourish my soul. Would she have rather kept my company while I became skin and bones before her very eyes? Odd as it seems I’ve placed this picture to stand guard over my innermost thoughts. It represents my mother when her heart’s voice spoke louder than the world’s.

Aug 12 The days we shared together ended at three-hundred sixty-seven; barely a year and not nearly enough. Since Earl’s passing the creaking and moaning of a century-old house no longer seems quaint. Its breath sounds eerily like his footsteps on the staircase. It is during these times I especially miss my mother as I wrestle with womanly desires. The cradle Earl refinished in anticipation of babies no longer represents promise. For a time it sat in the corner, but eventually seemed suitable for kindling as it spoke to me in unusually cruel ways. On certain very sad days I place a pillow beneath my blouse and dream of things that will never be.

Aug 27 After the day’s worries have expired along with the setting of the sun, I sit on the porch and speak with him. It seems much less complicated to pretend the accident never happened. Underneath a starry sky when he holds my hand I can once again believe in foolish things—like forever. His soothing voice minimizes the painful task of starting over again—this solitary life of one.

Dec 25 My mind is consumed with running, where I might escape these painful rats that gnaw at my and fingers toes. I wiggle them occasionally so that they see I am alive, but they know better. I phoned you yesterday, but chose to leave no message. If you did not recognize my voice or return my call it would be worse. Had we talked, I would have spoken to you about fear; fear of dark things. However, friends that come to feed are better than no friends at all, but soon they may tire of such trivial things as fingers and toes and move on to more tender things.


Mar 21 As I read the previous entry I am glad to have rid myself of the company of that woman; she was desperate, tired, and without hope; not at all what I wish to be. I have sold the farm ground and nearly completed renovations of the home. The bedrooms will soon be finished just as we had planned, suitable for two boys and one girl. It has taken several months but I have located and accepted the challenge of raising three mentally handicapped teenagers. Since this home has a renewed purpose it should also have a name. I’ve settled on the name Harvest House.

Apr 10 Mark, the most severely impaired of the three, remains content watching the world pass. His eyes see far more than most, but what he views prove too formidable to put into words. Even his own name represents a challenge; “Mork” is the best he can do. As his mother I regret that in a world defined by standards and measures, my Morkie’s life will likely be filled with a multitude of “best he can do’s”, but truly what more can a mother ask of a child. If consciences were laid bare could anyone deny the benefit of absorbing more and speaking less?

Despite her own handicap, Julia is consumed with ‘mother hen’ instincts. The satisfaction she derives from helping others, especially ‘Mork’, is evident in her infectious smile. Who else besides Julia would cry for hours when she learned the Grinch’s heart was two sizes too small? What a blessed gift to be unaware that mending the hearts of others fills her own with purpose.

Unfortunately Darren can best be described as illusive, like trying to capture a breeze with bare hands. I remind myself his autism feeds his desire for distance, but it breaks a mother’s heart when each time she reaches for him he only travels further away. The more determined my attempts to climb inside his head the more intrusive he perceives the trespass. Perhaps Julia’s assessment is most appropriate, “Can’t you see Momma; his happiness is found in freedom.”

May 5 Although there can never be blood connection, no share D.N.A., on rare occasions when I look deep into my reflection I see in my own personality each of them.
For three consecutive days there has been no sun. Some in the house are skeptical of its return. From dawn until dusk dark clouds paint the rural sky, but even imminent things fail to deliver on promises. Although they are unaware, the children at Harvest House are waiting for much more than rain. For now I am the only one who knows of the complicated matters that lend heaviness to the air. I must shield their childlike minds from reality; the precious dears have done nothing to deserve such burden.

June 6
This morning my mind was preoccupied with more than breakfast preparation. While the children were in tune with the aroma of fresh biscuits, I recognized the unmistakable smell of rain riding the lead edge of a storm. I sighed in relief as the sheets of rain sweep across the fields. Perhaps now the headaches would subside and the sun could shine once again.


Aug 15 Breakfast conversation seemed unusually slim and when the sporadic words did come Julia sensed they were forced. She asked what it was that worried me. In a rehearsed voice I attempted to reassure her, but she remained unconvinced. She said my voice was not perky and my sparkly eyes were dull. Naively she asked if one of them had misbehaved. In a wavering voice I told her that each of them were cherubs and angels can only bring hope and light.

Sept 13 I busied myself with such innocent things as counting cotton balls and tongue depressors, but I knew Dr. Morrow would return. His frown indicated the test results were not favorable. Up to this time Dr. Morrow had been supportive, but he lashed out at me when I mentioned the children. He said what I had done was unconscionable. It was true; I did know I had leukemia before I adopted them, but he did not understand the level of suffering (mine or theirs). I left his office in tears, torn by my greedy actions. He told me he would call child services and arrange to have the children placed back in homes. It would be better that way; my time left would be doubled if I didn’t have to care for them and they could receive the specialized care they needed. Momma, they need love, not to be tied in chairs for hours upon end. These children are not a burden to me, but a blessing. I have made my decision and our bags are packed. Please do not think badly of me, Mother. In my heart I feel I have given as much as was taken. Once you receive the letter the end is near. I trust your judgment in finding them families. My only request is that they not be returned to the homes they came from. Julia is the only one I have told and she has been instructed to call you once I pass. She will have directions to where you can pick them up.

No sooner had Jenny laid the diary down her phone began to ring. With hands that trembled she answered but was unable to find words.

“Grandma Jenny, this is Julia. Momma says it’s time.”

Sunday, May 31, 2009

A Father's Son


It was a time of celebration far too long in the making; a festive occasion where banners flew freely and those gathered basked in its glory. Sparks of electricity bridged the gap, arcing from one guest to another, energizing smiles and providing fuel for the dreams of tomorrow.

A sudden hush fell over the crowd as they were asked to take their seats by a distinguished looking gentleman.

“It is a glorious day, indeed, and our distinct privilege to have Reverend Darius Williams II as our speaker. Please join me in giving him a warm welcome.”

The Reverend appeared comfortable behind the podium. Time only allowed a quick glance at his watch and like a man seeking to make up for lost time he launched into his speech.

“The houses along Spruce Lane stood in rows of conformity. Precisely .75 acres of plush Bermuda grass surrounded each, mowed and manicured twice weekly on Wednesday and Saturday between the months of April and November. Each owner was free to apply for a tree permit, but if approved it would be a Blue Spruce and could not exceed six feet at maturity. Routine patrols ensured the Sea-gray #12 brick exteriors remained free from debris. Cracks in the mortar could not exceed two inches in length. Owners which fell out of compliance would find themselves reprimanded with official notices of correction. An owner ticketed more than twice in a calendar year would be summonsed before the architectural council, and nothing good ever came from that. Those who presided there did more than dabble in evil; within the secret chamber they formed unholy alliances. The neighborhood was a nightmare of symmetry and oppression. Just as a cancer can never be content with a single organ, so was the dysfunction here.

As a young boy I struggled against myself. It was my heart which took exception to what they stood for, or more importantly what they stood against. Yet my father, an eternal pacifist, continued to preach against hate. He reminded me often, ‘The harboring of hate will not only kill the heart, but render a heart blind to solutions.’ Believe what I tell you, many speak of principles but few have the courage to apply them to their own life.

The council allowed my father to address them and for six long hours he pleaded to stop the expansion. His desire was to spare the tattered homes and broken down house of worship that lined the north perimeter of the golden neighborhood. Not only did they flatly deny his request, he was savagely beaten as he left the meeting place that night. I suppose a not-so-subtle reminder that a black man might realize his place in society.

Even when the bulldozers arrived he asked the neighbors to carry him there. I begged him not to go, but he assured me he had an obligation to speak for those having no voice. His body was broken but those who gathered came to hear his spirit speak, and without judgment he calmly put his faith in dialogue. On the surface my father pleaded for worthless homes and real estate, but they belonged to relatives, friends, and neighbors, and even a seven year old realized there were greater things at stake. Armed with an open Bible and crucifix my father began to speak, believing fully that God would provide him words that might change the course of events. His once powerful voice that carried conviction from the pulpit now sounded weak and ineffective against the backdrop of whining diesel engines. In the end powerful words were not nearly enough. Justice of the day allowed a single neighborhood and its powerfully corrupt council to hold us all hostages.

For months I was summoned to my father’s room each evening as he required help to kneel and pray. Although I requested to leave and return when he was finished, my wishes were denied. He knew the importance of me hearing as he prayed for the very men who had beaten him. While obedience required me to sit, obstinacy prevented the words from penetrating my mind.

Year after year I bitterly harbored that which my father warned against, and still I wandered there in a wilderness of my own making even as he passed. On the year anniversary of his death I went to lay flowers for him. Through a stand of trees came a single beam of light, powerful enough to penetrate the walls I had fortified. In that golden ray I heard my father’s voice and suddenly realized this world could ill-afford another damaged heart.

In that moment of revelation I found my mission. Little did I realize the rocky road would bring me before the very council my father once stood. There was little hope that my words stood a chance of being more convincing than his, so instead I prayed my father’s belief might be put in practice. Even on his death bed he held firmly to a notion that appealing to the sensibility of another man’s humanity might produce results—and eventually it did.

The past has passed, but should not be forgotten. The very ground on which this sanctuary sits was the land my father fought to preserve. Long ago I forgave the council for stealing my father’s dreams. Dreams are of our own design and where one rises and falls certainly another can be born. As you move forward so shall I. It is with great pride I can finally announce; I am my father’s son!”


Friday, May 8, 2009



To the casual observer this is nothing more than a tired farm implement whiling away its last days as the branches of a nearby tree attempt to obscure it from view. Au contraire; in the proper hands this bad boy can sling five-hundreds pounds of manure in the blink of an eye. You say, “But Dan, between the two houses of Congress we already have 535 professional versions, why do we need more?” And to that I can only respond, “Good question.”

But due to an acute state of boredom I decided to compile a list of characteristics for each. (Due to posting issues I am unable to do a side to side comparison with columns. It will make much more sense if you read an item number from one category and the coresponding item under the other category).

Manure Spreader
1. Sales pitch accurately depicts merchandise
2. Can be openly purchased at auction
3. Superior customer satisfaction rating
4. Sits idle a good portion of the year
5. Quite adept at spewing poo
6. Pulled behind a tractor


Elected Official
1. Is this even the same guy I voted for?
2. Will openly auction his purchase
3. Sketchy; see ability to be purchased
4. Same
5. Same
6. Not a bad idea

* The views and generally piss-poor attitude depicted in this article may not reflect the view of the blog owner, but in this case they do.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Mine That Bird



I’m a big enough man to admit that jealousy is an ugly thing. He vaulted from virtual obscurity to a fully bona fide stud in a shade over two minutes—the horse I mean. Although I suppose if the lighting was right and he was buying me dinner, Calvin Borel isn’t necessarily an unattractive man.

I guess we can’t consider him a stud in the true sense of the word; actually Mine That Bird is a gelding. Hopefully news of such a private nature does not travel through the horsing community as readily as it does through a small town filled with busy-bodies. Nothing is sacred any longer and poor Dale Dorfler learned the hard way.

The purchase of a life size blow-up doll combined with half-pulled bedroom curtains would not have definitely spelled his doom were it not for Gladys Glasscock’s penchant for binoculars. You see, Dale was a rather rotund man and according to Gladys’ account, he attacked the O-shaped mouth of the Marilyn Monroe look-a-like with such veracity that on four separate occasions he had to pause and patch his buoyant beauty.

Within a week of his infamous display word had spread. Most folks believe the last straw came at the hands of Gladys’ two seven-year-old grandsons. Rusty Glasscock and his brother Woody performed their rendition in front of the plate glass window of Dale’s Hardware store. Just where two little devils acquired an inflate-a-date remains a mystery, but their realistic reenactment drew quite a crowd.

Faced with humiliation on a level that few can relate to, Dale closed the store early. Sadly he folded his latex lover, placed her in the passenger seat, and left town under the cover of darkness. To this day his house remains empty as no local would knowingly subject themselves to Gladys’ prying eyes.

Word to the wise: for her seventy-third birthday she received a video camera. Remember to draw the shades lest the indiscretions of today garner a plethora of U-tube hits tomorrow.



Saturday, May 2, 2009

Circle of Influence


During the course of a lifetime we connect with thousands of people, but busy lives, selfish interests, and simply circumstances, keep acquaintances from entering our circle of influence. Yet there are those that defy logic, requiring neither proximity nor extended exposure to leave an indelible impression. Bob Church (aka Bubba Lee Strunk) was one of those rarities; pretentious and unapologetic in his candor, yet humble enough to be uncomfortable hearing the profound impact he has made. Often the most enjoyable slices of life arrive late and depart far too soon, so is my acquaintance with Bob Church.

Our first meeting occurred on the internet, peculiar for a man unabashedly comfortable in his own skin to be loitering in a virtual realm where paupers routinely pose as kings and reality is none the wiser. Bob Church did not ‘do fake’; he was nothing less and nothing more than he appeared to be and a tag line at the end of his e-mails was a not-so-subtle reminder to the rest of us: “Life’s short…get over yourself.”

Soon after our meeting Bob was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer; the timeline remains fuzzy as he rarely spoke of it directly. In my opinion, it was not that he struggled with his own mortality but by recognizing it unduly, he was giving it more power over him than it deserved. No matter the odds a former-Marine will never embolden the enemy and finally when surrender is unavoidable it cannot be under the terms of the enemy. Bob’s words from a recent e-mail stick with me, “In small doses I feed him poison. Despite my efforts he may win the battle, but I’ll be damned if I stroke his head and feed him!”

Bob was a regular working man as required by the world, but it was at the request of his heart that he penned his stories. Had he bowed to the masses and written the type of drivel an editor wants to hear, I’m convinced he would have been on a book-signing tour ten months out of the year. As much as the world needs to see his work, they deserved it in pure Bob-esque form. The following is a paragraph from a response Bob gave to someone that asked, “Why do you write like you do?”

So chide me if you will—mock me if you must—but somewhere within, you know I’m right. If you’re interested, I have one piece of advice for any writer: Leave the safety of acceptance and you will find a new world so complex, so appealing, so goddamn interesting… that you won’t want to leave. Never again will you be satisfied to tell someone else’s story in someone else’s terms; never again will you accept normality as a hallmark nor universal acceptability as a precept. Don’t describe a character’s life or actions, but help me experience his dreams. I promise your writing will fly like never before—with or without a few extra illusory similes.

At Bob's personal request there will be no extravagant funeral, simply a gathering of friends and family to celebrate and reminisce. No doubt he will be watching over those in the circle, for they meant the world to him, but I wish for him to know that his circle of influence goes well beyond those in attendance. Although I am unable to physically attend, tonight we will chat as long as you like.

The cooler is packed, the minnow bucket full, and there’s an open seat in the boat. Even though the crappie left their beds weeks ago, still you wink and accept the invitation. A mischievous smile crosses your face as you dust off one of your famous stories.

“Dan, did I ever tell about the time…….”

As we head off to a quiet cove, impervious to the troubles of the world, my mind quietly records the chuckle of a man larger than life. Bob Church I salute you. God speed and Semper Fi, my friend.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Divorce

Below you will find a piece called the ‘divorce agreement’ that has been circulating the internet. The red text is original. The blue comments were added by an individual who obviously suffers from the same affliction as President Obama; a delusion that his vision is that of main stream America. Although I wished to have used a white font to complete a red, white, and blue theme (patriotism drives the liberals nuts). I did not however wish to be labeled an unrefined, intolerant racist, which I can see coming a mile a way. There is also the fact that a white font on a white page would only feed the left’s belief that conservative views and voices should remain invisible and silent. So as they boldly proclaim, I will ‘go green’.



Divorce agreement:Dear American liberals, leftists, social progressives, socialists, Marxists and Obama supporters, et al:We have stuck together since the late 1950's, (You mean since Reich Winger Joe McCarthy screamed that everybody he didn’t like was a communist? Hey, that sounds familiar. And we'll ignore Nixon's Enemies List) (You shall be judged by your works. An eloquently delivered telepromted speech does not a leader make. If President Obama walks like a duck, no amount of ‘change we can believe in’ will magically transform him into an eagle) but the whole of this latest election process (You mean when the guy with the most votes won.) (Most likely the original reference has more to do with the slobbering love affair of the liberal media swooning over a ‘rock star’ than it does with ballots) has made me realize that I want a divorce. I know we tolerated each other for many years for the sake of future generations, but sadly, this relationship has run its course. Our two ideological sides of America cannot and will not ever agree on what is right (Obama won. Most Americans voted for him and want him to succeed. Republicans are not just against Democrats; they are against democracy.) (This gaffe is very telling. Only the Democrats ‘want him to succeed’. Republicans would like to see our country succeed in spite of its current leader) so let's just end it on friendly terms. (So we can still be friends.) (Unlikely, as friends rarely make preparations to seize another friend’s private business under the guise of protecting the masses. Democrats will always believe the government must save the poor helpless people from their own ignorant-selves) We can smile and chalk it up to irreconcilable differences and go our own way. Here is a model separation agreement:
Our two groups can equitably divide up the country by landmass. (We tried that in the Civil War, but if you insist, we’ll take the Northern states and West Coast.) (Spoken as a true liberal. If we cut out the heart of the country the fringe elements become normal and much more palatable) That will be the difficult part, but I am sure our two sides can come to a friendly agreement. After that, it should be relatively easy! Our respective representatives can effortlessly divide other assets since both sides have such distinct and disparate tastes. We don't like redistributive taxes so you can keep them. (Great. So we don’t have to redistribute our tax money while two thirds of all the corporations pay none.) (Distortion is a powerful thing among weak minds. The top ten percent of earners pay sixty-eight percent of federal income taxes. Do your research.) You are welcome to the liberal judges and the ACLU. (OK. We’ll take justice and civil liberties for the common folk.) (I believe he meant to say, take justice and civil liberties from the common folk. As where the California 9th Circuit Court of Appeals believes the ‘wisdom’ of a few justices overrides the will of the common folk. Don’t get me started on the ACLU, who happens to support N.A.M.B.L.A. If you don’t know what it is Google it) Since you hate guns and war, we'll take our firearms, the cops, the NRA and the military. (And we’ll arm those who swear to protect and defend the Constitution.) (I serious doubt anyone believe they qualify as supporters of the Constitution, but Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid fumbling to load a weapon; I’d pay to see that unfold) You can keep Oprah, Michael Moore and Rosie O'Donnell (You are, however, responsible for finding a bio-diesel vehicle big enough to move all three of them). (Now if you can’t be nice, you shouldn’t sit at the adults’ table.) (If the adult table includes Oprah, Michael Moore and Rosie O’Donnell I’m outta here. While they exploit the free market all the way to the bank their hypocrisy whines loudly into my deaf ear. We'll keep the capitalism, greedy corporations, pharmaceutical companies, Wal-Mart and Wall Street. (What you mean is corporatism, where these companies help write the Republicans’ laws to help themselves to more of the people’s money. And I bet this won’t be the only time you side with greed.) (Much like how Nancy Pelosi has loaded the stimulus bill with obvious attempts, not to stimulate economical growth, but to cram the liberal agenda down our throats) You can have your beloved homeless, homeboys, hippies and illegal aliens. (You mean those people made homeless by Republican corporations that moved their jobs overseas? And you mean the aliens illegally hired by some of those same Republican corporations?) (If memory serves, it was President Clinton pushing NAFTA, opening the floodgates of cheap labor. Be mindful of how you address the ‘undocumented workers’, because as soon an Amnesty bills passes they will be a ‘must have’ for the Democratic Party of the future. We'll keep the hot Alaskan hockey moms, greedy CEO's and rednecks. (Greedy Wall Street CEO’s are your kind of people. Smart rednecks know those CEO’s are Republicans.) (Why must we keep using Republicans in place of CEO’s and business owners. Are there no Democratic CEO’s and do the Republicans have a lock on small businesses?) We'll keep the Bibles and give you NBC and Hollywood. (As long as you take Jerry Falwell, Jim Baker, Pat Robertson, Ted Haggard, and Fox “News” with you.) (I’ll take these and raise you one; Nancy Pelosi, Barbara Boxer, Harry Reid, Ted Kennedy, Move-on, and the infamous George Soros. Now there’s a hypocritical piece-of-work as he stashes his never-ending pile of cash overseas).You can make nice with Iran and Palestine and we'll retain the right to invade and hammer places that threaten us. (You were threatened by Iraq?) (Countries aiding and feeding the intolerance of radical Islam threatens us all. Put down you peace sign long enough to realize they would love nothing more than to lop of your head simply because you are an infidel) You can have the peaceniks and war protesters. (And everyone else with a conscience?) (Conscience is not the first thing that comes to mind as protestors spat upon our soldiers when they returned from Vietnam?) When our allies or our way of life are under assault, (Our way of life includes the Fourth Amendment, which was assaulted way more by Bush than the terrorists.) (I can only assume we are talking about the Patriot Act. Is murder always mutually exclusive with assault…..nearly 3,000 men, women, and children needlessly lost their lives on 9-11. Last I checked wire-tapping suspected criminals hasn’t killed anyone.) we'll help provide them security.We'll keep our Judeo-Christian values. (And we’ll keep the Bill of Rights, democracy, tolerance, and equality.) (And maybe someday you can sit down for a cup of tea with the terrorists, showing them the Bill of Rights, and discuss how things used to be) You are welcome to Islam, Scientology, Humanism and Shirley McClain. You can also have the U. N. but we will no longer be paying the bill. (Speaking of paying the bill, there will be no more red state socialism to bail your asses out. Let me explain so you understand. Most Republican states, those states that voted for Bush, receive more federal money than they pay in taxes.) (Explain so I can understand. You, Sir, are dangerously close to being removed from the adult table)
We'll keep the SUVs, pickup trucks and oversized luxury cars. You can take every Subaru station wagon you can find. (Ya’ll better leave those Northern state union-made vehicles with us, and keep your Southern state non-union Asian type cars.) (Probably not the best choice as Obama now wields the power to oust a CEO of a company he intends to take control of) You can give everyone healthcare if you can find any practicing doctors. (You’ll have all the jobless families bankrupted by health care costs.) We'll continue to believe healthcare is a luxury and not a right. (So you believe in profit over people. Which is why we say health care is integral to the right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.) (Total equality can never exist and the destination is not guaranteed, only the freedom to pursue. These are not new concepts. While it makes for a wonderful story book, show me one place socialized medicine can be called a success. If our politicians will agree to be covered under the same plan as you and I, I’ll take a look)
We'll keep The Battle Hymn of the Republic and the National Anthem. I'm sure you'll be happy to substitute Imagine, I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing, Kum Ba Ya or We Are the World. (We’ll also keep all the music ever recorded by drug users and drunks. That includes Hank Williams, Elvis, and Johnny Cash. And you can dance to military march music at your party rallies.) (I’m O.K. with drug users and drunks making music. It beats filling your cabinet with tax cheats. Hey, I got a great idea, let’s put those who can’t/won’t reconcile their own finances in charge of an entire country’s troubled financial system) We'll practice trickle down economics and you can give trickle up poverty your best shot. (Where have you been the last three decades? The rich got trickled up tax cuts, while the middle class has been trickling down the drain.) (Define rich for me. Did you receive a check in the mail during the Bush administration or did you burn it in protest?) Since it often so offends you, we'll keep our history, our name and our flag. (You seem to have trouble remembering the last 8 years. History comes in books, documentaries and even movies. Remember, you don’t like that stuff. And Palin couldn’t remember any Supreme Court Case she disagreed with other than Roe v Wade. There’s Limbaugh’s anointed leader for you.) (Outright lies and fabrications also come in the form of books, documentaries, and movies. Didn’t your momma warn you not to believe everything you read and only half of what you see?)Would you agree to this? (As revised.) (As re-revised) If so, please pass it along to other like minded liberal and conservative patriots and if you do not agree, just hit delete. In the spirit of friendly parting, I'll bet you ANWAR which one of us will need whose help in 15 years. (Oh, right, just like Wall Street needs us to bail them out.) (Perhaps Barney Frank (D) and Chris Dodd (D) can speak to their involvement in the banking failures, for that matter let’s throw in A.C.O.R.N, Obama’s pet project as a community organizer. I’m certain none of them demanded homes for those that could not afford them, in equality’s name of course. It’s called living within your means. You Dem’s should try it sometime, but Mr. Conservative, “It’s much easier to live within someone else’s means.”

Sincerely,
John J. Wall, Law Student and an American

P. S. Also, please take Barbara Streisand & Jane Fonda with you. (You must be a very OLD law student to remember Babs and Jane.) (By your own admission history comes in books. Actually, I’m sure Hanoi Jane espousing her rhetoric on foreign soil has been scrubbed from our History books by the p.c. police…, but nonetheless, slightly unflattering behavior don’t you think?)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

A Dream Within a Dream




With all practical alternatives exhausted the flicker of hope fades further from reach. A burning desire for life now disguises itself as a vague will to live. The latter is not nearly enough. When desire is dissolved from the equation, by default, dread fills the void. My pool of resolve is receding, and as it flees from me I curse the inefficiency of the icy fingers of death lingering at my throat.

Rare circumstances unveil the identity of what lies beneath our mask. With earnest intentions I pray such a tragedy that has befallen me is rare indeed. Even the devil, birthed from a bubbling cauldron of deceit, should not deserve such a torturous end.

All who have drawn breath hope to avoid a lingering departure. Fading in small doses exposes the subtle frailties of the human mind. Even a circling vulture shows restraint. If he descends too quickly on a beating heart, the distress of the prey will cause a surge of adrenaline and spoil the meat. Indeed my flesh has become sour, and like an undisciplined bird I gnaw at my own skin. Each bitter bite invites a new level of torment, but the wounds are never deep enough to break the canabalistic cycle. Oh for the brilliant flames of a fiery car crash or the searing lead from a bullet as it mercifully separates senses from suffering.

A thousand times over I wish to have never known that only grief lies on the underside of a white sheet drawn prematurely. As it approaches, my limbs will not move, eyes refuse to blink, and the coldness of the table seeps into the marrow of my bones. Shallow breaths come quickly now and draw the linen against my nostrils, filling them completely. Without a glance in my direction the nurse turns out the light, and distances herself from loss. The sound of clicking heels becomes my nightmare, as they travel further down the hall. She will return home tonight to her family while I can neither look back nor move forward. Where is the smell of death I crave, and why will she not end this game?

If only a tunnel or a brilliant light would present itself. Yet I continue to wander in circles. In this realm of confusion there is only darkness that feeds on me and I upon it. My troubled soul finds no comfort among the living or the dead and this void leaves me more isolated and alone than I ever wished to be. Against all that is natural and logical my solitary hope is that suddenly I wake with wide eyes and emerge from a dream within a dream.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Today



An eastern sky gives birth to an orange glow and life stirs at horizon’s edge. The promise of day sprouts from the ashes of night. Yet neither night nor day is given to a jealous heart; a wise man realizes they are forged from equal virtue. Today I shall not pass on what lies before me, for it is real. I will sip from its beauty and its sustenance shall sate my ravenous soul. Only the bitter arms of regret will greet a man who waits for tomorrow.

Shadows, slender and frail, seek the seclusion of the woods. Two rolling giants appear before me, never greener or livelier except in the reflection of yesterday’s eye. Twin hillsides careen against one another, entwined like lovers; never less but always more, for content hearts will never know lust for another. Their forbidden dance continues mysteriously below the waterline, but should all things be revealed in one day?

On a journey towards tomorrow the swirling breeze shatters the glass surface into a thousand diamonds, each casting a prism as unique and fleeting as a single moment in time. Hand over hand they pass the baton in a relay to reach the distant shore. Sliding—gliding, never doubting their buoyancy.

A somber rustling of reeds, like the strings of a bass, accompany top-heavy cattails as they waltz to the sweetness of summer’s song. Sorrow-laden branches droop in an irreversible arc. What has she seen that causes the willow to weep? Even the bird cloaked in black is given to song once he discovers the blessing of red on his brother’s wing. He speaks with conviction to his reflection, but only the wind should decipher the words of his heart. Man would only find burden with such knowledge.

I shall become a fixture upon this shore for no commitment is greater than this Eden lying before me. Better I should gouge out my eyes than to offend my maker by dismissing the work of his hands. Perhaps somewhere in the vastness of time there awaits a more perfect union, but more likely it is myth, spun from the silken cobwebs of illusive dreams.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Vision


This painting depicts a small country church constructed in 1903. Nestled in the countryside it is as nondescript as a thousand others. While her belfry watches like a worried mother, arched windows whisper of earlier days and simpler times. Her frail voice speaks to a dwindling few. Many that once crossed the threshold now travel to a destination further down the road.

My brother e-mailed a picture of the church we grew up in; her stature and lines no longer perfect as they appear in the painting. Even the holiest of places cannot always escape the forces of nature.

The aftermath of a tornado forces my heart into the back of my throat with a power that words can only dream of. My eyes grow weary, but like the shutter of a camera deliver images that cannot be easily undone. Her brokenness speaks to me with such clarity. For a moment I am with her.

Whistling winds escorted by an eerie darkness roll across the western sky. Quickly the lights overhead seem not nearly enough. There are no tracks yet I feel the rumbling vibrations reverberating in my chest. As invisible as night the train is unmistakably powerful and black. The foundation trembles, even bricks fear the approach of such a force whose course cannot be altered. Plaster strikes the wooden floor with a slap of finality; its last breathe visibly exhaled in dusty plumes. Pushed beyond reason, twisted frames loose their grip and regret displaces oxygen. Colored panes of glass fall from grace in a final, unceremonious descent. Only the howling wind insulates my ears from the morbid, groaning, and grinding within. Antique lights sway sweetly against their chains like a reluctant conductor as the chords of death play on.

I glance from the computer screen as a single thought burrows itself deep into my brain. I envision the Father frowning as I consider why it is he did not spare his own house. Yet I believe he understands completely the frailty of humanity and it is the Spirit that provides company for my lonely thought.

The only face that witnessed the destruction firsthand was that of the clock, hands frozen forever at 10:30. Although the storm passed through on a Sunday morning during regular worship hours, why did the pews remained empty? Perhaps he could no longer bear to see the faithful ten or twelve parishioners languish over the cost of upkeep that meager coffers can longer fund. Perhaps he sent the band of neighbors and Mennonites to retrieve the bell and contents while the tattered frame still stood.

Maybe my eyes see only a fraction of the picture. It is quite possible that tomorrow as I pass the painting hanging on my wall something will cause me to pause, viewing it in a different light. As I stand admiring the past perhaps I will also see hope for the future. Long past due I will take the time to render thanks to the artist for his/her foresight and their view so much broader than mine.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Stingray


Ralph Conley stood at the window with his hands and faced pressed against the glass. His hands were much larger and less grubby now, but the barrier remained thick and cold just as he remembered. No longer did children play games by counting his protruding ribs. Sleek suit pants replaced ratty hand-me-down jeans and fine Italian shoes knew nothing of filthy sneakers too poor to own laces. Fine clothes alone could not conceal the aching memories of past. While his friends wheeled up and down the street Ralph mumbled and kicked at the pavement, often until weary shoes revealed bloody toes, but how could they have known their gleeful cries were like a dagger in his heart?

Behind the glass, workers scurried like field mice at harvest time, but none of their faces were familiar. Likely they had moved on to bigger things; not Mr. Wilson. He stood in precisely the same spot, adjusting the sprocket and chain until it sang a chorus of sweet mechanical music. Time had etched a few extra furrows in his brow and his skin hung more loosely, congregating at the corner of his eyes and mouth, but nothing in this world could deter Mr. Wilson’s spirit.

Over the last several years financial hardships had struck at the private sector with a vengeance like no one could recall, but with a grease-streaked forehead Mr. Wilson stood staunch; cursing any and all who suggested the closing of his bike shop as an appropriate end of an era gone by. Mr. Wilson did one thing well; he provided a vehicle for young boys’ and girls’ dreams, and that was something you simply walked away from.

A tiny bell above the door announced Ralph’s entrance. A skewed glance from Mr. Wilson’s steel gray eyes stopped him in his tracks. Ralph felt like an intruder, unworthy to stand on this side of the door. He had crossed the moat, but wasn’t convinced muddy boots belonged on the shiny concrete floor of a palace.

“Can I help you, sir?”

Ralph didn’t expect to be recognized and giggled quietly at the notion of being addressed with such respect. Mr. Wilson adjusted his glasses as he closed the distance.

“Well I’ll be damned—if ain’t old Ralphie boy. I didn’t think I’d ever see you again.”

Ralph smiled, “So you remember me?”

“Ralphie, you was hard to forget. Saddest thing I ever seen—standing outside my window, day in day out. I quit wearing a watch—didn’t have to anymore. I knew from 3:20 right up ‘til dark you’d be there, and then again bright and early on Saturday morning; kicking at the sidewalk as if somehow that might fix things.”

Ralph shook his head, embarrassed that Mr. Wilson recalled such detail, “How come you never ran me off?”

Mr. Wilson put his hand on Ralph’s shoulder as he squeezed it several times in succession.

“Don’t suppose it matters if I tell you now—seein’ your momma’s already passed. Ralphie, I wanted you to have that bike more than anything. One day I went to your house to speak with your momma. Told her I understood she had six young mouths to feed, but offered to give her the bike on credit and she’d pay when she could. I winked to let her know ‘when she could’ might never come, but she wouldn’t have none of it. Said the bike was just another sad chapter in a story called life; that you’d have to learn to live with disappointment just like she had. I supposed she was talking about when your daddy up and walked out—but it still didn’t seem right to me; one didn’t have to do with the other. I realized then I couldn’t make her take my gift—sure wish I could have.”

Like morning dew, a misty haze settled in Ralph’s eyes as he carefully considered just what motivated a stranger to go to such extremes in order to remove even a sliver of disappointment from a young boy’s heart.

“I had no idea, Mr. Wilson. I only knew I admired you and the passion with which you greeted each day, but I didn’t come here today for me. Down the street from my home there’s a family in need. The father has been laid off of work and even before that they didn’t have much. Each day I see subtle changes in the young boy; his eyes grow colder, more sinister, he kicks at the ground, and before long even hope will seem too much to ask for. As a young boy I didn’t know how such things looked but I sure knew how it felt.”

Ralph fished his checkbook out of the inside pocket of his suit coat, “Mr. Wilson, I don’t what appeals to young boys these days, but pick out a nice bike and let’s make this Christmas one he’ll remember.”

Mr. Wilson shuffled off towards the back. Soon the old man returned, steering as best he could an old but immaculate Stingray. The fluorescent lights danced against the deep metallic blue finish and sat glistening upon a sparkling white banana seat.

“Ralphie, when your momma took sick and you quit coming to stand at the window I took the display bike down. I couldn’t bear to sell it to anyone else and just looking at it made my stomach turn.”

Ralph smiled until his jaws ached. Even as he signed the check his eyes glimmered, much like those of a young boy receiving his first ride.

Mr. Wilson drew the check closer, giving away his failing eyes. “Ralphie, I can’t take this—$5,000 is ten times what this old thing’s worth.”

“Not to me and certainly not to my neighbor friend down the street. Times are tough, Mr. Wilson. Consider it a loan.”

Before turning away Ralph winked in an obvious manner, “You pay me back when you can.”

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Malfunction/Smunction


Patience is a virtue. If you recall, only a few short days ago I posted on Paula’s wardrobe malfunction and expressed my own man-pig desire that it should have been Rachael Ray in the spotlight. As I scanned the news this morning you can only imagine my disbelief when I came across an interview with Rachael in which they were discussing a little spread she did for FHM magazine some years ago (definitely not qualifying as a wardrobe malfunction).

In the vein of good reporting, and for no other reason whatsoever, I felt obligated to view the controversial pictures. By today’s standards the photos reveal nothing more of an eye-full than a casual observer might see on a public street, but it did spawn another observation. A scarce few of these celebrities are willing to do now, what they eagerly offered in the past. Perhaps the inconsistency that wafts through the air is an aroma completely fabricated in my own mind, but just maybe a quick paycheck in the past pales in comparison to jeopardizing a multi-million dollar contract of today.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Big



Darrell stood at the magazine rack agonizing over his choice. ‘Squeaky’s Oil and Lube’ carried a limited selection and normally something as mundane would not have warranted a second thought, but today he sensed the eyes of scrutiny upon him. The unrelenting gaze belonging to a woman seated strangely close to the rack. Maybe she was an editor or marketing representative and as part of some cosmic assignment forced to observe/scrutinize the reading selections of others. In an attempt to avoid skewing the survey too far in either direction, Darrell grabbed a wrinkled copy of Sports Illustrated; an insipid choice indeed.

The chair in which she sat unquestionably suffered its largest challenge of the day, but it was not alone. Gray knit slacks, stretched beyond reason, could not prevent the excess of her thighs from gently rolling over the edges. A cheap romance novel served as disguise, but her occasional glance fooled no one. The book rested on a shelf of sorts, somewhere near a blurred line of where bosoms ended and her stomach began. An extra chin justified its existence by saving her neck the trouble of having to support her head. Soft facial features played quietly to a deepening scowl. The downward draw at the corners of her mouth spoke not only of her immediate physical discomfort but perhaps a frustration with the world in general; a cage designed specifically to exclude the petite and much too willing to browbeat those less eager or unable to conform.

The lack of patronage on a Wednesday afternoon meant plenty of available seating and the primary reason he chose midweek to tend to business. He slipped into the seat next to her as inconspicuously as possible. While Darrell would never have the distinction of being an intellectual giant he plainly knew what he liked in a woman. If the opportunity presented itself, and he knew it would, he fancied the chance to get to know such a mysterious and voluptuous vixen.

She offered only a brief glance in his direction before swiveling her entire body. So much that her knees made it difficult for the mechanics to enter and exit the garage. Darrell truly didn’t know whether to be offended by the chilly reception or to accept it as a challenge. He wrestled with the possibility that perhaps a woman such as this had absolutely no interest in his six foot three one-hundred fifty pound frame. With disappointment still circulating in his mind he allowed his eyes to wander to the magazine in his lap. Reality hit him square between the eyes (he had the 2009 Swimsuit Edition sitting in his lap). At that very moment in time, a sweaty Duane Wade sitting near his privates seemed far more preferable to the glistening, tan breasts of super-model Bar Refaeli. It would appear Darrell had inadvertently sabotaged his own plan.

“Excuse me ma’am. My name’s Darrell Darnell Ward and I’m currently working on a sociology paper about the consequences of marketing bias and the devastating affects on the young women of today. If you would be so kind, could you answer a few questions?”

Truth be known, the only time Darrell had set foot inside a university hall was to attend his older sister’s graduation. He struggled through welding school with mediocre grades and considered landing a part-time at the John Deere dealer a significant milestone, but in the back of his mind he knew if he pulled this off he would be doing himself a serious disservice if he didn’t at least consider acting school. Although Darrell had no intention of seeking a degree in sociology he did find himself enamored with the study of particularly large women and their thought processes.

Before she could respond the young man at the counter announced, “Lily Anderson, you’re Taurus is ready.”

Darrell resisted the urge to follow her to the counter and instead politely waited until she turned to go.

“Come on Lily, what do you say? This final means do or die for me! Tell you what, there’s a bar just around the corner. I’ll buy you a drink and we can knock these questions out in no time. When I become famous someday, and I believe it’s only a matter of time, I’ll remember you fondly.”

She hesitated momentarily, but there was something about his boyish charm and tenacity that intrigued her. Besides it would give her a chance to lash out at what she believed one of society’s great injustices.

“OK, but just one drink.”

Darrell so loved to hear those words. Lily sat down again and together they waited for his vehicle to be finished. His palms grew sweaty and his heart raced with anticipation as he watched her reflection in the opposing window.

While the world remained satisfied promoting and catering to the petite his niche market continued to be the large and loveable. Living large was not without problems, but it seemed too late to change the pattern. It was simple physics, big women required more liquor, larger bones of course required a larger saw, and Darrell knew all too well the extra freezer space required—before the bodies could be properly disposed of.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Wardrobe Malfunction

I’m thinking of those that may have had a rough day. If this doesn’t bring a smile perhaps the foul mood is terminal.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MawQeAlsOEs

I never connected wardrobe malfunction and cooking. Perhaps if I was forced to, my choice would have been Rachael Ray, but we must take what life gives us. I’m convinced a ‘sassy southern girl’ is likely much more prepared to deal with it. Even if you question Paula’s cooking prowess, it’s difficult not to love her spirit. Perhaps we should take notice of how she handles the situation; if life ‘shucks your drawers’ all you can do is ‘hike ‘em up’ and carry on smartly. Now you know you’re momma wasn’t just whistlin’ Dixie when she told you to wear clean underpants!




Monday, February 23, 2009

Waning Tides



How did we drift apart?
Two souls intertwined
The sharing of one heart
Convergence of a mind

With you I felt complete
Fuller than before
Yet I was giving less
You were giving more

Your grace fine as silver
Meant for serving Kings
I am but a pauper
Doomed to lesser things

My half not near enough
I’ll take that to the grave
Alone I swam too far
For even you to save

I used to see forever
As we gazed beyond the swell
But eyes I thought were mine
Belonged to you as well

Farewell my angel dear
I must set you free
Free to find the man
That I could never be

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Freedom



Albert now had a pretty good understanding as to why curiosity killed the cat. The single item he discovered was quite possibly the reason the inventor of the bed made a dark, dusty underside. Albert had done a multitude of stupid things in his life, but stumbling upon his parent’s photo album suddenly vaulted to the forefront. A multi-colored flower on the cover seemed innocuous enough, but quickly Albert learned that dark tumultuous things can lurk under the cover of sparkling wrap.

His palms grew sweaty, his right eye began to twitch, and briefly he considered gouging it out as his painful heritage lay before him in the unlikely form of a gaudy collage. All of his friends and co-workers came from Hoboken, Queens, and the Bronx, but it seems as though Albert Eugene Finster had deep roots in Woodstock.

Unabashed, his father flashed the peace sign while sporting a pale blue captain’s hat and nothing else. His mother rode a wave of hands, seemingly a covert way to invite strangers to cop a feel. Albert knew little of Woodstock, but it soon became obvious that those seeking freedom traveled in hand-painted buses. The pictures themselves were shocking enough, but the captions written beneath opened Albert’s mind to an entirely different level of disgust.

Under the watchful eye of many things, karma and illicit substances being most prominent, with foresight and discretion missing completely; his parents chose the van in the lower left hand corner as the romantic den where they would unleash their animalistic passion. Albert could only image that between bouts of passing the bong and grotesque displays of unthinkable things, in the haze that became Woodstock, a ‘flower child’ was conceived.

The photo in the lower right captured several acquaintances made along the journey to find themselves. Names like moon-flower and free-dog were scribbled beneath. He had no idea if even a single one of them ever found what they were looking for, but Albert was now convinced he had found some of the answers he sought.

Albert hadn’t asked to be a freak, but perhaps his inception in a rocking V.W. van spoke volumes. His mind worked on a different level than most, even his computer-geek peers at the office considered him odd. Instead of counting sheep at night, hexadecimal conversions of I.P. addresses swirled in his head.

Although the sales personnel laughed at the water cooler they recognized a good thing when they stumbled upon it. Hovering over him they spewed out their newest proposal and he would fire back accurate details so quickly they barely had time to record them. He could take an entire map of a network and within seconds could estimate the throughput between devices with a margin of error of less than a megabyte, and really, what’s a million bytes per minute between friends.

Not even his boss could appreciate the vastness of his knowledge, evidenced by the lack of a raise for the third consecutive year. Albert almost wished he hadn’t overheard Mr. Liu’s words, but you can’t unring a bell. There had been a long tirade of Chinese words he could not decipher, but the final blow came in English and rang much too clear. “Round-eye already take too many of my dollar!”

The smell of technology sickened him; he reeked of it. Virtual servers, paged memory; everything he dealt with was fake and birthed from a concept in some dope-smoking programmers mind. When did a Blackberry cease to be something sweet and left seeds stuck between your teeth?

Today he would walk away, but not before he deleted the entire SAN, each and every file of extended storage. Albert removed the log entries indicating he had changed the rights on Mr. Liu’s account. Anyone hired to investigate the dreadful loss would be left scratching their heads, wondering why Mr. Liu had deleted his own critical data.

Albert stared past the computer monitor to the other side of the street. The new high-rise had begun to take shape and the work zone buzzed with activity. Foul-mouthed foremen barked out their orders. As barbaric as it seemed the bosses knew what it took to get things done. In the construction world, pussy-footing around only resulted in missed deadlines, and getting those stanchions poured was all that mattered on this particular today. Loading a pile of bricks into a wheelbarrow and transporting them from one location to another held a strange simplistic appeal. The ashes from a half-smoked cigarette drooped while the operator’s muscles involuntarily contracted with the predictable pulsing of the jackhammer. The trowel of a mason performed as a paintbrush in the hands of a skilled artist.

Albert Eugene Finster was not a hippie, but labeled by the world as a freak; one that had not yet found himself. He spellchecked his resignation e-mail, added his electronic signature, and pressed send.

Tossing his leather binder in the nearest trash can he walked across the street. With confidence he approached the man wearing a white hardhat. His presence was greeted with a scowl, barely visible behind a stub of a cigar protruding from the foreman’s square jaw. The man ripped another chunk from the soggy mess and with the precision of a laser bounced it off Albert’s right shoe. “What can I help you with, pretty boy?”

Albert smiled, “I’m looking for work, and before you ask, minimum wage is fine.”