Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Incredible Likeness of Being

Toshi paused to check her hair,
And who did she see standing there,
But the mirror image of
A person whom she did not love.
Did not love is understated:
She saw someone whom she hated.
“Mirror, mirror, what the hell?
Don’t hold out on me; pray tell.”
The mirror said, “Look near; look far;
What you see is what you are.
The traits you notice in your brother
You share one way or another.
When you sorry bastards see,
Your deeds are just as dastardly.
Grand or grotesque, fine or foolish,
Someone swell, or downright ghoulish,
To some extent you must be it,
If in other folks you see it.
Do not your opinions marshal,
Just observe it. Be impartial.
Be aware as you explore
That we find what we’re looking for.”

(Originally published in TheLonesome Wizard Boys' Campfire Tales)


Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Truck Stop Christmas

This is a true story. It was told to me by a guy I met on a Riverboat. That’s how I know it’s true; who could doubt the veracity of a River Rat? He didn’t use any backup singers when he told it to me, but I thought since this is going out on the Internet and all, I should polish it up a bit.

I spared no expense to fly these women in from Nashville. They are, I am proud to tell you, the same backup singers who did all that “Wah-ooo” stuff on C.W. McCall’s records.

I am laboring under a serious deadline, so the singers and I haven’t had much time to practice. We will do the best we can. I’ll play the part of the Trucker (imagine a Red Sovine-ish, Tex-Ritter-On-Acid kind of thing). It goes a little somethin like this:

Singers:

It was a Truck Stop Christmas,    
With a light snow fallin down,
In Penciltucky, but it could have been     
In any other town.    
The miracle that happened    
We may never understan,    
But, here to tell the story    
Is a Truck Drivin Man...

Trucker:
Well, I'z—

Singers:

A Truck Drivin Maa-aan. Wah-ooo.

Trucker:

Skewz me. I'z drivin down a stretch of Interstate, an' I'z really gettin hungry. Every time I'd hit them airbrakes, I'd hear 'em sayin, "Peeech Pie!" And my air horn was tellin me how I like my coffee: BLAAAAAK! BLAAAAK! Oh, I know I shouldn of been barrelin down the Interstate, hittin my airbrakes and blarin the horn like Judgment Day—that’s what too much marijuana’ll do to a man. Prob’ly why I was so hungry, too. Yeah, I’d of given a month’s pay for a big ol’ piece of “Peeech Pie!” I was tryin to remember if there was a Truck Stop on this p'tickler stretch of Interstate; that big diesel motor kept tellin me that there "Wudden! Wudden! Wudden-Wudden-Wudden!"

Singers:

Just a homesick gear jammer
Runnin low on love and luck,
Thinkin 'bout his woman,
And talkin to his truck...

Trucker:

I was 'bout to—

Singers:

Talkin to his truu-uuck. Wah-ooo.

Trucker:

I'm sorry...just kind of wave at me or somethin when it’s my turn, okay? I was 'bout to wet my pants when I came whizzin into town; the lights of an unfamiliar Truck Stop caught my eye. When I walked in, there was this old waitress draggin a dirty rag across the novelty mud flap display. She smiled at me and said, "Merry Christmas, Son." I said, "Lordee, ma'am, is it Christmas already?" She said that yes, yes it was, and I bet my jaw must of hit the floor. Seemed like only yesterday it was October—that's what too much crystal methadrine'll do to a man.

She looked at me for a long time, then said, "You know, I had a son who'd be about your age. He took off drivin trucks and I never did hear from him again. I kept hopin he'd stop in here one day—preferably at Christmas, so I'd get a double dose of the willies."

Well, I put my coffee back in the cup and said, "Ma'am, you can call it coincidence if you want to, but I had a mother who'd be about your age. I talked to Daddy the day before he died, and he told me Mama had missed me so bad, she went out and got a job at a Truck Stop, hopin someday I'd stop in."

Singers:

A Truck Stop Christmas—   
Don't it make you weep?    
The snow continued fallin;
It was really gettin deep...

Trucker:

She said she—

Singers:

Really gettin dee-eeep. Wah-ooo.

Trucker:

Damnit! She said she knew her boy was never gonna walk in at Christmas or any other time, for it was on this p'tickler stretch of Interstate, ten years ago, that her son was toppin a hill and had to swerve to miss a bus load of kids. After he'd plowed through a ditch and nearly turned over, he stuck his head out the window to cuss at the bus driver and his hat blew off. So he jumped out to get it. He should have stopped the truck first, because he was goin 90 miles an hour when he jumped out. Yeah, he was in movin violation of the law of gravity.

She said she hoped I wasn't too disappointed about her not bein my mother, and I said, "Naw, I figured as much since I was only four years old when my mama started workin at a Truck Stop." I told her about a driverless truck that had passed me a few miles back: it was goin 90 miles an hour. I didn't think much about it at the time—that's what too much Night Train'll do to a man—but after hearin her story, I got a case of the hee-bee-gee-beez like you wouldn't believe. I leaned across the counter and held onto her tired old hand. I said, "Ma'am, you may not be my mother, but I'll bet you five dollars against the price of the pie and coffee that you can't name all 8 reindeer."

She started to cry and said this was the first time in ten years that Christmas had any meanin for her—she hadn even bothered to put up any decorations. Now that it felt like Christmas, and she knew it would be her last one, all she wished for in the whole wide world was somethin to make it look like Christmas. Well, it just so happened that I was haulin a hot load of cheap plastic Nativity scenes to Chicago for an eleventh-hour trainload sale. I made up my mind right then an' there that this old woman was gonna have one of 'em if it drove every dime store in Chi Town out of business. I said, "You wait right here, Ma'am; this is gonna be the best Christmas you ever had!"
     
Well...that's when I woke up.           
[military-drums-in-the-distance]

I woke up in a foxhole...about 15 miles from White Sands Missile Range. The First Sergeant was shakin me. When I looked up at him, there was a look of curiosity and concern in the narrow eyes that so resembled elongated lug nuts, chiseled into the weather-beaten leather that was his face—two eyes, one on either side of his nose. He told me I'd been yellin in my sleep, somethin 'bout drivin a truck.

I said, "But, Sarge! I am a Truck Driver!"
    
The curiosity and concern melted into a combination of compassion and sarcasm—with just a touch of amused weariness. He said, "Son, you are not a Truck Driver, for you see, that would be impossible."
     
"Why do you say that, Sarge?"
     
"For two reasons," Sarge said: "One, you are a chimpanzee. Two, you don't even have a driver's license."

Well, I thought about that for a moment. My disappointment turned to resignation. I quietly asked Sarge, "If…if I'm not a Truck Driver, then what am I?"

Sarge said, “Speak up, son, I can’t hear you.”

So I says out loud, I says, “If…if I’m not a Truck Driver, then what am I?”

He said, "You are an Astronaut. You just got back from a 5-year trip around Pluto. I don't know what happened to you up there, but I do know this: you are not a Truck Driver."
    
I sat there, chewin on that one for a good long while.
    
Sarge poured us both some coffee. The long silence was broken when I said, "Sarge, what month is this?"
    
He told me it was August.
    
"Well," I said, liftin my cup, "Feliz Nuevo Año, Sarge."

Sarge grinned, and raised his cup. "Happy Halloween, Kid."
    
I poured coffee all down the front of my flight suit—that's what too much weightlessness'll do to a man.

Singers:

It was a Truck Stop Christmas    
With magic in the air;    
It was the nightmare of a monkey,    
And a Mother's answered prayer.    
A mystery, a miracle,
We'll never understan;    
But it's notarized and witnessed    
By a Truck Drivin Man...    
A Truck Drivin Maa-aan. Wah-ooo.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Event Planning in Heaven

“This is going to be the best costume party ever. We were able to obtain a planet between Venus and Mars. This happening has a novel feature: It will last so long that everyone will forget what’s going on and start thinking it’s the—for lack of a better term—real world. The fun will be not in guessing who everyone else is but in trying to figure out who You really are. There will be plenty of clues, but folks will interpret them in any number of bizarre ways. It’ll be such a hoot to see how we react without the security of knowing. I’d be willing to bet that many, if not most, of us will be tricked into thinking we’re somehow better than the others, and we’ll express it in the most outrageous ways—skin color, hoarded resources, gender (I’ll explain what that means later; oh, it’s hysterical)—and we’ll use this new wrinkle we’re calling ‘twisted logic’ to support our positions. We’ll call our conclusions facts, seriously, while rarely digging deeper to see if how we construe the clues makes a lick of sense. You think the Dark Matter Fun House was scary? You ain’t seen nothin yet.”

Monday, October 17, 2016

Portmanteaus, Uh-ohs, & Mementos

Got a suitcase full of pennies, collected one by one.
Hard work’s its own reward at the setting of the sun.
They’re all I have to recommend me for my labors on this Earth.
Seems a sad way to measure how much someone is worth.
God, they’re gettin heavy; hope I don’t lose my grip.
I’d hate to have to double back and make a second trip.
Why should I cling to them? Just because they’re mine?
Am I obliged to drag this crap across the finish line?

Got a mind full of mistakes; man, they sure add up fast.
The last one ain’t the first one, and the next won’t be the last.
I’d love to break the pattern, but it seems my learning style
Is to screw it up completely and miss it by a mile.
I have to tote and own them and try my best to see
That I can’t blame my choices on nobody else but me.
I cannot excuse them; I can’t make them shine.
I’m obliged to show up with them at the finish line. 

Got a heart full of memories—good heavens, don’t time fly?
Hope we get to keep the best ones in the sweet by and by.
I’ve some, no doubt, that make me cringe, but some that make me proud,
Some that make me cuss and some that make me smile out loud.
Who knows? When we wake up, when it’s all said and done,
Perhaps we’ll meet or remember a special someone.  
Someone who can turn our troubled waters into wine.
Then we’ll make amends and all be friends beyond the finish line.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Let 'Em Have Cake

“You can’t have your cake and eat it, too.”
Don’t be silly. Of course you can.
“How so?”
If you eat it, you still have it; it just changes form and location. You still possess it.
“How to put this delicately? This time tomorrow, you probably won’t still have it.”
You didn’t say anything about having it forever. Point is, you can indeed eat it and still have it. For a little while. Besides, all the ingredients will break down and nourish various parts of you. All those little milk molecules and egg atoms will be with you for quite some time.
Anyway, doesn’t having it mean eating it?
“I’m not following.”
If Aunt Bessie says, “Here, have a piece of cake,” is she expecting you to just sit there and stare at it, or does she intend for you to eat it? Be kind of rude not to. You cannot “have a piece of cake” without eating it.
“Just never mind, okay?”

Monday, September 5, 2016

Labor Day

Getting all psyched up for Labor Day (mostly the 3-day weekend part). Those of us who have jobs are mighty grateful. We also know folks who, through no fault of their own, are out of work. And they have some darn good excuses:

He drove a taxi for a while, but he couldn’t hack it.
She had a job in the shipping department, but they sent her packing.
He worked in a mattress factory, but got laid off.
She opened a gym, but it didn’t work out.
For a while, he was catching frogs for seafood restaurants, but he lost that gig.
She worked in a muffler shop, but came home exhausted.
He worked in a lumber yard (say it with me), but got board.
She was a roofer, but that fell through.
He worked in the Red Wing store until they gave him the boot.
She was a magician’s assistant, the one who got sawed in half. The act split up—but she did get severance pay.
He made wallets, but the business folded.
She was a gold miner, but it didn’t pan out.
He managed the Chipmunks until they showed him the-uh-door.
He was a trapeze artist, but they had to let him go.
She worked at a Mini-Mart until they downsized.
He had a good job manufacturing pedestrian traffic signals until he was given his walking papers.
She worked in a screen door factory, but she talked too much…strained her voice.
He was a taste tester for Ragu until his job was out-sauced.
Her career at the brake shop came to a screeching halt.
He was a donkey wrangler for Juan Valdez until he lost his ass.
He loved working at the sleep clinic and never dreamed he’d be sacked.
Her job at the spice store was just seasonal work.
He was a lumberjack until he got axed…to leave.
She worked for Country Time until her position was e-lemonade-ed.
Even as a professional student he was downgraded.
The job at Victoria’s Secret was fun, and then she got her pink slip.
He was a yoga instructor until his position was terminated.
She worked for Goodyear; they offered her early retirement.
He was a preacher, but being a religious man, refused to work on the Sabbath.
She tried fortune telling, but couldn’t see any future in that.
He hired out as one of Santa’s helpers (he was elf-employed), but they gave him the old heave ho-ho-ho.
She could have had a landscaping job at the cemetery, but she couldn’t work graveyards. She was offered a security guard gig at the veterinary clinic, but they wanted her on the dog watch. How about a maintenance position at the playground? Nah, swing shift.   
He was a department store Easter Bunny, but that Petered out.
She worked in the Huggies plant, but they had to make some changes. (She heard Liquid-Plumr was hiring, but that went down the drain.)
He wanted to open a chain of opium dens, but that was just a pipe dream.
Things at the exotic pet store started out fine for her, but there was just too much monkey business.
He tried to get on as an electrician, but didn’t have the right connections.
She hired on as a letter carrier, but wasn’t sure what she was post to do.
He wanted to be an author, yet he had no typewriter, no computer, no pens, no pencils—he just didn’t have the write stuff.
She made good money selling thongs, but the job wasn’t all it was up cracked to be.
He was a vendor for Dixie Cups, but that went south.
She used to drive a truck; now she’s semi-retired.
He made fried pies, but there was too much turnover.
She opened a fast-food restaurant, but was disenfranchised.
He played trumpet in a Desi Arnaz tribute band, but he Babalu it.
They wouldn’t let her stay at the convent because she wasn’t a team prayer.
He was a mime, but…well, it goes without saying.


More Labor Day Fun:

Hey, kids & retirees!
Before majoring in or training for a new career, make sure it’s something you’ll enjoy. Join us for Experimental Labor Day & we’ll arrange for you to spend some time in your prospective profession. For example:

You can be a Paralegal on a trial basis.
Considering becoming a librarian? Check it out for a couple of weeks.
Think you’d enjoy being a historian? Give it ago.
You could work at Auto Zone…part time.
Do you have a future as a mind reader? See what you think. See what everyone thinks.
Cosmetology? It’s worth a look.
Want to be a shepherd? Get the flock outta here.
Test the water (and get your feet wet) as a hydrologist.
It’s wise to have a Plan B. Have you considered becoming an apiarist?
Do you have tailoring talent? See if it’s a good fit, see if it suits you.
Plumber? Take a crack at it.
Are you interested in becoming a political speech writer? See what lies ahead.
“I’d like to be a radiologist.” Well, let’s see if you have it in you.   
Would you make a good dervish? Give it a whirl.
Work on a Berry Farm? Why Knott?


Labor Day Playlist:

That Lucky Old Sun
Old Man River
Old Rivers
Banana Boat Song (Day O)
Workin in a Coal Mine
16 Tons
9 to 5
6 Days on the Road
5 o’clock World
Get a Job
Take this Job and Shove It
Chain Gang
I Never Picked Cotton
Maggie’s Farm  
She Works Hard for the Money
Workin Man Blues
Workin for a Livin
Takin Care of Business
Draggin the Line
Favorites:
Bang on the Drum All Day
Whistle While You Work
Heigh-Ho (Grumpy, Happy, Sneezy, Dopey, Huey, Dewey, & Blitzen)


Friday, August 12, 2016

Hold Me Back and Let Me Go

Sometimes, when we’re kept on a short rope—by a circumstance, a condition, or maybe even our Creator—it’s to keep us from having enough to hang ourselves. The short rope forces us to focus, explore every proximal possibility, and squeeze out every last drop of creativity. It can be quite fun.
Don’t know about you, but when given too long a lead I’ve often found myself wound around a tree or unceremoniously jerked backward. Not much fun to be had there.
It can be easy to forget that there is a rope and that it will eventually play out. What matters is how we find ourselves at the end of it.
Restrictions restrain the body, and that’s not always pleasant or welcomed. At the same time, the limits unleash the spirit—you know, the part that lasts forever.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

That’s Entertainment (Hebrews 13:2 Style)

If you want to attract 7 out of 10 men in the area, raise the hood of your vehicle.
It is reaffirming and fun when strangers stop to help.
One among the assortment of assistants was Willie. Willie was hanging around out front when I went into the convenience store yesterday morning. He is the thinnest person I’ve ever seen, like maybe he hasn’t eaten anything for days, if ever. He looks like he’ll never see 60 again. The baggy, ratty clothes and the frayed gimmie cap cocked to one side do not inspire confidence. When he speaks, his words fall apart after the first syllable. I nodded and said hello. He said something and grinned.
He was still there when I came out. I avoided eye contact. You get the feeling that Willie is going to ask for something. (You don’t know that. Be fair. Practice what you preach.) I hopped in, turned the key…nothing. Well, hell. Popped the hood, hoping it would be something obvious—I have no business under the hood of a car; I only look to keep from having my Guy License revoked. I don’t know a distributor from a dipstick.
The helpers appeared and the opinions flowed. Consensus: It’s the starter, yep, need a new starter. Willie thought it had something to do with the radiator.
I did what any sane person would do: I called Brett. Of course he was busy. He’s always busy, but never too busy for a friend. Brett was out of town; he’d be there as soon as possible.
After I’d closed the hood and thrice thanked the assistants, Willie was still there. He took a position in front of my car, blocking the walkway. Other patrons glared at him and I tried to look like “He’s not with me.” (He’s going to ask for something—a dollar, a cigarette, something.) Willie greeted everyone who drove up. After a dozen or so ignored him, one of them said to him, “Come on. Let’s get you something to eat.” Willie’s eyes lit up and he limped in behind his benefactor.
Willie came out with a plastic bag and a fountain drink. He used a newspaper rack for a table. He gestured toward me with the sack and said something I couldn’t decode.
“Beg your pardon?”
Willie said, “You want some?” I understood him that time.
Brett showed up. No big deal, just needed a new battery. Easily replaceable. 
Meanwhile, by a mile, I’d miscalculated Willie. He did indeed ask me something: He asked if I wanted to share his breakfast.
It was good to visit and get caught up with Brett. It was good and necessary to revisit and get caught up with my shortsighted judgments. Brett is never too busy for a friend. I was too blind to see one.

What’s your take on angels? I’d never given them much thought. Never doubted it—we’ve all seen things we can’t explain without a touch of booga-booga—but it’s never been on the front burner.
Until recently: Nine days ago, I posted a story about a friendly old guy who taught me a much-needed concrete lesson about judging people. I kept avoiding him because I just knew he was going to ask me for something. Had him pegged for a bum. My car wouldn’t start, so I was stuck there at the convenience store. Spent at least 30 minutes wishing he would go away. But most of the time he stood right in front of my car until help arrived. I told a friend later that it was like he was guarding the vehicle, and I was cynically thinking he’d expect a tip for it. All he ever asked me was if I wanted to share his breakfast—that someone else had voluntarily bought for him. “You want some?”
If you ever saw this guy, you’d never forget him. He was old, raggedy, and bent over. He had such a limp that it seemed he would fall with every step. He was the thinnest man I’ve ever seen—made Don Knotts look like Chubby Checker. No, you’d not forget him.
Later that day, my friend, Gayla, commented, “You just never know ~ the old guy might have been an angel helping you get things in perspective…”
That got me thinking: 1) He never once asked me or anyone else for anything, including the guy who paid for his sack of sausage biscuits. “You want some?” 2) As soon as Brett brought the jumper cables, the car started, and I closed the hood, the guy was gone. He could not have moved that fast. He was there…and then he wasn’t. At the time, I was too focused on getting to the mechanic’s place to even notice. 3) When you go to the same convenience store every weekday morning, you get to know the regulars and the surroundings. I’d never seen this guy hanging around before. It’s been over a week and I haven’t seen him since. 4) When I was telling my friend, RaChelle, about it, she said, “Back up: You said it seemed like he was ‘guarding’ your car. Guarding…Guardian…” She looked at me, waiting for the connection to click.
Something Wayne Dyer said popped into my head: “You’ll see it when you believe it.”

(Update: Over nine months later, I still haven’t seen hide nor hair of Willie again.)


Thursday, June 30, 2016

Fending Off the Offensive

Well, one thing is clear: We’re not going to get through this election year without a little protective magic. Ergo, The Lonesome Wizard Boys and I did journey yonder to Hogwarts and obtained these 20 spells. (If you’ve misplaced your wand, a yellow #2 pencil will do nicely.)

YoogottaBekiddin!
ExpelIgnoramus!
EngorgioEgo!
HolottaCrapola!
IrateKadaver!
ExpectoMalarkey! 
Impedimental!
LogicEvictus!
ExcrementoDelToro! 
ImperviousGumption!
EschewVerisimilitude!
BellowImbecilia!
JingoistJabber! 
BloviateClaptrap!
Riddikulus!
ExpectoNoBetter!
DingbatAmongUs!
EmbraceFabrication!
RollOverBenFranklin!   
GrazieObama! 

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Swamp Duck Picker Pawn People

Mike: You’ve heard of uncharted territory? Well, we were in the big middle of it. Luckily, the camera crew was already there and in position to film us setting foot in it for the first time. We’re the Swamp Duck Picker Pawn People.

Frank: Danielle called to tell us about a unique and rare opportunity: Some guys in Louisiana had a boat paddle they claimed to have found at the main fork of $#!+ Creek.

Mike: We had good directions to the swamp. We were met there by Crock Boy and Granny.

Frank: Granny was an amazing woman. She had dentures made from Alligator and grizzly bear teeth.

Crock Boy: You should see her shadow on a tent wall! (Hooting and leg slapping) It’ll make a city boy wet his pants!

Mike: We hadn’t been there ten minutes before my phone rang. It was our friends from Las Vegas. They have a pawnshop.

Old Man: We didn’t have cellphones when I was growing up. We had semaphore flags. My grandson is an idiot.

Rick: If this thing is real, I want it! No one in recent memory has ever been up $#!+ Creek with a paddle; this could be a first. I’m not an authority on boat paddles, so I called in an expert.

Mike: Meanwhile, Frank told Granny and Crock Boy how to make a turducken. Granny was not impressed.

Granny: I don’t think it’s a good idea to eat anything that starts with them four letters. I ain’t too crazy about the last part, neither.

Rick: Granny was an amazing woman. She was as crude and earthy a person as you could hope to find. She also had her soft side. When the sun went down, she played “Amazing Grace” on a duck call, and it just made your skin crawl.

Corey: My skin is still crawlin.

Old Man: That’s because you have so much of it! Back in the day, if we wanted our skin to crawl, we had to do it ourselves.

Mike: Granny dropped something in the stew pot; it looked like a snake.

Granny: It’s a cotton-headed rattle moxican. It cain’t hurt you. Them’s good eatin!

Chumley: Can we have seconds?

Rick: Early the next morning, Gator Boy poled his pirogue up the bayou to the main fork of $#!+ Creek. If you take the east fork, you stay on $#!+ Creek; if you take the west fork, you’re on Shinola Creek.

Gator Boy: Most folks don’t know the difference. (Pointing to a gravel bar) Right there’s where we found the paddle.

Rick: Our expert, Rowen Oarlock, met us there.

Old Man: People from my generation didn’t need a paddle to get up $#!+ Creek. We never expected one. My son is an idiot.

(The winner and first runner-up of the Sasquatch lookalike contest battle through the camera shot. One of them is wielding a chainsaw, the other one swinging an axe.)

Granny: Those folks have just about ruined this place, cuttin down all the cypress trees… Lord, what’s this world comin to?

Frank: We followed Granny over the top of what looked like a half-submerged semi-truck. It was hard to keep up with her.

Gator Boy: Them ice road truckers is crazy. It ain’t been below freezin around here since…

Granny: Hell, it’s never been!

Rowen: (Examining the boat paddle with a magnifying glass) Rick, you can see that these striations were made by the teeth of a Gaboon. I don’t have to tell you that Gaboons are indigenous to $#!+ Creek. They’ve never found one on Shinola Creek. (Dramatic music, shots of Rick, Mike, and Frank looking wide-eyed and anticipatory; a shot of Danielle back at the shop listening in on the phone; twenty minutes of commercials.)

Rick: We might be looking at the only paddle that has ever been up $#!+ Creek.

Mike: I really want this thing, but I’m going to act like I’m indifferent and lowball the owner.

Rowen: (Examining the boat paddle with his magnifying glass) To recap: Rick, you can see that these striations were made by the teeth of a Gaboon. I don’t have to tell you that Gaboons are indigenous to $#!+ Creek. They’ve never found one on Shinola Creek.

(Rick looks ready to smile. Mike exchanges a conspiratorial glance with Frank. Music builds.)

Rowen: But. (Music stops. Rowen puts down the magnifying glass and tilts his hat back on his head) Gaboons went extinct in 1981, and this paddle—you can tell by the three feathers and the1997 markings on the handle—wasn’t made until 16 years later.

(Assorted bleeped profanities)

Rowen: But! (Maybe-my-life-isn’t-meaningless-after all, pup-ready-to-fetch-if-you’ll-just-throw-it looks from Rick, Mike, and Frank) If we take a little linseed oil and tobacco juice—thanks, Granny—and rub it on with a tuft of armpit hair—Granny, you’re a lifesaver— (suiting action to the words) …you’ll see that the date and one of the feathers disappear. (Deadpan stare) It’s real!

Rick: (To Granny) So what do you want to do? Pawn it? Sell it? Donate it?

Granny: Right, I called you all the way out here so I could donate it to the Beaver Rescue Foundation. Of course I want to sell it! What’s wrong with you?

Mike: I’ll give you five bucks for it. Cash. Right now.

Granny: Do I look stupid to you?

Frank: To be honest, she didn’t exactly look like a Rhodes Scholar, but I wasn’t about to say that to an armed octogenarian, so I offered her 15 dollars if she’d throw in the dentures.

Granny: Jed! Git me Mr. Drysdale on the phone! And Elly May, git them critters out of the cement pond!

Thurston Howell III: I’ll give you 8 million dollars for the boat paddle. Maybe the Skipper and Gilligan can row us back to civilization.

Jeanie: Master, if you’ll just let me use my powers, I can make you hundreds of boat paddles.

June: Ward, I think we should buy it and donate it. I’m worried about the Beaver.

Major Nelson: You’re not Jeanie! You’re Corporal Klinger!

Little Joe: Pa, how come Adam is older than you are?

Archie: Because you’re a dingbat! End of story!

Cisco: (Laughing) Ah, Poncho!

Poncho: (Laughing) Ah, Cisco!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Traveling Light

I’m on a big ball of rock, water, dirt, and metal whizzing through space at thousands of miles per hour.

“OMG!!!”

The weather is sometimes deadly and is highly unpredictable—though many try, anyway.

“Be careful!!!”

So far, no one has ever survived this trip.

“Stay safe!!!”

I have no idea where, if anywhere, we’re headed in such a hurry. We seem to just go in great, wide circles.

“Text me when you get there!!!”

Major Tom to Ground Control: Could you connect me with someone sane?

“Ain’t this a hoot? Enjoy the ride, pardner. See you on the flipside.”

That’s more like it.

“Hey, ask, and it shall be given. Consider the lilies, amigo.”

I’ll give ‘em a whiff.

“And be nice to your fellow travelers, okay?”

Copy that. You’ll have to walk me through it.

“Not a problem.”

(Philippians 4:6-7)  


Thursday, April 14, 2016

But It Seemed So Real!

Ray Pete lived to be eighty-five. Not on purpose, he just didn’t know what else to do. Now he was dying. And why not? It made as much sense as anything else he’d ever done, more sense, actually, if he thought about it.
He thought about it. Had he really spent 40 years working at a job he couldn’t stand, a job where he spent more waking hours than he spent with his family? Who would plan such a thing?
The last fifteen years had been the worse, ever since he lost Agnes. Not that he ever exactly thought she hung the moon, but she lit familiar and comfortable paths. Hard not to miss something like that. Kids grown and gone. They didn’t give a damn. Neither did he, if he was honest about it. What did they have in common, anyway? Grandkids? He tried to act like a grandfather ought to—according to someone. They called him Gramps. That wasn’t his name and it didn’t sound good to him. He bought gifts and sent cards when the calendar and the commercials told him to.
It shook him up to realize that, for the most part, he’d just been going through the motions, with little or no emotions, all these years. He’d given Agnes and the kids a lot of stuff; he’d always felt real proud of that, but now it dawned on him that he never gave them what they really needed; he’d never given them any of himself. If he did that with his own family, good Lord, what other areas of his life had he just phoned in? 
Hadn’t he stood flat-footed, looked people in the eye, and told them what he believed? Sure, he was never one shy to hold forth on religion, politics, sports, and anything else that mattered. But if he could admit now that he didn’t really know what he believed, how could he state it with such conviction in earlier years? If he was honest, and he wasn’t in the mood to be anything less, he had to admit that all those institutions to which he’d given his energy and obedience (and what up till now passed for devotion) struck him as nothing more than a pack of self-serving, money-grubbing fools. Where was the comfort they were supposed to provide? That’s okay. He didn’t need comforting; he needed curing or to die, and he didn’t care which. He was just tired. Lord, he was exhausted. He did not miss the irony: Merely going through the motions physically and mentally had left him spiritually paralyzed. Why did he cling so desperately to that life for so many years? It made him feel stupid. He reminded himself of one of those chocolate rabbits that turns out to be hollow inside. It looks solid enough, but just bite the ears off and see what you get! Just a thin shell, a false form that is mostly…nothing. And why, for crying out loud, was he thinking about this stuff now, after living more than eight decades totally bereft of self-reflection. It was just damned irritating, that’s what it was. That’ll be enough of that. Time to sleep.
“Time to wake up.”
Even with his eyes closed he smiled at that voice. God, what a welcome sound! It seemed impossible that he could forget her…well, It…“him” and “her” didn’t exactly fit back home. How in the world could he possibly have worried, fumed, doubted, feared, or agonized about anything? If only he could have remembered a trace, the merest scrap, of who he really was, it would have been impossible, inconceivable, to do anything short of laughing out loud at everything that happened over the last 85 years. 85 years? That had no meaning at all, not here. Oh yeah: If he’d remembered who he was and where he was from, he wouldn’t have learned anything. Okay. Fair enough. He hadn’t lost Agnes or opportunities or his mind. “Loss” had no meaning here, either.
He got up and walked (for lack of a better term) into the bright, familiar area where It handed him a cup of stuff that would make coffee or hot chocolate or Irish whiskey pale to dishwater by comparison.
She…It smiled at him and asked, “So, did you have any weird dreams?”


Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens. ~ Carl Jung




Thursday, March 10, 2016

Apathetic Empathy

You had your water tested: It was not pollution free?
Boo-hoo, too bad for you, but what’s that got to do with me?
How is that my problem? How come I should care?
I live here; my water’s clear; and you live over there.
You say you’ve seen some prowlers? Someone vandalized your truck?
My thoughts and prayers are with you; may God grant you better luck.
I’ll mind my own business; I’ve got my own goals to meet.
I can’t be bothered with the woes of those who live across the street.

Drugs and crime, filth and grime: how can they live that way?
People gettin shot and folks who have no place to stay.
They’re lazy and they’re crazy and they have no common sense.
I shouldn’t have to see them. I say we build a fence.
Those people act like animals; those people ain’t no good.
If God loved them, they’d be livin in a better neighborhood.
Yeah, it’s sad as Hell, but I won’t let it get me down
Because they live in another part of town.

Budget cuts are shuttin down your schools? You’re unemployed?
Your job got outsourced? Yeah, I can see why you’re annoyed.
They say poverty builds character and ignorance is bliss.
Here’s a self-help tape; cheer up and listen to this.
Unsafe roads and bridges and a crumbling overpass?
Good thing you can’t travel, then—you can’t afford the gas.
You’re in my prayers; I’ll thank the good Lord I don’t share your fate,
But it’s really no concern of mine; you’re in another state.

Your whole town got blown to smithereens? Sucks to be you.
You have no place to go? So what do you want me to do?
You lost everything; you had to leave behind your stuff?
Hey, man, the tough get goin when the goin gets tough.
Say what? The Good Samaritan? Yeah, I love that guy.
We tell that tale in Sunday School, but how does it apply?
I empathize with all you guys, feel bad about your wars,
But you’re from another country, and this one isn’t yours.

It’s been so nice to see you. Have a nice day. Bye.
I have other fish to fry, and you’ve got rivers to cry.
Come to our Bible study (it’s my sacrifice for Lent);
We’re discussing how what Jesus said ain’t what he really meant.
Before you come, bone up on Matthew, Chapter twenty-five.
That last part will make you laugh out loud and glad to be alive.
I know you’re in a bind; I know your prospects are grim,
But it’s no sweat off my salvation if you sink or swim.  

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Mama Nature Told Me There’d Be Days Like This

Overheard in the dirt, two flower seeds talking:

“Does this suck or what?”

“It’ll get better.”

“I don’t see how. It’s dark; it’s damp; it’s cold. Bugs crawling all over the place.”

“When we reach the sun—”

“What’s this sun you keep harping on?”

“Some roots told me about it.”

“And you believe it? Grow up, man. Great: another load of fertilizer just got dumped on us.”

“Everything happens for a reason.”

“Please. We’re rotting in the ground, or haven’t you noticed?”

“This isn’t all there is to us. Wait and see. Once we get to the other side, folks will be happy to see us. We will be beautiful.”

“Beautiful? Have you looked at yourself lately? Oh, swell: now I’m cracking open! Tell me again how this is a good thing.”

“Life’s a bitch, and then you bloom.”

“Have you lost your mind?”

“Go to the light.”

“Yeah, right…”

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

That Golden Rule Thing

I dreamed I went to Heaven and shouted, “Good news: It’s me!”
Of the few who noticed, no one seemed to agree.
They’d apparently confused me for someone not near as great,
So I trotted out my résumé to set the record straight:
“Every time the church doors opened, I strode right in.
Check out this perfect attendance Sunday School pin!
Get a load of all these Bible verses I’ve memorized;
No one got wetter than me when I was baptized.
My portrayal of a wise man in our live manger scene
Made the others look like amateurs, made Joseph turn green.
The choir members shrugged and said, ‘What do we even try for?’
My rendition of ‘The Old Rugged Cross’ was to die for.
Our preacher, he was pretty good, and many folks were moved.
I took notes and coached the guy; he gradually improved.
I tithed and talked a lot about how good that made me feel.
(You can write it off your taxes, so it’s really no big deal.)
Check out my credentials. There’s no hurry; I can wait.
Meanwhile, who’s up for a theological debate?”  

Saint Peter looked at me like he was trying not to puke.
He raised his hands and walked away; said, “You take this one, Luke.”
Luke! The very one Paul called “beloved physician.”
How apropos that he should diagnose my condition.
Luke said, “We are under orders to cut you lots of slack,
So follow this prescription if you want to come back.
You’ve a serious sickness; it’s sad, but not so strange.
There’s hope, but you must undergo a drastic lifestyle change.
You see, up here, you matter just as much as others did to you.
And according to our records, well, you’ve got some work to do.
You’ve logged a lot of miles in some doctrine-driven joints,
But up here, mere religion will not score you any points.
Your ego driven antics, man, are not that big a treat
To a person who is homeless or needs something to eat.
Someone who’s gone a month of Sundays sans a kind word or a smile,
Let’s face it: they’re not in the mood to stop and dig your style.
To a soul who’s only seeking peace, escape from misery,
Your hermeneutics do not mean skubala to a tree.”

Wide awake, I tried to shake that dream out of my head,
But there was Luke’s prescription lying neatly on the bed.
It said, “Get over yourself; wise up; there’s a better way to be.
Memorize and practice Matthew 7:12 and see.”

(Caution: Do not take on an empty heart.)

Monday, February 1, 2016

Reading Between the Lines

Hey, look at me when I was younger! Hey, look at me when I was cool!
I haven’t done much since I left, but I was hell on wheels in school.
Hey, here’s a graduation photo, voted most likely to be grand.
Nothing recent. It’s not my fault things did not go quite as planned.

Hey, look at me when I once mattered! Was I the cat’s meow, or what?
“Let’s see a selfie, something recent.” Oh, I’d really rather not.
But hey, look at me when I had hair! Hey, look at me how I was then.
Back when I had all my teeth, back when I had perfect skin.

Back before my flesh started creeping, I had pizazz and a winning grin.
Ere my tattoos looked like tie dye, I was muscular and thin.
Hey, look at me when I had a future. Don’t you dare look at me now.
Don’t look for me at the class reunion; love to see you, but holy cow.

I was shooting for the stars—six, five, four, three, two, one, Blast!
I’m not doing much these days, so I’m happy living in the past.
Hey, I’ll pretend it doesn’t matter; I’ll post a sarcastic cartoon.
I’ll smirk and roll my eyes at the screw ups of some other hapless goon.

Tell your folks I said hello; give your charming spouse my best.
Thanks for accepting my excuses and my Facebook friend request.
We once had all the time in the world; now the years sure do fly by.
I may diminish with each one, but I once was one hell of a guy.

Go on with your magic life; I’ll just stick mine on the shelf,
And be glad there is a place where I can recreate myself.