The Seventh Street Sandwich Shop

Nervous seeing an old friend

for the first time in several years,

his mind raced as conversation

emerged fitfully through jokes

and forced laughter over a half-

salad and cup of soup at the

Seventh Street Sandwich Shop.

Nervous, he had always wonder-

ed about his acceptance stemming

from insecure days as a half-

orphan with the other half

being an out-to-lunch mother

just before transferring to

the college of original choice

that had to be delayed be-

cause of money issues back

home. Before him sat a for-

mer fraternity brother whose

approval he had always sought

and which always seemed just

out of reach; this friend sat

experiencing senior moments

trying to remember names

from his 50th high school

reunion. It didn’t go un-

noticed on the man; but the

former frat friend unexpectedly

asked a question of recent per-

sonal history and the man’s mind

went as blank as a brand new, un-

opened Blue Book at a senior final

exam with graduation hanging in

the balance. His ears rang.

His temples throbbed. The

buzz became a roar. He looked

at his friend and saw his mouth

move but heard nothing.

Now afraid the spoon would

take on a life of its own in

his uncontrollably shaking

left hand and slap the soup

all over the table and his

frat brother’s shirt, he left

it sit. “What is Wicker Park!”

he shouted in a shrill shriek 

as if he were competing for

top prize on Jeopardy and

perhaps he was in his own

way. More controlled, “It

was Wicker Park,” the bari-

tone bellowed. Heads turned.

The memory loss didn’t go

un-noticed. It was nerves,

dammit, he thought, but now

his frat friend probably was

estimating how long before

the man was moved into the

Alzheimer’s unit. They

hugged and said goodbye

and on his way home he

stopped at the local grocery

store for a few items. Thank

heaven, his wife had given

him a list. He saw another

old frat friend hunched over

staring blankly into the

deli case and who then shuffled

gingerly on down to the

braunschweiger.  He noticed

that the friend’s skin looked

a lot like the processed food

the frat friend was eyeing. He

rushed to the wine aisle, grabbed

an inexpensive pinot grigio and

hurried home to the safety and

security of what he was coming to

understand, more and more, 

was only his temporary domicile.

 

He Wondered Where and When

He wondered where

the cheerleaders were.

He didn’t expect to hear

them chant and watch

them leap and jump

and form a perky pyra-

mid immediately after

he bowed out, gave

his final farewell –

a bit like Lou Gehrig

addressing the throngs

who gathered on July

4th 1939  in the Bronx’s

Holy of Holies, a place

where bombs went off

regularly in celebration,

but only to a small con-

gregation he had known

for a mere twenty months. 

But a few years later, he

did think it would be nice

if  someone pierced the

silence and said he was the

best – preacher, pastor, ad-

ministrator (a poet, a proph-

et, a priest and a king), but

he sits in silence and listens

to the roar of appreciation

or is that just the pesky ring-

ing in his ears at 6:54 a.m

on July 4th as he sips his 

French Press coffee now

that the Krups thirty-year-old

coffee maker the kids had

given his late wife had given

up the ghost just the day be-

fore? And so, he has himself

and, of course, the letters of

one Saul of Tarsus known,

post conversion, as Paul the

Apostle who called himself

the Least of All Apostles in

a tone filled with what sounds

like false modesty and who

probably would have loved

being addressed as Saint

Paul if he had lived long

enough to hear the acco-

lades which were still centur-

ies on down the line. Perhaps

as a way of coping with the

fact that Caesar was about

to put an end to his earthly

existence wrote, “I have fought

the good fight; I have finished

the race…” and in the spirit

of delayed gratification

concluded the thought with,

“…henceforth, there is a

crown…for me…” to be

placed upon his head some-

time in the future on the Day

when the bombs of joy get

belted out of the park like

Yankee Stadium in about

1934. He would take com-

fort in Paul’s postponement

if he believed in return

appearances by popular

demand but he had only

been asked back to a

congregation once in

forty-three years. So, for

now people crawl out of

bed, shower, eat break-

fast and go to work with-

out ever giving him so

much as a passing thought

if for no other reason than

they don’t know him from

Adam and those who do

have moved on with life

in most respects except

for those caught in a time

warp of hoping hope-

lessly for the Cubs who

continue to toil in the friendly

confines of Wrigley Field

where hardly is heard the

clear crack of the Louisville

Slugger on a ball for a

Texas Leaguer let alone a

home run.

 

 

I Had an Idea for a Poem

I had an idea for a poem

and if I were to own the poem,

I’d have to stop and not roam

the yard doing chores at home,

but the hedge needed trimming

and small patch of grass mown

and before it was known

the poem just up and had flown,

and so I just sit here and groan

knowing that the faintest ink

is better than the best memory

ever known.

 

I Don’t Think Jesus Meant This When He Said, “Go and Do Likewise.”

“One death is a tragedy; one million is a statistic.” — Joseph Stalin

People use the word

evil glibly and a lot –-

this person is evil;

mass murderers are

evil; somebody’s sister-

in-law is evil; all religions

other than mine are evil;

the proverbial mother-in-

law is evil; of course, Dick

Cheney is evil, but when

I think of so very scary, skin-

crawling, stop-you-in-your-

steps evil, I remember the

story of the perfect, older son

who shot himself, accident-

ally they said but not really

accidentally, with the shotgun

his parents had given him as a

birthday present. On the very

imperfect surviving younger

son’s birthday following the

dubious death of his perfect

older brother, the younger

son’s grief-stricken parents

presented him with the gift

of his perfect older brother’s

shotgun.

 

The Couple Stopped

The couple stopped to see

the trailer – actually more

like announced their presence

by assertively invading our

space halting only at the sight

and bark of the big, brown

bear of a dog on a very long

leash while I sat with my feet

up, cracking pistachio nuts and

popping them into the dog’s

drooling mouth and my wife

leisurely sauntered her way

through a Sudoku on an other-

wise quiet summer afternoon

at the campground. I said, “The

dog’s nice. Want to see the

cute egg-shaped trailer?” We get

this a lot – people wanting to see

the cute, egg-shaped travel trailer.

“Does it come in brown?” They

jumped in and that is when the

raised eyebrows and glances down

the bridge of their noses began.

They had sold their big, beautiful

fifth-wheel and diesel Ford F-Two-

Fifty.  For whatever reason, he

inserted “diesel.” They were look-

ing for something “a little smaller.”

They had used the rig for mission

trips, but now the  mission provided

housing. The woman insisted on

telling us all about the mission trips.

They belonged to a Bible church

and had all the answers about eternity

not to mention everything on this

side, too. He sneered when I told

him the cost in answer to his quest-

ion and said derisively in the guise

of a question, “That much for this?”

The wife went on some more about

all their good deeds and they took

their leave as abruptly as they had

made their entrance. Back about

an eternity before, when the dog

had barked, I should have whisper-

ed in ear-shot, “Sic ‘Em, Bear.”  He

wouldn’t have, but that may have

been the only thing they didn’t know. 

My wife sighed, “Ah, hind-sight,”

and went back to her puzzle.