A Halloween Treat

A preacher’s kids’ most favorite holiday
not Christmas or Easter, should he dismay?
But rather that pagan day when witches
and warlocks have children frightened to stitches,
when mothers spend days stitching beautiful
maidens, pandas and those ghosts dutiful
to the task of scaring everyone out of their wits
on the last day of October, the day of clenched fists
and hands held up to faces and eyes so wide
and emotions that virtually no one can hide.
It is then and there that the preacher so scared
when the children have returned from their
nocturnal, clandestine journeys here and there
offer their father all the sweets in the bag so fair
and he says as he opens a particularly sweet treat,
“I hope this teaches you a moral lesson complete.
You think you’ve outsmarted the goblins; well, maybe,
but first and foremost, may I have just one more
sweet treat?”

I Thought I Was Swedish and Dutch

I thought I was 50/50 Swedish and Dutch
(at least that’s what the folks told me),
but, in fact, the DNA shows that I’m 49
% Scandinavian (I’ll include a bit of Fin
and Russian) and 31% British (including
a bit of Irish) and only 18 percent north-
ern continental European and that may
not be all Dutch (Those Hollanders must
have spent a lot of time crossing the English
Channel and visiting gay Paris.), so to get
to 100% that leaves a measly 2% Asian and
that’s located in India all going back ten
generations or close to 1,000 years. My
dad’s people pretty well kept to themselves,
tired out I suppose after all that Viking mar-
auding, raping and pillaging, but those Holl-
anders had roving eyes and other working
anatomical parts. And here I was hoping to
have some Jewish blood to raise my IQ.

The Wind is Such a Kidder

It is stone still, not a movement. The leaves still
on the tree hang precariously but don’t move.

Destined to drop, they get one moment, hour,
day’s (maybe) reprieve. The wind just tuckered

out from all the huffing and puffing of the last
couple of days, whipping up the waves on the

Big Lake. All that effort. The boys played with
the wind, went with the wind as they bounced

from wave to wave and leapt into the air on their
wind surfers. The wind fought back as those boys

sought to land on the sand and reel in their giant
kites. Today, all is at rest. No wind, no waves, the

boys are back at work and the leaves hang on for a
little longer and then he hears the wind chime, looks

out and sees the birch branches begin to sway. The
wind is such a kidder, especially the west wind.

Greed As the Primary Virtue

“How could greed be the primary virtue of a culture?”
Harrison’s creation asked. And then the reader
paused and thought about great income disparity,
the Republican debates, the Supreme Court
and Citizens United and back to the movie “Wall
Street” and “Greed is Good,” and the near
collapse of the economy in 2009 and banks
buying and selling mortgages till nobody knew
where they were and hapless homebuyers who,
only a few months before foreclosure, had
been so hopeful and big, big bonuses to the
culprits and lobbyists for the energy companies
and climate change denial and a populous that
believes the illusion that they are only one
unfortunate occurrence away from being rich
to paraphrase Steinbeck and simply murmured to
himself, America, America, God shed his light
on thee. And then he got up and took a pee
and thought to himself while looking at the
stream flowing into the commode, that’s how.
And then he returned to the novella.

In a Cemetery

Something there is that likes a cemetery,
a place to go, spend some time…tarry
among those who are gone to wander —
loved ones, strangers, acquaintances to ponder,
to be so bold as to sit on a head stone
and know that what’s beneath isn’t really home
to the soul so loved without bone and flesh
who resides in our heart and God’s we confess.
Something there is that likes a cemetery,
so come with me among the saints to tarry.

Sling Shots

He leaned forward and snapped the bra of
the girl who sat in front of him in sixth
grade. Ping. Stop that! He thought she
was the only girl in the class who needed
a bra and he was lucky enough to sit behind
her and the sling shot she had tied around
her body under her cashmere sweater. Ping.
Once more, buddy and you’ll be sorry and
she kept her word. Off to the principal’s
office only to be hung on a clothes hook,
dangling legs stiff with his fear. No, I didn’t
put my hands around her from behind and
cup her breasts. I don’t even know what
those are. He didn’t dare move a muscle. She
recanted but not before he had been moved
to the back of the class, in the corner, all
by himself to cool off and think things over.
Then and there he decided to stick to real
sling shots until years later after he had
long forgotten about sling shots until he
learned how to reach around from the front
to the back and snap the strap, ping. He
waited, but there was only a giggle — no
protest. It was then he smiled and unhooked
the clasp.

A Book or Two

They should have left something of
themselves besides ashes, he thought.
Tea leaves can be read; ashes can’t.
Visual artists leave something. His
two favorite professors of English
should have left a book or two in-
stead of a few articles in journals
long gone to dust. Ashes to ashes
and dust to dust. He could have
looked up at the books and said,
“There’s John on the left and Dirk
on the right.” He could take them
down from the shelf, brush them off
and listen once again to their wise,
witty words. John left him a ring,
which was stolen. Nada from Dirk.
Memories fade. They should have
written a book or two maybe with a
personal inscription, for sure with
a personal inscription.

Only By Invitation

There is a time when having experienced
something like another’s burden,
he can quietly stand by and perhaps enter in,
and lessen the other’s burden,
if the other lets him in,
and take some of that with which he is familiar
and lessen the other’s burden,
if the other lets him in.
He has borne it before; he can bear some again,
and lessen the other’s burden,
if the other lets him in;
yes, as he knows so well, only by invitation.

Pedro is a Waiter

Pedro is a waiter working his way through school. He works at a hip breakfast place; he’s a lively, gregarious young man on a perpetual diet. The elderly customer and Pedro talked and joked about losing weight. Pedro had the plan but just didn’t execute it very well.

As he moved about swiftly from customer to customer, pouring coffee, removing dishes, laughing and joking as he went, Pedro’s significant love handles didn’t jiggle; they swayed more like a curvaceous Latin dancer doing the Rumba.

For some reason the topic of happy hours came up and the customer mentioned a certain restaurant and bar with a wonderful deck and view of the lake and Pedro said he used to be a waiter there. The customer said that’s the place in town where they have geriatric happy hour and Pedro laughed out loud.

Later the customer sat at the geriatric happy hour bar and asked the young, white bartender if he remembered Pedro. He looked puzzled and then said with an air of dismissiveness that he really didn’t know the people in the kitchen.

The customer said Pedro had been a waiter and described him, tattoos up and down both arms. “Oh,” the bartender said, “You mean Peter, the heavyset guy with the shaved head. He went by Peter here. And he wore long sleeve shirts to cover those tattoos. We insisted on it. It got to be too hot for him in the summer working the deck. We are a high-end restaurant with a certain clientele. We can’t have tattoos showing here. Our management wouldn’t stand for it.”

Wearing a long sleeve shirt, the customer twirled his $3 glass of happy hour pinot grigio and said, “I have tattoos up and down both arms (which he didn’t). If I rolled up my sleeves in this high-class restaurant would you still take my money and serve me another glass of this high-end wine if I ordered it?” The bartender just laughed awkwardly and walked away.

The customer thought Pedro is much happier showing off his tattoos and swaying his love handles in the hip place on the other side of the lake. Then the old, white customer thought that he really needed to find another happy hour maybe not so geriatric and not with such an obviously exclusive clientele. But he sure would miss that view of the lake. Ah, the options that privilege affords, he thought to himself.