Monday, May 26, 2014


Airport Gate

At the airport, Gate B4.

A teenage boy, pointing to a picture book:
Air flows around the wing, and the air pressure keeps the plane in the air. See? The pilot knows how to fly the plane. It's very safe.
A woman, on the phone:
I took him to the store. I told him, "I'll buy you anything you want. I'll buy you everything in the store if you'll get on the plane." He picked out all this stuff, and I said, "Now you have to get on the plane," and he put it all back! He put it all back! What else can I do?
Teenage boy:
So are you going to get on the plane? Mommy and I need you to get on the plane.
The small voice of a young boy:
No, I'm scared.
You have to get on the plane. Where else are you going to go?
Young boy:
I'm gonna see Daddy. You said he's at the airport.
Oh, Jesus!
Teenage boy:
Daddy's at the other airport, in Baltimore. You have to take the plane there. Mommy and I really need you to get on the plane so you can go see Daddy.
If you don't get on the plane, I'm going to call the police. I'm going to call the police, and they're going to take you to jail.
Young boy:
I'm not going! I'm not getting on the plane.
Fine. Then you'll go to jail. Do you want to go to jail?
Young boy:
What do you think? It's a black hole up there? Nothing's going to happen. Get on the plane!
Teenage boy:
I'm going to get him some water. I'll be right back.
The teenage boy got up. He walked away from the gate toward a shop in the middle of the terminal. The woman took her young son by the arm and led him to the gate agent. She spoke quietly to the gate agent, then turned toward the shop, leaving the boy by the agent's side. When she caught up to her older son, her step quickened. He looked over his shoulder at his brother, torn, but continued with his mother. She never looked back; she just kept walking.



Nah, the ear din't hurt. That's all cart-lage.

The finger hurt. Lady who did it was a gouger. Ya need a gouger for hands or it fades. Like this one, see? But that finger ain't gonna fade.

Ankle's the worst. All bony.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014



Until the day I die, I'll never forget those glassy, unblinking eyes.

Our regiment had arrived on a Thursday morning to liberate the camp. We knew it would be bad, but we had no way to comprehend the reality of all we would see.

Davidson and I were sent to a medical complex on the west side of the camp with instructions to bring back any possible war criminals. Snaking through the corridors from office to office, we found them all deserted. The officers and doctors had all fled when the siren sounded. In one office, a painting behind a large oak desk caught my attention. A regal looking man stared down from the painting -- "Oswolt" was the name written at the top of the canvas. Oswolt looked concerned, and I followed his gaze through the door of the office and into the open door of the examination room across the hall.

I saw the doll first, lying face up on the floor, her glassy eyes staring at the ceiling. Next to her, a dangling arm, small enough that I could have circled it with my finger and thumb. It could have belonged to my little sister, Nancy, except that Nancy was in school in Ohio, and the owner of the doll was dead on a metal table.

Approaching the table, I could see that the girl had been injected with something. The side of her neck bulged blue and bulbous. Some blood had dried under her nose, and what might have been a trickle of vomit clung to the corner of her mouth. I wanted to bring her out of the camp, to at least give her a proper burial, but just as I was about to say something, a voice addressed us from Davidson's radio. We were to return to the main gate immediately.

I picked up the doll, expecting her eyes to close as she moved. They stared straight ahead, and when I laid her down on the table, two sets of eyes were frozen in time. I could just never get that out my mind.

Image: Portrait of Oswolt Krel by Albrect Dürer

Monday, May 19, 2014


An old tweed jacket
Laptop bag, textbooks, red pen
Hunched over a desk

Slow, slow, quick quick, slow
Black dress, black shoes, and red rose
The arch of her back

Friday comes. For fifty-two hours, the laptop is closed, but always nearby.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Waiter Gene

My friend Karen likes to talk about the waiter gene. Whenever we go out to eat, she'll pass out her judgment: "She's got the waiter gene!" when our server visits our table just the right number of times and speaks with just the right combination of friendliness and politeness. Or, shaking her head, "He doesn't have the waiter gene," when our server doesn't know how to handle a request for no tomatoes.

It's not a novel concept, really, that some people seem better suited for certain jobs than others. I've worked in retail before, and I was awkward. Standing at the counter surveying the customers among merchandise I had no real connection to, I was sure that whatever came out of my mouth would reveal me as an impostor who had no business pretending to know which greeting card would be most suitable for a combination retirement and divorce party. My coworkers, meanwhile, were right at home among the trinkets, as though they really did have it in their genes.

And yet this idea there are things we'll just never do well is in stark contrast with what we learn as children -- that we can be and do anything. Apparently anyone can grow up to be president, but if you want to be a decent waiter, you'd better hit the genetic lottery.

There's truth to both points of view, of course. We all have natural strengths as well as skills we'll have to work hard at if we want to succeed. That's not to say that hard work will always lead to success. I stopped believing that a long time ago. But we owe it to ourselves not to draw too small a circle around the accomplishments we think are in our reach. Certainly I could have learned to sell greeting cards like nobody's business. I could have stuck around long enough to move with ease through the aisles, straightening glass figurines without tripping on the displays. I didn't choose that path, but I could have. Maybe I'd own the store today.

Sometimes we choose not to address our weaknesses when it's not something that's important to us. But what about those things we wish we had accomplished? Those skills and traits we wish we had, but never took the time to develop, instead saying that we were "not cut out for it"? It's easy to say we're no good at something, but it sure doesn't get us anywhere.

I know I have some of those neglected traits, skills, and accomplishments hanging around in the back of my mind. Some of them are big, too big to admit to right now. Some of them are manageable, so I'll start with those. Here's one: I want to be tidy. I don't want to feel like I have to apologize when someone stops by my house on short notice. I want to sit in my home and see order, and have that reflected in my mood. It's not easy for me, but, as silly as it sounds, it's something I want, and I'm going to work on it.

What about you? What goals, big or small, have you let slide because you somehow started to believe that you didn't have it in you?

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Space Junkie

Fritos, Twinkies, red Kool-Aid.... Damn! I felt angrier than I should have when I realized I forgot the Swedish Fish. There wasn't enough time to go back to the store. I’d have to do without them this time. I was about to head out to the porch with my armful of snacks when the phone rang. Who makes phone calls anymore? I checked the number on the display – my mother. Grudgingly, I placed each item back on the counter one by one, the phone continuing its whine until I satisfied it.

Mom had nothing to say. I watched the clock as she prattled about Erin’s new baby and the neighbor who wouldn’t keep her dog on a leash.

“Mom, I really gotta go…“ I interjected.

“Okay, honey. I love you. Enjoy the—what is it?”

“It’s a lunar eclipse, Mom. The moon’s going to—“

“Okay, well enjoy the lunar ellipse. Bye, honey!”

I rolled my eyes and put down the phone. I gathered up my things from the counter and shuffled outside, nearly dropping everything while trying to squeeze through the door.

Outside, I settled into my normal spot, the old folding chair where I would spend the next several hours. I wanted to be in the right frame of mind when the eclipse began. My iPod was already outside, so I popped in my ear buds, turned on Until the Ribbon Breaks, and opened a bag of Fritos. I let my mind drift while I devoured my snacks, all the while keeping my eyes comfortably on the sky.

Three fourths of the way through my Kool Aid, darkness began to attack the moon. My chewing slowed as I absorbed it all. I scarcely noticed my neck becoming stiff from the last few hours looking upwards. "2025" was playing for what had to be the fourth time that night. I stared at the moon like it might actually disappear. Time was passing, but I couldn’t tell you how much. An hour, maybe two? Finally, the moon gave birth to its orange-red glow, and my heart rate quickened. I clutched the arms of my chair as awe blanketed me. Brighter and brighter, the glow consumed the moon like a spider devouring its mother, and I reached the dual realization that the music was too fast and I couldn't breathe. Over the blood moon's light, the clouds shifted, casting an ominous shadow on the ground, then floated away again. With the beat of the music pinning me down and my eyes still frozen on the sky, rolling in the deep, I prayed simultaneously for the celestial event to stop so I could catch my breath and for it to never end. Slowly, the glow overtook the darkness of my peripheral vision.

The next thing I knew, I was waking with a Twinkie sandwiched between my cheek and the porch floor. I had to be at work in forty minutes. It was going to be a long day.

If you are a space junkie, check out the many cool things on Astronasty.
DJ, if you see this, this post is inspired by you and aided by some minor internet stalking, but don't worry -- the guy's not you!
Photo from CNN.

Sunday, May 11, 2014


With horror, I realize it's crawling in me, en route from wrist to elbow, wiry legs scratching my bones, and my shoulder tenses, anticipating invasion, while my chest seizes and my gut hardens as if to fight it off, a futile exercise.

Monday, May 5, 2014


The first time I saw the place, it seemed magical. The unpainted rooms, the gardens not yet planted, the wild yard – a promise of better things to come.

As years pass, it just seems run down, not magical.

The birds remind me.



Tell me if you’re game, and I’ll take you someplace you’ve never been.

Maybe we’ll walk the cliffs by the lighthouse, not caring about the steep drop to the bay as morning turns to afternoon.

Maybe we’ll go to the playground where kids light fires, play on an abandoned excavator, and roll tires down the hill into the pond.

If you’re game, we can visit that club – the one with no sign outside, just two men smoking in lawn chairs – and we’ll climb the steps toward the pulsing beat to find couples entwined on banquettes, watching women in skinny jeans and fuck-me pumps who own the dance floor. Maybe we’ll dance.

If you want to, we can get on a plane, then share a plate of Congri and sip mojitos while we watch the people go by, until our heads swim, no longer afraid to lose control.

All you have to do is tell me.