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     He was small and wiry and had curly white hair and infinitely blue eyes. He was in his early 60’s. He was known as Harding “Hard On” Miller. He washed dishes at The Driftwood coffee shop and restaurant a few blocks from the ocean in this little seaside village of Cambria.

     The owner of The Driftwood, named Robert, with big sad sympathetic eyes, had hired Harding one morning over coffee after listening to Harding’s unabashed story. Harding was living out of a truck down in the beach parking lot.

     This morning here at the front counter Robert was handing to Harding a colorful envelope and Harding was oddly upset. Harding set the tray of dirty dishes down on the counter and grabbed the letter from Robert’s hand. Robert winced at that but maintained his sympathetic ear.

     Harding fretted, “What the f.. Hell? I can’t believe it. Again! What is going on?”

     Robert said softly, “It’s a Christmas greeting card, Harding. What is wrong with that? Who is it from?”

     “That is exactly the question! I don’t know. There is never a return address and the stamp is always cancelled from the same town I’m in, no matter where I go! If I didn’t know better I’d think I was schizo and writing to myself for company! My parole officer sure ain’t doin’ it.”

     Harding lowered his voice suddenly and glanced at the two cops, a male cop and a female cop sitting at the other end of the counter. The male cop was eyeing the ocean vista obliviously. His female partner was silently interrogating her face in the black coffee. Harding continued in a whisper that he thought was secure but which resonated off of the shiny hardwood counter and the big window in this nearly empty restaurant.

     “Even when I was in prison, I would get a card every holiday, every birthday, no signature, no return address, just a hand-printed ‘Thank you. You are missed’ always at the bottom of every card. Is that weird or what?”

     “Weird,” agreed Robert. “But really kind of nice. So what is the big deal?”

     “It is creepy. It’s like I’m being stalked. I’ve spent enough time with people looking over my shoulder for one lifetime.” He glanced at the two cops again. They were both turned away. He thought they were both looking out the big window, but the woman was now watching Harding in the reflection while her partner’s eyes were setting sail for that bank of fog on the horizon.

     Harding picked up the tray of dirty dishes and walked back to his washer station, setting the tray down on the stainless steel table. He then lifted from the tray a half-empty bottle of ale that some fisherman had left that morning. The young cook called to him, “Hey, ‘Hard On’, what’s happening?” That bottle, in Harding’s hand, was now a serious parole violation, but Harding walked in a trance with the Christmas greeting card, out the back door and he finally sat down to overlook the reedy creek that sauntered toward the ocean.

     Harding stared at the Christmas greeting card. And with a first splash of ale down his throat, some shiny memories were uncovered. He was suddenly thinking about that evening at Comozzi’s Saloon, right up the street in the village, twenty-six years ago.




     Twenty-six years ago, sitting at the bar had been this slender red-head with the most shamrock-emerald eyes. Harding had looked around for the guy she must certainly have been with, but he saw no one qualified. He sat beside her at the empty bar and asked, “Anyone claim this seat?”

     She smiled, looking up at Harding’s reflection in the big bar mirror, “He’s not here.”

     Harding thought to himself she didn’t say “I have a boyfriend (get lost!)” and he then said, “I’m Harding”

     “I’m Shauna.”

     The two of them lost track of how many rounds they bought each other that fateful evening as they poured out each other’s lives. Harding remembered the pressure of his buried pain being released into those deeply forgiving emerald eyes of hers as they had talked.

     “All I ever wanted was for my father to be proud of me.

     My father was a pilot in World War Two. He flew a Liberator in daylight bombing raids over Germany. His best friend was his co-pilot. Half of those guys were shot down.

     He met my mother while she was dating his best friend. When my father and his best friend played baseball between missions my father would just keep looking over at her and she would just keep looking over at him. They were married near the end of the war. He lost touch with his best friend.

     My father was always my hero. But he was never happy with me. My mother was always the life of the family holidays, but even she thought I couldn’t do anything right

     I was always in trouble.

     My father had become the pastor at our church and also the head of my youth group and he was respected by everyone in the community. But he would laugh at my answers to questions during Bible class. He would make me put my nose into a chalk circle on the blackboard and wear a dunce cap. When I wanted to play Church football, he sneered at me that I was too small. Besides, he would say, don’t grow up to be one of those low-life athletes. When I signed-up for Church football anyway, he would never come to a game. One day I was doing really good: I made two touchdowns, and we needed one more to win. Suddenly there was my father holding a clipboard. I asked him what he was doing there and he said he was now the Assistant Coach!

     He benched me and let some lousy guy “have his fair turn”. We lost. I was so furious I quit the team. And then he would always mock me in front of everybody for that, for being “a quitter”.

     The worst was one day in the garage when I found an old trunk of stuff from my father’s pilot days. There was a picture of my father’s flight crew with his best friend and him in the middle. I had never seen a picture of his best friend. His best friend was a tough looking little guy and…and… I had his best friend’s eyes.

     My father caught me and snatched the picture and hit me; really pounded me, telling me to stay out of his things. I left home and joined the Marines that week.”

     Harding and Shauna finally took their bottles of beer outside of Comozzi’s and headed down to a spot near the creek.

     They were making love when Shauna’s boyfriend found them

     The boyfriend’s crew commenced beating Harding while the boyfriend dragged Shauna up the bank, cuffing her repeatedly with the back of his hand. They left Harding crumpled and crying “Leave her alone!”

     But a few minutes later Harding came up behind them in the street outside Comozzi’s. The boyfriend was harshly restraining Shauna and growling between his teeth how he was going to smash her face. As the boyfriend turned around, Harding, bloodied and limping, shoved a broken beer bottle into the boyfriend’s throat. Shauna screamed and the boyfriend’s crew now swiftly beat and kicked Harding unconscious.

     The circumstances were not important to the court. Harding had come back with “deadly intent” and, after a half-hearted presentation by his court-appointed lawyer, Harding was convicted of Attempted Murder. He was sentenced to 25 years.

     He never heard from Shauna again.

     Harding’s family then all but disowned him. He never saw them or heard from them again. His friends vanished.

     But about ten years later he began to get the greeting cards for his birthdays and holidays.

     His parents both died while he was in prison. When he was paroled he was a stranger in a strange land. He had the small inheritance left to him from his religious parents. He bought a pick-up truck with a camper shell and eventually landed in the parking lot of the Cambria beach.

     All that time the mysterious greeting cards had followed him with every move.





     Twenty-six years later, as Harding sat there, bottle in hand, overlooking the reedy creek sharing his memories, a shadow fell upon him. Harding started from his reverie and turned around. He reflexively but futilely dropped the ale bottle.

     Standing there was the female cop.

     Harding, even as he plummeted into despair, noticed the eyes of the female cop. They were as infinitely blue as his own eyes.

     The female cop spoke softly, “Hello, Harding,” then she showed a hesitant smile, saying, “Father. Dad,… I’m your daughter. My name is Deirdre.”

     “Daughter…?” His mouth fell open. Harding arose.

     “I sent you that greeting card. I sent them all. Do you remember Shauna? She is my mother. She told me your story when I could finally understand, when I was about ten years old. She made me promise not to tell you anything. She thought that she had hurt you enough. She was ashamed. So I secretly wrote birthday and holiday cards to you in prison. When I became a cop I could always find out where you were.”

     Harding was speechless, blinking and moving his lips.

     Deirdre took a deep breath, “Dad, you have a little granddaughter. And she has your eyes…”

     Harding put his hand against the side of his face, “Granddaughter…?”

     “Dad, my husband Brian and I want you to come live with us. Even if it’s only for awhile.”

     Harding lowered his hand from his jaw, “Can I ask you: where is Shauna?”

     Deirdre tightened her lips and said haltingly, “She, she died… She died…”

     And tears filled both worlds of infinitely blue eyes.









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In all the facets of his eyes, with Meadow of the Valley burning green,
The rolling colors up and down the hillside shined, petted by the wind.
Galahad the Grasshopper did thus not need to dream,
Offering to Aesop Ant, in passing, morsels of a leaf that he did love,
From high atop the towering weed, from where his heart did leap,
Called Galahad to him below, “Hey, can you stop, Aesop, my friend, and watch the spring in beauty burn?”

Aesop Ant replied, “Well, meadows do that sort of thing”, and tilting head from toil’s burn,
“You will find the Meadow is not always green,
And what is real is dreadful preparation.  Somehow does the worst upon us always leap.”
Appalled at Aesop’s rude philosophy, cried Galahad into the wind:
“What of Love?”
Aesop Ant just smiled and waved good-bye, “Good luck with Love, a Dream.”

A shadow fell on Galahad, and startled him from Aesop’s troubling Dream;
Above him saw a Butterfly alight upon the flower, wings a prism interceding for the sunlight’s burn.
“Sorry to disturb your dreaming.  I am Bethanie.”  She sipped the flower she did love.
“I am Galahad.  It is a lovely day.” His armor never shone before so green.
And Bethanie enjoined, “I hid when I was just a silly little caterpillar, dreaming of the wind.
But now I raise my wings to me and into beauty soon shall leap!”

Into every facet of his eyes did Bethanie’s true beauty leap.
Galahad did nod with every movement of her wings, to hear as if he did thus deeply dream:
“But now is time to drink the world and spill no drop into the wind.”
Then suddenly was Galahad no longer happy; something in his eyes did burn.
Added Bethanie, “But, you are welcome to accompany my journey high above the green.”
Galahad restrained himself from leaping then and there, while saying “That, I would be sure to love.”

“Can you stay apace with me?” asked Bethanie, “No matter what you love?”
Galahad without restraint said, “Yes, I can.  For I can glide the farthest of them all after I leap.”
“Then let us go while sun still shines and all the grass is green.”
Away from Galahad she fluttered like a dream.
Galahad leapt to the sky, and spread his wings to glide; to leap and glide until his legs did burn.
Down the valley to unseen horizon blew the wind.

Galahad did slowly fall apace, and finally descry not Bethanie in bygone wind.
Heart of his, a beating compass, blindly pointed love
Until the sun of that first day was no more seen to burn,
And from behind, a full moon crouched and into stars did leap.
Galahad now found himself beside a tiny creek that fell into a sandy pool, inviting him to dream.
Wearily he nibbled on a leaf, and heavy was his armor, fading green.

Far away, a Cricket choir chirping helped his spirit into slumber leap,
Rekindling desire, cherishing an unforgotten Dream.
Something cold did his way whisper, withering that Dream so green.

Waking up most suddenly from all he thought were memories still green
Galahad felt fiercely cold and bitten by the wind.
In all the facets of his eyes were tears that froze that former Dream
Of springtime months ago; Of Love.
Winter cold was gnawing now upon his heart, to death if he away could no more leap.
Beyond the gloaming garden, thence he knew not when he fell, he smelled a farmhouse fire burn.

Shivering, an ember in his heart did once more flare and burn,
Shining in all facets of his eyes, again so brightly green.
A leap
Into the wind,
Gliding for his unseen Love
With their waiting Dream,

Narrowly ajar, an open window, shining bright, perchance another dream,
Through which Galahad could see a lusty fire burn,
Embracing in the fireplace a sweet dry branch with love.
And near the windowsill in colored lights bestrewn, there stood a Christmas tree still green.
Galahad nudged through the open window, as it kept at bay the wind,
To the Christmas tree then did he leap.

Sailing to the crowning star where with that faithful leap,
Galahad, now warm beside a golden light that shined just like his Dream,
Without the wolfish winter wind,
Within him fever still did burn,
Glowing tarnished armor green.
Thus did he believe delirium brought Bethanie, in visions of his Love.

Galahad was sure that now he truly saw his Love;
All the facets of his eyes across the room did leap
Above the mantle, on the wall, inside a frame of green,
Where Bethanie, transfixed as mid-flight in a dream,
Held her wings outstretched, where interceding shadows race and burn,
Everlasting in a chambered replica of wind.

Then Galahad in flashing horror saw a pin was driven through her back, to hold her in imaginary wind.
He cried out as he leapt across the void to be beside his Love.
Tapping frantically on glass reflections in which shadows race and burn,
Slipped and fell he to the hearth.  In paralyzed despair he watched for an eternity the hellish fire leap
Until the flames revealed his fate inside a final Dream.
Into the glowing ashes dipped he tattered wings that once were green.

With wings of fire, back up to the crucifixion chamber’s frame of green
Galahad did leap his last, to lie with Bethanie and immolate his Dream.
The mingled smoke did through the open window toward unseen horizon leap.








His life was sweet no more because
His job two years ago
Was lost in economic storm.
Now, he was out of dough.

The winter came to reap his shame,
Unwelcome as he was,
Within his daughter’s basement, where
“Apply for Santa Claus”,

His daughter and her boyfriend gnawed,
“You’ve got to pay some rent!”
“But, we are Jewish!” Harry kvetched.
Yet up the stairs he went

Into the hall and out the door.
The blizzard was a shock.
The once and future Harry Palms
Behind him heard the lock.

His breath condensed into his beard,
His cheeks with cold did burn.
He got onboard the empty bus
Some money for to earn.

He got out at the Shopping Mall;
The stores so gaily lit.
Before he could apply himself
He had to give a shit.

Beside the bathroom stalls he stopped
And saw two men a’kissing.
He grabbed their collars, banged their heads.
They beat him.  Teeth a’missing,

Still Harry Palms had got the job
Of Santa Claus, First Shift.
“I guess my life is now complete”.
His pride he had to sift,

Like cat-box turds, beside his bed,
The night he set the clock
For five AM to catch the bus.
He couldn’t find his cock.

As Santa Claus he did preside
Above the World Toy™ scenes
For Children of Jerusalem,
Sponsored by Marines.

All day long the shoppers climbed
To leave their gifts of toys
And sit their children on his lap.
He almost lost his poise

When three young Persian girls appeared
In line to visit him
Dressed like ornaments with jewels
And voices like a hymn.

“I am Sofa Kush” one spoke
“And these, my sisters, be
Avesta and Daeva”.  Wise
Beyond her beauty she

Was dressed in gold, Avesta white,
And Daeva shaped in red.
The three of them leaned to his ears
And this is what they said:

Daeva: “Listen closely now,
To warn you we have come”.
Avesta: “Toys you gather here
Will harm Jerusalem”.

Said Sofa: “It’s the TNA”.
But Harry looked bemused.
“The Terror Net Alliances.
And we three stand accused

Of being traitors to our lords;
Mawlas, to whom we’re wives,
Will surely stone us three to death.
We offer you our lives:

Please help us save Jerusalem.
Allah’ cannot want this:
There are the toys that will explode
And open the Abyss.”

Poor Harry sat there so confused
Because their Sirens’ voice
Had spun enchanting arabesque
That left him with no choice

But to believe them; was he nuts?
They clearly were afraid
Of something that was going down
That wasn’t a charade.

He turned to find the host Marine
Did have his weapon drawn
And pointed at his geezer brains.
The three young girls were gone.

The mothers screamed and children ran
In chaos so appalling
The soldier had to drop his gun;
The Christmas Tree was falling

Onto his head.  The needles rained
And stuck him in the eyes.
He fell down to his knees and screamed
Vile curses to incise

Whoever had pushed o’er the Tree.
He swore in Farsi tongue
To cut the heart of those who laughed:
Three Persian girls so young

They could not hide their merry laugh,
For they had done the deed
To no Marine: a terrorist
Who thought he could mislead.

Poor Harry Palms had tumbled back
And fallen from the lair
Of Santa Claus, onto the floor,
At circling stars to stare.

“You must arise and follow us”,
He heard the Angel say.
She looked a lot like Sofa Kush
And so he did obey.

Into the Manger Scene they fled
And lifted Baby Jesus.
A trap-door opened at their feet,
So down there Harry squeezes.

Below, past tense and present fear
A tunnel lead them out
The Service Exit Door.  The girls
The parking lot did scout

As if they knew what should be, they
The World Toy™ truck did see
Without a guard nearby.  Not luck:
Avesta had the key.

So off they went with reckless speed.
On, Daeva! Sofa Kush!
Avesta! And on, Harry Palms,
But watch your sorry tush!

“Where do we go?” did Harry cry.
He saw they were pursued
By someone in a Cadillac.
He was not in the mood!

His basement room seemed pretty good,
Retreating in his mind.
If he could just get out of this
He nevermore would find

A fault within his broken life.
It always can be worse!
To Harry, like the Bible’s Job,
Jehovah seemed adverse,

Because just then they overturned
The World Toy™ truck and smashed
Right through the lobby, where the staff
Of Trumpet Towers dashed.

A shroud of smoke concealed the four,
Untangled from debris.
Avesta, Daeva, Sofa Kush,
And Harry all did flee

Into the elevator car,
Penthouse Floor they keyed
To where the Persian girls did live.
It cost not chicken feed.

But suddenly their motion stopped,
The elevator dead
One floor below the penthouse suite.
They exited instead

And ran into the studio
Of KABL Radio.
The three girls knew the DJ well.
The DJ exhaled, “Whoa”.

Kid KABL Rock, as he was known,
Did listen to the girls
As he stared at Santa Claus,
His stoner mind in whorls.

He locked-up tight the studio
In record time, for then
Upon the door fell pounding fists
Of several angry men.

Kid KABL Rock was monitoring
The evening TV news
That pictured Harry (Santa Claus)
“Police uncovered clues

That Santa Claus had helpers who
Conspired to steal each toy
Donated for Jerusalem
Baseerah, Hebrew, Goy.”

The World Toy™ lawyers fed the news
And Sofa Kush just knew
They had to broadcast their own side
To rescue what was true.

Kid KABL Rock was ‘way ahead
And sat down at the mike
To spread the “Siege of Santa Claus”
Which children wouldn’t like.

The children listened everywhere
To hear their hero speak.
Kid KABL Rock laid down the scene
And it was getting bleak:

“Our door those men are battering down,
With force to hit home-runs.”
Kid KABL Rock beseeched the kids
To get their parent’s guns.

“Come up to Trumpet Towers, all!
To station KABL Rock!
Help us to save Santa Claus!”
He rallied them ad hoc.

Avesta cried “Time’s running out!”
But Daeva had a scheme,
“If Kid can hack the broadcast net
We can send a beam

That reaches to Jerusalem
Before they land those toys.”
Kid KABL Rock was on the case;
“His talent he employs”,

Said Sofa Kush, “to hack for fun
The broadcast net before.”
Avesta held a cell-phone high,
“I took my husband’s phone.

It has the code to detonate
The high-explosive bombs,
Before the children have to die
And grief consume their moms.”

But Harry saw the door give-in
And shatter to the floor
As men crashed through and aimed their guns
Upon the other four.

What happened next was like dream
As Harry leapt between
The gunmen and the other four,
Screaming, so obscene,

As bullets patted Harry Palms,
And so did Santa slay,
Avesta plugged the cell-phone in
Where Kid KABL did say,

As Sofa Kush a doll did throw
Toward a gunman’s face,
Avesta pushed the icon dial
And blew the coup de grace,

So fire ate alive those men
And ruptured in the lobby.
The plane above Jerusalem
Was hailing Abu Dhabi,

When in a super-nova blast
It blew to smithereens
And starred above, just like all those
Nativity night scenes.











     I’m still the same Ravenna you knew.  I still live here at the Asphodel Meadows apartments, right next to the commuter station.

     From my ninth-floor apartment I can hear the station announcements.  The synthetic voice generator announces, “If you need to talk we are here to listen.  Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-(800)-784-2433.”

     It has been months and it still hurts.  Why did I re-read your good-bye letter?  I had it hidden, buried it away.

     I had not thought about you for a couple of days.  For months I’ve thought about you every day.  Then, for a few days I hadn’t, and I was feeling peace.  Suddenly, my realization that I hadn’t thought about you frightened me.  It was like awakening falling.  I was letting go!

     I had to see your words.  I found your letter again.  The pain revived in me the me I used to know.

     Why am I still on social media?  I have always been a loner.  Alone online with imaginary friends.

     Everything else in my life has been peripheral vision since I met you.  The middle of my existence is now a torn void.  I orbit a black hole.

     I still must believe that loving you says something about me.  I should smile.

     So, I look down out of my apartment window.  On the brick wall across in the alley, sprayed in a multicolored 3-D effect, are the words “DONKEY WORSHIP” next to the crucified human figure with a donkey head.

     My life was aligning around you.  My life is misaligned without my hope of you anymore.

     How do I realign my life?

     The act of writing is the only thing in my life where I get what I want.  A happy ending.

     Hell.  I need to get out of here.  Outside.  Outside this mausoleum.  My apartment smells like me.  I need city air.  Grab my bag.

     My story characters are my real friends. I know, I know what you are thinking: Coo-coo!  Coo-coo!  I too hear the cuckoo clock.  Coo-coo!  Coo-coo!

     Shuffle down the hall to the stairwell, nine floors deep.

     The only thing that I ever knew for sure is that I love you. The same way that I would know that I was hit by a train.

     My neighbors here by the stairwell are David and Rachel.  They are virtuous, guiltless, damned, and living in poverty.

     I was so convinced of my own personal divine providence that to awaken from such a dream was bitter.  I spat out God.

     On the eighth floor live the “working girls”, Cleo, Tristiana, and Paris.  They tell me, “something good will have to happen”.  However, every solution is the next problem.

     On the seventh floor live the loud party doper dealers.  They have a big Pit-bull inside to guard their door.  Sometimes they chain that Pitt-bull in the hallway when a police car parks below.

     I miss knowing your thoughts.  My thoughts are always guarded but you are my warden.  I have no one to whom I can turn in my prison cell.

     On the sixth floor lives old Rolla, the fortune teller.  She is nearly blind and makes you think that she is simpleminded.  She is cruelly observant and unpredictability giddy.  Yet from all over the building we come to her for advice.

     If only I had never met you.  I fill my dark vacuum with memories of you.  Memories of you abide in me.  And usually at times like these the memories of you talk to me.

     On the fifth floor the neighbors are always fighting.  The police have come frequently.  One time, I heard it said that a four-year-old had been shot in the face while another neighbor was threatening the child’s mother.

     When I reread your letter, I found for myself that feelings never die.  That letter locks the tomb where my feelings have been buried alive.

     On the fourth floor lives a militant atheist.  When he sees me he always asks me if I’ve seen God.  I say I’m not sure.  My mind is a flaming tomb.

     I believe in God, but we don’t get along.

     On the third floor there used to live a strange quiet man called Mister Purdy.  He had the most beautiful long haired female Afghan hound.  He and that dog were inseparable.  Mister Purdy killed his dog and committed suicide when people rumored how inseparable they really were.

     There had been a cold rain the day before.  Last night I made a little fire on the roof under the stars.  I burned your letter.  A billion billion fiery cosmic cataclysms led to us meeting.  I want to be grateful for that, not bitter.

     You are still a flame in my mind.  Since our time together I am stumbling with my head on backwards.  I have bumped into other guys and hurt them

     On the second-floor lives Lelia.  She has five children by five different fathers.  Those men all abandoned her, alone and pregnant.

     Yes, I crippled myself loving you.  No, I’m sorry, that is not true.  There is no one like you.  That’s all.  I was lucky to know you.

     Here on the ground floor works the building manager.  You have to bribe him, so he doesn’t harass you all the time and raise your rent.

     I realize that I have been hurting other guys so that they would feel as badly as I do.  It was cowardice.  I have become a zombie, eating the hearts of other guys.

     I am emotionally drained over you. But when I realized that I hadn’t thought about you for a few days, I felt sorrowful that you weren’t filling my mind.  I should have been relieved, but I do not want to get over you.  How sad is that?  Pretty sad.  Yes.  Sadness that is pretty.

     My love for you is the only thing I’ve known with certainty my entire life

     I remember as a child sitting alone late at night in the big cushioned chair watching the bright Christmas tree.  I remember the cozy happiness.  I need a daddy God to comfort me.  “Be brave, my little girl”.

     Where does this all end?

     It starts here.

     I face the graffiti on the brick wall across in the alleyway.  DONKEY WORSHIP.  The tagger’s hand writes and moves on.

     Follow me on down that alley.

     I take a can of spray paint from my bag.  My atomized love stains you onto the brick wall.  I embroider the brick wall with you.  I stroke your arms and legs from my memory.  You are stubborn like a donkey.  That’s why I give you a donkey’s head.  I am just a stick figure behind you now, right?  But I hold you like I’m your shadow.  You know that I am your cross to bear but you are a stubborn fool.

     Oh, why have you deserted me?








November 20, 1980



We love you.

That will never pass

Though all else seems to end.

Hey, fuzzy guy,

We love you.

You are still

Our little friend.

This morning was clear and bright

But it was not right.

The warm sun was out of place

Because you hid your sweet face

Beneath the garden

Where you would play

And capture butterflies

On their way,

Or touch the water

Against your fears.

We wish you were here now

To touch our tears.

Last night

With the moon so nearly full

We let you rest


On my shirt

While your sister played


In the open dirt.

We held a simple light

And stroked your pretty fur.

You were so peacefully with us

We wondered where you were.

You even had your sleepy smile

As we scratched your little cheek.

The sorrow fell

In shovelfuls

And buried us complete.

We love you.

That is never good-bye.

We love you,

We love you,

We love you,

She and I.









There is a bus stop shelter down below on the corner. Tonight, raindrops sparkle in its island of light.

On the lateral sides of the bus stop shelter are LED-illuminated advertising display screens. They splash colors from their scroll of ballyhoo.

A bundled figure shuffles ashore out of the night and sits on the bus stop bench. There are no buses running at this late hour.

It is an old man. His white hair is tousled. He wears a down jacket but it is wet, dingy, and torn. His pant cuffs are tattered. He wears big red Nike Volt running shoes, incongruously.

The old man sits and stares down at his shoes.

Now his gaze is drawn to a flickering advertisement on the display screen next to him. It is a pitch from a market for Thanksgiving dinner. It shows a cozy family gathering around a large table laden with feast. The family is smiling and nodding.

The old man turns to the display screen and opens his mouth in a smile and clasps his hands, joining the rhythms of the happy family.

Suddenly the display screen scrolls to a new advertisement. It is about a Medical Group specializing in cancer treatment. It shows a woman wearing a colorful scarf over her head; a cancer patient bravely smiling as a doctor hugs her.

The old man’s smile has fallen. He reaches to touch the woman. The advertisement fades and the old man cries out in anguish. He lowers his head and sobs. He sobs and covers his face.

When the old man again raises his face the display screen is showing a young boy on Christmas morning. The young boy is holding his father’s hand as they descend the staircase.

The old man smiles once again out of his wet face. He beckons to the young boy, “Sonny! Sonny!”

The advertisement ends and the old man shakes his lowering head.

A distant train proclaims its burden to the night.

The old man listens to the train intently and then arises as it starts to fade in the distance.

The old man leaves the bus stop shelter and steps off of the curb directly into the dark road, following the calling train.

An automobile is approaching rapidly.

In an instant the old man is transfixed in the headlights.

The police car screeches to a sliding halt.

Out from the police car emerge not only the policeman but a man, a woman, an older woman, and a boy.

The street echoes.

“Dad! You scared the shit out of us!”

“We’ve been looking for you for three days!”

“Martin! I swear, don’t you ever scare me like that again, you stubborn man!”

“You aren’t supposed to go out of the house without one of us!”

“Grandpa! Why did you leave us? You took my shoes! You’ll miss Thanksgiving tomorrow!”


And so I was glad I made the call. Can you pass the cranberry sauce, please?








mfc_turkey - resize 1



Bafflegab was a young turkey.

Bafflegab was one of a new breed that was being spoken of in whispers as “The Young Turks”. His dark barred plumage bore an iridescent bronze-green shine. His tail feathers were tipped in a rusty red.

Bafflegab had three companions: Jabbercocky and Poppycock who were, like him, jakes, young males, and Twaddle who was called a jenny, a young female.

Bafflegab perched on the fence that surrounded Grimpils Farm and he addressed the assembled rafter of his brethren birds. The Grimpils Farm turkeys were domesticated and timid and captive and predominantly bred to be white (so that any small residue feathers would not offend the Consumer).

Bafflegab was saying, “Let’s talk turkey. We got our name ‘Turkey’ by mistake. The wild ‘Guinea Fowl’ of Africa was exported from Madagascar through Turkey by Portuguese traders, who gave it the name ‘Guinea Fowl’. In about 1550 they were calling them ‘Turkeys’ in England because they came through Turkey. Then, by mistake, they called us, who were somewhat similar creatures, ‘Turkeys’ when they found us is the New World.”

The audience looked at each other and muttered, “Gobbledygook? Gobbledygook?”

Bafflegab then said, “Well, it’s a New World once again. One in a hundred of us can talk. I am one of The One Percent.”

Jabbercocky chortled, “The Young Turks!”

The audience warbled, “Gobbledygook! Gobbledygook!”

Bafflegab bowed, displaying his red carancle in humility, pride, and unto his destiny.

Then Bafflegab continued, “Jabbercocky, Poppycock, Twaddle, and I must go missing. The rest of you must act like you saw Coyotes in the night.”

Bafflegab, Twaddle, Jabbercocky, and Poppycock then strutted away down the road that was usually taken only once by a turkey in the turkey truck.

. ~ .

        One time the Young Turks had seen a turkey truck overturn near Grimpils Farm and all the narrow turkey cages spilled open. The turkeys who were not killed in the accident just stood around the truck in clusters, pecking, looking around, waiting to be gathered back up, held upside-down by their legs, and confined into another fateful truck.

. ~ .

As soon as Bafflegab, Twaddle, Jabbercocky, and Poppycock had departed, the Grimpils Farm turkeys turned away and immediately began to forget what they all just had heard. They shuffled wing to wing back to their feeding trays and their water dishes and their air-conditioned Finisher Barn.

Bafflegab, Twaddle, Jabbercocky, and Poppycock diverted from the well-traveled farm road onto a trail that whispered into the surrounding woods. Their 10 million-year-old turkey spirits soon kindled. They strutted through the cathedral sunshine of the pines, the oaks and hickory, the elm and ash, the ferns, the yellow jessamine.

They could not see the two hunters, a grandfather and his grandson, leaning against a tree, dressed in hunting camouflage.

. ~ .

The grandfather was lecturing the 9-year old grandson, saying, “See? We have selected a calling-position where you can see for at least 50 yards in all directions and where you are protected from the backside. And rule one is always to have your shotgun unloaded until you’re ready to shoot.”

The 9-year old grandson asked, “Are we ready to shoot now?”

Grandfather said, “Yes, nearly, but what is the next rule?”

Grandson answered, “Never shoot at just a sound or just a movementShoot at a turkey that’s entirely visible,” then he asked excitedly, “Can I use the ‘gobbler call’?”

Grandfather queried, “Sure, but what do we want to do first?”

Grandson recited, “We want to make sure there are no other hunters around. They might shoot at our ‘gobbler call’.”

Grandfather said, “Very good. Now let’s listen very carefully as we look around.”

Grandfather and Grandson soon hear soft voices in the distance.

Grandfather asked Grandson, “What do we do now?”

Grandson recited, “We whistle or shout to alert approaching hunters of our position. We never wave or stand up.”

. ~ .

Twaddle was asking Bafflegab, “Tell me again, why are we out here? I’m getting cold. I was cozy in the Finisher Barn.”

Bafflegab answered, “There is more to life than Thanksgiving.”

Poppycock spoke up, saying, “But it is written in the World Wide Web that Thanksgiving is our destiny. We had no destiny until the Pilgrims.”

Jabbercocky said, “In England our destiny is Christmas.”

Bafflegab retorted, “Death is the destiny of all, not Being Eaten.”

Twaddle asked, “Eaten by worms or eaten by humans, what is the difference?”

Bafflegab replied, “Freedom in between.”

Poppycock asked, “What about our brethren birds at Grimpils Farm? How can we free those who are bred for slavery?”

Bafflegab sighed, “That is what we hope to find out here in freedom land.”

Twaddle mused, “So we can become their destiny?”

Poppycock affirmed, “As it so pleases my Lord Jade Turkey.”

Bafflegab asked Poppycock, “Why do you still believe in Chalchiuhtotolin (Jade Turkey), that evil Aztec god? His incarnation is a turkey that terrorizes villages, bringing disease and sickness.

Poppycock quickly added, “…to people.”

Chalchiuhtotolin, Aztec turkey god

Jabbercocky said, “Yeah, that is revenge for Thanksgiving and Christmas, I’d say.”

Bafflegab argued, “The Aztecs never even heard about Christmas until 1519 when their doom arrived in the guise of Spanish conquistadores.”

Twaddle proposed, “Maybe the Aztecs were mean to turkeys?”

Poppycock said, “Well, Jade Turkey works for me. There should be a ‘Jade Turkey’. That inspires me a lot more than the Grimpils Farm motto: We’re Good To Gobble.”

That’s when the Young Turks heard Grandfather and Grandson crying out, “Helloooo! Helloooo! Hunters over here!”

The Young Turks froze like frozen turkeys.

Twaddle whispered, “What do we do?”

Poppycock asked quietly, “What are we afraid of? Why would anyone hunt turkeys? They can buy our brethren turkeys at the store.”

Jabbercocky asked, “Should we run?”

Bafflegab said, “No. We’ll answer them. That should confuse them.”

The Young Turks called back to the hunters, “Helloooo! Helloooo! Turkeys over here!”

There was silence.

Grandfather finally called back, saying, “That’s funny, yessir. My grandson and me will be coming your way to just say hi. Stand down, OK?”

Twaddle whispered, “Stand down? Should we sit?”

When Grandfather and Grandson emerged from the undergrowth they stepped before Bafflegab, Twaddle, Jabbercocky, and Poppycock.

Grandfather and Grandson froze like frozen turkeys.

Bafflegab said, “Howdy.”

Grandson screamed.

Grandfather, shocked, fumbled with his cartridges and tried to load his 12-gauge semi-automatic shotgun.

Twaddle observed, “This can’t be good.”

Poppycock shouted, “Stop! I know Jade Turkey!”

Jabbercocky pleaded, “Let’s talk turkey!”

Bafflegab said, “Everyone! Jump on the boy and hold on.”

The Young Turks fluttered toward Grandson who fell backwards screaming as he dropped his shotgun. They each clutched a limb of the boy.

Grandson tried to flail the Young Turks away but they pecked his hands and he then dropped into a ball and covered his head as Bafflegab, Twaddle, Jabbercocky, and Poppycock clung to him.

Grandfather in agitated despair aimed his shotgun around and around but he would not aim toward Grandson.

Bafflegab cried, “Let’s talk turkey!”

Twaddle cried, “We don’t want to hurt anyone.”

Poppycock cried, “Especially us!”

Jabbercocky cried, “Didn’t you ever see Free Birds?”

Grandson cried, “What is happening?”

Grandfather cried, “Get off my Grandson!” and he strode in a panic toward the Young Turks, wagging his 12-gauge semi-automatic shotgun like a jōjutsu staff, threatening them.

Suddenly, the shotgun discharged with a loud sneeze of pellets.

Grandson and the Young Turks all were struck and killed.

Based on the visual evidence, Grandfather was arrested and tried for the murder of Grandson. He was acquitted on the basis of insanity for his testimony about talking turkeys.

Grandfather spent the next Thanksgivings and Christmases alone until one cold Thanksgiving Day he finally shot himself with a 12-gauge semi-automatic shotgun that he had purchased with false identification from J. D. Pavo’s Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms Emporium.






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