Sunday, July 27, 2014

This happened

A man was driving through a heavy snow storm. He had been drinking, so he was taking it easy, driving slowly and carefully. His car slid into the median, but he didn't know it. The car's tires spun in place on the icy ground. The wind blew thick snow past the windshield. His odometer read 30 mph when a policeman walked up and knocked on the window.

An acquaintance told me this story last summer. His friend was the policeman who knocked on the window.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

This happened

This morning as I made pancakes, my daughter, who is almost ten, walked by me, carrying syrup. She asked, "Dad, what if there was somebody who liked to eat mustard on his pancakes?"

I told her we would give him mustard.

Monday, July 21, 2014

This happened

During the first summer I lived here, Ron and I took a bicycle ride to the reservoir west of town. We plugged and panted, pedaled our way up the road by the dam, turned around, and flew back down. Flew is a metaphor. On the ride home, we raced. I was on a heavy, old Schwinn Continental that I've owned since I was in high school. It was 1981. We weren't wearing helmets. On Birch Street we were riding fast. Every time one of my legs pushed down hard on a pedal, my hands pulled up hard on the drop bar handlebars. The quick release hub on my front tire must have been loose. As I pushed and pulled, the front tire came off. The chromoly fork blades planted in the pavement; and as the blades folded, I rolled over the handlebars, onto the pavement, landed, still rolling, on my right shoulder and came to rest on my butt in the road. The force of the roll almost stood me up on my feet. Ron and I processed the fall. I knew what day it was. I knew my name. No blood was leaking from me. So Ron road his bike home to get a car, and I collected my tire and started walking toward home, rolling the bike on it's back wheel.

Look at this

Sunday, July 20, 2014

This happened

At the same grocery store where I saw the little girl refuse to drink naked juice, a woman, one of the butchers who works behind the meat counter, was handing out samples of buffalo hot wings. I took one and ate it. It was delicious; so I decided to make small talk. I asked her, "How many wings can you get from one buffalo?" She looked wearily at me and said, "They're chicken wings, sir." I said, "Oh, so only two?" She said, "That's correct." I said, "You know I'm kidding you, right?" She said, "You wouldn't believe how many people ask me where the buffalo these wings came from were raised." I said, "That's funny." She looked tired.

This happened

Last night I was at a bar. I started out with friends, but they had gone home. I sat by myself watching.

There was a man at the bar who was about my age. He was cock-sure, but he was saying things in a way that made the people around him furrow their brows as if they'd given up trying to be part of the conversation.

He was talking to a woman who seemed younger than he was. I don't know why I was compelled to watch them. I guess because they were standing right in front of me. Also, she was pretty and wearing red short shorts. He was laughing at his own jokes. She was gazing over his shoulder at somebody else. He looked like he needed a straight man, but I didn't know him or her; so I let it go.

The bartender was about to throw out the coffee. I took a cup. Time passed. I sipped my beer, my coffee.

The man came back, extended his arm. The woman in red shorts put her arm in his arm and walked with him like royalty or a bridesmaid toward the back of the bar.

Global warming, AIDs, the sixth extinction. I have no idea what's going on.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

This happened

A while ago, I was in the grocery store next to the "fancy" juices waiting for my turn to grab a drink for myself. Normally, it's a quick procedure: walk up, grab a bottle of juice, walk away.

It was around lunchtime, and a mom and her daughter were standing in front of the juices in the middle of the aisle working something out. As I stood there, trying to be nonchalant, trying not to appear creepy, I heard the little girl, she was maybe 6 or 7, and her mother have this conversation:

"Come on, honey. Let's go eat lunch. Take your juice and come on."

The mom handed her daughter a little bottle of orange juice, and the little girl reluctantly took it. But the girl looked dumbfounded, a little bit appalled, and a little bit frightened.

The little girl tried to start explaining, but the mom was in a hurry. "Come on. You like orange juice. Let's go." The mom held out her hand expecting the little girl to latch on and walk away with her.

The girl hesitated. She looked back at the refrigerator case the juice had come from.

Her mom stopped, realized that something was amiss, and squatted down next to her daughter. "What's the matter, honey? Do you want lemonade instead?"

The little girl in what I took to be both sadness and exasperation said, "I like orange, but I can't drink this. It says it's naked!"

Writing Prompt

Write down a story that you'd tell when you're hanging out with a friend.

Friday, July 18, 2014

I saw this

This happened

The sky was overcast this morning. The sun came and went. A breeze came and went. It was a good morning to pedal around Old Town and then up the bike trail along the Poudre River.

At the beginning of our bicycle ride, we stopped for coffee and some food. Outside the coffee shop we ran into a local comedienne and her mother. Several weeks ago at a bar after an open-mic show this comedienne suggested that I go on a date with her mother. Part of her act is about how mean and crazy her mother is.

In the center of our bicycle ride, we saw two horses near a fence by the bike trail. We stopped to pet a horse. One horse walked up to the fence, but she was more interested in pulling up grass with her teeth than having her snout or mane rubbed. Her eyes were kind. She looked at us with understanding. She reminded me to go home and read James Wright's poem, "A Blessing." The other horse in the field, the one who did not approach us, was wearing a mask. I didn't understand. My friend explained to me that the mask, and the blanket that each of the horses was wearing, was designed to protect against biting flies. As the kind horse approached us, I saw that the blanket she wore had a logo on it. It said, "Bug Rug."

In the center of our bicycle ride, there was also a woman training for a marathon running along the trail. She stopped for water where we stopped for water, at the drinking fountain where a small, weak, three-leafed dandelion grew behind the fountain's spigot. My friend was telling me a story from her youth. A stolen truck was involved. She was in San Diego. The woman getting in shape for a marathon stepped up from behind us and asked to hear the story. My friend did not tell it again. Instead, she deftly side-tracked the conversation. The woman getting in shape for a marathon asked if my friend were from San Diego. She said, yes. She said she was visiting. The woman getting in shape for a marathon recommended some good places to go cycling.

Near the end of the bicycle ride, the clouds cracked open and drizzled on us a little bit. A few drops. But this was disconcerting to my friend because about three weeks ago, she was struck by lightning. It's an interesting story, but hers to tell. The short version is this: she was in her house leaning on a wall or a counter. There was a storm outside. Lightning struck the house, conducted through to her, knocked her down, and when she got up, her ass was smoking, literally. So, it makes sense that rain clouds and drizzle are still disconcerting to her. We rode a little faster at the end of the ride, but she seemed ok. And while I suppose it could have been the weather or it could have been me, she seemed relieved to get in her car and shut the door.

After she left, the drizzle ceased. I rode my bike around downtown, eventually stopped and had a beer at a brew pub where I know the bartender. After an hour or so of small talk, I decided it was time to go home.

Again, it started to drizzle. I kept riding. The drizzle became rain. I kept riding. I was on the bike path on LaPorte Ave when the rain became a downpour. The rain was cold and stung when it hit my bare arms. I stopped under a tree, but I was still getting wet. I looked around and found nearby a small, empty, blue and white building with wide eaves and a dry sidewalk in front of it. I rolled my bike back to the building, and I stood on that dry sidewalk. A sign in the little building's window said, "The Bike Library has moved." A map on the sign showed how to get to the new Bike Library's location. I waited about ten minutes before the rain slowed enough that I felt comfortable riding again.

This time I rode with the idea of future shelter from the rain in mind. I headed south on Howes Street and found myself riding past my bank. It was still raining; so I decided to stop and get some cash. The ATM in front of the bank is sheltered by a roof and concrete walls, so I didn't have to enter the bank. The ATM is right next to the bank's front door. As I completed my transaction, and shoved my wallet back in my pocket, a large older man in a big, green shirt was shuffling--he might have been in pain--up to the bank door. The rain was subsiding, but I made an attempt at small talk. As he opened the bank door, I asked him, "Do you think it'll keep raining?"

He turned and looked at me, grinned, and with a grandfatherly chuckle behind his words, he said, "I don't know. I've still got about four miles to go." And then, before I could say, "What?" he stepped into the bank.

This happened

I'm sitting in the waiting room at the Subaru dealership drinking coffee, their coffee. It's good coffee. They have one of those robot machines. I'm reading a book. My car is being serviced. I need an oil change and a new headlight. They've told me that I'll have to wait 30-40 minutes. It's been 40 minutes already. The traffic in the hall that runs past the waiting room has been all business, car salespeople and technicians and administrative assistants going where they have to go.

But now the traffic past the waiting room changes. Every few minutes someone in business casual attire holding a plastic spoon and a cup full of ice cream steps in and says to me and to the other man who is waiting for his car to be serviced, they each say in a lilting voice: "Did you get some ice cream?"

Apparently, someone is serving ice cream in the showroom nearby.

The first three times, I try to answer in a light-hearted way. I take a sip from my coffee cup, actually, their coffee cup, and say, "No thank you. I'm fighting obesity" or "No thank you. On the day my mother died, I promised myself that I would never eat ice cream again" or "No thank you, I'm not that hungry, but if you don't mind, may I have a little taste of yours?" No one gives me a taste.

After a little bit, while we are by ourselves, the other man waiting for his car looks up from his book and tells me, "I think you're making them uncomfortable."

I admit to him that he is probably right, but truly, and I don't tell him this, but I understand that really, I am probably just making him uncomfortable. After that, when it happens, out of consideration for my waiting room cohort, and it happens about four more times before my car is ready to go, I say simply to the people offering ice cream, I say, "No thank you. It looks delicious, but no thank you."

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

This happened

The parking lot behind the hardware store was full--no spaces. I needed to get a fruit fly trap. Three cars were circling the narrow lot. In the middle of the lot there is a single row of 14 diagonal spaces that can be pulled into from either side. I counted while I was circling. 14 cars in 14 spaces. I was counting again when someone came out of the store, got in his car, started it. I pulled up to that spot. I could see another car on the other side of the space waiting, just like me. To vacate the space, the car backed toward him. I took the space. The man in the other waiting car pulled before me and gestured convulsively. His face became an ugly fulmination, a contorted scowling in the driver's side window of a mini-van. His anger was palpable. I got out of my car. I paused. I turned and said to him, "You know what? If you really want this spot, I'll give it to you." I waited for him to respond. His face was clenched. He waved me off. I went into the hardware store, bought my fruit fly trap, came back. I'd been inside the store maybe three minutes. He was still waiting. He looked relieved. I backed out so he could have the space. He took it. I waved to him. His relief faded back into a scowl. He didn't wave back.

Tupelo Quarterly #4

Checkout the prose contest
  • Honorable Mentions
  • Monday, July 14, 2014

    Writing Prompt

    Write about something that didn't happen.

    Writing Prompt

    Write about something that happened.

    This happened

    One night, when my oldest son was three years old, after I’d finished reading to him, as I leaned down to kiss him good night, he reached up and gave my beard a quick, gentle tug. And well, it made me feel, well, like a father; so I said to him in my most fatherly voice, “You know, son, when you grow up to be a man, you will have hair on your face, too.” He looked at me with some doubt, “Daddy, when I grow up, I will be a woman.”

    Well, uh, --I was surprised. I stood there, mostly speechless, trapped in a three year old’s concept of gender. I weighed my response, considered whether at bedtime it was worth trying to explain the permanence of basic human anatomy to my three-year-old son, because parts are parts. My oldest son who now planned someday to become my oldest daughter interrupted my thought with a merry, “You never know about me.”

    I responded with, “Uh, well, I, uh.” I decided, okay, if he really wants to be a woman, I can come to terms with that, and as I switched off his bedroom light, he said, “Or I will be a firefighter.”

    My second son is two-and-half years younger than his brother. One Saturday when he was three years old, I got down on the floor to play with him. And as I sat there among the toy trucks, he reached and tugged on my whiskers just as his brother had done two years previously. And, so, I said to Jamie, I said again in my most fatherly voice, “You know, son, when you grow up to be a man, you’ll have hair on your face, too.”

    He began to shriek. He ran away. He was inconsolable until I explained shaving.

    Then he said, “Oh. Ok.” And everything was fine.

    I’m embarrassed to say that when she was three, I couldn’t wait for my daughter to reach up and do the same thing. I kept leaning down making my chin hair available. She did not, however, take the bait, and I really couldn’t wait, so one day at the community swimming pool, without any prompting, I sat down next to her, and I told her: I said, “You know, sweetie, when you grow up to be a man, you’ll have hair on your face, too.”

    She didn’t even blink. She set her dreamsicle down on the picnic blanket, she looked me dead in the eye, and she said, “Daddy, you are crazy!” Then, she got up, gave me a swat on the head with a sticky hand, picked her dreamsicle back up, and strode away to sit next to her mother.

    Friday, July 11, 2014

    This Happened (on the Fourth of July)

    I was riding my bicycle through City Park. This is where they have the city-sponsored fireworks display. Lots of people had already spread out their blankets by the lake. As I rode through the park, and this is the part I love, a guy who looked lost stopped me.

    "Hey, bro. Uh, bro."

    He was about 25, and he was probably drunk. I stopped, put both feet down on either side of the bike.

    He said, "Uh, can I ask you a favor?"

    Pause. We looked at each other.

    I asked him, "Whaddaya need?"

    He said, "Can you give me a ride downtown?"

    I waited for a moment and said, "I don't think that'll work. I'm on a bicycle."

    He looked me up and down, and said, "O-oh. Yeah. Right." He glanced up at the sky. "Ok. Thanks anyway."

    This happened

    Reno to Denver, Flight 5129 

    He was a spry old man and assertive. Before I quit paying much attention to him, I heard him stating terse, bald judgments to the lady I assume was his wife.

    Later, I noticed he was reading. Later, I noticed he was smiling and looking across the aisle, across me, across the lady from Cleveland sitting next to me, staring out our window. He did not seem to register that I was looking at him.

    As he stared and smiled, I noticed that resting atop his left ear, leaning away from his head and against the top of his ear was a white plastic bread tag, one of the clips used to hold shut the plastic bags sliced bread comes in. I kept checking. It was completely there. It was a bread bag tag.

    I wondered if maybe it had been his bookmark, and his ear was a convenient storage shelf.

    I thought about him today when I made some toast. I put a bread bag clip up on top my own ear, used a twist tie on the bread bag, ate my toast, and forgot about the clip until 20 or 30 minutes later when I glanced in the mirror and saw it.

    I understand now how the man was able to exit the airplane and walk out onto the concourse with a bread tag resting on his left ear.

    I figured it out.

    This is would be a good place to place interesting anecdotes.

    Maybe I will.


    I used to have two twitter accounts. I only followed myself. Made myself chuckle with inside jokes and one-liners. Then, my friend Nick discovered them, started looking in, followed me. So I got two new twitter accounts. I only followed myself again. Somehow facebook or hotmail or somebody made my account available to somebody. Now I have six twitter accounts. I don't even like twitter. Also, I think Facebook is time suck, a vortex of loss. Also, I've said it before: hope is the thing with feathers, despair has a twitter account. Remember when we didn't have voice mail? Remember when we had pay phones?

    I grow old. I grow old. I will wear my trousers rolled.

    Wonder what LC is doing. None of my business, but I can wonder.

    I'm going to go find a writing prompt.

    Writing Prompt

    Write a novel.

    Has knowledge changed?

    I could use digital learning for a sofa if I didn't already have one.

    Saturday, July 05, 2014

    Writing Prompt

    Write a poem.

    Friday, July 04, 2014

    Just returned from Squaw Valley Community of Writers

    I miss it. Becky says, "I feel weird." I do, too.

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