Cover Inside.jpg

This is a work of fiction.  All of the people and other living things are made up, as well as the places they go and the things they do when they get there.  Any resemblance to reality, whatever that might be, is just plain, dumb luck.

 

“Good Headhunters” formerly appeared in Suttertown News (March 10-17, 1988) out of Sacramento, California.  “Five Turtles” is based on the traditional Mexican folk tale “Cinco Armadillos.”

 

For Rachel, Daniel, and Eric.

 

Copyright © 1997 and 2022 by Michael Soetaert, Portland, Oregon.  No part of this book may be reproduced by any means whatsoever, no way, no how, without the expressed, written consent of the author.

Contents.jpg

Bob’s Cat

 

I knew this guy Bob

whose life really sucked.

He got laid off from his job

pressing out plastic shampoo bottles

that looked like poodles.

 

Mindy Sue, this incredibly ugly chick

that Bob used to say he dated

only because he felt sorry for her,

left him for this other dude

who was even uglier and scrawnier than Bob.

 

Bob’s car broke down on the expressway,

and before he ever had a chance

to figure out just what was wrong with it,

it got towed away

to some lot behind an old gas station

where they actually expected Bob to pay

before he could get it back out.

 

01 Bob's Cat A.jpg

Like he really had anything to pay with.

Even if he did

he’d have to give it to his landlord first,

who didn’t have much patience to begin with

and no sense of humor at all.

 

I’m not kidding.

Bob’s life totally sucked.

And since he could see no hope

that it would ever get better,

Bob decided to chuck it all

and drown himself in the toilet.

 

And he would’ve, too,

had not this really incredible thing happened.

 

Just when he was returning from the alley

with a couple of old cement blocks

and a piece of clothesline

that he’d found tangled in the fence,

this really mangy cat showed up

with a winning lottery ticket in its mouth.

We’re not talkin’ just a whole lot of money here,

but five bucks was enough

for Bob to think twice.

01 Bob's Cat B.jpg

So instead of ending it all,

Bob went out and got a hamburger

that he shared with the cat.

 

And after the cat

had licked all the grease

from its paws and its face

it went back out,

and when it came back it had another lottery ticket.

Only this time

we are talkin’ a lot of money –

fifteen thousand dollars.

 

Bob may have been suicidal,

but he wasn’t stupid. 

He saw a goldmine in that cat.

Every day the cat brought him something:

Cash, stocks, bonds, gem stones;

and all he had to do was feed it.

 

Needless to say,

Bob’s life got better.

He got a new car,

a new house,

new clothes,

and this really hot lookin’ babe named Bambi

who rarely wore

any appropriate undergarments.

 

One day while Bambi was at the house

checkin’ out all the channels

that Bob got on his satellite dish

with the remote control by the hot tub,

she happened to ask

just how it was that Bob could afford all the stuff,

stuff like a solid gold potato peeler

and a fur-lined pool table.

 

And Bob felt really stupid

telling her about the cat,

so he made up this really involved story

about a rich uncle from Akron

who’d been run over by a bus.

When he got done

Bambi told him how sorry she was,

well – about his uncle and all.

And the cat,

the cat got up and left.

And he never came back.

 

Well, Bob may not have been too stupid

when it came to keeping the cat,

but he couldn’t manage money worth a hoot,

and within two months

the collection company had collected everything –

the brass goldfish,

the marble toothbrush,

even Bambi –

and loaded it onto their truck.

They let Bambi ride up front.

Bob didn’t even have a toilet

that he could drown himself in.

 

But everything worked out all right,

I guess,

‘cause it was just about then

that the plastic factory called Bob back.

Well, it was the third shift,

but that was better than nothin’.

 

Bob even managed to get an apartment

in the basement of a house

just two blocks from where he worked,

so he didn’t even need a car.

 

You know,

just thinkin’ about it all,

I suppose there’s a moral here somewhere,

but I’ll be darned if I can figure out

just what it might be.

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02 Bob's Cat B.jpg
03 Bob's Cat.jpg

Charley’s Poem

 

Charley figured it all out,

lying in bed one night

after drinking far too much coffee

far too late into the evening.

 

Listen: 

 

This is what he figured out:

            Writing structured poetry

            is just about as challenging

            as doing a crossword puzzle,

            and equally as interesting to read.

 

So Charley stumbled through the house

until he found his yellow note pad

and a pen that would write.

And it was only then

that he turned the light on,

having convinced himself long ago

that it was really impossible

to write a poem in the dark.

 

04 Charley A.jpg

And that’s what he did:

            He wrote a poem.

 

And when he was done,

he read it to himself

and felt truly good about it,

because it truly was a truly good poem.

            Truly.

 

The next day

Charley let Mr. Lancaster read his poem.

Mr. Lancaster was his English teacher.

He knew what ws good and bad.

He’d even published several highly acclaimed critical articles

on what makes one poem

better than another.

Only that was several years ago

when he was still in college.

 

And Mr. Lancaster read Charley’s poem,

and when he was done,

this is what he said to Charley:

“Brilliant!  Absolutely brilliant!

It’s the very best essay

that a student of mine

has ever written.”

And Charley replied:

            “It’s not an essay.

            It’s a poem.”

 

            “Oh.  I see,”

said Mr. Lancaster.

 

And he read it again,

only this time he used his bifocals.

And when he got through

it suddenly wasn’t quite as good,

and as far as its being a poem,

well, it just wasn’t.

Not at all.

 

Then Charley had a thought:

            “Maybe Mr. Lancaster

            doesn’t know as much about poetry

            as he has always let on.”

04 Charley B.jpg
05 Charley A.jpg

So Charley sent his poem

to the North Central Poetry Review,

a magazine he’d always admired,

even though their circulation

was tenuous at best.

And in four to six weeks

they sent back his poem

and a mimeographed note

that sent thanks and regrets,

all in the same paragraph.

But quickly penned on the back

someone had taken the time to say this:

            “A great piece of writing,

            but at present time

            we’re not accepting any short stories.

            Please try again in the fall.”

 

Charley wrote a really nasty letter,

but decided not to mail it

when he couldn’t find a stamp

and really didn’t want to take the time

to stand in line at the Post Office,

especially since he was afraid of the Post Office,

since he had never registered for the draft

and didn’t want to ask if he needed to,

because he just might.

05 Charley B.jpg

So instead,

Charley let his girlfriend read his poem.

And when Alice was done,

she tried to keep it,

because she kept all of Charley’s letters;

she was sentimental that way.

And Charley didn’t even try to explain

that it wasn’t really a letter.

Not really.

He just snuck it out of her purse

when she was primping in the bathroom

of the Pizza Hut.

 

He gave it to Morgan

for safe keeping. 

Morgan is Charley’s best friend,

but Morgan didn’t keep it too safe;

he read it.

And when he was done,

this is what he said:

            “I like it.”

 

And since Morgan

had slept through most of Mr. Lancaster’s classes,

and since he didn’t have a subscription

to the North Central Poetry Review,

and since he had no interest whatsoever

in dating Alice,

even if she were to break up with his best friend,

this is what he asked:

            “What is it?”

 

And this is what Charley answered:

            “It’s a poem.”

 

            “I like your poem,”

Morgan replied.

            “I like it a lot.”

 

In fact Morgan liked Charley’s poem so much

that he wanted to keep it.

 

And of course,

Charley said:

            “Yes.”

06 Charley.jpg

What Happened

 

Was this:

 

You see, Leon thought he was a poet.

He wrote all these really bad poems,

but, of course, he thought they were just great.

And everybody that ever read them

was either too dumb or too polite

to tell Leon any differently.

 

To cut to the good part,

Leon’s mother found this ad

in the coupon section of one of those magazines

that people are always sticking on your front door.

It was an add for this big, National Poetry Contest.

 

And, of course, Leon entered.

 

It was a really awful poem.

The one Leon wrote, that is.

It didn’t make any sense at all.

It didn’t rhyme.

And it just went on and on and on –

a heck of a lot more than the eighteen lines

that was supposed to have been the limit.

You see, Leon figured once the distinguished judges read it

they’d discover that it was so good

that they’d ignore the fact that Leon had broken one of the rules.

 

And, by Golly, that’s just what happened, too.

 

Well, Leon didn’t exactly win. 

Not one of the big prizes like the 20,000 dollars in cash,

or the all-expense-paid-trip to Alaska.

But they did want to publish his poem in their big anthology,

which only cost Leon one-hundred-and twenty-nine-dollars-and-ninety five cents

a – well worth the extra fifteen dollars

to get his name embossed in gold letters on the simulated leather cover.

 

Leon ordered two.

The second one (which Leon planned to donate to the local library for all prosperity)

was at a considerable discount.

 

If that wasn’t enough,

it wasn’t more than a month later

that Leon received the good news

that he had been selected from among thousands

to be honored at a National Convention as a Platinum Poet.

He’d even have an award given to him by none other than Red Skelton.

Leon had always admired Red Skelton.

07 What.jpg
08 What.jpg

All Leon had to do was get to San Francisco.

 

And, of course, Leon went,

even though he had to max-out his Visa card

and borrow another three hundred from his mother.

 

It was at the convention, though,

that Leon found out that he hadn’t been selected from thousands of other poets,

but along with thousands of other poets.

 

And Red Skelton wasn’t even there.

He couldn’t make it.

So they got Martha Ray instead.

Let’s fact it; it’s hard to get excited about Martha Ray.

 

On top of that,

the award was this cheap hunk of plastic

that somebody had stuck his name onto with one of those label guns,

not that it would stand up on its own so you could really read it anyway.

 

And then on top of everything else,

this really nice girl that Leon met at the convention

and who Leon really thought cared for him

turned out to be a prostitute

that ran off with all of Leon’s money before he ever got laid.

 

All told, the whole thing was something that Leon’d just as soon forget.

And he could help but think

that it was probably for the best

that the library had lost the autographed copy of his anthology

even before they ever got a catalogue card made.

09 Dog Truck.jpg

The Dog in the Truck

 

There was a dog drivin’ a truck on the freeway this morning.

It was a big dog and a little truck,

but still,

there was a dog drivin’ a truck on the freeway.

And even though it was raining,

he had his window rolled down

so he could stick out his head every once in a while

and let his tongue hang out.

You know – like dogs like to do.

 

I guess he was goin’ to work.

I guess that ‘cause he had a ladder in the back

– the kind painters use.

And he was wearing a cap and coveralls

– the kind painters wear.

So I guess he was a painter.

Houses, I suppose.

 

As I passed him I could see that he was all splattered with paint.

Probably got the nasty jobs,

whatever those might be.

I really don’t know that much about painting.

It all seems nasty to me.

 

And as I passed him,

I nodded at him,

and he nodded at me.

I really would’ve liked to have followed hi,

just to see where he worked.

Maybe even buy him a cup of coffee.

But it was late,

and I had to get to work, too.

The Ballad of Roger

 

Roger was tired of being a dog.

He was tired of living in the backyard,

eating out of a dish,

and having to do stupid tricks.

 

So Roger bought a suit,

got a shave – a really good shave –

started walking on his back feet

(which was one of those stupid tricks he was always having to do),

and went downtown and got a job as the news anchor on Channel 8 – KWAG.

 

At first it was really cool.

He got his own place,

so he was able to stay inside all the time.

Nobody cared if h got up on the furniture or ate food from the table

– after all, it was his own table.

And nobody made him sit up or roll over or beg.

Roger hated to beg.

 

But it never seems like you can have the good

without having the bad.

And the bad was this:

Roger had no friends.

 

10 Roger.jpg
11 Roger.jpg

Sure, he had plenty of friends before,

but they were dog friends.

Now they wanted nothing to do with Roger.

They all thought he was too good for them.

And he didn’t really have any people friends.

I mean, yeah, they’d all go out and have drinks with him and stuff,

but after all, Roger was a dog.

For instance, they all liked to read the newspaper.

Roger liked to chew on it.

 

So Roger decided to move back in with Fred, his owner.

Unfortunately, Fred had really gotten bummed out

when his dog had gone and gotten a better job than he had,

so Fred stopped shaving,

quit his job, and moved into Roger’s old house.

 

In a weird sort of way

everything worked out all right.

People were actually willing to pay

to see a dog who lived inside

and a human who lived out.

 

Oh, they didn’t make gobs of money,

but it was enough to keep them in dog biscuits and beer.

 

Of course, Fred didn’t have any friends anymore,

but that sort of things doesn’t seem to bother people –

at least not as much as it bothers dogs.

And all of Roger’s friends forgave him.

Hell, never knew a dog to hold a grudge.

And besides, Roger was buyin’ the beer.

Mary on the Dashboard

 

This is a wild story, man.
It's about my friend Julio.
Honest to God,
he saw the Virgin Mary on his dashboard.
I saw it, too.
I'm tellin' ya, man,
it was some pretty freaky stuff.

We're talkin' the Blessed Virgin
just standin' there with her arms spread out,
like all those little statues you buy,
only this wasn't no statue.

It was like this glow
right in the middle of the dash,
but you could really tell it was Mary.
You didn't even have to squint
or hold your head sideways
or anything like that.

12 Mary.jpg

At first Julio didn't believe it.
You know, who could blame him?
Don't get me wrong, man.
Julio ain't perfect.
But who the hell is?
Well, at any rate,
Julio thought it might be the streetlight or something,
so he moved his car,
but it was still there.
I'm tellin' ya, that's when he freaked.

 

It's not like Julio told anybody about it.
Well, me and his Mama and I think his old lady,
but by the next night there was like twenty-five people there
all gettin' off on this little glowing image
of the Blessed Mother of Christ.
And by the end of the week
there was like three or four hundred people there.


I mean, there were so many people
you couldn't even drive down the street,
and they had all these candles burning,
and all these old ladies were dressed in black
kneeling there on the sidewalk sayin' their beads.
And that Sunday Father Thomas even said Mass there.
He gave out the Sacrament
right off the trunk of Julio's car.
There was even this guy there sellin' tamales.
They were pretty good, too.

13 Mary.jpg

This kinda thing went on for about two weeks.
You know, in a way it was really cool for Julio,
what with havin' a miracle goin' on'
right there in his car and all.
But in another way it was really a drag,
‘cause it wasn't like he could take his car and go cruisin'.
Sure, there were all these people from the church
who would've taken Julio anywhere he wanted to go,
but Julio didn't always want to go
to places that you'd want other people takin' ya to,
if you know what I mean.

 

Well, it wasn't long before these two guys show up
all the way from Rome.
We knew they were comin' and all,
but it was still really wild.
We all thought they'd be wearin' these funky hats and all. 
You know, the robes and sashes and stuff,
be swingin' incense, maybe even singin' that Latin stuff.
But they weren't. 
Hell, they had on these regular suits.
They didn't even have an accent.

 

So they go to askin' all these questions.
Talkin' to Julio and his Mama
and Father Thomas and just about everybody.
They even talked to me. 
Wanted to know stuff like:
What kinda dude was Julio?
How often did we go runnin'?
and What kinda stuff did we like to do?
And always takin' notes.
Geez, they were the most note takin'est dudes you ever knowed.
I don't even think they were real priests.

 

Well, after a few days 
they kinda casually announce
that they'd reached a decision.
You know, about whether or not it was a real live miracle.
Well hell, we thought they'd have to go back to Rome 
and talk it over with the Pope, 
or something like that,
but they just stepped out on the sidewalk,
said it was no miracle,
and started off like they were gonna go.

 

You really have to know Julio's mother to understand.
I mean, she's a really nice lady,
but once she gets pissed off, look out!

 

14 Mary.jpg

She just stood up to one of them Italian guys and says,
"Well, if it ain't a miracle, what is it?"
And he says it's just a light.
And she says,
"Well, if it's a light, then where's it comin' from?"

 

Well, they didn't have no answer,
but it didn't matter,
‘cause they went away just the same.
And it didn't matter how long Julio's Mama stood there in the street
or how loudly she yelled,
‘cause they weren't comin' back.
They had done made up their minds.
It was no miracle.

 

Bummer.

 

Pretty soon after they left,
the tamale guy left, too,
and it wasn't but a couple of days
that there was hardly anybody there.
Sure, there were still a couple of those funeral ladies
still goin' at their beads,
but they weren't people ya ever really noticed anyway.

 

It was a pretty good deal for Julio, actually,
‘cause he got his car back an' all,
even though there still was this funky light
that was still hovering over his dash.
So Julio got this plastic Mary
and stuck it on his dash
right where that weird light was.

 

And it wasn't too long after that
that Julio just got rid of his car.
What the hell.
It never ran worth a damn anyway.

15 Lester & Carl.jpg

The Ballad of Lester and Carl

 

Carl spent his mornings

at the Community College

studying to be an accountant.

His Aunt Maude, with whom he lived,

had recommended accounting.

"You can always get a job as an accountant,"

she said every morning

before heading out to Arlene's Beauty World,

where she spent most of her day

putting perms in old ladies' hair.

 

In the evenings Carl worked

as a cashier at Lou's Discount City.

Lou had hinted more than once

that a man with a degree in accounting

could have a future at Lou's.

 

But in the afternoons,

between the Community College and Lou's,

Carl would put on his baggy pants

and his Hawaiian print shirt

and a pair of really good Groucho glasses

that he'd bought at an acting supply store,

and he'd stand on the corner

of 15th and Belview - downtown by the deli -

and he'd juggle for the lunchtime crowd.

Behind his back, under the leg,

cascade and shower and columns.

Two balls, three balls, even four.

Clubs, knives, hammers, fruit, and eggs.

He was even saving money for torches,

at the same acting supply store

where he'd gotten his glasses.

The more dangerous it was,

the more people would stop and watch,

and sometimes they'd even applaud,

and every once in a very great while

they'd throw money into the hat

that he always set on the ground

before he'd begin his routine.

Now all good stories

have to have something happen,

and this is it:

Carl's Aunt Maude ran off with Eugene,

the maintenance man in their building.

 

The note was rather hard to read.

It said something about Keno in Reno;

the bills are paid to the end of the month;

there's leftovers in the 'fridge,

and don't forget to feed Lester.

Lester was the dog.

 

Actually, Carl wasn't very upset at all,

since he paid most of the bills anyway,

the maintenance man was never around when you needed him,

and the leftovers weren't really that good to begin with.

It's just that he didn't particularly care for the dog.

16 Lester & Carl A.jpg

Lester came from a long line of dogs,

none of which was over two feet tall,

but he mostly looked like a very rough cross between a poodle and a terrier,

with a face that looked kinda like

a collie with an upper bite.

But Carl had nothing against ugly little dogs,

even ugly little dogs with loud little yaps

so shrill they made your teeth hurt.

What Carl hated

was ugly little dogs with shrill little yaps

that needed to be walked,

because there was no good time

to walk the shrill, ugly little dog,

except in the afternoon.

So Carl took Lester with him

when he juggled downtown.

 

Lester mostly sat there,

not being shrill or loud

and not really being very ugly.

A few people even said,

"Oh, look at the cute little dog."

These were usually the people

that never left any money.

 

Then one day Cal dropped the rubber fish

that he was trying to juggle

with the rubber chicken and the rubber banana

and the real stalk of celery,

and Lester got up and got it,

and be brought it back.

And he jumped up and gave it to Carl

so that Carl didn't even have to break stride.

The crowd was really impressed.

A lot of them actually applauded with enthusiasm,

and more people than ever before

left money in the hat Carl had left on the street.

16 Lester & Carl B.jpg

As the days went by,

Carl found out that whatever he dropped

Lester would get,

even the knives and hammers and the torches

that Carl was finally able to buy.

In fact, Lester got so good

that he'd usually get whatever Carl dropped

before it ever hit the ground.

The crowds got bigger and bigger,

and Carl started dropping things on purpose.

And when he didn't,

when he was doing something really tough,

like juggling five avocados or six pieces of really fine china,

the people in the crowd would always yell,

"Hey!  Go ahead and drop something, already!"

So he would.

 

Then one day a man came up after the show

and offered Carl an incredible amount of money for Lester,

so Carl sold him.

The man took Lester to Hollywood,

changed his name to Flash,

and even got him on the Arsenio Hall show.

The crowd loved him.

 

Carl still went downtown in the afternoons,

but fewer and fewer people bothered to stop,

and hardly anybody even politely clapped,

and nobody at all left any money in Carl's hat.

And then one day Carl stopped going downtown altogether.

 

Pretty soon after that

Carl graduated from the Community College

with an Associates Degree in Accounting,

and Lou kept his promise,

promoting him to Assistant Manager in Charge of Accounts,

which was a day job,

so Carl would've had to have stopped juggling anyway.

 

17 Lester & Carl.jpg

Going to California

 

Larry and Dave
were really bummed out with February.
It was cold and cloudy
and there was that miserable kind of wet
that just seems to be waiting for you everywhere.

So they decided to go to California.

It wasn't like either of the them
had any reason to stay anyway.
After all, Larry was waitin' tables
down at Pizza Inn,
and Dave's unemployment checks were just about to run out.

So they piled all their stuff
in the back of Larry's '76 Dodge,
and late one after they just took off.

"Wow! I can't believe we're goin' to California!"
Larry said as he reached out the window
to bang the ice off the only wiper that worked.

"In California there's all these babes
just walkin' around in string bikinis.
Just waitin' for dudes like us,"
said Dave.

 

18 Calif A.jpg

"Wow," Larry replied.
And they drove on.

"And there's all these places to work at --
right on the beach.
Like surf shops and head shops
and places where you just hang out
and get paid to do it,"
said Dave.

"Righteous!" Larry replied.
And they drove on.

"And when you cross the border
they stop every car,
and there's this guy there
whose only job is to say,
'Wow, Dude, welcome to California.
Here's your Frisbee.'
And then he gives you a real Frisbee."

"Coolness," Larry replied.
And they drove on.


 

19 Calif A.jpg
18 Calif B.jpg

They drove on all night long
and never noticed Kansas,
the darkness and their enthusiasm
hiding the fact
that there really is nothing there at all.

In the morning they were in Colorado,
but Colorado looked just like Kansas,
only worse,
because neither of them had really slept,
even though they were supposed to be taking turns driving,
and the tappans started knocking so loudly
that you could still hear them
even with the radio turned all the way up,
not like there was anything worth listening to anyway
way out in the middle of no where,
which is exactly where the car overheated.

"Wow, man," said Larry,
"I didn't think a car could overheat
in the middle of the winter."

 

19 Calif B.jpg

And Dave wanted to yell,
"Of course it will, you idiot!"
But he hadn't known that either.
But he was furious just the same,
especially since he lost the coin toss
and had to walk four miles back to the last town they'd seen
just to get some water for the radiator.

And when Dave returned three-and-a-half-hours later
dragging this half-frozen can
full of rusty water
that he'd actually had to pay a deposit on
(the can, not the water),
he found that some farmer
had helped Larry get the car going
over two hours ago.
And Larry had just sat there
eating all of Dave's Twinkies
and drinking the last Dr Pepper
instead of thinking that maybe,
just maybe,
he ought to go back
and give Dave a hand with the water.

This time Dave really did call Larry an idiot

And he continued to call Larry an idiot
all the way to Denver,
sounding all the more hateful
the more the smoke plumed out of the back of the car,
until Larry mercifully turned the car off
across the street from this discount pizza place,
where Dave went into
and got a job.

 

20 Calif.jpg

"Wow, man, I thought we were goin' to California,"
said Larry.

"Screw you," said Dave
as he tied on his apron.

"But what about the babes?
What about the Frisbees?"
asked Larry.

"Get real!" said Dave,
putting his hair net on.

"What about those places on the beach
where they pay you just to hang out?
asked Larry.

"Man, I got a job!"
Dave said with a snarl.
And with that he grabbed his bus tub
and went out into the dining room
to pick garbage up off the tables.

So Larry tightened down the tappans with an old pair of pliers
and poured in this really thick, nasty stuff
that was supposed to work better than oil,
and after he'd given Dave back all his stuff,
Larry headed for California.
Without Dave.

And it did take Larry longer than he'd planned;
his car died just inside of Utah
and he had to thumb the rest of the way,
but he got there just the same.

 

Larry would've written Dave from California,
but he didn't have his address.
I mean, you can't very well send a letter simply addressed:
"Some Pizza Place
Denver, Colorado"
and really think that it would get there.
Now could you?

But just the same,
Larry kept this Polaroid picture
tacked up on the wall
of this place that he worked at
right down on the beach,
and he really intended to send it to Dave.

It was a picture of Larry
standing down on the beach
with his arm around this really hot babe in a string bikini,
and in his other hand was a Frisbee.

 

21 Calif.jpg
22 Moobert A.jpg
22 Moobert B.jpg

Lord knows,

Moobert had tried.

He had chanted the sacred mantra for hours on end,

both forwards and backwards,

and he had listened to the words of the Old Wise One,

telling him the futility of even trying to be anything more than what he had been destined to be,

and that was a cow.

But one thought kept coming back to Moobert.

One thought would not go away.

One thought kept Moobert out of focus,

and that one thought was:

            “This life is insane!”

 

And that thought kept at Moobert,

until one day,

right in the middle of a moo,

right when Moobert should have been focusing on his eternal oneness with all

instead of even noticing that the steadily falling sleet had no intention of ever turning to snow,

Moobert said,

            “The hell with this!”

And Moobert walked out the gate and across the grate that hadn’t fooled anybody,

and headed down the road and into town.

Moobert

 

Moobert was having a hard time keeping focused.

Moobert was a cow.

Well, he wasn’t really a cow,

but he wasn’t exactly a bull, either.

That was one of those things that Moobert was supposed to accept.

That was one of those things that Moobert had been assured that he could accept

if he could only stay in focus.

Staying in focus supposedly would have helped Moobert accept all sorts of things,

like standing outside in the cold rain all night long trying to ignore coyotes,

or having silly tags stuck to his ears and his skin seared with red hot pokers,

and being fed all sorts of weird chemicals,

only so some day he could be taken away and chopped to bits.

It was there that Moobert got a job working in a factory

that made implosion devices for nuclear bombs.

Well, yeah, of course they knew he was a cow,

but they didn’t care as long as he was willing to work twelve hours a day for minimum wage,

which was barely enough to pay the rent.

Well, it was enough when he added in his evening job down at the Tasty Burger,

which also gave him enough to afford basic cable.

He wasn’t home enough to have gotten his money’s worth out of the premium channels, anyway.

 

Day in, day out,

pretty much seven days a week;

that’s what Moobert did for the rest of his life,

right up to the day he died.

 

Sure, Moobert could’ve retired

if he’d only made it another fifteen years,

and maybe then he could’ve spent the rest of his life in some field somewhere,

but cows don’t live nearly that long.

23 Moobert.jpg

The Ballad of Fluffy the Cat

 

Fluffy was pissed.

His owner had left him inside on the one day of the year

that Snowball, the neighbor’s cat,

would’ve been vaguely interested in him.

 

So Fluffy got hold of his owner’s credit card numbers,

tuned in to the Home Shopping Network,

and proceeded to rack of 378,000 dollars worth of stuff.

Stuff like Chia Pets in the shape of water buffaloes,

every piece of faux jewelry ever made,

and luxury cruises to the Mauritius Islands.

 

His owner suspected something was up

when the UPS van delivered the first order

of two thousand pink flamingoes,

half a dozen Brazilian llamas,

and the Chia Pets.

 

And even though he sent back everything

just as fast as it came –

well, everything except for the Chia Pets –

he still had to pay the postage,

both coming and going,

which came to just a tad bit more than 67,000 dollars,

which was just about 67,000 dollars more

than Fluffy’s owner could afford to spend.

So he had to sell everything he owned,

including his cat.

 

He sold Fluffy to the UPS man.

 

24 Fluffy A.jpg
24 Fluffy B.jpg

And even though she dressed Fluffy in doll clothes

and often picked him up by the tail.

And even though she rubbed his fur the wrong way

and sometimes made him wear a hat

while she pushed him around in a buggy,

Fluffy never once complained.

Unfortunately, the UPS man lived in an apartment

that didn’t allow any pets,

so he had to give Fluffy to the pound.

 

And Fluffy knew about the pound.

He knew that every day that went by

was one more day closer

to that long walk down to the end of the hall.

That walk to the room where you never came back.

And Fluffy knew that even kittens were goners.

And nobody – nobody at all – wanted a four year old cat.

 

But on the very last day,

at the very last hour,

just when they were coming for Fluffy,

a little girl took fluffy home.

25 Fluffy.jpg
26 Red Hen.jpg

The Little Red Hen

(sort of)

 

See, there was this chicken

who found some grain,

so she wanted to plant it.

You know the story.

She asked the pig and the cat and the dog,

but they didn’t want to help her.

Not at all.

Plantin’, growin’, cuttin’, grindin’.

Nothin’.

She even gave them one last chance

when she got ready to bake it,

but still nothin’.

Well, instead of keeping her mouth shut

and just eatin’ the bread,

she had to make some big point.

So she goes out and says,

“Now who will help me eat the bread?”

And of course, they all want to.

Like that comes as some surprise.

Well, she says, “Ha!  You can’t!”

or something like that.

And they all said,

“Like hell!’

And the next thing you know,

they’re all eatin’ chicken sandwiches.

Unfortunately...

well, depending on your perspective, of course,

the cat and the dog and the pig

were all too lazy to cook that chicken

before they ate it,

and they all got salmonella and died.

 

I suppose there’s some kinda justice involved here,

but it seems to me somethin’ could’ve been done

to have avoided the whole thing,

but I’ll be darned if I know what.

The Ballad of Cheatin’ Chad

 

Cheatin’ Chad cheated on everything.

He'd sit there with cheat sheets

or the answers written on his hand,

or he’d just lean over the aisle

and look at your answers.

Before class he’d be writing like crazy,

copying the answers to chapters he’d never read

or writin’ some lame book report

to some book he’d never opened at all.

And the teacher would buy it.

 

Every once in a while

somebody would get mad and yell out,

“Miss Bimbaum!  Charley’s cheating!”

But Mis Bimbaum never could quite catch him.

And then there’d come her speech

about how cheaters only hurt themselves.

About how some day it would catch them.

They’d suddenly be expected to know

something hey never bothered to learn,

like how to actually land a supersonic jet

or how to turn off the nuclear power plant

before it exploded,

and the dude would be toast –

all because he cheated.

She always gave her speech to the entire class,

but we all knew just exactly who she was talking to.

Cheatin’ Chad.

 

But it never happened.

Chad cheated his way right through law school,

and he became a Corporate Lawyer.

And he still cheated like crazy.

Sure, every once in a while

some ethics committee or law review board

would come around and notice something screwy,

but they could never pin it on Chad.

And yeah, they’d talk about being disbarred

or even going to jail,

but it never happened.

 

Chad cheated right up until the day he retired,

and then he lied about his age to do that.

27 Cheatin.jpg
28 Cheatin.jpg

Chad cheated on his wife, too.

He was always slippin’ off to meet some gal in a bar

or for some secluded weekend in the Poconos

that he said was a business trip,

and Nadine would buy it.

 

Well, for the most part.

Little tell-tale things would always pop up,

like weird dry cleaning bills,

receipts for mink coats his wife never got,

or somebody else’s underwear

stuffed in the glove box of the car.

And yeah, Nadine would get to actin crazy

and say how she would blow his head off

if she ever caught Chad,

but it never happened.

Heck, Chad even switched the real bullets

for blanks.

 

Chad even cheated on God.

He would go to Confession

and never tell all the stuff he really did –

well, about cheatin’ and all –

so he wouldn’t have to say as many Hail Marys.

And then he wouldn’t say them all anyway.

 

We all knew when Nadine finally caught him

and blew his head off,

or some mobster had the Guido Brothers

drop him off a pier somewhere

because he’d screwed him over

in some shady business deal,

that Chad would go straight to Hell.

Hell with a capital “H.”

But it never happened.

 

Chad died of old age.

He died quietly in his sleep.

The coroner said he probably didn’t feel a thing.

And we all wanted to believe

that even at that

– no matter how he died –

his flesh was still being seared off

in the burning pit of Hell.

 

But it wasn’t.

 

Chad was in Heaven.

Some how, some way,

he had cheated to get there, too.

Or even worse,

God just doesn’t care.

Bernie’s Love Song

 

Bernie was just a guy.

He wasn’t a big guy or a little guy.

He wasn’t particularly good looking,

but then again he really wasn’t ugly.

He was just a guy.

He was the kind of guy

who would finally get called on in third hour,

and while he was answering the question

you’d turn around and wonder

how long he’s been in the class.

Well, I didn’t have to turn around

‘cause I sat right next to the guy.

 

Sitting next to a guy and all,

you get to know him pretty well.

The more I got to know Bernie,

the more I found out that he was like

just about every other guy at Underwood High.

He wanted to have sex with Mary Beth Trotter.

Only Bernie had it bad.

In fact, that’s all he thought about and talked about

in third hour,

and probably all the other time, too.

I wouldn’t know, though,

‘cause I only saw Bernie third hour.

29 Love Song A.jpg
29 Love Song B.jpg

I used to help him write these notes to Mary Beth

instead of listening to old Mr. Harnish.

I didn’t write any of the sloppy stuff.

I just helped him on the technical parts,

tellin’ him stuff like “latex” rhymes with “Playtex,”

and “passion” doesn’t have an “H” in it.

You know, stuff like that.

 

He must’ve written a hundred of these sappy poems,

well, that he showed to me,

and God knows how many I never saw.

I guess he let me read them

because he knew I wouldn’t laugh at him.

Well, not to his face.

And with each poem, he wrote these even sappier letters.

Well, one day he came in with this poem,

and I’m tellin’ ya, it was really good.

I mean, it was good enough

to get published in one of those magazines,

or maybe even the newspaper.

And the letter that went with it was just as good.

 

It begged her to go out with him

without really comin’ right out and beggin’,

if you know what I mean.

It made you think Bernie was this really nice guy

without sounding like he was bragging.

And there was nothing in there

about doin’ anything that you’d have to take your clothes off for.

Well, the fool wanted me to put it in Mary Beth Trotter’s locker.

Don’t get me wrong – I liked Bernie and all,

but I liked being alive just a whole lot more.

Mary Beth had this boyfriend,

a guy named Brick,

who wasn’t even in school.

He quit when he was a sophomore to join the Marines,

only he was kicked out of the Marines for being too mean.

And supposedly he killed some guy in a bar,

which was why he could never go back to Wisconsin.

Man, I wasn’t goin’ near her locker,

‘cause she had all these little friends

with these really big mouths,

and Brick would know

before your next class ever began.

And that’d be it, man.

 

I guess Bernie just didn’t care,

‘cause he did it.

He walked right through all her little friends

and hands it right to Mary Beth.

I guess Bernie wanted to go in style.

 

But get this:

Mary Beth read the note right there,

and when she was done

she gave Bernie this really hot smile

and tells him how much she’d love to go out with him.

And there were no excuses,

like “I’d really love to go out with out, but....”

I mean, she really wanted to go out with the guy.

And then she gave him a kiss on the cheek!

 

But wait, it gets better.

There was this huge crowd hangin’ around Bernie after school,

just waitin’ to see him get splattered all over the pavement.

Well, a few of us weren’t.

We had convinced ourselves if things got too bad

we’d actually jump in and help,

or at least go for help,

or call an ambulance,

or somethin’.

 

30 Love Song.jpg
31 Love Song A.jpg

Well, Brick was there all right.,

just sittin’ on the hood of Bernie’s Volkswagen.

And when Bernie gets close enough,

Brick jumps off the car,

and get this – he shakes his hand!

And then he takes Bernie aside

and gave the dude some pointers

on how to score with Mary Beth Trotter.

 

Unbelievable!

 

31 Love Song B.jpg

There’s a couple of things that Bernie didn’t understand, though,

and, well, with the way things ended up,

he didn’t even question them.

First of all,

the only reason Mary Beth even agreed to go out with Bernie

was because she was mad at Brick

and she just wanted to piss him off,

which she really did.

And secondly,

the only reason Brick just outright didn't kill Bernie

was because he thought it would be more fun

to give him some really stupid advice

and then see if Bernie was stupid enough to actually do it.

 

He was.

 

You see, Mary Beth went into Hi-Boys to take a leak,

and while she was gone

ol’ Bernie got absolutely buck naked.

Hell, he didn’t care who saw him

because he was convinced that when Mary Beth saw him...

Well, that’s just the sort of thing that drives some women crazy.

So crazy that they forget where they are,

or that they really ought to go some place else

before getting naked themselves.

Know what I mean?

 

Well, Mary Beth came boppin’ out of Hi-Boys

and she hops in Bernie’s car before she even notices

that all of Bernie’s clothes have been tossed in the back seat.

And she freaks.

She goes absolutely apeshit.

And I don’t mean climbin’ all over Bernie, either.

Nope, she doesn’t get out of the car screamin’,

like most chicks would’ve done.

And she doesn’t climb on Bernie,

like no chick would’ve done.

Instead she kicks Bernie out of the car.

His own car.

32 Love Song.jpg

Bernie just takes off runnin’

right down the middle of Noland Road.

I mean, we’re talkin’ Friday night.

There’s only about a million cars

cruisin’ up and down Noland Road on a Friday night.

And here goes Bernie,

runnin’ buck naked

right down the middle.

People were screamin’ and wavin’ and honkin’ and yellin’.

And right across the street from Hi-Boys

ol’ Brick and a couple of his buddies

were sittin’ at that car lot that used to be there,

and Brick was laughin’ so hard

that he was cryin’ on the ground.

 

Bernie made it about half a mile

before a cop stopped him.

 

Of course, Bernie was so embarrassed

that he never wanted to come to school again,

but as it turned out, he didn’t have to.

 

As luck would have it,

there was this porn director

who just happened to be cruisin’ down Noland Road,

and who just happened to see Bernie go running by.

Not only did he bail Bernie out,

but he ended up signing him to this really great contract.

Don’t get me wrong,

it didn’t pay just a whole heck of a lot,

but what the hell did Bernie care?

33 B & B.jpg
34 B & B A.jpg

Well, it so happened that after a few days,

when Barney finally realized that Bernice wasn’t coming back,

he went out to get the beer and the TV Guide himself,

and he, too, got lost.

Only Barney didn’t get quite as lost as Bernice;

he ended up at Brother Bob’s Full Gospel Evangelical Tent Revival.

And there he found Jesus.

Praise the Lord.

It wasn’t too long after that

that Barney was safely tucked away on a banana boat

headed toward South America

to save the souls of countless godless heathens.

 

Less than a month later,

having lost all of his Bibles,

most of his religious zeal,

and his way completely,

Barney stumbled into the clearing of the jungle

that the Wahunga Indians used for the Wuk-a-Yuk festival,

which is kinda like a game of croquet and a smorgasbord,

all rolled into one,

except they were planning on using Barney for both.

And they would’ve, too,

had not their Supreme Leader and Local Deity stopped them.

And, of course, that was Bernice.

 

The Ballad of Barney and Bernice

 

Bernice loved Barney.  Really.

She never complained about having to do

the cooking or the cleaning or the laundry.

And she never complained each evening

when she ran out and got Barney a six-pack of beer

and a brand new TV Guide

before she had to be at work for the night shift

on the assembly line at the Crossgrove Box Company.

They made cardboard boxes.

It really wasn’t a bad job.

The pay was OK.

And it wasn’t too bad working nights

once you got used to it. 

Besides, she got off early enough in the morning

so she had plenty of time to come home

and fix Barney his breakfast

before her shift began down at Finley’s Diner.

It wasn’t bad working two jobs,

especially since the kids were grown.

 

The ladies at the box factory and down at Finley’s

had told Bernice again and again

what a rotten life she really had,

and some of the men even agreed.

But Bernice knew it wasn’t Barney’s fault,

what with his bad back and all.

And the chiropractor was seeing some improvement,

even though Barney swore he couldn’t tell,

although it did feel better when he was in a boat.

It must’ve been the gentle rocking of the waves.

 

Well, it so happened that one night Bernice went out

to get Barney’s six-pack and TV Guide

and she got lost.

In the darkness it would be easy to miss

where the city turned into the low, rolling hills of southern Illinois.

And those rolling hills

so gradually turn into the Ozark Mountains,

well, that’d be easy to miss, too.

And quite honestly,

Bernice was never very good when it came to road signs,

so it didn’t bother her in the least

when the road signs all turned to Spanish.

In fact, Bernice just kept right on driving.

She kept right on driving

until she was decidedly south of Guatemala.

34 B & B B.jpg

Bernice was never so glad to see anyone ever in her whole life.

It’s a hard thing to understand

unless you’ve been married to the same person for twenty-eight years.

Unless you’ve cleaned and cooked and picked up after the same man

every day for twenty-eight years.

It was as if a part of her that was missing

was once again complete.

It was as if she were whole again.

And besides,

Bernice needed someone to send after

a six-pack of beer and a TV Guide.

35 Headhunters.jpg

Good Headhunters

 

Do good headhunters go to heaven
If they've lived a good headhunter's life?
If they've said their headhunter prayers,
and been good headhunter husbands and wives?

If they've never hunted heads out of season,
and always did their headhunting-est best,
do good headhunters go to heaven
when good headhunters are laid to rest?

And at night do they sit and wonder,
instead of going to their headhunter beds,
if good white people go to heaven
if they've never hunted a head?

36 Survialist.jpg

The Survivalist

 

Went to school with a guy named Gary Edwards.

He sticks in my mind as being one of the few people I’ve ever known

who really knew what he wanted.

Gary had a vision.

 

Don’t get me wrong, Gary was always a bit off center.

He was the guy who wanted to know why the ROTC cadets

couldn’t have live rounds in their rifles

when they presented the colours at basketball games.

Even in High School he was a survivalist nut.

He designed this super-duper bomb shelter in drafting

and was always sending away for stuff

that he found in the back pages of all these really bizarre magazines.

After graduation, when we were all busy discovering

that there really was no future in sacking groceries,

Gary was taking all these survival courses

and doing all this research. 

 

Then BAM!

He takes off for the extreme northeast corner of Oregon,

where he figured was the least likely place

in probably the entire world

to get instantly fried in a nuclear war,

or even to get eventually cooked by the radiation,

no matter which direction the wind was blowing.

 

And when he got there he built this bomb shelter

on the side of this mountain in the god-forsaken middle of nowhere

and stocked it with enough food to last like seventeen years,

and enough guns and stuff like that

to overthrow a small third world country.

 

I have no idea where he got all the money

to do all that stuff.

 

So then one day when Gary was out on the mountain

this grizzly bear ripped him into about a million pieces.

 

Aw, it’s probably just as well.

When the Cold War ended it would’ve just broken his heart.

 

Like most things in life,

I have no idea what significance that story might have.

I usually only bring it up when I’m at some place like a bar somewhere

and some guy happens to tell a bear story.

Then I can say, “Oh yeah?  Well, I knew this guy named Gary Edwards....”

Of course, most guys who tell bear stories in a bar

usually don’t like other people who say, “Oh yeah?”

But I guess that’s another story for another time.

37 Chainsaw.jpg

If My Doggy had a Chainsaw

 

If my dog had him a chainsaw,

my cat wouldn’t be safe in town.

She’d run and hide in the treetops,

then my dog would buzz her right down.

 

If my dog had him a chainsaw,

my cat would get her a gun.

When she saw that dog a comin’

there’d be no reason to run.

 

If my cat had her a handgun,

my dog would get a grenade.

He’d see the cat there a lyin’,

and then blow her out of the shade.

 

If my dog got him a hand grenade,

my cat would get her a tank;

line that ol’ dog up in the crosshairs,

and the give the trigger a yank.

 

If my cat got her an army tank,

my dog would get him a jet.

Two hundred pounds of napalm

would fry that cat, you bet.

 

If my dog got him a jet plane,

my cat would get an atomic bomb.

Light the fuse, there’s nothin’ to lose,

in a flash it’ll all be gone.

 

So don’t give my doggy a chainsaw,

‘cause then it’ll all begin.

And once my doggy has a chainsaw,

we all know where it’ll end.

Once my doggy has a chainsaw,

there ain’t nobody gonna win.

38 Bobby A.jpg

The Ballad of Bobby

 

Bobby was bitchin’.

He was the coolest kid in Junior High;

all the teachers hated him,

and he just drove the girls nuts,

doin’ stuff like throwin’ spit wads

and making sounds like farts

(and even farting) in class.

He’d snap all the girls’ bra straps

and let everybody know which girls weren’t wearing bras,

especially if he thought they should have been.

Once he even threw Old Mister Doughty’s briefcase out the window,

which was really cool,

‘cause it broke when it hit the ground

and stuff just went everywhere.

And he’d sit outside of the principal’s office

smilin’ like he just didn’t care.

 

And at the end of the year

everybody wrote in Bobby’s yearbook:

            “You’re the coolest dude I know.

            Don’t ever change.”

So Bobby didn’t.

38 Bobby B.jpg

And while everybody else went on to the High School,

Bobby was still sitting outside the principal’s office

for throwing spit wads in math.
And while everybody else

was going steady and stuff like that,

Bobby was still yelling down the hall

that Mary Elizabeth had a tampon in her purse.

And all the new kids at the Junior High

really thought Bobby was cool,

and when the end of the year came around again

they all wrote in his yearbook:

            “You’re one of the coolest dudes I know.

            Don’t ever change.”

 

One day Bobby’s parents got tired of waiting

for Bobby to get out of Junior High,

so they retired and moved to Florida,

which was really cool

‘cause they left Bobby the house,

and no one to tell him what to do.

Bobby threw the most bitchin’ parties.

We’d shake our pop up

and just squirt it all over the place

and never worry about havin’ to clean it up or anything.

Then we’d call up all the girls

and talk dirty and stuff like that.

Once Bobby even had a real Playboy.

Pretty soon, though, it got old,

even for Bobby.

Even though all the kids still wrote in his yearbook:

            “You’re a really cool dude.

            Don’t ever change.”

It just wasn’t as much fun anymore.

 

Fewer and fewer people came to his parties.

It wasn’t that they weren’t fun...

Well, it would’ve been more fun

if Bobby still had a phone.

And there just wasn’t any place

you could really sit without getting all sticky.

And the bathrooms were really gross

since there was no way Bobby was ever going to clean them.

 

And fewer and fewer people laughed

when Bobby made Old Lady Greer cry

when he called her a bitch

right to her face.

 

And when Darla Lawson

turned around right in the middle of the hall

and slapped the living shit outta Bobby

for grabbing at her bra strap,

we all still laughed,

only we weren’t laughing with Bobby anymore.

Bobby still acted cool,

and he walked away like he’d planned the whole thing.

 

39 Bobby A.jpg
39 Bobby B.jpg

At the end of the year

everybody still signed his yearbook,

but it was all stuff like:

            “Have a great summer!” or

            “See ya next year.”

And no one – No one at all – wrote:

            “You’re a cool dude.

            Don’t ever change.”

 

So Bobby decided that maybe,

just maybe, it was time to change.

 

Bobby got his hair cut

and put on some clean clothes.

Then he went downtown

and got a job as a junior partner in a law firm,

where he did really well

and just made tons of money.

 

40 Bobby.jpg

After he had his house cleaned

he’d have everybody from the office

over for some espresso,

except on those evenings

when he’d stay in with his fiancée,

who was this fine looking babe

who used to be a model for Playboy.

 

Once a local business magazine

even did a feature story on Bobby,

where they said he was the greatest thing to happen to business

since file folders,

and they offered him only one small piece of advice,

and that was to never change.

41 Mordaci.jpg

The Ballad of Mordaci Bloode

 

Screaming Death was the most sought after band.

They played the biggest houses throughout the land.

With his platform shoes

and his bellbottom pants,

his leather fringed shirt

and his funky little dance,

Mordaci Bloode would strut across the stage,

bustin’ guitars with the crowd in a rage.

And when Mordaci ventured out for a beer,

people would stop and people would stare.

But Mordaci, Mordaci,

Mordaci Blood just didn’t care.

 

And when rock turned to disco

and disco turned to punk,

Mordaci said,

“Who needs this junk?”

And he still kicked amps

and busted guitars,

and he and his roadies

would trash out the bars.

But the towns grew thinner

and the crowds grew lean,

and then the band members said,

“We’re splittin’ this scene.”

And Mordaci shouted

that he didn’t care,

but you just can’t have a concert

when there’s nobody there.

 

Now Mordaci sits at the bar

drinking alone.

The fans have all left him,

the roadies gone home.

And nobody bothers

to stop and stare

at his outrageous clothing

or his wild, busy hair,

and none of his songs

are played over the air,

because nobody, buy nobody,

nobody cares.

42 Paint.jpg
43 Paint.jpg

He tried the best he could to make it look human

by sticking clothes on it.

You know, like his blue work smock

with his name badge stuck on it.

But it still looked like a pile of junk

that got caught in a clothesline.

 

But it worked.

It really worked.

 

He’d wind it up or whatever,

and it would go into work

and put in eight hours a day,

overtime if it had to.

 

And the people down at the store bought it.

Or they just didn’t care.

None of the customers seemed to mind, either.

Why should they?

I mean, as long as their paint came out the right colour?

And once every other week

they’d send a paycheck home with the robot.

 

Nothing went haywire with the robot.

It didn’t go berserk and kill all the customers

or get a conscious and want Miles to share the money,

or anything like that.

 

The paint store never wised up

and made robots of their own

so that they could stop paying Miles to stay home

while his robot did all the work.

 

Miles never got depressed

because he’d replaced himself with a machine.

 

In fact, pretty much of nothing happened at all.

Miles just stayed at home and watched TV all day,

which seems kind of boring,

but who am I to judge?

Paint Machine

 

Miles mixed paint.

You know,

he ran one of those machines

that put little squirts of colour

in a can of white paint,

and then after he shook it up

it’d come out out being this colour

that had nothing to do

with any of the colours that it was before.

 

Not that it’s magic or anything.

I mean, they have this little book

that tells you just exactly how many squirts to squirt

when the customer finally makes up her mind.

 

Miles also waited on customers.

He didn’t run a cash register or anything like that;

he just marked the price on the top of the can

and then somebody up front rang it up.

 

Not like it really would’ve mattered anyway

if they would’ve let him run the cash register.

Miles would’ve hated his job just the same.

 

You see,

Miles hated his job

because it was something that any idiot could do.

There was no intellectual challenge.

And the more Miles thought about it,

the more he became convinced

that a machine could do his job

just as well as he could.

 

So that’s just what Miles did.

He made himself a robot.

 

Oh, don’t get me wrong;

it was a really lame robot.

He started with an old, self-propelled lawnmower

and worked up from there.

The body was a worn-out shop vac,

and the only arm it had was the hose.

The head was this pathetic bowling ball

that he bought at a garage sale,

and on top of that bowling ball he had duct-taped an old video camera

and then painted this really stupid looking face.

44 Cover Art.jpg

Cover Art

 

Earl did cover art.

You know, he was the guy who drew the pictures on the front of books.

Sometimes he’d do the back, too.

Earl was really good at what he did,

but he hated it.

He hated it because, for some reason,

he got stuck doing the cover art on poetry books,

which meant he mostly drew dead trees and leaf swept cemeteries.

He would’ve much preferred doing the big-breasted women

on the covers of sleazy romance novels.

In fact, had Earl gotten to draw big-breasted women

he wouldn’t’ve minded the second thing about his job

that he couldn’t stand,

and that was having to tell other people

just exactly what he did for a living.

When it got down to it,

there really was no easy way to explain it.

Well, not to the people he knew,

especially since none of them had ever seen any of his stuff.

 

So Earl lied and told everyone that he was a fireman,

including his wife.

He even went so far as to rent a room at the fire station

so his wife wouldn’t get suspicious

when she dropped him off at work,

and every once in a while

he’d trash himself out with soot and stuff like that –

just for realism.

 

And his wife bought it, too.

Well, Mindy might’ve gotten suspicious

had she not been so busy with a career of her own

as a hot shot brain surgeon.

 

This is what happened:

 

You see, the guys down at the station let Earl go out with them now and again.

Well, it so happened that one day Earl went along to a fire

that just happened to be at a doctor’s office

that just happened to be where his wife worked.

And, of course, Mindy saw Earl standin’ around with his hands in his pockets,

and it was more than obvious that he wasn’t a fireman,

what with him not blastin’ stuff with a hose

or choppin’ up stuff with an ax and all.

45 Cover Art.jpg

But then, it was pretty obvious that Mindy wasn’t a doctor, either.

She would’ve been standing around with her hands in her pockets, too,

if she would’ve had pockets.

As it were,

instead of trying to rescue charts and patients and things like that,

she was just standing there holding onto a slightly charred manuscript.

 

Come to find out,

Mindy rented a spot at the doctor’s office

so Earl wouldn’t know that she actually wrote sleazy romance novels.

She really had meant to tell him,

but she wanted to wait until she had a really big seller.

It wasn’t that Mindy didn’t have good stuff,

it was just that she needed some really good cover art.

 

And, of course, the rest of the story is pretty obvious.

46 Five Turtles.jpg

Five Turtles

 

Five turtles met on the roadside,

all wanting to cross the highway.

 

The first turtle threw caution to the wind

and took out across the pavement,

and was promptly smashed flat

by two semis and a bus.

 

The second turtle decided to wait on the shoulder

            for a break in the traffic,

and was promptly smashed flat

by a motor home pulling over on the curb

            to switch drivers.

 

The third turtle decided to walk a half mile down the road

and cross over on a bridge,

but was chewed on by a dog,

dropped over the railing,

smashed on the pavement below,

and then run over by a Honda,

            a pickup, and a minivan.

 

The fourth turtle decided to go under the highway,

and got halfway through the culvert

when a sudden rain storm came up,

drown him in the tunnel,

and washed him back out the other side,

where he was smashed flat in a rock slide.

 

The fifth turtle said, “The heck with this!”

suddenly seeing no real reason

why he ever needed to get across

            the highway in the first place,

and went off and lived happily ever after

in a little clump of trees

at the edge of a junkyard.

47 Leanne A.jpg

Leanne

 

This story starts all the way back in Mrs. Galetsky’s

7th hour High School English class,

where Leanne would sit for hours on end

waiting for her life to begin.

And she’d fill up all the empty spaces

on all the miserable pages that she was destined to turn in

with a couple of lines that she thought might’ve been a song

that she might’ve heard while being on a date with some guy

whose name she’d forgotten, too.

 

And the lines went like this:

            “Please rescue me

                        from this endless night.

            Please deliver me

                        from this pointless life.”

 

And that’s just exactly what Mrs. Galetsky did,

having no better reason to graduate Leanne

than if she took English for one year more

it’d have about as much effect as all the years before.

 

And so Leanne graduated and got on with her life.

She got a job in a plastic factory making shampoo bottles that looked like poodles,

only they had no heads.

The heads were all made some place else,

and they all came together at the shampoo factory.

47 Leanne B.jpg

After seven years filled with headless poodles in countless crates,

with a thousand different evenings filled with forgettable dates

spent with a thousand guys all with forgotten names,

Leanne gave up dating altogether.

And with only her credit card furniture left to surround her,

she gave her evenings to writing resume after resume

that all said the same thing:

 

And the lines went like this:

            “Please rescue me

                        from this endless night.

            Please deliver me

                        from this pointless life.”

 

48 Leanne A.jpg

And one day somebody did.

Someone finally answered one of Leanne’s resumes,

and Leanne signed onto a banana boat

that was headed to where bananas grow.

Only it promptly sank and washed Leanne ashore,

one thousand miles away – alone.

But not completely alone,

for there she found a crate full of 200,000 bottles of shampoo,

all of which looked like poodles.

48 Leanne B.jpg
49 Leanne.jpg

And of course, there is no paper in hell

(except in the room reserved for writers),

and even if there were,

there would’ve been nowhere Leanne could’ve sent,

or anyone Leanne could’ve given to,

anything that said:

 

            “Please rescue me

                        from this endless night.

            Please deliver me

                        from this pointless life.”

And so for seven long years she spent every day

pouring out the shampoo

and carefully peeling off the labels,

so she could write on them before carefully sealing them

inside the bottles from which they came.

And on every last label she wrote the very same thing:

 

            “Please rescue me

                        from this endless night.

            Please deliver me

                        from this pointless life.”

 

And, of course, someone did.

She was rescued, arrested, and promptly thrown into a pathetic jail cell

in the pathetic country of Ecuador

for throwing so much trash in the sea,

which, it seems, in Ecuador

is such a heinous offense that they throw away the key.

 

Enter one Juan Carlos Rodriguez Vasquez de Amorosa – a local.

Juan was the one, who after seven years finally found

one of the pieces of paper Leanne had tied around a rock

and had thrown from her cell.

And on that paper was written:

 

            “Por favor rescateme

                        de esta noche sin fin.

            Por favor entregueme

                        de esta nada vida.”

 

Which, of course, is Spanish for:

 

            “Please rescue me

                        from this endless night.

            Please deliver me

                        from this pointless life.”

 

And since Juan was imbued with a Romantic’s heart

and the fiery spirit of one who does,

Juan did.

 

And in sort of a circuitous way,

Juan did just that:

            He set Leanne from from both her endless nights

            and her pointless life.

 

They were both shot dead before they ever got close

to the dust filtered light of the main gate.

 

And Juan went to heaven,

and Leanne went to hell..

I’m not sure why, but that’s just the way these things work out.

 

50 JLC.jpg
51 JLC.jpg

Jonathan Livingston Cat

 

wanted to fly.

But not for the usual reasons.

Jonathan Livingston Cat

didn’t even like birds.

 

Jonathan Livingston Cat

wanted to fly

to feel the wind rippling through his fur,

the tips of his ears gently pressed back,

and his tail tippity tippity tippity

in the breeze.

All the other cats

thought that Jonathan Livingston Cat

was loopy.

If God had meant for cats to fly

then He would’ve made them birds.

 

All the other cats

told Jonathan Livingston Cat

to accept his limitations,

to accept that the closest he’d ever come to flying

would be a pet carrier in a cargo hold.

 

But Jonathan Livingston Cat

knew that gravity was just a limitation of the mind,

a shackling of the soul.

 

So Jonathan Livingston Cat made his way downtown

to the very top of the Trans-Atlantic Building,

38 stories above the street,

where ally cats and city cats and cats fresh off the farm

all waited below to see him splat,

because everyone knows that cats can’t fly.

Everyone, that is, except for Jonathan Livingston Cat.

 

With the wind rippling through his fur,

the tips of his ears gently pressed back,

and his tail tippity tippity tippity

in the breeze,

Jonathan Livingston Cat set sail

straight to the street below,

where he hit with a resounding splat,
because everybody knows that cats can’t fly.

 

But Jonathan Livingston Cat did land on his feet,

but then, everyone knows

that cats always land on their feet.

52 Willie.jpg

Wide-eyed Willie Sings the Blues

 

Wide-eyed Willie was the most depressing man alive.

Just lookin’ at Willie and his droopy eyes

and his three day shave all speckled with gray

and his forgotten clothes mismatched and misbuttoned,

would ruin anyone’s good mood.

 

And if you weren’t in a good mood to begin with,

you just weren’t gonna be,

not with Wide-eyed Willie around.

 

          “And now you know why

          Willie sang the blues.”

 

Well, not really.

You see, Willie sang the blues

because there’s nothing else that someone so deeply

and so chronically depressed

could get paid to do.

 

Now you may be wonderin’ why Willie had the blues…

 

          “Why Willie had the low down rain in his shoes,

          no dentures in his dead so he can’t chew blues.”

 

Well, I’ll tell ya.

I don’t know.

Not really.

I mean, there was nothin’ big,

like his woman runnin’ out on him

or his dog dyin’ or anything like that.

Best I can tell,

he just woke up one mornin’ and started thinkin’.

 

          “He started thinkin’ about dark things,

          about stark things,

          wonderin’ what the weather might bring things.

 

          “And he just got starker and darker

          than an indigo marker.

          And before he was through,

          ol’ Wide-eyed Willie had the blues.”

 

Real bad.

 

53 Willie.jpg

So Willie spent his evenings sittin’ on a stool

at this little dive on the south side called Pappy’s Pool and Lounge,

holdin’ this broken guitar that had no strings

and mutterin’ out the poorest excuse for music

that anyone has ever called the blues.

 

Let me tell ya now:

 

          “He sang the blues.

          He sang the cat’s got the flu,

          and the dog’s got it, too,

          and I’m sad through and through,

          wouldn’t you be, too?

          He sang the blues!”

 

I wish I had a guitar;

I’d show you how the melody goes.

 

Now anyway,

you might think ol’ Wide-eyed Willie sounds pretty bad,

and I don’t reckon I’d argue with you,

but that was the sort of thing the folks down at Pappy’s just loved to hear.

So while Willie sat on his stool mutterin’

they strolled on by and dropped spare change

in this old, broken felt hat that Willie always laid on the floor.

And at the end of the night he took all that money home

and stuffed it in his top dresser drawer.

 

Now let me tell ya what happened.

One day Willie got to wonderin’

just how much money might be stuffed in that drawer.

 

          “Ol’ Willie started to count

          and he came up with an amount

          that made him stop and say, ‘Whoa!’

          And a voice in his head,

          ‘Say, Willie,’ it said,

          ‘Son, that just a whole lot of dough.’”

 

Uh huh.

54 Willie.jpg

So Willie got to thinkin’ just what he could do with all that green.

And anybody who’s ever had that problem

knows it ain’t much of a problem to have.

 

          “The more Willie thought,

          the less blue Willie got;

          it’s the most amazin’ thing you ever saw.

          The sky came out sunny,

          all cuz Willie had money,

          and Willie wasn’t blue at all.”

 

And that’s the Gospel Truth, now.

 

In fact, Willie became the happiest man in town.

Willie became so happy

he changed his act down at Pappy’s

to a stand up comedy routine.

You’ll have to trust me on this,

but Willie was just pretty darn good.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the kinda thing

that the folks down at Pappy’s went in for,

and Willie bombed big time.

 

Now Willie wasn’t no financial genius,

but he was smart enough to know

that if he didn’t keep money comin’ in,

pretty soon it would all go out.

 

So Willie tried to go back to singin’ the blues.

 

          “I’ve got the blues because I’ve got nothing to sing the blues about,

          no doubt.”

 

See what I mean? 

It just didn’t work.

 

Well, it wasn’t long before ol’ Wide-eyed Willie

had done gone through every last penny he had.

And then there was no more –

not comin’, not goin’ –

cuz not only was Willie broke,

but Willie had no job,

and pretty soon he’d have no place to call home.

 

Then he’d be livin’ on the street.

          sleepin’ on his feet,

                    with the rain fillin’ up his shoes.

                              And the more Willie thought,

                                        the more Willie got –

                                                  the more Willie got the blues.

 

                                                  Oh, yeah!

55 Willie.jpg

So Willie goes stumblin’ back into Pappy’s Pool and Lounge,

just lookin’ awful.

Lookin’ like hell warmed over.

An’ he climbs back up on his stool,

an’ he sings out louder and clearer

than he’s ever sang out before:

 

          “I’ve got the brother have you tried,

          deep Southern fried,

          really makes you cry,

          and you know that ain’t no lie –

          I’ve got the bonafide,

          dignified, calcified,

          no way to hide,

          Brother I got the blues!”

 

Sing it!

 

And Willie didn’t stop there.

No sir.

Willie just kept singing his blues on into the night.

 

And pretty soon the people started strollin’ by Willie’s stool

and droppin’ their spare change in Willie’s old, broken felt hat.

And at the end of the night Willie took all that money home,

where he stuffed it into the top drawer

of that old, broken down dresser.

 

But never again,

not once,

not ever,

did Wide-eyed Willie ever wanna see,

          just how much cash there might be

                    pilin’ up inside that old dresser drawer.

 

That’s all.