Monday, May 26, 2008


I took my two year old son for a walk around the block today. He stopped to look at every pebble on the road. Normally I would encourage him to keep moving, but today I let him take his time. His little practice of examining all of these little stones as if they were these great things really touched me. He would show me the ones he really liked.

How wonderful, to be in awe of a pebble.

We just went around the block, which isn't far, but it took nearly an hour. When we got home both of our pockets were stuffed with all of the interesting things he had accumulated on our trip.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Procession, 2 a.m.

After thrashing about in the covers for thirty minutes, Carson Pulley gave up on sleep after his wife made one of her infamous harrumphs. It was a noise that registered as deeply perturbing with Carson. Worse than crunching popcorn. Worse than the sound of breaking bone.

So he got out of bed and went to the kitchen and cut himself a slice of strawberry cake. The clock said 1:55am. The cake was gooey and moist. He poured a glass of milk and took a drink, topping off immediately, then put the carton back in the fridge. He made short work of the cake.

They had been using a fan to sleep for years, starting when they were a young couple living in his parent’s basement . The fan drowned out the sounds of shoes creaking across the kitchen floor above. When they moved into their first apartment, they used it to contend with the Latin music that seeped through their papier-mâché walls, and then, after they had bought their home, they found they couldn’t sleep without it. There was such a thing as too quiet now; every settling floorboard, every time the air conditioner kicked on, every time one of their two cats scratched near it’s collar in the middle of the night--jingling it’s nametag--they’d wake up. They even brought their fan with them when they would travel. But now it was dead, and as dependant as they were on the thing, they didn’t have a back up. It never occurred to either of them. Carson intended to go to Wal-Mart on Friday after he got paid and pick up a new one.

He finished off his milk and walked out onto the front porch. The cold, dewy air woke him as it splashed in his face. His bare feet came alive atop the cool wooden slats. He leaned his arm against the rail, and looked up at the deep blue sky, and then over the beaded grass of his front yard and down Main Street. One of the benefits of living in the center of town was being able to see all of the empty benches and deserted storefronts after everyone had gone home. Their little town went for a kind of rustic motif, and it was really charming at a time like this.

He was watching the little flags attached to the street lamps flap lazily in the early morning breeze, and taking deep, slow gulps of the morning air when something caught his eye. He squinted, and tilted his head towards the horizon. There were people coming up the hill.

Soon they were marching past his house. He could see them clearly now. They wore ragged clothes, and were creamy whites and light blues in skin color. There were a few children who skipped and lagged here and there, but mostly, it was an orderly procession. Pausing only to consider his attire--he was in a pink Donald Duck t-shirt and Mr. Potato Head pajama pants--he walked towards the troop, filled with unabashed curiosity. This kind of bravura was unusual to him.

Carson walked up to a fat man in a white tuxedo. His face was white, and there were small light green bags under his eyes. He had a moustache, and was balding. His clothes looked wet, and every step he took, his boots went Squash.

“Excuse me.” Carson said.
“Yes?” Said the man, not turning his head to see who he was speaking to.
“Are you the dead?” Carson said.
“Yes.” Replied the man.
“Oh, wow.” Said Carson. There was a moment of silence as he seemed to digest this news, and then, “But it’s two am.”
“Right.” Said the man. His voice had a little bit of a gurglely quality to it.
“But the witching hour is at midnight, right?” asked Carson.
“It was.” Said the man. “But we had to move it a couple years back. Too many gawkers were showing up. This is a solemn procession of course.”
‘Right.” Said Carson. And then realizing himself added, “Oh, sorry.”
“No worries.” Said the man. “One’s no trouble. One block.”

When he said this, Carson turned back suddenly. His house was a sprint behind him.

“Why are you marching?” He asked the dead man.
“Because we once lived, and don’t care to haunt.” Said the man, who had clearly drowned or been drowned.
“What do you mean?” Asked Carson.
“When you die” Said the man, “And if you are of a certain type--and aren’t malicious in any way--you’ll walk until the end of time; constrained only by the boundaries of the town or city you lived in.”
“What do you mean by ‘A certain type’?” Asked Carson.
“Not a member of Grace Baptist Church in Lebanon Ohio.” Said the man.
“What happens to the people who go to that Church?” Asked Carson.
“They go to heaven.” Said the man.
“And everyone else is doomed to walk the Earth until the end of time?” Said Carson, incredulous.
“Yes. Two blocks.”
“That’s terribly particular. Most of the population isn’t Baptist.”
“Most of the population doesn’t live in Lebanon Ohio either.”
“So all of the world’s dead walk the street at two am every morning?”
“With hemispheric time-semantics taken into account, yes. There are more dead walking the streets at two am than there are living sleeping in the houses they pass.” Said the man. “Three blocks.”

Carson turned around. His house was far out of sight. They were a couple of blocks from the end of town.

“What happens when you reach the edge of the town?” He asked.
“We return to our rest.” Said the drowned man.
Carson nodded his head, and thought quietly for a moment. “So, you drowned?”
“How did it happen?”
“Boating accident.”
“Was it peaceful?”
“No. I was drowning.”
“Oh. I heard it could be peaceful.”
“I wonder how they would know.”
“Right. Good point.”
“Four blocks.”
“What about people who work third shift?”
“What do you mean?”
“Doesn’t it disturb them to see you?”
“Third shift usually starts at midnight. Part of the reason we switched.”
“What about cigarette smokers?”
“They’re half asleep anyway. The living are very self absorbed. Five blocks.”
“Hm.” Said Carson. He thought for a moment. The sky had changed in the time he had been walking with the dead from deep blue, to a lighter shade. Now there were little pink wisps becoming illuminated in the sky, and around the horizon line he could see a golden aura lighting up some of the businesses in the distance. Carson suddenly felt tired again, and decided he had walked with the dead long enough.
“Six blocks.” Said the drowned man.
“Why do you count the blocks, by the way?” Asked Carson.
“Regulation. We have to warn the living.” Said the drowned man.
“Warn them about what?” Asked Carson, feeling something odd crawl up his spine.
“About the block rule.” Said the Dead man. “When a Living person walks six blocks with the 2 am procession, they become forever bound to it’s ranks.” The troop stopped walking. All turned their dead, spider webbed eyes on Carson. He shrunk beneath their gaze, and then began to walk backwards. He was stopped by what felt like a spongy wall.
“Am I dead now?” He said, his pitch rising.
The drowned man shrugged. “Not sure what exactly to call it, but it is what it is.”
“Isn’t there some way to appeal?”
The drowned man shook his head.

“I thought you said you weren’t malicious?” Carson said.
“I’m not.” Said the dead man. “Just apathetic.”

Carson put his hands on his face. He rubbed them across his stubble, then through his hair. He looked at the numbers around him. As the sun came up, they began to slowly disappear into the haze. If he was dreaming, it was the realest dream he’d ever had.
“ I thought you said there was another option.” Carson said to the drowned man as he felt himself beginning to disappear under the sunlight.
“We’re a long way from Lebanon Ohio.” Said the dead man, disappearing too.
“No, the other option.” Said Carson.
The dead man, now barely a mist, raised an eyebrow.

When Mrs. Pulley woke up, the fan in her bedroom was running.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Indiana Jones

In a way, Indiana Jones gave me my first idea of what 'being a man' should look like: Intellectual, but not in an in-your-face kind of way. Individualistic and stubborn. Adventurous, vaguely atheistic, and possessing a kind of rolling gallows humor. And (of course) sporting a fedora and a whip.

The most important people in my life and I are very excited about the new Indy movie. The other day my brother said to me, "This is the only movie I've ever wanted to see that I know won't let me down. I'll like it no matter what." I knew exactly what he meant. "With Indiana Jones," I said, "It's not so much a matter of whether it's good or bad, as it is a matter of getting to see Indy in action one more time." As Roger Ebert ended his right-on review of the new movie, "I can say that if you liked the other Indiana Jones movies, you will like this one, and that if you did not, there is no talking to you.". It's like that.

Upon asking the people at the local Toys-R-Us why they thought they were selling out of Indiana Jones merchandise so fast,the clerk reported to my brother--without missing a beat--that they sold the toys mainly to twenty to thirty something males, often with kids who would've rather picked up some cool Speed Racer action figures, but eventually caved to their father's sales pitch that Indiana Jones was way cooler than Speed Racer.

Indiana Jones is way cooler than Speed Racer.

I don't know what Indiana Jones means to my generation, or what it is that makes his character so resonant in our culture. I'm not a sociologist. I can't even say that I really want to know, if there's anything to know at all.

Whatever the case is, I'm excited about the movie. I'm going to let my son take the day off of school tomorrow so he can go and watch the midnight showing with me tonight. He can miss a day of school for Indiana Jones.

You have to have priorities in this life.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


A poem of mine entitled Life, is available for viewing here, at Litsnack.

Litsnack is one of the most satisfying, unpretensious online lit-mags in business right now. Their m.o. is to publish small writing with big content (poetry:1-35 lines, and Microfiction:50-500 words). If you're a creative type who can adhere to those scant restrictions, you should submit. Even if you don't submit, you should definitely check them out.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

dear poet, please consider these peanuts

why are all of your poems about death?
even your poems about sex
are about death.
and so are your poems of longing
and the universe and youth. Death
follows your verse like pigpen’s dust cloud.
you carry death around like linus’s wubby.
you pounce on it’s keys like Schroeder’s piano.
poems about bright red yo-yo’s that go up
and down on a snowy white string
evade you like the football that Lucy pulls away
from Charlie Brown in the last second.
i can see death has even gotten into this poem.
he is in the room with me now, picking at his
tooth with a long bony finger.
he’s saying something to me now,
but I can’t understand him
through his warbly & distorted adult voice.

From Mule And Horse.

are we not men?

75 Skills Every Man Should Have: This is a prime example of what makes Esquire ideal bathroom reading.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Scientist's Prayer: God Is My Alternative Hypothesis

Dear God,

Some people lose their faith before they lose their baby teeth. Some stop believing after a personal crisis, or after they learn enough about the mechanics of this world that you become redundant within the context of their worldview. I am not one of these people.

For the person who--upon looking under the hood of their car--ceased to imagine that it was a large rodent on a slightly larger wheel that propelled them along their way to work every morning, I say good for you. But I also say, might not something of that athletic rodent animate your car’s engine?

How silly. What a silly thing to say. I’m not trying to offend you God. Who would want to be flip with the creator of the universe, you who smote the sodomites, you who told Abraham to kill his son and then turned around at the last minute and said, Gotcha! I certainly don’t want any of what you’re bringing. I would be walking with a limp after round one.

I am willing to hang with you God. I’ve learned a lot about science, a lot about how species evolve, how we adapt (for good or ill) and how we find solace in groups and dogmas and fairy tales. I know all of this stuff, Yet I am not fully on board. I haven’t had my card punched by Richard Dawkins, et al. I exist somewhere between the delusion and the cold reality, whatever that is. The alarm clock hasn’t gone off yet, and I am clinging to sleep. Although I know I’ve only got minutes to go, I cling to my pillow ever tighter.

There’s something that doesn’t add up in the equation. They (the heathens) have certainly made an appealing case for why I don’t need to believe in you. Yet I persist. I’ve always been a contrarian. Maybe that’s it? No, it’s something else.

They can’t know what’s up with you God. However right on they are about the claims of your followers, however they show up their detractors time after time, you--whatever you are--are beyond them. But we’re working on it, is what they’ll say. And I say, yeah, you work on it. That’s what you do. But let’s stick with the formula, and let‘s follow it through. Ho: No pearly gates, no omnipotent artisan. H1: It’s all you, just like it’s always been, just like it always will be. Alpha and Omega. The numbers certainly don’t add up so far, but there are bigger things than numbers. I’m not asking for an Evel Kenevel trick. I don’t want you to jump through any flaming hoops, or across any major crevasses. I don’t want to tempt you God, I just want to know you. And if there’s nothing to know, then that leaves a lot of room to fill with other stuff. I’ve always kind of wanted to learn piano.


ps: When the preacher starts talking about root words, you can be sure that they don't know what they're talking about.

Friday, May 2, 2008

assorted randomness

My two year old son thinks my car keys will open every door in the world. There was a locked fence at the park we went to today that separated us from some horses that my son wanted to pet. He asked me for my keys so he could let them out. He's always trying to get into random doors with random keys.
Thanks to everyone who called, wrote, and left blog comments regarding Mule and Horse. I enjoyed writing it, and didn't make a single red cent: I'm a capitalist, but apparently not a very good one.
I've read a few things online lately that are worth sharing:

Journalist Bites Reality!, by Steve Salerno
Ben Stein and Darwin: Truth Is What Matters, by Mark Chu-Carroll
Two Birds, a poem by John Grochalski
Remember When Michaels Fell Off the Dock?

They put the body in the guest room. We weren’t supposed to go in, but I don't know why. It wasn't like we were going to wake it up. Aunt Lou was knitting it a hat (to cover the wound),and the rest of the house was preparing for the funeral as if it were a wedding anniversary, or a theme graduation. There was all kinds of cooking going on: all of those wonderful, competing smells filled our nostrils and wet our mouths. Our bellies were always full. Someone was always saying, 'hey, try this', and 'do you think this needs a little more cinnamon?' It was wonderful. Every time there was an accident at the plant it was like Thanksgiving.