The Angel and the Velvet Box


I look at her sleeping and I wonder
what will come.
No one can remain
an angel forever
in a world full of big-brained
bi-pedal beasts with free will and
no good reason to be angels

Her soft skin will toughen
because it has to, slapped
as angels’ so often suffer the slaps,
spiritual, emotional, maybe physical,
from the hands that’d once caress
the downy pillows upon which rest
pert lips, pursed, ready to pronounce, “Hi,Pa,”
upon awakening.

I can’t protect you forever, angel,
from the swinging hands of time
that have beaten me down.
But I can hold this and other moments
in the velvet lined box no one knows
I hide here on the dark side of my heart.
The one I’ll only ever share
with you.

A 15-minute Sunday afternoon free write. I know not from where it came. But I’ll share it with you.

Saturday Shinny


A group of boys picking teams for a game of shinny, Sarnia, Ontario, 1908.
Photo by John Boyd, via Wikipedia

Criss-crossed with lines
and white as an old man’s face,
the pond ice teems with life
more buoyant than on a July day.
But this February morning
the crick-crack of tree limbs
in the breeze is echoed by
the click-clack of the boys’ sticks
in a game of shinny. Along
the snowy shore, girls call
for their turns on the ice,
while little ones stagger and fall
in someday attempts to be
like the big boys. I wander by,
cheeks red and eyes glistening
and feel my feet flying with
that good freeze again,
zooming down left wing, deking
Mike into the bushes, skimming
a puck into that box of branches.
Then my foot slips and I
fall to knees like one of
those six-year-olds.
That’s when I recall I never did
get the hang of staying upright
for long on my blades those
winter Saturdays, when the pond
was etched like the face I took
a different kind of blade to
just this morning.

Beneath God’s Tear

Halley's Comet in 1682 (Source: Wikipedia)

Halley’s Comet in 1682 (Source: Wikipedia)

On my pallet in the hold
of The Friends’ Adventure,
I hear their lamentations
above deck. The sun’s
dropped behind the shelf
toward our new home,
but something like daylight
shines here upon my family.

I tell Rachel this is a sign
from our Creator
that we are like Magi,
following a star to
a new Bethlehem,
where all may worship
in peace as he will.

I don’t approve of what
others call us, but
this September night,
seaman, farmer, heathen and Christian,
stand beneath God’s tear
falling from the sky,
and know what it means
to be a Quaker.

Here’s another 100-word drabble story-poem, this time based on a cool time and place prompt from Kellie Elmore:
You find yourself in the lower level of an old ship. A calendar on the wall says 1682. There is a small window, and the view is nothing but open sea and a setting sun. There is a staircase and you can see daylight at the top…
 That played right into this history nerd’s shaking hands. In 1682, William Penn began sending ships full of members of The Society of Friends off to settle what would soon be known as Pennsylvania. In the September of that year, the comet that became famous as Halley’s Comet hung in the skies as shown in that contemporary illustration up there and raised quite a stir in Europe.
I put those two facts together and imagined how George Pownall, a passenger on one of those ships, The Friends’ Adventure, would try to explain it to his daughter, Rachel. That’s how I came up with Beneath God’s Tear.

A Study in Scarlet


Photo by Heather Grace Stewart

I enter the room and immediately sense a disturbance and a late presence.

My eyes glide to the fireplace, where a smudge of ash lies upon the polished tile hearth. I feel a faint warmth come from within the firebox and, with a gentle whistle into the ashes, I awaken seven orange embers from within their gray ash bed.

Swiftly, I turn to the coffee table behind me and note the magazines tossed somewhat haphazardly eight inches off its midpoint. Upon closer inspection, I find a dried ring upon its surface, two and five-sixteenths inches from the coaster. I lick my finger, touch its tip to the ring and tap it to the end of my tongue. I taste a ring of smaller diameter on the opposing coaster.. Hmmm… Sweeter. Yes.

Just inside one of the table legs I spy a broken bit of popcorn kernel. I taste that as well. White cheddar. I wince at the juxtaposition of flavours, but do not judge.

I advance to the south-facing window, through which morning light provides a three-dimensional stream for dust motes to course. Dust I was certain I did not raise.

Springing to the nearby bookcase I note, with self-serving glee and some bit of distress, the lady of the house has not deemed to dust the shelves in seven–no, nine–days. And THERE! On the fifth shelf from the bottom, bare spaces, binding-sized slots shining amid the semi-matte sheen of slovenliness.

A quick assessment of the shelf and its alphabetic array of volumes and I know I have solved the case. A D shoved amid the Cs. Elementary what’s happened here, I assure myself.

A call out to the hallway and the thirteen-year-old I hallooed enters the study. She carries with her a mug of tea—green with honey, as expected—and plops rather insolently into the chair with the scarlet pillow, placing her mug within the left side of the ring of my earlier investigation.

“My dear,” I say. “Were you and Hannah in daddy’s study last night?”

“No! I know we’re not allowed in here when you’re not home. How could you accuse me of that? Mother!!” she calls.

I raise my hand and softly say, “Don’t deny it. I have all the proof I need right here.”

I point out all the clues of the evening malfeasance perpetrated in my wife’s and my absence while we attended a dinner get-together at Hannah’s parents, the Watsons’ next door.

“Okay,” she says. “But we didn’t do nuthin’. Stupid books are nuthin’ but old-timey stories. No cool London scenes, slow and wordy. In our wildest dreams we couldn’t even imagine Cumberbatch in the starring role.”

“Grounded Friday night,” I say. “No phone, no computer, no Kindle, no iPad. Just a paperback version of A Study in Scarlet, which we’ll discuss Saturday morning.”

“Mother!!” she wails just a little louder.

“Oh, and his surname is Doyle, not like Conan-Doyle. D first, not C. Now where the hell’s my pipe?”

An unedited just-for-fun lunchtime write based on my dear friend Heather Grace Stewart’s Take Ten Thursday photo prompt up there. Sorry, Heath, the poem I thought I’d do for the winter scene got run over by my Holmes (Sherlock, not Mike) fixation.

Silver Bell ~ A Story


Larry Benson, three months out of the South Idaho Correctional Institution, had been standing outside the Target store on North Eagle Road jingling a little silver bell by his Salvation Army kettle for five cold and snowy hours.

He thought it odd that a six-foot four-inch black man in a Santa hat and red Pendleton jacket could be invisible at this suburban Boise shopping mall, but it seemed so as most shoppers looked right through him as they skurried toward the snow-choked parking lot.

Damn, man, Larry thought as he shivered his bell a little quicker, here we are Christmas Eve an’ all, and these folks thinking ‘bout nothing but getting’—presents, hugs, home, laid—an’ not givin’, as the Reverend Ryker an’ the Lord would have us do.

The red doors opened with a whoosh and out walked a man holding the hand of a little girl, who unclenched her mittened fist over Larry’s kettle, clinking maybe five silver coins into it, saying, “Merry Christmas, Santa, I’ll be leaving cookies out for you later.”

The doors shut again and Larry saw his reflection in the glass, the snow clinging to his beard, turning it into a white cloud beneath his now-merry eyes and he knew he had to say it: “Ho-ho-ho, Merry Christmas and thank you, little lady…you’re at the top of my Nice List for tonight.”

I must be feeling some spirit of the season, because I took Lillie McFerrin’s flash fiction prompt this week–SILVER— and out jingled this little five sentence bit of holiday lunchtime prose.

Better Watch Out, Better Not Cry


Fatso (Photo credit: overthinkingme)

Ginny Bocca sat by the window in her bedroom, her eyes following snowflakes fall on the houses up and down Bancroft Street, their colored lights signaling landing strips for reindeer.

“Boy, Mooshy, Mommy and Larry were pretty mad…I hope I haven’t done somethin’ so bad this time that Santa doesn’t come, ” she said to her one-eyed, threadbare Teddy bear.

“We been in here a long time and they stopped hollerin’ a million-zillion hours ago,” Ginny said, looking up at the cat-faced clock, swinging its tail in tick-tock monotony, when it meowed six times.

“When they come an’ unlock the door, I’ll tell ’em how sorry I am, whether Santa left me anything or not,” she said, blinking back what tears she had left.

As she stared out at the neighborhood again, Ginny saw living room lights blink to life here and there up the street, and once again she wondered what fell over last night, two loud bangs, when her Mommy and Larry finished their yelling and must have gone to bed.

A five sentence fiction, with a typically twisted holiday theme, based on Lillie McFerrin’s prompt word: Alone.

Picking Up the Blitz

In-game screenshot of a player playing on defe...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A Five Sentence Fiction

“How is he, Sandy,” Ed Barrone asked his wife, “did Eddie go to pieces?”

“He came in from school, went right to his room and closed the door, didn’t want dinner, hasn’t made a sound all evening, so I think not making the football team has just crushed him, Ed,” Sandy said.

“Must be tough on the poor kid when his best friend’s the star quarterback, the guy who convinced him to try out, and now Eddie’s gonna have to face Ben and all his friends as a…as a…well, he must feel like he was blind-sided,” Ed said.

Sandy crossed the room to the base of the stairs and called, “Eddie, Dad’s home,” but once again was met with silence and she turned her plaintive brown eyes to her husband, who squared his shoulders and slowly trudged up to his son’s room.

Ed paused at the door, before knocking because he thought he heard laughing within, and then the sound of Eddie whispering into his video game headset, “That’s 25 games in a row, Mr. Starting QB…I don’t think you’ll ever win a game if you suck this bad at Madden.”

Someday, maybe I’ll write something more directly related to the prompt put up by my friend Lillie McFadden for one of her Five Sentence Fiction challenges. Naaaaaah, probably not. Today’s word: Pieces.

Mother’s Day

English: Mother's Day card

English: Mother’s Day card (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Eighty-something year old Moms
tend to give their middle aged sons
ancient history lessons,
even on Mothers Day. A word, a photo,
a memory, she dropped them all
like a cup of tea. And he picked them up.
The photo was of a chubby 5th grader,
alone, flying his crazy black hair
and a goofy gray grin at half staff,
there on the front stoop, a stain of
something on the front of his shirt.
His fingernails were dirty and
he had smudges on his hand, no doubt
from scrawling or drawing something,
from his perfectly cultivated
amber waves of imagination, a look
of skeptic wonder on his face.
He hasn’t changed too much.

Still the pudgy-feeling little guy, stain
worn like a badge of honor over his heart,
smudges of gray on the heel of his
age-twisted hand and head.
He cultivates this self as he tends
the wretched patch out back.
Perhaps one day they both might
bear some fruit, something more than
weedy promise and seedy emotion.
Farmer or poet. They’re the same
to him now. Each a singular effort,
trying to grow something out of
tiny near-nothings.
He put that photo away. Mom’s
absent-minded lesson learned.
You are who you are, kid, but you
can be loved no matter who that is.
Once again, Mother knew best.


Innocence Lost

Albert Carrying Pogo - Walt Kelly

Albert Carrying Pogo – Walt Kelly (Photo credit: Lynn (Gracie’s mom))

Sure, I learned at a too early age
that good guys and bad guys
shop at the same hat store and
it would always be hard to tell
the malevolent from the beneficent
by their haberdashery.
And despite the jingo flingers’
attempts to sell you their scorecards
touting who’s who of the white clad
home side and which of the unshaven thugs
in gray deserve the most contempt,
the streets taught me, once dirtied
in this neverending game,
we all look pretty much alike.

I regret not remembering those
days of sweet, youthful ignorance
I’m sure I once wore like
a wee clip-on bowtie.
If it wasn’t hearing nice Mr. B
arrested a few times for whooping
on the missus that infected childhood,
maybe it was my precocious reading skills.
I was slogging through the swampy
newspaper the day old Walt Kelly
in his possum suit taught me
“We have met the enemy,
and he is us.”

Snow Angels

Snow Angel

Snow Angel (Photo credit: dalechumbley)

The nightmares began in the week before Christmas;
screaming, fearsome trespass into the child’s mind.
The news had infringed with no conscience
and stolen a bit of innocence from the six year old,
waking her from a terror others could not escape.
“I don’t want Santa to come into our house,”
she said one night. “it scares me.”
“You’ll be safe, hon,” her father whispered.

“Mommy and Daddy will protect you,”
her mother said. “And your Guardian Angel, too.”
“Why didn’t their Guardian Angels
protect them?” she asked,
in the direct distillation of thought
only a child can accomplish.
Her father closed his eyes and drew a breath
before telling her.

“Because so many little kids
and their Mommies and Daddies
fear this world more than we used to,
God needed more brave little angels
to help them feel protected.”
As snow fell outside the bedroom window,
the little one lay down with her mother,
satisfied for a bit, sleeping safely in her arms.

Her dad thanked God for her and that
she heard not the door open and close twice.
When she awoke in the morning,
little Emma called into the kitchen,
“Daddy come see, come see.”
There in the new-fallen snow, a score
of snow angels had ringed their blessings
upon a home and a little girl.

I’m sorry if this doesn’t really sound like a poem. I’ve been struggling with these feelings all weekend and I have difficulty expressing such things sometimes except by “writing them out.”  Some folks say I’m some kind of storyteller, but I often lack the emotional capacity to couch thoughts of such horrible things as the Newtown tragedy in words. This piece has helped me gather a few in one place. May all our angels rest in the peace of this season, and all to come.