Thursday, October 27, 2016

How lucky is mankind?

Earth is the only planet in the known universe that has an environment suitable for producing beer.

That lucky!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

In the beginning...

In the beginning, the universe was nothing, but half a nano-moment later the universe became everything, and nobody knows why. A soap bubble popped? A galactic fart? We can only guess. But matter was soon clumping together to form chunks, and these chunks clumped together to form blobs and globs, which eventually turned into massive stars like Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart who shined brightly in their own time then slowly faded away.

But it was all good.

Not long after (relatively speaking), massive stars exploded sending shrapnel through nearby gas clouds, forming more chunks, blobs and globs, and that's how our very own sun and planets were formed. I guess you could call that the end of the first day, but that would be getting ahead of ourselves a bit, don't you think?

It's hard to say what happened next. Nobody was around to tweet about it. Maybe a comet brought us ice. Maybe space aliens brought us gin. Maybe "Gineses" is the proper spelling. We just don't know.

Maybe a girl amoeba fell in love with a boy amoeba and they had little baby amoebas who multiplied like rabbits until they were rabbits, then other amoebas invented the calendar and declared a day of rest which was a good thing because all those amoebas were getting really, really tired of multiplying. We just don't know.

Maybe the first trees were just grass, and they grew into trees to defend themselves from being eaten by all those rabbits. Maybe some of the grass remained grass because they didn't believe in evolution and ended up getting eaten alive, which really sucked for them, but nobody cared. They were just grass. We just don't know.

What we DO know is that Copernicus threw us off-center; Newton gave us gravity to keep our apples from flying off the table; Faraday inspired Whitman to sing the body electric; Darwin evolutionized the meaning of life; Pasteur washed his hands of it all; and Einstein gave us relatives we wish we didn't have.

Yes, in the beginning there was nothing, but these days we have more than enough -- so much so that I'm having a garage sale next week.

Hope to see ya there.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Critter Haiku

A frog in the pond
croaked, croaked, croaked, croaked all night long
just because, I guess.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Thursday, October 20, 2016


Our kids have to know there is a better way.


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Only in America

Elijah Johnson was born November 12, 1998. He lived his life and then died in a tragic accident, June 1, 2016.


“Mom, I feel another one coming on. Please just hold my hand,” said 19-year-old Alexis Martin. She was propped up on the bed by three very white hospital pillows, but she was far from being comfortable. A photograph of actor Will Smith, torn from an old copy of People Magazine she found in her room, was taped to the foot of her bed.

“I’m here for you baby girl,” said Kiara Johnson as she grabbed hold of her daughter’s hand. “You just keep looking at that fine hunk of a man and do your breathing.”

Alexis held on tight to her mother and breathed out through her mouth and in through her nose, staring a hole through the actor’s head. Will was leaning back in a chair, sporting a thin moustache and Fresh Prince haircut. He was on the cover, looking right at Alexis, looking as if having a baby was the sexiest thing he’d seen all day.

Alexis breathed in and out like she had in her birthing classes until the contractions finally eased.

“How long since the last one?” she asked her mother.

Kiara looked at her watch. “Two minutes. They’re getting closer.”

Kiara Johnson was just 36 and was soon going to be a grandmother. She remembered quite well being a single mother and having Alexis.

“So, where’s that asshole tonight?” Kiara asked. “Off saving the planet?”

“Mom, let’s not get into this right …”

Alexis suddenly grabbed her mother’s hand and sucked in a great breath of air, like she was drowning and this was the last one she’d ever breathe.

“Oh my god, this one’s bigger,” she said, starting to breath in and out with a laser focus on Will Smith. Handsome, yes, but just another man who promises you the universe and then goes off with some whore, leaving you to pop out a kid you never really wanted in the first place.

“Nurse! Help” Kiara Johnson yelled out into the hallway. “I think it’s time! Oh god, help!”

Two nurses came into the room and, after checking her pelvis, pronounced Alexis fully dilated.

“You better call Dr. Rains,” said Nurse One. “I think he’s downstairs having a sandwich. Tell him she’s having this baby now.”

Nurse Two left to make the phone call.

Alexis breathed in and out and in and out, all the while keeping her focus on the forehead of Will Smith who dissolved into her never-there-when-you-need-him boyfriend with a bullet hole in his head. She imagined the bullet bouncing off, so she shot him again.

At 11:36 p.m. on November 12, 1998, Dr. Rains placed a newborn baby boy on Alexis’s chest. The baby, mother and grandmother were all crying. The doctor declared him as healthy as they come.

Alexis named him Elijah.


Ten-year-old Elijah Johnson grabbed one of the kitchen chairs and pulled it over to the cabinets because he still wasn’t tall enough to reach the middle shelf. He stepped up on the chair, balanced himself as it wobbled a bit, grabbed the 100 % Natural Crunchy Peter Pan peanut butter and then jumped down. A jar of Smucker’s Grape Jelly was already on the kitchen table next to two slices of Wonder White Bread.

Elijah grabbed a knife and started performing the delicate dance of creating the perfect PB& J sandwich: thinly spread the peanut butter on both slices of bread; spoon out a heap of jelly and spread it all around; place one slice on top of the other; place the sandwich in a Ziploc bag; and then lick the knife and spoon clean before putting them in the sink.

Moving back to the fridge, he looked for a bottle of cola or maybe some Mountain Dew, but all he found was a half-empty bottle of water. He grabbed it and put it inside a used Wal-Mart plastic bag. The sandwich and a bag of crackers went in there as well.

Elijah found his backpack under the table and put his food inside it. He checked to make sure he had all his books and his homework, especially his science project – a tornado in a bottle – then he zipped the backpack up and hoisted it over his shoulder.

It’s amazing how much you can get done in a short amount of time, he thought. Especially when you’re trying not to miss the bus.

He looked at the kitchen wall clock. He had just enough time to make it out to the driveway.

Elijah walked through the living room, heading for the front door.

“Bye mom. See ya this afternoon,” he said.

Alexis Martin, Elijah’s mom, was sprawled out on the couch. She didn’t say anything.

“Hey mom, you okay?” Elijah called out

Alexis didn’t respond.

“Oh well. Love ya. See ya after school,” said Elijah as he walked out the front door.

The coffee table in front of the couch was strewn in old newspapers, paper plates with food still on them, and an empty bottle of Absolut Vodka. Next to the bottle was a spoon and several syringes.

After Elijah made it to Seat No. 7 on the bus, he pulled out his phone and texted his grandmother.

“Maw-Maw, I’m off to school. Mom’s on the couch again. Can you pick me up after school today? You don’t HAVE to buy me a vanilla milk shake, but I sure wouldn’t turn one down. Love ya.”

Elijah put his phone away and got out his math homework. He wanted to study for today’s big test.


Elijah Johnson stood by the passenger window, banging on it with his bare fists. The teenager inside the car, who looked a little younger than him, just smiled and waved a handgun at him. The car drove off leaving him there in front of Ron’s Stop ‘N Shop.

It was 11:57 p.m., but still there were people on the sidewalks. Some had surely seen what had just happened. They’d be perfect witnesses.

Elijah wondered how the girl was doing – she’d been knocked down to the pavement, and he was sure he’d seen blood pouring from her nose – but as he turned, time slowed down to an almost dead stop.

11:57:29 p.m. – “Didn’t make it to the getaway car in time, punk? Well, sucks for you,” said R. J. Stone, assistant manager of Ron’s. He was holding a Cimarron double-barrel shotgun aimed right at Elijah’s head.

At first Elijah thought it was some kind of joke. The man was a little taller than him, wearing a white short-sleeved shirt, one eye open as he stared down the shotgun’s sites right at him.

11:57:42 p.m. – “Hold on a minute. I wasn’t with those…”

11:57: 51 p.m. – “Yeah, right. Tell it to the cops when they get here. When you and your asshole friends were shooting up my place, I hit the silent alarm. They should be here any moment.”

11:58: 04 p.m. – “But mister, I’m telling you the truth. Just ask my girlfriend.” Elijah pointed at the girl on the ground. Sure enough, her nose was bleeding.

11:58:06 p.m. – Sirens could be heard in the distance.

11:58:06 p.m. – “Who? The white chick? Nice try, punk.”

11:58:11 p.m. – “It’s true, mister,” said Sally as she picked herself up off the pavement. “We heard the gunfire and then those two came out and …”

11:58:21 p.m. – “Shut up, bitch,” said R.J. “I recognize this boy’s hat. It was that other boy who started all the shooting, but you were there, too, just as plain as day. So you just stay put until – and here they are now.”

11:58:29 p.m. – Two police cars with flashing lights pulled up.

11:58:40 p.m. – With guns drawn, Sgt. Hank Nelson and Officer Steven Appleton yelled at R.J. Stone to “put down the shotgun.”

11:58:43 p.m. – “They shot up my store. This punk probably has a gun and…”

11:58:45 p.m. – “Put down the shotgun, NOW.” R.J. put the shotgun on the pavement then raised his own hands and stepped back. “That’s the punk…”

11:58:46 p.m. – “I didn’t do anything. It wasn’t…”

11:58:47 p.m. – “That’s my boyfriend and he…”

11:58:48 p.m. – “Put your hands on your head and get down on your knees.” The two officers came out from behind their open doors and started to approach Elijah.

11:58:50 p.m. – “I hope you smoke this little asshole because…”

11:58:51 p.m. – “He didn’t do…”

11:58:52 p.m. – “I said put your hands on …”

11:58:53 p.m. – “But sir, I…”

Sometimes Maw-Maw Johnson had premonitions. Feelings. Feelings that someone was going to drop by, so she made another pot of coffee; feelings that she had picked the right Lotto numbers this time, but never did; feelings that something terrible was going on, so she made phone calls just to make sure everything was alright.

Usually, her feelings never came to anything, but that didn’t stop her from believing someday they would.

Maw-Maw Johnson had a feeling something was wrong with her adopted son, Elijah. She had been sitting up watching The Late Show, when she got the feeling. She knew it was probably nothing, but she also knew it wouldn’t kill anybody if she called him just to make sure.

11:58:55 p.m. – Maw-Maw Johnson called Elijah.

11:58:57 p.m. – Elijah’s cellphone rang.

11:58:58 p.m. – Without even thinking about what he was doing, Elijah reached for his phone.

11:59 p.m. – Sgt. Hank Nelson and Officer Steven Appleton, both police veterans who had never before discharged their weapons in the line of duty, fired eight rounds into Elijah Johnson as he reached into his pocket for his phone. He died on the spot in the parking lot of Ron’s Stop ‘N Shop.

Elijah Johnson tore open his Christmas presents with the biggest smile any 5-year-old boy could make. Red, green and silver wrapping paper with taped on bows and ribbons decorated the floor in front of the still-lit artificial tree. Jingle Bells was playing on the CD player in the kitchen. A half-empty bottle of vodka sat on a wooden coffee table in front of the well-worn couch.

“That one’s from me,” said Maw-Maw Johnson, his grandmother. “I knew you loved Star Wars, right?”

The little boy smiled and nodded his head with so much force that if it hadn’t been attached, it might have flown up into the tree and gotten lost in all the ornaments.

“Thanks Maw-Maw,” said the little boy.

“Yeah, thanks, mom,” said Alexis Martin. She drank the rest of the vodka from her glass, and then filled it up again. “You really come through, like you always do, just to make me look bad.”

Maw-Maw Johnson smiled as Elijah played with his new Chewbacca action figure. He walked it on the floor, pretended it could fly, and even made Chewie talk.

“Look, mommy. Isn’t he great?” said the boy as he waded through the wrapping paper to give his mother a closer look.

“It sure is, honey,” she said. She unexpectedly reached out and grabbed the toy out of Elijah’s hands. “Unfortunately, you can’t play with it anymore until you pick up all this paper.”

“Oh please, give it back,” said Elijah holding out his hands for his Chewbacca.

Alexis held it up over his head.

“First pick up the trash, then you get the toy,” she told him.

Elijah’s eyes started to tear up. He dropped his arms and turned away from his mother. He slowly started picking up he wrapping paper, putting it all in a black plastic trash bag that was next to the couch.

“I think you’ve had enough,” said Maw-Maw Johnson, who got up from the couch. She picked up the bottle and took it to the kitchen.

“You’re right, mom,” said Alexis. “I’ve had enough of you. Don’t you think it’s time for you to go home? I’m sure you’ve got more important things to do. Maybe sharpen your fangs?”

“This is Christmas Day and I can’t believe…”

“Oh, please,” said Alexis, taking the bottle and filling up her glass again. “I’m his mother. You’re not. This is my apartment and I’m tired of you being here. So goodbye.”

Alexis emptied her glass in one gulp.

Elijah didn’t pay attention to the exchange between his mother and grandmother. He kept picking up the Christmas trash.

“Yes, X-Men was a pretty good movie, but I still can’t believe Han Solo is dead,” said Elijah Johnson. He and his girlfriend Sally Newsome were walking along 8th Street away from the Cinema 6 movie Theatre. They were holding hands.

“Would you stop it,” said Sally. “You’ve been talking about that for six months now. You know they’ll bring him back in the sequel. They have to.”

“Maybe as a ghost surrounded by The Force, I guess, but not as a real Han Solo. Nope, he’s dead.”

It was 10:45 p.m. and Sally had to be home by 11:30. They turned left on Main Street, heading for the crosswalk at Johnson Avenue where they’d turn south and walk another two blocks right up to Sally’s doorstep.

Elijah was already thinking about the goodnight kiss.

“And another thing, how could Rey just pick up a light saber and know exactly what to do with it?” said Elijah. “Even Luke Skywalker had to be trained and…”

“You are something else,” said Sally. “It was a movie. Just a movie.”

“Just a movie? Only just a movie? My dear, them be fightin’ words.”

“Oh, ya wanna fight, do ya?” said Sally, jumping in front of Elijah and throwing a fake punch to his chin. “Got’cha, and now a one-two to his midsection, the champ looks dazed, Newsome throws an uppercut and the champ hits the floor.”

Sally raised her hands in victory, and Elijah swooped in to hug her, picking her up off the sidewalk and turning around in circles. As he let her down, he softly kissed her lips, and she didn’t mind at all.

Main Street was far from deserted. Teenagers cruised up and down the road in their used cars, and groups of people were walking along the sidewalk. Some of the stores were still open. Ron’s Stop N’ Shop was well lit, and on the other side of the street, a Burger King next to C &S Chi and Martial Arts. Sally grabbed Elijah’s hand again, and they continued walking along the road.

“I had no idea the karate place was still open this late,” said Elijah.

“Probably a tournament, or maybe a belt test,” said Sally. She’d gotten to brown belt when she was younger, but had to quit because of her parent’s divorce.

“Do you ever miss it?” said Elijah.

“Sometimes, but now I got better things to do,” she said as she put Elijah’s arms around her.

Elijah and Sally were just stepping into the light of the Stop ‘N Shop when they heard two pops, like Black cats on the Fourth. Two teenagers, one with a gun in his hand, ran from Ron’s open front door, ramming through the couple, and got into a waiting car. Sally was knocked flat to the concrete, but Elijah was able to remain on his feet. He ran over to the car and started banging on the passenger window with his bare fists. The teenager inside just smiled and waved his handgun at him, and then the car drove off.

Elijiah got a good look at the kid and would probably be able to recognize him in a police lineup, especially since the kid was wearing the same hat he was wearing.


“So, where you off to tonight, Mr. High School Graduate?” said Maw-Maw Johnson. Elijah stood in front of the hallway mirror, adjusting his new hat.

“Oh, I’m taking Sally out to dinner then we’re going to see a movie.”

“What restaurant?”

“You know, the only place we go to because she’s vegetarian, Thai Bridge,” said Elijah. “And then we’re going to see ‘X-Men: Apocalypse.’”

“You kids these days,” said Maw-Maw. “Eating lettuce and then watching some crazy movie, no telling what it’s about. In my day, there was nothing better than a sirloin steak and some hand holding on the porch.”

Elijah tilted his hat just a little more to the left and thought it perfect.

“So, how do I look?” he said.

Maw-Maw looked at the young man standing in front of her; the little boy who’d grown to be a man right before her eyes. Tall, slim, beautiful brown eyes and a smile that reminded her of her daughter.

“You’re so handsome, “she said, her eyes watering. “Your mother would have been so proud of you.”

“I never could have done it without you, Maw-Maw,” he said. “You picked me up from school, made sure I did my homework, fed me, clothed me. You made me believe in myself; and now look – I’m actually going to get to go to college. Study science. Maybe someday get paid to study the universe. You did all this. Not her.”

Maw-Maw Johnson couldn’t stop the tears this time. She hugged her grandson, and covered him with kisses.

“Hey now, don’t mess up my hat,” Elijah teased.

“Oh, you and your silly hat.”

Maw-Maw Johnson took a final look at Elijah and said, “Yes indeed. That Sally is a lucky girl.”

Elijah gave his Maw-Maw a kiss on the cheek and was just about to head for the door when she said, “Do you remember what I always told you?”

“Yes, ma’am,” he said, “If I get a girl pregnant I should…”

“No, you silly goose,” she said, smiling. “The other thing.”

“How could I ever forget?” said Elijah. “If I work hard enough, I can be anything I want to be. Because this is America.”

Elijah blew his Maw-Maw a kiss, and walked out the door.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Buster the Hound

on the porch he does sit,
except when he's eating
or taking a

nap every morning.
Oh my, what snoring.