Friday, April 21, 2023

R Is For Ross

 Ross is the name of the main character in a novel I am currently writing. He is a man convicted of the murders of a family. All evidence points toward him. There is nothing to exonerate him.

Ross will escape from prison. The escape is based on a prison break where I once worked. Of course, everything else is fictional.

Thus, I’m having a hard time. I enrolled late Here’s my April priority list; (1) Family visit. (2) Yardwork had to be done. (3) Furniture had to be moved. (4) Write a novel. (5) Contribute to A to Z challenge. (6) Sleep.

Monday, April 17, 2023

She Said, He Said; Never

 “If I die before you, would you find another?” She said.

Never,” he said.

Never say never,” she said.

Does that mean I can start looking?” He said.

Saturday, April 15, 2023

Mundane Mildred Mahoney

 Mildred Mahoney—what a mundane life she led. She never married. When the local elementary school first opened its doors, they hired her as the secretary. She was barely beyond her teens.

She was not what you might call attractive. Plain best described her. Hardly anyone knew she was around. One might say a picture on the wall; eventually, it goes unnoticed.

About five years after being hired, the school janitor, Fred Seymour, asked for Mildred’s hand in marriage. She thought about it for a month. And when she told him, yes. He informed her he was going to marry the third-grade teacher, Tilly Yoeman.

Mildred quietly did her job. There was not a student’s name she did not know and the same with their parents.

When in the fourth grade, I was all lined up to receive a paddling. It was to be administered by Miss Crowley, the principal. She was a brutish woman who wore a scow like men wear a mustache—permanently.

I sat in the chair next to Miss Mahoney’s desk. It was like sitting on death row—waiting, waiting, waiting. Wonder about the hurt. And promising myself, no matter how it hurts, I would not cry. Truth is, I already started to cry.

Do you want to talk about it?” Miss Mahoney said.

That was the first time I heard her voice. It was sweet and tender. I thought it was an angel.

No,” I sniffed and pouted.

It will help,” she said.

I just don’t want to talk about it,” I said.

It will take your mind off things,” she said.

No it won’t,” I said.

What happened?” She said.

I hit a kid,” I said.

Who?” She said.

Tommy Baldridge,” I said.

He’s older than you, isn’t he?” She said.

He’s in sixth grade,” I said.

Yes, I know,” she said.

You know everything, don’t you?” I said.

Not everything,” she said, “except about everything that happens in this school.”

Yeah, nothing gets by you,” I said.

Can I tell you a secret,” she said, “and you promise not to tell no one else—not ever.”

I suppose,” I said.

No, I suppose,” she said, “you got to promise and never tell anyone. If you do, I could get fired.”

I don’t want you fired,” I said. “You don’t talk much but you’re nice to everybody.”

So you promise?” She said.

Swear to God and hope to die, poke a stick in my eye.”

She looked around as if to make sure nobody was within earshot. “Miss Crowly won’t do a thing unless she clears it with me.”

You make all the decisions?” I said.

Yes,” she said.

Then you’re the boss,” I said.

Not exactly,” she said, “but she thinks she is.”

Can you help me out?” I said.

Tell me about your scrap with Tommy?” she said.

He’s been pushing me around all week,” I said. “He shoved me down and kicked me in the butt. When he walked away, I picked up a rock and clunked him on the head. He started crying. I really felt bad. I didn’t want him to cry; I just wanted him to leave me alone. And that’s the truth; swear on a stack of Bibles.”

I know,” she said. “I heard some of the other kids talking about it.”

The clop of Victorian lace two-inch heeled shoes echoed from the hallway outside the office. I swallowed. My fate was sealed.

Don’t worry,” Miss Mahoney said. “I got this. But look terrified.”

I am terrified.”

Look more terrified.”

I began to shake and whimper. It was easy to do.

Miss Crowley walked into the office. I felt as if in the presence of a corpse. She frowned at me so tight I thought her face might cramp.

Fetch my paddle from the wall,” Miss Crowley ordered.

I stood.

The boy has heaved a few times waiting on you,” Miss Mahoney said. “I’m afraid the board might cause him to go into convulsions.”

I think it should bring him out of it and bring him to his senses,” Miss Crowley said.

I walked over to the wall and removed the paddle from the nail it hung on. It was shiny and smooth with three rows of holes.

You know what the holes are for?” Miss Crowley said.

No,” I said.

Well it’s not to make the sound of a whistle during the swing,” Miss Crowley said. It’s there to sting.”

She grabbed it from my hand.

Bend over and grab your ankles,” Miss Crowley said as if she were about to enjoy something.

Miss Crowley,” Miss Mahoney said, “Did you not understand what I told you about the boy’s condition.”

Yes, and did I not tell you my position,” Miss Crowley said. “His conduct must be addressed.”

But you haven’t heard him,” Miss Mahoney said.

I saw a boy with a gash and stitches,” Miss Crowley said. “That’s all I needed to see.”

I was holding onto my ankles waiting. It seemed as if all my blood ran to my head. I thought I might faint.

Oh, by the way, Miss Crowley,” Miss Mahoney said, “your housemate, Miss Carmichael said to pick up some sherry before coming home.”

Stand up,” Miss Crowley said to me.

What!” Miss Crowley said to Miss Mahoney.

I think you heard the first time,” Miss Mahoney said.

Miss Crowley squinted cruelly at Miss Mahoney. “My personal life is no concern of anybody.”

So far, since you have been principal at this school,” Miss Mahoney said, “you have paddled twenty-one boys and no girls. One might think you favor girls over boys.”

She handed the paddle to me. “Hang it up.”

Miss Carmichael and I are friends,” Miss Crowley said.

It’s nice to have friends,” Miss Mahoney said. “And I tell folks Miss Carmichael is a cousin you have promised to see after.”

People talk?” Miss Crowley said.

Yes, they do,” Miss Mahoney said.

Miss Crowley nodded toward me. “What about him? What will he say?”

He is a good boy,” Miss Mahoney said. “He knows how to keep secrets.” She turned to me. “Isn’t that right?”

Do you mean, you want me to tell kids I got the board but I really didn’t?” I said.

No,” Miss Crowley said.

Oh,” I said, “you don’t want people to know about your cousin—she can’t make it on her own.”

Come to think of it,” Miss Mahoney said. “If anybody says something about Miss Crowley and the woman living with her, set them straight.”

Sure,” I said.

Run along,” Mrs. Crowley said.

For the next few years, I was confused about the events of that day. Everyone found out about Miss Crowley’s and Miss Carmichael's relationship. I kept my word. Everyone else just thought I was naive.

So here I am, fifty years later, walking up the sidewalk to Miss Crowley’s little house a block from the old elementary school. She sat on the porch in a wicker chair. Older now but I’d recognize her in a crowd.

Hello, Miss Mahoney,” I said walking up the steps to her porch. “Do you remember me?”

Sure I remember you,” she smiled. “Come here and have a seat and tell me what you’ve done with your life.”

I sat on a wicker chair next to her. I smiled and said, “No one in my life had greater influence on my life than you have.”

Oh come on now,” she chuckled. “What happened, did you just make parole?”

You don’t know how many times I wanted to tell Miss Crowley’s and Miss Carmichael's secret, but I never did.”

So for a boy who keeps secrets so well, what did you do, work for the CIA?” she joked.

I became a lawyer, a good one,” I said. “A good lawyer keeps secrets.”

Whatever happened to Tommy Baldridge?” She said. “You remember him, don’t you? A good lawyer has to have a good memory.”

Strange you should ask,” I said. “He came to me early in my career. He was up for manslaughter. I got him off, not guilty. I owed it to him. After all a kick in the butt is hardly equal to a gash and stitches in the head—still had the scar.”

Was he guilty or innocent?” Miss Mahoney said.

I can keep a secret.”

Friday, April 14, 2023

Lulu Leroy

 He was twenty miles from Mobile

Trudging up a big hill

Growing to a man from a boy.

Saw a dirty-faced beauty

Walkin’ free bound to no duty

Introduced herself as Lulu Leroy

She carried an old six string

Showed him how she could sing

Said she wanted to be a star

He said, “sister if ya will

Let’s both hitchhike to Nashville

Show them how you sing and play guitar."

Every honky-tonk and dive in town

She laid her music down

And nobody seemed to catch on

Producers didn’t like her music

Weren’t crazy for acoustics

After six weeks they was gone

Hopped a train north to Chicago

Slept with tramps, bums, and hobos

Tried her style in bars and clubs

Got paid nothin’ but chicken feed

And handouts on corners and streets

Not enough for rent or grub

They slept in the tall grass

West of Topeka Kansas

Her love brought him such joy

She sung a song about him

He was one of many men

Who had the love of Lulu Leroy

She had an Uncle Jim in Fresno

At least that’s what she said so

She was getting itchy and restless

Gave her money to go westbound

She got aboard the next Greyhound

Waved goodbye from the back of the bus.

He headed on north to Fargo

Worked fields where the wind blows

Couldn’t get that girl out of his mind

Cut timber in the Yukon

Oil rigs in Saskatchewan

Looking for something he couldn’t find

After five years he went to Fresno

To find Uncle Jim cause she said so

Found him with a little boy

His hair was black and wild

The way he looked as a child

This was his son and Lulu Leroy’s

Uncle Jim took him on a short ride

To grave upon the hillside

Where there was no tears of joy

He stood broken and alone

And read from the simple headstone

Here lies Lulu Leroy

Raised me not to wander

Be afraid of wind and thunder

To build on life and not destroy

Three graves upon a hillside

That’s where they all reside

Uncle Jim, Daddy, and Lulu Leroy

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Knit Sweater

I have this old knit sweater

It is green, worn, in tatters

Its days have seen much better

Not style to me that matters

It’s been a steady mate,

and seen me through a lot

Fits no matter what my weight

fun times, serious, and not

Kennedy assassination

The beginnings and the ends

The raise and fall of nations

The passing of dear friends

No matter what the season

Every time that I wear it

Snow, rain, hail, heat, or freezin’

All my ole friends also bare it.

I know it will outlast me

when the dreadful comes along

The ole knit ne’er to be free

Just to me it will belong

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Jumpin' Jeremiah Johnson

 Uncle Walt died. He was my favorite uncle. For that fact, he could have been everybody’s favorite uncle. He was kind, generous, and just plain good. I always hoped to be like him but never made the grade. So the drive back from Florida loomed seriously morose.

I visited him six months earlier. I could tell his health was failing but not his spirit. He always had the right words to say. “You can take the bitterest fruit and make a refreshing drink,” he told me once. “Look for the good in all people. It’s there. And the man who finds it has found a treasure.”

I decided to take State Highways back home. They offer more, especially when you’re in no hurry and you want to reminisce.

I stayed in an out-of-the-way motel Saturday night. Sunday morning I crossed into Alabama. There’s nothing lonelier than an Alabama highway on Sunday morning.

I found a small restaurant open. The Sunday crowd had not yet arrived. The eggs, sausage, and potatoes were tasty and greasy.

Near 11:00 AM I spotted a church the size of a small school. On the sign at the driveway, it read, “Pastor Jumpin’ Jeremiah Johnson.”

Could it be?” I mumbled.

I turned the car into the driveway and a well-dressed man waved me to an open parking space.

I started first grade with Jerry Johnson. When he was 10, he told everybody to start calling him by his given name, Jeremiah. It seems he was saved and the Lord spoke to him when it happened. He told him he was destined to be a preacher and his name would be Jeremiah.

Of course, we all wanted to believe, because that’s what fifth graders do.

Changes occurred in Jeremiah. He stopped sneaking smokes, peeking in the girls' locker room, and saying bad words. He was quick to condemn the rest of us. He soon became an outcast.

Jeremiah’s only acceptance was basketball. He was good. The best we had. He was only good by virtue of his god-given ability to jump, thus Jumpin’ Jeremiah Johnson.

This had to be his church. What a coincidence.

Like my Uncle Walt used to say, “That boy couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn with a hand full of stones, But he could touch the top of the barn door without using a ladder.”

I was one of the last ones into the pews. Two older men tried to usher me to the front. No way, I dressed in jeans, a sport shirt, and sneakers.

After a long prayer by the associate pastor, a nasal dweeb in his mid-twenties. The choir sang a rousing rendition of The Old Rugged Cross and One Day At A Time, Sweet Jesus. The dweeb instructed the congregation to turn to song 104 in the hymnal, Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.

After the song Jumpin’ Jeremiah Johnson stood before the congregation with nothing but a Bible and his bombastic self-righteousness between him and the gathered sinners.

It was him alright. Still looked in good shape. He had a lot more hair than I remember. It was black with streaks of gray and combed backward in waves. As he preached the hair flopped in his face and he would brush it back. Everyone leaned in on every word. Hallelujahs were like applause lines.

He preached folks in and out of hell with a twist of a phrase. He was clever, much more clever than I remembered.

During the sermon, I could not help but return to those glory years when we were the representatives of our school battling in athletic competition for the honor of our community.

Jeremiah was a member of the team but not a part of the team. To him, if Jesus was not a part of the conversation, it was not a worthwhile endeavor. It was a struggle to be around him.

He considered that Catholic schools we played a part of the Antichrist. A nearby school was known for the number of bars in such a small town. He called them all heathens. Unfortunately, that was all they needed to beat us by 20.

Although his condemnatory ranting and arcane theology did not satisfy my need, it was nostalgic for me in a sentimental way. Good memories rose like balloons at a party.

At the end of his sermon, he said, “I’m Jumpin’ Jeremiah Johnson and I’m gonna ring the Lord’s bell.

He stepped to a small bell hanging on the back wall. Underneath hung a rendering of Jesus on a cross.

Eleven feet!” he said and jumped.

He was short by less than an inch.

That’s only happened one other time,” he said. “It’s when I had a twisted ankle.”

He jumped again and missed by more than an inch.

Third time’s a charm,” he smiled uncomfortably.

He missed again. He swallowed hard. His face turned red.

In spite of any bitterness I had toward him, he was a teammate. I could not help but feel the burden of his humiliation.

I removed my sneakers and walked up the aisle toward Jeremiah. I held out the sneakers. “Nobody can jump in those shoes. Here, try these on.”

Jeremiah smiled. He grabbed the shoes and put them on. He jumped and rang the bell.

Everyone praised Jesus. There was a song and a prayer.

The church cleared empty leaving Jeremiah and me. We stood in front of the altar.

Thanks,” Jeremiah said.

Nothing I wouldn’t do for an old teammate.”

The Lord sent you to me today,” Jeremiah said.

Jeremiah destroyed the moment with his self-indulgent piety.

I twisted my head and gave him a disappointed half grin. “You’re the one who couldn’t ring the Lord’s bell.”

I walked away.

Like Uncle Walt used to say, “Look for the good in all people. It’s there. And the man who finds it has found a treasure.”

Just not today.

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Ivan The Not So Terrible


Ivan’s hair and jacket flapped in the breeze as he hurried away from the bank. He held tightly a backpack full of wrapped bills. His heart pounded and he dared not look back.

He caught the cross-town bus and settled into a seat near the rear door. Half of a dozen passengers stared into oblivion. He got off at the corner of Highland and Bristol.

He walked to the Highland Terrace Apartments. He pressed the buzzer and the electronic door clicked. He walked in and knocked on the door of apartment 107.

The door unlatched. Ivan opened and walked in. He walked by a tall hefty man with a baby face oozing with evil. A narrow hallway led to a living room.

A man they called The Baboon sat on a couch with a TV remote flipping through the channels.

My name is Ivan. I’m Omar’s brother.”

Omar, the bread man,” Baboon said. “Always brought us the bread. We got his name from a faded sign painted on the side of an old grocery store. Seems like there used to be an Omar Bread. They call you Ivan The Terrible?”

Ivan grinned. “Omar was the black sheep. I’m the Ivan Not So Terrible.”

Ivan tossed the backpack on the coffee table in front of The Baboon.

Is it all there?” The Baboon said still flipping through the channels.

There’s a lot there,” Ivan said. “I didn’t count it. I was kinda rushed for time.”

The Baboon lifted the backpack by the straps. “That feels like enough. Do you want to stick around while we count it?”

You’re kidding,” Ivan said. “Can’t any of your boys count that high?”

Careful,” The Baboon said, “some of my guys are sensitive about their lack of education and opportunity, so I’d be careful.”

This pays off my brother’s debt, right?” Ivan said.

In full,” The Baboon said. “Pleasure doing business with you and your brother.”

My brother won’t be working for you anymore,” Ivan said.

The Baboon continued and found a cartoon channel and stopped. “The old ones were funny. The ones now are crap. You know, that superhero crap, demons, explosions. The stuff is unreal.”

And talking cats, dogs, and mice?” Ivan said.

The Baboon chuckled at something on the screen. “You’re right about your brother; he tried to settle his debt on his own. Didn’t go so well. So his debt became your debt. And now your debt is paid.”

Good day, sir,” Ivan said and walked down the hallway. The big man opened the door and let him out.

Ivan reached the sidewalk and walked toward the bus stop.

He pulled his cell phone from his pocket and dialed The Baboon.

Yeah,” The Baboon said.

This is Ivan. Where’s my brother?”

The bottom of a stone quarry east of town. He lost his footing.”

What’s the difference between a Baboon and a bomb?” Ivan paused. “Don’t know, do ya? One is a baboon and the other is ba-boom! Yeah, not clever or funny. The backpack is about 12 ounces heavy. That’s the ba-boom. Now that’s funny.”

Ivan pushed the button on a remote detonator in his jacket pocket. He heard an explosion. A window in apartment 107 shattered and propelled violently outward.

Not so terrible,” Ivan said.

Monday, April 10, 2023


 I’m new here (A to Z Writing Challenge) and have been looking for a daily writing challenge since the old days with the WordPress sponsored Daily Writing Prompt. It’s hard to say what happened to it, it was very popular.

So, here I am, Byron Lehman. I wrote under the pseudonym Kenton Lewis in my WordPress days.

H! Here we go.


It was time for the bean harvest. Rain kept us out of the fields. The price of wheat went up a bit so Pa and I shoveled two wagons full of wheat and slung a canvass tarp over each and headed for the elevator.

I didn’t particularly want to go with Pa but he insisted. The novelty of going to the elevator wore thin by the time I reached my teens and now I was two months shy of sixteen.

The elevator was in a small village three miles from us. I sat in the cab with Pa. He drove. It was a good mile before he spoke.

Don’t like this, do ya?” Pa said.

Not really,” I said.

What would you rather do?” Pa said.

I wanted to go over to Steve’s and play some pool,” I said.

Steve has a younger sister, right?” Pa said.

Yeah,” I said, “Debbie.”

How old is she now?” Pa said.

She’s about to turn fourteen,” I said.

You are in the best years of your life,” Pa said. “It may not seem like it to you. It didn’t to me but I had a lot of fun when I was your age.”

That’s good,” I said.

You know what makes them good?” Pa said.

Hard work?” I said.

Pa grinned and slapped me on the knee. “Yes, but it’s good times with your friends.”

So why didn’t you let me go to Steve’s?” I said.

I wanted you with me,” Pa said. “It’s a lonely drive.”

You really wanted to talk to me about Debbie, right?” I said.

Man to man,” Pa said.

I looked away, hoping the tractor would somehow speed up.

I’m not going to say anything embarrassing, son,” Pa said.

But you are anyway, right?” I said.

Trust me as you have never trusted me before,” Pa said. “Real men know their limits. They set them. And they keep them.”

We must have driven another mile.

That’s it?” I said.

That’s all a man needs,” Pa said.

Are you saying I’m a man?” I said.

Pa grinned and nodded.

That harvest sticks in my mind as if it happened yesterday. That was the best harvest ever. It was Pa’s last.

Saturday, April 8, 2023

The Weather Channel; Maybe It’s Just Me…

And it usually is but it seems to me that the weather forecasting business is going way too far to justify their existence and keep you tuned in. They take themselves way too serious.

We, as an informational society, were at one time satisfied with; Will it rain or not, and will it snow or not? Really, what else do we need to know? If it rains, will run to the shelter house or garage.

It seems to me they’ve invented terms never used before and pretend they’ve always used them. It started with El Nino. Shoot, when I was a kid no body ever heard of an El Nino. At first, I thought it was the sidekick of Zorro.

When I was a kid it was a Harvest Moon and that was it. Now there’s a Blood Moon, Blue Moon, Wolf Moon, Hunger Moon, and on and on. Yeah, I know some of these may have been named a millennium or more ago but we got along just fine without them. The Weather Channel pulled them from the drawer, dusted them off, and started using them for no other reason than to make the weather sound more ominous, vital, and interesting than it really is.

And when did the “bomb cyclone” come into existence? It’s a storm. There is no cyclone or bomb involved. The Weather Channel began to push the term in the 80s. Who wants the hear about a storm when a Bomb Cyclone attracts more viewers?

So I looked on my weather app today, and what did I see? A warning of a Hydrologic Outlook. This term is scary. It’s meant to scare. It is so new my spell check doesn’t recognize it.

So what is a Hydrologic Outlook? It’s what we used to call a flood watch, or conditions exist that may cause flooding.

I know what to do when it floods; run for high ground. But a Hydrologic Outlook? There’s no escaping. I can’t run from that. I need The Weather Channel.

Friday, April 7, 2023

Spring Cleaning; Maybe It’s Just Me…

And it usually is but spring cleaning is not all it’s cracked up to be. Folks speak about it as a happy time; really? It’s like saying to your kid, “Guess what’s for supper? Your favorite, spinach!

Anyway, I did some spring cleaning today. I washed the windows. A rag, a roll of paper towels, and Windex. I love Windex. I use it for about any cleaning job. I’ve even toyed with the idea of brushing my teeth with it. A little dab on the toilet paper freshens things right up.

After my window cleaning job was done, I noticed things in the outside world could use a little cleaning up too. Everything looks dull and drab. Makes me wonder why I even cleaned the windows. I could have waited for a good rain and ran a squeegee over them. Isn’t that how you wash your car?

I noticed the first item on my spring cleaning list was; clean glasses. Wow, I thought I was going blind. Hadn’t been clean since fall cleaning.

With my glasses cleaned, the world doesn’t look so bad. I guess there’s sort of a life lesson in all of this; cleaning your own glasses before looking at the world around you.

Thursday, April 6, 2023

It's Not You

 The sadness I feel today

has nothing to do with you going away

it’s just that I’m sad most of the time

the problem’s not yours, only mine

Wednesday, April 5, 2023

Bad Breath

 An insult to declare my breath as bad?

Sardines, garlic, onions I just had

Brushed my teeth, but it’s been yore

How can ya tell, passed out on the floor.

Perhaps I’m fitted for a task

Of peeling paint and staining glass

Invite me over when bad company looms

I’ll open my mouth and clear the room

Tuesday, April 4, 2023


 I don’t like long poems

they bore me

I don’t like a lot of things long

long books

long movies

long flights

long explanations

there’s more but

the list is too long

Monday, April 3, 2023


The sun stares

at me

looking for my blight

It promised not

to judge me

only give me light

The wind says

to me

I miss you

always helped

along the way

and it dried the dew

The trees whispered

I hear

words not spoken

they keep secret

vows made

have yet to be broken

The sky above

calms me

will always be my friend

It never moves

nor quakes

and never ever ends