Sunday, August 27, 2023


A small bar sat near the beach on John Smith Island. The bar is named in honor of John Smith. It’s called Smithery’s and dubbed “Where you go to get hammered.”  This is where John Smith likes to be. 

He gazed at the ocean and no one knew for sure how many oceans John had seen or what adventure was just over the horizon. 

No one knew where his imagination took him, but if it took him anywhere his reality had already been there. There was nothing he could not relate to or speak about for he was a man who experienced only what many men dare imagine. 

A tourist sat next to John at the bar.

“What do you see, the ocean or the waves?” the tourist asked.

“Why do you ask?” John said sipping a margarita. 

“I want to see what you see,” the tourists said.

“You are at least five margaritas behind me,” John said. “When you catch up with me you will see wonderful things. Not true, but wonderful.”

John turned to the bartender. “A pitcher of margaritas for my friend and me.”

After two hours John left the man at the bar in a stupor. 

“A man who can’t hold his liquor has no place in my ocean,” John said as he paid the bartender and walked to the shore.

Friday, August 18, 2023

Three Ways To Win A Fight

Doug and Woody were burr-headed recruits far from home just walking into a noisy smoke-filled beer hall that was saturated with the stench of cheap booze.
They bought a mug of beer each at the bar and looked for a table. They spotted one and hurried to it before somebody else claimed it.  They sat and had a couple of sips of beer. They scanned the room.
“I think we’re the only guys in basic training in this place,” Woody said. “We don’t have a stripe or a medal.”
A Marine corporal in a form-fitted khaki shirt and pressed pants walked up to the table Woody and Doug sat. He had enough ribbons to name a building after him. He held a mug of beer with a hand the size of the mug. He had the face of a clean-shaven bulldog.
“You two are going to have t leave,” the marine said. “I got some buddies comin’ and I said I’d have a table for them.”
“We could all sit together,” Doug said. 
The Marine smirked, “You got to be kidding me. We ain’t sittin’ with Army recruits. That’s funny.”
“But we were here first,” Doug said. “We’re willing to share the table with you.”
“And we all become buddies,” The Marine said sarcastically. 
“What’s fair is fair,” Doug said.
“My god, boy, did you just come off the playground, ‘What’s fair is fair?’” The Marine said. “How ‘bout might makes right? Get up and find some corner to drink your beer in.”
Woody started to stand.
 “No, Woody,” Doug said, “we ain’t movin’.”
Woody was caught between a stand and a sit. His last swallow of beer was about to meet the one he held in his mouth.
“Sit,” Doug said.
“Have your way, ya grubs,” the Marine said. “I’m sitting my mug down. I’m going to take a leak. When I return the only thing at this table better be this beer. If not, I’m going to show ya what it’s like to have a real ass kickin’.”
The Marine sat the mug down and walked away.
"There are three ways I can win this fight," Doug said just above a whisper to Woody. 
The sat motionless and sipped the beer. 
“Let’s just spit in his beer and leave,” Woody said.
“He won’t start anything,” Doug said, “besides I got three ways to win this fight.”
"I don't think so." Woody said. “Did you see him making his way through the crowd as if a bulldozer? Everybody in this place is afraid of him. I don't think we could take him together." 
They sipped some more and waited.
Woody’s eyes searched for the nearest exit and nodded toward one. "Let's sneak out." Woody whispered.
"He's got his eyes on every exit," Doug said looking at the Marine standing at the doorway of the latrine. "If we make a move for one of them he'll nail me."
"Go over and say something to the MP," Woody suggested.
"What am I going to say,” Doug said and feigned wiping tears from his cheek. “’That big bad Marine is going to whip my butt?' To which he’ll reply, 'Ya mind if I watch sweetie pie?' No thanks. Let’s just go."
“Nah,” Doug said. “He’s bluffing.”
"Why didn't you just let him have it?" Woody said
"Didn't think he would take it so personal," Doug said.
Woody whispered, "What are the three ways?"
“What three ways?” Doug said.
“You said there were three ways to win this fight,” Woody said.
There was no time to answer. The Marine sat across the table from Doug. "Well let's finish our beers and take it outside. My buddies will be here before long and I want a table for them," he said coldly.
"Look man can't we just forget this," Woody said smiling anxiously trying to be reasonable. "Are you sure we just can't all sit together?" 
The Marine motioned with his head toward Woody, smiled, and said to Doug, "Do ya powder his behind before ya lay him down for beddy-bye?" He said it as if reciting a line of poetry. He tilted the mug to his lips and drank without taking his eyes off Doug.
He looked over at Woody and ordered, "Hold the table for me and my buddies while me and this recruit step outside."
While Woody affirmed the command, the final gulp of beer from Doug’s mug passed his throat. He squeezed the handle of the mug as if trying to choke the life out of a snake. With a swing, he drove the bottom of the mug squarely against the jutted jaw of the Marine. There was a loud crack like a bat hitting a baseball. The Marine fell to the floor and his chair squirted across the room. Everyone expectantly rose to their feet.
"He passed out," Doug said helplessly to the beer hall crowd.
Doug looked at Woody whose eyes bulged. "That's the first way."
“Now what?” Woody said.
They left the beer hall faster than they arrived.
A few steps from the beer hall, Woody asked, “What were the other two ways?”
“I don’t know,” Doug said.

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Sad-Eyed Lady of the Low Lands

 "We were robbed," Carl said slamming his fist on the kitchen table. The salt and pepper shakers and utensils rattled.

Jen jerked and squinted at him. She finished drying dishes. Slowly she walked to the table and sat across from Carl. "What do you mean?" She said calmly sensing some inner frustration.

"Look at us! We're over sixty and live in 1950 something trailer in the middle of nowhere. We have no friends, no kids, nothing."

"How were we robbed?" she said.

"We both could have gotten degrees when we were in school, taught someplace and be retired, but we listened to idiot radicals like Dylan, Baez, Lennon. We thought we would all become one. We thought we could all live as equals. We bought their music, went to their concerts, and swallowed their ideology. They were nothing more than rainmakers, frauds! They all ended up with millions and we ended up with nothing."

"That was long ago," she said. "We had plenty of time to do things differently."

"But we really believed," he said emphatically. "You made and sold bead necklaces and I sold vegetables at a roadside stand. Was that supposed to show 'the establishment?' We found a better way?"

"We thought we were doing the right thing," she said.

"We should have known when we went to San Francisco to hear Dylan," Carl said. "I saw him on the street a couple of days after the concert and I asked him what was the meaning of Sad-eyed Lady of the Lowlands? He looked at me like trash and said 'Whatever you want it to be,' and then said, 'Get away from me.' I idolized him so much that it didn't occur to me that I was a nuisance."

"We talked about this before," she said. "He probably thought you wanted an autograph."

"I had no pen or paper," Carl said. "He was afraid I wanted a hand-out."

"You might have scared him," Jen said. "Look what happened to Lennon."

"Yeah if Lennon would have lived how many more lives would he have ruined and how many more millions would he have made?"

"Take it easy," Jen said.

"We know the truth, Jen," he said. "We know the truth. That was the day I knew we was robbed. They took our money and my dignity."

"But we have each other," she said stretching her arm across the table and holding Carl's hand.

Carl looked into her green eyes not noticing the weather-worn wrinkles surrounding them. "You are my sad-eyed lady."

"We were young, full of hope, and idealism," she said. "Weeks became years and years decades and here we are." She sighed and admitted, "Sure, we were robbed."

Carl patted Jen's hand and smiled. He got up and walked to the door and turned. "But I still have you." She watched him walk outside and work in the garden. Jen sat at the table, smiled, and began stringing beads.

Friday, August 4, 2023

A Sunset For Claire


It was unusual that Chet Winters drove his tractor into a rut because he had plowed the field for more than half of his fifty-five years. He knew the location of every rut, rock, and fence post in the field. He tried restarting, but the engine stalled.

Flooded! Dag gone it!” He thumped the stirring wheel.

He leaned against the back of the seat and propped his foot against the fender, waiting until it could be started. The sun in his face exposed every wrinkle like a sun-baked apple. Years of hard work and anxiety were etched on his forehead. His thick callused hands with fingers like little sausage links combed through his long gray strands of hair.

Peering over the tops of the spring foliage, he squinted at the most incredible sunset he had ever seen. He seldom watched the sunsets. There was always simply too much to do. The sun hung like a glowing ember behind blazing wisps of light pink and lavender. The clouds stretched above the horizon like silk scarfs freely fluttering in the wind.

How magnificent!” he whispered. Chet jumped from the tractor and walked toward the house like a field hand late for supper. He stopped to examine the field and the work he might miss. He waved it away with his hand and continued walking. A pickup truck stopped on the road next to the field. The man inside leaned toward the passenger’s door, rolled down the window, and said, “I got a chain in the back. I can pull you out.” “That’s ok. It’s flooded. I’m just walking up to the house.” “Hop in. I’ll give you a ride.” “Sure, thanks.” Chet climbed in the truck.

I don’t believe I know you,” Chet said. “You’re trying awful hard to look like a farmer, but you got city written all over ya.”

His clothing was new and stiff.

I’m Bill Thies,” he said, extending his hand. “My uncle Drew lives down the road from you. I’m on spring break from college. Uncle Drew broke his leg and I’m plowing for him.”

Chet shook his hand. “I know Drew. Known him all my life. How’s his leg coming along?”

He’ll be back on his feet in a month or so.”

Chet Winters is the name, and thanks for the lift.”

You’re a little old for college, aren’t ya?” “I teach there.”

Bill pulled the pickup onto the road. “I see, a professor. Well, I’m farm-o-cologist,” Chet grinned.

Bill laughed and said, “Chet, glad to know you. I hope you will not hold being a professor against me. I was raised on a farm.”

Nah, just never knew a college professor before,” Chet said. “Well, that’s nice of you to help your uncle out. You ought to know if ya want to fit in, ya better dirty those jeans up a bit and get some cow shit under those fingernails. The lady cashier at the elevator don’t have nails that clean.” He scratched his cheek. “What do you profess?”

I teach a course in poetry,” Bill said. “Writing it, understanding it, and studying it.”

Claire, my wife, reads and writes poetry,” Chet said. “I got opinions about poets; they’re all perverts and misdirected liberals. Most are communists. A—Claire’s not one of them though.”

Bill chuckled and said, “Perhaps some of them are. Sure I can’t help you pull the tractor out?”

Nah, I can get it myself. Just give me a ride to the house.”

Where bouts?”

Just a half mile down the road. I want to get home before the sun sets and show it to Claire.”

It is very beautiful,” Bill said.

College professor, humph! You can do better than that,”

Chet said. “That certainly is resplendent!” Bill smiled.

Claire’s got a calendar picture from a few years back of a Pacific sunset. She hung it in the kitchen. She says it is the most beautiful sunset she has ever seen. We were supposed to go to California a few years ago, but I had a heart attack. Took nearly all we had saved to get me back on our feet. She said the Ohio sunsets are just fine with her, but she’s never taken down that calendar either.”

Chet gazed at the sunset as they rolled down the road.

Bill, ya married?”


Been married for forty-four years this June.”

You don’t see many lasting that long,” Bill said.

It’s easy with a woman like Claire. That sunset reminds me of Claire’s smile. It makes me feel warm. Her smile unfolds like a blooming flower and satisfies like a soft summer breeze that rolls and rustles across a wheat field.”

You’re a poet, Mr. Winters.”

Chet squirmed and ran his hand down his face and said, “I ain’t no poet.”

There’s nothing wrong with seeing beauty in the things around you and expressing it in words.”

You’re right, there. Claire’s as wonderful as they come. She’s the only woman I’ve ever known. Ain’t kissed nobody but her either.”

The truck pulled into a stone driveway beside the house. It was a white two-story house, typical of midwestern farms. A rusted windmill next to the house twirled madly, sounding like the rumble of a crop duster.

Come on in, Bill. I’ll introduce you to Claire. She’d like to meet you. Did I tell you she reads and writes poetry?”


Oh, that’s right. Maybe she could show you some. If it don’t embarrass her.”

I’d be happy to meet your wife and read her poetry.”

Chet walked through the back porch door, with Bill behind him. Chet turned and whispered, “Better wipe our feet.”

Then he called, “Claire, got company. Drew Thies’s nephew. He’s a poetry professor.”

Chet spotted a stack of newspapers and said, “Should have been burned this morning. I better take care of them before Claire gets on me.” He sniffed, smelling the garbage overflowing the basket next to the door. “Better take care of that too.” He sat it outside the back porch door and fanned the door open and shut a few times. “Gotta get that smell out of here.”

Claire!” Chet called, “Claire! Come on out here and take a look at this sunset! It’s as pretty as that Pacific sunset! You just got to see it.” He turned to Bill. “Any minute now she’ll say, ‘Chet, hold your horses. I can’t drop everything every time you call.’”

Claire! Claire! Claire?”

He searched the house.

The professor went only as far as the dining room.

The sun cast a dull light through rain-specked windows. Although the room was cluttered, it seemed empty, void of care or breath. Bill noticed discarded unopened mail in disarray on a mahogany table covered by a white lace tablecloth. An artificial red rose centerpiece laden with dust and entombed by cobwebs. The constant tick of an oak tabletop clock on the buffet slowly relinquished its seconds. Powder blue candles in silver holders stood like sentinels at each end of the buffet. A silver knife wrapped in a white ribbon lay in front of a picture of a woman and Chet. The woman was stunning. Bill stared at the woman. The vibrant eyes, wide smile, and graceful flowing hair with silver strands made her irresistible. In the picture, they were holding the silver knife and cutting their twenty-fifth-anniversary cake. The picture had a thin layer of dust as well.

Chet entered the room with his head down. He picked up the picture, cradled it in his hand, and wiped the dust from Claire’s image with the sleeve of his shirt. He stood idle and tranquil. “What did I tell you, that’s some smile-right?”

Yes, it is indeed an exquisite smile,” Bill said.

I’m sorry, Bill, you must think I’m crazy,” Chet said, “but she’s been dead for just over a year. Sometimes it gets like this—you just get so used to her being around. I don’t feel crazy—just lonely.”

The buffet clock loudly ticked away the seconds, but it did not drown the quiet whimper of a broken, lonely man.

Of all the poetry I have come to memorize and instruct—the very moment for which such lines were written, none come to mind and nothing seems more appropriate than. I’m so very sorry, Mr. Winters. You must miss her terribly.”

Chet cleared his throat. “Can you do me a favor?”


Claire’s grave is a mile from here. I want to be with her right now. Can you drive me to it for just a minute and then maybe you can give me a hand getting my tractor out?”

Let’s go, I’ll take you there.”

At the graveyard, Bill leaned against the front of his truck.

Chet stood next to Claire’s gravestone. His right hand stroked the top of the stone. There was a nip in the westerly breeze, but the stone still held the warmth of the setting sun.

Claire,” Chet said, “You ought to see that sunset. It ain’t the Pacific, but the Pacific ain’t Ohio either.”

Chet walked back to the truck.

Thanks, Bill,” Chet said. “Can you take me home now? Let’s forget that tractor.”

Sure and how ‘bout I read some of Claire’s poetry to you,” Bill said.

She wrote one called Sunset. I think I would like you to read that one.”