Once upon a time, there was a creative genie.
Sometimes, when he was in a good mood, the genie
Bestowed great riches, lighting the way through the dark.
And words never before spoken began to flow
From the enlightened, woven into fanciful tapestries,
Startling and delightful to even themselves.

As we could have predicted, those lucky enough to be
Favored by the genie became addicted, 
Believing him to be their muse.  Inevitably, however, 
There came the day – as it did, oh, maybe once a decade or so 
(Or maybe not) - when the faithful fell out of favor and the genie
Became bored.  Lured by an obsession with muse-ical entertainments 
Unattainable, poof, the genie was gone, taking hearts with him 
(For sustenance?), disappearing like a thief in the night.

The genie’s faithful fell to their knees, and 
Tore their hair, and beat their empty chests, and
Wailed, and there was great sadness and turmoil in the land.
So dependent had they become on the genie’s largess and 
Guidance, without him, creative words froze in their mouths and, 
Though they tried to speak anyway, they failed and fell mute.   
Hands outstretched, groping, feeling their way, they bumbled 
About in the dark, but could find nothing of value to say.

Ah, but when the genie disappeared, in his place appeared 
Another gift,one perhaps more precious than all the rest.   
Lacking the guidance they’d come to expect from the genie, 
The abandoned were forced to look for it within themselves.
And, lo. Much to their surprise, they rediscovered their hearts, and
The strength within, and many words they never knew they had.   
And there was peace again in the land.

Say, did I mention that as well as creative, the genie was
Unusually smart? Oh, yes, indeed, that he was.
Though he hadn’t completely accepted the unattainability of
His own fantasy muse, he may have recognized a degree of difficulty
Or maybe he just realized the value of what he had tossed aside.
In any case, he returned.to the land.

I wish I could say "And they lived happily ever after."
But the end of the story remains unwritten.
And so shall it stay. At least by this story-teller.
This is all I have to say about the genie. It remains to him
To write the rest of the story.  

Genie, over to you.  

And out.


This was written for One Shot Wednesday.


Where the hell are we?

They are slightly lost.  Pleasantly lost.  Intriguingly lost.  When they decided to spend their honeymoon wandering the “blue routes,” that was the whole idea.  No itinerary, no schedule, no chain hotels or plastic fast food restaurants, and especially no long, colorless ribbons of interstate.  On the morning after the wedding, they’d tossed a suitcase in the trunk of the Camry and headed out of Cambridge. The only plan was to wander west for two weeks, turn around and wander back, searching for a glimpse of yesterday.

They’ve been meandering for a week now and they are somewhere in Indiana, six miles east of Wilkerson, according to the small weathered sign across the street.  

The past hour has been a little dicey.  They went through the worst storm Jill’s ever seen.  The sky turned black as night and the rain came down in torrents, so hard they had to pull over. They sat in the rocking car and waited until it let up.  When the sky brightened and they hit the road again, they were both ready for a stop.   

“Whaddya say we get an early lunch?” Mike asks.

Jill gives a little laugh as she answers, “Sounds good to me.  I’d welcome a side of terra firma with my sandwich.”

A few miles up the road, Mike turns into Red’s Gas ‘n’ Eat and they both gratefully climb out of the car.  How strange, Jill thinks as she glances around.  It doesn't look like it rained here at all.

The place looks like it belongs in one of those tattered old vacation photo albums her parents have. When she was a child, she spent many hours exploring the world between the cracked brown covers of those albums.  She’s always wished she could have traveled with her parents in that old Nash Rambler, wandering the country like vagabonds.

At this moment, she feels like she has fallen down the rabbit hole and joined Mom and Dad on one of their adventures.  Thanks to many faded photographs held in place by little black triangular corners glued to the album page, this gas station-cum-diner is as familiar to her as if she had been here herself back in the day.  There is none of the shiny enamel gleaming over a dozen or so gas pumps that she’s accustomed to finding at the corner Mobil station back home.  For that matter, there are very few pumps.  Beneath a weather-beaten portico out front bearing the faded sign that says “Red's” are two gas pumps with big round heads watching over the few motorists who might still bring their business here.   

Inside, just to the right of the squeaky screen door, a Walter Brennan lookalike stands behind the scarred wooden counter, ready to punch up a sale on a huge old cash register. A whirly metal stand on the counter offers bags of chips and fried pork rinds to take on the road.

To the left beyond a swinging cafĂ© door is a small restaurant, where Jill sits in one of the six booths along the side wall.  She glances across the room.  A round, brilliantly red-haired woman in an unfortunate lavender and white uniform stands behind the counter making the pimento cheese sandwich Jill ordered for lunch.  Mike’s tuna fish on toasted wheat waits nearby.  The name tag pinned just above the white lace handkerchief peeking from a little scalloped pocket on her ample bosom reads "Blanche."  

“But you can call me Red,” Blanche had told Jill as licked the tip of her stubby pencil and prepared to write the lunch order onto a little pad.  “Everybody does.  This here's my place.”

Instead of coming into the diner with her, Mike had headed for the Men’s Room behind the station, saying “Get me a tuna on wheat toast, OK?  I’ll be right in.”  While she waits for Mike to return, Jill spreads the road map open on the table.

Where is he, she wonders.  Shrugging, she turns her attention to the map.  

While they’d been sitting in the car waiting out the storm, she’d looked at the map, trying to get an idea of just where they were, with no luck. Running her finger over the map now, she mutters “Hmmm, Wilkerson, Wilkerson…”

She looks up as Mike slides onto the red leather seat across from her.  "About time.  Lunch will be here in a minute."

“Um, is it just me or is there something a little, I don't know, odd about this place?” Mike asks.

“Yes, I know. Isn’t it great?” To Jill, this is a dream come true. “I wish I could figure out where we are, though."

"I know where we are," Mike smirks. "We're in 1957.  Just look at that car out there."  He nods toward the window.  A salmon-colored Chevy Bel Air has pulled up to one of the pumps.

'Very funny. Here, take a look at the map and see if you can find Wilkerson.”  Jill spins the map around so Mike can look at it.

After a moment of studying the map, Mike says, “Nope. I think the scale might be too big.  Hang on a minute. I’ll go ask ‘Walter’ when he comes back from pumping the gas.  Maybe he has a local map.” Mike grins as he gets up.

"Grab this morning's paper too if they have one," Jill calls as Mike pushes through the doors.

Blanche appears, carrying their sandwiches which are held together by toothpicks sporting little colored tufts, and two frosty bottles of Cokes.  Jill is delighted to see that the bottles are the old-timey hour-glass shape.  As Blanche unloads her tray, setting the sandwiches and Cokes down on the Formica tabletop, Jill asks, “Blanche… uh, sorry, Red, can you give me an idea of just where Wilkerson is?”

“Sure, Darlin’. We’re just a spit and a holler from the Michigan state line. Where’s that map you got?  I’ll show you.”

“Oh, Mike took it out to ask the man at the register.”

“That’s my Fred. Your hubby’s in good hands then. Freddie’ll show ‘im, sure as Bob’s your uncle.”  Blanche gives Jill a wink, and walks back to her spot behind the counter.

As Jill takes a bite of her pimento cheese sandwich – oh, my gawd, this is so good; there are olives in it, she thinks – Mike comes through the swinging doors looking as white as a sheet. In his hand, he holds a map and a newspaper.

“What’s wrong, Honey? You look like you’ve seen a ghost. What’s the map say?”

“Forget the freaking map, Jill.  Look at the newspaper."

He drops the newspaper down in front of her, and Jill stares at the front page.


Is there anything?

Is there anything lonelier 
Than the emptiness after someone has gone
No farewell,  no "see you soon"
One minute there, the next minute not, and you're alone

Is there anything sadder than knowing
How little your friendship meant
Easy to leave, easier to forget
Ended without regret

Is there anything worse than wondering
Was it something that you did or said
Or if it never mattered at all
Was the connection all in your head

Is there anything
That makes you feel
More like a fool
For caring?


This was written for One Shot Wednesday.


Field Report: Homo Afflictus


He sees himself as a drifter. He claims no affiliation and lays down no roots, preferring to wander. Like a modern-day Ponce de Leon, he roams the land in search of the Fountain of Youth or the Fountain of Wisdom or the Fountain of Something Else.  Just what he is searching for remains a mystery, even to him. Just… something.  Anything. Nirvana.

Ah, but he is male, after all, and like so many of his gender, he is lost.  Like most males, he is loathe to accept help. It is unlikely that he will turn to another member of the tribe and ask for direction, support or even a sympathetic ear.  As we have noted, he is a male and as the female of the tribe has been heard to say, “It’s a guy thing.”

The problem starts where it usually does, pride and a misguided sense of direction.  He may have a map, but it is likely a map to the wrong destination, the valley where he thinks he will find happiness.  Even if the map were correct, it is doubtful he would ever look at it.  Like most males of the tribe, he follows his instincts.  Had he the right map, and could set aside his hubris long enough to consult it, he would discover that Nirvana is a lot farther north than he thinks.  It lies somewhere between Heart and Mind.

Is it any wonder that he so often finds himself in deep...  trouble?


This was written for the Tenth Daughter of Memory.


Step Away from the Peanut Butter!

 Once I thought you were adorable,
But that was all beforable.
You showed your really true, true self
And, oh! That self was horrible.

Your selfishness makes me shudder.
What awful words I’ve heard you utter...
But you know what did it? The final straw?
You ate up all my peanut butter!

So I’m away without a backwards glance.
I’m done with giving you another chance.
I’ll find a new guy who's adorable
To join with me in a hot romance.

But he'd best leave my peanut butter alone!


This was written for One Shot Wednesday.


Succinct Verbosity in 55 Words

I used to be able to express myself in few words,
Back before I began trying to “write.”
I got all caught up in voice, tense and tone,
And succinctness faded from sight.

What once I could say in 55 words
Now takes 500 or more, and
My path to “the point"
Is littered with…

If you can say it in 55 words, go tell G-Man.


Webster's Warning

At the beginning, I didn’t notice it. It was so faint that it just floated by outside my consciousness like wisps of a dandelion on a summer breeze.  But eventually, I couldn’t ignore it.  Oh, it wasn’t constant, not at first.  But there’s no question that it was there.  I’d catch a snippet, and look around to see who’d spoken.  Never found anyone, of course.

Then it began happening often enough that the murmuring  played like background music to my thoughts.  I couldn’t make out the words, but I knew that there were words, whispered just beyond my ability to make them out.

Tinnitus again, I thought, and made a note to see the ear specialist I'd seen the last time.

The doctor tested my hearing, and said everything looked normal to her, that what I was describing didn’t sound like tinnitus.


Two psychiatric residents stand outside the door, looking through the mesh in the small, reinforced window in the door.  Bruce McHenry, the Chief Resident, is briefing his replacement.  McHenry’s residency is almost finished, and he’s joining a private practice next week, passing the title of Chief Resident on to his friend from pre-med, Mike Franks.  The two haven’t seen each other in years, but there’s an easy camaraderie between them.

McHenry gestures at the thin man in the room beyond the glass. He is dressed in a white jumpsuit and is pacing in the little space left by the bed and chair that all but fill the room.  His lips move constantly.   McHenry comments, “He just paces like that all day, muttering, talking back to 'the voices.’  I’ll tell you, Mike, this is one of the oddest cases of schizophrenia I’ve ever seen.”

“How so?  Seems to me they’re all pretty much the same.  ‘The voices tell me what whacko thing to do, and I do it.’  Right?  He’s not one of those guys getting signals from the fillings in his teeth, is he?” asks Franks, laughing.  “Don’t see any aluminum hats, either.”

“No, no, nothing like that.  In fact, if you were talking to him in line up at the Starbucks, you’d think he was a normal as we are.  Though I’m not so sure about you, guy,”  McHenry adds, giving Franks a gentle elbow to the ribs.  “Yeah, he seems perfectly normal, at least until he gets on the subject of the voices, which doesn't take long.  The guy’s absolutely frantic on the subject.”


Look at them out there, poking each other in the ribs and laughing, as if they were looking in at some monkey at the zoo.  I know they all think I’m crazy, a total whack-job.  Can’t say as I blame them.  For a spell there, I was pretty sure I was crazy myself. 

The sounds in my head continued, getting louder as they became more frequent.  I mentioned it to my wife Sara, but no surprise, I got little sympathy from that quarter.  Things haven’t been great between us for years.  She has long said I was crazy, but you ask me, that’s just her own craziness talking. 

I tried to put it all out of my mind, and for a while I was able to filter it out, like I did with the tinnitus.

Then one night, I understood the words, which were coming in loud and clear.


I bolted from my chair. “Did you hear that?” I asked Sara, who sat across the room reading.

She rolled her eyes and heaved a deep sigh. “Hear what, Bob?  No, I didn’t hear anything.  As usual.”  Annoyed that I’d interrupted her reading with yet another of my hallucinations, she shot me that look I’ve come to know so well.

I dropped it, knowing better than to try to explain something I wasn’t really sure of myself.  Eventually, I did try to explain it, and look where it got me.

First chance she got, my loving wife had me committed to this funny farm.  Bitch.


“Doc Reynolds is pretty frustrated.” McHenry says.  “We had to stop letting this guy in Group, because he was dominating the conversation, going on and on about the voices, and some kind of impending doom.  And even the one-on-one with Reynolds is going nowhere.  We simply cannot convince him that he’s not ‘getting messages from the bridge’.” 

“Ha.  Sounds to me like he watched entirely too much Star Trek. 'Spock to Enterprise, Spock to Enterprise...' ”

“Who knows?  But it’s obvious that he’s slipped into some sort of fantasy world. He really thinks “the ship” is on some sort of collision course with something.  I feel bad for him.  He really seems to be trying to help avert whatever disaster he thinks is coming.”

“Yeah, but what?”

“Shit if I know.  Reynolds is considering shock therapy if he doesn’t come out of it soon.”

“Well, hey, watch your back, buddy.  There are Romulans afoot, you know.”

“Yah, very funny.  See you later.”


The words repeated over and over at regular intervals.  I decided to write them down, and when I did, I noticed that one element in the string was changing slightly.  But I still had no idea what it meant.  It took me a long time to work it out.  Maybe if I'd figured it out sooner...  But, no, it wouldn't have made any difference.

The only part of the whole thing I got was the “webster.” I had no idea who that was, but thought I must be reading his mind somehow. 

After a while, I started talking back to him, though even I knew that was crazy.  I felt a little bit like Tom Hanks talking to a basketball.  Talking back didn’t change anything, though.  The messages just kept coming, all the same except for that one element.  Guess Mr. Webster couldn’t read my mind.

Then the messages did change a little.  Well, not the message itself, but the tone.  First it got faster and sort of frenzied.  And then after a while, fainter and weaker somehow.

One day, I had an “ah-ha” moment.  Maybe this was code.  I remembered reading a novel where the Nazis used a book as the basis of a cipher.  Webster.  Daniel Webster.  The dictionary.   I grabbed the notebook I’d been writing the messages in, and went up to the library, feeling loonier than ever.  Still, it made sense to me.  Almost.

I found the shelf with the dictionaries, and grabbed a Webster’s.   I sat down to decipher, using the latest entry in my notebook.

juvenile-juvenile-juvenile. 1985. reconnaissance satellite-Holy Roller-red legged grasshopper-duck.  pareo-apostrophe-concussion-mandala-buffet.  megahertz-dabble.  education-downy woodpecker-crown land-pedometer. prickly poppy-gigolo. squeeze bottle. juvenile-juvenile-juvenile.

O-kaaay, then. I was pretty sure that wasn’t it.  Disappointed, I took the dictionary back to its place in the stacks.  That’s when I noticed that there was more than one dictionary shelved there.  I remembered the ‘1985.’  I found one with that publication date and carried it back to my seat, hope renewed.

Mayday. Mayday. Mayday. This is Spaceship Earth.  Reciprocal air contaminated on bridge.  Oxygen depleted.  Estimate eleven days remaining.  Send help. Urgent.  Mayday. Mayday.  Mayday.


McHenry unlocks the door to the small room, and gently takes the man’s arm, halting his pacing.

“Time to go, Bob.  Dr. Reynolds is waiting," he says, leading Bob out the door and down the hall toward the treatment wing.  "He’s going to administer the electroshock therapy he told you about.  When you wake up, the voices will be gone, and I’m guessing you’ll be spending the holidays at home.”

McHenry is surprised at how docile Bob seems.  He expected more of a struggle.


Huh.  I doubt that.  They may be able to turn off the transmissions in my head, but they’ll never be able to erase that final message from my memory.

I tried to tell them, to warn them.  We’re all going to die.  And soon, if my interpretation is right. 

Global warming, they call it.  But I know better.

I’ve given up.  No one will listen, and the more I try to convince them, the more evidence I’m giving them that I am mad as a hatter, completely off my trolley, and way around the bend.

So be it. Shock away, doctors.  It won’t make a bit of difference.  Not to me. Not to you. Not to anyone. And not to Sara, who has it coming, if you want my opinion.


“It looks like he’s out.” Reynolds says.  “McHenry, go ahead and throw the switch.”


“Mayday, mayday, mayday.  This is an automated message from Spaceship Earth.  Atmospheric pressure on the bridge has been lost.  All personnel are dead.  The ship is on a direct collision course with the sun. Estimated time to impact, 1641.3 days.  Mayday, mayday, may….”   Bzzzttt-bzzzttt-bzzzttt…


This was written for the Tenth Daughter of Memory.  Want to flex your writing muscles? Come join us.




One love
One life
One singular sensation
This one goes out to the one I love.

One love
One heart
One part, be my lover.
One part, go away.

One night with you.
One night in Bangkok
And the world’s your oyster
We got only one night.

One day at a time.
It’s been one week
Since you looked at me.
 All I ever wanted was a one life stand.

One time, one time.
Will you be the only one?
One smile and suddenly
Nobody else will do.

One/One/One One
One, not two or three
One is the loneliest number
You can ever be.

Thanks to U2 (thanks to my nagging editor), Chorus Line, R.E.M., Bob Marley, Bonnie Raitt, Elvis, Chess, Three Dog Night, Longo and Wainwright, Bare Naked Ladies, Fat Joe, Justin Bieber, and Jesse McCarthy