My Bug-a-boo

I couldn’t find my bug-a-boo,
and I’d looked all around.
I tore up the kitchen and bathrooms too
and picked up the toys off the ground.

I folded the laundry and then did a load,
being careful to check every shirt
I stomped on the trash till I thought it’d explode
and vacuumed up all of the dirt.

I turned my pockets inside out
and emptied them all on the floor.
That she could fit in there I highly doubt,
but I had to check just to be sure.

My bug-a-boo was hiding from me,
that much was perfectly clear,
so I set up a trap that said “bubble gum – free,”
but my bug-a-boo never appeared.

And just when I thought I’d lost my mind,
I checked up on top of my head.
She wasn’t there, but I must be blind
because she was asleep in my bed.

Two little girls

Two little girls went out for a walk
in the chilly autumn air,
and they gathered handfuls of leaves as they talked,
and the leaves were as gold as their hair.
They followed the path that cut through the park
and wound with a slow little creek.
They never minded the frost on the bark
or the cold wind that bit at their cheeks.
They fed the ducks leaves from the withering trees,
but the ducks didn’t seem to care
I said with a sigh that ducks didn’t eat leaves,
but the girls only wanted to share.


I measure myself in lines of poetry,
and some seasons I don’t amount to much.
If poems were leaves and I a tree,
I’d be a sorry, patchy thing,
full of bursting, sun-bleached buds
with a dry pile ready for the fire at my feet.
And a passer-by might ask himself
(or another with whom he wandered the yard)
if this blasted thing were a tree at all
or something only trying to be;
and should they cut me down and count my rings
they’d find me older than some sprouting trees
that blossom always in the early spring—
but though my rings be many and my leaves be few,
I mean to see this winter through.


We raced from porches to hedges,
dodging headlights as we ran,
laden with paper-filled packs,
and on the lookout for glowing doorbells.
Or sometimes we just wandered,
treading familiar paths
made mysterious now in damp darkness
and lit sporadically by the fading stars
and the neon promise of Main Street.
Yellow sentinels on the corners
were the spotlights of our fantasies
and the guard towers of our prisons.
Our future seemed brighter
when our other concerns had gone to bed.
Our music was the rhythm
to which we lived our lives and
a curfew was a challenge that we answered
with white unraveling spools of angst.

Opting Out

While the boss was with a client, Jim logged onto his university’s website and registered for classes. Registration was closing that day, so it was his last chance. It looked like his schedule would be exactly the same as it had been for the past three years: work the mornings at the library, go to school in the afternoon, then work at the office in the evening. Of course, he’d have to do his homework on top of it all – if he got around to it. He rarely did. He checked his grades for the current semester. All C+s or lower. They had steadily fallen since his first year. “Cs get degrees” was his adopted motto, and he stuck to it.

Noticing that his boss was done with the client, Jim closed the window on the computer and opened up the sales log. It was nearly the end of the pay period, and he’d only made four sales. The leading sales associate, a new guy, had made 20. Commission was only part of their pay – they received an hourly pittance as well – but Jim knew the boss would take him aside if he didn’t make at least 10 sales a month. He checked the log for last few months: in October he’d made 9; in November he’d made eight; and this month he’d made four. What the log didn’t say was that the majority of the sales he’d made were reactive; he didn’t make outbound calls anymore.

The phone rang. The caller ID read Keith. Jim sighed, and picked up the receiver. He absentmindedly doodled on a notepad as he answered the call.

“Exceptional Car Insurance, where you’re service is always exceptional, this is Jim. How can I help you?”

“Hey there Jim! How are ya?” a man said.

“Good,” he replied without inflection. “How are you?”

“I’m doing fantastic! Hey, I’ve got a question for ya! My daughter is gettin’ her license soon, and I wanna know how much it’ll cost to add her to our policy.”

Jim pressed his pen hard into the notepad, scribbling a tornado that swept his other doodles away. He was silent for a moment. If he spoke he’d probably swear at the man, and that kind of service wouldn’t be considered “exceptional.”

“Hello?” the man asked.

Jim hung up and dug his palms into his eyes. The phone rang a few seconds later. The ID confirmed it was Mr. Keith again. Jim took a deep breath and answered.

“I’m sorry about that.” Jim said. “The call must have gotten dropped somehow. What can I do for ya?”

“Oh, no worries. I don’t get the best service with this phone. If you could just pull up my policy and tell me how much it would be to add my daughter I would really appreciate it.”

“No problem. I’d be happy to help ya with that. I’m gonna need to know your name though.” Jim hated when people assumed he knew who they were–even when they were right.

“Oh!” the man laughed. “You mean you can’t just read my mind?” Jim rolled his eyes. “This is Mr. Keith. Ronald Keith.”


“K-E-I – “

“Thanks. Just a second. I’m gonna put you on a brief hold.” He muted the phone so he wouldn’t have to fill the silence with conversation. The company prided itself with genuinely caring about it’s customers. He unmuted the phone.

“Okay, I’ve got the policy here. Just one moment, let me take a look at it.”

Jim pulled out a process sheet that walked him through how to find the best rate when adding a young driver. Adding a new driver was a moment of truth because the price of the policy usually skyrocketed.The company wanted to make sure their customers were happy, so they were very thorough in these situations; it normally took about half an hour or longer to find the best way to do it. Jim stared at the paper for a moment, crinkled it up, threw it into the trash can, and asked Mr. Keith for his daughter’s information. A minute later Jim told him the new premium – about a hundred dollars more a month – listened to Mr. Keith’s amazement, said something about the likelihood of young drivers having an accident, thanked him for calling, and hung up the phone.

The boss was with another client by now, so Jim got on Facebook and liked a few paintings that had been added to his feed. He wondered how long it had been since he had uploaded a painting of his own. A quick look at his timeline told him it had been about 6 months. Six months? he thought, rubbing his eyes and exiting out of the window. Sure, he had changed his major to business at about that time, since his worries about making money had finally caught up to him, but he had vowed that he would never stop painting. Without deadlines and assignments, however, he had.

Jim resolved to begin a painting that very night, and pulled out his phone to set a reminder. There were quite a few old reminders in the app already, things like: Read pgs 110-112 in Business in the 21st Century; Make 10 outbound calls a day; and Buy Milk. He checked of the last one, and deleted the first two. Then he deleted all of them. A clean canvas, he thought, and typed a new goal: Paint Something. He set a reminder for later that evening. He knew he’d want to forget it, so he made sure it would go off every hour after 6:00.

The secretary brought him an envelope, which Jim opened. In it was a handwritten note from his boss. His heart dropped as he read the first line of writing:


I just wanted to take a minute and thank you for all the work you’ve done for our agency. It’s unfortunate that

He stopped, closed his eyes, took a breath, and continued reading.

we don’t have more employees like you. I just wanted to remind you that, since you’ve been with us for over three years, you get two paid days off this Christmas, plus Christmas day itself. Please accept this gift card as an additional token of my gratitude for all you do. Thanks, and Merry Christmas!

Jim breathed a sigh of relief and slowly brought his heartbeat back to its normal rate. He flipped the card over. On the back was a family Jim had never met with his boss in the center. They were standing in front of the office, smiling broadly. Under the Exceptional Car Insurance sign were the words: Wishes you a Merry Christmas. Jim smiled back at the faces of the boss’s family. He thought they must be proud of their father: he’d built the company from the ground up. Jim pocketed the gift card and sent the boss a thank you email.

He was actually smiling when he answered the next phone call.

“Exceptional Car Insurance! This is Jim -“

A computerized voice interrupted him.

“Hello. This is your Google Plus specialist.” Jim pounded the desk. He had to listen to the whole thing. Again. “Our records show that you have not confirmed your business’s digital listing. This process is simple, and only takes a few moments of your time. To confirm your Google Plus listing press one. To speak to a representative, press two. If this is not a business number, press three.To opt out of future calls, press four.”

He pounded the four and hung up. How many times did he have to opt out? It was 5:30 PM when Jim checked his digital calendar, moved his untouched to do’s to the following week and went to the bathroom. He sat on the toilet and played a game on his phone until an alarm told him it was five minutes to closing. Then he went back to his desk and pretended to work until it was time to leave.

“Thanks for your help, Jim!” his boss said as Jim left the office.

Jim did his best not to look guilty as he said good bye. He resolved to do better the next day. He almost made a reminder for himself when his phone vibrated. Paint Something popped up on the screen.


After he got home and changed, he opened frozen dinner and set it in the microwave. He read the nutrition label while he waited. Disgusted, he threw the empty box toward the garbage can. He was too tired to make anything else though. The microwave hummed in the background as Jim sifted through a stack of letters he’d gotten in the mail. There was a Past Due stamp on one of them. Then there was a catalog for a grocery store and a credit card offer. He cut it to pieces, annoyed. I wish they’d stop sending me these, he thought. Then he cut up the bill too.

Jim watched TV while he ate, and ended up microwaving another dinner when the next episode came on. He silenced the reminder on his phone twice when it went off in the middle of the show. He watched a shootout, and it made him want to play a video game. It was nearly midnight when he finally turned the console off and looked at his phone again. This was the fourth time it had gone off since he started playing.

“What do you want?”

He read the words Paint Something as he picked it up. His ears rang in the silence. He looked around. On his table was homework he needed to finish, and a trail of crinkled up scratch paper leading to an overflowing garbage can. He sighed, and picked up a few of the papers as he took his fork to the sink. The sink was also overflowing. Jim put the fork into a dirty pot on the side of the sink and tried to stuff the remnants of the frozen dinners into the garbage can. He pushed the pile down, gagging when the reek of rotting food was forced into his nostrils. How long has it been since I’ve taken this thing out? he thought. Jim stepped on the pile, and eventually stood on it, jumping up and down and using the wall to keep his balance. When he stepped down, the trash sprang back up and spilled onto the kitchen floor. Jim rubbed his temples and looked for spare garbage bags. He was out.

“I’ll clean it up tomorrow,” he said.

Jim’s words echoed off the silent walls and back at him, weighing him down. He sank to the floor and wept. He curled up into a ball and sobbed, saying unintelligible things and asking himself “why, why, why me?” He clutched himself tightly and rocked back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.

“No no no no no…”

After some time his rocking slowed, and he stood. He walked to the bathroom and blew his nose. He found himself looking into his own red eyes in the mirror, and he spoke.

“I can be better. I am important. I am a good person. My life is valuable. I can change.” He wasn’t sure he believed any of it, but he said it anyway. He made himself say it. He went to throw the tissue away and found a mound of toilet paper where the trash can should have been. He thought about doing it later.

“No, right now.” he said, finding the can in the mound of paper. He emptied the bathroom bin down the garbage chute and came back for the one in the kitchen. The mess he left on the way out almost refilled half the bin after he got back, but he thought the apartment would look better afterwards. It didn’t, but he felt better for having done something. For a minute or two. Until his phone alerted him again.

Paint something.

Hot tears burst from his eyes and he clenched fists tightly as he sobbed. Jim pounded his head, punching himself in the cheek as hard as he could. He had exhausted himself after a few minutes. I’ll do it later, he thought. And then the decision was made. He felt distant from the decision, as if it had been made for him, as if it hadn’t been made at all. But it had. Everything else melted away. All that remained was the decision. He stood. No. I’ll do it now.

“Right now… right now.”

Then he walked into the bedroom, opened a drawer, tasted metal, and painted the ceiling red.

Swing Set – (as published in Southern Quill)

It’s a brisk morning,
the kind that only comes on the cusp of spring
where the sun is high and warm and
burns the frost off the greening grass
but hasn’t yet burned it from the air.
“It’s cold,” I tell her as I go out.
She pushes hard on the screen door
and steps barefoot onto the concrete,
holding her arms up toward me
and trying to dance away the cold.
She’s still in her shrinking, mismatched PJs.
There’s a hole in her left pant leg.
“Get me get me!”
I pick her up and carry her with me to the shed,
showing her how the latch on the fence works,
letting her open it when we come back through.
“Daddy, what dat?”
She points at the swing set.
We found it on a yard sale page,
dog-chewed and sun-stained
and free.
I scavenged and swapped out parts for her,
but winter hasn’t let her play on it yet.
“That’s your new swing set. Wanna try it out?”
I put her on the see-saw.
“Hold on tight, sweetheart.”
I push her as the wind blows.
The sunlight bleaches her hair,
and her laughter mingles with the bird songs.
Tomorrow is the Equinox, but
for me it’s spring already.


I down another can of Dew
or something else to get me through.
I do it so much I bleed it,
no, it ain’t that I need it,
not that I gotta have it
like some kind of relapsing addict;
I do it just to feel okay
to try and take the edges off
the weight I carry every day.
Lock it away for a minute
knock rubber wedges up in it
and take a moment to breathe
but some how inevitably
it sinks it’s teeth into me,
and I freak eventually
the way these pills boil in me.
I lay there seething and shaking,
I’m breathing too fast and pacing,
eyes on the ceiling and glazing
I start to bawl and go crazy
gotta find my mind cause I lost it
my entire body’s exhausted
watching the clock and I’m waiting
tick tock my drive is deflating
and then I’m stuck here debating
if I’m gonna keep taking these things
the pharmacist’s making for me
but it seems voice that would scream
was also the one that could sing.
I guess it’s working
’cause now I can’t hear a single thing
except a whisper,
that panicked voice can no longer yell
and the lights flicker
I guess they silenced my cries for help.

Belief – A One Act Play


Man 1: A young scientist

Man 2: An older scientist, whose hair is graying at the temples. The age difference should be obvious, but not overly done. It would be apprpriate for the actor to be wearing a cross.

Computer: A computerizes voice that says a few system warnings and a countdown


[The stage is set so that monitors line the walls. There are two chairs, in which the characters are seated. In center stage is a door or a casket-like chamber. Lights, wires, and displays litter the scene. Man 1 is on stage right. Man 2 is on stage left. They work on separate consoles, looking away from each other.]

Man 1: What is it you hope to see?
Man 2: I think we both know the answer to that question.
Man 1: (Laughs) Do you really think it would work?
Man 2: The machine bends time and space. Theoretically it should. You’ve done the calculations yourself –
Man 1: (Waves the comment aside) I mean: would you find what you’re looking for?
Man 2: (Shrugs) Science has fueled the faith of many.
Man 1: (Pauses) And taken it from many more.
Man 2: (Turns to face Man 1) I don’t see why science and religion have to be at odds with each other.
Man 1: (Turns) Fact will always oppose fiction.

[They stop working at their consoles to argue. The conversation gets more heated as it progresses.]

Man 2: Well now, that’s a matter of opinion.
Man 1: And what isn’t?
Man 2: Truth.
Man 1: What is truth?
Man 2: Truth is something you can live your life by, something that never changes. Like a law. If followed, a truth will always yield the same result. It’s really quite scientific…
Man 1: [Mocking] The same result? Scientific? Ha! How many versions of Christianity are there again?
Man 2: Yes, but the basic principle of each is the same: faith.
Man 1: Faith? Why have faith when you can know something? Wouldn’t you rather be liberated by knowing how things really are?
Man 2: Well of course: “the truth shall set you free.”
Man 1: Truth? Religion was the science of a primitive world; Myths and legends to understand what primitive minds could not explain. Science has proven unpopular religions to be false because no one cares enough to support them. No one says “Greek religion” anymore, it’s “Greek mythology.” What makes their beliefs any less valid than yours? Why do you accept the science that kills their gods and reject the science that kills yours?
Man 2: That’s different. We know what causes the wind; we know what the constellations are; we know what the sun is –
Man 1: And we know that the earth is not 6500 years old.
Man 2: According to who?
Man 1: Science has proven it! Radiometric dating proves beyond a doubt that the earth was formed 4.7 billion years ago. Your Bible says that God made the earth 6,500 years ago! That absolutely cannot be true, and so your god did not create the earth.
Man 2: Carbon dating cannot kill my God.
Man 1: But it can prove that he exists, right? You will accept any science that confirms your faith and reject anything that debunks it. What’s scientific about that? If archaeologists found a giant wooden boat that carbon dated to around the time of Noah you would say that it proves Noah existed, but the same science that could prove that proves the earth is billions of years old and you reject that knowledge. How can you do that?
Man 2: If there was science that proves God exists, would you not reject it to confirm your belief that he does not exist?
Man 1: I… I don’t know.
Man 2: Regardless, I don’t think science has all the answers, especially when it comes to spiritual matters. I believe that the scientific method is a valid way to solve problems in the physical world, but I think there is another world too, one outside the realm of scientific discovery. A spiritual world.
Man 1: What if there’s not? What if it’ small a lie? Would you rather live a lie your whole life than know the truth?
Man 2: (Thinks for a moment) Honestly, if it helped me understand my purpose in life I would. I would rather convince myself against reason that life has a purpose than know beyond a doubt that it does not. You have to understand though: I am not deceiving myself; life has a purpose. That I firmly believe.
Man 1: And why does one have to believe in God to believe life has a purpose? Can an atheist not live as full and as good a life as a religious man?
Man 2: He may, but he can never die as good a death.

[They sit for a moment. They go back to their work. Some time passes.]

Man 2: You know, we’re really not that different: both of us cannot deny what we firmly believe to be true –
Man 1: But in my case that “belief” is based on empirical evidence that can be replicated and scientifically proven.
Man 2: [Sighs.] The real difference is that I can allow you your belief.
Man 1: [Clearly frustrated.] I just can’t understand how you can believe in God when you have no evidence that he exists.
Man 2: But I see it differently. I cannot understand how you cannot believe in God when you have so much evidence that he does exist. Nothing I have ever seen has given me any reason to doubt his existence.
Man 1: Which brings me to my point: could anything convince you that God does not exist? If this machine works and you’re able see back in time and see the world being formed without the help of God, would you then admit that he does not exist?
Man 2: What about you? If you saw God creating the world would you then believe?
Man 1: Of course I would, provided we had ruled out all other possible explanations for what we were seeing. But that would not necessarily make me a Christian. now I’ve answered the question that you dodged: Would it “shake your faith” if you saw that God wasn’t there? Better yet, would it shake your faith if you saw that the world was over six thousand years old? Would it change your mind if you saw our planet being formed 4 billion years ago?
Man 2: I really don’t think that’s going to happen –
Man 1: [Angrily.] But if it did?
Man 2: Why would it change my beliefs?
Man 1: Because Christianity hinges on the veracity of the Bible, and the Bible says that the earth is not 4 billion years old! If the Bible is wrong about the age of the earth then the account of God creating the Earth in 6 days is wrong. That means that Adam and Eve were not created the way the Bible says they were, so there was no time when man was with God, meaning there is no need for a Savior to create reconciliation.
Man 2: That would be one interpretation of the data, but it is possible that Genesis is not a literal account.
Man 1: I’ll say.
Man 2: Look, religion offers us an explanation of the meaning of our existence. Science cannot tell us why we are here.
Man 1: That’s just the point. There is no “why.” we are an anomaly, a cosmic accident in a random universe. That doesn’t mean we can’t live meaningful lives, it just means that there’s no higher power pulling the strings telling us what that purpose is supposed to be.
Man 2: Science is supposed to help mankind. What does the idea that we’re an accident do to help anyone?
Man 1: It tells them that they don’t have to bind their lives with the burden of religion.
Man 2: Or morals.
Man 1: There is, by association, a release of certain morals, but not all morals. I don’t believe in God, but I am an outstanding citizen. I don’t steal, I don’t commit murder, I obey the speed limit…
Man 2: ‘By association’? By design! Is not that liberty science’s greatest quest? But its greatest folly is its pick-and-choose mindset. If intelligent design is not true then, yes, mankind would not be bound by certain morals, but you can’t pick and choose: mankind would not be bound by ANY morals. How could there be any benefit from such ‘knowledge?’
Man 1: An ethical code is a necessary part of all functioning society, but science is things as they really are—
Man 2: (Getting frustrated) According to people who put their trust in man!
Man 1: There is no one else to put their trust in. ‘The truth will make them free.’
Man 2: What is truth! 600 years ago almost everyone knew the world was flat.
Man 1: Right. And science proved that was not the case. The difference is that science welcomes attempts to disprove it and evolves from those attempts. Religion resists disproving or damning evidence by saying we can’t understand or measure spiritual things.
Man 2: Well, the machine will settle all of that, won’t it?
Man 1: On that, I think, we can agree. But listen, (he steps closer) I’ve agreed to let you go first, but I want your word – as a Christian if you will – that you will believe whatever it is you see. None of our instruments have been able to record anything, so we have to rely on what we see, at least until we can figure out why our instruments aren’t functioning. I want your word that you will tell me what you see and not try to cover anything up. I want your word, as a Christian, if you will.
Man 2: I know what I will find. You have my word. Soon, both of us—and the world—will know the truth.
Man 1: Yes. Yes we will.

[The scientists shake hands, and return to their work.]

Man 2: Calibrating time warp field…
Man 1: Compensating for human body mass.

[Computerized voice: “Calculation complete. Power coils at full capacity. System primed for time warp.” The scientists meet in front of the machine]

Man 1: Almost no time will pass for me, but don’t stay too long, alright? We just need see what’s happens to the device when the field is activated.
Man 2: Don’t worry about me. The tests have proven that it’s safe. Besides, I’m not afraid to meet my maker—one way or another.
Man 1: (Laughs, but not in a mocking way)
Man 2: Well, I guess this is it then.
Man 1: We’re about to make history.
Man 2: And see it as well. For the first time.

[They embrace, Man 2 steps into the machine. Man 1 closes the door and wishes him good luck. He returns to his station and presses a few buttons. Computerized voice: “Initiating localized time-warp field in 10…9…8…7…6…5…4…3…2…1…” Lights flash, the machine groans. The intensity increases. Suddenly, the lights go out. There is a loud noise. The lights come back on. “Time warp complete. Field stabilized.” Man 1 rushes over to the machine and presses a few buttons. He opens the machine. Man 2 stumbles out, looking tousled.]

Man 1: What happened? What did you see?
Man 2: I saw… I saw…
Man 1: Here, sit down. Tell me what you saw.
Man 2: Nothing.
Man 1: What?
Man 2: I saw nothing. It didn’t work.
Man 1: What do you mean? The system said the time warp was successful—
Man 2: It didn’t work! Don’t you understand? It doesn’t work.
Man 1: I don’t… (his eyes widen, and he becomes frantic). I don’t believe you! You did see something! You saw the age of the Earth! You saw that God was not there! You’re trying to cover it up so people won’t know the truth! (Walks over to his console and beings pushing buttons) What ever happened to “the truth will set you free” huh?
Man 2: What? No, listen to me, it didn’t work. I didn’t see anything! I never left the lab!
Man 1: I don’t believe you!
Man 2: Look what it did to me! Something isn’t right. We need to re-calibrate the machine and do more tests.

Man 1: (Turns) To give you time to sabotage our work so people won’t know the truth? Never. (Pushes a button)

[“Calculation complete. Power coils at full capacity. System primed for time warp.”]

Man 2: What are you doing? Stop! Listen to me! Something isn’t right! We need to re-calibrate before another human trial! The field is not stable! You have to believe me!

Man 1: I don’t believe you! (Steps into the machine, closes the door)

[“Initiating localized time-warp field in 10…9…8”]

Man 2: No, no no! (He runs around frantically, pushing buttons. It should be unclear whether he is trying to sabotage the machine or re-calibrate it).

[“7…6…5…4…3…2…1” The same sequence of events as earlier takes place. The lights go out, and there is an explosion. The lights come back on and show the lab destroyed and both scientists are dead.]

[End scene.]