For whom the bell tolls

John Donne wrote “Each man’s death diminishes me.” My mother has made it a personal mission to prove the point. I want to ask her “Why the sudden fascination with ancestors? We’re not Mormons.” but we’ve made a deal. I don’t joke about religion and she doesn’t ask when the hell I am going back to church. I am paraphrasing.

“Bill, I’ve made the connection! We’re related to William Brewster from the Mayflower!” She said.

I Google him, which is what I do when I want to appear intelligent, but haven’t a clue. That is when the alarm went off.



Apparently William Brewster was the elder pilgrim on the Mayflower and has tens of thousands of descendants. One is me and another one is Sarah Palin. It stings a little. Then I look at the remainder of “notable” descendants. My name is not yet on the list. But Richard Gere is there. That one is good. I imagine myself telling people “Oh, did I tell you that Dick, you know him as Richard, Gere and I are related? Can’t you see it in the eyes?”

I scan the rest of the list: Julia Child. That’s a party conversation starter. I can do my “Saturday Night Live” parody of her. I pretend to bleed profusely and say in that distinctive voice “Now make sure you save the liver” and drop to the floor. Wait for the laughter and applause and then hit them with the punch “Well, I suppose I do such a good job of imitating her because we’re related, you know.”

There are other famous people as well, Ted Danson, Katherine Hepburn and Ashley Judd. I was meant to be famous, it’s in my blood: But what to do with this pesky Sarah Palin relationship? She has “gay friends”, she’s said so herself.  But now that she has a pink branch in the family tree would she suddenly change her views?

Paul and I would show up at her house in Alaska and ring the doorbell, which I imagine is in the shape of a wolf or caribou’s head. “Sarah, it’s been ages! Now listen, we don’t want you to make a fuss. You go on and take the kids to soccer while Paul and I make ourselves at home. We’re just going to soak in this lovely view of Russia. Go on now, shoo!” We would tidy up the place, take down the awful animal heads in the living room, and arrange the furniture so that it made sense. Then we would prepare a nice meal that would not consist of moose meat.

“Now I know we shouldn’t talk politics Sarah, but as your relatives, I have to tell you that when you say that you ‘tolerate’ gay people it comes off as well, how shall we say it? Oh, ignorant.” At this point it would become clear that Paul and I have overstayed our welcome while looking down the barrel of her rifle. And honestly this line of reasoning has not worked with some of our closer relatives, why should it work with such a distant one?

I take another look at the list of William Brewster descendants and cannot find a common thread. There are suffragists, Senators, the co-founder of the ACLU, a president and the inventor of the roller skate. Then it becomes clear. They all had a vision. Most of us do. William Brewster acted on his vision and came to Plymouth four hundred years ago seeking freedom. I have found mine fifty miles from that spot. My namesake William and his descendants have paved the way for my freedom to marry the person I love. John Donne was right, each man’s death does diminish me, but more importantly, each man’s life magnifies me.





The first section above the picture is part of a 100 word challenge for adults, brought to you by The Head's Office.  You can find other entries at http://www.theheadsoffice.co.uk/.  The prompt for this week was ...The alarm went off....

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Call of the Wild

At some point in our lives we begin to understand and accept our strengths and weaknesses. This is a good thing, if for no other reason than to answer that pesky interview question. “Life coaches” explain that there are good weaknesses and bad weaknesses. During an interview you want to reveal the good ones. These are easy to spot because they are actually strengths masquerading as weaknesses, like a sheep in wolf’s clothing. “I’m a perfectionist!” or “I really need to develop more of a work/life balance” said with a slightly weary but cheerful demeanor implies that you will be working your ass off.

If you are asked “What is your biggest weakness?” and reply “Oh, pornography” or “I’m a mean drunk” you have revealed a bad weakness and will most likely not be offered the job. If you do get the job, congratulations: expect some exceptional office holiday parties.

I was thinking about my strengths and weaknesses while curled in a fetal position on the back seat of a parked Chevy Impala at four AM in a Maine forest. The conditions were far from ideal, but self-improvement is rarely comfortable. At the very least, it requires a departure from your comfort zone. Lying in the back seat of that Chevy was about as far away from my comfort zone as I cared to venture.
Several weeks ago Paul said that he and the kids were going camping. He used that “You’ve never joined us before, and there really is no excuse” tone. In a moment of weakness, which for me is a gin and tonic, I agreed to join them: For one night of their four night adventure.

I tried to convince myself that this time, it would be different. I’ll try harder. Reasoning it out like a battered spouse should have been a warning sign. Previous camping experiences as an adolescent boy scout consisted of wet stinky tents, unidentifiable food, sleep deprivation and listening to a variety of body noises, none of which particularly appealed to me. But time had softened the edges and as I bought my train ticket bound for Maine, I was actually a bit giddy.

Paul and the kids picked me up at the station. “Our campsite is a little close to the Interstate, but the constant sound of the cars is like white noise. It will help you sleep.” Paul said optimistically. I was willing to believe him. As we pulled into the campground, I must admit, it was beautifully groomed. Then we drove deeper and deeper into the woods, until it was eternally dusk.

On our walk to the pool I couldn’t help but notice that the only language I heard was French. How very cosmopolitan I thought. A young French Canadian family consisting of a mother and her six year old boy and four year old girl joined us at the pool. Here is an interesting observation, when children whine in French; it is just as irritating as it is in English. Now my French is a little rusty, but even I could figure out that the girl was not happy that her older brother was trying to drown her. Maybe the mother was a deaf French Canadian.

There really is little else to do at night while camping than sit by a camp fire and drink. Fortunately, I happen to like burning things and enjoy a nice glass or two or five of wine. As the evening wore on, I began to find more things to burn, the wine cork, the trash, pine needles and finally, the wine bottles themselves. I watched them all curl and melt and felt a strange fascination in the destruction of everyday objects. Paul was scared.

Crawling into the tent, I felt sufficiently buzzed enough to pass out and sleep through the night. Then I heard the cars, and motorcycles and Mack trucks. Layered on top of that was Paul’s snoring, which apparently he only does while sleeping on an air mattress in a tent. Somehow I was able to fall asleep, only to be awakened by a troupe of French Canadian hippies that decided to camp next to us at 3:00 AM. Can Canadians not afford hotels? I was covered in a moist cold filmy dew. For a while I lay there listening to Paul’s snoring, drunk French singing and muffler-less cars in the distance: the sounds of nature. Unable to stand it any longer, I crawled into the back seat of our car, and bent my legs back upon themselves.

“Ok, now I can check this off my bucket list” I thought to myself. But what occurred to me was that now I have a weakness masquerading as strength. When someone asks me what one of my greatest strengths is, I will say “I can make the best of bad situations”, but what I will be thinking is “I like to burn things.”

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Fo shizzle!

This is a one hundred word challenge for grown ups. This week’s prompt are the words "Brabble", "Growlery" and "Foozle". You can find other entries at:


http://www.theheadsoffice.co.uk/



He always wins at Jeopardy, always. Before Alex Trebek has even finished reading the question, my boo is shouting out some answer like “Brabble”, “Growlery” or “Foozle”. What do those words even mean? Who has space in their head for such words? Not me.

I’m keeping it real, Yo. While he uses that antiquated bullshit, I’mma stick with phat words that have lasting power, for real. My vocabulary is bomb diggity! All ya’ll h8ters can keep on shoutin’ out your Jeopardy answers and this G will stick to the classics. Words that will never go out of style, fo shizzle!

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Say what?

If men are from Mars and women are from Venus, where are gay men from? Let’s avoid the obvious potty-mouth “Uranus” answer, shall we? Like most self-help books, the 1992 best seller took a broad swipe and ended up stereo-typing genders. I should probably preface my comments by saying that I never actually read the book. But Wikipedia does a pretty good job of summarizing. The premise is that men and women communicate differently, as if they were from different planets. Men grunt, retreat to their man caves and consider taking out the trash to be huge displays of affection. While women whine about their feelings and are like Glen Close in Fatal Attraction: I will not be ignored, Dan! I’m sure there were some witty observations, funny anecdotes and nice workshops, but that’s all you really need to know about the book. The only truth is that everyone, EVERYONE is from different planets.


Paul and I are both men, but we communicate as if we speak different languages. Over the years I have figured out about 50% of his language. Throw in some alcohol and there is less than a fifty-fifty chance that I am going to understand Paul-speak.

The Eskimos have eighteen different words for snow. Paul is like an Eskimo in reverse, using one word to describe eighteen. That word is “little”. He uses it constantly. It can mean cute: as in “Look at your little shorts!” or it can mean low-calorie: as in “I had a little salad.” But sometimes he throws it together with cute for a more nuanced effect “There is a cute little restaurant over there.”, which actually gets me confused, because I’m not sure if it is a “cute- cute” restaurant or a low-calorie restaurant, or really a small restaurant.

There is one thing that is never allowed to be called little whether it means cute or not.

Another phrase that Paul uses is “You need to”. I am told that this really means “I would advise you to.” I discovered this bit of lexicon after a “discussion” that we had early on in our relationship. After the third “you need to” was uttered I became very quiet, which Paul quickly learned was “you better shut the fuck up.” But he never gets angry with me. He may get “frustrated” or “tired” or “confused”, but never angry, which makes arguments extremely difficult to figure out.

The other evening we had a “discussion” by telephone that I would like to share for educational purposes. Allow me to deconstruct it for you:

Paul: “I read your little blog post.” Translation: (It is too early in the conversation to figure out the meaning of this “little” yet, we will translate the rest before deciphering.)

Me: “Did you like it?” Translation: “I need validation!”

Paul: “Very cute.” Translation: “It sucked.” (Intonation and brevity are key here. Also, we can now decipher the first “little” to mean “trivial”)

Me: “Oh, you didn’t think it was funny?” Translation: “My humor is above you”

Paul: “I think I was too close to the situation.” Translation: “I can’t friggn’ believe that you wrote about me again!”

Paul: “You sound tired.” Translation: “You’re pissed”

Me: “I am tired.” Translation: “You’re right I’m pissed!”

Paul: “OK, why don’t you go to bed and I’ll talk to you in the morning.” Translation: “I really don’t want to talk about this anymore. Call me when you’re not being such an ass.”

Me: “OK. Love you.” Translation: “I may not like you right now, but I love you.”

Paul: “Love you too” Translation: “Ditto.”

As you can see this whole translation business can be extremely tedious. Throw in some wordplay, intonation, regional differences and as you can imagine, complete understanding becomes downright impossible. But when Paul greets me on the train platform after a week of absence we resort to the most basic of all, body language, which is never misunderstood.



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Real Estate Blues

“It’s sold, boys, come on home. I’m making myself a cocktail!” Our manic realtor has reached an all-time high. I can hear his elated voice through Paul’s phone. “He’s making himself a cocktail?” I ask. It’s not strange that he is drinking. It’s strange that he is drinking in our house. Alone. I suddenly have a vision of him lying on our bed luxuriating in $100 dollar bills, à la Demi Moore in “Indecent Proposal.” It is not a pretty picture, trust me.

We decided to sell our house in New Hampshire four months ago. Paul chose Hank by throwing a dead cat into the air and hitting the first realtor. “Did you use Yelp or get references?” I asked Paul. “Out of the three realtors I spoke with, he’s the one that stayed in contact with me. I think it shows how engaged he’ll be, you know?” No, I don’t know. I think a history of selling houses may have been a more accurate barometer of his abilities. Sending e-mails and making phone calls is something that my teenage daughters are capable of. But, I don’t remember them being in the running.

Hank is a short middle aged man with a cigarette induced gravelly voice, and a nose twice as big as it should be for his face. He is not the first image I conjure when someone says realtor. Now if you said used car salesman, Hank would be that image. “OK, let’s see what you’ve got, boys.” Hank said as he began to tour our house. On a loop through the first floor he says “Nicely decorated living room!” On the second loop “Hey, you’ve got a Family Room!” Paul and I look at each other dumbfounded. He is like a goldfish circling the bowl. Everything is new again after one go around. “Actually, Hank, that’s the Living Room you just noticed.” Paul tries to be polite. “Living Room, Family Room, whatevah’. Hey, that’s a bar!” He is pointing at a grouping of glasses hanging above a small section of the kitchen counter. “That adds value!” Later I would realize the value he saw in our bar was mostly personal.

But Hank appealed to our vanity. “Your house is perfect! Not a thing I can tell you to change, it’s a model home.” So, we signed him on. He produced a virtual tour of our house and e-mailed the link to me at work, with this recommendation “Turn up the volume so you can enjoy the music!” I clicked on the link and jazzy porn music from the 80’s came blaring out of my speakers. Embarrassed, I scrambled to lower the volume. Images of our house faded in and out with captions. “A room to relax in”, “lush gardens” and my personal favorite “Martini’s anyone?” describing our newly discovered martini bar. The cheesy captions, jazz music, and soft focus all had me wondering if soon there would be a beefy actor stepping out of the shower reciting a poorly written porno script: “Oh hello, I am the plumber. I just used my long snake to clean your drain. I hope you don’t mind that I used your shower but I was so dirty. You look dirty too.”

I lamented to my friend Cary. “I don’t know about our realtor. Sometimes I wonder if he is just hanging out at our house drinking when we’re not there.” If anyone can understand, it’s Cary. He has been trying to sell his Laundromat for a year. “My realtor is soooo unprofessional. I told him that I was desperate and would take any offer.” Cary says. I can truly sense the desperation in his face and voice. “Do you know what my realtor said? That he might be interested in buying the Laundromat. Is that even ethical? So then he sends me an e-mail with the subject ‘My Interest’ which made me think that maybe he was serious. The e-mail said ‘I told you I might be interested in buying the Laundromat. Yeah, I’m not...’ Bastard” Cary has the same look of desperation that I have on my face. I tell him “Don’t worry, it will sell.” But I think I’m trying to convince myself.

When we pull into the driveway, Hank is standing with a drink in one hand and a cigarette in the other. “They want everything! The house, the furniture, they loved it all. Asians, they’ve got money.” I am preparing to deliver my “Oh, no you didn’t just say that speech” when he interrupts. “Let’s go price out the rooms!” Hank walks into the kitchen, pours himself another drink and says “Let’s price out the furniture, but not the kitchen table, my wife wants that, actually, she wants the trunk in the bedroom too.” And then it hits me, it’s not just Hank spending time in our house, but his wife too. In the bedroom no less. I am worrying if they have rummaged through the night stand when Hank says. “Oh, there’s a funny smell in here. I think it’s your drain. I put a lemon down my drain every day. Every day I have a gin and tonic and the lemon goes down the drain. You should keep some lemons here.” Subtlety is not Hank’s strong suit.

“So let me ask you a personal question.” Hank says, delirious from a possible offer and two gin and tonics. “You and Paul are a couple of good guys..” Uh-oh, here it comes. The dreaded “but” clause. “But, how could you give up women?” Or “But, how do you decide who’s on top?” or my favorite “But, when did you make the choice?” But then he surprises me with an “And” clause. “And my brother in law has had a tough time with ‘partners’”. He says using air quotes. “Do you have any single friends?”

Suddenly, I start to think that Hank might be an OK guy: part of the family. Sort of like your Uncle Larry that shows up unannounced, drinks your liquor and then asks you to pull his finger. “OK, well give it some thought” Hank says and just like that he is gone.

It’s been four days now with no offer and little word from Hank. I have no idea when he’ll show up again, but when he does, I better have some lemons.

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Divorce

This is a one hundred word challenge for grown ups. This week’s prompt is the sun shone but. You can find other entries at:

http://www.theheadsoffice.co.uk/





Can I stop the clock?

I see them breathing, but there is no air. Through the open windows the sun shone but they were still sleeping. It is time to go now but my feet won’t move. I’ll count to ten; kiss them on the forehead and go. That’s it. I will pretend that I am just going to work and at the end of the day I will be home.

One kiss for Katherine and one kiss for Taylor. But my heart knows better. It beats but there is no blood. The sun shone but there was no light.

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A penny for your thoughts

Neat rows of corn and tobacco plants flicker by the car window like the spokes of a wheel. Hours go by without a word spoken between us. Then my father’s voice breaks the silence as he pats my leg.

“A penny for your thoughts?”

There are complete conversations in my head, but I offer up “Nothing.”

“Must be awfully lonely in that head.”

He reaches out to pat my leg again, but misses as he looks at the road straight ahead. He smiles, lights another cigarette and exhales a curling snake of smoke.

“Yep, awfully lonely.”

I turn my head to look at the green fields of North Carolina stretching into a forest of trees on the horizon and wonder where they end.

Floating on my back in the frigid Maine Ocean water I find memories of my father caught in the hollow of the waves tumbling over and over again. I point my feet towards the shore and let the sun warm my face, wondering for a moment if I am still thirteen and have just dreamt the last thirty five years.

I stand up, turn around and see a single white sail leaning into the wind brilliant against the blue sky where it meets the water. Turning back toward shore I see Paul on the beach and breathe a sigh of relief.

I join him on the beach. We lie on our backs and let the sun dry us. An hour goes by before he turns toward me, opens one eye, squinting from the sun and points a finger at me. “What are you thinking about? Right now!” He says this in a quick way to signify that I cannot change my mind or interpret my thoughts.


 
“I was just thinking I wish I was a professional writer”

“But you are a professional writer.” He says

“Technically, I would have to be paid.”

“Well, I could pay you.” He says

“You wouldn’t be paying me for my writing. That might make me a prostitute, but not a professional writer.”

“We have college bills to pay; maybe prostitution is the way to go.”

Out of the corner of my eye, I see a man approaching four hundred pounds in a thong swimsuit walk towards the ocean.

“I’ll keep on writing.” I say.

The day stretches into evening as we join our friends on the front porch of the Inn while a full moon floats over the pine trees. Paul is recounting a story from his trip to Wells to buy cheese.

“It’s a good day to be Irish. Do you know what we’re talking about?” Paul is quoting the shop owner.

“No”

“We’re talking about the English; they all want to be Irish.” There is disdain in the shopkeeper’s voice.

“Well, I must be conflicted, because my mother is Irish Catholic and my father is English Protestant.” Paul says

“Well at least you’re not one of those queers!” The shopkeeper says.

“Actually, I am.” Paul says as he grabs the cheese and walks out.

We are dumbfounded as we look at the wedge of brie sitting on the table. I grab the knife slice the cheese, take a bite and say. “Homophobic brie is actually pretty good!”

I am thinking about Paul’s story while we sit in traffic on the trip back to Boston; the sunny days of the weekend already fading into memories under a cloudy sky. Paul looks out of the corner of his eye at me and says:

“What are you thinking about? Right now!”

I consider saying nothing, but then “I was thinking even though strangers may hate me, I’m glad that I don’t hate myself anymore.” Paul pats my leg and smiles. I look through the window of the car, past the traffic and close my eyes.  There is a single white sail leaning into the wind, brilliant against the blue sky where it meets the water.

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Comfortable in my own skin

This is a one hundred word challenge for grown ups. This week’s prompt is the picture listed below. You can find other entries at:

http://www.theheadsoffice.co.uk/





Browsing through the online profiles, I begin to notice a formula. Amazingly, they are all well-adjusted, travelled, “comfortable in my own skin” men. They all seem so complete that I begin to wonder why they would possibly want to screw it up by including someone else in their lives.


But then I begin to meet them and it becomes clear that aside from being pathological liars their profile pictures were merely an approximation. Let’s just say that the right lighting and certain angles can make even Quasimodo look like George Clooney. But nothing could prepare me for this profile picture.



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Shut up and drive!



I rarely drive. But I am awesome at giving advice to Paul while he drives.

Unencumbered by all of those driving gadgets like gas pedals, steering wheels and odometer thingies I can really concentrate on the important aspects that make car travel pleasant such as the selection of music and temperature control. I find that being separated from the mechanics of driving makes me a superior and impartial back seat driver.

Paul does not agree.

This morning I offered a bit of obvious advice that I thought he might find helpful. You should not read e-mail while driving on the streets of Boston. Because 1) It is illegal and 2) you will miss your turn. To which Paul countered, 1) did we get the fuck where we were going? Because 2) there is a bus that can take me there.

Paul seems to think that an elephant could fit in the space between our car and the next while I believe only a mouse would fit. Several times I reached for the imaginary brake pedal on the passenger side with both of my feet.

“This brake pedal doesn’t work!” I say with mock alarm.

“Thank God. We’d be stopping every five seconds if it did.” Paul says wearily.

A few months ago, Paul had an asthma attack in the middle of the night. He dressed; tip toed out of the bedroom and checked into the Emergency room. After his treatment, he came back home and slipped back into bed. I was completely oblivious to all of the above, which makes me a rotten husband.

The next morning I woke up, got dressed and went to the gym. I sensed that Paul had a restless night. So I did not wake him, which makes me a loving husband. I returned from the gym and noticed a bracelet on Paul’s arm, which upon closer inspection I identified as a hospital ID bracelet.

Shaking him awake I say “Did you go to the hospital last night?”

“I had a tough time breathing”

“And you didn’t wake me?”

“What could you have done?”

“Well, for starters I could have driven you!”

“Sweetie, your driving would have made it harder for me to breathe.”

Apparently, not only am I a horrid back seat driver, but an equally horrid front seat driver. I’ll admit I suck at parallel parking. Paul constantly says “It’s all about the angles.” Like this should mean something to me. But with ten cars behind me honking their horns the only angle I can think of is how I can slant this to appear as if I really wanted to switch between drive and reverse fifteen times while trying to park.

And OK, I’ll admit that I can be a bit cautious while driving. But driving is a risky business and you can never be too careful when trying to turn at a busy intersection. I check left, then right, then left again and right and then left once more just for good measure.

“Does Polly want a cracker?” Paul says.

“What?”

“You look like a parrot, bobbing your head up and down and back and forth.”

This is the kind of negative feedback that can damage a marriage. But if I’m going to be completely honest, I don’t look that good driving. Not compared to Paul. He has an easy grace sitting in the driver seat with his long legs and sexy confidence. While I look like an eighty year old man hunched over the steering wheel, nervous and fidgety.

So I will be Miss Daisy to his Hoke and let him drive and not say one word. Because those negative comments really serve no good purpose. But, I will still control the selection of music. Oh, the stories I could tell about his taste in music.

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Baa-Baa Billy

“Nick, I am giving you an A plus for this project, but please don’t ever, ever write children’s books.” This was the alarmed warning from my step-son’s high school teacher after he turned in his children’s book project titled “Baa-Baa Billy”. Of course I was intrigued. I am the title character. I felt a swelling of pride and asked Nick to tell me the story:

Baa-Baa Billy wandered a lonely road far from the tiny farming village that was his lambhood home. But his heart was full of wonder and his fluffy tail twitched with glee as the rocky road before him stretched into the distant hills.
His tiny hooves had carried him through the village gates with a soft click-click in the dark deep black of night while all the other farm animals slept and dreamt of buckets of oats and grain. But Baa-Baa Billy had bigger dreams. Dreams that were bigger than his simple little sheep’s brain: A pasture of his own.
“Why hello!” a deep voice called. The click-click of Billy’s hooves stopped and his little pouf of hair stood on end.
“Who’s there?” Baa-Baa Billy bleated.
“Lucifer’s my name, but you can call me Luke.”
Now because Baa-Baa Billy was so simple and could not concentrate hard enough to keep his eyes from crossing. He failed to see that his life had suddenly taken a terrible and horrifying turn.
“I’m Baa-Baa Billy!” he bleated with glee.
“Well of course you are and you are seeking a pasture of your own! I happen to own a pasture that is of no use to me.”
Baa-Baa Billy began to dance and kick up his mud covered hooves as he baa-baa’ed with abandon and joy. It was such a horrible happy sound that Lucifer covered his leathery ears and shouted:
“Quiet you stupid little piece of mutton!”
Baa-Baa Billy had no idea what mutton was but there was something in the way that Lucifer licked his pointed teeth that even poor little simple Billy could understand.
“The pasture can be all yours for such a small price.” Lucifer said this slowly so that Billy could understand.
“Baa, baa-but I have nothing to give you” Billy said as huge tear drops gathered in his wide eyes.
“The price is your soul: A pittance.”
Poor Billy had no idea what a soul was, but in a moment of confidence strange for such as small lamb he said:

“My soul is quite lovely, certainly worth more than your pasture.”

Lucifer scratched his scaly head and in a moment of pure inspiration said:

“Take this Hannah Montana CD as a down payment and give me your soul”

Poor little Billy was such a big fan that he snatched the CD in his mouth as Lucifer’s terrible smile stretched from ear to ear. Just then the village farmer spotted Billy and came running down the road.

The earth began to tremble and shake and just below Billy’s hooves the road split in two.

“Please Luke, give me my pasture before the farmer catches me!” Billy bleated.

“Your pasture? Why of course it’s your pasture, but your soul is mine and must be stored in hell. I will let you leave if you give me 99 human souls. A sheep’s soul is so tiny that it is only worth that Hannah Montana CD.”

Billy’s eyes grew wide as the farmer reached for his neck. Billy spit out the CD and clamped down hard on the farmer’s leg with his crooked buck teeth, soul number one. The earth swallowed them both whole. The stretch of country road stood empty, save for a Hannah Montana CD. Billy’s soul was devoured and the world never noticed the difference.
I am silent for a moment. I get up from the table and then hug Nick. This is pure genius! My husband Paul gives me a bewildered look and says “OK, now I know you two are related.”

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It's just me (100 word challenge)

This is a one hundred word challenge for grown ups. This week’s prompt, 5 words: ripple,brood, evocative, lilt and untoward (which can be used in any order). You can find other entries at:

“Hello sweetie, it’s just me.” This is the beginning of his every voice mail; always in that sing-song lilt. The first part is good enough; it’s the second part that seems so untoward.


“It’s just a million dollars.”

“It’s just a Renoir”

But that is Paul; never recognizing that his existence has sent a ripple through my life. We sit silently on the T as it carries us through the warm summer night.

“You are not ‘just me’” I don't mean to brood.

“But that is who I am.”

“You are everything”  is my evocative reply.

But that’s just me.

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Too shy, shy

“There’s nothing to see in here folks, nothing to see.” Sam is holding up my jacket stretched wide between his arms as if it were a curtain. I am on one side and every other man who walks through the bathroom door is on the other. His statement produces the opposite effect of its intention. Everyone who enters the restroom is acutely interested in what, exactly, is on the other side of that jacket. At one point I overhear a curious onlooker peeking over the jacket say “What, does he have a vagina?”


“Dammit, Sam” I whisper to myself. He told me this bathroom was private and refurbished. But it is an open bank of urinals with no partitions and immediately within full view to the entire bar when the door swings open.

“William, I’m serious, take a look at the bathroom. You’re not going to believe how beautiful it is.” That is what Sam said when we first entered the bar. If Sam knows anything about me, it is that I am as gullible as my bladder is shy. I walked into the restroom expecting the best but seeing the worst. The look of disgust on my face as I turn back around and walk out of the bathroom has Sam laughing so hard that he has to catch his breath.

Still laughing Sam says, “Ok, come on you pussy, let’s go in and I’ll cover for ya’.” Surprisingly, this statement makes sense to me. Surprising because I am again believing the friend that told me the “Eagle Bar” bathroom is the Taj Mahal of bathrooms. Not surprising because two gin and tonics ago my bladder reached capacity.

So I find myself standing in the spotlight like an actor trying to remember his lines backstage before the curtains are lifted. The urinal is my audience. Relieved, I remember my line.

I have always hated public restrooms. Why do women get complete privacy while men have to stand side by side while they expose themselves? This is why women go in groups. I think they sometimes go to the restroom and never do anything in their three foot by four foot room of privacy but chat and paint their nails, because they can. They are gloating.

I love it when bars or restaurants have single occupancy restrooms. The only time that a single occupancy bathroom does not work is on airplanes. Airlines are under the impression that paper is a suitable substance for bathroom walls and two feet by two feet is ample space to pull your pants down. If that were not intimidating enough the flight attendant is always sitting on the other side of the folding cardboard door listening intently for any embarrassing sounds. Would it kill her to tell the eighty year old man jiggling the damn bathroom handle that the red light above his withered grey head means that someone is in the bathroom closet concentrating?

On a recent flight home from San Francisco to Boston, my husband Paul was in the restroom before the plane took off. A woman in her fifties prepared to sit in the middle seat between me and Paul. “Oh, I am travelling with my husband, would you like my window seat?” I say. “I’d prefer the aisle seat.” She says and immediately plops her presumptive ass down in the aisle seat. I hate her. But then I exact my revenge. I will drink more water and soda than my bladder can handle and then trouble her each time I need to get up. I am writing this as she sits next to me. She is probably nosy too. Oh well, one more bottle of water down and now one more trip to the bathroom closet.

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