15 Public Service Annoucements

15 of mine, plus 6 from others.

Taking the Plunge in Hollywood

“Let’s get married,” Ted said to Mary.

The couple was sitting by their pool on a summer evening. Hollywood stretched out below them, its lights beginning to glitter as the last of the sunset faded and the sky overhead turned from purple to black.

“Wow. A proposal,” Mary said, toasting Ted with her martini glass.

Cecil B. strolled by.

“That cat is getting fat,” Ted said.

“I think Mrs. Welles next door is feeding him. So you want to get married? It ain’t broke, you know.”

“Sometimes it’s fun to tweak something, even if it ain’t broke. We’ve been shooting a wedding in that church they use in Pasadena. It put me in the mood.”

“Does the couple live happily ever after?”

“The wife gets killed right after the ceremony. But still.”

“I could be interested,” Mary said.

They sipped their drinks, gazing into the depths of the pool, azure in the dusk. The tile mosaic seahorse at the bottom moved in a languid way, as the pool water circulated though the pool filter.

“I suppose we’ll need a pre-nup,” Mary said.

“You can’t ever forget the pre-nup,” Ted said. “If my folks taught me anything, it was to remember the pre-nup.”

“I’ll call Sid in the morning.”

“I’ll call Saul.”

“Then what do we do?”

“I think we swing by a County office and pay a fee and pick up a license.”

Mary signaled Brigitte to bring out another chilled pitcher of drinks.

“Please bring my laptop too, Brigitte” she said.

A towhee closed the day with measured chirps in the hedge, announcing the sunset’s completion as surely as a night rooster.

“We can apply for a license online,” Mary said, studying her laptop with a fresh drink in her hand. “Then we have to go together to pick it up at one of the County branches… There’s one on Burton in Beverly Hills. I’m shooting in Santa Monica tomorrow and you’ll be in Pasadena. Let’s meet halfway.”

“Do they still want a blood test?”

“Apparently not… There’s something called the Name Equality Act, but we won’t be changing our names, so we don’t need to worry about that. I’ll fill out the application right now and then we’ll go down tomorrow, show them our driver’s licenses, and pay them ninety dollars.”

“Wow, it costs to get married these days.”

“Ninety for a public license, eight-five for a confidential license. That’s for when everybody thinks the two of you are already married… Do you want a wedding?” Mary said. “I don’t care. It says here you can arrange for a civil ceremony when you pick up the license. Otherwise, you have your own ceremony, get the pastor’s name on the license, and mail it back in. You’ve got ninety days.”

With the light gone from the sky, the blue illumination in the pool grew stronger. The circulating water cast restless, rippling light and shadow in the trees overhead. Cecil B. meowed at the sliding screen door and Brigitte let him in.

“We ought to throw a little party or something, don’t you think?” Ted said. “At least? Have your sister and my brother over, and your folks. Some friends. Get Emilo to cater it. Or we could just tie the knot right there at the County building.”

“No, let’s have the party. Father Bruno can marry us. He’s consulting on our shoot and he’s a darling.”

“What did you and Fred do for a ceremony?” Ted said.

“We were never actually married. People just assumed.”

“Jane and I made it clear we weren’t married, from the start,” Ted said. “We didn’t want any confusion about that. We explained everything to her kids so they wouldn’t ever expect me to be some sort of dad to them.”

“OK. I’m filling out the application here. Hmm. Your mom and dad’s full names and the state each was born in?”

Ted told her.

“This is so simple,” Mary said. “Boom. It’s done. We have fifteen days to go down, show our IDs, pay the fee, and collect our license. Then we say I do when the padre asks us, a witness signs the license, the padre signs it and mails it in, and we’re married.”

“Woo hoo,” Ted said, and they toasted each other a second time.

They met at the Beverly Hills Courthouse the following afternoon. They both parked on the curb along Civic Center Drive. In minutes they were done at the County Clerk’s counter and stood together out on the wide grass meridian in front of the building, holding hands and shaking their heads in mild amazement at what they had done. Ted followed Mary over to Mariposa on Wilshire for a late lunch. They discussed their honeymoon while they dined. Because they were both working on pictures, they settled on a quick trip to Palm Springs, where they would stay at the Zoso or Parker or Viceroy.

The following day, Ted picked up a pair of wedding rings at Harry Winston on Rodeo and Mary splurged on a modest Judy Lee for the ceremony.

“It’s about time,” Mary’s mother said to her over the phone. “What happened?”

“I don’t know,” Mary said. “Ted was at a shoot that was filming a wedding. It struck a chord, I guess. All of a sudden, it just seemed right to us. When we got the license, he had a great big smile.”

“Has the subject of children come up in the conversation? Can I hope to ever be a grandmother?”

“Not yet,” Mary said, “but it could happen as quickly as this wedding has. Who knows?”

“He did OK with his girlfriend’s kids the last time around, didn’t he?”

“They loved him. He shied away from being a dad, though. But that was a long time ago.”

Her mother took all this as a good sign, and was satisfied.

Ted and Mary made the wedding arrangements together, treating the event mostly as a casual party by their pool. The pre-nup was in place. In addition, everything Mary and Tom owned belonged, without question, in a legally defensible way, solely to one or the other of them, in spite of the fact that they had lived together in total devotion for a decade. Money, property, and the future never created issues for Ted and Mary. Their sole point of connection and intimacy to date was their relationship – their love and respect for each other.

On the appointed day, the guests arrived – Mary’s parents and sister, Ted’s brother, a variety of aunts and uncles and cousins and friends in the business. Everyone kept to the shade of the trees and the tables with umbrellas around the pool. Emilio set up the buffet and bar at the edge of the back lawn, out of the sun.

The sky was cloudless and the day was quiet. A thrasher called from the scrub on the hillside. Mary’s uncle got ready to record the ceremoney on his iPhone. Standing in the shade of an oak, Father Bruno held forth for a bit and then asked the couple if they did in fact agree to take each other in sickness and in health, and so on, for the rest of their natural lives.

Mary responded in the affirmative without delay. Ted hesitated.

“Sorry to be a pain,” he said, “but I just want to be clear. When are we actually married? When I say I do? When the padre signs our license? Or when the County records the license after we return it?”

“In the eyes of God,” said Father Bruno, “after you both say yes, you’re married.”

“Sure, but I mean, in the eyes of California.”

“The same, I believe,” said the padre. “Although to eliminate any doubt, I’ll sign the license as soon as you say yes, or at least nod your head. Who’s the witness here?”

Mary’s sister was the witness, although she said she wouldn’t do it if Ted was going to be a jerk about it. She had had a yen for Ted for years, so she was looking a little hangdog in the first place.

“Let’s back up and do another take,” Mary said. “You don’t mind, do you, Father?”

“Used to it,” Father Bruno said with a smile.

“Uncle Bob,” Mary said, “would you move around and shoot on my good side? Thanks.”

Father Bruno just summarized his thoughts the second time around, and got to the crucial question a lot quicker. The attention of several of the relatives had strayed in the direction of the portable bar waiting under an acacia beyond the roses. A young man stood behind the bar in white shirt and black tie, ready to serve the guests whatever they ordered. Mary again said yes and Ted again hesitated.

“What’s the problem?” Mary said.

“It just seems like… How can me saying one little word now, or even just nodding, do the trick? It’s a big step. What if I say yes and then instantly regret it? Padre, will you still sign the paper if I change my mind before you get your pen to the paper?”

“I ought to,” Father Bruno said. “You’ll be married once you agree. I’d feel bad, not signing it.”

“What if you sign it and don’t send it in?”

“California doesn’t care so much whether you send it in or not,” Mary said. “I asked at the courthouse. If they don’t receive the completed license in ninety days, you get a computer-generated reminder. If the license gets lost in the mail or you don’t bother returning it, there’s a statement or affidavit or something you can sign later on. Basically, when you say yes, you’re married.”

“That’s so old-fashioned,” Ted said. “I could say I didn’t really mean it. I could say I didn’t really nod, it was just a muscle twitch. A mosquito bit me and I jerked.”

“Let me remind you,” Mary said, “that for us, you and I, it’ll be as easy to get a divorce as it was to get married, if we ever decide we want one. If you change your mind after you say yes, we’ll call Sid and Saul and they’ll move us back to square one in no time.”

Ted stood thinking.

“Don’t do it,” said Mary’s sister to him.

“Give it up,” Mary said to her. “He likes you. He doesn’t love you. Settle for that.”

She turned to Ted.

“Honey, it’s OK,” she said. “If you’re not comfortable with this, we can drop it. It’s no big deal. If you change your mind back, we can have another party. Is that all right with you folks?”

Everyone agreed that they’d be happy to come back for another attempt. Emilo’s catering alone made the trip worth it. Perhaps everyone would bring their swimsuits next time.

“You don’t care if we stop now?” Ted said.

“I care, but I care about you more,” Mary said.

“Nah…,” Ted said. “Nah, it’s OK. Let’s do this. Do you mind another repeat, Padre?”

“Not at all,” said Father Bruno.

“Can somebody lend me their phone?” Mary’s uncle said. “I’m out of memory here.”

Once the uncle was in place and recording with a borrowed phone, Father Bruno repeated his admonitions to the couple. Sensing that this would be the final take, he allowed himself to expand on his original thoughts a bit. When Ted’s moment came, he said yes in a strong voice. The couple exchanged rings.

“Feel any different?” Mary said.

“I feel good,” Ted said. “I feel very good. What about you?”

“I feel good, too,” Mary said.

The guests clapped, shook hands with the bride and groom, gave hugs, and headed over to the bar and buffet. Emilo sent out the table workers and they began uncovering the food.

Later, the couple took off for Palm Springs. Everyone cheered as they drove away from the house.

Top Five Work-Related Gaming Skills

My entries in a contest, along with those of some others.


“Finish this project on time, Baweler, or I’ll have your head.”

“Yes, sir, Mr. Fistula,” I said.

“Have you hired an extra engineer like I told you?”

“Yes, sir,” I said.

“That’s money the company is bleeding, on your head if you’re late.”

“Yes, sir.”

Mr. Fistula moved off down the hall. I lapsed back into my office. Snuck a little pick-me-up out of the bottom drawer.

Flixie poked her head in.

“The new man is here,” she said.

I told her to send him in.

“Dilbert?” I said, when he entered.

He nodded and started to sit down in the chair I keep empty in front of my desk.

“Don’t sit,” I said. “You won’t be staying. Flixie will show you to your assigned work area. You understand the schedule? Our deadline? Why you’re here?”

He opened his mouth to reply. I held up my hand.

“A simple nod will suffice,” I said.

He nodded. Flixie would put him at the desk of a loser I had just fired, back next to the men’s restroom.

I made a motion of dismissal.

It seems to me now, thinking back, that he stood there just a moment too long, as if he were thinking, or perhaps considering a reply, or some other sign of rebellion. It seems to me now that I should have fired him on the spot. But I’m a softy. That’s my little weakness.

He turned and left my office.

I spent the day variously napping, working out in the executive gym, and chewing out recalcitrant engineers. Our project was on track.

At the end of the day, I told Flixie she could come have a drink and dinner with me. She gave me that big Flixie smile of gratefulness.

The week went on like that, but with one disturbing difference at the end of it. On Friday, I again told Flixie she could spend the evening with me, but this time she made a moue.

“I can’t come, Mr. Baweler,” she said. “I’ve got to show Dilbert the town.”

“Dilbert?” I said. “You’re going out with Dilbert? He’s only an engineer, and a new one at that.”

“He seems real smart, Sir. He seems like a real comer.”

“But I’m your boss,” I said.

Her brow darkened.

“All right, all right,” I said. “Show him the town if you like.”

She gave me that Flixie smile. This time, however, there were no drinks and dinner behind it, or anything else that would be fun. Not for me at least.

It dawned on me then and there that this Dilbert fellow was already, after only one week, destroying our group morale. He had to go. Yet, when I asked around, it seemed that a timely completion of our project depended upon him. To hear the other engineers tell it, he was carrying them all on his back.

It seemed that I must let him stay for the moment.

“Flixie,” I said, “I don’t get it. I gave you that seat by the window. I gave you a raise. I see to it that you don’t have to do anything all day. All I ask in return is your friendship, if you know what I mean and I think you do.”

“You have my friendship,” she said, giving me a hug in my office with the door closed.

“Not here,” I said. “I don’t want your friendship here. I want your friendship tonight.”

That was not to be, however, not with Mr. Special around. A hug during the day, yes; her friendship during the night, no. She must minister to Lord Dilbert. I began constructing the trail of paperwork that I would soon use to dispatch him from our midst.

“I’m hearing good things about your project,” Mr. Fistula said to me.

“We’re on track, Mr. Fistula,” I said. “We’re committed, we’re dedicated, we’re producing.”

“What about this new man, Dilbert? I hear great things about him, too.” Mr. Fistula didn’t sound happy about it. “Are we going to have to keep him on the payroll going forward?”

I shook my head and pulled a long face. It wasn’t hard.

“I don’t know,” I said with a doubtful tone in my voice. “We may be making progress in spite of him, not because of him. He may be the fox in the hen house. He may be the wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

“I see,” Mr. Fistula said. “You’re…”

“…documenting my concerns? Yes. The trail will be there if and when needed. No fear.”

“Good. The man is an added expense that we don’t need. In addition, there are rumors that he is fraternizing with his co-workers. I won’t tolerate that. It’ll be your head if we’re pouring money down the toilet for no good reason and if outsiders are stealing our hens and sheep, as you would put it.”

“Yes, sir, Mr. Fistula.”

I called Dilbert into my office that afternoon. A paper trail by itself is not enough to scoot somebody out the door without risking legal repercussions. So many of the lumpen are litigious these days. Bump into a needlessly careless pedestrian with your car and the next thing you know, the fellow is suing you from his hospital bed.

Termination action, when the time is right, requires that you have dialoged with the worker, warned him, warned him again, worked with him to straighten him out, created a plan for him, etc., etc. I’ve found that reading the riot act to the fellow a time or two is sufficient to cover all this.

When Dilbert came in, he eyed the chair in front of my desk. I gave my head the most minute back-and-forth no-no move. He remained on his feet.

“How’s it going, Dilbert?” I said. I pushed my chair back so that I could put my feet up on my desk.

“The project is on track, if that’s what you mean,” he said.

“Yes, development has been purring along,” I said. “Exceeding expectations.”

“I wouldn’t say that,” the know-it-all said. “The thing was a complete mess. I’ve been putting in sixteen-hour days, adding hacks to every module, trying to rationalize enough of the spaghetti code in there to allow the program to run for more than a minute without crashing.”

“Whatever,” I said. “As long as it works and you’re finished on the appointed day.”

“Listen,” Dilbert said. “Do you know what a shade-tree mechanic is?”

“What? I guess so.”

“You’re out in the country driving around. Your car develops a problem. You pull into the yard in front of a farmhouse. You’re thinking that you’ll have to call a tow truck and that it will cost you a fortune. A fellow – the farmer – is working on a tractor or pickup over in the shade of a tree. He’s used to maintaining all his farming vehicles. He offers to take a look under your hood.

“Having examined your car, the farmer tells you that he can make a fix to the engine that will get you to the next town. Once there, you’ll need to head right to a garage and let a certified mechanic repair do a real repair. If you don’t, the vehicle will break down again, and this time, you’ll be in real trouble. Do you understand what I’m getting at?”

“Sure,” I said. “You’re the farmer.”

“That’s right,” he said.

I sent him on his way. His arrogant attitude infuriated me. I was the one managing the project, not him. I sat fuming. Pulling up his file on my desktop, I entered the information about him hacking the code instead of using authorized, professional structures, and about his unauthorized overtime hours. I didn’t want to cause Flixie any problems, so I named a different secretary in my notes while detailing Dilbert’s unethical and illegitimate amorous activities. Not being sure what he was up to with Flixie, exactly, I just put in what I would have done in his place.

I missed Flixie’s ministrations. Dilbert was such a nerdy bore, such a geeky dork. Always with the questions, the reasons, the questions about my reasons, the questions about my questions, the reasons about my… You get the idea.

I could only wait. Bide my time.

We finished our project on the appointed day, just as Dilbert promised we would, and I immediately called him in and fired him. Then I found Flixie and invited her over to my place for the evening.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Baweler,” she said. “I’m going out with Mr. Fistula tonight. He says he’ll move me up to his floor, to a desk with a view of the river. My duties will remain unchanged.”

“What? He can’t do that!”

“The other thing is, when Dilbert was leaving, he told me to tell you that he isn’t only the farmer in the countryside, he’s also the certified mechanic in the town, whatever that means.”

I ran after Dilbert as fast as I could, but I wasn’t fast enough to catch him.

Twin Dating

“I’m going to tell Debbie what your intentions are.”

“Go ahead and tell her. She knows already.”

“Why do you have to date her in the first place? You know how I feel about her.”

“I like Debbie. She doesn’t object to dating both of us. She thinks dating twins is kind of interesting. I plan to date her all summer and then go off to school. I told her this. She’s OK with us just having fun.”

“I know what you mean by fun. She doesn’t need that kind of fun. She has feelings.”

“Hey, I have feelings. I already told you I like her. All we did was go to the Saturday-night dance.”

“And park afterward.”

“And we went to the movies.”

“And sat in the back row of the balcony.”

“I know you say you’re in love with her, but that romantic feeling you have? It’s your feeling, not hers. It’s all in your head. I don’t know what it means to be in love, but I wouldn’t trust it if I were you.”

“I’m not saying that Debbie is in love with me, at least not yet. I’m realistic. I just don’t want her to get hurt this summer. We’re going to learn watercolors together. We’re going to play guitar and flute duets. We’re going to go for long walks up in the hills and talk about the things that are important to us. I hate to see her wasting her time with you.”

“You hate to see her smooching with me, is what you mean. Too late. It’s her chance to learn something she’ll never learn from you. Something about friendly relationships. Something about boys. Maybe she’ll grow up a little.”

“She doesn’t need to grow up that way.”

“Sure she does. Do you want to marry a girl that’s never been kissed? That’s not fair to either of you. Debbie is still in high school. Paint with her. Play music with her. Talk about Life with her while you walk. It’s all good. It’s just not all.”

“I don’t think the physical thing is a good idea until a couple has an emotional connection.”

“That’s because you haven’t tried it. There is nothing wrong with kissing a stranger, believe me.”

“Then go kiss a stranger and stop kissing Debbie. You know, I don’t get it. You were never interested in Debbie before, but as soon as I told you I was falling in love with her, you refused to leave her alone. What are you trying to prove? You can’t be jealous of me. You’ve never acted like this before. What’s going on?”

“You’re making too much of it. We’re just having some summer fun before I leave.”

“Stop acting innocent.”

“I am innocent.”

“Is this about the fact that I’m not coming with you?”

“You should be. You should be going to college somewhere.”

“If I decide later that staying here and going to work with Dad was a mistake, I can still go to college.”

“Not with a wife and kids you can’t.”

“So you’re worried that I’m going to marry young and have a bunch of kids and be tied down here for life, while you’re out making your fortune in the big wide world?”

“You’re too young to get married. Debbie is way too young to get married.”

“So you’ll ruin her for me. Is that it?”

“I’m not going to ruin anyone. If I can’t convince you, maybe I can convince her that you should go with me.”

“Convince her that she doesn’t love me?”

“You don’t know anything about love. We’re too young. I don’t even want to talk about love. I’m not worried about love. I’m worried about you getting married to a high-school senior, having children, and regretting it. If Debbie is ready to marry, what’s she doing going out with me?”

“It’s only because you’re my twin. I think that mixes her up a little bit.”

“If she’s kissing me, she isn’t so mixed up she thinks it’s you. I’m dating her to try and help you, but why is she doing it?”

“She’s inexperienced. She doesn’t know any better.”

“Please. She’s doing it because she likes kissing. Answer me this: how can you love someone who doesn’t love you? Think about that.”

“A person can come to love you. They can learn to love you.”

“Listen to yourself. You’re just a kid. This is all wrong.”

“What can I promise, to make you stop seeing her?”

“Someone in love cannot be trusted. No promises. I’ll stop seeing Debbie in either of two cases: first, you agree to go to college with me in September. You can register the week before classes. Or second, you convince Debbie to stop going out with me. I doubt you’ll have any luck with the second, not by using watercolors and your guitar.”

“The more you see her, the more it hurts and the angrier I get.”

“That’s my dilemma. Do I look out for you by going out with Debbie, or do I respect your feelings and let you go your own way?”

“You know my answer to that.”

“You know what? I’m going to talk to Debbie myself. I’m going to explain to her exactly what’s going on, why I’m dating her. I’m going to tell her my worries about you and your future. I’m going to see what she thinks.”

“Please don’t do that. It’s not her problem. Don’t put that on her. You’re already using her against me. It’s almost like blackmail. If I don’t go with you, you’ll spend the summer making out with her, or worse.”

“I’ve got to do something.”

“Let’s sit down together with Dad and hash this out. The whole college-or-job question. We can also tell him how I feel about Debbie, but not about what you’ve been doing. I understand that you’re trying to do the right thing, but this isn’t it. Let’s ask Dad. He’ll help us.”

Tax Time

“I’m thinking about cheating on my taxes.”

“Why would you tell your next-door neighbor that?”

“Drink loosens my tongue.”

“Are you that hard up for money?”

“It’s not because I need the money, it’s because I don’t agree with the way my tax dollars are being spent.”

“Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

“Where did that saying come from, anyway? If I believe that my tax money is being spent for evil purposes, and so I don’t give as much as I should, then fewer bad things are done with it. That’s a right, not a wrong, isn’t it?”

“The thing is, there is something called a social contract. You’re part of the country and society, which means that you agree to follow your society’s laws.”

“I never signed a contract. I was born here. This is my country. I don’t demand that everybody obey my laws, but by the same token, I don’t have to obey everyone else’s.”

“It doesn’t work that way in a democracy. You don’t stop obeying the law every time somebody gets elected whom you don’t like… Wait a minute. Why are we even having this conversation? You’re thinking about cheating on your taxes. End of story.”

“I’m just wondering how likely I am to get caught.”

“I have no idea. I doubt you’d get caught. I don’t know how many people cheat on their taxes but I’m sure there are plenty who stretch the truth a little.”

“The government is just borrowing money to stay afloat, anyway. It doesn’t need mine.”

“Will you please stop? You’re making me wonder how honest you are in general. Maybe this is why you always beat me at golf.”

“What? How dare you? I would never cheat at golf. Some things are sacred.”

“Maybe this is why you borrow so many eggs and so much sugar. Maybe this is why you’ve still got that set of Allen wrenches you borrowed from me.”

“Helen cooks more than Sue. Don’t get jealous.”

“But seriously. If you would cheat on your taxes, what else would you cheat on?”

“Don’t get personal. I’m sorry I said that. But now that I’ve finished another one of these drinks, I’ll answer you. We’ve been neighbors for many years. You’re Mister Straight-shooter. Every Sunday you troop out with your family to church. You’ve never borrowed anything from us. Your children never need a haircut. Your dog doesn’t bark. ”

“You do sound a little tipsy.”

“You never get drunk. But what really kills me is, you’re a salesman who doesn’t lie. You’re an honest salesman. How is that even possible?”

“I believe in my product. I’m proud of it.”

“Helen keeps talking about how wonderful you are. Every time you come over, she just lights up. I look over there when you’re at your dinner table and you and Sue look like you’re carved out of ice, but over here, you’re the life of the party.”

“I’m not so perfect. I have my ups and downs.”

“Tell my wife that. She thinks you walk on water.”

“Helen is a fine woman. You’re lucky to have her. And she is a great cook, in addition to her other fine qualities.”

“You’re right about that. Say, I’ve been meaning to ask you. Has anyone heard anything about Fred? Did he ever show up?”

“No. Fred is still missing.”

“I saw his wife out in the yard the other day. What a babe. She didn’t seem unhappy, either. Had a little smile on her face. She was humming as she pruned her roses. You’re friends with her, aren’t you?”

“Yes, we’re good friends.”

“What does she say about her husband?”

“It hasn’t come up.”

50 Haikus about Summer Vacation

For a contest. 8 of these were disqualified because they didn’t scan. I haven’t fixed them. 😦

Fifteen winter haikus

1,001 more


work mind remains fogged
until sun and waves clear it.
the world becomes real.


sun falls on pale skin
so long covered by thick cloth
and wakes life within


The tide is full out.
We leave home and find the sea.
The tide is full in.


Purple bikini.
Time to stop our play and watch.
Red monokini!


Pink beach umbrella.
With the sound of gulls and waves,
my sadness leaves me.


At last, vacation!
White sand, blue sky, ocean fun.
Then the shark arrived.


Retirement. It’s like
a summer vacation that
doesn’t end in Fall.


Cabin in the woods.
Birds and bears and wily raccoons,
instead of my boss.


for going on vacation.
Rain starts at station.


vacation in New Zealand
means summer skiing.


Summer vacation
Grandpa taught us on the farm
more than our school does.


Our dogs and cats hate
summer vacation, when we
go and they stay behind.


We fly to far lands
on summer vacation, but
find most much the same.


our vacation: we leave
for the untouched wilds.


future vacations
on the moon, where little green men
keep the buffet well-stocked


Into the house, back
from our summer vacation.
Now, time to relax!


We come to the woods,
which stand silent, empty, dark.
A mosquito zzzeees.


No light in the tent.
We lay quiet in the night.
A mosquito whines.


Gone fishin again,
Away from others, alone.
Embraced by the Earth.


Summer camp for boys.
Heaven close across the lake:
summer camp for girls.


First year at boys’ camp.
Sent hunting for snipe at night.
Dark woods and laughter.


Out of their work clothes
and into weird shorts, my folks
laugh more and burn red.


Vacation ahead.
Right down the road to the sea.
Once we fix this flat.


Disneyland’s lesson:
learn to stand in a long line
and learn to like it.


Car tire on a rope.
Swing over the lake and let go.
Land on a turtle.


Summer vacation
in space. Martian girls go wild
while we take pictures.


The sun on my back
quietly warms my pale skin.
I notice after dark.


Grandma in heaven
enjoys vacations quiet
but satisfying.


Seeing-eye dog on
summer trip works hard even if
the mister goofs off.


Summer in deep space,
the sun always shines, with no
sense of gravity.


In Hell, vacations
are hot. Not balmy, not fun,
but never too short.


Chasing tornadoes.
Summer fun and excitement
ending in a whirl.


Country to country
our tour moves on without pause.
Where the heck are we?


Clinging to the rock face,
make no mistakes, though I don’t
want to die at work.


The summer life guard
reigns over her domain with
white zinc on her nose.


Summer romance blends
sun and love in the heart, but
watch out for autumn.


Dad, are we there yet?
No, children. We aren’t there yet.
Well, are we there yet?


Our parents would fight,
but after our vacation,
be in love again.


Go to prision and
lose your freedom, plus also
no more vacations.


We bought hunting guns,
real big ones, and shot straight.
Mammoth meat for all.


Our folks planned the trip.
All we kids cared about was
the roller-coaster.


Our uncle Fred went
over Niagra Falls in
a barrel for fun.


the tourists come and
the tourists spend and so we
are able to live


I have decided to
take a vacation from all
of my vacations.


Sky diving thrills me.
Free in space. Falling. But then
I come back to earth.


Grandpa said his life
was a vacation but he
always worked so hard.


We fell in love on
the beach but it was just as
good in Ohio.


On our vacation,
mom and dad don’t come home late.
They are always there.


Sand castle and moat
face the waves. Water spreads in
and smooths the beach flat.


Rocker on front porch
Cars pass while I smoke a pipe
Hot day and cold drink


“What are we going to do with the human race?”

“They’ve been getting along on their own since they evolved. Why not just leave them alone?”

“We can’t do that, now that we’ve discovered them. If they were doing fine, we could move on. But they aren’t. We can’t just write them off and continue on to the next star. That would be morally indefensible.”

“They’re headed for certain destruction, yes. By their own hand. But some will survive. They’ll start over. Maybe the next time around, they’ll have learned something. The moral and ethical thing to do here is to leave them alone. Remember: don’t meddle with another species.”

“In general that’s true. However, billions upon billions of sentient human lives are at stake. In such a case, inaction on our part should not be an option.”

“How does a race let itself cram seven billion souls onto a little planet like Earth? No self-control whatsoever.”

“That’s not for us to decide. Well, it is, but we have access to unlimited worlds. Maybe we’d run out of room ourselves if we were stuck in one system like they are.”

“It’s a dilemma. What to do? It’s tricky, trying to help a species. Unintended consequences, you know.”

“Tricky doesn’t mean impossible. Plus, if we do nothing, they’re doomed, so even if we intervene and foul up, they won’t be any worse off than they are already, in the long run.”

“Suppose we do intervene. What should we do first?”

“We could deactivate all their nuclear weapons.”

“I can’t see what harm that would do. Good idea.”

“They might get paranoid and start attacking each other.”

“They do that anyway. They’ve killed millions of themselves in the last hundred years. Their own worst enemy. At least if we remove the nuclear weapons, they can’t obliterate all life on the planet in an hour or two.”

“OK. Agreed. Thirty-thousand nuclear bombs, or whatever the count is. Plus any random terrorist dirty bombs. All to be deactivated. Personally, of all the human screw-ups so far, those weapons seem the worst.”

“Hard to choose just one dumb thing, but that might be the prizewinner, all right.”

“OK, next I propose that we limit their production of gasoline and electricity.”

“Whoa. That’s a lot more problematic. The economies of the Earth depend upon gasoline and electricity. Limit them and you wreak havoc. Civilization could fall apart completely.”

“But humans are causing mass extinctions among the planet’s life with their pollution. They’re ruining the biosphere. Why not throw them back a thousand years or so?”

“Because you’re reducing the population by billions. We can’t do that. First of all, do no harm, as a human doctor would say. That’s the beauty of getting rid of the weapons. We aren’t directly killing anyone.”

“Look, we’re going to break some eggs here, no matter what… But suppose that we tighten up energy supplies a little? Try to coax a little conservation and innovation. Alternative, sustainable sources.”

“It’s a can of worms. I might go along with the introduction of some new technology.”

“Then again, the planet can’t support this population, conservation or no conservation.”

“Let’s put energy aside for a moment. Instead, I vote to eliminate all biological weapons. It’s just a matter of time before something gets loose.”

“Agreed. Stupid as the nukes. Even stupider. You unleash a disease and sure as anything, it’s going to come back and bite you on the leg. All bio weapons must go.”

“Good. We’re making progress here.”

“Could we get rid of plastic.”

“Wouldn’t that be great! It’s relatively new on the planet. There are older humans who can still remember when everything was made of wood, metal, or paper. Now, Earth is practically plastic-wrapped. Regrettably, society as humans now know it would collapse completely if we got rid of plastic.”

“What about a cure for the…”

“Stop. We are not going to cure diseases. We are not going to remove dictators…”

“Why not dictators?”

“Humans have always had dictators. Do you know why?”

“No, why?”

“I don’t know why. Which is why we’re not removing any.”

“What about cures for diseases?”

“The planet is covered with a very, very young species. The more I think about it, the more I believe that this race needs five or ten or twenty thousand years of quiet low-tech desperation to help it mature.”

“That’s awfully harsh. We could favor a culture or two. Like the Balinese?”

“The Balinese culture is being mutated by tourism.”

“We could do what we did with that three-legged race.”

“Let them off their planet? You must be joking. This is a race of beings that occasionally eat each other.”

“That is very, very rare. I think. Every race has a few skeletons in its closet. Why, I remember when we…”

“Please don’t bring that up again.”


“What makes you think that giving them access to a few more worlds will help?”

“New frontiers. Get the wilder specimens out of the pack. They wouldn’t be so crammed in together. Change of perspective. There is a lot of room out here. A lot of empty planets. A few cosmological pointers is all it would take to get them going. We’d be saving billions of lives and thousands of years of suffering for the survivors.”

“If we do this, let’s start with one additional world.”

“That wouldn’t work. They’d be fighting over it immediately. Let’s give them a thousand rich and fertile worlds. So many, with so much land and so many resources, it won’t make any sense to fight. Enough space to last for millenia.”

“All right. It can’t hurt to try it. If they screw up, we can pen them up again and leave them to evolve into a race that features a little less drama.”

Settling In

“Are you happy, Mheshimiwa John?”

“I am happy.”

“You are no longer a missionary. You have been living in our village for some time now.”

“Yes. I have put aside my missionary calling. I am not going back to America. I will abide with you.”

“The people of the village worry that you are not happy.”

“Why do they worry?”

“You come from a place of great cities, great wealth. The people of the village worry that our poor village is not worthy of you.”

“Your village is very worthy. I have left the great city and great wealth. It was not good for me.”

“The people do not understand this.”

“The bad spirits in the great cities are too powerful for me. They caused me temptation and worry and pain. I must have the simple life of the village, the quiet life of the village.”

“Aha. You are escaping certain bad spirits. I will explain to the villagers.”

“Yes, tell them that.”

“I have heard you speak of these bad spirits. They are told of in your Bible.”

“Yes, the Bible does mention them.”

“You wish to live like we live.”


“You must wear what we wear now. The villagers do not understand why you remain wrapped in those “trousers” and that “shirt” and “suit coat” and “tie.”

“Well, I… You folks don’t wear very much… Of course it’s very warm here… But I’d like to keep my pants, at least.”

“I think you should not wear the pants. They disturb the villagers.”

“Well, I’m a modest man… but I want to fit in… I just want to live a quiet, peaceful, contemplative life.”

“Listen, Mheshimiwa John. The village too has bad spirits, like the big cities do. These spirits prey on those who are alone. A person who wants to be alone is not trusted in this village. It is not the village way. If you are alone, you must be speaking with the bad spirits. In the village, no one is alone. We do not walk in the forest alone. We do not sleep in the night alone. You understand? The villagers worry that you walk in the woods alone and sleep alone and sit quietly alone.”

“Your bad spirits do not trouble me.”

“They trouble everyone. That is why there is sickness and accidents and death… There is talk also about how you do your business alone. You understand? If there is one time above all that you should not be alone, it is when you are doing your business. You must always have company when you do your business.”

“My gosh. That’s… I’ve already agreed to go without my trousers, but this…”

“The villagers also worry that you sleep alone and have taken no wives.”

“I do not need wives.”

“Every man needs wives. There are three women here without a husband. You must take them as your wives.”

“But I don’t want wives… I… I prefer… I mean…”

“Do not say that to any villager. It will trouble them very much. Tonight I will send you your three wives. Later you will agree on payment for them with their families.”

“My goodness. I can’t possibly have three wives. What am I going to do with three women in here?”

“They will do everything for you. They will cook for you and feed you. They will wash your clothes and they will wash you. They will go with you when you do your business. The one called Ghufira will give you many children.”

“My Lord.”

“Get her with child quickly. This will please the villagers. Hadhi is too old. Hadhi is a crone. Ijuma is too young. Ijuma has only six years. ”

“But I don’t… I can’t… It’s not… This is a moral dilemma for me. Living here is one thing. Marrying and fathering children is another… I can’t even speak to these women.”

“Speak to them? You do not need to speak to them. They will know. They will keep you safe from bad spirits. You must hit them every day.”

“Hit them?”

“They will not respect you if you do not hit them. They will think that you are weak. They will think that you do not like them. Their families will be unhappy. The village will be unhappy.”

“Oh my goodness, oh my goodness. I can’t even do my business in the big city unless I’m completely alone in my own… What am I going to do?”

“Do as I have told you. Never be out of sight of at least one of your wives. They will teach you with signs about the bad spirits of the village. They will rub your “sun-block lotion” on you. If all goes well, I will give you more wives and a slightly larger hut. Also, Abubakar has asked that you help with his medicine.”

“My head is spinning. I’m still a good Christian. As far as marriage is concerned, perhaps I can conduct the ceremony and marry myself to these women. I must consult the scriptures. But isn’t Abubakar the witch doctor?”

“He is the mganga. He has seen you cure with the little pills. He will teach you. You will teach him. You will learn to make the bad spirits obey you.”

“I’m going to have to pray about all this.”

“Just don’t pray alone, whatever you do.”

Night Before Morning

“I’m gonna kill Jones in the morning.”

“Won’t bring your brother back.”

“Maybe it send Jones to a place my brother can find him.”

“You kill Jones, you not gonna stop hating him. It gonna be the same, he dead or alive.”

“He alive, it all I gonna be thinking about. He alive, it gonna eat at me till I go crazy.”

“You kill him, you gonna have a lot of time to think about him while you sit in your cell. Unless you killed too, that is.”

“I kill him, I be sitting there with a smile on my face. It be worth it.”

“You sitting there smiling, your brother still dead.”

“Shut up, Mook. You can’t talk me out of this, you my friend or no friend.”

“I bet your mother can.”

“You tell my mother, I kill you instead of Jones.”

“Why you worried about your mother hearing it? Because you know she tell you not to do it.”

“I would do it anyway.”

“You would not, you know you would not, and you know your momma don’t want you to kill nobody. So how you going to go kill him, you know your momma won’t allow it? You do, she will not forgive you. She gonna have one boy dead and one boy in jail or else also dead.”

“Maybe I not gonna get caught.”

“Don’t make me laugh. The only way you going to shoot that man is when he walk from his house to his car or from his car to the courthouse. Both ways the police be around, for sure. Most likely, they gonna shoot you like a dog, right there on the spot.”

“They not gonna shoot me. The man killed my brother.”

“You think they care about your brother? Your brother and Jones and you all the same to them. But forget about them. I’m talking about your momma. She gonna come visit you in jail, if you live, and you know the look gonna be in her eyes.”

“Mook, I have got to kill that man.”

“It just seem like you do.”

“I will not be a man if I don’t. I want to do it. Everybody want me to do it. Everybody expect me to do it.”

“I don’t. Your momma don’t.”

“What if he kill your brother, Mook?”

“Then I’d feel like you do.”

“There you go.”

“I’d feel like you do, but I wouldn’t do it.”

“You would do it. You just don’t know what it feel like.”

“Look here. What if Jones killed Strick?”

“Strick? I hate Strick. Jones killed Strick, he be doing me a favor.”

“You see? Jones is still Jones, but if he kill Strick, that OK with you. If he kill your brother, that’s not.”

“What is your point, Mook? Why you putting me through all these changes?”

“One more time. Suppose you kill Jones’ brother. Is Jones supposed to come for you or not?”

“Why I kill his brother? Self defense? Then I’ve got a right.”

“Say, you just kill him out of meanness.”

“Then Jones should come for me.”

“I give up. I can’t explain it. It’s not right you kill Jones but I can’t say why.”

“It always been this way. All the way back. A man kill your family, you kill his family. It blood, Mook. It how you know you a man. You don’t do it, you might as well be a dog. Come to think of it, even a dog will fight for its master.”

“All right, all right. Back it up to your momma.”

“My moms look out for me. Naturally she don’t want me getting hurt. She don’t care anything about revenge. She want me safe. Also, she a good Christian woman. She would never go with killing of any kind. That my momma and I will not disrespect that. It why I will not talk to her about this before I do it.”

“What about this, then. You pull your piece and the cops shoot you before you shoot Jones. Now you got two dead brothers and Jones still alive.”

“That where I am counting on you, Mook. We best friends. I go down, it’s you got to kill Jones.”

“You never have to worry about that. I got you, man. You know I’m good for that.”