Fifty Unusually Short Stories (FUSS): Thou Shalt Not Covet

Perry felt that he had abided faithfully by the 10th commandment for most of his life, especially when it came to not coveting his neighbor’s wife.  At the same time, he was unsure how to interpret the part about not coveting anything belonging to his neighbor in that he had long yearned for Cecil’s sleek riding lawnmower, often daydreaming about stealing and spray painting it black to better stave off detection once the missing piece of equipment was discovered.

Neither did Perry covet his ox or manservant, namely because he didn’t have either, nor his ass because of the social implications.  And as for Cecil’s wife Tammy’s ass, temptation never entered the picture because of the way it waddled to and fro, at times appearing as though it was set to music whether carrying groceries in from the car, walking their decrepit miniature poodle Jacques around the block, or mindlessly plodding atop his manicured lawn with a plate of freshly baked lemon bars, half of which were invariably eaten by the time she reached Perry’s front door, yelling ‘Yoo-hoo’ in her shrill voice instead of simply ringing the bell.

As for coveting his own surly wife Trudy and her equally sizable but shapelier ass, Cecil saw no problems with this in that he wasn’t as intimidated by warnings against lust, often ogling her from inside the house and having impure thoughts for a man his age as she bent over weeding the small flower garden meticulously tended to each day in the hot afternoon sun.

And though Tammy similarly and consciously shied away from coveting Perry in the more biblical sense (they attended the same church after all), she was obsessed, and at times utterly consumed with the way in which he very obviously coveted Trudy, spying on him from her kitchen window as he stood next to his favorite recliner, longingly looking outside with no pants on fondling himself with arthritic hands.

But whereas his desires were unapologetically (or so it appeared) carnal in nature, Tammy’s were decidedly more literary, with plans to craft her unsavory observations of Perry drooling over Trudy for a poetry contest advertised in Better Homes & Gardens with a $50 first prize, publication in a subsequent edition, free subscription for a year, and an ergonomic melon baller.

While it took months of careful editing and rewriting to develop an accurate and compelling final draft, she was more than pleased with the results:

 

Bent over in the garden

fleshy mama pulling weeds

a balding husband spies on her

excited he begins to wheeze

 

A purple polyester bulls-eye

crack thoughts fill his fantasies

he jumps behind his La-Z-Boy

his boxers pulled down to his knees

 

He giggles waiting for her entrance

whereupon he’ll leap and seize

demanding ‘hoeish’ pleasures

she the gardener he the weeds

 

As she struggles up the steps

he’s hunched and whispers “Please”

she quells his thoughts, she’s sweaty hot

and yells, “Hey dumbshit, make iced tea”

 

As Tammy sat there admiring her work, Cecil burst into the kitchen in an audible huff, disrupting her attention.  “Hey bitch…,” he shouted loudly enough for people to easily hear through the cracked window, “…where’s my supper?”

Tucking the completed poem into her apron pocket and obediently walking towards the refrigerator to pull out ingredients for a modified taglierini complete with black olives and corn niblets, Tammy peered outside to hide her embarrassment, immediately noticing Trudy watching the terse interaction between them intently from her own kitchen with a pad of paper and pen in hand, furiously scribbling notes.

While Perry may have coveted Cecil’s riding mower and his own wife’s ass, Cecil a warm meal served at a specific time of day and the strict observance of gender roles, and Tammy the way in which Cecil acted upon his lust for Trudy, the only things Trudy coveted were a new melon baller and a little not-so-friendly artistic competition between neighbors that had been brewing for years.

 

Advertisements

Fifty Unusually Short Stories (FUSS): Thou Shalt Not Covet

Perry felt that he had abided faithfully by the 10th commandment for most of his life, especially when it came to not coveting his neighbor’s wife.  At the same time, he was unsure how to interpret the part about not coveting anything belonging to his neighbor in that he had long yearned for Cecil’s sleek riding lawnmower, often daydreaming about stealing and spray painting it black to better stave off detection once the missing piece of equipment was discovered.

Neither did Perry covet his ox or manservant, namely because he didn’t have either, nor his ass because of the social implications.  And as for Cecil’s wife Tammy’s ass, temptation never entered the picture because of the way it waddled to and fro, at times appearing as though it was set to music whether carrying groceries in from the car, walking their decrepit miniature poodle Jacques around the block, or mindlessly plodding atop his manicured lawn with a plate of freshly baked lemon bars, half of which were invariably eaten by the time she reached Perry’s front door, yelling ‘Yoo-hoo’ in her shrill voice instead of simply ringing the bell.

As for coveting his own surly wife Trudy and her equally sizable but shapelier ass, Cecil saw no problems with this in that he wasn’t as intimidated by warnings against lust, often ogling her from inside the house and having impure thoughts for a man his age as she bent over weeding the small flower garden meticulously tended to each day in the hot afternoon sun.

And though Tammy similarly and consciously shied away from coveting Perry in the more biblical sense (they attended the same church after all), she was obsessed, and at times utterly consumed with the way in which he very obviously coveted Trudy, spying on him from her kitchen window as he stood next to his favorite recliner, longingly looking outside with no pants on fondling himself with arthritic hands.

But whereas his desires were unapologetically (or so it appeared) carnal in nature, Tammy’s were decidedly more literary, with plans to craft her unsavory observations of Perry drooling over Trudy for a poetry contest advertised in Better Homes & Gardens with a $50 first prize, publication in a subsequent edition, free subscription for a year, and an ergonomic melon baller.

While it took months of careful editing and rewriting to develop an accurate and compelling final draft, she was more than pleased with the results:

 

Bent over in the garden

fleshy mama pulling weeds

a balding husband spies on her

excited he begins to wheeze

 

A purple polyester bulls-eye

crack thoughts fill his fantasies

he jumps behind his La-Z-Boy

his boxers pulled down to his knees

 

He giggles waiting for her entrance

whereupon he’ll leap and seize

demanding ‘hoeish’ pleasures

she the gardener he the weeds

 

As she struggles up the steps

he’s hunched and whispers “Please”

she quells his thoughts, she’s sweaty hot

and yells, “Hey dumbshit, make iced tea”

 

As Tammy sat there admiring her work, Cecil burst into the kitchen in an audible huff, disrupting her attention.  “Hey bitch…,” he shouted loudly enough for people to easily hear through the cracked window, “…where’s my supper?”

Tucking the completed poem into her apron pocket and obediently walking towards the refrigerator to pull out ingredients for a modified taglierini complete with black olives and corn niblets, Tammy peered outside to hide her embarrassment, immediately noticing Trudy watching the terse interaction between them intently from her own kitchen with a pad of paper and pen in hand, furiously scribbling notes.

While Perry may have coveted Cecil’s riding mower and his own wife’s ass, Cecil a warm meal served at a specific time of day and the strict observance of gender roles, and Tammy the way in which Cecil acted upon his lust for Trudy, the only things Trudy coveted were a new melon baller and a little not-so-friendly artistic competition between neighbors that had been brewing for years.

 

Fifty Unusually Short Stories (FUSS): The Thin Sock Philosophy

Although largely American in both his style and oddly-robotic mannerisms, Roger wears thin European socks with sandals because he believes the combination gives him a leg up at professional conferences.  Once in either Poland or the Czech Republic he held the attention of a group of greasy-haired technicians in all colors of dark leather blazers while his fellow countrymen looked on, and he thanked his thin socks reverently and in a secret ceremony upon returning to the gaudy interior of his eastern bloc hotel room.

Roger is so smitten with their power and communist grayness that he sometimes places the socks on a foldable lectern that he carries in his briefcase and encourages people who approach him to have a look.  On a business trip to Bulgaria he used them to entice a female computer programmer to visit the place he was staying and ended up spending eight days in prison for a fetish violation in which his thin socks were held as evidence.

Conversely, he became threatened during a meeting in Shanghai in that colleagues there wore what he described upon returning home as the most magical form of male pantyhose that could ever be imagined.  Observers stated emphatically that he was intimidated into relative silence, but this had nothing to do with the thinness of the socks in comparison to his own but more so the bold decorative patterns weaved onto such delicate fabric.

He came back with several pairs but decided against giving them as gifts so as not to risk losing any leverage they might impart either at the office or in a basketball game he’d never be chosen for.  Roger knows now that sporting environments don’t respond well to thin socks yet he reasons this is simply because athletes don’t take the time to understand their might just like he doesn’t have time to explain the thin sock philosophy.

International clout aside, neither the willowy garments themselves nor their hypnotic attributes played out as well stateside, with the situation becoming especially troublesome leading up to romantic interludes.

When forced to remove and toss them into a laundry basket completely out of sight, he would become self-conscious and begin to blush and sweat with embarrassment when his wife compounded matters and asked Roger in hushed, passionate tones to recount his deepest sexual fantasies as she cuddled up next him in a mere silky thong, her own version of the influential thin sock.

One of the reasons for this reaction, in addition to the unanticipated sway of flimsy underpants, was that her stories were normally so engaging and believable in both their tone and kinkiness.  At the same time she expected reciprocity, and Roger had never been a good impromptu speaker especially without the confidence imparted by his preferred brand of hosiery.

The more important reason for his reservation, though, was that most of his fantasies were selfish in nature and concerned things like landing a trophy trout, defeating Gary Kasparov at chess, or inventing a revolutionary computer application.

To appease her and as a means of personal development, Roger learned how to manipulate these selfish desires into largely fictional tales which speak to his wife’s libido while not letting on that they’re ultimately about himself.

When asked for a location, he’d respond, “Gasping for breath on the banks of a pristine stream”.  When asked for a situation, he’d answer, “I’m a knight in battle, you’re the queen in waiting”.  When asked for a method, his story fell apart, “By programming your erogenous zones using a Java application”.

Perturbed at this inability to whisk her into a land of his imagination, Roger’s wife would stand to hastily cover herself with ill-fitting sweatpants.  “Honestly…,” she’d say with conviction, “…I don’t know why I bother”.  Her words were a stern reminder that she’d watched too many TV dramas and relied too heavily on folklore.

“I’m sorry…,” he’d respond halfheartedly now rummaging through the dirty clothes, “…but if you want me to call you Tar Baby then Uncle Remus needs his thin socks.”

Fifty Unusually Short Stories (FUSS): The Crusader

Next to a dying geranium and just above a juice concentrate can with yarn clumsily glued to its exterior, a pencil holder now, Deborah displays a three-slot picture frame showcasing two fair daughters in flowered dresses with package ribbons in their frocks and a pre-teenage boy too young for facial hair.

Those observers who sit across from her are surprised at the image namely because of the contrast, never mentioning anything because they fear that doing so runs the risk of Deborah breaking down hysterically as she admits to a genetic condition similar to the wolf family of Juarez, or confides that he’s primordial.  These young whiskers could be an outward expression of an inherent impishness, proof positive he’s fallen in with the wrong type of crowd, one which favors Mountain Dew in glass bottles, cheap cigarettes, and dirty fingernails.

Customarily seething as he stares at it along with other standard décor from across the office landscape, Robert, who presses his jeans with a hot iron, placing creases firmly down the middle of both legs, has a history of crusading against things that others find puzzling like cute animal posters, family and school portraits, succulent plants, and other forms of cubicle adornment.

“There’s no damn room for this type frazzle in a place of business…,” he says when given the chance to express his opinions.  His face is deadly serious, “…it comes off as unprofessional and kitschy and I’ll be damned if I’m going to sit here trying to do a good job for this organization while someone’s ugly kid stares down at me for eight hours from a popsicle stick frame”.  He doesn’t set policies for the company but decided a long time ago to be outspoken and brash.

As a younger and slightly less bitter man, while taking a full load at the local community college and making it a point to be active on campus, Robert and his friend circulated a petition to get Alfonso Ribeiro permanently removed from television.  “It ain’t that he’s colored…,” reasoned Robert’s co-conspirator Donny as they approached a minority student group in the cafeteria…,”

“…it’s just that he can’t act to save his life”, followed Robert with conviction.  “And I’ll be damned if I’m going to sit in my living room on a perfectly good Thursday night and have some damn colored kid who can’t act ruin my mood and quality situation comedy as we know it”.

Although Robert tries to keep his rallying generic, he has a history of putting himself in uncomfortable situations through words and disapproving glances, a reality that Deborah has self-consciously become fully attuned to.

“At least he’s still young…,” reasons her husband Leroy after work as she sits sobbing into a dishtowel at the kitchen table, trying to rationalize the awkward picture of their son while attempting to appease her ongoing need for confirmation.  Completely missing both the point and yet another opportunity to assuage her insecurity, Leroy continues unabated, “But try not to worry, honey…,” he says while placing an oblivious hand on Deborah’s bobbing shoulder, “…there’ll be plenty of opportunities for him to shave”.

Fifty Unusually Short Stories (FUSS): Jesus in High School

As Brent Musburger coolly, uncaringly, acutely describes an aggressive defensive end breaking through the line and into the backfield unmolested, it strikes Brent DeCarlo in a whole different way as he’s once again thrown into the cycle of unpleasant reminiscence (sports analogies aside) involving memories of navigating the hallways of his all-male Catholic high school after most of the other boys had gone home.

Whereas cleanliness is next to godliness, righteousness is holy but not practiced or enforced, wrong from right is indoctrinated in preached words, and trust amongst brothers in cloth is assumed code, it’s vigilance and feigned deafness that keep astute youth from being called into gothic, darkened stone rooms and student laboratories for potentially fleshy reprimands and peculiar shakes of accomplishment and recognition.

In more reflective moments, like when he’s picking at cheek acne in the bathroom mirror and ruminating over prior, punishable indiscretions like farting in biology class while dissecting a frog, wondering if such behavior constituted a smell-based sin or could be interpreted as an unsavory, unforgivable lack of respect for the dead, Brent also sometimes ponders more earthly matters like if Jesus played football in high school and, if so, whether he used to point at himself after scoring a touchdown as the result of a Hail Mary or otherwise miraculous play.

Forever of the opinion that this act was somewhat selfish, shallow, and at times disingenuous because it celebrated an opponent’s defeat as much as it did individual accomplishment, Brent was also curious to know if opposing players, like those from archrival Haifa Preparatory Academy also pointed, or at times strove for something more intimate like touching Jesus in gratitude for a run-of-the mill first down, or, more  oddly, asking if he would touch them so as to increase the likelihood of future mundane successes.

Whatever the case, Brent felt it would be extremely uncomfortable at best to tussle with or against a major religious figure, especially one you were pressured into worshipping while at the same time bizarrely awe-inspiring to have him standing in the middle of a prayer circle after the game soaking it all in while smugly acknowledging the many WWJD bracelet-adorned wrists and victoriously shouting, “Yo, yo, yo…this right here is what Jesus does!”

Cautious about lifting a teenage Jesus into the air in triumph with his arms splayed so as to mindfully reduce the potential for ominous foreshadowing, Brent also speculated that Joseph would likely fit the bill as a typical boastful sports dad, living vicariously through his son and wearing a Nazareth High hoodie to games and around town with ‘Christ #1’ on the back and the phrase ‘The First Coming’ artfully scrolled beneath in stenciled Aramaic.

Now bleeding from the face due to excessive piercing with rough, un-manicured nails, Brent wonders if these pinhole wounds could be a sign of facial stigmata or if they’re merely the result of genetics or his undying fondness of Burger King.  Briefly conflicted about how Jesus might have dealt with his own acne, either by prescribed tetracycline or expeditious self-healing via a magic finger, Brent is suddenly sickened by the epiphany that he’s late to meet his own football coach, Brother Martinez, in the locker room to help out with and lend brute power to a confusing yet nameless special project.

 

Fifty Unusually Short Stories (FUSS): Unfortunate Protuberances

Although not a third nipple, wart, growth, or nubbin of any other description, Manuel has an unfortunate protuberance emanating from between his hips near the top.  “It’s a God-damned tail is what it is…,” offers Russell, an enormously religious man with broken teeth and unusually bloodshot eyes who picks up towels at the YMCA, “…like he’s got a drop or two of the devil’s blood in ‘im”.

Those who pass Manuel naked in the locker room over the noon hour look down in curiosity and pity contemplating whether it’s uncomfortable to sit down or if women grab for it in passion like a saddle horn.  In its perfect fleshy triangularity, sympathizers wonder if it might be hacked off, tucked away like an envelope flap, and shipped stampless to a museum of medical oddities.  Manuel sometimes explains to dissenters and those with real interest that it’s nothing more than a genetic extension of his tailbone, but even he is not beyond shaking it to his advantage while dancing which is one of the things that attracted Becca to him.

It was just after an initial passionate encounter behind a discotheque in the back seat of his brown minivan painted with geometric Aztec designs that he learned her full name was Becca Villanueva which excited Manuel in that his sports hero growing up was Fernando Valenzuela.  Phonetic similarities aside, especially when rolling off the tongue in fluent Spanish, she also had the same barrel-chested build as the Mexican pitcher.  And while this may have been a turnoff to some, he was utterly entranced, especially when his hand first lustily traversed the sparkly red fabric of her short-sleeved blouse during an impromptu rumba to notice what he immediately came to recognize as either a distended bellybutton or the business end of a feeding tube.

Although not a third nipple, wart, growth, or nubbin of any other description, Becca has an unfortunate protuberance emanating from her midriff, near the place she was once connected to her alcoholic mother via the umbilical cord.  And while pious aunts and other opinionated immigrant female family members would often strip her down during Sunday picnics, stare, point, and refer to it as evidence of an underdeveloped evil twin, Becca simply called it embryonic leftovers, something which appealed tremendously to Manuel’s insatiable appetite for authentic Mexican cuisine.

With bodily acceptance and experimentation serving as both their guiding principle and romantic catalyst, whether on the dance floor on in the back of his van, Manuel regularly directs Becca’s left hand to his extended tailbone to emulate her childhood fantasy of riding bareback, while she encourages and sometimes forcefully demands that he stick his index finger in her outie to metaphorically plug the dike, hence holding back a release of uncontrollable moisture from soaking the embroidered nylon upholstery covering a suddenly captivating single spring poking through the adjustable bench seat.

 

 

 

Fifty Unusually Short Stories (FUSS): Box Fan

Based on a persistent and especially morbid conviction, Marty has become unusually paranoid about eating too much garlic and consuming copious amounts of alcohol because he doesn’t want these odiferous and socially stigmatized substances on his breath were he to unexpectedly die in some bizarre or mundane fashion.

Specifically, he wants to avoid any possibility of being shortchanged by finicky or sensitive morticians as they prepare his body to lie in state, though in which state he’s still unsure in that he’s lived in so many. For Marty, this decision is analogous to a major league baseball player deciding which team he wants to be associated with for induction into the Hall of Fame.  It’s not easy by any stretch, and that’s another reason he’s started preparing well in advance of the event itself, whenever it may occur.

Moreover, he doesn’t wish to perish in an era where the leisure suit has suddenly and perhaps unbeknownst to him come back into fashion.  Beyond the strong potential for close friends and family members to avoid kissing him on the forehead as is customary because of the foul, guilty stench emanating from his sealed lips and mostly closed pores, he thinks it would be tremendously uncomfortable, constricting, and unnatural to spend eternity in light green polyester, faux silk, and stacked Italian loafers with bad breath and a heavy steel chain and peacock medallion hanging around his neck.

Returning home after being tasked with rummaging through a dead father’s closet in the impossible search of an appropriate outfit for his own sparsely attended funeral, Marty’s conflated disposition has suddenly taken on even greater urgency.  After being sternly reminded by a distant cousin that a red dickey, white V-neck sweater with pinhole burns down the front, and houndstooth slacks were not acceptable options, he was forced to purchase a cheap suit with a slit up the back form the mortuary, meaning that the last physical memory of his dad approximated hazy, frustrating childhood visions of unsuccessfully attempting to dress a Ken doll.

Walking through the airport, Marty carries no luggage, but instead a large box fan in its original, taped-up container, apparently oblivious to the fact he could get something similar at one of the many discount superstores in the state he recently moved to, adding to the complexity of where to hold his eventual visitation.  When questioned by a fellow passenger about why he would bother as he tries to cram it into the overhead space, Marty responds.  “No. This here is the same fan my daddy used after mama died to make it seem like someone was breathing on him when he was sleeping, and then later to dry himself with after peeing the bed.”

He sits, but not before cramming his mouth full of Altoids to mask the scent of a lunch of pungent chicken wings and four vodka tonics.  “No…,” he says now with composure and extraordinarily fresh breath, “… this fan here is real special and we’re just giving her a new home now that daddy’s passed on to a place where incontinence has faded away and relationships with dead spouses are suddenly rekindled.”

Hoiberg Holiday Letter 2018: For No One

‘Math for Poets’.  That was what the moss-green and mustard-yellow polyester-clad professor called Math 105, the only such class I took as an undergraduate at Iowa State.  What he was suggesting, of course, was that numbers were destined to allude we non-analytical thinkers throughout life, at least in a substantive way, or that at best we’d be relegated to approach them as lowly simpletons, counting on our calloused fingers, Neanderthal brows furrowed, with very little regard for or understanding of their intrinsic qualities and untapped potential.

In 1 way, though, his words (though equally difficult for him) were prophetic: It was obvious by looking around the room that none of us ‘poets’, struggling through this hard-to-fathom requirement / pre-requisite regardless of how it was set up, were plotting a course towards great scientific achievement, at least in a conventional way.  Nor did we sense that algorithms, whatever they were, were in our future.  Heck, the majority of us never took let alone understood what trigonometry, calculus, or other advanced math subjects even were, other than me emphatically stating to a more numerically-savvy peer that 1 of the symbols used in his differential equations textbook looked eerily similar to an elongated orange peeler my mom had purchased at a Tupperware party.  Tactile comparison, after all, will always win the day over computing for members of the right-brained fraternity.  But that doesn’t mean numbers aren’t powerful in their own right for poets, or that they inherently lack meaning.  Remember 57 from a couple years ago?  I mean that was some pretty heady shit if I do say so myself.  Maybe it’s just that we write about numbers or see them as aesthetic forms better than we calculate with them.  So be it.

Simply put, numbers tend to resonate in a holistically different, more literal way.  Take for instance the number 1.  I mean what could be simpler, right?  And while it will never be anything more than a basic quantity, boorish declaration of superiority or euphemism for urination in my book, 1 possesses certain dynamic attributes in its own right, however it is expressed.  A cleanness.  Independence.  A statement of sorts, either positive or negative.  And certainly is no number more reflective of our current reality than 1 with 1 daughter away at law school, 1 in her freshman year in college, and 1 at home.  In the interest of keeping things basic, 1, as you may have gathered by now will prevail throughout this year’s letter by providing: 1 thing we all wanted to be when we grew up, 1 reason it didn’t happen, 1 really strange fact or occurrence, 1 song with 1 in the title that has particular relevance for 1 reason or another, and 1 thing either real or fictitious that we hope for in the New Year.

Anna (22…both digits are 1 away from 1): As a youngster, Anna pined for and often fantasized about a career as a rodeo queen, though we were never quite sure what this meant.  Fortunately, her early fear of horses and refusal to ride even a small 1 in our Field Club 4th of July Parade precluded this from ever taking firm root.  Additionally, cowboy hats, sparkly boots and fringed sleeves are frowned upon at Loyola University of New Orleans where she is currently thriving as a 1st year law student, unless the individual in question is planning to seek an appointment in Judge Roy Moore’s jurisdiction upon graduation (she is not).  She ate mustard on a bratwurst for the 1st time several months ago which she described as a life-changing experience (hello!!!), and will soon start humming Murray Head’s ‘One Night in Bangkok’, though for her it will be more like ‘Two Weeks in Spetses’ to continue her studies with distinguished legal scholars in Greece (home of the 1st Olympics).  Her wish for humanity is logical meaning that for some reason it continues to elude us, and specifically entails that disaffected white men with guns stop killing those with opposing belief systems and / or lifestyles.  I mean is it really that difficult?  Anna ate mustard, so the answer to that question is a resounding no.

Emma (18…one of the greatest ages with 1 in it):  Forever our songbird, Emma, though sometimes hesitatingly, dreamed of a career as a singer, 1 she could easily still have if she wanted to.  I’ve even offered to back her up on the banjo.  Sadly, this strong desire was muted by the stern, restrictive fashion required of fledgling crooners, a belittling, Trunchbullesque middle school teacher who was obviously jealous of her talent and the ‘quiet time’ policy in her dorm after 10 pm at the University of Nebraska where she’s finding a new voice as a speech pathology major.  She was recently featured in an Omaha World Herald article about continuing her great grandfather’s legacy working in the Nebraska basketball office, and has even more proudly built upon family tradition by pledging Delta Gamma last fall where her Grandma Karen and two great aunts were members (new #1 grandchild!).  Her goals for the New Year are more selfish in nature, and involve potentially accompanying Anna on her drive back to New Orleans after Christmas (meaning we’ll be down to 1 car), and finding a good Chinese restaurant in Lincoln that delivers which she feels is kind of like curing world hunger 1 person at a time, but without the force-fed religion, persistent cry for pledges that are very likely redirected to back suspicious bank accounts in the rural south, and mealy porridge slapped haphazardly upon tin plates of various descriptions.  ‘One Fine Day’ quality Chinese delivery could cure world hunger…now there’s an idea.

Isabel (12…has many 1s in her future): In Isabel’s world, baby said she’s traveling on the ‘One After 909’ means that she likes the Beatles, but would just assume I don’t blast them over the home stereo system after 9:10 pm, her preferred bedtime.  And though her slumbering schedule may have suffered had she remained resolute in her youthful desire to become a hairstylist, she’s come to the rather mature decision to hone her advanced braiding skills as a hobby instead.  And she’s damn good.  If it’s any indication, she can fashion my balding mess into a depressing man bun which is really saying something.  As a student leader at Lewis and Clark Middle School, she’s found great success academically, in swimming (all-city champ in the backstroke!), and on the volleyball court this year where she recently made the 1s team for her club, Southwest Iowa.  Highlights apart from this included learning that gum can’t kill you if swallowed, and overhearing an awkward 1st date conversation at a neighborhood restaurant where the woman confessed to the man that she wanted to name her pet hanging plant ‘Debra’.  Wonder how that 1 ended?  Her hope for the New Year mirrors a class project from earlier this semester where she created a country called Todos Sao Bem Vindos, which is Portuguese for “Everyone’s Welcome’.  Talk about a novel concept!

Kerry (‘Still the One’…by Orleans where Anna lives): As the Talking Heads so eloquently stated in 1980, ‘Once in a Lifetime’ a woman comes along who you inherently know from the get go will complete you as a companion, champion, constructive critic, creative and career consultant, and compassionate caregiver, and it’s important for me to say this here in that Kerry and I celebrated our 25th anniversary last May which gave us occasion to pause, reflect, envision what’s to come, and enjoy a memorable trip to Napa and San Francisco to contemplate our love, partnership, marriage, and parenting over many really fine fruit- and grain-inspired beverages.  So realistically, her childhood ambition to be an artist has never been abandoned, it’s just taken form in a variety of unconventional mediums.  Simply put, she’s a true artist in what she does every day, including her work as a paraprofessional and advocate for Omaha Public Schools and as treasurer for the Field Club Homeowners League.  On Kerry’s yearly excursion to Kona, Hawaii she had her friends Deb (not the hanging plant) and Wendy found themselves immersed in an intense conversation with a 20-something fish processor who felt it necessary to talk in depth about the relationship he enjoyed with his 75-year old girlfriend which struck me as hilarious and raised a lot of questions that I won’t bother to list here.  Replacing massacred chickens who audibly met their gristly fate at the prying hands and gnashing teeth of predatory vermin over the course of a week does not seem like a noble resolution, so instead she dreams, as many of us do, that ‘Another One Bites the Dust, namely the orange-coiffed, slurry-beaked turkey living in the White House.

Steve (less than 1 year til 50…YIKES!): From an early age, Steve wanted to be a professional baseball player, but came to the realization that standing in the front yard as an adult in a loose-fitting diaper waiting for a game and begging relatives to sing the National Anthem while he saluted the flag came with a host risky implications.  This was reinforced when he showed up at his 1st informal college practice (directly from Math 105) in a moth-eaten Pink Floyd t-shirt, pair of patchwork fuchsia sweatpants made during the sewing portion of 8th grade home economics, and mismatched golf socks, from which point he was immediately relegated to the outfield to shag balls by himself.  Earlier this year, he saw a Jerry Springer-style fight break out on a plane between two couples who had just been on the Jerry Springer Show where he actually heard 1 sister say loudly to the other from across the aisle, “Fuck that bitch, I’m ‘bout to get my damn kids back from grandma”, summoning lyrics from The Fixx’s ‘One Thing Leads to Another’ to once again dance in his head.  For 2019, Steve’s only wish is that scientific research will finally confirm his long-held belief / hope that there is a positive correlation between pooping and weight loss.

You’re all #1 in our book (well, most of you anyway)…

The Ho1bergs

 

 

Poems from the Silk Road: Apparitional Parishioners

Jihads and crusades

holy wars involving men

…double standards spur self-made idols

 

Former wanderers and truth seekers

forcefully swayed through spoken oddities

free bread, peace miracles, hand-me-down tales

 

Enthusiastic converts fighting

for spiritualistic monopolies going

beyond to heave manifest allegiance at their new salvation monger

 

First rocks then shaped stones

onto arrows, spears, catapults

slingshots and rifles

machine guns to deforming chemicals

then warheads that make rubble of the physical world

…and those things being fought for

 

Causes evaporate like arid desert flesh

and reasons cease to function or even exist…

if god is one he fights against himself

divided he tempts his peers

on foundationless and undefined landscapes

using Apparitional Parishioners as faithful bait

Poems from the Silk Road: Maoist Feet

Her feet are moist

I’m sorry that her feet are moist

her feet are Maoist and slightly red and wet

from wading in the rice paddy

of the commune long enough that

toes have turned wrinkled and a discolored

hue of dead flesh and imagined conquest

 

Smallish because of famine

flirtatious snakes swim intentionally

amongst the moist feet and saplings

getting politically aroused

by idealism and by her Maoist feet

for surely these lack the mass appeal

of taste and force-fed doctrine

 

Masquerading as spoiled meat

foraging serpents prefer rations

and the promise of glossy advertisements

to cult of personality rationalization

lest it be directed at them

and their unique brand of surrounding snails

on limp stalks without having to crack shells

 

Collectivization overcomes rapt hunger

as something nourishing to identify with

her moist Maoist feet now waterlogged

offering a façade of fleshy red flags

unable to overcome or usurp

the relative comfort of pork cracklings or

appointment to a moistened committee seat