Friday, January 15, 2010


I saw Will today at the college. As always, my hands began to shake at the first sighting of him ambling down the sidewalk. When his brown eyes caught my gaze, my stomach turned inside out and lay there burning. My lungs emptied and refused to be filled, sending my heart into oxygen deprived spasms.
We talked for almost one whole minute, engaging in conversation of the ‘how are you?’ variety. I don’t think we’ll ever look at each other that we won’t exchange a hungry stare—longing to say more than we're saying.
Sometimes I feel twinges of longing to sit in some coffee shop with disregarded cups of coffee steaming in front of us as we talk until the curly headed barista ushers us out to the curb so that he can sweep up the crumbs and cover the pastries with plastic wrap. I can’t help it, sometimes--despite the past, despite the pain and the misunderstandings--I just want to be with Will.
But I know that given the chance to spend an evening together, we would both leave frustrated or hurting, and I know that I would come back and sob myself to sleep with guilt and regret.
And I know that these pains of longing, these twinges of desire are just somehow reflexive, like the ghost pains in an amputated leg, or the involuntary muscle jumps of the dead.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Yo-yo Will

I long to release this strand I cannot afford to hold, to fling
it into the great expanse of what I do not know
and to watch it land, once and for all,
into Hands that know the tricks of the string
so much better than

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Other Side of Me

I’m like a book.
So much to keep in;
So much to keep out.
Hybrid of all things good and evil,
Heroine and villain all at once.
The cover, all you see,
A faint synopsis,
Misleading at best.

Just behind these green panes
curtained with my thoughts,
Another side of me exists,
Unknown to those not searching for it.
Like the deep part of the sea-
Only bravest adventurist
Able to stand supreme pressure
Can enter the clandestine chambers
Of my heart.

There my eyes light up with dreams
held captive to fears your side contrives,
And I'm not the paper doll some believe you can clothe, bend as you please
Or the paper Mache you assume
Can be broken, or wielded which way you assign.
You resign me to teeter on a book spine
You post me at a blender,
while I stir up recipes for passion in my soul.

The other side of me cheers cowboys on bucking broncos and
bungee jumping bridges.

Peer inside,
over my shoulder in a moment that the cover’s undone.
You’ll find me chasing stories, in New York,
clad in of blazers and heels, Pulitzers and such.

Strolling through a butterfly blossomed meadow,
watching the moon, make its sleepy upward drift so
maddeningly close to my fingers.

I watch your world,
and you,
from the windows of my soul,
wondering if you care to know
the other side of

Saturday, January 9, 2010


Caleb let the dressing room door shut quietly, and looked around. Good; no one in the store had noticed him step out of the dressing room where he had appeared.
He strolled past the racks of shirts and shorts, trying to avoid the attention of the perky sales clerk ambling toward him.
“Would you like to try on some of our bright and bold polos for summer?” she beamed. “We’re having a great sale.”
“No thank you.” Caleb continued to the front of the store, smirking as he glanced around at the displays of turquoise, yellow, and green polo shirts displayed around the store. Bright and bold? These colors paled in comparison to the radiance of Heaven, as did all of earth’s details.
When Caleb reached the front of the store, he paused beside a rack of shirts to look out the display window into the mall.
A voice rumbled behind him. “We are far from the Holy City are we not?”
Caleb turned to see Machaia, smiling.
“That is quite an understatement.” Caleb grunted, crossing his arms across his chest. “You are here, too, are you?”
Machaia nodded. “There are many of us today.”
“But you are not shrouded?” The angel hadn’t clothed his spirit in human form as Caleb had. To human eyes, Machaia was invisible.
“I was informed that it isn’t necessary for my task.” Machaia scanned the store. “Where is your charge?”
Caleb pointed past the stream of shoppers walking by the display window. “In line at Starbucks, as always.”
Amusement lit Machaia’s eyes. “If she is able to find mischief while she is standing still, she must keep you busy.”
“I never know what to expect from her.” Caleb thought of the bum that had almost grabbed her in an alley last week. She’d had no business walking alone downtown after dusk, but Caleb hadn’t left her side and the unsuspecting assailant hadn’t stood a chance against the dumpster lid which had met him head on. “She’s simple at times. So childlike; trusting.”
A smile tugged at Machaia’s lips. “The Almighty likes that.”
Caleb’s gaze remained fixed on the crowd of people laughing and swinging shopping bags as they passed the window; his senses detected their lust or covetousness, the unkindness, selfishness and all other manner of disobedience to the Almighty’s commands. “She’s too fragile to live in a world such as this.”
As if he knew where the conversation would lead, Machaia reminded his fellow
guardian, “That is why we are here to protect such as her against the evil.”
Clenching his hands at his side, Caleb muttered, “If only we could fight, rather than merely protect.” His voice shook with passion. “If only we could direct their choices, change their course, we could annihilate evil—”
“The Almighty has given us orders to guard them, my friend, not to guide them. Their choices are their own.” Machaia’s eyes filled with empathy. “I know how you long to battle. You always were a zealous one.”
Caleb stared out the window as the memories came back. Though millenniums had passed, it seemed like only days ago when he had fought Satan and the rebels in the great uprising in Heaven.
After the battle, when earth and humans were created, the Almighty had issued assignments to the remaining angels. Some were appointed to be messengers to reveal His supernatural signs on earth; some were assigned to praise Him; others, like Caleb and Machaia, were sent to be guardians of the Almighty’s chosen ones. But then there were the Defenders, those chosen to deliver answers to prayer, who fought the Prince of the Air and his forces. Though Caleb battled his own desires to rectify evil as a Defender, he knew his assignment of Guardian was of no less importance.
“No matter.” Pushing aside his thoughts, Caleb glanced down at the watch on
his wrist. “Well, we are now subject to time.”
“Yes, we should see to our charges.” Machaia gave one last glance at Caleb before passing through the wall.
Caleb walked out the door to join the surge of men and of angels swarming in the mall’s food court. Hundreds of humans, their arms full of bags and boxes, stood in lines to order pizza, burgers, pretzels, or coffee.
He made his way slowly toward the long line of people just outside of Starbucks. Watching the humans push past him, oblivious to their own depravity, Caleb felt a twinge of pity. Perhaps, ignorance was their greatest sin.
A woman wearing a low cut tank top paraded by and looked him over slowly, her intent
clear even to an angel. Caleb didn’t even see the teenage boy until he slammed into Caleb’s shoulder as he passed.
“Watch where you’re going, dude.” The boy sneered over his shoulder as he strutted away.
Watching him go, Caleb felt his frustration rising once again.
How could the Son have lived for thirty-three years among these that refused to acknowledge their need for righteousness? Immediately, shame gripped his spirit at his thoughts of condemnation. Only the Almighty who was gracious enough to come to them was holy enough to condemn them. But deep inside, Caleb would never understand such mercy.
Since receiving his order to be guardian, Caleb had protected the best of humanity from the worst of humanity. His current charge was Bethany. For all of her eighteen years he had guarded her, mostly from her own oblivious ways. Now, Caleb shuffled into line behind her, smiling at the sight of her blonde pony tail swaying slightly when she gazed around at the bustling atmosphere.
Why she enjoyed exploring new places and traveling alone, he would never understand. He did know, however, that she was captivated by the excitement of the world viewed through her innocent eyes, unaware of the ever present evil endangering her.
He shoved his hands into the pockets of his khaki pants and looked around, meeting the gazes of fellow angels, shrouded and invisible. He didn’t know what was going to happen, but he hoped it would happen soon; he didn’t like standing around doing nothing.
“It’s really busy in here today, isn’t it?”
Bethany’s words caught him off guard. He raised his eyebrows and looked away, hoping she would stop talking, but knowing that she wouldn’t.
“As long as this line is, you’d think that people needed coffee to live.”
Caleb cleared his throat. “That’s how it would seem.”
“Well,” she grinned, fidgeting with the debit card in her hands, “I say that, but
I’m standing here too.”
The plastic card presented an interesting question: if the line ended before his task were finished, how was he supposed to pay for whatever it was they were standing in line for?
“What do you usually get?”
“What kind of coffee do you usually order?”
He decided to be vague, but honest. “I’ve never been to—” he pointed up at the sign, “Starbucks before.”
“Really?” She turned to face him, green eyes opened wide. “Are you from a different planet or something?”
The irony made him laugh. “Something like that.”
She pressed her lips together, a sign Caleb had come to realize meant that she was thinking. Finally, she blurted, “Would you let me buy you your first Starbuck’s coffee? Please?”
He smiled, knowing that rejection would be futile; Bethany would not stop until he was holding a cup of coffee in his hand. “You’re very kind. Thank you.”
“Let me tell you, the best thing to get is the java chip frappachino. I get one every
time I come here. I guess I should try something else, there are so many. . .”
Bethany’s rambling dwindled to a hum in Caleb’s ears as he felt the sensation of danger prick his spirit. Craning to see around a pretzel stand, Caleb spotted him, a young man pushing through the glass doors into the food court.
And he wasn’t alone. At his side strode one of Satan’s minions.
Caleb watched the demon’s malicious glare sweep over the crowd as it whispered into the young man’s ear. The man smiled, looking both smug and disgusted as he touched the side of his trench coat.
Then Caleb understood. It wasn’t just Bethany in danger today; possibly every human in the food court would be affected by the wretch’s alliance with evil.
His heart began to race. This had happened not so long ago at Columbine, Virginia
Tech, and countless other places where humanity’s disregard wasted the Almighty’s gift of life.
Although he hadn’t been at those places, Caleb was here now and this didn’t have to happen; he could stop the man before the shooting started. But he didn’t have much time. Time— he hated time.
He looked back at Bethany who was still chattering, her pristine eyes sparkling with excitement. And Caleb made his choice.
Ignoring Bethany’s protests, he darted from the line, and pressed toward the table area as the young man edged closer to the center of the court—center stage for the farewell performance of atrocity.
Zeal burned within Caleb and his heart pounded against his ribs as he felt power surging within him—the power he had held back for so long.
He stood, facing the murderous duo, until the demon met his gaze. Throwing its head back, the demon released a victorious screech not so unlike the sound of metal scraping on metal. In rage, Caleb lunged forward.
But the grip on his shoulders pulled him back as Machaia’s voice rumbled close to Caleb’s ear. “It’s not for us to right their evil. He can still choose to say no.”
Caleb breathed deeply, watching as the demon whispered lies, prodding on the young man’s rage.
“Think of Bethany.” Machaia urged, his grip tightening. “You don’t have much time.”
Caleb looked at Bethany, then lowered his gaze, and nodded. He sprinted back to where Bethany stood and pressed back into line.
A smile spread across her face. “There you are! I didn’t know where you had—”
“Is there not a different coffee shop just over there?” He pointed up the corridor.
He nodded; it hardly mattered. “Yes, that’s it. I doubt that the line will be as long as this one. Come on.”
Unsure of his sudden urgency, she hesitated for only a moment before complying. Walking briskly to match Caleb’s urgent stride, she chattered, “Actually, Barnie’s is better, but I’ve just always come to Starbucks, just because—”
Caleb cringed, hearing the first burst of automatic gunfire. He pushed her to the floor and crouched over her, shielding her body with his own.

An eternity of thirty seconds later, the firing stopped.
When Caleb’s spirit was free from the sense of danger, he stood over Bethany, who remained huddled on the floor, her screams fading to a whimper as she looked up at him. Before she had time to ask the questions forming in her terror-stricken eyes, Caleb backed away. Entering the chaotic scene of screaming humans and soulless bodies lying in pools of blood and broken glass, he laid aside the human form and disappeared from sight.
In the same area where he and Bethany had been standing only minutes before, he found Machaia hovering over the lifeless body of his charge, a middle-aged man.
Caleb shook his head, his face darkened in anger and grief. “How long until justice reigns?”
“Soon, my friend.” Machaia jutted out his chin, his voice sure. “Very soon.”
Caleb scanned the crowd of humans; some were racing around, while others silently stood in tears. He knew that it would be one of those stories in the newspapers the next day. Many of the guarded would accredit luck or coincidence. Had they not happened to be delayed in traffic, had not some random stranger wanted to chat, had they not been just thirty seconds late, their stories would have been completely different. That was how the Almighty had meant for it to be.
Even thinking of what might have been, Caleb silently praised the Almighty for the chance to bring Him glory and for His command to watch from a distance, guarding until the final judgment, hidden with the rest of them.

Hung Up

Behind the painted smile, Dave Willis frowned as he stepped into the dirt-covered rodeo arena. He was glad for the make-up smile because it saved him the effort of working up a fake one. The night had already been long and tense with anticipation.
Waving to the crowd, he turned on his charm. “Y’all have seen a lot of bull riding tonight. But are y’all ready to see some real bull ridin’?” The answer came in a deafening cacophony of whistles, screams, and applause.
“You’re about to see the top two bull riders bustin’ it out for the chance to be in the final five moving on to the Professional Bull Rider’s biggest rodeo event in the country, the Built Ford Tough Series.”
Again the audience roared.
Dave shoved his hands into the pockets of his baggy shorts, contemplating his next routine. It was an old one, but it would work.
“So, yeah, my old buddy, Jesse Huffman--”
Whistles and cheers responded to the name of the bull rider who many in the audience hoped would win.
Dave continued. “Jesse decided the other day to lay off the bulls for a while and try some broncos. Whew! That stallion got goin’ so bad I thought Jesse was gonna lose it.” He paused for effect. “And he would have too if I hadn’t run across the Walmart parking lot and unplugged it.”
While the crowd laughed, Dave glanced over his shoulder at Jesse, who had already settled on the back of a massive gray bull and was methodically wrapping the rope around his right hand. As usual, Dave felt his gut wrench in worry.
Knowing Jesse was ready, Dave stirred the crowd. “Come on y’all. Give it up for my good buddy, Jesse Huffman.”
Jesse raised his left hand in the air, a signal to the judges that he wasn’t touching the bull or himself with his free arm. In a mixture of adrenaline and pleasure, he roared, “All right, turn ‘im loose.”
The chute burst open as the bull launched out in his initial buck. Dave’s heart raced as he prepared to protect his friend, but his effort wasn’t needed. The bull gave two good bucks before turning around and settling into a slow gallop across the arena.
Dave ran toward the bull waving his arms, giving Jesse time to jump from his back and run toward the fence. But the bull wanted nothing more than to return to the chute where he came from. A wave of murmurs emanated from the obviously displeased crowd.
Crowd control was one of Dave’s specialties. Facing the audience, he laughed. “Folks, it just wasn’t a good day for that big fella. Y’all think Jesse can do better with another one?”
Whistles and applause answered.
“All right then, hold tight, and we’ll show you what you came to see.” Dave jogged off the arena to find Jesse.
He found him behind the fence, staring up at the screen to see if the judges would award him a re-ride. After running a hand through his sandy blonde hair, Jesse replaced his white cowboy hat. Dave knew the importance of the ride, but still it bothered him that Jesse didn’t acknowledge his presence.
Re-ride. The word popped up on the points screen. Jesse blew a breath of relief, shaking his head. His opponent would ride and then he would have his second chance.
“You all right?” Dave let his arm rest on the fence beside him, realizing it had been weeks since they had talked extensively.
“Will be, once I get a decent ride.” Jesse didn’t look at Dave as he jumped to the other side of the fence. Dave followed.
“I can’t believe this.” Jesse kicked his leg up on the fence almost parallel to his shoulders, working to get his muscles limber.
“Hey, it happens.” Dave shrugged.
Ignoring the statement, Jesse gazed at the clown act as they ran out on hobby horses, lumbering in too-big shoes.
“Is Dana here?” Immediately, Dave realized that asking about his sister, Jesse’s wife, probably wasn’t the best choice of conversation.
“Yeah, she got in last night.” Jesse still didn’t look at him.
Dave nodded. “Think I’ll go try to find her.”
Switching legs on the fence, Jesse said, “She’s probably up near the top.” He chuckled, arrogantly. “She says she won’t be able to see the blood and guts as well up there when the bull tramples me.”
Dave mustered up only half of a smile and then turned toward the stands.
He found Dana at the top of the bleachers, absently playing with her kinky black hair sticking out from beneath her brown cowboy hat. A bag of cotton candy lay opened in her lap.
Dave climbed past a few giggling teenage girls and collapsed into the seat beside Dana. She smiled not with the pleasure of a clown watcher, but the satisfaction of a sister.
“Well, look who it is.” She leaned forward. “What do they call you? ‘Waltzer’ Willis--is that right?”
Dave rolled his eyes at the name given to him by spectators and cowboys because of his ability to seemingly dance with the bulls. “My friends call me Dave.”
“How ‘bout sisters?”
“It’s been my experience that they call me what they want.” He wrapped his arm around her shoulders and squeezed. “I’m glad you got to come.”
“You’re gonna be in there on Jesse’s re-ride, right?”
“Of course.” Dave noticed her brown eyes were drooping slightly. “You look tired.”
She nodded, trying to hide a tight yawn behind her hand. “I stayed up waiting for Jesse to get back to the hotel room last night. Finally gave it up and went to bed about one this morning.” Distracted, she tore a piece of cotton candy off, put it in her mouth, and sighed. “I guess he decided to go out with some of the guys.”
Dave lowered his gaze to the arena where the clowns were in the middle of a mock gun fight.
“You don’t want him to win this do you?”
“What makes you think that?”
“’Cause I don’t either.”
One of the clowns in the ring pointed his rifle straight up and pulled the trigger. A shot reverberated through the speakers, and a huge stuffed chicken fell from the rafters, landing at the clown’s feet. The crowd laughed.
Dana lowered her head. “I’m tired of traveling. I’m tired of Jesse being gone so much. I’m tired of not having him even when he’s with me. But,” she looked into Dave’s eyes and shrugged wearily, “Jesse’s doin’ what he loves.”
“Jesse loves the eight-second thrill and the winning.” Dave looked back down at the arena. “He doesn’t love what he does.” Dave vaguely massaged his left wrist and the scars that remained from his last bull ride, years ago, when his hand got hung up in the rope and was all but torn from his body. After that, Jesse got the mounts and Dave turned to clowning.
“When it’s all said and done, I just want Jesse.” Dana resealed the bag of cotton candy. “I don’t want him wearin’ the champion belt buckles and goin’ to late-night parties. I want him back like we used to be before he made it into all this.” She bit her lip. “I don’t know how much longer we’re gonna last, Dave. He’s stopped going to church with me when he’s home. He avoids my calls when he’s away. And--”
The and covered a lot of ground as Dana began to weep.
Dave pulled her close. “Come on now. You can’t give up. Jesse’s gonna let it go one of these days. I know it.”
She nodded and pulled away, wiping tears.
The shootout routine ended with a puff of blue and yellow smoke, followed with a roaring crowd as the second finalist geared up for his ride.
“You’d better be gettin’ back down there.” Dana nodded toward the arena.
“Hang in there, Cowgirl.” Dave patted her back as he stood. He fought back anger as he climbed down the stairs to the back of the arena.
He saw the glazed look in Jesse’s eyes as he stared up at the clock on the scoreboard, no doubt his mind already on the next ride and the eight seconds to victory.
Dave walked up beside him. “Are you ready?”
Looking almost annoyed, Jesse slapped the leather gloves on his palm. “Ready to win this thing.”
Dave bit his lip.
“Dana enjoyin’ the show?” Knowing the answer full well, Jesse laughed and began pulling on the gloves, making sure each finger fit tightly.
Dave bristled. His voice was low and even. “Jesse, you gotta decide what you want.”
The cowboy jutted his chin defiantly and snorted. “I know what I want.” He looked up at Dave for the first time, thrusting a roll of duct tape out toward him. “I want to make it to the top and I’m about to do it.”
Dave pulled at the tape, tearing off one strip with his teeth. “Okay. Let me put it to you this way.” He began wrapping the tape tightly around Jesse’s wrist and glove to hold the glove in place. “You need to focus on keepin’ what you’ve got.”
Jesse looked away. “What did Dana tell you?”
“I already knew.” Dave tore off another piece. “So what are you gonna do about it?”
Jesse met Dave’s gaze again. “If y’all don’t want to back me up that’s fine.” His voice turned cold. “But it’s what I want to do and I’m gonna take it--all the way.”
Dave felt the comment directed at him and knew they were riding into territory he did not want to revisit. “You got to prioritize the things you love: God, Dana, your riding--your friends.” He hesitated. The ride had started in the arena. The blaring music was almost drowned out by the crowd’s cheers. “Sometimes you gotta let go of what you want--”
Jesse fired off, “Yeah, you’d know about letting go.”
The remark struck Dave harder than any blow a bull could have rendered. He finished taping the last piece and gaped at Jesse, hoping he didn’t look as betrayed as he felt. “So you think that because I quit bull riding, because I put on this goofy-looking getup every week, because I’ve been there to keep the bull from killin’ you in every ring since you started ridin’--you think I just let it go?”
The eight-second buzzer went off, signaling the end of the ride.
Jesse was focused on rubbing rosin on his glove, but Dave saw the muscle in his cheek jerk. “Okay then, Hero. What do you think I should do?” He eyed Dave cockily. “Do you want me to stop riding bulls?”
Dave shook his head. “I want you to realize there’s a lot more to lose than comin’ in first in this ride or any other ride. In fact, winning might be the biggest loss you’ll ever take.”
“Yeah, well, I’ll be the judge of that.” Grabbing his hat, Jesse turned on his heels in disgust.
Dave ran a hand through his dark hair, watching his friend strut off. Swallowing his hurt, he climbed over the fence into the arena.
The tension in the audience was thick enough to lasso as Dave trudged into the center. He watched Jesse winding the rope around his hand again and again, determination on his face.
When the bull shot out of the chute, Dave’s heart began to race.
Jesse leaned close over the bull’s hump to get over the initial buck. Fury widened the bull’s eyes.
Dave jumped out of the way, watching the animal maneuver back and forth, flailing his body in an attempt to throw Jesse off.
Jesse stayed low on the bull, his hand clinging to the rope as he pressed his legs into the bull’s thick flanks. The crowd screamed their support as Jesse held his mount.
When the eight-second buzzer went off, the crowd went off too, waiting for the dismount. But the wait was too long for Dave; he knew Jesse was hung up.
He watched the bull whip his neck around, kicking his legs out in the opposite direction. Still fighting to free his hand, Jesse was not ready for the momentum. The buck jolted him off balance and threw him over the side, his arm twisted behind his back. His body dangled closely to the bull’s thrashing legs.
Dave felt phantom pain shoot through his arm at the memory of getting hung up. Rushing forward, he communicated silently with the other bullfighters who had run into the ring to distract the bull. Trying to avoid the bull’s flailing legs, Dave felt helpless, seeing the pain and panic in Jesse’s face. He knew the solution was so simple. Cupping his hands around his mouth, he yelled, “Jesse, let your hand go limp. Stop pullin.’ You’ll slip out of it.”
When the bullfighters distracted the bull long enough to stop thrashing, Jesse’s hand finally slipped out of the rope and he fell to the ground in a heap. Dave grabbed him under the arms and pulled him up, all but carrying his friend toward the fence.
But the bull had his eyes set.
Dave had seen many bulls with a vendetta against the rider. When the bull charged them head down, Dave pushed Jesse toward the fence and leaped in the opposite direction of the bull’s charge.
He could feel the bull pounding the ground behind him with two thousand pounds of rage. In a moment, Dave felt the impact of the bull’s head on his back thrusting him into the air.
When he landed on the ground, Dave felt as if his lungs had malfunctioned--he couldn’t manage to suck in any air, couldn’t stand up and run. As the arena began to spin, he heard Jesse’s panic-stricken voice calling him from across the arena. Just before everything went black, he wondered what a ton would feel like running across his back.
Five minutes later Dave rested on a gurney, wheezing as a paramedic slid a stethoscope across his chest. “It just knocked the wind out of me,” he said sitting up, but the threat of darkness and nausea pushed him back against the gurney.
Sitting on a second gurney across from him, Jesse winced as a paramedic stuck an IV in his good arm. He looked over at Dave, concerned.
Dana stood behind her husband, with a hand clutching his shoulder and the other hand shakily brushing away tears.
Jesse’s voice shook. “I--I really thought he had you, Dave.”
“Probably would have if the other bullfighters hadn’t been so fast.” The next words were hard for Dave to admit. “I think you took it all the way with that ride.” He closed his eyes, a smile tugging at his lips. “Could stand some work on that dismount though.”
“Yeah.” Jesse shook his head, as if amazed. “I don’t know what happened. It was almost like I was holdin’ on so tight that I forgot to let go. All I had to do was open my hand.”
Dave opened one eye and grinned. “Easiest thing in the world.”
“Mr. Huffman.” A runner from the judges’ booth came sprinting over. “They’re callin’ a foul on your ride. Said it was a touch on the flank right before the buzzer. You wanna challenge it?”
Shock and anger hardened Jesse’s face. “You better believe I want to challenge it. I mean, you can’t tell me--” Whirling around to look over his shoulder at the judges table, he met Dana’s gaze.
Dave watched resignation soften Jesse’s brow as he turned back around and looked down at his arm.
Finally, he drew a slow breath and reached up to grasp Dana’s hand. “Nah. Let it go.”

Monday, January 4, 2010

Stop Light Chemistry

Dang, it was cold—-scratch that—-freezing out here at one of the busiest intersections in town. Of all days to be changing a stop light, and for all places for Josh to be struggling to get the safety harness on, standing in one of the turn lanes at Airport and Franklin. He’d only been working with the company for a week and hadn’t even learned how to pull on all the various loops and buckles necessary for his first ride up in the bucket. After struggling for five minutes to figure it out, finally, he broke down and asked for help. Moe, a black guy who had seemed to be working with these things since stoplights were invented, bent down in front of him.
“Oh, yeah, you bet. Easy as pullin’ on your pants.” He winked.
Josh managed a smile, only slightly embarrassed of what this must look like to the people stopped beside them at the red light waiting to get to salads and burgers and hot drinks. Moe hooked one of the legs in less than ten seconds. "There. Now you figger out the other 'un."
Feeling somehow vulnerable, Josh stepped beside the truck for privacy--at least from the cars on one side. The light turned green while he wrestled with the yellow nylon. A minute later, the light turned red again just as he got each of the buckles in a latch. There, that’d do for sure.
Moe slapped him on the back. “Come on, boy. You gotta get yourself broke in. Ain’t no way I’m goin’ up there today.”
“Wow, thanks.” Josh grinned sideways and stepped out from behind the truck to where the bucket hovered three feet off the ground. He walked bow-legged, the bulky harness pinching him in uncomfortable places.
Inspecting the harness, Moe let out an aggravated huff. “Good night, boy! You got this leg all tangled up.” He jerked Josh by the shirt, whirled him around, and began untangling the buckles on the back of his thighs. When he had finally finished, Moe slapped Josh's butt.
“Now, you ‘member dat for next time. Git up there and git ‘er done ‘fore the lunch rush gets worse than it is already.”
When Josh turned around to climb into the bucket, he happened to glance into the window of a Toyota Corolla idling at the red light in the lane not ten feet from him; and somehow, maybe it was the little grin on her lips, or the amusement sparkling in her eyes, he knew that she had seen everything—-seen and enjoyed every second.
He grimaced, suppressing the urge to run into the lane and beg her to wind down the window so that he could explain it all.
Instead, the light turned green, the F-150 in front of the Corolla lurched forward, and the young woman gave a little wave before speeding off.
Somehow, he knew she understood.


A new year starts as nothing more than a scribble to correct a mistake. It starts as that one number scratched out, that one digit we can’t get used to writing, that one blot on our check or composition because we forgot time moved on.
Why is it that we can’t seem to get past the old year?