Solo Rider



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Colors of rainbow have all washed away
gone’s arco iris, all’s left’s black and grays.
Thought I had power and dreamt I had speed
left riding solo’s lonely place to be.

Longed for adventure, I needed to fly,
so I saddled up and went for bike ride.
Seems dark and dreary had entered my soul;
to cure winter blues knew I had to roll.

A lack of daylight and excess of mead
hitched my giddy-up so went out biking.
Goal was a roll with friendly peleton
alone at start line where have riders gone?

There’s strength in numbers, there’s value to herd,
camaraderie and to heights we’re spurred.
That’s all terrific but none of it counts
cuz on my group ride my solo-ness taunts.

Day was not tempting fact I must admit
cool temperatures and steady fine mist
but it’s been observed we don’t go to war
with army wanted as we roll forward.

Whether it’s warring or withering sky
weather’s the weather when time for bike ride.
The mail must go through in sleet, rain or snow
out in the drizzle this male man did go.

The wind was blowing to that must confess
a forty knot gale made my bike skittish
but I persevered and I fought the wind
as I cycled from home to ride begin.

Incredulous stares and a few horn honks
affronted my eyes as Klaxons did taunt
but I soldiered on despite wind and rain
I knew peleton would ease stress and strain.

Five miles I traveled by bike to get there
arrived wet and chilled at parking lot stared
expecting to find riders at the start
found I was alone it tore at my heart.

I shrugged my shoulders and inhaled deeply
made the decision to ride solo-ly.
Cursing the weather, resenting lost mates
I went for a ride turns out it was great.

Despite the weather, the wind and the rain
horrid conditions, fact I’m not quite sane,
ride on bicycle beats sitting around
but on next group ride hope lost mates are found.

Colors of rainbow have all washed away
gone’s arco iris, all’s left’s black and grays.
Thought I had power and dreamt I had speed
left riding solo’s lonely place to be.


Tony Kneel: “Daisy, Daisy,” part 2 of 3



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At the end of our ride I bid farewell to Jack, approached Nicolette and exchanged numbers. We agreed that I’d peruse the Potomac Pedalers rides and see which one fit best. I explained that I’d be riding the tandem solo to the ride start so we’d almost certainly do a ride that originated in Ashton or Olney. I didn’t explain that we’d have to start close by because I was carless, the reason wasn’t relevant, and Nicolette smiled while Geoff scowled as they drove away with their bikes atop their BMW 733i.

I cycled the five miles from Sherwood High to home, put the tandem away, (it was my most expensive possession) showered, grabbed some food and, since it was Saturday and I didn’t have to wait until after 11:00 for rates to go down, phoned Jean.

“Hey, baby,” I said into the phone, “how you doing?”

“Good,” she replied. “Just getting some last minute wedding details planned. You’re still planning to make lasagna for the rehearsal dinner at Marie’s, right?”

“Yep. Lasagna Florentine. Gotta Popeye it up.”

“Great. We can go shopping when you get here. You’re driving up with your folks?”

“Uhm, maybe?” I responded. “We’re all coming so I should have plenty of people I can catch a ride with. Maybe John and Brooke. Guess what I did today?”

“Heard from a school in Atlanta!?”

I exhaled heavily. “No. Sorry. Nothing yet. No. I went on a group ride with Jack on the tandem.”

“Oh. Yeah?” Jean responded non-committed. Jack was not one of her favorite people.

“Yeah. Potomac Pedalers? The bike club? We rode the tandem.”

“Cool. Have fun?”

“Yes. I’m looking forward to tandeming with you in Atlanta. Had a gal express interest in a tandem ride with me and so next week I’ll probably ride with her.”

“Oh, yeah? Somebody you know?”

“Not really,” I replied. “We’ve been on rides together, but we haven’t talked much. She usually hangs with her body-builder boyfriend.”

“Oh. Cool! Well, have fun! I got stuff to do. Talk to you later?”

“Absolutely. I should be home tonight. Call you around ten?”

“Perfect. Love you!”

“I love you, JPT. Later,” I said, waiting for her to hang-up before disconnecting.

I consulted my Potomac Pedalers newsletter and found a ride that started from the Olney Theatre and called Nicolette. Geoff answered. “Hi. Is Nicolette there?”

“Who’s calling?”

“Tony Kneel. I’m supposed to arrange a tandem-”

“Nikki!” I hear Geoff call out. “It’s the tandem guy.”

Nicolette gets on the phone, we agree to meet at the Theatre on Saturday the twenty-fourth and go about our days.

Saturday May 24th brings another beautiful not quite summer morning to central Montgomery County. I cycle to the Theatre and find Nicolette waiting with Geoff who scowls. “Hey!” I say, “how are you this morning? You have water bottles?”

We place her two bottles in the stoker’s waiting cages and we three sign the ride log. I explain the basics of being a tandem stoker and then we’re off, heading northwest toward Old Baltimore Road. It doesn’t takes long before the ride group splits into a slightly smaller faster portion, and a larger slower part. Nicolette and I leave Geoff behind in the slower part as we motor through the mostly rolling byways of rural northern M.C. With nearly twice the horsepower but almost no additional aerodynamic drag, tandems allow riders to go faster on flats and fly downhills, with the flip-side being a more precipitous slowing on ascents.

Peter’s Seventieth



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Image may contain: 4 people, people sitting and indoorWe all know of Peter and his fairy pal Tink,
and army of Lost Boys from fount of youth did drink.
Neverland far away, yet ever is it nigh,
ADA accessible, as we all can fly.

Fly away in spirit, God Father, Son, and Ghost!
My Cath’lic upbringing this play reflected most.
Not too far from Dubuque, in eastern Iowa,
is where I lived longest, tall corn and short soya!

I too am an orphan, I too am four of five,
play made me remember times long ago slipped by.
Sarah captures nicely Midwest mid-century,
Wendy, John and Michael, Jane and Hook all family.

First we lost our mother and then we lost our dad;
only one not present when our Royal Dame passed.
Ten years span of siblings, eldest turns sixty-two
all love one another; I’m liberal in the room.

Spread out cross the nation, triangle of vast size
from D.C. to Memphis hypotenuse inscribes.
Though great is the distance hearts are our winning suit
for love of family for all’s an absolute.

Known to act a fairy, flit merrily around,
though the years weigh heavy life still holds me spellbound.
Here’s to sister Peter, my John and brother Mike,
Jane’s our youngest sibling, I will Captain our flight.

We all know of Peter and his fairy pal Tink,
and army of Lost Boys from fount of youth did drink.
Fly away in spirit, God Father, Son, and Ghost!
My Cath’lic upbringing this play reflected most.

Seconds Away


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Just seconds away from free flow of tears,
the anguish, the pain, the burden of years?
There on my shoulders they sit and they wait;
they’re always ready to show heft and weight.

They’re patient, not kind, oh so tenacious,
life’s melancholies whose burdens weight us.
Stalking and waiting, they’re always alert,
and moments of joy destroy and subvert.

Know just how lucky I’ve got it in life,
manifold blessings insulate from strife;
think it’d be easy cuz I got it made,
that insulation life’s pains could assuage.

Though I’ve countless joys that uplift my soul
sorrow’s great burdens adds my tears to shoal.
Tides that ebb and flow, soul uplifts, recedes,
long to staunch the flow that from my eyes bleed.

Beautiful rainbow, same colors as days,
red through violet please, the pain assuage.
All can see my heart clearly on my sleeve:
Though I too know joy from pain no reprieve.

Miss Communication


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Miss Communication was prim, proper, perky and poised. As I entered her tiny office the twenty-something rose from her desk, strode the two steps required to traverse its length, greeted me at the door, introduced herself and shook my hand with a hint of grip. She nodded to her desk, her impeccably made face produced and then lost a sunny smile as she intoned, “This way please.”

Her knee length, dark blue skirt would have greatly restricted her ability to walk were it not for the nine inch slit that split it just below where the good Lord split her. As she ushered me to her desk her seventy-five millimeter heels produced their tell-tale clickity-clack; they also produced a pleasant wiggle in her walk. We sat, she behind her desk, me facing.

She had buttoned her shimmering taupe top to within two buttons of the triple decker pearl choker that adorned her smooth, young neck. The blouse shimmered like satin but may have been a synthetic material. Based on it’s clinginess it certainly contained some Lycra/Spandex in the weave. My mind went to Leviticus 19:19 and its prohibition concerning mixing fabrics. My mind also went to my upcoming 4/19 birthday. I told my mind to focus. It told me to F-off, except it used a word my mother asked me not to use, may Dog rest her soul. 

Miss Communication smiled as she confirmed my basic information. “Your most previous employer was Suncoast?” she asked.

“Correct. Well, other than CSH, of course,” I said with a nervous cough of laugh.

“Of course,” she replied nodding politely. “So, let’s see, you’ve worked in eight bike shops-“

“Eight organizations. I’ve worked in eleven bike shops.”

“Come again?” MS C asked.

“I’ve worked for eight bike shops but two of them were multi-location? Challenge Schwinn in Atlanta and BGI in Indianapolis? They both had three locations and I worked at two of them. Out Spoken has two locations as well but I never worked in the Tampa store. And BGI moved locations while I was there so that made three locations where I worked.”

“Okay?” she said, left eyebrow raised.

“Sorry,” I replied, getting the hint but not acceding to it. “Sometimes I talk too much. Especially when I’m nervous.”

“You really don’t have any reason to be nervous,” she replied.

“Oh, I agree. Doesn’t stop ’em though, does it? The nerves I mean.”

“No, I suppose not. Just relax.”

I snorted.

“Something funny?” This question rated both eyebrows to the ceiling.

“No, It’s just that I frequently expostulate on the inefficaciousness of telling a nervous person to relax. It’s not really a voluntary response; is it?”

“Inefficaciousness?” Miss C’s perfectly plucked brows now danced above her pale blues.

“You know, efficacious? Something that works? Inefficacious? Something that doesn’t work? Is inefficacious not a word?”

“I have no idea,” she replied with an adagio triple nod, her smile gone.

“It’s like telling a new skier to relax as he goes down the slope. Easy to say, hard to do.”

“Sure,” she replied, pointing at her computer monitor, “shall we return to this?”


“You started working in bike shops in 1986?”

“Yes. College Park Bikes, back when Larry Black ran the place. It was a Trek store. Not corporate, of course!”

“Of course. And you’ve worked in bike shops continuously since then?”

“Pretty much. Not exclusively. I have an EE degree, that’s elementary education, not electronic engineering! That’s a little joke of mine. My best man, Jack Reitwiesner, was EE so I said I was too. They both start with two e’s? I taught elementary school in Atlanta for a while. Between the Challenge Schwinn job and the North Fulton? I also substitute taught in the off season in Cedar Rapids; when I worked at Northtowne?”

“Teaching has an off-season?”

“What? Ha! Good one! Yes, at least most schools still close for the summer, but I meant mostly late fall to early spring. Cedar Rapids is a lot like Waterloo, Wisconsin except they don’t get quite as much snow in CR. I’d cut back on my hours when we were slow at the store and then bump em back up as needed. Worked well for everyone.

“Do you like Wisconsin?” I added.

“Pardon?” Miss Communication asked.

“Wisconsin? Do you like it there?”

“Oh! I don’t live in Wisconsin. I travel quite a bit for my job. I live just outside DC.”

“Really!? Maryland or Virginia? I used to live on the Maryland side.”

“Yes. I see that from your record. Virginia, by the way. Shall we continue?”

“Sure, sure. Sorry. I always look for granfalloons. It’s a nice icebreaker.”


“Kurt Vonnegut? Bokononism? Tenuous ties that make people feel like they’re part of a group?

“No? Don’t worry about it.”

“O.K.” MS C’s placid face seems to have lost its p and l. “So, you definitely have a lot of experience. And you’re looking for part-time work?”

“For sure. I have no desire to work full-time. I’m willing to surge when we’re busier and to cut back when we’re not but zero desire to slog it out for forty plus a week.”

“Must be nice,” she said under her breath.

“I’m sorry?” I asked, doing an eyebrow raise of my own.

“Oh, did I say that out-loud? I apologize. It’s just been hectic and the travel can be wearing. Shall we?” she asked, nodding at her monitor.

“Yeah. Life is hard to balance. People think more money is the answer but I’m definitely to the point where it’s more about more time; you know?”

“Yes, if you can afford it. You’re old enough for retirement benefits?”

“Are you allowed to ask me that? I guess I have a job! And, no. Uhm, I worked hard all my life. I was twelve when I got my first job with a social security number- can you imagine?! And lawn-mowing and baby-sitting too. I’ve been very lucky. And my folks passed and that made part-time work an option. I like to do things, you know?”

“Yes! I’m sorry about your parents. And technically I didn’t ask your age. How long ago did they pass?”

“Mom was December of oh-eight and Dad was five years ago last month.

“One of the things I like to do is act and I was in a play where one of the actors has a line that goes, ‘Most honour’d Timon, It hath pleased Athena to remember my mother’s age, and call her to long peace. She is gone happy, and has left me rich!’

“Bobby Callaway, the actor, delivered those lines on the anniversary of my father’s death. I about lost it. I really loved my dad and I’ve often said I’d much rather have him than the money. Really bad timing, which is also funny because the play was Timon of Athens? Kinda punny, don’tcha think?”

Timon of Athens? Is that recent?”

“The production or the play? We literally wrapped up less than a week ago; March sixteenth? but it’s a Shakespeare play, so definitely not what most people would call recent.”

“You do Shakespeare? Aren’t we impressive?”

“Pretty small role, but a lot of fun in a dark humor way. That was my fourth Shakespeare play; I started rehearsal on Monday for a fun comedy called Four Weddings and an Elvis. I’ll take my pants off on-stage, a first for me!”

Miss Communication raised her eyebrows and the right corner of her mouth. “Really?” she asked, drawing the word out.

“Yep. Nothing risque! We’re actually editing the script and taking out most of the minor cursing and any derogatory terms toward my character. Bryce Cannon! I’m gay and he’s called a fruit and something else. We need to PC it up. I’m really looking forward to it. My wife’s not a big fan of Shakespeare and I did two Shakespeare shows back-to-back. Light comedy will be great.”

“Wait- Didn’t you just say you were gay?”

“Oh! Old habit. I tend to talk about whatever character I’m playing in the first person. Bryce is gay, I’m just theatre gay.”

“So acting is really big for you?”

“Yes. That’s my biggest outlet and it’s essential to my mental health, that’s why we need to dial in my work expectations.”

“Got it. Well, really, it’s probably mostly going to be about more money versus more time; right? Your previous experience is great, you’re a ninja, Steve recommends you very highly so it’s probably a question of how much do you want to work, in what capacity, when, and how much do you want to get paid; at least until we can access your talents.”

“Yes. And to be blunt, the more I’m paid the more I’m willing to work, with the caveat that at least seven or eight months a year we can accommodate my acting. And keep me part-time. I’ll bump up when we’re busy but it better be a pretty rare event when I hit a forty-hour week.”

“Well,” MS C replied, “let’s see, shall we?”

“Yes,” I said nodding, “let’s.”



“I’m feeling good about me…”


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Back in the mid-seventies a drug rehab facility in the DC area aired a TV commercial that featured the jingle, “I’m feeling good about me now that I’m drug free.” My teen years began in 1974 and I used to sing that jingle when it came on, usually late at night when I was babysitting at neighbors’ homes. In 1982, the year I turned twenty-one, Nancy Reagan began her well-intentioned but ineffective, “Just say, ‘No!'” campaign. While, “Just say, ‘No!'” like DARE, had no statistical effect on drug abuse, I managed to get the message and remain a hard core drug abstainer. (Yes, I do drink moderately. Yes, alcohol is the most abused drug in the world. Move on, there’s nothing to see here.)

When I describe myself as a hard core drug abstainer I mean just that. I have a prescription for Levothyroxine and another for a lowest dose statin;  those two, once daily pills, along with my ounce or two of weekly alcohol, are it. (Says the man with a pot of coffee at his elbow!) I turn 58 in April, two prescriptions is a pretty low number for and old geezer. Lifestyle choices are my first, second an third lines of defense, drugs are an option I avoid until all others avenues prove ineffectual.

Pain, both physical and psychic, are no strangers to me. Arthritis in hands, knees and feet is severe enough at times to be disabling and there is always some pain. Similarly, I fight depression. My monkey, as I refer to my psychic traumatizer, is likewise controlled through environment and lifestyle. (Like that little homodoesslayus could ever truly be “controlled!”) I don’t do drugs unless drugs are the only answer.

Having just finished a run of William Shakespeare’s “Timon Of Athens,” a Bare Theatre adaptation that featured exorbitance including kilos of cocaine, thoughts on drug use and abuse percolated to the top of my brain. We were snorting coke, popping pills and drowning in alcohol (Some of which was wine stomped by the feet of virgins!) and I had a ton of dark, dark fun portraying the excesses of the mid-eighties club scene. We made a lot of coke jokes!

Chatting with a cast-mate, I referred to coke as snow and she didn’t catch the slang. (Nineties babies! Geez!) After I explained she replied, “Oh, I’ve never done cocaine.”

My reply of, “Neither have I. All my drug usage knowledge is theoretical,” received a heartbreakingly libertarian answer.

“Well, it’s cool. Each to their own,” she said with a smile.

Blank stare.

No. Not each to our own.

My hardheaded disinclination regarding drug use may be over the top but this laissez faire attitude towards things that kill us in the name of a good time is the knife point of self-care and self-love. My wish for everyone is to care for self, care for others, do good works and to be happy. There are billions of ways to walk that path but nowhere along the way is there a rest-stop for gratuitous behaviors that damage our bodies, minds and spirits. Taking chances makes us feel alive. Life is all about new experiences but activities that destroy us fail the first of my four edicts, care for self.

I often refer to myself as a physical puritan, (I’m not, of course!) because I emphasize behaviors in my life that build me up. I get outside, I eat food that builds me up, I exercise, I’m monogamous, I have fun in ways that don’t destroy me. Boring? Probably, but I know the toll the years heap upon us and I know the pain early death brings to surviving loved ones lives and I know that while life is never certain we can, should and must do what we can to make our own luck, and lifestyle choices are our single most controllable vector in a sea that will eventually wash over and drown us.

Hey! Go swimming but watch the signs and the riptides and remember that we while we can’t make our own luck we can at least try to stack the deck in our favor.

Take care of yourselves and do what Nancy told us, “Just say, ‘No!'”

Renewal’s Advent


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Blizzard of petals fly from dogwood trees,
forsythia buds adorn shrubbery,
daffodils, crocus emerge from the earth;
rainbow of color proclaims spring’s rebirth.

What looked to be dead was just in repose,
hubbub of color emerges from snow.
Stamen and pistil with fat bumblebees
are busy courting, oh, wondrous orgy!

There’s spring in my step and spring in the air,
vernal equinox, time beyond compare.
We’ve perfect balance tween stars and sunlight:
Feel forces building! Persephone’s delight.

Circle the heavens as Earth rounds the sun,
our axial tilt heralds four seasons.
Glorious planet on which we abide;
Mother is calling, she beckons outside! 

All on this planet share mother common,
to fair Mother Earth sing adoration!
Riot of color, cacophonous scents,
go forth and rejoice renewal’s advent.

Life in abundance, abundantly great:
Sweet Mother’s embrace reinvigorates.
Winter is over, now’s glorious spring,
sing hallelujah, let our voices ring!

Penultimate Day


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On the penultimate day of winter the sun shone in Raleigh, the temperature was a blissful 60 degrees F and the wind nearly nonexistent. Perfect, absolutely perfect. I went for a bike ride on a very fancy bicycle. My ride was a touch over 14 miles. This took me over 63 minutes. This is the opposite of stellar. Still, I went for a bike ride and I am happy for that.

Sunday night I slept EIGHT HOURS STRAIGHT! Did you catch that? That’s a big deal for me. I have not slept longer than five hours in years. I remain tired. Still, I slept eight hours and I am happy for that.

I have a wife that is my perfect complement. I have no pressing needs that are unmet. Monday night I began rehearsing with a new group of friends for Cary Arts Center presentation of Four Weddings and an Elvis. I suffer from anxiety and depression. (Currently NOT depressed!) Theatre is my antidepressant. I am melancholy by nature and cry easily. Still, I pick up my pitchfork every day and dig for the pony that I know is beneath the pile of manure.

Spring is here. I wish you cheer!

Three Score


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The very first, a decade flown,
three score years gone from growth to groan.
The little girl or little boy
grown from tiny to decade’s joy!
The big kid smile, the toothy grin;
at ten-years-old verve without end.

The second one of decades flown,
three score years gone from growth to groan.
The teen years that end with twenty
with a gloss of maturity.
The gloss is false, but that’s just fine,
first score birthday is sweetest wine.

Another one, a decade flown,
three score years gone from growth to groan.
A gray hair here, but gee, so what?!
Abundant youth life in surfeit!
Thirty’s decade fair face, form, mind
thirty-years-old? Simply divine.

What? Two-score years? Four decades flown!?
Three score years gone from growth to groan.
Deep sighs, wrinkles, the kids, so big!
Advance of years, friendship forming.
How big my kids! Date nights, too rare.
Still strong. Still young? What evs; don’t care.

What!? Five decades through life have flown?
Three score years gone from growth to groan.
The aches and pains more constant now;
hormonal phase, hot flashes, wow!
But life is sweet at fifty years
less often now flow angst caused tears.

Three score years gone? From growth, to groan?
Three score years. Gone. From growth to groan.
They say life starts at sixty-years,
they’re full of it, but still, such cheer!
Today’s first day of life three score:
Pray happiness’ what you’ve in store.

Even Dozen


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I started cycling in 1980 and have been employed in bike shops since 1986. In my 33 years in the industry I have worked for nine store owners at twelve different locations in six states. April ups the number of store owners to ten, while leaving the other two metrics unchanged: Cycling Spoken Here (CSH), my current, independently owned Trek store, is going corporate.

Thirty-three years is a long time and, like any long term relationship, cycling and I have had our ups and downs. My honeymoon with cycling was extended. I loved cycling and I loved bikes. It was the passion that got me into cycling retail, but as I aged things mellowed. My love for bikes declined but my admiration and respect for cycling, for the regenerative power it has for body, mind and spirit, far eclipsed any nuts-n-bolts fetish. (BTW- I met my wife the same month I started cycling and we wed in 1986. I fully understand that maturing and mellowing relationships are still love felt and quite possibly stronger than rose-colored-glasses, honeymoon-eyed ones.)

In my nine owner, twelve store history I have been through one store relocation and one change of ownership. In 1996 Bicycle Garage Indy (BGI) moved from a strip mall location to a large, stand-alone, more easily accessed spot and a dozen years later Derek Stepanek began to purchase Northtowne Cycling and Fitness from his father, Bill. Both changes were progress; an out with the old, in with the new, fresh start, new beginning experience. I expect this transition from a LLC to a corporate store to also bring favorable changes. 

Having worked at a dozen locations for a double fist-full of store owners I expect my transition from LLC to corporate to be angst free, after all, I’ve now danced this tango with nine separate partners, I’m pretty sure I know how to count T, A, N, G, O and keeping that basic dance move in mind while learning how my new partner leads, follows and controls is something in which I’m well practiced.

Here’s to my next cycling industry experience. Wish me luck!



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Apollo’s journeyed across the sky,
Athenians final time draws nigh
from time to space such rich revelries,
but all’s now ruins, feast of Furies.
The endless cup intoxicating
in countless shards leaves our souls bleeding.
Eternal bliss, carnal ecstasy!
For Olympians; not mortal we.
We eat, we drink, we do make merry,
then gasp our last as blood flows freely. 

Too Market, Too Market


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To market I went to market my wares
convinced that my price the market would bare,
but competition was awfully steep,
man screwed up his face and my selling neaped.
“Thanks for the offer, but I think I’ll pass,
can fill position with young lad or lass.
You carry baggage and these kids just don’t.
Good luck in your quest; but you see my point.”

Incensed and confused, God I need a job!
I’m down on my luck and me he’d just rob?
He’d rob me of hope for sake of a buck?!
Some minimum waged kid my future sunk?
Lines on my forehead and my sunken cheeks?
Labors’ patina, I’m still at my peak!
He’s hiring him, this sixteen-year old?
Kid don’t know a thing! I have depths untold!

Man tilted his head and gave me wry smile,
he nodded at door while I stood sessile.
My feet concrete blocks quite simply refused
to let me exit fore my cool did lose.
“You think it’s funny denying me work?
Think that I’m useless, you stupid fat jerk!?
I ain’t got baggage! I’m worker supreme!
You’ll regret this, man!” waved fist as I screamed.

From behind the bar man produced small bat
tapped twice in his palm, then said simply, “Scat!”
My eyes grew to size of large dinner plates
and at that moment all mankind did hate.
For how can it be, pray how is it so,
that I, former star, had sunk to such lows?
I know it’s not me, I know it is him,
soon be reaping time, what wages pays sin?