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Child was born who didn’t fit in at all,
slow to develop, to talk and to crawl.
Lived in a world that none could see but him,
when he tried sports found them humiliating.

His brain didn’t work like those of his peers
so they called him a fag, a fruit and a queer.
Couldn’t make friends because he didn’t know how,
had long conversations with tree limbs that soughed.

He was ruled by questions as he questioned the rules,
he was tormented and taunted by vicious fools.
Fools who saw everything in sharp black and white
who thought there was credence in worth of fist fights.

Boys who played army, longing for bulging biceps,
embracing fully, “Might makes right,” precept.
Pushing and shoving, longing for muscle cars
and meaningless hookups in bathrooms of bars.

Fighting the prison of rigid sex roles;
answers he’d questioned left beached on rocky shoals.
When he was told to sit he’d likely stand,
it’s a difficult journey from boy to a man.

Change didn’t happen in blink of an eye,
healed of myopic vision saw so many lies.
Lies that declare there’s but one way, light and truth
when multiple pathways are His holy sooth.

Innumerable ways of living our lives
what’s treasure for one another despise.
If you think there’s just one way for boys to act
I think that you’re balmy, insipid and whacked.

We each gotta make our own way in this world
and what’s right for a boy is right for a girl.
It’s in strength of character that we show our worth
whether we’re wearing long pants or short skirts.

So, if you like muscles go build you some,
but acting a bully makes you naught but jetsam.
Lots of ways to be strong, many more to be weak,
if you can’t see that then your view is antique.

Some spend a lifetime not living at all,
in fear of rejection if their mask falls,
but instead of trying to be what we’re not
need to love and embrace what fate has begot.

Child was born who didn’t fit in at all,
slow to develop, to talk and to crawl.
Growing up different took him long time to see
that there is great strength in diversity.

January Fifth: Part 41 of 49


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abraham_lincoln_statue_in_julia_davis_park_by_battle810-d5vbqw8Dave, back on the couch, cup of decaf in hand, declared, “Joni, I know I already said this but despite the circumstances it is so good to see you guys. Can you tell me what happened? You said you came home from work and just found Lottie….” His words trailed off for a moment, “Just found Lottie?” he concluded.

Joni pursed her lips, raised and immediately lowered her eyebrows, nodded, diverted her eyes and said, “Yes. Mom was right there in the kitchen,” she jerked her head toward the wall that separated the living room from the kitchen. “Right by the table. Lying on the floor. Her chair was toppled over so right away I knew something was wrong. It was,” Joni stopped speaking and her mouth twitched spasmodically as she blinked back tears. John reached over and took his wife’s hand in his and she again shut her eyes, inhaled, turned her head and shoulders to the right so that she could look out the window into the street, inhaled, sighed and said, “it was obvious that she had passed. She was cold. Oh, God so cold!” she exclaimed, throwing her hand over her mouth and breaking into gasping tears. “Sorry,” she said, with a small head tilted shrug and self-deprecating smile. “It was obvious, so I just sat with her on the floor a minute holding her hand.

“I didn’t know who to call. Whom?” she corrected, raising her eyebrows, shaking her head and waving her hand in a dismissive gesture. “Whom to call. When Dad died he had a massive heart attack and we performed CPR and Mom called 911 but of course there was nothing we could do. Daddy was dead but we knew who to call. This was like, like,” she paused searching for the right word, “like I wanted someone to help me make sure Mom was comfortable and at peace but I didn’t want to bother anybody, you know? Call 911 and we’ll have ambulances and firetrucks with horns blaring come barreling down the street; all the neighbors poking their heads out the window to see what’s going on.

“Plus, I didn’t want to disturb anybody. Not Mom. Not the paramedics. Not the neighbors. So I sat with her a while and finally I…” Joni again looked away from her husband and in-laws, regathered her composure, reinitiated eye contact and said, “Finally, I kissed Mom’s forehead, laid her flat on the floor with her hands by her side and called the local police department number.

“Mom has a sticker on that old phone from back before 911 service. Isn’t that a hoot?! I explained what had happened and that there was no need to hurry. The gal on the phone said they’d send somebody right over and not to touch anything. I explained that it was too late for that, that I already had. And she started giving me grief, telling me what a mistake I’d made? And I asked her, no, I told her, to stop. I said something like, ‘Stop. Just. Stop. Now. My mother is dead. You will not berate me. Period, end of report.”

She turned to John and added, “You know who loves to say that, right? ‘Period. End of report?’ Bill. Say’s it all the time. Anyway, I said there was no need to hurry and please don’t send in emergency vehicles with horns blowing and sirens screaming and lights flashing; which they of course did anyway.

“It’s funny, even before I touched Mom a little voice in my head made the ‘Dunh-Dunh’ sound from that crime show? Criminal intent? I knew I shouldn’t touch her but I didn’t care.

“When the cops got here they scowled at me but they stopped short of accusing me of covering up a crime. Just treated me like I was an idiot and asked how long ago I’d found her. It had only been a half hour or so, it was like seven o’clock by the time EMS folks arrived, though I have to admit despite my assurance that there was no need to hurry they were here fast; must have been a slow night after the New Year’s mayhem the night before. But when I was moving Mom’s bod-” she again stopped, pushed her tongue forcefully against the inside of her right cheek so that it created a bulge, inhaled deeply and continued, “When I was moving Mom,” she emphasized ‘Mom’, “I noticed that it was easy to move her arms. You know? No rigor mortis?

“As I said earlier, she was really, really cold. I’ve watched enough TV and read enough detective books to know that A, I shouldn’t touch a dead body before the police arrive, and B, that rigor develops after three hours and then goes away after like six. And when I say that I know that three and six-hour thing? I mean I looked it up after the fact. In any case, Mom must have passed sometime around noon or so.

“Who!” she declared, blinking her eyes rapidly. “Guess I had to get that out, huh?” She lifted John’s and her intertwined hands from her lap and kissed them. “Then I called Jake right away but got Bilhah, which was probably best. God she’s great, isn’t she? Diamond in the rough. And that got the ball rolling.”

When Joni was through everyone sat without for a moment. Finally, she broke the silence and asked, “Coffee’s good, isn’t it?”


Rood Brood


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Gaze into the distance,
searching for the light,
with Mom and Pop to guide them,
oh so special life.
Fearless determination
to do what is right
Iowa farm bred Rood brood
is pure dynamite.

In tiny enclave
tucked south-west of Cedar Rapids
is hamlet called Mount Vernon,
town of many ballads.
Rood’s a church crucifix,
or acre of land
but the Rood brood is
a jolly, loving band.

With Braden as their mom
and Anton as their pop
there’s not a chance in hell
the Rood brood we can stop.
They sparkle in the sunshine
and they glow at night
and hanging with the Rood brood
is sumptuous delight.

January Fifth: Part 40 of 49


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abraham_lincoln_statue_in_julia_davis_park_by_battle810-d5vbqw8In response to John’s announcement Deb let go of her husband’s hand and brought both of her hands to her face, covering her mouth and nose church steeple fashion, while her thumbs rested on the bottom of her jaw. She squeezed her eyes tightly shut, inhaled, and before reopening them turned her head to the left, thereby avoiding eye contact with anyone in the room. Dave turned to his wife, mouth open, head tilted and eyes full of concern.

From the loveseat he shared with his wife John partially stood but Joni put her left hand out and waved it slightly, non-verbally telling him to give his mother a moment. All eyes were on Deb and everyone watched as she slid her hands away from her face so that they now pressed palm to palm and rested just under the tip of her nose. She pivoted her head back toward John, did a quick head tilt, righted it, inhaled and then dropped her hands to her lap where she grabbed her right fist in her left hand before exhaling and smiling. “I’m fine,” she announced with a smile. “Really. Overwhelmed with relief, but fine.”

“Why, John!” Dave boomed, “that’s great news! Joni! Why didn’t you tell me that when we talked on Saturday?”

It was Dave’s turn to bring a hand to his mouth and cover it. “Oh,” he said simply, moving his hand to his wife’s left shoulder. “Sorry. That was very insensitive. You had a lot on your mind, didn’t you? You poor thing.”

Joni waved her right hand at Dave, “No, no. It’s not that. John made his decision after he and I spoke so I didn’t know either. I didn’t find out until this morning myself.”

“Really,” Deb stated. “Really? Well, whatever the circumstances this is just great news, isn’t it Dave?”

“I’ll say!” he responded nodding his head excitedly. “Best news since Isabella was born. Hmm, hmm, hmm!”

“So. What’s the plan?” Deb asked excitedly. “Do you have a job? Are you going to stay here in Lottie’s old house? Get an apartment? House of your own?”

John threw both of his hands in the air shoulder high and palms facing his mother. “Whoa, whoa, whoa!” he proclaimed, shaking them left to right frantically. “We’re not sure either. Everything’s up in the air. I don’t think we’ll be able to stay here because the house was like Lottie’s biggest asset and everything’s got to be split equally. Joni and I are kind of at the edge of a turmoil storm. Other than the funeral and all,” he said, taking Joni’s hand and glancing her way, “everything’s calm. At the moment. But we know that ain’t gonna last. Just like the song says, “There’ll be some changes made.”

“But when God closes a door he opens a window!” Deb declared. “Oh, this is just so great. So I know you just told me that things are up in the air but what are you thinking? Where do you think you’ll live? Are you planning to stay in Chicago? What kind of job are you going to get?”

John tossed his hands in the air, glanced at his wife, shrugged and then declared, “Don’t know, don’t know and I’m hoping something to do with kids. Teacher’s assistant, youth group, rec department; something.”

“Well that sounds truly wonderful,” Dave answered, head bobbing up and down. “You always liked kids. So, here in Illinois? Any chance of moving back to Iowa? Have you looked into certification yet?”

John let his shoulders droop and his arms fall to his sides. He turned to Joni, met her eye, opened his eyes as widely as possibly, inhaled, exhaled, again threw his hands into the air and then smiling broadly and shaking his head declared. “I’d love to tell you but I just. Don’t. Know.

“Oh,” he continued. “Except about the certification. I do know and the answer’s no. I’ll just have to start somewhere as a grunt and see what kind of certification I’ll need to move up, that’s all.”

“Well,” Dave said, far more subdued but still upbeat. “It sounds like you have more of a goal than a plan but then again you just decided this when? Saturday?”

“Saturday?” John responded, “How about yesterday? Like maybe twenty-four hours ago? I have a long, long row to hoe but I’m pretty sure this is the road I’m supposed to take.”

Dave, huge grin on his face again shrugged, turned his palms toward the sky and declared, “Well, it’s a great start. And a mixed metaphor. Who want’s coffee?”

Hate Speech must be Free


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     Lately I’ve heard some talk from well meaning folks who would like Congress to enact a law prohibiting “Hate Speech.” Let me state with extreme prejudice why this idea is both un-American and likely anathema to those who might mistakenly at first support it.

     In the first place, a law restricting speech, whether hateful or otherwise, is literally at odds with the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The First Amendment (emphasis mine) is first because it is primary and precedes all others.

It reads:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

    I will focus on the sections of the First Amendment related to freedom of speech and right to peaceable assembly.

     Expression of thought, the combat of ideas, is essential to an open and free democracy. The Constitution of The United States of America guarantees us the right to criticize and lampoon as we see fit, whether the object of ridicule is the President, taxes, the military or notions concerning the self-evidentiary nature of the idea, “that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

     In this country, we get to talk about these things without fear of arrest. Might we be censured? Absolutely. Publicly vilified? Of course. But unless and until statements are made that directly threaten someone’s well being, i.e. threats to kill or actions such as the proverbial shouting of fire in the tired, crowded and clichéd theater, then we, as Americans, have a Constitutional Guarantee that boldly states our right to express ourselves as we see fit, whether it is to espouse brotherly love or to champion things abhorrent. And what a right it is!

     It is right for ideas and ideology to do battle in a public forum, for old school to be challenged by new rules and for fools to joust with kings. A call to ban “Hate Speech” is a call to retain the status quo. Every meaningful civil-rights advance from the abolition of slavery and voting rights for all, to equal rights for women and ending the persecution and imprisonment of homosexuals was considered both radical and hateful in its time. Am I comparing the rantings of far right Nazis and Klansmen to the noble work of John Brown, Frederick Douglass or Medgar Evers? Of course not. Nor am I comparing Elizabeth Stanton or Susan B. Anthony to Nathan Bedford Forrest nor Christine Jorgensen or Harvey Milk to Stephen K. Bannon or Fred Phelps, but each view point espoused by these warring factions were or are radical and historically were or could be considered hateful. Who exactly do you want deciding what speech fails the Hate Speech test? It is in the exchange of ideas that progress is made, not through State controlled censorship.

    And it is essential to remember that laws banning Hate Speech will be reinterpreted with different standards in every state, every administration and every court. I can easily envision an  Administration like Donald Trump’s declaring that the Islamic Crescent is a symbol of hate, banning its use and declaring Islam a religion of terror. Once that genie is out of the bottle it is awfully difficult to shove it back in. “Ultimate cosmic power, itty-bitty living space.” And if you dare say, “Can’t happen here,” then your here and mine are very different spaces.

     And I have faith that progressiveness will win, that we do not have to mute and muzzle the barking hateful bitches that call for rancor and the suppression or regression of human rights. Right can best wrong and love can win over hate and I pray that in our desire to stifle the rabid we refuse to increase their power by banning them from the field. For it is in open combat of ideas that liberty shines and to employ the tools and tactics of tyranny and despots, to stifle free expression, is surely no measure of truth’s strength.

     We, the people of The United States of America, are far too grand to feel a need to silence the ludicrous jabbering of Luddites out of fear that ugliness and raucous, rank prejudice can be victorious over progress and fraternity. We can win by being the light we wish to see rather than banishing dissent from the light.

     I have faith in our ability to recognize and castigate darkness without falling victim to desperate, totalitarian measures. I hope you do too.

January Fifth: Part 39 of 49


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abraham_lincoln_statue_in_julia_davis_park_by_battle810-d5vbqw8“What!?” Joni responded, mouth wide open and eyes even wider. “No! At least, not right now! Or in the next nine months; that’s for sure! What in the world made you ask that?”

Deb visibly deflated in front of her daughter-in-law. Her shoulders sank, her chest appeared to turn concave and her head fell. “You just said you wished your mom had lived long enough to see your child. I. Just. You know. Thought?”

John and Dave peered around the kitchen’s eastern partition. “Everything okay?” Dave asked.

A sincere but melancholy smile slowly invaded Joni’s face. She walked over to Deb, placed her forehead against the older woman’s, looked her in the eyes and then hugged her close. “I know what you thought. Sorry. I should have been more careful.

“Yes,” Joni continued, releasing her mother-in-law, smiling at her and giving her a small, triple nod and single left eyed wink. “Just a miscommunication, that’s all. Why don’t you two husky boys take those two chairs into the den and then we can catch up? Okay?”

John looked at his wife with his head cocked slightly to the left side. He narrowed his eyes and waited. She returned his look, nodded at him, minutely shrugged and pointed to the TV room with her head. “Put the chairs away, would you please, sweetie? Then come out to the living room?”

“Sure,” John replied, catching his dad’s eye and turning his hands outward as a sign of confusion. “No problem, Peaches.”

As the two men retreated Joni called after them, “Anybody want coffee?”

“Decaf?” Dave hollered back. “I can’t drink caffeine this late. Acid reflux.”

“Sure,” Joni said. “Decafs probably a good choice, period. Meet you in the living room.”

Joni took the far right corner of the love seat while Deb sat close to her on the couch’s far left side. “Coffee’s perking,” Joni declared to John and Dave as they entered the living room.

“I like this room,” Dave declared. “It always makes me feel comfortable.” Both the love seat and couch had two seat cushions and were in relatively good shape. Though the living room furniture, like virtually everything in the house beside the television, was older than the eldest Hagans child its location meant that it saw far less use than the furniture in the den, bedrooms or kitchen.

“Yes,” Deb agreed as she patted the couch cushion next to her and Dave snuggled up against her, “me, too.”

Once seated Dave took his wife’s right hand in his left, kissed it and let their two hands rest gently on one another’s laps. He sat close enough to Deb so that only the tiniest fraction of his being rested on the right hand couch cushion. “Who!” he declared. “I’m exhausted. You two must be ready to drop.”

Joni smiled at John and offered him her left hand. He took the hand and kissed it as he lowered his frame comfortably close to his wife’s. There was continuous contact between Joni’s left and John’s right sides but neither couple pushed so firmly against one another so as to achieve a contact that signaled insecure possession. They simply sat and were.

“Yeah. That’s for sure,” Joni acknowledged, sighing. “It’s nice to just relax without having to worry about- Well. Things.”

Dave covered his hand with his fist and coughed in a vain attempt to hide his smile. “Yes,” he said. “Things. She’s quite, interesting, isn’t she?”

Joni looked at her father-in-law with eyebrows raised and nodded. “Yeah. That’s one word for it. Nice to see the boys though.”

“Yes,” Dave responded. “From the conversation I take it nobody lives in Cedar Rapids anymore?”

“Nope,” Joni confirmed. “Jake and Bilhah are in Dubuque with their son Dan and Payton and Ashley live just east of Madison in a little town called Waterloo. Wisconsin of course, not Iowa,” she added, rolling her eyes.

In a mocking tone Dave replied, “Really? Wisconsin you say? Never would have guessed that Waterloo, Iowa wasn’t east of Madison.” Smiling, he continued in a conversational tone, “Waterloo. Seems like I should know something about Waterloo, Wisconsin; doesn’t it, honey?”

Deb shrugged. “Beats me. I know where Waterloo, Iowa is but not Wisconsin.”

“Yeah,” Joni said, “the boys aren’t too far apart. Takes about two hours. It’s all like a big triangle from here. Right around a hundred and fifty miles between each point, give or take thirty. They have a nice place tucked down in the southwest side of town. Kinda out in the sticks. Nice park right behind them.”

“Hmm,” Deb said, “sounds nice. You visit often?”

Joni shook her head. “No. Jake’s been in Dubuque before I moved here and Payton probably moved to Wisconsin ten plus years ago. I’ve been to Jacob and Bilhah’s maybe three times and Payton and Ashley’s just once.” Looking at her husband she added, “We really need to make a point of getting together for more than weddings and funerals; you know?”

John nodded several times and said, “I think we will, going forward. Did you tell Mom and Dad the good news?”

Deb lowered her head and glared at her son. “If you are making a baby joke then it isn’t very funny.”

John emitted one staccato laugh and shook his head. “No, no! Not that. I’m coming home to stay. No more separation for Joni and me. We’re going to not only be husband and wife we’re going to live as husband and wife.”

US of Hate


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We used to hang witches,
and castrate gays
in land that we now call
U.S. of A.

If you were a Jew,
a Mormon, or squaw,
best just keep on moving
lest we lynch ya’ll.

“Irish need not apply,”
on signs we would gaze;
lowly fish eaters
who once on grass grazed.

We had fountains for coloreds,
fountains for whites,
and miscegenation
was unspeakable blight.

Women were beaten,
people were owned;
through imperialism
this continent shone.

We have long tradition
of hating other,
of killing children
and raping mothers.

Slowly moved forward,
folks fought to be free
and blatant oppression
receded slowly.

We are making progress
there’s no doubt of that
and greater equality
is what struggle’s begat.

When the hell did it happen
in fight to be free
that only “liberals”
support equality?

Every soul is our brother
no matter color of skin:
Hatred in His holy name
unpardonable sin.

I’m clean as a whistle.
Married and straight.
I don’t drink very much
but I’ll be damned if I’ll hate.


Growing up I never thought that “Conservative” equaled hatred but I think I’ve changed my mind. Which is funny because, other than in terms of tolerance and acceptance of others, I’m a pretty conservative guy.

Conservatives scream that we are at war with Islam despite the fact that most Muslims are about as violent as most Christians. To make matters worse, we have lawmakers and rabble rousers who are scapegoating American citizens, people born and reared in the good ‘ol US of A, calling for registration of a RELIGIOUS group, denying them the right to hold office, threatening to deport them or place them in Concentration Camps, er, internment camps.

What the bloody hell?

We have a long history of dehumanizing, debasing and abusing other. I am certain that the division of us v them, chaff v wheat began in the territory that we now call The United States of America when Ponce de Leon first touched Florida in April 1513 and it didn’t get any better when that “narrow” minded Giovanni da Verrazzano took shelter on Manhattan nine years later. (See what I did there? No? It’s kinda a New York joke.)

It seems that we Americans love to hate and to justify our actions by dehumanizing.

In this short and incredibly incomplete history of folks we’ve treated atrociously how many categories do you fall into? Hatred begets violence.

January Fifth: Part 38 of 49


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abraham_lincoln_statue_in_julia_davis_park_by_battle810-d5vbqw8By nine-thirty the “party” was over and all that was left for Tuesday night was goodbyes.

During earlier hot and heavy football discussions, Dave had declared that the Vikings were going all the way and Payton had countered with an assertion in favor of the Packers. A twenty-dollar wager had been placed and now, as the senior Knopicks were saying good bye to Payton and wife Ashley, Dave declared, “Ashley, a true pleasure. Payton, Great to see you again. I’ll see you tomorrow. Oh! And be sure to hang onto a twenty so you can pay me after the playoffs.”

Payton shook his head, smiled, and said. “Nice to see you too, Dave. And I look forward to you mailing me that check.”

Amber and Sean smiled at Deb and Dave and Dave held his arms out in a tepid invitation to a farewell embrace. Sean smiled and nodded and shook both Knopicks’ hands while Amber air kissed them. “See you tomorrow,” Deb declared with a little left, right repetitive head bob.

Jake had hugged both Deb and Dave and declared, “Let’s ride.”

Bilhah announced, “You may have driven here but you sure as hell ain’t driving home. Move over, baby, gimme the keys.”

Jacob had smirked at his wife and asked, “Who the hell do you think you are, Prince?” He shook his head and handed her the keys to the Sequoia. “Even when we left I figured that you’d be driving back.”

Bilhah took the keys from her husband, declaring, “Cool. I’ll drive. You passenger.”

“Is that even a word?” Jake slurred.

“If you have to ask then you damn well know I should drive,” Bilhah responded. “You’re tanked.”

Swaying slightly, he said, “Not tanked.” And then with a big grin and silly giggle added, “Not driving either. I’m tanked!”

“Hey, drunken frat boy?” Bilhah asked, “Did you finish that eulogy?”

“Pert a near,” Jacob acknowledged. “Just need to smooth it over in a couple places.”

“Okay,” Bilhah said, nodding her head. “I can help if you need. I’m just a tick away from cold sober.”

“Well, if we’re going on who’s had the least to drink, then I should drive,” Amber declared.

“Well, Thumbelina, just a few things wrong there,” Bilhah said, intentionally crowding Amber. “Number one is that I’m bigger than you are so my drinks don’t count as much as yours. Two, this is my truck, too, and unless I’m dying from blood loss or am missing a limb you ain’t driving. And C, this is a full size SUV; I don’t think it’ll accommodate somebody who’s pixie sized, so, unless you’re spending the night here or calling Uber I’m your ride, Clyde.”

Turning to Dave and Deb she winked, hugged them both and said, “It’s been great seeing you. Next time we’re in CR we’ll have to be sure and get together; okay?”

Deb smiled and nodded while Dave expressionlessly looked at her and asked, “Are you’s gonna rough me up if I says no?” Then he smiled, brought her to him for a better hug and whispered in her ear, “Maybe Amber’s the reason that we don’t come see Joni more often.” Followed by an audible, “It’s been great seeing you all, regardless of the circumstance. We’ll see you tomorrow.”

John and Joni stood directly behind the closed storm door while Dave and Deb looked over their shoulders. Everyone waved as the Hagans clan piled into the Sequoia and once the engine fired and the SUV pulled away from the curb Deb declared, “They’re always such nice people. It must be nice to have a sister close by.”

John stole a peek at Joni and she reciprocated his surreptitious glance. They both raised their eyebrows at Deb’s statement, John wondering if his mother was being ironic and Joni’s expression convincing him that she was wondering the same thing. “Oh. Sure,” Joni said. “Family can be a big help sometimes. “

Turning from the plate glass, storm door window Joni shut, locked and dead-bolted her front door. She then turned off her porch light and declared, “And speaking of which, it is just so great to see you guys!”

“Oh, you too!” Dave responded, walking to the living room and picking up one of the dining room chairs. “I’m really sorry it took a funeral to get us here. And, I know I’ve told you this before but, I really wish we could have been here for Lou’s.”

“Oh, Dad,” John replied, “don’t be silly. You guys were in Marina Del Rey for Isabella’s birth. What do you think, we’re gonna hold it against you that Justin and Heather dared to give birth while Louie died? Please, we understand.”

John grabbed the remaining dining room chair and brought it to the big table where he pushed it into place. “Goodness!” he declared. “That means that Isabella is three next month, doesn’t it? Where does the time go?”

“You think it’s bad now?” Deb asked, gathering empty wine glasses and bringing them into the kitchen, “just wait until you’re our age. Oh, Joni. I’m so sorry about your mom, she really was a sweet lady.”

Joni nodded, running hot water in the sink and washing the glasses. “There,” she said, “it’s nice to get these done now so we won’t have to face them in the morning.

“Thank you, Deb,” she continued, speaking to her mother-ion-law’s retreating form. “She was. I just wish she’d taken better care of herself. Both of them. Maybe then they’d have been around long enough for our children to know their grandmop and grandpop.”

The crash from the living room startled everyone. Immediately following the crash Deb bounded into the kitchen and declared, “Really?! Is it really true?! Are you two really, really going to have a baby?”


Harvest of Hatred


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Using rhythm and rhyming couplets
I enjoy creating mental scenes;
Though I’ve had people call me snowflake,
I like to remain calm and serene

Too many easily are angered
on this blue green, floating, twisting globe.
Hordes who think only they’re entitled
to claim portion of the earth as home.

Each is but one in seven-billion,
in vast population of the Earth;
quaint, how the mighty and privileged
are convinced that only they have worth.

Forces seemingly omnipresent
urge each of us others to despise.
Attack with modus operandi;
success lies in conquer and divide.

Fear and hate are two strong emotions,
both created in amygdala.
Easy to let preachers of hatred
get inside your head and screw with ya.

When someone points and shouts, “Pariah!”
don’t accept role that they’ve tried to cast.
Scapegoating’s ancient as the Bible,
need to recognize it as bombast.

Look around, you will find your brother,
not an alien to be despised.
Just need quantum of toleration
to stem bloody flow of fratricide.

Death is harvest of sowing hatred
it’s a crop we should not cultivate.
Need to stop demonizing other
before whole Earth we annihilate.



January Fifth: Part 37 of 49


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With the addition of the senior Knopicks both the character and content of conversation at 136th Street East turned. John began to wonder if Bilhah’s tongue was bleeding from all the times she had metaphorically bitten it over some of Amber’s conversational tidbits. With Sean and his sister-in-law in the love seat to his right his straight ahead visual perspective rested squarely on Bilhah and Joni, who snuggled against one another in the couch’s far, right corner.

Every time Amber said something childish, derisive or condescending he could see Bilhah come up with a biting retort which, for the sake of John’s parents’ emotional comfort, she chose to chew and swallow rather than utter. As the night progressed he’d actually tried to keep track of how many times Bilhah obviously chose to display the better part of valor by embracing discretion but after a few dozen incidents he lost track and decide to enjoy the spectacle of his favorite almost-sister-in-law controlling her vicious tongue. It surprised him how much he enjoyed the pageant.

“Well, what do you think, John?” his father asked.

Caught in contemplative visual observation John realized that he had no idea what anyone was actually talking about. Feeling like a delinquent student staring out a classroom window he decided to come clean. “I’m sorry, Dad. I was lost in thought for a minute. Would you ask me that again, please?”

Dave exhaled, the exhalation was longer and more forceful than mere breathing required but fell short of an unmitigated sigh, then smiled at his son. “I said,” Dave emphasized ‘said,’ “how about those Saints? They’ve been all over the board since Katrina; haven’t they?”

“Oh,” John replied. “Oh. Yeah. I thought they did a great job of coming back in oh six, you know? Division champs and ten and six after the flood? But it seems like seven and nine could be their motto.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Jacob challenged. “Division champs, what? Three times? And winning Super Bowl forty-three seems pretty good to me. And how about two-thousand eleven? Thirteen three is nothing to sneeze at.”

“Hmm,” John said. “Two-thousand eleven was their Big Hit Bounty debacle, wasn’t it?”

“Oh crap!” Jake exclaimed. “That was so blown out of proportion. It’s the NFL, man! People hit!”

“And, what?” Payton interjected, “Five playoffs since Katrina? Five in ten years? That’s good.”

“Eleven years. If we’re counting 2005,” Dave corrected.

Payton’s head visibly retracted. “Huh? 2005 to 2015? Isn’t that ten years?”

Dave’s face grew a half smile and he shook his head minutely left to right five times. “No. It’s inclusive, not exclusive. You have to count five and fifteen and everything in between. It’s like voting. Even though John here voted for the first time in, what? Ninety-eight, right? By oh six he’d voted three times. Inclusive, you know?”

Payton’s eyes narrowed minutely and his fingers wiggled. Then his eyes grew wide as he tilted his head back and to the right and a big grin eclipsed his face. “Oh, sure, sure! Makes total sense. Maybe I should cut back on the beer.”

“Not me, hermano,” Jacob pronounced. “I’m just getting started. Anybody else?”

The only response Jake received was small, silent, head shakes. “Dave? You? You’re only on one, man!”

“Better not,” Dave said. “If I drink too much before bed I get GERD.”

Ambers face scrunched up to the point of a throwing dart as she demanded, “What’s that?”

“GERD?” Dave responded. “I don’t remember: Gastro intestinal reflux disease? Acid reflux? I, well, it’s when you spit up a little in the back of your throat. Nasty feeling and not good for your esophagus. Ever hear of Prilosec? Big fat dude does the commercials. If I watch my diet I’m usually good but drinking just before bed is a big no-no.”

“Oh! Larry the cable guy! I love Larry the cable guy,” Amber replied. “And yuck. That sounds disgusting.”

“Getting old gets ugly,” Dave answered, raising his left eyebrow and letting it fall.

“Oh crap, Dave! You’re not old,” Bilhah insisted.

Dave shrugged. “It’s all relative, I guess. I’m way past two thirds of three score and sixteen.”

“Huh?” Amber replied.

“’Three score and sixteen?’” Dave replied. “That’s in the Bible, right, John?”

John bobbled his head back and forth. “Sort of. Close enough. Bible says between seventy and eighty years unless we’re Methuselah. I think there’s like five people in Genesis who are said to have lived past nine-hundred.”

“Nu-uh!” Amber declared. “You don’t really believe that, do you?”

John shrugged. “While I have great faith in God and look to the Bible for wisdom I do not look at it as literal truth. One of the advantages to growing up Catholic, eh, Mom?”

Deb smiled at her son. “I wouldn’t know, son. I didn’t; now did I?”

“That’s right!” Joni said. “I forgot. You told me that when I was going through RCIA before John and I got married.”

“And I meant to ask you earlier,” Dave declared. “Speaking of old as dirt, where in the Sam Hill did you get that suit, son?”

All heads swiveled toward John, who jerked his head back in surprise, looked down, looked up, grinned, ran his fingers down the front of his wool suit jacket and emitted a single, barking laugh. “Ha! I forgot I had this on. I found it upstairs in the chiffarobe this morning and I was literally asking everybody if I could keep it when you guys showed up. Sharp, isn’t it? I’m going to wear it at tomorrow’s service.”

“Well, that’s one word for it,” his dad conceded, brow wrinkled, head tilted and mouth quirked. “And did you say, ‘chiffarobe’?”

“Don’t go there!” Amber commanded.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa!” Jake declared. “You all can talk about whatever you want but please, just answer my question first. Anybody need a drink?”

“No!” Bilhah hollered at him. “We’re fine. But I’ll take a kiss,” she added offering him her lips.

Jake winked at her, leaned over, kissed her lips and then gently took her lower lip between his top and bottom incisor teeth where he held it for two seconds. Upon release of her lip he stood and declared, “And don’t yell at me. I’m very sensitive!”