Tag Archives: insight

Something to Ponder – 2

banaba 1a

Sage advice from an elderly gentleman perched atop a lonely Mountain.

Hello friends! Today our question comes from Myrtle Trisk of Portnoy, North Dakota.

“Dear Banaba,” she writes. “Why are people so stupid?”

To my friend, Myrtle I say, “Because.”

I say because, because there is really no better answer to that question, at least as Myrtle poses it.

It is what some might refer to as a “loaded question.” For without context, the ability to assist her in reaching a higher level of enlightenment is greatly diminished. Despite our very best efforts, to try and divine a satisfactory response that helps illuminate the pathway to resolution related to her specific need is very much like trying to lasso a single star in the great universe that surrounds us.

Let us try instead, to better understand what drives such a question, to then see if a more reasonable answer will present itself.

First, Myrtle is not alone in her search for the answer to this question. Many write to Banaba asking the very same thing with varying levels of related information. But the question itself seems to be more an expression of frustration. The motivation to ask the question comes when understanding the actions of those around us – both in circles close to us and those in representational groups we are forced to recognize – eludes us.

In most cases, it is clear that a person or persons have acted, or are acting, in a way that conflicts with what we see as our own definition of common sense. We see them as behaving contrary to what we deem as “smart” and the action is so far away from “smart” that in order to easily classify them for the sake of discussion, we must ordain them as “stupid.”

As an example, let’s say that many users of the Internet start responding to a common and widely dispersed post that asks, “What kind of cat are you?” You begin to see tens, then hundreds, then thousands of responses from some of your very closest friends and family members to throngs of total strangers, which define for you, and each other, what kind of cat they are.

We know, of course, they are not currently and never will be a cat. Let’s say too, that you do not like cats in the least. Let us say finally, that you find this kind of mindless group exercise to be a fruitless and meaningless waste of time.

You will certainly not be playing the game, for you could care less about what kind of cat you are. In fact, we could go as far to say that your strongest desire might be to post something completely contrary (like being a dead cat) that would wrinkle the noses of those who are playing the game.

However, since you see yourself as better than that, and you are not interested in dealing with the potential rage of a group of angry cat lovers, you do nothing. That lack of satisfactory action and the inability to put an end to the distraction causes frustration. In the worst case, this frustration can make one very angry to the point of wanting to break something, or wanting to punch someone in the face. But again, because you are so reasonable, you boil that frustration down to the point where all you have left is to ask, “Why are people so stupid?”

You don’t really need an answer.

You need a better question.

You need to release frustration that comes with trying to figure out what you may never know. You need to understand that the energy put into figuring out why people do what they do, may never result in an answer that gives you great insights, for the moment you think you’ve seen it all, a whole new crop of stupid is almost certainly guaranteed to rise up and greet you.

Thus, the better question for you Myrtle and so many others; the better possible pathway to a deeper layer of inner peace may be:

Why do I allow people who act contrary to my personal sense of, or definition of intelligence, distract me so that it restricts the progress I make on my personal journey to enlightenment?

Remember too, the you may at one time or another, do something that falls outside of someone else’s personal definition of smart. You will be a distraction to their focus, which feeds the pool of their frustrations, and they may one day write Banaba a letter about you.

Peace to you  – Banaba

Something to Ponder – 1

banaba 1a

Sage advice from an elderly gentleman perched atop a lonely mountain.

Hello friends, today I bring to you some thoughts on a question sent to me from a Mr. John Tanner of Mesquite, Texas.

“Dear Banaba,” he writes. “The question that constantly comes to my mind is simply, what the Hell? I mean, as I look around me, I wonder…seriously, what the Hell?”

To my new friend John I say, “What the Hell, indeed.”

Your question is really most profound.

Many people around the world have asked it again and again throughout all of time. Some have used it more as an expression of their frustrations and in more of a rhetorical sense while others seriously and earnestly ask it because they would really like to know in that moment – “What the Hell!?”

No matter what in your life brought to where you needed to ask, the question as you ask it certainly deserves an answer.

I can tell you that the answer is not easy, nor is it overly complex. The answer can also be as individual as the person who asks it and may be affected by the variable context in which it is asked. So, there could be over a billion possible answers.

But, let us not try to boil the ocean today. Instead, today let me tell you that there are basically three answers to your question.

Number one:

In a literal sense, the answer relates to Hell itself, of course. For some reason, things in your life start to move in a direction that you feel ill prepared for. It may appear to be something that is either truly difficult to resolve or just too much of an inconvenience at that point in time for you to want to deal with it. Mentally, you may feel as though Hell has literally opened up and brought forth this horrible thing just to ruin your day.

In many ways, you are correct.

As an example, you are driving to an appointment and are running late, but you have it all planned out and you still have time to get to your meeting. Then you realize you need to pick something up at the store. You can adjust your plan, but that makes your schedule even tighter. It’s doable, of course, but much tighter. Then you find yourself in a traffic jam. It’s bad. You will miss your appointment, you will not get to the store and in fact, it looks like you will miss your next appointment as well and get home late.

“What the Hell!?”

It seems unlikely – if Hell is as we understand it to be – that Hell, or whoever runs it would select you out of everyone who needs their compass adjusted, to ruin your day. However, if that is how you feel, that is your reality, and that is ultimately what you must deal with.

Number Two:

If we further explore the more rhetorical side of the question, viewing it less as a question and more of an expression of emotion, Hell in this case may be no less real, but is then applied to the thing you see or encounter.

As an example, you are walking along minding your own business when a speeding truck barrels down the street and plows into a box of baby rabbits.

What the Hell!? Am I right?

In this case, you are making an expression that applies to the horror, or the Hellish scene, that unfolds before you. Unless those are your bunnies, you are probably not directly affected in this case, but the horror for you is still very real. You do not have to deal with the circumstances of the situation intimately, but you will have to learn how to process what you have seen so that in some way you can accept that the thing occurred and can now move forward.

Number Three:

As a good friend once told me, “Hey Bro, sometimes shit is just messed up.”

Again, this leans less toward an answer and more toward an expression. But it can also be taken as an ending statement, like a period at the end of a sentence.

You may not understand what happened or why, no matter how “messed up” it is. In this sense, your “What the Hell?” is merely an acknowledgement of the event. A stake in the ground that allows you to take the next step into your world without being eternally bound to the event.

To think of it another way, it is giving yourself the right to move past what might be seen as the futility of over analysis, complicating the very simple or getting stuck in something you have little or no ability to change.

As an example, you come across a lavish tray of freshly baked cookies. You know you do not need a cookie, but that knowledge is nothing against the desire to have a cookie. You could spend many valuable minutes of your life debating the pros and cons of eating a cookie, when in actuality, you have already decided to eat the cookie and you are merely going through the exercise of internal debate to soothe your conscious mind once the cookie is consumed.

To resolve this conflict, you say, “What the Hell?” and you eat the cookie.

So you see John, despite your frustration in the moment that inspired this question, you will likely encounter a great many more. Being able to answer your question, and being able to accept that answer will be the key to a greater inner calm and a better overall life.

Peace to you – Banaba






An open letter to congressional Democrats

Java typed with determination and focus, as she was prone to doing in these situations:

An open letter to congressional Democrats –

Dear congressional Democrats:

You don’t know me, but…Ouch! Need some salve for that burn?

Just kidding. My apologies for the snark so early in the note. I sometimes hold that until the end as sort of an exclamation point on the ideas I try to convey, but dang it all if you all didn’t just slap your own big exclamation point on your moment in the sun as the majority seat holders in the U.S. Senate.

I imagine you feel a little salty heading into work these days, what with the Republicans waving their index fingers around, screaming “We’re number one!” and basically telling you all to go suck it. It will make me proud to know that despite the tanning of your hides, you will proceed in your duties as elected officials with grace, professionalism and the knowledge that you are still good people who are there to do a job and to do it the best way you know how. Rise above it.

I would tell you to remember this moment and the feeling that comes with having been defeated, even in what they call a lackluster mid-term election. I would tell you to use this recent string of events as motivation to get back up on your proverbial political bicycles and make a truly inspired effort to regain what was lost so that you might continue to work on making the world a better place. I would tell you all those things…and more… if I thought for half a second that you might a) listen and b) actually remember. Sadly, my faith and my hope in both those areas are severely degraded, if not completely shattered. Shadoobee.

I’m guessing you don’t remember, because those who don’t remember their histories are bound to repeat them and guess what? You’ve been here before! That’s right! You have had it all, the control, the faith of the people, the momentum to proceed with a reasonable agenda and boom, you squandered it! Pissed it away, as my grandfather might say, through petty squabbles, lack of conviction, misguided alliances and dare I say, a fair bit of your own hubris. With all your power and promise, you accomplished nothing. And while you can say, “Well, the Republicans didn’t do anything either.” (which will make you sound small, petty and immature) you forgot that they are the masters of that game and it is an arena where you clearly cannot compete.

I think you need to take some time for reflection. Not a lot of time mind you. You could probably suss this all out over the few minutes it takes to drink a decent cup of coffee. But you need to consider what went wrong and how to fix it, for while you may be down right now – you are not out…provided you get your shit together. Here are a few things to ponder.

  • The people did not let you down – Quite the opposite, you let the people down and this is their way, misguided as it might appear right now, of telling you that you sucked it up.
  • Try taking more credit for the way things are going – You need to pay more attention to the real world and less of what’s going on over at Fox news. Things in America are better than they were when you retook control. Yes. There is a lot more to do, but housing is up, employment is up, the stock market is up (aside from a few days here and there where the market takes a dump – but hey, we all have our off days) gas prices are down. I’m not convinced that you really had anything to do with these trends, but it’s fair to say they happened on your watch and the mindless collective called the voting public appears to believe what they are told with little question (for evidence, please refer to Tuesday’s election results).
  • WTF – Middle East and other areas of global unrest – Look, this is a thorn in everyone’s paw. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. A case could be made that the for many on the other side of the world, creating and maintaining a constant state of turmoil, unrest and a slow simmer of self-destruction seems to be what they do best. I mean, after all this time, if they really wanted to work things out, they probably could. My guess is that there is more money in turmoil and distress than in peace, so until we can create a higher profit margin for peace, we are kind of stuck. The point here is, many have tried. Many. Have tried. For decades and decades to get things straight over there. At some point, the rest of the world is just enabling the conflicts. The Republicans were burned by it and you have been burned by it. I don’t have any answers on how to resolve it, but we need to decide how much longer we need to participate, what we are going to do where – do it and then get the hell out of there and focus on the good work that needs to be done here at home.
  • Reacquaint yourself with Dr. Seuss’s story of The Zax. – Seriously. Read it, or watch the cartoon, or have somebody read it to you and show you the pictures. I don’t care. There is a message for congress there.

I could go on and on, but I realize that you are only congressional representatives after all, and that your attention spans are short, your memories are thin and your intentions are about as deep as the next election. If you take that as fairly harsh criticism, then I’m OK with that. If you could muster up a moment of self-reflection I dare say that you will come to the conclusion that you deserve it.

My one parting notion to you would be that while you are down right now like the stock market in ’07, you are not out. The deck is shuffled and you still have some good cards to play. You will need to be smart over the next year or so, which will be hard, I know, but buckle down and get the work done. I’m fairly certain that you can count on the Republicans doing nothing, aside from setting their focus on the next election, but I’m pretty sure the potential for a bright future lies ahead if you do what you need to do. And if you, meaning both parties, could consider for at least a half a second what it is you are supposed to be doing in Washington instead of what you actually do (or more commonly, do not do), the put upon cogs and wheels of this country – the American people would be truly grateful.

Your friend – Java





Boys – Part V

“Taddy?” Gunther said, in a whisper just loud enough to be heard over the rain attacking the attic roof.


“How long are you going to hold my hand?”

“Shut up,” Taddy said quickly letting go. “Just shut up and give me your flashlight.”

Gunther felt around him. “Wait,” he said. “”I thought you had a flashlight.”

“Mine’s dead, remember?”

“Well, I don’t have one,” Gunther said, trying to force any sign of a whimper from his voice.

“Then we’ve got to go get the one my mom has in the kitchen,” said Taddy, still whispering as if the darkness demanded it. “And we’re going together.”

“Right,” Gunther said. “I mean you’re not leaving me up here by myself.”

“Let’s go then.”

Taddy started to inch his way toward the hole in the floor and stuck a foot down through to find the ladder. Gunther inched with him, keeping a hand near Taddy’s shoulder so he wouldn’t lose touch as much for the connection to comfort, as it was a way to accidentally fall down the hole.

“Don’t push,” Taddy said.

“I’m not,” Gunther insisted.

Once on the ladder, Taddy’s instincts took over. He made the climb and descent in the dark thousands of times and was able to slip down into his bedroom in seconds. Gunther followed with a little more caution, but made it to the floor safe and sound.

“I can’t see a thing,” said Gunther. “This is crazy! I mean, look how dark it is. Where are you?”

“I’m over here.” Taddy clapped his hands and reached out for his friend. Gunther found him and the two began to slip their feet along the floor, inching their way to the door.


A large flash of lightning filled the house, trailing off into the flicker of tiny strobes of light. Any progress the boys made toward adjusting their sight to the darkness was dashed in those seconds of brilliance.


The thunder followed as they were still rubbing the brightness of the flash from their eyes.

“This sucks!” Gunther shouted. “I can’t see. Now I can’t hear. Really … this sucks!”

“Come on,” Taddy said. “There’s a flashlight in the kitchen. We’ll be there in a hot second.”

They continued their careful movements across the floor, to the stairs and down to the foyer. They inched their way to the kitchen, running their fingers lightly across the wall as a way to stay clear on their path.

Taddy reached the cold tile first. He stepped forward and reached out for the chopping block top of the island in the middle of the room. Finding it, he walked himself around to the second drawer where his mom kept the flashlight and any other number of assorted and likely useless odds and ends. He pulled the drawer and pawed around inside until he found it.


“That’s it?” Gunther asked, still standing on the edge of kitchen.

A pathetic, whimper of a glow lazily forced itself from the small light. Bringing recognition to Taddy’s face. He smirked and shook the light. It went dark. He hit it a couple of times and the light came back a little stronger, but not much.

“This is all we have unless I can find some more batteries,” Taddy said. “Or, until the power comes back.

“What about candles?” Gunther asked. “Do you have any candles?”

“Yeah,” Taddy said. My mom has a bunch in the…”

Any word Taddy might have said was murdered by another glaring flash of light. The boys had just enough time to look at each other before the thunder followed.


“Ahhhh!” The boys screamed.

“I wish it would stop doing that!” Gunther pounded on the wall next to him.


“What was that?” Taddy yelled. “What did you do?”

“Nothing,” said Gunther, running into the kitchen. “I … nothing. It sounded like window in the front room. You saw me. I was right there. I swear I didn’t…”

“Shhhh! Shush! Hush! Shut up!” Taddy said, trying to cover Gunther’s mouth.

The boys stood in the faded yellow glow of the sad flashlight, listening hard for whatever it was Taddy thought he heard. After a moment, they turned slowly to face each other.



While they spoke at exactly the same time, it was clear, they each heard something different.

Doll – Part IV

“Jesus Christ, CJ!”

Chalmers stirred as the sound of her voice rang down upon him. He wasn’t waking up, because he wasn’t really asleep, but he was being drawn out from wherever he was by her sour tone.

He had yet to open his eyes, but he squeezed the lids shut tighter just the same to eliminate the possibility of any light at all getting to his eyes and ultimately his aching, pudding-head brain.

“Oops,” he said, but it sounded more like, “Ooopshhh,” as he forced his words into the floor.

“Have you been there all night?” Margie said. “Again?”

The linoleum felt cool on his face, nice really. A puddle of drool had formed near his mouth. When the unexpected burp erupted from his lips, his acidic breath splashed the fluid and the smell reminded him of his reason for his current position on the floor … scotch.

If his math was right, and even the slightest thought of math made him queasy, this was the seventh time she found him sprawled out on the kitchen floor, incapacitated, incoherent and incapable of meaningful communication.

“I mean …” Margie stood over him one hand across her stomach, one hand rubbing her forehead. Chalmers dared to open his eyes just ever so slightly. She never came into focus. He never moved his head, so the odd angle at which she appeared while being all fuzzy struck him as oddly funny.

“I can’t do this anymore,” she said. He vaguely remembers her saying those exact words around time number four, but that time there was crying and a little pleading. This time…

“I can’t!”

“You,” Chalmers said with great effort. He paused to erupt in another hiccough/burp that made his body jerk. “Don’t … under … stand. You … never…”

“Don’t, CJ!” Margie shouted down at him. “Don’t you dare! I miss her too, every day! Don’t you dare tell me I don’t understand. At least I faced it. I didn’t hide from it and escape up into some bottle of gin!”

“Scotch!” Chalmers sort of yelled. The need to correct her forced his head from the floor. He held it there in a weary delirium for a three count before letting it drop again into his drool.

“It’s been five years,” Margie said. “Five years she’s been gone. And you left shortly after that! I can’t do this. I want to live! I’m not going to watch you drink yourself to death. She … would hate what you’ve become.”

The soft cushion of alcohol gave way to a torrential wave of anger. He swung out at her with his arm with little chance of connecting. “Shhhhuuddup!”

He rolled over onto his back swinging out at her. “Shuddup! You don’t know! You don’t know!” Tears breached his eyes and began to trickle down his face. He began to sob. “You don’t know!” he tried one last time, but it came out as nothing she could understand.

“I know,” she said, the calm in her voice reflecting her resignation. “I know all too well. I lost everything that day. I lost her. I lost you. Everything. I can’t do this. Goodbye.”

His blinding tears prevented him from seeing her leave. His sobs prevented him from hearing her go, but when the door closed and she was gone, the weight of her absence fell upon him, crushing him almost completely.


Elliston Craw stood on the ledge and looked down, slowly so as not to toss his balance. The view from seventeen stories above the ground was unsettling at first. The ledge extended a good three inches past the tips of his shoes, so he felt sure enough that he wouldn’t slip off too easily. His back and arms were pressed against the bricks behind him as if he were holding the wall back from tumbling down to the street below.

A gust of wind ripped by him and while he felt secure in his footing at the moment, the brush of the wind’s fingers caused him to jerk and to catch himself as if he might fall.

He closed his eyes and tried to relax a little. He took as deep of a breath as he dared and then stared out across the city. This might have been a mistake.

Initially, his being here was a clear case of his curiosity, clouding…no, obliterating his better judgment. For eight years, the window next to his desk at Harlow & Jenks afforded him the opportunity to stare out into the wild blue and gray of city and sky to wonder. What do pigeons do all day? Does that ledge go all the way around the building? Is it strong enough to hold someone? How long might it take to go all the way around the building on the ledge? Would anyone notice him being gone? Is seventeen floors high enough?

He wasn’t sure what actually tipped the scales between wondering and doing. It could have been seeing the window washers last Tuesday. It could have been that it hadn’t rained in eight days so everything was pretty dry. It could have been that in eight years of wondering he realized that he did and awful lot of wondering and very little doing.

The window in the older building opened easy enough. The height of his desk and the first drawer accommodated his getting to the ledge as if they were designed to do so. Actually standing on the ledge and getting adjusted so the he wouldn’t fall was a bit slow going, but he managed and the inching down across it was like walking, once he got a pattern down.

It was when he stopped to embrace the moment that things sort of changed.

He looked down again. It was exhilarating. It was the most dramatic thing he had ever done. It was life.

Another gust of wind raked over him and he tried to get even closer to the wall as if it might hold him if he got unsteady.

His goal, if he even had one, because at this point he realized this was all pretty crazy, was to step out onto the ledge, go around the outside of the building, get back inside and finish his work on the Whorton account.

But now.

A glimmer of the depth of what was happening crept into his thinking. This was not normal. Normal people may think about walking on ledges, but normal people usually discount those notions quickly in lieu of the greater call of a food craving or other useless distraction.

This was…

A lot of his thinking stopped when one thought, or the memory of the thought pushed everything away. Is seventeen floors high enough?

He had a nice place to live. He had a decent job that, while it would never make him a rich man, it would give him a decent life and the occasional trip out of town. Still…

Is seventeen floors high enough?

Elliston Craw closed his eyes. He opened them again to look at the sun. Another heart gust of wind blew towards his direction.

An open letter to Miley Cyrus

Java typed with determination and focus, as she was prone to do in these situations:

An open letter to Miley Cyrus – Dear Miley Cyrus:

We don’t know each other and I doubt that the circumstances of our existences will ever allow our paths to cross. I also realize that it might appear a bit cliché to address you publicly at the peak of your current festival of weirdness. Considering all the other people in the world who have decided to weigh in on your recent round of personal and professional choices, I can see how easy it would be to assume I’m jumping on the bandwagon.

I want to be clear on this one point. I am not one of those “pile on” people who will berate you for what’s currently going on in your world. Frankly, I’m not a fan of your work, so I couldn’t care less about what you decide to do professionally. And since I don’t see you babysitting my kids any time soon, I couldn’t care less about your personal choices. I say, let your freak flag fly baby.

I was 20 once. I know what it feels like to want to break free of your childhood and establish yourself as an adult. I recognize that being 20 and wanting to be an adult is way different from actually being a mature adult. At 20, your head is still full of crazy. Some people tamp that down better than others. Very few get to go through this change as publicly as you, so they don’t know your circumstances well enough to bash you for bad decisions.

I’m quite sure that a lot of “mature adults” out there who are hating on you right now, might A) be a little jealous of your ability to completely disregard any personal sense of tact and grace, or B) be dishing out a little of what they got at 20 when they did something stupid on a grand scale.

There might also be a third factor in that many “mature adults” harbor a deep-rooted longing to break free from their own lives even now, and seeing you so loose and free only fills them with a feeling of venomous envy. I don’t know many adults who haven’t gone through a “take this job and shove it” phase.

To me, you and your circumstances raise different questions. For instance, what makes young stars, and in your case, young Disney stars, go so berserk, so publicly? Is the desire for admiration, adoration, fawning, money, or whatever might pass as genuine love in that world so strong that they are willing to do anything to keep it or grow it? I mean let’s face it, it could be argued that Disney has churned out some truly “damaged” young people.

Another question that comes to mind is what happens next, and then, after that?

There are things I did at your age, that if given the chance, I might go back and punch myself in the face for. After all, we are the products of all of our decisions. Some people get iggy if any sort of their past resurfaces say on Facebook or similar forum because they aren’t really those people anymore and they don’t want to have to justify any past decisions made with a 20 year-old’s crazy brain. I didn’t grow up in a time where every waking moment is recorded and shared so freely. You have, and you will have one hell of a time putting this all away once you decide to move on.

Maybe you won’t move on. Maybe this is the person you have longed to be and you have hit your sweet spot and the rest of the world can just suck it. If so, good for you, but I’d like to caution that the standard scale for “outrageous behavior” has shifted over the years.

Despite what some might see as your shocking display, you still have a way to go before you have to do any real damage control. I just hope you recognize that there is only so far a person can go and still look at themselves with comfort and calm. Once you’re all covered with ink, have been bare and naked to the world from head to toe, have stuck your tongue everywhere it could possibly go, have sworn and offended, have risen and fallen, and loved and lost, got loaded up and detoxified, where do you go for the shock and awe? Only you can answer that. I suppose it will come down to what you want more, the seductive drug of attention or some sense of personal joy and satisfaction.

The long and the short of it is, I wish you well on your journey. Again, I’m not a fan of your work, so the only thing I’m subjected to is the onslaught of imagery and news coverage that I wish frankly were dedicated to the more pressing matters we face here on the planet. But, I can’t control that either.

Whether you rise to the highest heights or crash and burn, it’s all up to you now. Many people have gone through far greater struggles than you are ever likely to face as a poor, confused rich girl and they come out just fine. I hope you find your path and your peace and if you could just put your tongue away, that would be awesome.

Your friend in the cosmos – Java

100 Days

Yesterday, I capped my 100-day writing experiment/exercise.

The goal was to write something new every day for 100 days without missing. I had no length requirement, but I found that as I got more into it, the greater effort was in keeping the piece short and interesting than writing something daily.

I learned a lot about my writing style, the mistakes I’m prone to making and I discovered some good things about my imagination. I think there are other lessons there that I’m still working on.

My secondary goal in this exercise was to develop a field of ideas from which to build on. I feel a longer work coming on. Initially, I thought a play, some longer short stories or a book. But to do that well enough, I wanted to get my skills up to par.

Many people have been very kind and supportive in their comments and notes. It is a great compliment for people to ask for more. I really appreciate the time everybody took to check out the stories, or story bits, and provide feedback. That is just the best.

So I ask myself, what now?

I was hoping to get a bit more feedback from the people prone to reading my posts on what they might like to see. Since you are reading it, it seems contrary to produce something you might have little interest in. Some questions come to mind:

  • Is there any interest in a longer work?
  • If so, was there something you saw over the last 100 days you might like to see more of? Something I can flesh out?
  • Is that something you might be interested in reading along the way or would you want to wait until it’s complete?
  • What would you be interested in? A play? A book length piece? An array of dazzling advertising slogans?
  • Any other thoughts?

I can find all 100 posts here on my blog. Please share the link if you can: https://thejeffworks.wordpress.com

It would be great if you could take a moment to comment, or drop me a private message or email and let me know what you think.

I can’t see putting the brakes on now as I feel I’ve hit some sort of stride, so I’m thinking I will continue my posts, unless writing a longer piece takes up all my writing energy, but I’m thinking I might take the weekends off.

Thanks again for all your support. Now…let me have it.


Hamlet jumped ahead as Casper Turlock opened his front door to step out into the brisk fall morning. The smallish dog tugged on his leash with an eagerness that reminded him of a kid who had too much sugar churning through him.

It was early, still dark. Casper judged the temperature and decided to tug up the zipper on his jacket just a bit.

Hamlet continued to tug until they got going and found their pace. The morning walk was a refreshing time for both of them. Casper had no idea what was going through Hamlet’s head. He was really Cheryll’s dog and while the relationship between man and beast started off a bit rocky, the two had come to establish a steady détente through the comfort of routine.

For Casper the mornings were a time of solitude, reflection and relief that he didn’t have to encounter many people. Aside from the occasional car engine, the only sounds he heard, especially on a morning like this, were the light winds brushing past his hear, a rare morning bird and the constant jangle of Hamlet’s tags.

He walked his pace and thought his thoughts while Hamlet nosed his way around the sidewalk and any nearby shrub he happened to encounter, occasionally snarfing, or sneezing, or whatever it is that dog’s do when they get a snout full of something.

The morning walk came with the promise of a carefree nothingness, a time to forget the woes of the moment and a reprieve from the possible woes of the day ahead. A majority of the time, the walk was uneventful. The only time the walk had the potential to go sour was when Hamlet sniffed out a skunk who graciously spared them from an unpleasant spraying, mostly due to Casper’s still quick reflexes. Well, still quick enough to yank a smallish dog back on a leash. Danger averted.

As they turned down Bobolink, Hamlet pulled to the length of his leash to get to a clump of brush and stopped to stick his nose deep inside.


“Come on Hamlet. One more mile to go.”

Casper walked on, but the dog, who would normally follow stood his ground and even fought a bit to stand his ground when Casper gave the leash a gentle tug.

“Come on boy.”


Casper stopped and rolled his eyes a bit as if he was asked to do something he really didn’t want to do.

Whimper. Snarf.

“All right,” Casper said, making a mental note that the dog may be stressing the terms of their alliance. “What have you got?”

He took a few steps back to the dog and pushed him back. The dog stepped back, but that surged forward as Casper reached between the branches.

Bark. Snarf.

Casper pulled out a paper bag rolled down from the top, the kind you only see under the counters of grocery store check out lines any more.

He crouched down to get closer to the dog’s level. “If this is a bag full of bloody clothes or a head or something, it’s the pound for you big man.”


Casper rolled up the top of the bag and peered inside. Even in the dim pre-dawn light and the weak glow of a nearby street lamp, Casper could see that the bag was filled with loose, yet densely-packed one hundred dollar bills.


When Chesley Biggins found the glowing, smoldering lump of rock in his backyard, his first impulse was to poke it with a stick. This was not a new idea for Ches. Over the years he had poked a great many things with a great many sticks. It was pretty much his first response to all things. In fact, in the foregone conclusion that he was going to poke something, the only question that ever rose within him was what kind of stick this particular poke required.

In the summer of his 13th year, Ches came across a dead owl and a dead skunk along Old Stickley Road. As he recalled, it was June and the sun was just picking up its summer steam. He found the owl early in the month and it was fairly fresh. In the lottery of dead things on the side of the road, an owl was pretty rare, so it took him a bit to identify the thing. Even then it wasn’t until a successful stick poke allowed him to see the beak that he was sure it was an owl.

That stick was probably about 18 inches long and even that might not have been long enough, for when he poked it to get it to roll, the essence of unsettling the dead seemed to shiver up his arm and into his spine.

The skunk came later in the summer and had spent a bit longer on the road. You didn’t get as many points for finding a skunk. They were super easy to identify and fairly common in Gimpmann’s Hollow. Still, with the memory of nudging the owl carcass over the tarmac still fresh in his bones, he felt the skunk required a much more substantial stick. He recalled it was a nice piece of birch that took both hands to swing into place. It certainly proved long enough to prevent the skunk’s death shivers from reaching into him. He also allowed that by the time he found it, the death shivers had time to escape.

Looking at the smoking, glowing rock thing, a thing that he was able to trace as it dropped from space and crashed next to his begonias, the poke was set in stone, but the stick…what stick would work best for an extraterrestrial poke?

The rock thing looked about a foot and a half wide. Peering at it with the inadequate glow of his porch light, he saw that the surface appeared smoother than he first suspected. He could kick himself for not bringing out that flashlight, but he wasn’t convinced that it had good batteries in it. The thing in the shallow hole didn’t move so he didn’t think it was alive. And because he was convinced it wasn’t alive, it wasn’t a far stretch to say it probably wasn’t dead; a key factor in determining stick length and girth.

The diameter was one consideration, but then he thought about weight. He quickly recalled something from Mr. Truman’s science about element density and how that could make even a small object misleadingly heavy. Then he recalled he never paid much attention in that class because it was the time when he obsessed over Donna Callingdale.

Next, there was the heat to consider. When he first got to it, he could feel the warmth on his face that reminded him of a campfire. He couldn’t squelch the notion of cooking a marshmallow over it, even if only for a moment. Still, it seemed to be cooling at a steady pace.

With his evaluation just about complete, he realized there was probably nothing in the immediate vicinity that would work. He figured the stick needed to be wood and taking into consideration the depth of the hole and the way it sat, it needed to be at least 36 inches long. It needed to be thicker than a yardstick, but something he could get a good grip on.

His mind tore through his available inventory. There were some two by fours in the garage, along with some branches he trimmed from the old apple tree and the shovel he borrowed last spring from Jennigs McCoy. There was an old banister that he replaced from the basement steps, but that would be too long.

Ah! As soon as he discarded the banister, he thought of the perfect stick for this poke, and if anything went wrong as a result, he would be ready to respond properly.

“Martha!” he said, turning his head a bit toward the house but keeping his eyes on the space thing. “Get me my Louisville Slugger!”

Paradise Gone

George Pullman pulled into his driveway at the end of a long day’s work, three days after his vacation. It took a day and a half for the sheen of his time in the islands, that post-vacation euphoria, to evaporate in a cloud of reports, statistics, ratings and fiery circumstances allowed to develop in his absence that needed his immediate attention.

Fortunately, for him a gift awaited on the front step of his house, a gift to himself that he hoped would continue to connect him to the peace and tranquility of those glorious days in paradise, five cases of Manticoopa. Manticoopa was an island favorite and George fell in love with it the moment it crossed his lips. It wasn’t really a soda and it wasn’t really juice. It tasted heavenly any way you served it, straight, on ice, or as a mixer. In one case, he enjoyed a delightful dinner of delicate field quail marinated in Manticoopa and served with a light island fruit chutney.

Manticoopa held within it, the essence of the islands. A delicate balance of fruits mixed with a mango base that was never too sweet or too dry. It had a pleasant, light orange color, an ever so light effervescence so as not to disturb the flavor and the subtle scent of coconut reminiscent of the island breeze. Just thinking about it, he could almost feel himself drifting back to heaven.

His mood perked up considerably. The day might not be a total wash after all. He parked the car, rushed inside and brought the cases into the kitchen. The cost to bring these five cases to Cornington was ridiculous and impulsive. But he so wanted at least the notion of his vacation to continue that he was willing to do the work and pay the cost. One afternoon, he found a distributor willing to ship to the states. George made all the arrangements so that the shipment would arrive safely after his return so he was there to receive them. His work quickly consumed him and he nearly forgot that the cases were on the way.

Now, safely in the privacy of his own kitchen, he prepared to transport himself back to tranquility. He put on some island music, another small gift to himself, a CD of the hotel house band’s most requested songs. He pulled out a special glass intending to highlight the color and let the delicate beverage breathe. He opened case one and pulled out the first of 240 cans that he planned to meter out over the next few months, or whenever he needed a quick escape. He closed his eyes and breathed deep with anticipation as he snapped the top open to release this glorious nectar.   

The Manticoopa tumbled from the can into the glass, a bit darker than he remembered and with a bit more foam. The expectation of a subtle essence of coconut seemed lost in a cloud of fizz, but no matter, this is what he was waiting for. He let the beverage settle before bringing the glass to his lips and taking a full, deep sip. He held the fluid in his mouth and awaited the magic. 

His pursed lips that held back the fluid puckered. His eyes, once closed in anticipation squeezed tighter together as his brain tried to weed through the bombardment of messages coming from the mouth.

His mouth filled with a sour flavor half-reminiscent of a plum well past its prime and a healthy dose of a lemon based furniture polish. Whatever the taste, an immediate flood of saliva mixed with the unsettled concoction and forced him to move the fluid around in his mouth. Pushing it into his cheeks, the flavor transformed again into something more beer-like than fruity and the ever-present essence of stale, wet paper.

George forced himself to swallow. The after taste that coated his mouth forced him to run to the fridge, pull out a beer and cleanse the residue from his palette. He slammed the beer can down on the counter. He looked at the can of Manticoopa. He looked at the full glass minus one healthy swig. He looked at the expensive cases holding the 239 remaining cans, cans which he knew in that moment he would never drink. He looked at the floor. His vacation was truly over.


Mitzy Cole suffered from something many high school girls suffered from, she was blossoming. While this was natural and wonderful in so many ways that even she was unable to fully comprehend, Tracy Colter, Janice Melton and Brin Whitmire found this to be totally unacceptable.

While high school, structurally, allows for the common progression of students from grade to grade, year to year, it seems to do little to accommodate the varied levels of development of its inmates beyond the academic.

Mitzy, Tracy, Janice and Brin had known each other since the 5th grade. In 6th and 7th grade, they were fairly thick, sharing secrets and pizzas over random sleepovers, going to skating parties, exchanging friendship bracelets and giggling until they could barely breathe. They hugged and cried a bit when 8th grade split them up and 9th grade brought about the reunion of the other three, leaving Mitzy on the side to figure things out on her own.

There are a million stories of that mystical time, those one or two summers, when kids seem to go from awkward kid to awkward more adult looking kid loaded with hormones and confusion. In May or June they go away all geeky and wobbly and they come back in August all buff and disenchanted. Nature is either cruel in not letting all kids advance at the same rate to level the playing field, or smart and calculating by knowing that the rest of the world could not handle all of that condensed development in one fell swoop so it meters it out for the safety of all.

Mitzy was clearly on a different track from the other three, who had physically matured quite a bit heading into 9th grade. They had discovered make-up and shopping at Calification, a store that brought the styles of California to Billings. You needed more money to shop there, which they apparently had. Tracy began to pull together a small group of like-minded shoppers with Janice and Brin as her lieutenants and the other girls as her minions.

Mitzy believed that whoever was putting the highlights in Tracy’s hair was using something unnatural that was warping her perception of the world and her place in it. To her credit, Tracy assumed power quickly. She was taller than her recruits were, she was quicker when it came to smart remarks and practical lies, and she had a dangerous stare. Benji Coleman says he swore he saw that very stare melt a glass in the cafeteria once.

Mitzi had been shorter than most of the girls heading into 9th grade. She liked to read and mostly kept to herself until the circumstances of the cafeteria and biology gave her the opportunity to create a few potential friendships. She hated the clothes from Calification, so she wore her usual array of t-shirts and sneakers. She was comfortable, smart, and not much of a threat to the power trio and her minions.

But that was 9th grade, and when the doors opened that August and Mitzy stepped into 10th grade, she herself felt very much the same…on the inside, but those around her noticed many changes. She had grown a solid two inches, decided to let her hair grow out a bit longer and she did some more experimenting with make up. Her overall style was similar, but she wore her clothes differently. Different enough that it drew Benji Coleman out of his conversation with Matt Billings about the latest Sizerman comic book long enough to say, “Hey Mitz…wow!”

It happened that, while he intended nothing of the sort, Benji’s ‘wow’ was just loud enough, and just close enough to Tracy Colter to draw her attention.

Ever on guard, Tracy whipped her head around, appearing casual and disinterested as if she was flipping her hair, to see what source this wow created. When she saw the new girl at her locker, she stopped. That wasn’t a new girl at all. It took a moment, but after watching a series of double takes from others passing her by to confirm what they were looking at, it clicked…Mitzy Cole.

In that second of recognition, even Tracy would have been hard pressed to answer the harder question of why, but Mitzy Cole, for doing nothing more than brushing her hair differently and growing a bit taller became a target.


Lewis opened the door to the fridge with a sort of blind ignorance tied to a wish that maybe this time, there would be something there he might not be responsible for,  some kind of gift left by fairies, or trolls, or leprechauns.

Wrong again.

A quick visual survey confirmed the only things in there were things he put there and hadn’t used yet. Most of the things he couldn’t use without getting more things. Swinging the door wide, the light came up on three beers, two pounds of butter, an expired jar of green olives where the remaining two olives were floating in a murky brine, a dried up carrot, a tiny jar of orange marmalade someone got him from a recent trip to the sunny south and one slice of American cheese where the corners were getting hard because he neglected to close the Ziplock properly.

What was he doing with so much butter?

He grabbed one of the beers, now dinner, and the carrot. He tossed the carrot into the garbage bin, snapped the top off the beer and held it to his head. It was so hot he was convinced there was a sizzle when the can touched his skin.

The air conditioning blew out earlier this morning and being a bit late on the rent certainly didn’t seem to motivate the super into coming up to have a look at it.

The first course of dinner went down fast. He barely tasted it. He opened the fridge again, grabbed a second beer – the main course – and forced himself to slow down enough to make it last. He would try not to get at the last one tonight. What could be dessert might have to be breakfast in the morning.

He plopped himself down onto the chair of his nook-sized kitchen table and stared up at the bright, naked light bulb hanging from the ceiling. Sweat dripped down his face.

“What a mess,” he said softly to himself. It might have been the fifth time he said it in the last thirty minutes and he lost count of how many times it rolled across his mind this week. It was only Wednesday. There were still many more eye-opening moments of full failure realization to go before he had two solid days to wallow in his unfortunate circumstance free of the burden of weekly annoyances.

Of course, the rent was due on Friday, really two months worth now, and while part of his mind churned on any one of a number of creative excuses for not having the full amount this month, the other half was scheming away at how he could get the money in two days, and how getting the money would certainly turn things around…or at least start to turn things around.

All of his thoughts began with phrases like, “if I could just,” or “if only.” Phrases you might hear on a Saturday morning cartoon where Scooby and the gang are about to be done in by this week’s mystery, when “if only” results in a misstep, that results in an accident, that results in everything working out and the kids becoming heroes for saving the day.

Lewis had some pretty big “if onlys.” Short of running around his apartment shoving bookcases and trying to turn light fixtures to possibly reveal a secret passage or untold wealth, he was pretty certain there was no neat and clean Scooby ending awaiting him at the end of a 90 second commercial break.

He got up and walked to the fridge. It was probably just as good a night as any to have a little dessert.


Calvert Jennings gripped the edge of the lectern. He looked up into the moderate crowd of mostly strangers, strangers to him anyway. He supposed that, while still on the younger side, in his mind, this sort of thing would start happening more often, but he hoped the opportunity to play this role would be rare.

“Friends and family of Cranston Bink, thank you for being here today and thank you for this opportunity to speak on Cranston’s behalf.”

He paused, needing a deeper breath due to the weight of the moment.

“I’ve known Bink most of my life. Although our paths moved us near and far and near again, we kept in touch loosely over the years and when we were able to get together, we usually picked right up where we left off, as if I had just seen him the day before.”

A slight smile came to him.

“Bink would probably hate this. Those of you who knew him well, knew that he didn’t stand on ceremony. He liked things to happen organically. He thought if people really wanted to celebrate, or react to something, they should be able to drop everything and do so. He would say that celebrations rarely happen organically because there is always someone somewhere who feels the need to organize. They would want to make it an event and it would be something bigger than it needed to be. Organization takes time and planning, and time and planning tend to kill genuine impulse, genuine joy. Celebrations should not be events, he would say. Events become more about the planner than the occurrence.

While tragic for us, Bink is probably happy that his passing came at a time where people who really knew him could gather and reflect upon the joys of his existence. He told me once that he feared getting too old, because when you’re too old and you die, there is nobody left to speak for you…the real you. Rather, if you get someone to stand up for you, it’s generally a canned speech from someone who sees you as an assignment, something on a to-do list before they wash their hands and go home for dinner, or get a drink, or to take their kid to soccer practice.

Being properly represented was important to him. You know that in talking to him, he worked to make himself clear and that there was a rationale that drove him, and a sense of self-image he felt comfortable working with.

As I look at you, I sense some of you may still be a little tender about some of the things he said about God, about religion. One of the last things he said to me was that he hoped you understood where he was coming from. It’s not an apology. It’s just more reflective of who he was. However, since he was likely going away, he didn’t want to leave on ill terms. His words.

You see, not being religious himself, an offer of prayer, while heartfelt and genuine for you, was for him a failure in his ability to communicate with you his feelings and needs without trampling on yours.

He knew that a sense of faith is something deep inside people. He knew he could no more ask someone, or expect someone, to turn off his or her prayer mindset, than he could not tell a joke. But he felt that if you really knew him and respected who he was as a person, there would never be a prayer between you. For him, that was OK. While he would take all the good energy and good thoughts you might throw his way, he had very little use for someone’s prayers.

It might be semantics. Maybe prayers are just another way of sharing good energy, but he liked to say that reaching out to some far great beyond for assistance is like bringing a mediator into your negotiations for buying a new car. Why do you need the middleman? You’ll get to where you need to be eventually, and you’ll be stronger for the journey. He thought it diminished the direct link between you and I know he got a lot from you all directly in those last few weeks. It was your being there, your energy that helped him through to the end.

Bink was a moral man. He was a smart man. He had a nearly unshakable faith in himself, a confidence that many of us might envy.

I don’t know where you go after this. Bink and I had many long discussions on the matter. We got no closer to a final resolution than we are today. We thought once the best heaven was where you got to go be your favorite character from your favorite movie, so it’s quite possible that there is a new Han Solo galloping around the galaxy, fighting the good fight.

To close, one of the last things Bink and I talked about before he faded into sleep was how much he enjoyed the ride. That even the dull, drudgery of the day-to-day, held within it glorious sunsets and magical full moons, flowers and laughter and snow and handshakes, fresh fruit and hugs. The world is magic if you know where to look. And it can be depressing and hard, but it can also be made easier just by saying so.

He does not want you to leave here in tears. He wants you to leave here with hope and a smile. And when we’re done here, he wanted me to tell you to all go out and get a sandwich and enjoy being together.”


Pap Doyle stood by the backstage entrance of Packertt Valley Theatre and ArtsExplorationCenter as he had done so many times before. There was so much activity at the theatre these days, it almost felt like his regular beat. It was a perfect assignment for he wasn’t the kind to get star struck. So even while he enjoyed seeing the “stars,” he could focus on the task at hand, protecting them.

Each act, each celebrity had his or her own persona. Each persona generated a crowd to match. It’s funny how a group of people, normally probably fairly well disconnected, are drawn together for something and that group as a whole develops a personality of its own. The teens stars bring out the kids and lots of screaming. The moodier, “deeper” artists bring out the crowds of kids who like to dress in black, accept for their hair, which usually held a wild splash of vibrant color. The “classic” acts usually brought in the older folks who by the time the show was over, mixed their youthful desire to see their chosen idols with stray yawns that slip out because it’s an unusually late night for them.

Tonight was a mix. Max Henry. The crowd building up backstage to get a simple glimpse of the man was much larger than Pap could ever remember, and probably for good reason. Even though they got a lot of them, no act as big as Max Henry had ever come to Packertt Valley.

Max Henry had just turned 65. His career started when he was 14 in the troubled streets of Dublin, Ireland, back in the day. Max hit the world hard and fast with an infectious mix of pop, rock and Celtic influences that just seemed to hit people in the right places. Even though the times changed over the years, and the sounds with them, almost everyone found something to relate to in a Max Henry album.

Pap had the option of working inside, stage side. He could have seen the show, and while he would have a hard time denying his own preference for a good Max Henry album. He felt the backstage door was where he could do the most good. Coming in, the stars were usually pretty safe. They sneak in really. Arrival times are fluid and fans are few. The departure was another story. The transfer from building to vehicle and vehicle to what they called the release, was probably the most important security challenge of any show.

He saw many acts come and go. Most were tired and spent when it was time to leave. They just want to dive in their cars and go. Some, the ones who can’t get enough, dwell outside, not so much to interact with the fans, but to hang there awash in the screams of adoration as if they drew some kind of energy from it. Finally, some acts were just trouble. Panda Angst was the best example of that. The lead singer, Copper Potts had been in a downward spiral personally for some time. The band was strong and growing and Pap was warned to expect the unexpected. He had no idea that once safe in the car and the car was on its way that Potts, high on several things, would burst through the limo’s sunroof climb to the top and dive into the waiting, screaming throngs of people. What a night.

Max Henry should be different. The crowds were energized, but respectful. They saw the barricade lines and only tested them a little. How could they not? Henry’s show ended about an hour ago, and while he was normally known to leave the premises rather quickly, an hour wasn’t out of the question.

Pap’s earpiece crackled. “We’re on the move.”

While he was certain that he was the only one to hear the message, the crowd sensed it and he could feel the energy surge. Two minutes later, the door pushed open and after three band members crossed the threshold and moved to the cars with purpose and intent, but also with smiles and nods, the man himself stepped into the broad alley.

Pap was all business, ready to take on whatever happened. He stepped close to Henry as the crowd tested the barriers with their enthusiasm.

Max Henry, worldwide pop icon, stood for a moment, smiling and waving at the crowds. Cheers and whistles filled the alley. Henry clapped Pap on the shoulder drawing his attention. “Great night, right mate?”

Pap nodded and smiled back. Then he noticed the hand that rested on his shoulder, the hand that penned hits like, Mary Sunshine, Party in the Park and Wonderbomb, seized his shirt. Pap quickly took in the man’s face. Mere seconds ago he was smiling, eyes lit with a bottomless energy. Now, the face was contorting into a pleading wave of misunderstood pain.

“Christ!” someone shouted. “You, get him into the car now.”

A man, probably an agent or a publicist grabbed Pap and Max, who were now joined by Max’s grip, into the car. The door slammed shut cutting a good amount of the noise down to a mild roar. The unknown man yelled at the driver, “Get to the hospital! Now!”