The Best Heist, is to Steal Back Your Life

Reality

is rarely

what we think

it should be.

I read a story to some boys

who were less than

half alive.

I read the story

like it really happened,

but the teacher

insisted

on asking me questions

to be polite,

and the questions were about

how I made up the story.

The adult world

insists

there is no magic.

Their lives suggest

a sad reality.

“A bug flew into my eye

on a bike-ride, and it spent the night there

then flew away,” I said.

“Mr. Johnson! Really! You shouldn’t make stuff up.”

“It happened;

I took it out in the morning

and who knows if it crawled off.”

The world insists on reality.

Entertainment

is for killing

time

and for that

they get a life sentence.

The best heist

is to steal back your life

and the best way to do that

is one minute

at a time.

Beer Cans on Mars

Few people want to accomplish things, simply for the sake of accomplishing them. -Intellectual Shaman

The organization can best be described as little boxes stacked on-top of little boxes, full of little men, doing little things. They document everything—even their phone calls, because they think what they have to say is important, and they want to feel important. They get this feeling from telling each other how important they are, but secretly, there is a sense of loss. It might be lost time—the sense that the summer is almost over, and they have to go back to school. Everybody progresses to the next grade, if they made the grade, and the fear of being left behind is worse than being marooned on the open ocean.

A leader rises among the ranks; not necessarily because he is someone others want to follow, but because he has followed the organization so well and for so long, that he deserves a chance to say the mission statement and repeat the rules.

This particular company wants to get to outer space and beyond it, but they have decided to settle for Mars. If they could setup their organization there, Earth would have to recognize them. After several years of perfection, a space craft launches toward the red planet—a six-month trip of cowboy tunes and elevator music. The greatness of SpaceCorp lands on the Martian soil, and the astronauts lumber out of their lander, preparing to read a statement edited by over 20 executives.

The words are transmitted back to earth—there’s a time delay, and one of the astronauts points to an alcove in the red rock, untouched by sandstorms.

“Is that a cooler?”

“I think it is.”

“Do you suppose there’s alien life here?”

“It would have to be below the surface; and that looks like it belongs in a Walmart. See the blue top?” The astronaut pointed. There were undisturbed footprints leading into a cave. When they got inside, there were beer cans everywhere—Budweiser.

“Those beer cans look like they’re at least fifty years old. See the black label?”

“Somebody got here first. But who? Why haven’t we heard of him?”

“Maybe it was an independent outfit—a space cowboy.”

“But doesn’t a cowboy need a rodeo?”

“This one didn’t.”

“What will be tell the people back home?”

“We got here first.”

Not one of them escaped a little box.

The End

Fred’s Fantasy Films

Fred’s wife died in the night. He had tried to give her mouth-to-mouth, but her lungs were made out of iron, fossilized black from smoking two packs of Cools each day for decades, and they wouldn’t inflate. Her stomach was full of alcohol and acid; Fred tasted it bubbling up like soda, trying to keep his fifty-year marriage alive.

It was the summer after I graduated high school. I was around long enough to know that when old dogs die, their mates die too, but it usually takes a couple of months. So, you could say I was waiting for Fred to die. Sounds morbid, but it’s the truth. He was my next-door neighbor my whole life. And during that time, I cut his hedge, and he complained about how I mistreated my dog, but that wasn’t true. Fred was ordinarily clean shaven, and when he walked, he had a meddlesome look that glanced from side to side. He frequently walked onto our property to make sure the property line hadn’t moved. You could say, he was a neighborhood soldier doing his duty. And then he actually started carrying a shotgun, which was more amusing, than anything. He grew a mustache, and in that moment, he became a bachelor again. Fred was a career man. His house was designed in the 60s, with lime-green wallpaper, a glass coffee table, and a dish of hard candy.

I watched his house late at night, waiting for the ambulance to arrive, but it never did. He kept living there, day after day.

He’s still living there. His family visits, once a year, to make sure there isn’t a body. I wonder if living is a curse, if you never leave your house. Maybe, he watches black and white films. Some things are so horrifying, they make murder pleasant.

The End

Make Butter!

On sleepless nights

under supernova stars

we try to capture

deep space

Depths

of displaced

mammoth

lakes

a helpless feeling

a dandelion

seedling

blowing in the wind

trying to hang-on

to its mother.

Chemicals mix

in mismanaged minds

toxic waste

spewing rage

on the road

removing control

from smart-phone eyes

distracted

swiping traffic

with murderous negligence

swiping left

swiping right

for love

for an urge

reproducing

itself

insignificant seedlings

landing, on blistering pavement

beaten ground

or soft

green grass

where dandelions grow

in dandy yellow expensive clothes

picked by a girl

and arranged, in a bouquet

filled with weeds

she sees as flowers.

When nothing goes right

and everything is wrong

when your life is hanging on

by its roots

ripped off

and blown to hell

cooking, in the hot sun

Make Butter!

Life

beyond recorded time

EXPLODES.

What do you have

besides corrupted chemicals

a soul seeking perfection

in infinite chaos

a woman running

while she smokes a cigarette

a religious man

yelling

at a priest

“Don’t be religious!”

the questions

on sleepless nights

and tired mornings

are answered

in echoes

when we never made a sound.

Accept

the noise

you don’t hear.

You think

when you should know.

You follow the rules

so you don’t do wrong

But…

Good living

is accepting

the bad,

and doing

the good.

Nothing to Lose

lost change

lost friends

friends, I never lost

they just found somewhere else to go

I can pick-up copper coins

from the sidewalk

like treasure

because, I have nothing to lose

not time

not dignity

not a payment plan, I have decided to pay-into

I pay

my way

with lost things

things, forgotten

that nobody looks for

anymore.

Beyond the Box

inside

we find

stuff

we know

our box

full of stuff

the wide world is waiting

waiting for us to share

it goes

unseen

by us

trapped in a box of despair

the wind pushes a lake

like a whisper on water

the sun shines through

blades of grass

that cut

a yellow-green hew

spreading their black shadows

behind them

pushing up

through cardboard

like a daisy

that delights

in day

a fountain of white petals

under which,

dust and dirt decay

on broken toys.

We grow up

from our nursery

joining the wide world

with rules and no answers

many of us want the truth

to unlock mysteries

with keys

inside

our box

but they always go to broken toys

or padlocks

the keys

are out there

though

once you’ve entered a new space

and grown larger

it’s impossible to fit

back in

where the story-book world

makes sense

in the box.

Theories and language

explain what it is

confusing what we know

memories we see

inside

our box

a story

is a made-up word

a switch

in our head

that won’t turn off

we are turned on

by the outside world

unlike a box

bathed, in artificial light

do we need to know

why?

or is an unsolvable mystery

better than

a predictable plot?

death

underground

waiting for us

a story

we can’t help telling

answers

in language

never true

but good to listen to

I love to tell them

I love to listen

to a world

that lives

beyond my box

escaping death

for a moment

in this real

expansive

life.

I admire the people…

I admire the people

who don’t do anything

it seems that people are

doing…doing…doing

but much of what they do

is stupid

don’t get me wrong

some of it matters…

and you always know when you’ve exerted yourself

in the right way

it’s when you’ve helped someone

who needed it

but there are also annoying people who help others

who don’t need it

Most of the time

you’re killing yourself

slowly

until there’s no life left

it takes courage

not to do anything

to recognize the hopelessness

of it all

if you wait, and nothing happens

there might be some truth in that

it’s so easy to do what others do

and get caught up in their games

they can’t win

and you can’t win

You can spend decades

paying off a house

or never paying it off

the end is approaching

sooner than you think

Why not think

rather than do?

you might not do anything

you might be a loser

in a game

they say, “you have to play.”

but your identity isn’t in doing

it’s the one

you give yourself.

Grasshoppers, We

Grasshoppers, hopping

on miles

of hot pavement

oily, viscous, burning

tar

impossible to fly

helpless

fry

fry

fry

poor grasshoppers

captured

by an amused little boy

bashed in the face

inside his jar

freezer frozen

unable to move

pierced by a hook

in the heat

flying, finally

drowning

in a blue lake

fish bait

while we crawl on green things

acting green

Camouflage

for thousands of little boys

with red magnifying glasses

who don’t know what it means to hurt

but who do know

how to spot the fakers

Pity is not in their vocabulary

smaller things

are squashed and separated

science

without salvation

the lives of smaller things

don’t matter

because their lives

will never end.

Mr. Kiely and His Predictions

My senior philosophy teacher believed he could predict the future of his students. At first, he acted like a fortune-teller, examining the eyes and the features of their faces like a phrenologist. Understandably, it made some of his female students uncomfortable, but his interest was purely scientific. He also upset the natural order of things, when he told the class that Megan was going to be the most successful in life, and not Chad— the premier yearbook pick. Megan had pimples and she was quiet. She was insecure and always wore drab gray clothes. She read the dictionary at lunch that her mother bought her for her birthday. Her glasses magnified her eyes, which didn’t make them beautiful. It only showed a lost look that took comfort in classifying syllables, under uncombed hair. Mr. Kiely was different too, and that was the nice way of putting it. He wasn’t loved or liked. He was only strange, but he didn’t seem lonely, so his students didn’t feel sorry for him. People suspected there was something off about Mr. Kiely for years, but they couldn’t prove anything, and after 10 years of service without a single complaint, the faculty decided he was harmless enough, and a fairly good teacher.

He had a premature balding-spot on his head, and he was a foot shorter than was desirable by the opposite sex. He had a strong relationship with his mother who doted on him continuously. It seemed like every day he had a new toy, a T-Rex or a Hot Wheels car, and he was over the age of 40. When Miss Menken stole his T-Rex and spray-painted it gold, Mr. Kiely flew into a rage.

“That was a gift from my mom!” He shouted.

“Oh, I’m so sorry. We can buy you a new one.”

“IT WAS FROM MY MOM! It was one of a kind.” When Mr. Kiely lectured on Peter Pan Syndrome, I knew he had it. It wasn’t a full-blown disorder though.

Anyway, Mr. Kiely’s obsession was the success and progress of his students. It wasn’t that he wanted them to be successful or that he tried to help them; it was his desire to predict their futures. Nobody would have taken him seriously if his predictions hadn’t turned out to be 100% correct. So much so, that parents got upset when he told the class the valedictorian would get a 30-year jail sentence on federal money-laundering charges.

“You can’t tell me my son is going to prison,” said Mr. Jansen during parent-teacher conferences.

“Oh, but I can, and he is.”

“You are a sick man!”

“I only tell the truth.”

Mr. Kiely had the attention of the principal and the school newspaper after a decade of successful predictions.

“How do you do it?” They asked.

“A combination of psychic reading and intuition,” Mr. Kiely said.

“But what does that mean?” Principal Ragnar asked.

“It means that I have not developed a black and white concrete explanation for my abilities that can be scientifically replicated. It’s more of an artform, than a science.”

“Can you read your own future?”

“Sure; all I have to do is look into the mirror.”

“And what do you see?”

“A dead man.”

“Oh, that’s funny. We all die.”

“Oh, not from natural causes.”

“How, then?”

“You murder me.”

“What?”

Mr. Kiely’s honesty was a bit much for the principal. He tried to dismiss the eccentric philosophy teacher, but couldn’t. Afterall, he had never been wrong. That summer and the following school year, Mr. Kiely created a personality-success inventory of thousands of questions based on physical observations that would predict who a person was going to be. I was a mediocre student, and didn’t want Mr. Kiely to read me. What if I was going to prison for the rest of my life or I became a nobody? It’s kinda like getting your intelligence tested. Who wants to know their limitations, or be told their true potential? I didn’t. I hoped I would live long and have a good life, but knowing more than that, was meant for God and not man. When a man tries to become God, he goes insane.

My theory was, Mr. Kiely was already somewhat insane, which allowed him to be somewhat functional while he played God, predicting the futures of his students. What I couldn’t understand was that he was not in the least depressed about getting murdered by the principal.

And when I asked him about it, he said, “It’s my destiny.”

Megan became a great literary icon, like Ayn Rand. She went from the ugly duckling to the beautiful swan, with sexy legs and dazzling dresses that showed off her eccentric intelligence.

I decided that my fear of taking Mr. Kiely’s test was unfounded. I wanted to know my future, even if it took six hours to finish the questionnaire. I had to start the test in Mr. Kiely’s sixth period class and work until 8 PM. When I finished, Mr. Kiely began to score it. It took him three days.

On the third day, he didn’t come into work. I desperately wanted to know my results, but I couldn’t get ahold of him and neither could the faculty. The police paid his apartment a routine visit and found him lying in a pool of his own blood, in a makeshift fort he had constructed with chairs and blankets. He was strangled by his N64 video game controller cord. The police didn’t have any leads. His mother was devasted. Nobody knew who would want to kill Mr. Kiely, but I did. It was the principal, and even though no motive could be found, I trusted Mr. Kiely’s abilities. I wanted to see my results. They were in the crime scene. So, I talked to the detective and told him my name was on the test. I needed it for school. It was homework and it concerned my future.

He gave it to me, seeing as it wouldn’t help him solve the crime. I looked at my score.

It was like a calculus equation, some advance mathematical or philosophical formulas, and the results said, “Andy becomes a writer.” And that’s what I’m doing now, so Mr. Kiely was right! And I know the principal did it!

The End

Hold onto Love

Is

Life

Defined

by accidents

drip, droplets

of magnetic

lead paint

on canvas

a careless master

who denies the accident

or is fate

a destiny with limits

a broken pin-ball machine

with bumpers

a TILT

that turns our world upside down

when we try to cheat death

We are revealed slowly

by our passions

bubbling up within us

like a half-drunk milkshake

abandoned

and fermenting

on a hot afternoon

Drawing a reasonable line

won’t make a picture

worth looking at

it’s a crude copy of a careful instinct

Destiny

is a well-struck golf shot

you can feel

when you hit it right

Can you hit it right

again?

most can’t

the things you love

won’t love you back

like the girls

offended

when you politely asked

So, love is a test

you must fail

over

and over

again

a hobby

locked away

in a dark closet

for the next generation

or, it could find you

without you

finding it

your pupils get smaller in the sunlight

then they grow larger

like death in the daytime

a magnetic miracle

blinding and willing

you hold onto

love.