Powering Up

Summer never felt quite right when he lived in Wiscasset. The wind carried a hint of year-round winter, and he never wore shorts as a result. Swimming? Out of the question. The weather, combined with the closing of Maine Yankee 17 years ago had chilled Jeff to the bone. Skyrocketing taxes and poverty – plummeting quality of life. Nuclear power plants can make or break the towns they’re in – Maine Yankee had broken Wiscasset.

Moving wouldn’t hurt Jeff – he’d be an outsider, but at least he’d be an employed outsider. A warm outsider. Who gave a fuck? Seventeen years on and off the dole and running cranes and forklifts in the cold was enough. Jeff’s buddy got him hired on a contract at Arkansas Nuclear One at the end of last year. Jeff was glad to go south. Southern hospitality, sweet tea, sweeter girls – Jeff thought he’d thaw out.

His first day was hotter than he had ever known in March. Standing near a truck in the plant, sweating, Jeff heard a creak – just as a steel beam crashed through the ceiling.

He was buried in Oakland Cemetery in Russellville.



You Can’t Always Get What You Want

“Where’d you go?”

“They didn’t put any chicken in my salad.”

“Yes they did – it’s right there.”

“Well, now it’s there. After I went up and complained.”

“Earl, you’d think you could overlook something – people are only human.”

“Marge, when I pay for goddam chicken, I’m gonna get goddam chicken. I’m going to get exactly what I want.”

“Alright, don’t get testy – you’ll raise your blood pressure.”


“I’m going to get a sweet. You want anything, Earl?”

“Let’s get outta here. This place sucks.”

“It’s fine, dear; you’re just out of sorts. I’m going to get a sweet to take home for later. You want anything?”


“Alright, let’s go, Earl.”cupcake2

“Did you get me anything?”


“Dammit, Marge.”



“We need a goddam sign out there – that’ll solve all this,” Jake said.

“Nah, we just needta let the cops know. They’ll come an’ run a trap.”

“Shit, the cops don’t do nothin’ round here ‘cept what the mayor tells ’em.”

“Well, then, let’s talkta the mayor.”


After a lifetime of silence, Lucille spoke up, “Well, we can get a sign made and start there. That’s probly the easiest anyways.”

“There’s sense. My brother-in-law has a shop – he can make a good’un,” Jake offered.

So, since last June, the Halycon Fields Mobile Home Park has had a big sign warning potential criminals, hopeful cut-throughers, and Jehovah’s Witnesses: “Road for Residents Only. All Other Will Be Persecuted.”

Yellow warning sign

Yellow warning sign

It’s A Start

Every day thousands of bad ideas are pitched. These bad ideas start everywhere: they bounce off board room walls and hobble around in classrooms.

But the truly bad ideas pop up on text messages late at night, usually fairly well marinated.

“I’m just using you.”


Does that bother you?”


“Then come over.”






You could tell by the way she stepped out of the car that she’d just cheated on her husband of twenty years. There was a certain confidence to her gait. She saw herself with new, powerful eyes. A woman who will cheat on a perfectly unflawed marriage is a woman who has a kind of lethal potential that cannot be ignored. No, not potential exactly – a certain malevolence.

Her clothes were the same – her life unchanged – her earrings were the same pearls that she always wore. But around her – some might call it an aura – there was the whiff of sulfuric acid.

She felt the same as she had the day before. Her medical office managing style would stay the same. She drove the same 2012 BMW convertible, and she still had to be home by 6:30 to meet the furnace man for the pre-winter check that happened every October 12.

There is something real about unconscious effects of every action.

The butterfly effect: one betrayed union in Milledgeville can cause an avalanche in Tibet.

butterfly landing on flower


Game. Set. Match?

December 1

“Let’s put up the twinkly colory lights, Daddy!”

“Okay, pumpkin, just a sec, ok?”

“Um, Dale, I put out the red and white lights for the deck.”

“Well, Maddie wants the colored lights, Kels.”

white and red lights“Right. Well, I put some of those upstairs on the bannister and in her room. I have white on the tree and the front should be red and white – you know so that it looks like a candy cane.”

“C’mon, Daddy!”

“Just another sec, pumpkin. So, can we just do the colored lights, I mean, Jesus, Kelsey she’s only gonna be three once. If she wants colored lights – who gives a flying fuck?”

“Language! Honey, go play upstairs until Mommy and Daddy get the lights ready – then you can help Daddy, ok, sweetie?”

“Ok, Mommy.”

“Now, look Dale. It’ll look really great with the red and white in the front with all white on the tree. The whole theme is red and white downstairs and outside. I put the colored lights upstairs to make her happy, but she does not get to run the whole house. The whole holiday. It’s for me, too. And, I want the lights to – you know – coordinate. Is that too much to ask? I mean, we don’t want Maddie to turn into a bossy bitch, do we?”

“Right, Jesus, Kels, this just seems . . . Ok. Whatever. Fuck it.”


February 8

“Hi! Anyone home?”

“You’re late. Dale: the lights.”

“Dadddydaddydaddydaddydaddy! Our lights match the Valentime streamers at preschool! They are so valentimey!”

“Dale. They are Christmas lights for God’s sake. They need to come down.”

“You heard her, Kels. They are valentimey, right, pumpkin?”

“They need to come down today, Dale. The neighbors are judging us. Christ, they are candy cane colors not Valentine’s Day colors.”

“They are valentimes, Mommy, really they are. We have white and red and pink all over our room!”

“Kelsey, I don’t care what the goddam neighbors think. I put those lights up against my will, and now they will stay up through valentinesValentine’s Day – hell, through the end of the month – maybe till fucking St. Patrick’s Day.  This holiday is not just about you – it’s about Maddie, too. Anyway, Christ almighty, t’s not even seventeen fucking degrees out there, and I am not getting on a ladder in the snow. Valentimes lights, right Maddie?”

“Yay! Daddy! Valentimes lights”

“Right, Jesus, Dale, this just seems . . . Ok. Whatever. Fuck it.”

For the Love of God on January 25

“Every day I drive by that house. 714 East Washington Street. And, they have had their Christmas lights on since December 21. It’s ridiculous. Last Friday I drove by more slowly –  the early evenings are lighter, you know? Not only are the lights still on, but there are four packages on the porch. Four! Two medium-sized and two quite large. Those boxes are still there today, illuminated by – you guessed it – those goddam Christmas lights. It’s not like me to take the Lord’s name in vain or anything, but I’m sure you see my point. I mean, take down the lights or at least turn the fuckers off. And really, the mail piling up around the door – it’s just an eyesore. Jesus Christ. Sorry, I mean – well, you know. A little consideration. This is a small town, and if one house looks trashy, we all look like shit. Honestly. Some people.”

“Kristin, isn’t that the Ellis place?”

“I dunno. . . I guess, yeah, now that you mention . . . that name sounds familiar. . . yeah, why?”

“Look here.”

The December accident on Highway 101 has claimed two more lives. John and Judy Ellis will be interred Wednesday at 3pm in a graveside service at Peaceful Haven. They are preceded in death by their three children, John Maxwell, Eliza Grace, and Sarah Madeline. Their fourth child, Thomas James remains hospitalized in critical condition.

“Oh, God.”


porch lights.2

For Sale

Jason had been saving his money since he was old enough to hold on to his dad’s coat pockets. Bouncing across fields of fresh powder, whizzing along snow-packed country roads: these were his only joys. School was a drag; dyslexia and auditory processing deficiencies combined to make classroom life living hell. Every day for the nine-month winters, Jason shoveled drives, walkways, and scattered sand for anyone who would hand him a dollar or two. During the brief summer, Jason planted flowers and mowed what little grass had time to grow. Four years of saving opened the door to Mick’s Snowmobile Clearance this past June. Clearance maybe, but it was his own snowmobile. The short summer months couldn’t pass quickly enough for Jason.

During the warmer days, Jason saved up fuel money, waxed his new baby over and over until Grampa said, “You’re gonna polish that thing inna the ground, son.”

By November, Jason wasn’t shoveling driveways. In January, he wasn’t scattering sand. By February, he still wasn’t bundled up flying across the fields. Rain and cold – some ice – a light dusting of snow here and there.

“Unusual winter,” the old folks said.

“Mother Nature has it in for me,” Jason concluded.

“Don’t worry, next winter will be a doozy,” Dad said.

After three years and 243.4 inches of not snow, Jason gave up.

Some say he moved to Florida the day after he turned 18.

The Duluth Tribune has a P.O. Box in Texas to bill for the classified ad.

The snowmobile with the sign sits in the front yard, rusting and hoping for a buyer just as Jason hoped for snow years ago.


global warming.2


Darcy grew up in the apartments of her mother’s boyfriends. Whenever a breakup was imminent, Mother would take Darcy and her brother out to Sunday afternoon open houses. They would walk through empty houses, and Mother would ask them which rooms they wanted, describe the furniture she would buy for the spacious rooms: a cozy table for the breakfast nook; beds with colorful blankets; a pillow-filled couch for watching Disney movies on a flat screen TV.  The next month would find Darcy and her brother huddled in the unfurnished corner of their latest “uncle’s” spare room.

Darcy grew up. She worked hard, bought a small cottage, and took great care in housekeeping. Years passed before she invited Mother to holidays. Delighted but bedraggled by yet another failed “relationship,” Mother arrived early and offered to help. None was needed – everything had been ready for days, including the eighteen individually and gorgeously wrapped empty boxes – each one inside of another  – that Darcy presented to Mother that evening.

empty box