"if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all"

i'd heard it thousands of times growing up
usually from my mother after dad cursed out the television
this was her attempt to influence *me*
it had no effect on the obnoxious drunk in the barcalounger

years later
while in rehab for the third time
the group was ganging up on me
over my bitching about the lousy food

to close discussion
the counselor offered this:

"cliff, if you can't say something nice..."

i lept from my chair and popped him in the jaw before he could finish.



it's a simple grift
you need a good team
and a mark

the robber chased a woman toward me
i shoved him off as he passed
and the girl tumbled to my knees

"ouch! i can't walk"
"take this cash to the bank for me"

so i said "sure"
"don't get robbed. hide your money with mine"
i gave her my cash and she put it in a pouch with hers

great legs
too bad i have to rip her off

i split, bag in hand
later i discover the pouch is full of newsprint

yep, i was the mark



there is an old chinese saying:
"true words are not beautiful, beautiful words are not true."

i wish i had known that when i heard the recuriter's presentation
he had come to our school to tell us the country needed us
to offer us an adventure
to sign us up

listening to him, i could tell he had come for me.

i didn't understand my mother's tears when i told her i'd enlisted
i thought she'd be proud of me

the sand in my shoes
reminds me of his beautiful words
and my mother's tears burn my toes



it was a long work day
i got home late
missed family dinner.

instead of just eating leftovers
i chopped up green peppers
red oinions
and tossed in large black olives.

i threw the collection on the gas grill out back with olive oil and some herbs.
at the last minute, i put a sesame bun on the grill with some melted cheese.

i grabbed a cold beer and sat down on the deck.
the food was a great compliment to the red sunset and croaking blue frogs.

it's nice to enjoy the moment instead of regret what you missed.



i watched a documentary on children with leukemia this weekend.
the film followed the lives of a handful of children.
most of them died by the end of the film.

it affected me more than i'd expected.
not how i would have thought.

i'm a solid agnostic.
stories like these often show families praying for a cure.

this movie also showed families praying
over their child near the end as they expired.

i could tell that they gained solace from their faith. i was jealous.
my current stance on the 'creator' means that i wouldn't have that kind of solace.


it was a beautiful, sunny day.
even though the drive took close to two hours,
i was energized as we parked in the lot and pulled our day packs out of the trunk.

we had a sketchy map of the twelve mile trail and enough food and water for one day.
i'd packed in a hurry, but was pretty sure we had everything we'd need for a simple day hike.

i was mistaken.

since it was only a day trip, i didn't bother bringing the stove-kit, sleeping bag, or water purifier.

in a few short hours, i'd wish i had.


"so you coming or not?"
i hated it when she pressured me like this.

"not sure," i replied. "maybe i'll just stay here until you get back."

"don't be ridiculous," she shot back. "you know you want to go."
i squirmed in my chair, staring down at the bare wood floor.

i could tell she was waiting me out.
every second of silence was a 'win' for her.
she knew me too well.

i caved.
"what the hell," i shrugged. "picking out color samples for the baby's room might be fun after all."


bill rented a dingy office in a rundown building in the worst parts of town
most of his friends wouldn't even visit him there
everyone told him to find a new job
"no," he would say "i have friends there"

his wife disliked the arrangement, but stopped protesting
it surprised her when bill suddenly announced he was renting a new office in the suburbs

the next morning she caught him sobbing over the morning newspaper
she read the headlines
"teenage girl killed in daytime drive-by"
a photo showed a girl laying on the sidewalk in front of bill's building


i stood on the cliff, looking down
"about 150 meters," muttered a voice in my head
"more like 200," i replied weakly

i took a few steps back and paused
"this is it," i heard in my left ear.

my knees were rubber, spots appeared before my eyes
"don't go wobbly on me!" my left ear told me "start running - now!"

i closed my eyes, gripped the metal crossbar, and sprinted over the cliff

the updraft hit the silk and held me aloft - motionless
i love para-sailing
but i hate the take offs.