Thursday, January 28, 2010

We Don’t Care

Rural junior high basketball. We’re an average team. But those Catholics. They usually beat us by thirty plus. Forty-three when we visited their place.

At our gym, I tell the guys, “We’ve got a chance. Go fast, don’t sub. Okay?”

No one protests. The game starts.

Halftime, we’re up seven. Their coach is livid. They have no idea how to play from behind.

Three point lead after the third, our shooter fouls out.

One minute left and it’s tied. Our guys are exhausted. Their coach is red-faced and screaming. We’re laughing.

They win by one in overtime. We don’t care.

Monday, January 25, 2010

We awake to the new morning

We awake to the new morning
Giving thanks to the creator and sustainer of life
For another breath

We awake to the new morning
Remembering all who have helped
Us to arrive at this moment and place

We awake to the new morning
With regret for our selfishness
That we have wronged and harmed others

We awake to the new morning
Knowing that forgiveness is rooted in love
That God is love, so we are forgiven

We awake to the new morning
And we choose to live by faith
Being and doing as the Spirit guides

We awake to the new morning
And we hold to the hope that is within us
More than ourselves, other than ourselves

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Nothing Changes (a short story part 3 of 3)


I start surfing the web. They usually give you thirty minutes; if I’m lucky, I can sneak an hour. Check on scores, play a game or two, and look at my hometown paper.

Mostly I skim, but a photograph makes me stop, scroll back.

The numbers are right there next to the door, 2010. My address, our address, 2010 East Division. Hoses snake from fire trucks through the open doorway into the smoldering shell. Enough of the house is left for me to know it was mine. Or, it used to be mine at least. Seems like almost half of it was gone, smoke drifting out my old bedroom window and any other open space. Or maybe it was mostly steam by the time they took the photo. The picture caught my eye, but the headline told the story.

Two dead in local fire. I already know the rest, but I keep reading.

I read their names. My parents, gone. Article said they were probably passed out, intoxicated. Big surprise. They both drank too much. They each had their own reasons. Everybody has things to forget or cover-up or try to escape. Said a cigarette may have started things, they were probably asleep. Probably didn’t know or feel what happened. More surprises.

Mrs. Beecher, from next door, woke up about 2 a.m. when she saw the flames outside her bedroom window. Said they were nice neighbors. Said it was so sad. More stuff about the house and fire. Something about how my dad was a big deal in high school sports. It doesn’t say that they both dropped out to get married when he was seventeen and she sixteen and pregnant, with me.

I think about calling my grandma. Maybe later. Paper said there’d be a funeral next week. It mentions me as their only child. Said no one knew where I was.

Not sure what I’m supposed to think or feel. It had been nineteen long, cold years since I’d seen them. This doesn’t change things. I had no plans to see them again; ain’t going to start with a funeral. Even when I lived at 2010, I’ve always been on my own. Nothing changes.

My table just opened up; if I hurry, I can get a nap before I go back to the streets and start bumming for lunch money.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Nothing Changes (a short story part 2 of 3)


I grab my backpack, stuff my things in, and zip it tight. Make my way through the basement, down the long hall and out the “guests” door. It’s still drizzling, would have been a tough night.

I wander for a few blocks. Still got about two hours before the library opens. I know which streets have the best awnings and sometimes I wait for the rain to let up. If it gets much colder, I’ll head for the market. If no one complains, they don’t chase you out too fast. I think about looking for work, but thinking is as far as it usually gets.

I look down the street to the bank clock. Looks like the bank is long gone, but the clock’s still running. Almost time for the library to open. I want to be there when it does. I’ve started a few books. Never finish ‘em because I’m a slow reader. Dropped out after ninth grade. Anyway, you can’t get a card to check them out without an address.

There’s heat and a bathroom at the library. A guy could almost live there. Helps me forget what I don’t have. But sometimes it makes me remember what I had, too. What I lost.

If I’m lucky, I can get my favorite table, the one in the far back corner by the business books, and maybe sleep for an hour or two. Window looks out at the park. It’s away from most of the library traffic and right by the heat vent. Nothing feels better than that quick heat, almost burn, when your pants hit the back of your calves after getting baked by the furnace blast. You’ve got to get there early, though. Have to decide what’s more important: my favorite spot or a computer. Both go fast.

I’m too late for the table, make a quick turn and grab the last open computer. At almost every station is someone I ate breakfast with a couple of hours ago. I nod to some, ignore others. Too bad they can’t combine the library and shelter. It would make our lives much easier.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Nothing Changes (a short story - part 1 of 3)


Same town, same shelter, same bed. Lumpy mattress, not enough blankets. Snorers and screamers make erratic music throughout the night. Four nights in a row, might be a record for me. If I can keep from getting into a fight, I might make it a week.

Breakfast is the same, too. Both the coffee and oatmeal were cold and watered down. Some say thanks, a few nothing, and one or two want to fight about the quality as we shuffle through the serving line. What are they expecting, a restaurant? I’m just glad to have something in my gut. Not any worse than the stuff I got back home when Mom would stumble around the kitchen after a night of fighting with my dad.

Guys scatter about the room to find seats. A few seem to have their “places” and it’s best to let them have ‘em. Others go for the corners, wanting to be alone. A low hum builds until laughter makes everyone look the in same direction, wondering what the story was about.

Gotta be out of this shelter by eight. No use being lazy if you want to come back. They all have their own rules and it’s hard to remember. I can get dinner tonight, if I go to chapel first. Fair enough trade-off for me. You can sleep through chapel; just have to be there at start time.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Jesus Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy
Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy
Lord, have mercy
Lord, mercy

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


He found peace in the steady hum of the machines, practicing lines in his head to get the conversation started.

It was so cliche. They’d never really talked. Now death was near, and they’d have their moment. A real conversation. Things long sensed but never confirmed. This was his chance. A son who wanted his father’s approval. He sensed it was finally near. A new nurse entered the room. Shift change. She forced a smile, introduced herself.

“When do you think he’ll be able to talk?”

“Talk? I’m sorry. I think the doctor will be here soon to discuss final decisions.”

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Didn’t See you

“Sorry. Didn’t see you.”

“Same here, can’t see anything in this darkness.”

“I’m Bob Shilling. Nice to finally meet someone.”

“Agreed. Stan. Stan Schultz.”

Hands fumble, eventually shaking.

“Where are we?”

“Can’t say. I was in some weird place. Thought it was heaven until I saw those people.”

“Never believed in that stuff. God, religion, faith. Human constructs to alleviate idiotic fears.”

“Whoa. Be careful there. I’m a pastor. Or was. Holiness Bible Church. I’ll tell you the truth.”

“Forget it. Atheist and proud of it. Wouldn’t it be hell if we had to spend eternity together?”

“Yeah, sure would be.”