When nothing is simple.


The couple sat next to each other, inches apart, but separated by a thousand emotional miles.

“There she goes again. Won’t let me talk,” the man started cutting at his wife with a tone as sharp as razor.  He wore a baseball hat and dark glasses, sweatpants and a t-shirt that showcased a blurry tattoo on his bicep.

His wife stared down at her planner.  The cover had a pretty floral pattern of pinks and purples, outlined in gold and protected by a clear plastic coating.  She flipped it open.  The pages were mostly blank aside from an outline of the same floral pattern from the front, traced onto the background of the calendar days, in black and white.

Her hair was dyed a honey blond and carefully curled and sprayed into place. Still, dark roots showed through, a brown base from which a fountain of fake gold flowed.  The truth always makes itself known, eventually.

“Would you please listen to the woman?  She has a job to do and you are slowing her down.”

“She said she wanted to understand where we are coming from and that is just what I was trying to do when you interrupted me.”

“Sir, I asked that question so I could get you directions to the clinic where your next appointment is scheduled,” a woman on the other side of the desk explained.  She had long, black eyelashes like spider legs and equally long, red nails.

A line formed behind the couple, the woman looked out from under her lashes and sighed.  She glanced down at a tiny Mickey Mouse clock on her desk with a sigh.  The little gloved mouse hands were both straight up.

Five long hours to go, she thought.

Watching the Ponies Run


As the conversation lulled between the couple, Julie glanced up at the tv screen on the brightly painted wall and stared; instantly mesmerized by the images, she lost her train of thought. 

“Sorry, what were you saying?” Julie asked, still staring over her companion’s head.

Ken twisted his neck to see what had caught his wife’s attention and understood the situation.  It was the Kentucky Derby and the ponies were set to run in less than an hour. 

“I like the odds of that Amazon horse,” Julie leaned forward and whispered.

She didn’t have to worry about being overheard as two boys in the booth behind her started a screaming and kicking match that brought the manager to their table in an attempt to mediate while their parents sucked down cervezas, apparently blind and deaf to the behavior of their terrible children.

“Have you done any research on this?” Ken half-whispered back.

“No, but I have a good feeling about it. Plus, Amazon wins at everything and that’s all the research I need to know the winner.”

Ken nodded in a that-makes-sense kind of way and reached for another chip.

They were both gamblers, but in different ways.  Julie speculated and encouraged others to take risks, while Ken methodically researched and backed his bets with money.  To be fair, they also won in different ways, Julie briefly celebrated a win but mourned long and hard the foolish loss of even a dollar.  Whereas when Ken won, he rode a tidal wave of adrenaline for days and wrote off loss as a thing of the past from which to move on. 

Julie asked, “Do you want to put some money on it?

Ken’s eyes lit up at the prospect. It was like offering a cat a piece of chicken and it was no surprise that he greedily grabbed at the opportunity.  His phone was in his hand and opened to a betting website in less than minute.

“Let’s do it.  What is that horse’s name?”

“Alexis.  It is definitely Alexis.”

Screwing up his forehead, Ken scrolled through the list of horses in a futile search of a name that was not to be found.

“Bad news, it’s not here. There is no Alexis…”   

“…but there is an Audible!” he declared.

“That’s the one, bet everything on Audible.”

Everything? Ken thought to himself with a mixed sense of concern and excitement.  Who was this person sitting across the table from him?

“How about $20 on Audible?” he offered.

“How about $50?” his wife countered.

They settled somewhere in the middle and ordered dinner.  

After the couple finished a plate of tacos and fajitas, suffered through countless commercials about Kentucky whiskey and views of the crowd miserably slogging through the mud in boots and ridiculous hats, the ponies ran. 

Audible didn’t win, but for once Julie didn’t care.  It was just money, after all, and seemed inconsequential in comparison with her other worries. The stakes were far higher in another bet; it was, in fact, the biggest gamble of her life and she didn’t have the energy to worry about the loss.     

She had the future on her mind. 


Misplaced Beliefs


“Before you go, I’ve got something for you.”

Jan stood with a groan and walked towards the counter dividing the kitchen from the living room.  She moved with an uneven gait from a recent hip replacement. She had a simple mind, dull eyes, and a sweetness that inexplicably drew people to her.

“I should have finished PT, I know.”

She made no excuses but no one had asked for any. Anyways, she wouldn’t have given a straight answer if asked the reason because the answer sat nearby, frowning into a cup of cold coffee.

An oxygen machine clicked in the background and her husband scrutinized Jan with narrowed eyes.

“Careful, watch the tube,” Ted growled as Jan walked towards the counter and yanked at the clear tubing with one hand.

“By the way, coffee’s cold,” he declared with a fierce look at his wife.

While Jan emanated a bovine presence, not from her shape or hygiene, but her gentle spirit, her spouse was like a hawk circling above the field where she grazed.

“Don’t worry, honey. I won’t step on it.”

Tactfully, she ignored his comment about the coffee and smiled, “He always gets so worried about his oxygen.”

Her dull eyes did not smile with the rest of her face. They told of the sacrifices and strategizing of a wife.

Perhaps her mind was not so simple.

To hell with them, Ted scowled in his recliner.

He had other things on his mind.

Namely, his upcoming death.

He was good with Jesus now. Volunteering at the church, helping out at the soup kitchen, mentoring those kids. It was all a part of his life-insurance policy.

I never thought much of buying something I could never use, he mused to himself. There was satisfaction in his investment, soon to pay out, big time.  It was just a matter of time before he was released from his hell on Earth. This body, this woman, this condo. It was all suffocating him to death, which was fortunate.

I bet all this suffering adds to the value of my policy, he thought, as he did a mental computation on number of years of suffering multiplied by amount of good work.

In the midst of Ted’s silent ruminations, as he went over the same thoughts every day, Jan arrived at the counter.

She leaned against it and reached over, producing a perfect, one foot tall Santa Claus in her hand.

“For you. I made them with our church group. There are nine others back here.”

As she offered the gift to me, I considered the tribe of Santa’s hiding behind the counter, and Jan watched for the expression on my face.

Santa stared up at me in his perfect suit and beard with his kind, googly eyes.

Quite naturally, the eyes were not so different from those of his Creator.