Found a Nickel One Day

back in the black-and-white 50’s, money went a long way

so that’s why I was thrilled to find a nickel on the street one day

I thought about things I could buy that would be handy

and narrowed it down to what interested me most…candy!

Mar’s Bars, M&M’s, Snickers, Atomic Fireballs, and Paydays

were just some the favorites that came to mind

and Butterfingers, Clark Bars, and Bit-O-Honeys

Peter Paul Mounds, Baby Ruth, and Sugar Babies

Oh Henry! Necco’s, and Zero bars

my head swam with all of the possibilities

among those sugary stars

when it came to the moment of truth

I took that nickel and bought a Baby Ruth

Early Memories

some early memories are gardens of delight

others are not so serene like getting into a fight

making Revelle car models like Ed Roth’s SuperFink

was a favorite hobby because I didn’t have to think

I raced on narrow red skateboards with metal wheels

while dreaming of someday having my own automobiles

my imagination was unfettered with too many facts

spending my time playing with all kinds of knick-knacks

countless hours were spent imitating TV heroes

in plots with pals featuring dramatic death throes

my memories of those early days

of childish beliefs and pretend plays

are still companions in my old age

and are still a pleasure to engage

Spoiled Rotten

a generation of spoiled little creatures

the bane of teachers

the result of helicopter parents

coddling their adolescents

breaking rules to benefit their child

parents allowing their kids to go wild

our school systems now a joke

underpaid teachers going broke

respect for public education

is lacking in our great nation

Childhood Photo

I looked like a defiant little boy

staring into the camera with his toy

with my serious eyes and curly hair

it could have been taken anywhere

a black and white memory of days past

a glimpse of youth that didn’t last

no trace of a smile on my chubby face

it appears I’d rather be in some other place

what caused me to look so grim?

something serious, or just a whim?

I can’t remember what I thought that day

it appears someone interrupted my play

childhood photos are ghosts from our past

while memories fade, they’ll always last

The BB Gun

Christmas morning.

Eight-year old Tony couldn’t wait to go outside and play with his favorite present, a BB gun. Mom and Dad gave him a quick lecture about gun safety. After getting dressed he grabbed the cardboard target and BB gun on his way out to the backyard.

He set the target up on a tree and had fun shooting at it for an hour before his eyes wandered around looking for other targets.

A bird. Without thinking he shot it; dropped the gun, and ran over to it. Hot tears ran down his eyes as he buried the sparrow.


Truth and Consequence

When Harold saw the thing slithering out from beneath his bed he felt both vindicated and horrified.

His parents wouldn’t listen to him the first time he became aware of it’s presence. That’s why he wasn’t on the bed tonight and hiding behind his chest of drawers with a baseball bat.

When the thing slithered on top of his bed and wound itself around his pillow, he rushed out and smashed it into a bloody pulp!

The next morning.

“Have you seen a boa constrictor around?” his mother asked. “Billy next door said his pet boa escaped.”

No,” he lied. 

The Visitor

Tom heard scratching at the front door and turned to his six-year-old sister Sara to see if she heard it. She was clutching her rag doll and he could see by the fear in her eyes she had and was looking for guidance.

He wished their parents were home while clutching the pistol. They had to go to town, a days ride from the ranch. At nine, he was considered old enough to be in charge.

It was snowing outside and the wind whistled through the wooden cabin like a banshee.

The door opened.

A half frozen man crawled in.

The Marble Champion


Every kid in the school yard at California Street Elementary in 1955, was watching the marble match.

A third-grader named Billy, was challenging a fifth-grader, named Jack, in a game of marbles. It wasn’t just another game. It was for the annual unofficial marble championship. Both put up all of their boulders, common cats eyes, aggies, and steelys. It was winner take all. Both contestants had captured hundreds of marbles during the semester.

The winner was the first to capture fifty marbles in a three-round contest. Each round featured 30 marbles – fifteen from each contestant. They used their prized aggies, confident that their special marbles would give them a winning edge.

A coin was tossed to see who went first. Jack won. He knelt down and bent over the circle in the sand. Then he calmly lined up his aggie using his thumb and forefinger, and let it go with a force that scattered the marbles in the center of the circle. Two rolled out of the circle. He picked them up and put them in the coffee can next to him. An excited chatter came from the spectators. The game was on.

Jack lined his aggie up again, and sent it careening into a small cluster of marbles near the line. Three were knocked out of the circle. He got to fifteen before he missed his first shot. Billy took up his position and drove his first marble out of the circle while staying inside with his sticker. He finished off the first round with 15 marbles. They were tied, but Billy got to start round two. He lined up his bumblebee sticker, and fired it into the center mass. Three marbles excited the circle so hard they flew into the crowd! A roar of approval went up. Jack looked on nervously as Billy ran the entire circle! As one of the judges drew a new circle for the last round, Billy’s classmates were patting him on the back in admiration. The shy kid in the classroom had finally earned the respect of his fellow students. And at the expense of the school bully!

Before they could play the last round, the bell rang signaling recess was over. According to their rules the game would be played the next day at recess. Billy went back to class feeling better than he had all semester. He was accepted. One of the guys now. His young heart sang with happiness. He spent the rest of the school day thinking how his life was really turning around.

When the last bell rang, Billy and two new-found friends walked home together. They went about a block when Jack stepped out from behind an oak tree accompanied by two of his friends. He towered over Billy, and outweighed him. In a menacing voice he warned Billy that he better lose tomorrow or he’d beat him up! The smaller boy looked up at him, his heart beating like a jack hammer, and said, “I’m not afraid of you. I’m going to do my best to win tomorrow.”

“What did you say pipsqueak? You’re not afraid of me? Bring it on punk!”

“I don’t want to fight.”

“Of course you don’t, mommy’s boy! You just want to go home and put a dress on!”

Jacks friends laughed so hard they were patting each other on the back in glee. They knew what was going to happen next. Jack pushed Billy hard. He stumbled for a moment and then did the unexpected, he lunged at Jack and hit him in the face! Gasps went up from the onlookers. Jack gave ground and held a hand up to his face. His nose was bleeding. Infuriated he waded into Billy and slugged him repeatedly, knocking the smaller boy to the ground. Then he repeatedly kicked him. Billy stayed in a fetal position but didn’t cry out. Finally Jack’s buddies pulled him away from the barely conscious boy. Billy was bleeding from cuts to his face and his right hand – his marble shooting hand. It was swollen because Jack had stomped on it. The fingers were already twice their normal size.

“See you tomorrow loser!” Jack told him before walking away. Billy’s two friends helped him to his feet and walked the rest of the way home with him. His mother was horrified when she saw Jack. Both of his eyes were swollen shut and he had bruises all over his thin body.

“What happened?” she asked him and his friends. Jack was silent. One of the boys told her a bully, a fifth grader, beat him up because he was winning a marble contest.

“Is this true, Billy?”

He mumbled something in answer, and went past her and into the house and his room. When his father got home he went into Billy’s room and sat down on the single bed next to him.

“Tough day?”


“Your mom told me what happened. You were brave to stand up to the bully.”

“How do you know that?” he wondered.

“Apparently your friends told her everything that happened. What are you going to do tomorrow son? Should I contact the principal?

“No! Don’t do that! I’m no snitch. I’m going to school and I’m going to win the marble contest!”

“Okay, son. Take it easy. Have you iced that hand yet?”

“A few hours ago.”

“Do it again before you go to bed, okay?”

“Sure, Dad.”

“One more thing…I’m proud of you son.”

The next at school.

The word was out. Every kid at California Street School squirmed in their seats that morning waiting for the lunch recess. The big marble game came with an additional element this year. Nearly everyone knew Jack beat Billy up yesterday. The tension created by a possible fight went through the classrooms like electricity. When the lunch bell rang there was a general charge out to the farthest corner of the playground where the marble contest would resume.

Jack confidently made his way through the crowd and stood next to the circle and the two judges. Billy slowly (and painfully if you really paid attention) walked to the circle. With his left hand he took out his prized Bumblebee and knelt down next to the circle. A murmur of surprise rippled through the crowd when he prepared to shoot…with his left hand! Not his normal shooting hand. He only had to capture five marbles and he’d be the champ. One of many things his peers didn’t know about him was he was ambidextrous.

When he shot the marble and it slammed into the center mass, there was a cheer as two marbles exited the circle. He made the next three look easy. The crowd broke out into happy pandemonium as they cheered Billy’s victory. No one noticed Jack, who slung away with no friends in tow.

As It Stands, this tale is a bit of nostalgia sprinkled with marbles and bullies.

The Noise Under Denny’s Bed


He heard the noise again.

Something was under his bed scratching the wooden floor. In the dark silence of his bedroom, seven-year-old Denny shivered in fear. He wanted to pull the covers over his head, but then whatever was underneath his bed might jump out when he couldn’t see.

His terrified brown eyes held back tears. He couldn’t go wake Mom and Dad again another night. Three times was their limit apparently, because they told him to be a big boy, and there was nothing under his bed. They both looked numerous times in the last week and declared the area safe from monsters.

Then they explained to him that there was no such thing as monsters. It was his active imagination, his mother said. “There was nothing to be afraid of,” his father reassured him with a hug, and a pat on his curly brown hair.

Despite all of his parents reassurances, the thing was scratching the floor underneath his bed again the next night. He held his breath so it wouldn’t hear him. The scratching stopped and he heard strange grunting sounds. He exhaled dramatically and jumped off the bed.

He could see underneath his bed by the light cast from the nightlight plugged in on the other side. Nothing! There wasn’t anything there. No monster. He turned on the room light and got down on his knees and peered under the bed expecting to see some scratch marks. There weren’t any.

Reluctantly, he got up and turned off the room light. The nightlight cast a shadow across the floor when he went back to his bed. He laid down on top of the covers…listening. Finally, he fell asleep out of sheer exhaustion in the early morning hours.

The next morning Denny’s parents asked him how he slept?

“Good,” he yawned, as he sat down at the breakfast table.

“No noise under the bed?” his father asked between bites of French toast.

“Yeah, there was a noise…” his voiced trailed off.

“But you stayed in bed like a big boy,” his mother jumped in with her cheerful voice that she always used to compliment him in.

He smiled weakly, took his fork and speared a chunk of French toast that she had already cut up for him. It was a Saturday. No school. No work. Everyone went their separate way most of the day.

Denny played in the yard with his friend Alec who brought over a baseball to play catch. They threw the ball back and forth for hours while talking about sports. His mother worked in the front yard garden, pruning the rose bushes. His father was in the garage working on one of his wood projects.

After lunch the boys went back to playing catch when Denny miss-handled the ball and it hit a screened opening that led to a crawl space beneath the house. The screen was barely on when Denny peered into the blackness after picking the baseball up.

Alec ran over to him and got down on his knees.

“See anything?” he asked.

“Too dark.”

“Ever go underneath a house?” Alec asked.


“I have. Our house. There were spiders all over the place.”

“Was that all? Was there anything else?” Denny prodded him.

“My mom’s cat. She needed me to go in and help get him out,” Alec replied.

“Nothing scary?”

“No…but it was hard to move around,” Alec said.

A scratching noise suddenly got both of the boys attention. It was coming from the opening. They both heard the rustling of a big body moving around and sensed movement in the darkness.

When grunting sounds broke the silence, both boys got up and ran screaming to the front yard. Denny’s mother calmed them down while his dad went to investigate.

“What’s the matter?” she asked, concern dripping from each word.

“There’s a monster under your house,” Alec claimed.

“We heard it!” an excited Denny backed him up.

“Nonsense! Come. Let’s have a look.

She led the boys back around the house to the opening and got down on all fours. Dad came crawling out with dirt on his shirt and a shred of cobweb clinging to his hair.

“Was anyone in there?” she asked him.

“No, but we could use some more insulation in there,” he said.

“Okay boys.. are you playing a prank on me?” she asked.

“No!” they cried out in unison.

She looked closely at each boy and shook her head. “I’m going back to my gardening. You boys find something else to do.”

The boys watched her leave.

“I’m going home,” Alec said.

“I heard something.

“I know,” Alec replied as he picked up his mitt and baseball. “See ya later.”

That night when Denny’s parents were sure he was asleep they went to the guest bedroom and opened a hidden trap door that led underneath the house. Denny’s dad lowered himself down and turned on his flashlight.

He could see the body was partly unbound and one arm was free. He would have to find something stronger to knock them out with – yet not kill them. Lately there’d been some mishaps. The duct tape around their mouths was working, but some victims managed to get an arm or leg loose from the rope tied around them while waiting to be transported.

No one stayed under the house for more than 48-hours. When the lab technicians came to collect their human guinea pigs it was always in the early morning when most people were sleeping.

The arrangement worked out well for the clandestine company, and Denny’s parents pocketbook. They planned to retire early. The extra money would mean they could do so in style.

They decided to solve Denny’s problem by moving into a new home, with it’s own basement. Denny loved his new room – the view out of the second story window was great – and he quit hearing the noises under his bed at night.

As It Stands, this tale is a social comment on what people will do to get rich these days.

The Undertaker’s Son


Listen to this story narrated by master storyteller Otis Jiry.

Fred Dempsey, the town undertaker, and his wife Julia, had an autistic son named Timothy. He had the body of a 17 year-old, but the mind of a five-year old. He was already taller than his parents, and judging by his hands and feet, he was going to keep growing.

He was so skinny his six foot-six-inch frame looked awkward and unbalanced. His skin had an opalescent quality to its whiteness from the day he was born. Timmy, as his parents called him, was  good-natured boy most of the time. He was also non-verbal, but fully capable of making grunting noises when he wasn’t happy or wanted attention.

Because Timmy didn’t understand concepts like life and death, the corpses in their parlor never bothered him. He looked on them as dolls. But, unlike his smaller dolls, he wasn’t allowed to play with the big ones in the parlor. Or, the ones in the big ice box.

Dempsey’s Funeral Home was founded by Fred’s father, George, just after World War II ended. George who served in Patton’s 3rd Army corps, was a tank driver. When he mustered out he married Tina Weinstein, and used his GI Bill to get the schooling he needed to become a funeral director.

No one really understood why George picked a profession that dealt with dead people after fighting for two years in Europe and seeing people die horrific deaths. When Fred was born in 1953, their funeral home was the only one in town.

When George and his wife’s health began to fail in the late 1980s, they turned the business over to Fred and Julia, and retired to Miami, Florida.

When Fred and Julia had Timmy they had to learn to adjust their world so that one or the other, was always with him. They watching him and secretly wondered what they did wrong to have a child that was so disabled?

Dempsey’s Funeral Home was conveniently located near the town’s interfaith cemetery. Since Timmy was old enough to walk, Julia took him on hikes through the vast old cemetery that was over two-hundred years-old.

The newer cemetery, the one near their home, lacked the charm the old one offered with its eclectic array of headstones and epitaphs. The old one was also near a forest that offered miles of hiking trails.

Julia and Timmy walked those trails for 12 years before she was unable to because of  health issues. Timmy was mad for months when the walks finally stopped. He eventually forgot about the walks as Julia cleverly directed his energies into other activities he could do in their big back yard.

Fred worked hard maintaining the families good name. He was a member of the Rotary Club and sponsored a little league team called “The Titans.” Although he loved his son, he didn’t spend as much time with him as Julia did.

For seventeen years they did their best to shelter Timmy from the world. They only took him into town to see his regular doctor, or mental health officials when necessary. It was difficult because he often attracted attention when people saw him.

Timmy insisted on only wearing black clothes, and the contrast with his pale skin was unsettling. People saw this tall man-boy acting like a five-year old and looking like a character out of a Tim Burton movie.

One day two young girls were playing on a sidewalk just outside the doctor’s office when Timmy came out. Their screams of utter terror startled and scared him. Fred made sure to hold on to his arm tightly. Julia whispered soothing words and directed Timmy over to the family hearse parked nearby. He was grunting like he was in pain.

Since that incident, Timmy turned inward and quit smiling. He became morose and was quick to anger over the smallest thing. A few days later, Julia was looking out at the backyard from one of the monitors in the house. What she saw stunned her. Timmy was methodically twisting the heads off his dolls. A pile of decapitated dolls lay at his feet.

Instead of going outside and confronting him about his behavior, she called Fred. He took the call from a speaker phone in the embalming room. She told him what she witnessed and he agreed to talk about it more, after he was finished with the corpse he was working on.

When she glanced back at the camera Timmy wasn’t there!

She switched the full screen to multiple screens covering ever inch of the yard. He was nowhere in sight. This never happened before. He must have scaled the fence. A hint of fear, of her own son,  slithered through her brain like a cockroach avoiding light.

Where would he have gone? Then it hit her.

The forest trails. He loved walking there. She jumped into the hearse and drove up to the trail head. She called Fred while driving there. He assured her he was on the way.

When Julia got out of the hearse she looked ahead where the trail made the first of two splits. She texted Fred and said she was taking the first trail to the right and he should take the first one on the left.

The sun was going down rapidly as the frantic parents called out Timmy’s name. They were ill equipped with no flashlights. As darkness descended and a cold wind swept through the forest, they agreed to go back to the house and try to decide what to do next. Calling the authorities on the way home, Julia made sure to explain to them he was severely autistic and on medicine.

That night, deep into the forest, Boy Scout Pack 31 was camping out, and they had a bonfire going. The pack leader was telling scary stories to the group gathered around the bonfire when one of the boys saw Timmy in the shadows.

His scream had a multiplying effect and pretty soon everyone, but the pack leader, was screaming at the top of their lungs!

“I saw him!” the boy howled. “It was Slender Man!”

That set off another series of screams. It took the pack leader several minutes to settle the group down.

“All right, Jack. Tell me exactly what you saw and where,” the pack leader asked.

“He was tall and thin with black clothes, and his white face glowed! Right over there,” Jack pointed.

“Okay scouts. You stay here, and I’ll take a look.

The pack leader turned his flashlight in the direction Jack pointed, and set off at a brisk pace. He slowed down a little once he was passed the bonfire’s reach. It was a full moon and shafts of light filtered through the forest’s canopy creating shadows.

When a grunting sound started, the pack leader froze in his steps. His heartbeat increased as he rationally tried to think what animal made a grunt like that? A bear perhaps? No, he knew what it really sounded like…a human being.

Timmy saw the pack leader first. His excited grunts caused the pack leader to turn around and see him. His eyes rolled to the back of his head in muted terror, as the pack leader whimpered, “Don’t hurt me.”

When the pack leader finally screamed in mortal terror, the spell was broken and Timmy turned and ran away. The members of Boy Scout Pack 31 saw their fearless leader run through the camp shouting, “Follow me!

Meanwhile Timmy retreated back to the hiking trail and walked throughout the night. His greatful parents found him walking by the old cemetery, doggedly putting one foot in front of the other with his head hanging down in exhaustion.

They contacted the authorities and told them Timmy got lost, but he was home now.

From that night forward, Boy Scout Pack 31, and it’s intrepid leader, became famous throughout the country for claiming they saw a creature once thought to just be a rural legend.

Julia and Fred made Timmy wear bright-colored clothing after they read the excited scouts story in the newspaper. It became a family secret.

As It Stands, this tale is a reflection of what’s happening today in America, where cases of autism, especially males, increase yearly.