Shades of Grey

Shades of Grey


The Entrance Exam

I sat ready to take the Entrance Exam
Determined to give it my very best shot
Hoping my answers would get me in
But worried that they may not

I looked around at the others in the room
Already deeply buried in the text
Some quickly scribbling their answers down
While others seemed terribly vexed

One tester yelled, “This isn’t fair”
“These aren’t the questions I studied for!”
I saw two others tear the test in half
And fall crying on the floor

Cheaters caught looking at another’s exam
Where quickly escorted out
I was ready to open my test booklet
Suddenly filled with horrible doubt

I know I got the first question right
“What is your name?”, is all that it read
But I wasn’t prepared for the second one
“When was it that they found you dead?”

I knew then just what this exam was for
And what place I was testing to get in
I took a deep breath, prepared for the worse
And turned the next page to begin

There were no questions about what is in the bible
Or how often to church I went
There were no questions regarding any religion at all
Or how my Sundays I had spent

There were no questions about the Ten Commandments
Or about using God’s name in vain
There were no questions regarding prayers that were said
And no dogma for me to explain

There was just one question in the middle of the page
Answer it truthfully, I knew that I should
I reread that question about twenty times,
“Did you do all the good that you could?”

Suddenly I was awakened by a beeping sound
And a doctor saying, “We’ve got him back”
The Entrance Exam I will have to retake
Because I didn’t die from that heart attack

But now that I had a look at that test
I know what I need to do to be better prepared
So the next time I sit in the Examiner’s room
I can write about all of the people for whom I had cared

The Night I Regretted Speaking the Truth

I am the middle child of a large family – and I love my position as such. I always felt that the middle child gets a good variety of experience in learning how to deal with all kinds of individuals. Of the 7 children in my family, I am the only child that had at least one each of an older brother, younger brother, older sister and younger sister. John doesn’t have any older siblings. Jimmy didn’t have any older sisters. Cathy doesn’t have an older sister. Then there is me. Tommy has no younger brothers. Patsy has no younger brother. And, Jenny has no younger siblings.

Of course, there are also some disadvantages of being a middle child, as well; in particular, you often get lost in the shuffle.

When I was about 11 years old, my father, who worked a lot and often traveled out of town, had decided he would spend some time doing something special with his kids. He decided to take us to a movie and decided to do it in groups. First, he would take the older kids to see a movie, “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”. When I asked if I could come, he said I was too young, the movie was rated “M” (remember “M”, before the current rating scheme?) and for older people. So, reluctantly, I stayed home while Johnny, Jimmy and Cathy went with him to that movie. A few weeks later, it was time to take the younger kids to a movie – I don’t remember which movie this was. When I asked if I could come I was told I was too old – it was a movie for little kids. So, I reluctantly stayed home while Tommy, Patsy and Jenny were loaded into the family station wagon on their way to the theater. It didn’t dawn on my father, or my mother, or any of my siblings that I was being left out of the special movie going experience with my father. And, I just suffered the indignation silently – for a while, at least.

Then, about two years later, in a conversation about the family, I stated that the middle child was often forgotten about. When my father challenged me about this statement, I brought up the story about the movies. I could tell that he was somewhat embarrassed by this and by the fact that he was unaware it had happened. My father and I had a good relationship and he was surprised to realize that he may have slighted me in this way.

A few weeks later, my father, out of nowhere, told me he was going to take me to get some new sneakers. My father never took any of us shopping for anything ever before. We actually went to a shoe store as a pretense, but, without buying any shoes, then left the store where he proceeded to take me to see the movie, “Tora, Tora, Tora” – just me and my Dad.

This was a very special night for me. It made me feel great. I knew this was retribution for the story I had shared with him a few weeks back and, I felt, I had won; even though it took three years, I not only got to go to a movie with my father, but I got to do it alone, without sharing him with any other kids.

On the way home from the movie, my father asked me, “So, were you surprised I took you to the movies?”

Now, you must realize, I was thirteen years old. I was then and still am now a “goody two-shoes”. I don’t know how to lie – or, rather, I don’t do it well. I am honest to a fault. Ask me a question and my gut reaction is to blurt out the truth; even without first thinking about the consequences the truth might cause.

My father asked and I replied honestly; “I had a feeling we might be going to the movies.”

Those words were no sooner out of my mouth before I regretted having uttered them. I could feel his bubble of happiness burst just a little bit. He was so proud about pulling one over on me – why, oh God why, did I have to lessen his elation. Why couldn’t I allow him to think he surprised his son with something special to make up for an oversight from years ago? I hated myself then for so blatantly and so quickly speaking the truth without first thinking about how it might be accepted.

In the grander scheme of things, no real damage was done other than a missed opportunity for me to allow my father to bask in a moment of unabashed happiness. There are plenty of times in a parent’s life when we can allow our children to feel happy over some little act of kindness without ever letting them know we were on to their ways – but, so few times when a child can do that for his parent, and I wasted this opportunity with the truth. I have never forgiven myself for this slip up – and that was 43 years ago.

In general, I would say the truth is the right thing to speak in almost all occasions. But, in this case, I should have let the truth slide. Sorry, Dad.

She Made Love to Me with Poetry

She made love to me with poetry
Rhyming erotic terms
Descriptively and explicitly
Painting a scene that made me squirm

The rhythm of her words
Moving like the lovers she described
With each passing stanza
I grew hotter deep inside

I was building to a climax
Simply by her words upon my screen
Delicately yet deliciously woven
Erotic but not obscene

My heart palpitated
Sweat built up on my brow
I had never been moved like this before
But her words did it to me somehow

She made love to me with poetry
A ballade I’ll never forget
Who knew that you could be seduced
By someone you never met

A Little Less of Me

Sometimes, being right isn’t the right thing to be
Sometimes, one must fight to resolve things peacefully
Sometimes, through our silence, we speak volumes easily
Sometimes, with closed eyes is the best way we can see

Sometimes, evil takes the lead in a good society
Sometimes, those who have no need receive all the charity
Sometimes, we are intoxicated with our own sobriety
Sometimes, people learn to hate through religious piety

Sometimes, there is a single truth found in life’s duality
Sometimes, everything’s the same in the world’s diversity
Sometimes, lines do not rhyme in the best rhyming poetry
Sometimes, I could be much more if there was a little less of me

World’s Best Memory

When I was eleven years old, my family took a cross-country trip out to the western United States. Along the way, we made a stop at a gas station / grocery store off the beaten path somewhere in Arizona. Out front of the dilapidated store was an old Indian in full Indian regalia sitting in front of a hand painted sign that read: “Best Memory in the World. Never forgets a thing.”

Curious, I walked up to the old chief and asked, “If you never forget anything, what did you eat for breakfast on your eleventh birthday?”

The leathery, old Indian stared at me for the longest time before simply replying, “Eggs”.

By this time my father was calling me back to the car and I left the old Indian chief somewhat skeptical about his self-acclaimed, “World’s Best Memory”.

Thirty years later, I was re-creating my family’s trip out west with my own wife and children. As luck would have it, we stopped at the very same gas station and the old Indian Chief with the same old sign was still sitting out front in his chair. Excited, I told my children that I had seen this very same Indian years ago when I was just a kid.

I said, “Come on, let’s go talk to the old chief.”

So I walked up to the old Indian Chief with kids in tow, raised my hand and said, in my best Indian voice, “How”.

Without blinking an eye, he responded, “Scrambled.”

One More Day of Life

The boa constrictor called life
squeezes ever so tight
making it difficult to breathe.

Anchored to responsibilities;
shackled to realities
from which I cannot leave.

The elephant in the room sits upon my chest;
Nightmares that visit me interrupt my rest;
In normalcy’s classroom I am failing all the tests;
I choke on the food of life that I simply cannot digest.

Fears beget tears;
Apathy foretells catastrophe;
I am so lonely in this crowd –
The silence is far too loud.

Straps on the white coat are tightened;
I am so scared I am no longer frightened;
Darkness provides my only light;
I try to survive one more day of life.