positive side effect

i woke up a few mornings ago
with what seems to be a sprained ankle
although i can’t remember having done
anything to sprain it.

so i’ve been taking some back pills
that i had in the medicine cabinet.
my foot still hurts
but my back feels great.

a good guess goes awry

after lunch in newport beach
my fortune cookie reads,

“you will spend old age
in comfort and material wealth.”

sorry, confucius: you picked
the right town, but i’m just
passing through.

a long row to hoe

i just read in time magazine
that the u.s. wine consumption
has stalled at 2.2 gallons per capita annually.

it’s only january 7th
and i’m already working on
my wife and kids’ quotas.

worst of all,
it’s a fucking leap year.

finding one’s audience

a psychiatrist-friend tells me
he’s been giving my books
to his neurotic patients
but that so far their main reaction
has been anger.

he should have tried the psychotics.

and if you insist on crying

try not to get my shoulder wet
when i say, “shit, my eyes are nearly sealed
with some goupy virus, and i’m supposed
to spend the weekend grading essays
at the testing service.”

she snaps, “sounds like pink-eye:
make sure you don’t use my visine.”

one-upped again

gene dinielli and i are kidding about
some discrepancies between another grader
and me
at a “holistic” reading,

and i snarl, “when i require a second opinion
i’ll ask for one,”
but gene says, “no, what you mean is
when you require a second opinion
you’ll give it!”

gerald’s wager

pascal said you might as well
bet optimistically,
because if it turns out that you’re wrong
you wouldn’t have been better off
by being right.

i prefer to bet
that the worst will always occur.
when i ‘m wrong,
i admit it
and enjoy it.

but i’m not wrong often.

makes sense

john says to jeff, “when i left your
house the other night i got a goddamn
speeding ticket.”

and jeff says, “for christ’s sake, john,
what did you expect, you drive like
a fucking idiot.”

john wrings his hands: “i know i know:
that’s why i got the goddamn ticket.”

personal milestone

my skinny wife is giving me a tough time
about the plodding gait with which
i have just accomplished the ascent
of the steep, narrow, switchback trail
from the floor of the canyon de chelly,

so i tell her, “listen, that may have seemed
slow to you, but i bet i just set
the record for my weight class.”

suburban amenities

“the trash,” she says.

“the trash?” i repeat. “that’s it?
not ‘please take out the trash?’
not ‘would you take out the trash?’
not ‘maybe the trash should go out tonight?’
or just ‘the trash, please?”‘

“tomorrow’s trash day,” she says.

balance sheet

i received news of a financial setback
this morning.

so i wrote a short story about it
this afternoon.

the financial setback will cost me
about seven hundred fifty bucks.

the story will earn me two contributor’s
copies of the issue in which it appears,
if it ever does.

a writer should be able to write
off his entire life
as one big business loss.

horsefly don’t bother me

(for mauricio mazon)

last summer i took my son, jim,
to bolsa chica beach.
we were repeatedly stung
and constantly harassed
by an enormous horsefly
which even pursued us relentlessly
into the surf.

there were no other horseflies
on the beach.

this week i took my son, john,
to bolsa chica beach.
we were repeatedly stung
and constantly harassed
by the same goddamn horsefly
which even pursued us relentlessly
into the surf.

there were no other horseflies on the beach
and i know it was the same horsefly
because it had the same gigantic equine teeth
and was wearing the same sunglasses.