The Current Sea

Andrew Jackson dictates more of your life than your mother ever did and your lover ever will. Money makes the world go 'round, especially when it's in the form of that common denomination spat by ATMs every second of every day. Inflation's hit our pockets hard, but you can still tell a lot with a twenty dollar bill when it comes to judging character. You used to be able to do a lot with character, too.

There've been times when the green got the best of me, or someone else got the jump with the help of some cash. When I was in the fourth grade a mysterious tissue was sitting on the floor near my desk for an entire day. No one stopped to pick it up and throw it in the trash can a mere five feet away. Just before the afternoon announcements came over the PA system, my teacher-- a barrel-chested black man who cared more than he should have, walked over and picked up the crumpled tissue. "No one bothered all day long," he said disappointedly as he glanced at me quickly and lifted it from floor, revealing what was taped to the bottom: a crisp twenty-spot. We all learned something that day, or at least the more precocious of us did. The bus ride home was spent pondering what we could've done with such an unheard of sum of money. Twenty bucks could buy a lot of candy in 1994.

Then there's the aggravation tax trade-off. How many times have you loaned someone a small amount of money and actually been repaid without asking? Sometimes, as Sonny points out in "A Bronx Tale", lending a pest twenty dollars is the best way to get rid of them. They'll never bother you again with that debt hanging in the air. It's a cheap investment for a simpler life. It's one less headache to rattle your day. It's one less day in God's barrel of laughs. The punchline's in the pudding.

The theory spreads and mutates from the social scene to the construction site. There's the story of the foreman who asks his apprentice if he lost twenty dollars on the job. He holds it up and rubs the folded bill against itself, a visual aid to further the illusion and sweeten the bait. This money, of course, came from the foreman's wallet and is merely a test of the young man's character. If he says Yes he'll get his check in the afternoon and be asked not to return. If he says No he can continue to get coffee for the men every morning and continue his rite of passage. This hasn't happened yet, but it will in a few years. Revenge for that fourth grade mishap, perhaps.

Guilt, or fear of it, can drive a man just as easily. I had a friend who got a call about money that had gone missing in his driveway one night. He brought out his flashlight and combed the whole yard, but nothing turned up with the effort. It frustrated him so much that his friend had lost his money that he was prepared to lie and say he found it. Dipping into the liquor store fund didn't seem to be so bad in comparison to the alternative. No one likes to be a suspect. No one likes to lose that trust. The phone call came later that the money was found in a pocket or under a car seat. It was there all along, the seventh president of the United States grinning and hiding in darkness, not far from the skeletons dangling from cobwebbed hangers.

And what of your shadows? What's worth the money? You'd pay arms and legs to send them away. Twenty bucks is a drop in the bucket. Twenty years as a flash in the pan. Twenty rounds left in the banana clip, and the zombies are still coming.


Fear the Rapture, fear the Reaper, fear your Local Congressman.

What makes the month of May
worse in terms of vermin
is that they're not the moths of March
or April's spiders, the heralds of Spring
being washed down the drain
during afternoon showers;
they're six-legged titans
capable of carrying
one hundred-times their weight
and working together
far better than most.

It's hard to watch as the suds lather
less impressively than the ads claim
'cause they always almost make it, they nearly
fight the tide effectively, but eventually
like lesser men, succumb to the holes
in the chrome-plated drain cover.
Somewhere in the septic
or leeching out to fields
is a half-inch reminder
of what we're all to do:

March to the beat towards what's wrong to eat
as Cortez burned his boats after landing.


Selling Tickets to the Abortion

A study aired on the boob-tube news revealed that co-ed military training facilities have been facing new problems brought on by the latest wave of the post-millenium cultural/sexual revolution. There's a fire in the barracks in the bases of the nation. Recruits of all branches are routinely asked to strip and checked for fresh tattoos and piercings acquired on weekend leave in the one-horse towns where they're stationed. Female personnel are impregnated and sent home after nights of drunken fraternizing miles away from anyone who cares, thus wasting tax dollars spent in their training. Marines spread STDs like it's nobody's business; as far as they're concerned it's not. (Maybe that's why they're such a notoriously hot-blooded bunch.) Orgies are not uncommon in the on-base saunas, lesbian activity runs rampant in the gang shower rooms, and the rumors we've heard about lonely men being "ship gay" are true. Many female privates defend theirs by wearing cheap engagement rings on their fingers. It seems a fake rock is sometimes enough to deter the Southern gentlemen, at least when it comes to sober sexual advances. A coward, you see, is someone who's given the chance to do the right thing, but doesn't. Once a Marine, always a Marine, and herpes is forever.

A later segment-- nay, a snippet before commercial break-- stated that scientists have discovered that smelling a woman's tears automatically softens a man's erection due to the chemical make-up of sorrow. We'll laugh, we'll cry, we'll bide our time gracefully until the cows find out that home is regretfully nowhere. Bad advice, if sincere, is still worth two in the bush: a loafer, a hypocrite, a closet sucker for the home team.


Prone to Lung Infections

My father didn't teach me much
except for what's a shame.
He thumped his thick Good Book enough
that Christ forgot His name.
The old man didn't have such skills
that anyone would want.
Forgot to sow the ground he tilled
and aimed but never shot.

I asked him once of politics
the difference in the men.
He said "Well, son, conservatives
and liberals both pretend
to know what's best to save a guy
who's drowning ten feet out.
The liberals throw such extra line
since that's what they're about.
Conservatives, those frugal men
throw five and tell the chap
to swim and take the rope in hand
and learn to close the gap."

I shook my head, a bit confused
while dad unfurled his rope.
Alas, it was too short to use
for drowning men or hope.


Shotgun Correspondence

Sent: Tuesday, May 03, 2011 1:53 PM
To: Emedia Rifleman
Subject: Better Editing?

As an NRA member, attentive reader, and firearms enthusiast I was rather insulted by this month's issue of American Rifleman. The age-old "ads on the same page as positive, 'unbiased' reviews" routine (i.e., Rhino write-up on page 88) is to be expected in any gun magazine, but I feel we've had the wool pulled over our eyes a bit too blatantly in another example. How can the trusted editors at your publication call the Remington Versa Max "Shotgun of the Year" in the 2011 Golden Bullseye Awards article when on page 94 of the same issue there is a factory recall on the very same shotgun which states the possibility of property damage, personal injury, or death? Those conflicting messages imply one or both of two things about your staff: they're ignorant, or think their readers are. This type of behavior isn't just misleading-- it's irresponsible. Please consider yourselves caught, and hopefully not just by one avid reader.

Regretfully yours,
Mike Vahsen


Dear Mr. Vahsen,

Thanks for your note. The voting for the Golden Bullseye award occurred before the recall came out.
We seriously considered rescinding the award, but chose to go forward after long discussions between our staff and Remington.

Essentially, early in production, first several hundred guns, there was a burr on the cartridge carrier that could cause the carrier to hang up on the receiver's interior, thus retarding the forward movement of the bolt. If this occurred, the hammer had already been freed and could travel forward and "follow" the bolt after its movement had been slowed. Our samples did not exhibit this issue.

Essentially, the gun would not fire, then the weight of the bolt would overcome the friction of the burr on the receiver's interior, and then it would fire--not an ideal situation, obviously.

Remington implemented a production fix as soon as it was known and got almost all of the VersaMax guns back before those with this condition entered commerce.

But they didn't get them all, thus the recall. Comparatively, Remington is not a huge advertiser with Rifleman, nor would we play monetary games with NRA member safety.

We judged the problem to be one that was easily corrected and that Remington got out ahead of the issue quickly enough not to merit revocation of the award.


Mark Keefe

American Rifleman


Catsitting and Caste Systems

It seemed a shame to wake him
but still I stroked his back
curled into himself
at the foot of my sour bed.
A brief, diminishing glide
of the right paw
was all that it inspired
while the rain continued downward
soaking grass in need of cutting.

His black-and-yellow eyes
barely opened as I lifted
his limp body, more fur than flesh
to the head of my bed
nearer to the pillow
on which I'd soon be drooling
in a midday dreamless nap
that the dreary day demanded.
As I positioned him under the top sheet
his head sticking out
from just behind his pointed ears
he pressed his feline foot against me
in a gentle plead for sleep.
Like a person gesturing, half-awake.
Like a reincarnation of someone long gone.
"Were you a human once, Buddy?" I whisper
towards the clump of domesticated hunter
drifting off beside me in a race to painlessness.
"Raise your right paw if you were," but there's
no motion, and I too follow suit in slumber
the two of us snoring gracefully
like champions of lazy rhythm.

When I wake he's gone, possibly to
the litter box downstairs
or his pink and empty food bowl
or another peaceful perch
unmolested by the likes of Yours Truly--
the only evidence of his presence
a warm spot next to me
on my lonesome mattress.
His undetected exit exudes prowess
unparalleled by any male creature
put on God's green Earth.
I come to the conclusion
that not only was he human once
but must've been a woman.
It's a fitting fate for both of us.
The odds and stakes are noted.

Buddy-Boy, the lover
is paying for her sins.
If it's a sign of what's to come
I can only beg for mercy:
"Please, God. Not a rat-dog.
This bark still has some bite."