Tuesday, August 28, 2018

railroad men

railroad bill
railroad bill
had a dog named harry
and a cat named phil

railroad bob
railroad bob
never drank whiskey
except on the job

railroad joe
railroad joe
got up in the morning
and took it slow

railroad mike
railroad mike
never flew an airplane
or rode a bike

railroad tom
railroad tom
hated his pappy
but loved his mom

railroad jim
railroad jim
played poker with the sheriff
who cheated him

railtoad bill
railroad bill
caught a big old catfish
down by the mill

railroad john
railroad john
never came home
before the break of dawn

railroad dan
railroad dan
the railroad was the railroad
but he was the man

railroad men
railroad men
ask for eleven
they will give you ten

mothers, look out the window
at a duck and a hen
don’t raise your sons
to be railroad men

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

you have walked in the rain before

frankie woke up.

it was dark. the window was open but it was night outside.

she was lying on the bed in her hotel room in her clothes. she could hear music out in the street, and a couple of cats fighting.

damn, she thought, what time is it? what day is it?

she remembered she had pawned her watch. actually she had given it to johnny, and he had pawned it. but he hadn’t given her her share, he told her he needed it for a while, he would give it to her later.


where was johnny?

now frankie remembered. johnny had heard that old man mose had come into some money - from the irish sweepstakes or some such - and he and frankie were going out to old man mose’s hut to check it out.

maybe even rob the old man if it was worth their while.

frankie got out of bed. she was wide awake. i must have slept for a while, she thought.

she left her room and went downstairs to the desk.

cardinal mazarin was at the desk, looking at the register. he nodded to frankie but did not say anything.

“what day is it?” frankie asked him.

the cardinal did not look surprised by the question. “thursday, the 23rd.”

“thursday! are you sure?” the last day she remembered was monday.

“of course i am sure. tomorrow is friday, and i have just been checking the register, to see who the deadbeats were who did not pay last week.“

“i paid last week.”

“i am sure you did, frankie. you are the greatest. you are a good girl.”

frankie changed the subject. “has johnny been around? or mean old stagger lee?”

“i haven’t seen either one of them.” the cardinal wrinkled his nose.

“how about richelieu or wallenstein? have they seen them?”

“if they did, why would they tell me? they don’t tolerate bums hanging around any more than i do. while you are here, frankie, do you want to pay next week’s rent?”

“um - i will catch you tomorrow.”

“fair enough.” the cardinal turned his face back to the register.

frankie went down the stairs to the street. a light rain had started to fall.

she headed for the road of sorrows tavern. maybe johnny or mean old stagger lee would be there.

but neither of them was. pope innocent xvi was behind the bar. he just nodded to frankie. he did not seem any more surprised to her than cardinal mazarin had. nothing too bad must have happened in the three days i was out, frankie thought.

the only other customers were st teresa, mike fink, and sister rose. sister rose’s white habit looked freshly starched, and the black beads of her rosary had a new coat of polish.

frankie sat down, and pope innocent began mixing her usual.

“has johnny been here?” frankie asked.

the pope shrugged. “how long ago?” he asked.

“he was in here a couple of days ago,” said st teresa. “with mean old stagger lee. and st louis jenny, and nellie bligh.”

mike fink laughed heartily. “what a crew! they must have been up to no good.”

“i think it was marie laveau with them, not nellie bligh,” said sister rose.

“then it must have been,” said st teresa. “you have the sharp eyes, sister.”

pope innocent brought frankie her drink and she put a silver dollar on the bar.

“i was just asking,” said frankie, “it’s no big nevermind.”

“that’s a mighty shiny silver dollar,” sister rose said to frankie. “i wish i had one half that shiny.”

keep riding me, frankie thought, all of you keep riding me. but she did not say anything.

the door opened and inspector lestrade walked in.

he sat down beside frankie. “how have you been, frankie? “ he asked.

“great,” she answered. until you came along, she thought, but dd not say aloud.

“why don’t we go for a little walk?” lestrade asked.

“it’s raining out.”

“you have walked in the rain before.”

“just let me finish my drink.”

“why not? i will have a drink myself. a double scotch,” lestrade told pope innocent.

frankie and lestrade finished their drinks. none of the others spoke the whole time lestrade was there.

“a merry group,” lestrade observed as he and frankie went out the door.

“where are we going?” frankie asked.

“i thought we would take a little walk out to the edge of the swamp. pay a visit to old man mose. see how he is doing.”

frankie did not answer, but followed lestrade.

the rain fell steadily. neither of them spoke.

they reached old man mose’s cabin. no light was showing in it.

lestrade banged on the door. no answer.

“look in the window,” lestrade told frankie. “tell me what you see.”

frankie looked in the window. old man mose was lying on a cot. his head hung over the side, and his left hand hung down to the floor. she described what she saw to lestrade.

with a single shove, lestrade forced the door. he crossed swiftly to the cot. he did not bother to strike a light, and looked down at the old man.

“this is it,” lestrade announced. “the end of an era. the old order passes. there isn’t anything more to say.”

frankie could not argue.

because old man mose was dead.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

the pope walks into a bar

a lone figure was coming across the desert, from the north.

joe watched him through the binoculars.

“here comes somebody,” he told max.

max looked up. “you don’t say so,” he said. he did not sound excited. he did not get up off the rock he was sitting on.

but both joe and max watched as the stranger approached.

joe and max, and moe and polly, who were in the cabin sleeping, had been waiting for almost two years for the connection.

they were almost out of supplies. max and moe and polly had talked of giving up. but joe had held them together, convinced them that they had waited this long, why not wait until the bitter end?

they were waiting for the connection.

the connection would have the password, to show that he was the connection and once he arrived they would pack up and be ready to pull off the job of the century. of the millenium.

the figure in the desert came closer .

nether joe nor max were getting their hopes up. other wanderers had come by, but that is all they were … wanderers. they didn’t have the password.

the stranger was tall and thin. he wore a wide hat - which he would have needed to cross the desert.

“howdy,” the stranger addressed joe and max.

“howdy yourself,” joe answered.

“my name is ted.”

“pleased to meet you, ted. what’s the good word?”

ted smiled. “the pope walks into a bar.”

that was the password. joe looked at max, and max looked at joe.

at last! joe and max stated to laugh, max a little hysterically.

joe smiled at ted. “this calls for a celebration.”


they woke moe and polly up, and told them the news.

they all agreed to get packed up, get a good night’s sleep, and leave in the morning.

joe didn’t really doubt that ted was the man they had been waiting for, but as they sat around after packing up, he got him a little loosened up with his best whiskey and asked a few casual questions.

it was obvious ted knew what was going on.


they were getting into the trucks in the morning, when polly pointed into the desert.

“who can that be?” she asked joe.

another figure was approaching , this one from the northwest.

“maybe we should just go,” moe said, from behind the wheel of the first truck.

“no,” said joe. “then we would be wondering who he was. we can wait a few minutes for him.”

they waited as the second stranger approached. he was short and dark, and wore a bowler hat.

joe spoke first. “hello, there.”

the second stranger gave joe a big smile with big white teeth.

“the pope walks into a bar,” he said.

“you don’t say so,” joe replied. “you don’t say so.”

“my name is willie,” the second stranger added, with the same big smile.

joe pulled out his .45. “i think you got some explaining to do, willie.” joe turned around and saw ted behind him. “and so do you, ted. get over there beside willie.”

with a shrug, ted obeyed. joe held the .45 on both of them. “max and moe, get some rope and tie both of these buzzards up.”

“and then what, joe?” polly asked, as she scanned the horizon.

“i don’t know. let me think about it.”


the next morning. the trucks were still loaded up. ted and willie sat beside them in the sand, their hands tied behind their backs.

joe and polly looked out at the desert.

max came up behind them. “i say we move out now.”

“here comes somebody,” polly said, and pointed to the horizon.

joe said nothing . they waited.

the third stranger emerged. a woman with long blonde hair, wearing a blue dress, a red hat, and a yellow bandana.

“well?” joe asked the woman, when she was close enough to hear him.

“the pope walks into a bar,” the woman replied.

“who are you?” joe asked.

“you know who i am, joe. you all know who i am. you have been waiting for me all your lives.”

suddenly the sun disappeared and the sky turned dark as night.

and the rain began to fall…