by John McKernan   LOOKING UP AT THE SKY

I always stop what I am doing at two o’clock in the afternoon and wait ten minutes for Death. I do this every day. It came to me in a dream and I like it. This was easy all those years I was a student. If possible I like to look up at the sky and notice the different colors of cloud.. Blue is my favorite color there. I have never had a smoke or a drink or took a drug during those ten minutes.  I am still here   BIG CONTESTThe Gonorrhea cheering section seemed the rowdiest. They wore the skimpiest uniforms Their cheers at times seemed more growl than cheer. They were definitely the loudest.The Chlamydia group had the highest jumpers. Leapers would be the right word. Their cheers always rhymed and had a good rhythm. The electric guitars kept the judges awake.The AIDS Squad held up Braille posters. They would lift up their hands to try to coax each other to sing. They kept falling down. Many had bruises on their arms and faces.Team Syphilis emphasized the international. They’d be dancing to an Arabic tune one minute then to a Chinese waltz. The most gymnastic – they used way too much makeup.The rowdies from Hepatitis A & B & C & X were disqualified on a technicality. Their passports were confiscated and they retaliated by stabbing four judges with spears.Every member of the Herpettes had elaborate four-color tattoos. Part of their act was a mime with bagpipes in the background, but their cheers sounded like thunder.Something happened in the parking lot. A large group in costumes that looked like toads or frogs were screaming and overturning cars. The police blocked them from the stadium.I pity the grounds keepers. I have never seen a stadium packed with what must have been 117,000 corpses wearing yellow & blue robes. The organ never stopped playing a dirge.                                                                                                             

The certificates for endive shall henceforth be triangular and fabricated of red plastic.  All certificates for broccolimust be octagonal and fabricated of blue cloth.  The lettering for the endive shall be in Bodoni Bold 12 point. The lettering for the broccoli will be in New Helvetica Narrow either 10 or 12 point Each certificate must list the instrument used (knives. machetes, saw, icicle and so forth) to cut the broccoli or the endive from its stalk.
The printing must be clear and legible in one of the following languages: Chinese, Yiddish, Russian. Choctaw, Swahili, or Tamil. The hour and date of execution must be stamped on the reverse in Arabic numerals using Greenwich Mean Time.   THE END

Volvo’s parents took away all his James Dean videos while he was out drag racing with friends.  They were surprised to find no drugs in his room.”Kelp tablets?”  each said at the same time as they stared at each other. They did discover a biography of James Dean under his mattress and they burned it in the backyard.charcoal grill.  As a part of the aversive dream therapy, Volvo’s younger brother Scooter was designated to wake up Volvo the moment he began dreaming of James Dean. The pastor visited the family on Mondays and Wednesdays distributing capsules of atheism and a stirring sermon on the dangers of American football and Hollywood movies. Volvo always wore a red nylon jacket. Every morning Volvo’s uncle would appear at the kitchen door with another basket of brown eggs to warn his brother, “If you don’t do something soon about your son, we’ll wake up one morning and find ourselves famous.”  Three days before his funeral, Volvo told his parents at dinner, “I know now there is a God and that he hates both of you and loves me.”  His parents passed him the bread knife but said nothing.    LEARNING THE NUMBERS

Ten candles waving light everywhere flicking the shadow right then left    
A black Cadillac hearse backed up and knocked me down   My face red in brake light  Nine papers from my paper route thrown in a drainage ditch  beside Dodge Street 
I had to stand in the back of the class an entire semester at Creighton because I was always late for my eight o‘clock Theology Class
I fell asleep in the Joslyn Museum Flower Garden and woke at seven covered with apple blossoms            
Six crushed blue jays on the dirt path home from school                  
Five o’clock Sunday a.m. to wake on a wet pillow of leaves  underneath a picnic table  
Who pasted these four pictures of my father over that small mirror on the wall   
Three pink cushions under my skull with images of an oak casket  
Walking home slow with two half-pints of grape vodka punching my heart up & down
One whole winter whenever I saw ice on an inside window I would scrape his initial J on the glass   About the Author:John McKernan – who grew up in Omaha Nebraska – recently retired after teaching 41 years at Marshall University. He lives in Florida and has published his writing in many places from The Atlantic Monthly to Zuzu’s Petals.