- - Word Problems - -
Eastford and Westford are 260 miles apart.
If Train A leaves Eastford and heads toward Westford
going 70 miles per hour
at the same time
that Train B leaves Westford for Eastford
traveling 60 miles per hour,
will you wonder, Who rides trains anymore?
Will you question why two trains
on the same rail system
are chugging along at different speeds?
Will you try to imagine 260 miles on a map,
try to picture its fatness
as Iowa, or Kansas, or the width of some other home?
Will you debate
over whether Eastford and Westford
sound more like Iowan or Kansan cities?
Will you think about
their class and culture distinctions,
ponder their political climates,
or speculate the intensity
of their sports rivalries?
Will you have enough information
to know where your allegiances lie?
Will you be able to choose a ford?
Margie has a limited budget of $3,500
and is responsible for buying a week's supply
of food and medication
for 24 dogs and 164 cats at a local shelter.
If the food and medication for each dog
costs twice as much as those supplies for a cat,
will you donate to Margie’s cause?
Will you answer the doorbell with your checkbook,
or draw the blinds and stoop low in your armchair?
Will Margie’s budget be larger than your bank account?
Will you scoff at organic food requests,
and refuse to acknowledge
an animal’s dietary restrictions?
Will you note the huge difference
between the number of homeless dogs and cats?
Will your heart swell with puppy love,
or will you roll your eyes
at those who prefer dogs?
Will you suspect Margie of such a preference?
Will you fantasize a hermited life
of self-sacrifice as a cat lady or gentleman,
slowly dying in solidarity
with 164 Persians, Bengals, and calicos?
Will your community’s clear bias toward dogs
make you lose faith? Will you condemn
their fondness for Stockholmed love
and unconditional, extroverted loyalty?
Will you accuse them of taking the path
of least pet-rearing resistance?
Will you find it indicative of their inability
to care for the least of their own species,
for that most human kind of animal?
In three more years, Miguel's grandfather
will be five times as old as Miguel was last year.
If the sum of Miguel's present age
and half of his grandfather's present age is 58 ,
then what in God’s name will they talk about?
When Miguel is deciding whether
his newest clever thought
is better as a status or tweet,
will he know that his grandfather
once thought about something
for months without telling anyone?
When Miguel’s grandfather takes
a straight razor to his whiskers,
will he know about
his grandson’s affinity for manscaping,
for primming his privates
and detufting his armpits and chest?
When Miguel broils pixilated zombies
with Molotov cocktails,
will he know about any real wars?
Will he know the story behind
his grandfather’s prosthetic,
know about the dead friend
his grandfather dragged behind him
in a lifeboat?
Will Miguel and his grandfather be able
to find the right moments, the most transcendent words?
Or will they always hover
around the cusp of the other?
When Miguel visits Las Vegas for the first time
and splurges on a private dance with a happy ending,
will Miguel’s grandfather sit
widowed and alone
in front of his MacBook,
playing online craps and blackjack?
When Miguel is getting his whiskey dick
mashed through his dress pants,
will his grandfather be examining
the laptop’s disc drive in confusion,
wondering where the hell
to stick his crisp dollar bill?
Carlotta spends $35
on groceries at the market.
If this is seven dollars more
than one third
of what she spent at the bookstore,
and only two fifths
of what she spent at the salon,
will you worry about Carlotta going hungry?
Will you question her fractional priorities
when you scan her Diet Coke
and cottage cheese
at the register? Will you note
the purplish-red shade
of her lacquered talons
while she swipes her
scritchity-scratched debit card?
Will you guess Jazzberry Jam
or Beets Me or Pucker Up Plum?
Will you hope that Carlotta doesn’t eat
her delicious sounding nail polish?
Will you dread
the paperbacked bibliography
of Sparks and Albom,
stacked in the shelf of her shopping cart?
Will you scoff as the hormonal horde
of pizza-faced baggers lines up
to help Carlotta with her carry out?
Will you imagine Carlotta’s balding father,
with prominent nose hairs,
reviewing her receipts
with a slow shake of his head?
Will you wonder
if his name is Carl,
and whether he always wished
for a Carl Jr. instead?
A test has twenty questions worth 100 points.
It consists of True/False questions
worth 3 points each
and Multiple Choice questions
worth 11 points each.
If those are the only two kinds
of questions on the test,
then how will you possibly survive
this examination called life?
Will you remember your life’s decisions
as boiling down to 3 or 4 answers,
all with the same likelihood of being correct?
Will you find yourself wishing for more time,
for some more chances at D, all of the above?
Will you take sick satisfaction
in being able to answer them all with E?
Will you scratch a series of lead bubbles
through ‘None of the above’?
Will you take umbrage with the True/False
dichotomy, and question whether
you’ve ever told one or the other?
Will you recall the time
you played Two Truths and a Lie
and ended up telling Three Lies?
Will you make your T’s look like F’s
by adding a light dash
in the middle of the letter?
Will you hedge your bets in this world of Fruth,
when everything feels so utterly Talse?
Will you gawk in disbelief
as your peers finish early and go home?
Will you steal looks
at what’s left of your neighbor’s paper,
and hope they know better than you?
- - Roy G. Biv: A Master of Fine Arcs - -
Roy G. Biv grew up wanting to be a rainbow,
and studied the subject intensively
at the Wide Spectrum Academy for Special Colors.
But after graduating from the academy summa cum mauve,
he found there wasn’t steady money in the rainbow business.
It didn’t matter to employers that he was a Master of Fine Arcs.
It turned out rainbows were only needed
in the early mornings and late afternoons,
at the exact moments the sun and rain met in the atmosphere.
Drastic changes to weather patterns in recent years
had taken a great toll on the rainbow community.
The need for their appearances dropped,
leaving little demand in an already oversaturated job market.
Rainbowing was once considered a specialized skill,
but it slowly lost its value. Modern populations became desensitized
to the point of indifference, no longer revering
the rare and majestic occurrence of a natural rainbow.
However, bows as vibrant as Roy G. Biv
occasionally stumbled into kitschy gigs in advertising, movies, or television,
where they reproduced rainbow simulacra for a mass audience.
Breaking into the business was strictly a matter of luck,
of being in the bright place at the bright time.
You usually had to know a bow who knew a bow.
But even showbows, as they came to be known, were a dime a dozen.
The vast majority fizzled in the public eye
and eventually disappeared altogether from cultural memory.
Although the rainbow from The Wizard of Oz struck gold,
most weren’t so fortunate.
There was the original bow from Reading Rainbow , for example,
who was fired after being discovered as an illiterate.
Several bows wallowed forever as extras in the mire of children’s television,
perpetually moving between skull-numbing programs
like Care Bears and My Little Pony . Some still claim royalties
from their brief time as rainbow-colored apples on old Macintosh computers,
but those vintage few are running out. Many shortsighted bows
have been fooled into contracts with Lucky Charms over the years,
which of course never ends well.
The closest Roy G. Biv ever got to a breakthrough
was a job as an extra on the Teletubbies , but it didn’t take long
for the show’s notorious Baby Sun to go prima donna,
flat-out refusing to share the sky of Teletubbyland with anyone else.
Roy G. Biv retired from rainbow action shortly after that to reassess his life plans.
Ryan Francis Kelly often wishes he were the Cheshire Cat, so that he could disappear and leave behind nothing but his floating grin. He can often be found catwalking the fence between accessible and askew. His writing has been published in dozens of online and print journals, including The MacGuffin , Fiction International, and The San Diego Reader . He was nominated for a Pushcart in 2013. Find out more about him at www.ryanfranciskelly.com or follow him on Twitter @RFrancisKelly.