The First Shall Be Last

For Three Word Wednesday, prompt words brandish, forbid, manage.

The First Shall Be Last

Rosy smile baring perfect teeth,
well-fed body arising as the
blessed sun in the east, behind
the lectern looking for all the world
like a slick advertisement
in some hip magazine. Brandish
words. Slap the holy book,
make the hard sell. Not having lived,
forbid earthly pleasure, demand
sacrifice since the easy road
grinds on the backs of others—
all praise to you, God’s
humble, polished servant.
It may be, in the Last Day,
he will manage to forgive.

Snakes Alive! A Tale of Terror from the Carpenter’s Chronicles

Two years ago on a warm spring day I went with my boss to start a new job. We had been contracted to build a spacious house from the ground up, and the first order of business was to shoot grade and locate the lot markers. Since the proposed house was in the floodplain of the Ogeechee River just on the outside of a sweeping bend, the lot was predictably low and wet—except for a few large white oak and sweet gum trees and a stand of pines at the western boundary, the entire jobsite was covered in knee-high marsh grasses. We’ve built a lot of houses in cramped subdivisions where the developers level every living thing in order to squeeze out a few more lots so it’s always a delight to work in the open, listening to the tap of woodpeckers and persistent song of the wrens.

After determining our benchmark near the road and locating the front left boundary pin I set out across the lot to find the back left marker, pacing out the 220 feet or so in the general direction I thought to find it, happy to be out in the fine weather.

“Do you think there are snakes?” Jim asked.

“They’ve got to be all over the place in here.” I remembered that Jim was terrified of snakes, and I am not one to pass up a chance for a little fun. I’ve always thought it humorous that Jim, an Eagle Scout, is so ill at ease in the outdoors. He cannot identify flora and fauna; I even had to show him what a mockingbird looks like. I suppose he earned his Eagle by helping the elderly and learning to tie knots.

Since the lot was perfect habitat for snakes of all varieties, I was justified in alerting Jim to the danger. Most snakes will take the coward’s way out if they have the chance, so as I walked through the grass I made enough foot noise to give any hiding creature fair warning. We pulled our measurement to the marker, shot the grade, and I held my place while Jim started toward me.

“I don’t want to sound like a baby, but I don’t like this at all,” Jim said as he tucked the tripod under one arm and grabbed the transit with the other.

“Just make a little noise—they don’t want to be around you any more than you want to be around them,” I replied.

Stepping gingerly, Jim made his way across the lot whistling the theme song from Sanford and Son. It took me a few seconds, but I soon realized that the whistling was Jim’s way of alerting any devilish attacker of his presence.

“Make some noise with your feet! Let ‘em know you mean business!” I hollered between repressed snickers. Jim stopped for a second as if to steel himself and continued toward me, this time raking his feet through the grass. He was doing fine, like a regular Swamp Fox. And then the panic set in. He picked up speed, and with his increased momentum he also increased altitude, his soles nearly reaching shoulder height, arms akimbo.

Now, Jim is a big man—horizontally, not vertically. He’s about 5’5”, 260 pounds, with the shortest inseam I’ve ever seen on a grown man, maybe 28” tops. So you can imagine the effort he exerted as he high-stepped it across the lot. And being the generous soul I am I gave him plenty of encouragement in his flight from danger.

“You got ‘em where you want ‘em now, Jim! Keep “em on the run!” I couldn’t sustain enough breath between the laughing and vocal assistance, so I looked around for a place dry enough to roll around on. Damn marsh—I was forced to stagger about holding my belly, tears rolling down my beard.

He still swears he heard a snake after him in the grass. I tell him if there were any snakes, they were too busy belly-laughing to make much of an assault.


For Three Word Wednesday, prompt words jitter, grace, thin.

~for Becky

Edging skyward, breathless
in thin air, the unknown pulsing
with expectation. We stood
overlooking the dark expanse
seeing, not seeing, a view
worth the climb. The moon
blushing in the glow of your skin.
You lean close and whisper,
mouth to ear, nearer. Near.
What grace did we wish in this
shared solitude,
beyond all, jittery
night creatures avoiding
the town’s lights? I remember,
and am glad we were there.

Salutation –Ezra Pound

Here’s a little poem by Pound I like.


O generation of the thoroughly smug
and thoroughly uncomfortable,
I have seen fishermen picnicking in the sun,
I have seen them with untidy families,
I have seen their smiles full of teeth
and heard ungainly laughter.
And I am happier than you are,
And they were happier than I am;
And the fish swim in the lake
and do not even own clothing.