Wednesday, May 16, 2018


by John Koch

The young store clerk, who was about my age, seemed nervous as he placed the items we had purchased in a plastic bag along with a receipt. Then the clerk handed the bag to my father who, in turn, handed the bag to me.

My father and I left the store and walked down the sidewalk towards the car. We got in and as my father drove away he said, as one amazed:

“Holy shit. I’m still intrigued by it. He’s just like his old man. Did you hear all of that talk son? Did you hear him?”

“You mean what he said about investing in the new shopping center?”

“No not really that,” my father said. “ I mean the way he hustled the store help around. You know….. barking orders and browbeating those kids.”
“But those were his kids.” I said. "I mean, .. they were his children.”

My father waved his right index finger a little as if he had made a point of a matter or as if I had suddenly realized what he was trying to say. He touched my left shoulder lightly a couple of times to reinforce the point and said again:

“He’s just like his old man. Holy shit, he turned out the same way. The same as his old man. The same fucking way!”
“You mean Mr. Brenner?” I asked.

“Yes!” Mr. Brenner. Jim Brenner the younger or junior that is. I used to come to that very same store with my father years ago and the Mr. Brenner you just saw was a school classmate of mine at the time and just a boy like I was and he worked in that store, which was his father’s store.

“Yes, and the old man was a tyrant and used to bark orders at Jim. I mean, he would bawl the living shit out of Jim and that must have been….oh let me see……. at least thirty years ago. And he would go:

“Oh Jesus Christ will you hurry up? Where did you go? What the hell were you doing all of this time? I don't have all day. I’m running a business here. For crying out loud that’s not it! You got the wrong one. What did I just get finished telling you.”
That’s how Jim’s father would talk to him and Jim would have the same scared look on his face that we just saw with those kids in that store a little while ago.”

“Oh yeah?” and I said again: “Really?”

My father pulled the car into a Dunkin Donuts parking lot and said: “Come on let’s get some coffee.”

Before we got out of the car my father concluded the conversation:

“A few years ago I went into the store and I saw Jim who was all grown up like me and he had taken over the store after his old man had dropped dead of a stroke. I told Jim how sorry I was to hear of his father dying and Jim just dismissed it. You know,  he had the fast merchant talk like you heard him do before when we were in there. It was kind of funny actually because I said as sincerely as I could how sorry I was about his father and that I would say a prayer for him and he just cut me off and said:

“Yeah. Yup. Yeah well, you can’t live forever, so whaddya’ gonna do?”
And that was all he said about his father dying and he turned around and started barking orders to his kids in the same dictatorial way as his father used to do to him.  Like this:  

“Come on! What the hell are you are you doing? I don’t have all day! I’m running a business here. For crying out loud! Jesus H. Christ can’t you hear?”
My father and I had a good laugh that day in the Dunkin Donuts parking lot. It is hard to believe that that day was almost thirty years ago and my father is now gone. I miss him and his amusing stories.

Not too long ago I had to find a part for a broken item in my house. In search of the part I happened to visit the very same store. It had been sold to a national franchise and was much larger and more profitable seeming. Still working there was Jim the third, the scared young clerk who had handed me the bag with the parts along with a receipt three decades before. Only now he was all grown up and a wealthy man of inheritance.

My son was with me and he listened as I told Jim III about how sorry I was to learn of his father’s sudden passing from a heart attack and the quick reply from number three was:  

“Yeah well, those are the breaks. He was a tough old bastard but all of us die sooner or later and one way or another.”

Then the third generation of Jim Brenner’s looked at me in a businesslike way and asked: “So what can I do for you?”

His attention was diverted momentarily as he turned to a young boy who was working in the store and said loudly:

“Jesus H. Christ! Where have you been? The customer’s don’t have all day. What the hell have you been doing all this time? Oh for crying out loud if I want to get something done I have to do it myself.”

The humiliated seeming young boy, who I later learned was Jim Brenner the Fourth, looked at me apologetically and said:
“Merry Christmas. I’m sorry for the delay.”

“No problem.” I said. "Merry Christmas."

The store did not have the part we needed so we left. As we were walking down the street towards my car I said to my son:

“Let’s go to Dunkin Donuts and get some coffee. I want to tell you a story on the way.”


Thursday, May 10, 2018


Goddess of the Moon
with love, I invoke your name
upon this earthly strand.
I beseech thee to awake
from ancient manuscripts;
to heed my burning plea
for your immortal hand
then shall we be
as the Fates meant us to be

In your path across the heavens
may you pause and give your heart to one,
merely mortal
My dreams will yearn no more
We shall escape into the night
before reproachful sunlight breaks
the distant shore.

In all thy glory
I call your name:

I will love as mortals do
and devote my passions
for your promise
to give me life anew
then we will reach among the stars
and each and every distant flame
will be ours