Plain speaking has always begged the question; “Why must cliché’s wreak havoc on our language?” Take it from me, the cliché is no longer what it’s cracked up to be and has simply become old hat. It’s high time we all step up to the plate and put the whole cliché kit and caboodle behind us…now! Trust me on this, if we don’t change, we are all going to pay the piper for the cliché’s overuse.

Most cliché’s are threadbare from overuse anyhow and do nobody a world of good in getting any single point across. They plain and simply have been worked to death and nearly all fly in the face of reason. I pity the poor soul who speaks a language other than our own and then tries to follow these types of thoughts from start to finish. They are often forced to take a powder when those around take umbrage at their being a stickler for the rules of language and then read them the riot act when they don’t understand. What gives with that?

Now mind you, the use of cliché’s is no skin off my nose personally, but in the grand scheme of things are we not creating a no-win situation when we overuse cliché’s? To put it even more simply; plain speaking grinds to a halt when we interject clichés that ride roughshod over reason. I propose that we bring down the curtain on cliché’s and let them rest in peace once and for all. It really is high time we go back to the drawing board and start from scratch on this one.

I have plans to review my own cliché habits with a fine tooth comb and eliminate these pesky devils from my own speech. I think I am well on my way already. Once I am fully successful, the population at large will be able to follow my train of thought in one fell swoop. I’ll find no need to any longer explain my ridiculous cliché’s which have been gumming up the works of my speech and writings. Undoubtedly my speaking in public will grind to a halt at first, while I will rethink my choice of words; but with fast and furious thought I will simply put my best foot forward and speak plainly. Yes, from here on in I am putting my foot down on clichés, putting my money where my mouth is, putting my shoulder to the wheel, my nose to the grindstone and ridding myself once and for all of the offending cliché.

Oh mind you, I expect my position will not be popular at first but as every schoolboy knows, cliché’s just ring hollow and mean not what they say. With all due respect, they have left our language in a shambles. Please forgive me if I sound like I am beating a dead horse, but after all it is the squeaky wheel that gets the grease and as I stated before, cliché’s are a tough row to hoe for the non-native listener. To them we all sound as if we speak nonsense anyhow and when we use cliché’s they most likely think we have bats in our belfry. At the minimum they probably think we have heads full of rocks. Sure it seems simple for us, the native speaker, to understand a cliché’ but it is they, the nonnative speaker, who bears the brunt of interpretation. We may even try to go full circle in explaining our cliché but they will still think our brains are on the fritz. I propose from her on out we make sure we have both feet firmly planted on the ground and speak only plainly without the use of cliché’. Even if our words end up sounding as dull as dishwater we will have been polite and hit the nail on the head whenever we speak. It should really be our mission to no longer muddy the waters with our ridiculous cliché’s.

Like it or lump it, the cliché death knell is now tolling. It is just a matter of time and we will be off and running; forging ahead in a new direction of plain speaking. You can mark my words on that. I see a new day dawning for all of us. There is a light at the end of the tunnel and speaking plain and succinct will be our trump card, our ace in the hole if you will. Finally, the cliché we will no longer be our own worst enemy. In the long run, as we change our speech patterns, these clichés will no longer be at the tip of our tongue waiting to spring the trap on unsuspecting foreigners and others. It is truly in our own best interest to go whole hog in this new direction…right now! You can bet your bottom dollar the non-native will be eternally grateful to all of us when we finally initiate this change. No longer will they think of ways to give us a dose of our own medicine and lead us down the garden path too! It will be a brave new world I tell you.

By now a few are thinking my ideas are not worth a plug nickel. Some perhaps even feel

I can’t see beyond the nose on my face and are just trying to make the fur fly. There are probably even those that think I am trying to take all of us to hell in a hand basket with my crazy ideas. Others will even draw a line in the sand and insist language has always played fast and loose and who am I to go off half-cocked sowing my apples of discord. But let me bend your ear just a minute longer on this subject. I am normally a man of few words, and I may sound like a stuffed shirt right now, but cliché’s simply are meant to string the other person along while saying absolutely nothing of value. I am not alone in my hue and cry as I am quite certain Noah Webster was a man cut from the same cloth as I. Over the years I have grown to respect Noah and his letter perfect dictionary. This is a man who knew which side his bread was buttered on. I hold forth he is probably spinning in his grave right now the way the cliché has taken our language by storm. Why, if he were alive today he would take up the cudgels and knuckle down to the task of eliminating cliché’s from our speech and writings. Regardless of how much we huff and puff; we would find it impossible to take the wind out of his sails. There would be no resting on your laurels in his company. He was no slouch when it came to the jot and tittle of language perfected. To go against his grain would be to meet your waterloo and in no uncertain terms, you would be toast! Don’t even go there!

Let me put in one last parting shot about the use of cliché’s. Perhaps, since I brought it up, I should be the one to pave the way for this change. Perhaps I should dish up a serving of humble pie for myself. After all, I am probably guilty in perhaps some small way of using cliché’s. So, as of right now, I pledge that soon you will see neither hide nor hair of cliché in my speech or writings. I, in fact, entertain high hopes for all of us we can bear this burden together in the heat of the day and once and for all lay the cliché to rest. And I don’t mean maybe. We are all in the same boat here. If we do an about face now, take this slow and not bite off more than we can chew, I know we can change. I tell you, it will be a grand and glorious day when our dear foreign friends no longer need beat a retreat at our mixed-up words. Are we up to the challenge? Can we run the gauntlet and run these clichés to ground? Let the chips fall where they may. We can’t let this opportunity slip through our fingers. The time is now to get the show on the road and rout out the cliché from every nook and cranny of our speech and writing. We need no longer let the rest of society lead us by the nose. I urge you to return with me to the fold of cliché free speech. It will be a red letter day for all of us if we get our act together this very minute, get on the ball and finally nail this puppy to the wall. Then we can all shout in unison. “Way to go!”

Copyright © 2004 by Scott J Haas

Here I sit

In the corner again

This time I piece together Humpty Dumpy

 

Sometimes I imagine I’m a real person

But I’m really just a fairy tale

 

I once visited the bear’s house

Found some comfort and a little porridge  

Then the bears came home

Questioned my existence

I was not sure

I ran

 

I existed once before, in reality I mean

I think perhaps, someday, I’ll exist again

 

Like Pinocchio

I dream of being a real person

Living a life, finding hope

Maybe even stumbling upon a dream

 

But my eyes grow dim

Not yet finding their happy ending

 

I’m told all fairy tales have happy endings

And that may be true  

But only if you’re Pinocchio

And not one of the king’s horses

Or one of the kings men

 

© Copyright 2005 by Scott Haas   All rights reserved.

I never knew Poverty had such an ugly face–until I met Rich. I had just turned seven when my parents first told me about Rich. The way they described him he sounded like a cool guy. When they told me we were actually going to go live with him, I got pretty excited.

It was just a couple weeks later that we moved in with Rich. We never again went back to visit Poverty. I don’t even recall we said a proper goodbye. We just packed up the few things we had, moved from Noti to Seattle, and moved right in with Rich. We didn’t tell Poverty where we were going because we didn’t want him to follow us and we had no intention of ever seeing him again. We certainly didn’t think we would miss him.

My parents were pretty happy when they first met Rich. I was happy too because he fed me food I’d never tasted before. He bought all of us lots of things and even took us on great vacations. Gave us indoor plumbing! It didn’t take long before we all learned to love Rich since Rich always was giving us so many things. I still remember that first Christmas with Rich. He bought me so many things I didn’t know what to do with them all. I just took them to my room and put them under my bed.

Sometimes I imagine that Poverty is following me, hoping to be friends again. When I look back he’s not actually there but I do start to remember again how it was when we lived with him. I’m not sure Poverty was that bad of a guy, actually. Oh sure, he didn’t bring us very many things, and the food he gave us was a little scarce and kind of plain, but our whole family talked more then, had more fun. He seemed more real than Rich. I mean Rich bought us lots of things then; he still does; but he is just not that friendly. He’s just Rich, and for some reason when he does try to be personable he just seems so…plastic.

Some have told me I’m fortunate to live in the same place as Rich. I guess so. But I don’t remember that we were all that unfortunate when we lived with Poverty. It’s just that things are different now. Before we lived with Rich I never knew you could buy food in little aluminum trays, inside a box, that just popped in the electric oven and you could eat while watching TV. I had no idea toilets could have little handles that sent water shooting through until Rich gave us a house with indoor plumbing. I was completely unaware that vacation is something you did once a year, taking you to places far away, but Rich took us on lots of them. Rich gave me all those things then and he is still giving me lots of things. The only thing he asks in return is that I take good care of the things but even when I don’t, or even if I lose what he gave me, he just buys me a new one. My house is stuffed with things Rich has bought me. Every time I move I realize just how much stuff that really is. Oh, I’m thankful to Rich, and the things are nice, but sometimes it just seems like a lot of work keeping track of it all. I sometimes worry that my things will end up missing. I think some of them are. Rich doesn’t ever get too upset though, he just buys me another one.

Not long ago I saw Poverty again while I was on a trip to Mexico. It seems he must have moved there after we left. I don’t think he even recognized me. Rich was with me, and the two of them don’t have much in common, so I didn’t get a chance to talk with Poverty. I wanted to see how he was doing, what he had been up to but Rich kept reminding me of the places I had to see and things I was supposed to do. I guess I just didn’t have the time to stop and talk to Poverty or the family he was living with. Part of me wished I had. Perhaps I could send Poverty some money later, I thought then. I don’t remember if I ever did.

Once I saw Poverty again, his face was much uglier than I remembered as a child. The family he was with didn’t seem to care though and, in fact, they were having a small party. They all seemed to be genuinely having a good time. Everyone was smiling and laughing, the kids played in the dirt, and the adults watched them play while they talked. Poverty still didn’t give many things it seemed but, strangely, none of them seemed to care. I wasn’t sure what to make of that. Rich had assured me so many times he was making me happy with the things he was buying me. I think this may have been the first time I began to wonder if Rich was right. I wondered if he really was making me as happy as I thought. These people seemed so much happier than anybody I knew, including myself.

I thought about that family in Mexico for a long time afterward. One day I just asked Rich why he didn’t make me happy. Rich simply pointed to everything he bought me and looked perplexed. “But what about those people in Mexico living with Poverty”, I asked Rich, “Why can’t you make me happy like that?” Rich merely shrugged his shoulders, scratched his head and walked away. He didn’t even say a word; like he didn’t care about my question. He just seemed cold and distant; made me feel empty, depressed and lonely inside.

I couldn’t get Mexico out of my mind, so I drove back to the place I used to live with Poverty. I wanted to see if I could remember being happy then; like that family. It took me a full day of driving to get there and find the old house, but it was still there. Even the outhouse and the chicken coop were just as I remembered. The fence that held our goats had rotted away, mostly, but you could still make out where the posts had stood. I peeked in the windows of the house. A few had been broken out and all were dirty. I looked through the cracks in the walls. No one lived there anymore, and it still slunk to the right just like it used to. It didn’t look much different than when I lived there as a child. Even the porch, still intact, dipped toward the ground in exactly the same way. Most of the roof had fallen in and, for just a moment, I thought I heard Poverty calling me from the kitchen window. It was just an illusion but my mind began to race with memories and slipped back to 1959. I remembered again the cold nights my family huddled together under blankets and told stories trying to stay warm before falling asleep. I remembered waking up in my mother’s arms, feeling her warm breath on top of my head, my dad outside already feeding the goats and chickens before hauling their manure to a large pile in the back. As I stood there I almost thought I could smell breakfast cooking. Fried corn meal mush again. I even thought I saw my brother motioning for me to come and play through the hole in the wall.

Something brushed my back and I woke from my daydream. It was Rich. “Come on, we gotta go. This place is ugly.” he said, “Who’d want to call this place home? We can stop at the mall on the way back. I’ll buy you something. Make you feel better. You look depressed.”

Rich was right. I was depressed and a few tears had even begun to trickle down my cheeks. Not because of the ugly place I used to live but because, in some small way, I actually missed Poverty a little. Poverty had taught me a lot about love, family, survival and I never really thanked him for that. Poverty had kept our family together back then and I didn’t even know his face was so ugly. I just knew my family was everything to me and when Poverty lived with us he made family seem so important. He always made sure we needed each other more than we needed him. That gave us no choice but to love each other. If our family had not loved and cared for each other then we would have frozen, starved or possibly died. I thought for a moment how cruel that really was and realized how truly ugly Poverty is compared to Rich. But while Poverty was cruel and ugly, it was also true that Rich never really paid much attention to me or anything else. He just wanted to buy things and, unlike poverty, he never did anything to hold our family together. I looked at Rich’s face intently for a long moment. He did have a much better face than Poverty, but maybe that is just because Poverty never cared about his own face. He just made sure we looked good to each other. It left me with a lot to think about.

I knew Rich was right though. I could never stay here. I wanted to stay a little longer, remember just a little more though since it felt good to remember those days living with Poverty. I stayed for about another hour, walked in the woods where we used to play and then looked back towards the road. I realized, as I looked back I had known Rich far too long for this to ever truly feel like home again. I knew I probably really wouldn’t want it to be.

When I drove home I knew I would once again be among the things Rich bought me and be back among the luxuries he afforded. I knew I could still enjoy those things but here at the old place the faded memories warmed me on the inside. They were memories of a tight knit family that struggled together for survival. They were good memories, filled with love and I didn’t fully understand them that day. I was completely torn. I missed poverty yet I was drawn to the life with Rich. It’s true the things he bought me over the years never made me happy for long. They never once gave me warm memories like this.

Rich looked impatiently at his watch as he stood by the car, waiting to take me back home. His artificial tan, gold showy rings and great looking clothes looked totally out of place here. There was no doubt he had a lot of appeal, but now I felt more distant from him for some reason. I began to wonder if he was truly my friend. He barely looked my direction, while he continued looking impatiently at his watch, wanting to go.

I knew I had no choice but to go back with him. My life was now entangled in the Rich way of living. He was part of me now. I turned toward the old house one last time to see if Poverty was really standing out there somewhere. He wasn’t. I saw only glimpses of an ancient memory that brought another tear to my eye as I turned to leave. Rich looked appealing in his fancy clothes and shiny rings but in an odd way he also made everything around him look much uglier than it really was. Even me.

————————

I think often about that day I returned to my old home and the life I lived with Poverty. Rich and I have had quite a few discussions about that day and Poverty. I’ve even suggested they speak to one another; see if they could find some common ground. He is against it and I don’t think they ever will meet. I know within myself that I would never want to live with Poverty again; he is ugly and cruel; but there is also part of me that is tired of Rich and his self-centered ways. I admire both Poverty and Rich but, I fear, that is an odd admiration since they are so very different. I heard recently of a city not far away where there is a great prophet that resolved this same dilemma and could teach me many things. Someone told me his name was Simplicity. I’m headed there tomorrow to find out what he has to say. I’m hoping that maybe Simplicity might have the answers I seek.

pov·er·ty (povÆÃr t”), n.
1. the state or condition of having little or no money, goods, or means of support; condition of being poor; indigence.

rich (rich), adj., -er, -est,n. –adj.
1. having wealth or great possessions; abundantly supplied with resources, means, or funds; wealthy:

sim·plic·i·ty (sim plisÆi t”), n., pl. -ties.
1. the state, quality, or an instance of being simple.
2. freedom from complexity, intricacy, or division into parts.
3. absence of luxury, pretentiousness, ornament, etc.; plainness: a life of simplicity.
4. freedom from deceit or guile; sincerity; artlessness; naturalness: a simplicity of manner.

Copyright © 2007 by Scott Haas – All Rights Reserved.

Why do I write? Hmm….well, sometimes I write just to write. No, that’s incorrect. Actually I write all the time just to write. But, mostly I just write down what’s spilling out of my head and would fall lifeless to the pillow anyhow. I must confess… not everything I write is actually my own original work. Sometimes squirrels come at night and deposit story nuts in my brain. They come every now and then during the day too, but usually its just at night. And what are you going to do? Turn them away? Tell them to take a hike? Come on, that would be cruel. Have you seen how short their legs are? It would take them forever to take a hike!

So, a little about my family. Both my parents were only children. But then they grew up and, right smack in the middle of the fifties, had me in Tacoma Washington. Well, I should actually say I assume that’s what happened since I don’t actually remember it personally. There were two that came before me…brothers. No sisters but there were lots of cats, dogs and other critters that entered our lives and exited way too soon.

My first actual memory is that of a little place called Noti, Oregon, just outside Eugene, when I was about four. Noti was a tiny hamlet of less than a hundred people, but it had its own Post Office so it was still a real place according to the government. In Noti we lived among the goats, had a few chickens, very little else and sold some milk and eggs then went to church. When we moved away was just eight and it was to the city. We left Noti behind, and after that not much else happened that was really very important.

I go to Noti sometimes in my head still when the covers capture me. I drift off into the ether, the squirrels invade my brain and deposit their story nuts, then the next morning I just write it all down. Sometimes those squirrels can really be pesky critters and they leave way too many nuts. I end up dropping some of them and I am certain they come and take them back since when I look for them they’re just plain gone. I used to hunt for them, even looked inside the computer one day but…nothing; just gone.

Well, enough of all this. Good night Mrs. Rochester. Your first grade class was wonderful. I still don’t know why you gave the Scotch tape tin to that other boy. I’m still in therapy over that one.

Don’t you just love, commas.

There are things I wonder

as I lie awake at night,

Wishing for the stars,

living in my gypsum box.

 

Where, in fact, has the world gone,

when I see just whitened walls?

Am I still connected?

To this world, I mean.

 

Do my hands still till the soil

do my feet still squish the clay?

I see the stars and

sometimes even a  few planets.

 

The moon, it  bids me goodnight

most  every night and

the stars twinkle a calm hello.

But, who am I, really?

 

I came from my mother’s womb

but from where did she draw me?

From the earth,

or from the sky?

 

The ground I walk is merely cosmic dust,

my mother’s food transformed from this dust

So does that not mean I actually came from the sky?

Perhaps, even planets far away.

 

Am I not then, in truth, just an alien upon this earth,

Spawned from dust of distant galaxies?

Transported through space and time

By a solar wind or a cosmic ray.

 

These are the things I wonder

These are the things I want to know

These are the things that tease my mind

And these are the things I don’t know.

 

© Copyright, Scott Haas, 2006 All rights reserved.

So much trouble in this world goes down

It is hard to keep up

How do we know who is right

Or in the end what will be left

Does it help if I just stay in the center

And look for the right angle

Or should I cry out in the public square

Ask everyone to join in a circle

 

Sometimes I think I could be a great addition

Perhaps help prevent the great divide

Stop many of the problems that multiply

Keep people from flying off on a tangent

 

What if I were the only one that could keep things congruent

Would that mean I am the only one with the right formula?

If so, I certainly am not perfect to any degree.

What if people think I am just trying to get even

Or worse yet that I’m just a little odd.

Or on the other hand, think I am just after power.

 

No, I do believe I will just keep to my own equations

Keep my mouth shut, and watch the world go round.

I am still having fun with composing 99 word stories. It is not easy to create a story that is in the moment on the page but also conjures a past and future image in the mind. Most turn out not so great and end up in the trash but here is one I think came out pretty good. The biggest advantage with compiling these stories is that it forces one to unmarry themselves from their words and discard them whenever necessary. Sometimes that is dificult.

There is a scene in “A River Runs Through It” where the father has his small sons write every day, repeatedly praises them for their work but then hands it back saying simply “Shorter”. I have no one to do that for me so I am doing it myself right now as an exercise. Here’s my story.

________________________________________________________

TECHNICOLOR CLOWN

Technicolor droplets smattered the pavement.

“Why are you so sad Mr. Clown?” It was a small girl.

The clown, looking down, spoke through tears. “My son was in a terrible auto accident. They said he’ll never walk again.”

“Oh, is that all.” the little girl spoke cheerfully

Angered, the clown raised his head to scold this impertinent child. He saw she wore plates attached to her shoes. Rods rose to her tiny waist and a contagious smile filled her face.

The clown smiled back, “I have two tickets to the circus. Would you like to walk there with me?”

© Copyright 2006 by Scott Haas All rights reserved.

One of my new challenges is to create stories in exactly 99 words that span a distance of time, have some drama, but also find conclusion within 99 words. In honor of Thanksgiving I am posting this 99 word story. It is a story about what is truly important in life.

The streetcar accident mentioned is an actual event. The characters are fictional. The incident was the worst accident in the Chicago Transit Authority’s history and thirty-four people died. It appears operator error and excessive speed were to blame.

____________________________________________________

Acceptance and Thanksgiving

Joseph’s hands shook as he read the letter from Columbia University. It was a full scholarship. Discovered upon moving, it had fallen unread behind the desk May 25, forty-six years earlier. Joseph placed the letter tenderly by his brother Karl’s picture, dead of a stroke at age 73. Joseph trembled  because he realized that had he left Chicago to attend University he would not have been at State and 62nd to rescue his brother after the horrific streetcar, fuel truck accident and he would have died with the rest. Instead, he had forty-six happy years with his brother.

 

 

© Copyright 2006 by Scott Haas All rights reserved.

Sometimes I challenge myself, as a self-induced writing exercise, to come up with something completely random. In this case it was “unhappy endings” for books that will probably never be written. Here are a couple samples. Try a few yourself.

___________________________________

As the sun fell into the horizon Chris saw thrashing tails, pointed fins and incredibly big teeth. It was only then he realized he had taken his sales coach advice about swimming with the sharks without being eaten much too literally.

Dorothy turned to her left and saw the bus inches away. Curiously the only thought that ran through her head at this moment was “Why did I bother to eat organic?”

© Copyright 2006 All rights reserved.

My cat had kittens the other day

Born in the dark of my deepest closet

When I was least expecting them

 

I put an ad, in the local paper

“Purely un-bred kittens

Just thirty-five dollars each

To a good home and family only

They love attention, need lots of love.”

“Please call” it read

But no one did

 

So, I sat in front of Albertsons

Me on the pavement

The kittens in a cardboard box

A torn cardboard sign taped to the top

“Free to good home…please take a kitten home today

I have more kittens than I need.

Thank you.”

 

Most walked by, pretended not to look

Even though they did

Afraid of commitment

 

Some stopped to look at my kittens for a moment

Offered suggestions on how to get rid of them

Then went off to buy their mayonnaise

 

A few gave them a pet

Told me how big they would soon be

Then bought a newspaper from the machine and left

 

No one, it seemed, loved my kittens

Not even me

 

So, I took my kittens to the shelter for cats

They  gave me a brochure on how to prevent them

Fingers pointed to hundreds of kittens in the back

“We have kittens too, more than we need” they said

They did not want mine

 

So, I gathered my kittens in my arms

And just took them home again

 

Kittens are like troubles

They arrive unexpectedly, in secret

Showing up where the dark places are

They stare at you from that dark place, eyes closed

Not knowing they are really just trouble

 

Kittens ask only attention…want only love

They promise that someday

With a brush of the side

Or a squint of the eye

They will return the love to you again

 

I showed my kittens the love they deserved

Then kept them as my own

Soon I had no more kittens

Just a bunch of cats

That left me alone, most times

 

They sun themselves on my porch now

Eat food in the corner of my kitchen

And ever so often

At just the right moment

Will squint a little love back to me

 

 

© Copyright 2006 by Scott Haas All rights reserved

 

 

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