Jen Schneider

Game Day :: Even Wordle Goes to the Big Game
Passing __WORTH__ to __SHADY__. 
All plays clear. Also, clean.
Yard by yard. Call by call. Letter by letter. 
30 second replays. 60 second segues. 
Always seeking one step.yard.foot.play
closer. To the end zone. Everyone watches.
Everyone plays. Robo dogs
& Skechers. Even Wordle goes
to the Big Game. & Wins. 
In four quarters. Ready. Set. Blitz.

1 :: WORTH
The game’s only worth it when you enjoy it
and enjoy it, we do. From red zones
to end zones. On stages of man and nature. 
The party’s in the west and it’s wild. Rams 
charge Bengals. Offense duos defense. 
Jones versus Jones. All plays on (words). 
Jonas taunts drivers. Pickups on all sides. 
Stars sing. Peacocks strut. Half time 
beats bounce. Let’s go. Pepsi all around.
(H) - Letter ON. Spot OFF. 

2 :: SHAVE
Time on clocks. Plays on fields. Yards and cards. 
Time on dials. Plays on dollars. Bars and Mars.
Capricious and conspicuous. Conspiracies
everywhere. Caesar always watching. 
Click up. First downs. Fast & furious tempers. 
Foam on faces. Sandy beach spotlights. 
All bring their best. No time to rest. 
Best boxers. Fancy foxes.
Legs on tables. Crypto on the moon.
QR codes on black screens. Hurry. 
Catch it if you can.  
(S) (H) (A) 

3 :: SHARE
Splash water on faces. 
Shine beams on turf. Spotlights
on fans. Balls & ideas. From Larry replays 
to Thursday night lights.  From crypto to Cheetos. 
Chips on shoulders. We all like it hot. 
Prime time. Orders in an hour. Quarters on the move. 
Video on demand. Streams on overload. Timers always ticking.
Breathe. Hydrate. Regulate. 
Make space. Grab Lays. Crack open bags.
(S) (H) (A)

4 :: SHADY
Uninformed guys draw penalties.
Uniformed guys (& robo dogs) make plays. 
Calls on high alert. Spandex running wild. Law & Order
on replay. Apple on fire. Burrow on alert.
Trainers always ready. Pixelated portraits. 
Beauty on full display. Big stages. Big mics.
Fortune seekers stuck on Pringles. Classic
Cola stuck on me. Stunts & stares. Shades at sunset. 
Green lights. Go. Questions. Runs. Clean call sheets. 
No minds read. Nothing shady. 
It’s game day. And it’s fantastic.

Game Day on the big screen. 
Always WORTH it. Unwrapped.
Come ready. SHAVE first.
Behave. SHARE widely. 
Avoid SHADY plays. 
Break no laws.  Quench all thirsts.
Bow to the Bengals. Congrats to the Rams.
Countdown to next season. 

               Play Ball / Super Bowl LVI, Quarter by Quarter

The Blues :: On Cookies and Monster Regrets

Cookie Monster was happily munching as the Blues streamed on the transistor radio. The blue monster screamed as the computer blinked a warning. Delete all cookies. And out of the blue, I was suddenly five-year old me caught with my hand in the cookie jar in a small kitchen (wall-papered of blue posies) at the back of a small row home. Chips would fall where they may, but the chocolate chips were never worth the hard slaps. Or the black and blues. Sesame Street off limits for seven days. There’s many ways to delete a cookie. And a smile.

Do Not Enter

the sign, white block letters on a cherry red circle, stood erect. a spot of color on an otherwise beige background. mountains the color of palms. gravel the color of hair. everything both premature & overgrown. warnings — both regular and regulatory - proliferated. i paused to retie my converse and take a swig from my hello kitty water bottle. i should have wondered about prairie cats and other hungry felines. instead, i gained first-hand understanding of life on the other side. all while watching an officer — dressed in camouflage - consume my canteen’s remaining water, then purr.

good thing we keep receipts

the board meets. takes minutes. to deal with a problem. another one. it’s what the board does. orders of business. to right wrongs. restore order to a universe. where uni-views & man-made messes reign. not unlike the vacuum. or the mop. clean.curate.pontificate.replicate.

i think of the exterminator. the one who used to come around each quarter. to the house. to replace traps. for.of.on rodents. he looked like every man. dressed in faded denim. tan, sometimes navy, button downs. stuff.fabric.fibers of regular stores. & regular people. he’d work & whistle. tunes of times past. then issue a bill on a small slip of three-by-five paper.

good thing we keep receipts

he used to call. regularly. all contacts.clients.connections on auto-dial. to remind us we were due. for a regular visit. to remain up to date. he’d share stories as he walked. as his pesticide poison dripped into small baseboard corners. syllables & sentiments flowed. of atrocities. he’d whistle as he worked. happy tunes. it’s a wonderful world. upbeat notes. you’re happy & you know it. don’t worry, be happy. all while his poison seeped.

the combination both peculiar & ordinary. i wondered about the pairing. always considered the role an odd choice of professions. one visit, i asked why. because it’s that easy, he said. as his left loafer stomped then smushed a small black ant. then scribbled on my bill — don’t forget.

for him the job was personal. door to door. day to day. note to note. tune to tune. to whistle while he worked. to show just how easy it is to take care of the mice. he was determined. to show me/us/everyone just how easy it is. to do the job. door to door. greet. grin. grind. do the work. do not forget. keep receipts. only he’s older. & the pandemic, well, it hit older folks especially hard. time, too. who’s going to remind us now. of just how easy it is. the potions. the poisons. that slip into the smallest pockets of air. along baseboards. in basements. in board meetings. as elders age. as phone calls stop. as visits cease.

good thing we keep receipts

on each tiny three-by-five slip of paper, he’d scribble his fee, then stamp words of wisdom. in a curious rotation. the language both random & regular. simple strings of text combined in irregular patterns. with regular meaning. to not forget.
Truths linger in small pockets
Not all spills require mops
Secure scattered stories
Collect past pairings
Sip bitter syrups with care
Bookmark messes
Bake words
Collect books
Do not forget
Keep receipts
just this week, in tennessee, a school board banned more words. of a family of mice. good thing we keep receipts. of their work. their words. & the mice. only it's no longer a three-by-five slip of paper. it’s digital. & documented. despite the work of the board. generations of Maus live on & in spaces small & large. on bookcases. on phones. in cells. in/of/on bookmarks. & receipts. & three-by-five slips of paper. always in & of a fight. to survive. to thrive. to nest. to never rest.

good thing we keep receipts

it’s been a while. the exterminator no longer calls. & no longer comes by the house. to remind. to not forget. even so, he’s always of mind. i’ve kept his receipts. in a small shoe box in a small corner of a small basement. next to the baseboards. where he’d spray his liquid poison. & whistle as he worked.

& now. boards continue to spew nonsense. & chew peanuts. small, salted half-moon crescents. in.of.from frosted glass jars. eyes flutter as mustaches flex. but as the boards take minutes. issue orders. swat at gnats. stomp on flies. form lines. remove lice. without abandon. we read. on phones. in cars. at board meetings. beyond the window & its traces of grays, grime, & generations, another half-moon crescent stirs. our cell phones assure us maus is not only alive. but well. on amazon’s best seller list. at the same time the board spews & chews, all while banning more truths. the moon shines. & smiles. in its crescent form. sales of the mice’s story rise. above. the darkness. the amazon flows. then roars. & continues to stomp.

good thing we keep receipts

with love from aldi :: cardboard crates & weeknight dates

the doors to the big box store open when pressed
pocket lights shine. metal shopping carts consume refundable quarters
aisles stocked & stacked of off-brand goods, fully dressed
staff in homogenized uniforms serve as sorters

spontaneous delights. generic peach yogurt, cheesecake, & honey dates
oats & recyclable totes. unexpected change for bouquets. red roses, daisies, peonies 
low prices promote a big spender posture. rock bottom, bargain-basement rates
the baby also scores an unexpected splurge. diapers, wipes, & plastic ponies

always on the hunt for a Belgium chocolate spree, he stops there two days a week. 
fresh grapes, allergy-friendly crepes. he leaves with a three-inch deep cardboard tray 
everything bagels. frozen coconut cream puffs. organic leeks. a culinary quest not for the meek
arms weighted of items – fresh, frozen, & fancied - he hopes will make my day

deeply discounted fares & continuously rotating wares 
love on display, both priceless & ubiquitous fares

Jen Schneider is an educator who lives, writes, and works in small spaces throughout Pennsylvania. She is a Best of the Net nominee, with stories, poems, and essays published in a wide variety of literary and scholarly journals. She is the author of A Collection of Recollections, Invisible Ink, On Daily Puzzles: (Un)locking Invisibility and On Crossroads and Fill in the Blank Puzzles (Moonstone Press), and Blindfolds, Bruises, and Breakups.
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