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Logan’s Do-Over (by Billy Coffey)

Halloween night is usually a busy one at my house. From the time the porch light goes on until the time the candy runs out, there will be an average of 160 ghosts, witches, Hannah Montanas, and ninjas walking up the driveway. Not kidding. Kids take Halloween seriously around here.

The rush is generally concentrated between the time we get home from our own trick-or-treating until around 8:30, at which time either all the children’s bags are full or their parents are out of patience. There are always a few stragglers of course, mostly the teenagers who are too old to want to be seen begging for free candy but too young to pass it up.

But even the stragglers are done by 9:30. I’ve never had a trick-or-treater knock on my door past that time. Until Logan, anyway. He knocked on my door twenty hours later.

Wife and kids were gone, which had left me in the enviable position of having both the television and the house to myself. I had just settled in to a riveting football game when I heard footsteps on the porch, followed by a soft knock.

“Trick or treat!”

Standing at the door was a pint-sized T-Rex. Styrofoam teeth jutted out from his head, and a long tail stretched all the way to the steps. Very impressive.

“Trick or treat!” the boy said again. He held out an orange plastic bag and shook it twice for effect.

“It’s not Halloween,” I said.

“I know.”

“Halloween was yesterday.”

“I know.”

This, I decided, was a new low. Not only did I probably give this kid a handful of candy last night, now he was back for more.

“Didn’t you get enough last night?” I asked him.

“Nuh-uh,” he said.

“Little greedy, ain’t ya?”

He wrinkled his brow at that, as if he were trying to decide if that was a compliment.

“What’s your name?” I asked him.


“Well Logan, I think you probably have enough candy at your house, don’t you?”

“No. I don’t have any.”

“You don’t have any candy?”

“Nuh-uh.” He shook his bag again—please?

“You didn’t go trick-or-treating last night?” I asked.

“No,” Logan said. “I got dressed and went to Granny’s, and then I got sick. I yarked in my bag.”

It was my turn to wrinkle my brow, but he answered my question before it was asked by stating, “No, not this bag.”

“Oh,” I said. “Good.”

“Mommy says I can have a do-over. She says we don’t get much do-overs, but I think they’re the best.”

I glanced out toward the driveway. Mommy stood at the end and rested an elbow on our mailbox. She gave me a wave and a what-was-I-supposed-to-do? shrug.

“Most everybody’s out of candy,” Logan said, “so they gave me cooler stuff.”

He opened his bag for proof—two candy bars, a pencil, some glue, and a five dollar bill.

“Not bad,” I said. “Okay, hang on and I’ll see what I can find.”

The only candy left was the bounty my kids had secured the previous night. While it was entirely within my bounds to confiscate a few pieces here and there for my own use, I didn’t really feel right giving Logan any. In the end I came up with a small spiral notebook, two AA batteries (every boy needs batteries for something), a baseball card, and an arrowhead I had found near the creek.

“There ya go,” I said, emptying it all into his bag.

Sweet! Thanks.”

“No problem. Happy Halloween.”

Logan the tiny T-Rex bounded back down the driveway to his mother. We exchanged a wave and another shrug, and I stood and watched as he knocked on the door of the house across the road.

Do-overs. Logan was right, they’re the best. A way to erase all the bad and make some good in the process. His mom, however, was wrong. Do-overs are more common than she thought.

Every day is a do-over, I think. A chance to right the wrongs of the day before, to be better and love more and reach higher than the day before. Few things in life have brought me more comfort than that fact.

That no matter how dark my night may be, daybreak will come.


To read more from Billy Coffey, visit him at at his new website and follow him on the twitter at @billycoffey.

Loving thy neighbor (by Billy Coffey)

(This is a repost from What I Learned Today, April, 7, 2009)

My friend Pete loves everybody. It’s a matter of pride to him, I think. He’ll tell you that he loves you the first time you meet him. Doesn’t matter who are or what you look like, either. “I’ve never met anybody I didn’t love,” he’ll say, “’Cause I love Jesus and Jesus loves me. So I gotta love you, too.” Then he’ll grab you in his gargantuan arms and lift you off the ground, shaking your bones like a pair of dice.

That’s Pete.

Pete is also as traditional as they come. Church every Sunday and Wednesday, and not a morning goes by without scripture and prayer. The combination of the two has infused in him and his family a bedrock of faith that for years refused to be shaken by anything life could throw at him.

Until the other day. Until my phone rang and he said in his breathless, forty-four-year-old voice, “You gotta get over here. Now.”

Pete was on his front porch when I got there, rocking back and forth in a lawn chair that was not made for rocking, looking thoroughly displeased. He offered me our usual snack—a Coke and a bag of peanuts. I proceeded to dump the latter into the former and take a sip of the salty sweetness.

“What’s up?” I asked him.

“Don’t believe it,” he said. “Don’t believe it, don’t believe it, dontbelieveit.”

“Don’t believe what?” I asked. Another sip.

“Johnson house sold there, across the street,” he said, pointing.

I turned around and followed his finger. Sure enough, the FOR SALE sign on the house across from his had been topped with another that said SOLD. The Johnsons had moved three weeks ago, and everyone figured that the house would be empty for a long while given the economy.

“Great,” I said, facing him again. “You have new neighbors. What’s the problem?”

“Dontbelieveit dontbelieveit dontbelieveit.”

“Pete, you swallow something you weren’t supposed to?” I asked. “You been in the moonshine?”

“Lookie!” he almost shouted, pointing again. “Lookie there and see what the cat done dragged in. Dontbelieveit!”

I turned again. Standing on the front porch of the Johnson house were Pete’s new neighbors. Older lady, slightly younger gal. They were attempting to arrange an assortment of rocking chairs and tables just so and not quite getting it. An aggravating situation for some, though they seemed in bright enough spirits.

“Pete, I don’t—”


The older woman, now utterly confused by the configurations of her new porch, simply gave one of the rockers a hard shove into the younger lady. The act of frustration was met with laughter from both, who then proceeded to fall into one another’s arms and share a very long, very deep…kiss.

“Dontbelieveit,” I said.

Pete buried his head in his hands. “Lawd,” he said. I wasn’t sure if he was praying or merely dumbfounded. “Lawd Jesus God help me.”


“Lawd, why’d You do this to me?” he moaned. “Thissa sort of thing that happens out in Hellywood, Lawd. Not ’cross the street.”

I shook my head in amazement, and the sheer irony of it all made me laugh. Pete, God-and-mama-and-apple-pie Pete, I-love-everybody Pete, had gotten a gay couple for neighbors.

“Huh,” I said. “Ain’t that something.”

“Somethin’?” he retorted, raising his head to look at me. “Don’t you know this ain’t good? Ain’t you read your Bible, boy?”

“Yep,” I said.

“Well, there then,” he answered, as if that explained things.

“You a little homophobic, Pete?” I asked, with a sip of my Coke and a smile.

“Homophobic?” he said. “Homophobic? Boy, I gotta eat a corndog with a knife and fork.”

I snorted out my drink and bent over, wiping it from my mouth and blue jeans.

Pete stared at me, unsure of what had just transpired that would cause me to make such a mess of myself. “What am I gonna do?” he asked. “What. Am. I. Gonna. Do?”

I thought about that. What was Pete going to do? Fume and pout, I supposed. For a little while, anyway. But then Jesus would come calling. The Jesus Pete loved and Who loved him more, Who said that hate was never really any good for anything other than eating up your own insides. He would come calling and tell Peter that it’s easy to love those who are like you, that everyone does that. But that love Jesus wanted from Peter was the hard love, the kind that’s not easy.

It’s okay to not like what they do, Jesus would say, because He didn’t like it either. But Jesus also loved those two women, and He wanted Pete to do the same. Because Pete had faith, and because that faith just might be the closest thing to Jesus those two women ever see.

“Just wait,” I told him. “It’ll come to you.”

We stared across the street. The two women resumed their rocking chair arranging, then stared at us.

They waved.

We waved back.


To read more from Billy Coffey, visit him at at his new website and follow him on the twitter at @billycoffey.


And be sure to stop by Nick the Geek’s blog and wish him a Very Geeky Birthday and check out my little tribute to him over at
The Fellowship of the Traveling Smartypants.

Coffee Shop Research (by Billy Coffey)

I am of the opinion that people have a right to their own privacy, whether in deed or in word. “Mind your own business” is what my mother always told me, often with a wagging finger in my face for effect. The lesson was taught both early and often— Jesus doesn’t like eavesdropping.

Which is why I don’t eavesdrop, I research. Jesus doesn’t mind research.

I spent the better part of a recent morning in a coffee shop researching Tori, Laura, and Heather, the three twenty-something women at the next table. Very bright, very opinionated, and very vocal. In the twenty minutes I listened to them, they touched upon everything from politics to the environment to who’s doing what to whom on their favorite television show.

I was about to turn my attention to the newspaper in front of me when Laura mentioned the fact that the most recent episode wasn’t very realistic. It seemed as though one of the main characters was in a delicate position involving an unwanted pregnancy.

“Seriously,” she said, “why doesn’t she just have an abortion? No one would blame her.”

Heather took a sip of her coffee and nodded, then flicked a crumb onto the floor. “I gotta say I would,” she answered. “I really don’t see another way out for her.”

Tori, I noticed, remained silent through the recap. Her shoulders had closed in and her hands were folded around her coffee cup, as if she were trying to shrink herself enough to be forgotten.

Unfortunately and as is often the case, trying to go unnoticed was exactly what made her stand out.

“What do you think, Tori?” Laura asked.

Tori’s grip tightened around the sleeve on her cup, and she ran her other hand up and down the leg of her jeans to smooth away a wrinkle that wasn’t there.

It was pretty obvious what her opinion of the situation was; agreement with her friends wouldn’t have given her cause to be so anxious. No, I decided that Tori held the opposite view. The question was whether she would play along or be honest.

She chose honest.

“I’d keep it,” she said. “I’d find a way.”

“Seriously?” asked Heather. “You would seriously keep that baby?”


Laura let out a snort. “Please tell me you’re joking,” she said.

“I’d keep it,” said Tori.

The three sat in silence, unsure how to proceed. Changing the subject would be good. Ignoring the comment would be better. Heather glanced at her watch, hoping she would remember somewhere else she had to be.

But then Tori found her courage.

“I don’t think she should kill that baby.”


“She’s not killing anything, Tori,” said Laura. “There’s nothing there to kill.”

Heather nodded. “She’s just a few weeks pregnant, Tor,” she said.

Tori shrugged an I-don’t-care. “I don’t think it’s right.”

Laura shook her head. “You know Tor, if there’s anyone at this table who should be pro-choice, it’s you.”

“You got that right,” echoed Heather.

I wasn’t sure what was meant by that. Evidently Tori shared my sentiment.

“Why would you say that?” she asked them.

Heather and Laura exchanged an uncomfortable look between them, as if what they had to say was both obvious and awkward.

“Hello?” asked Tori.

“You’re black,” Laura said.

My eyes widened. How could a conversation about a television show turn into a discussion about abortion and race?

“So?” Tori asked.

“If there’s anyone who should appreciate freedom, it’s you,” said Heather. “Your ancestors were robbed of their rights, but you have them all. I think you’d be protective of them.”

“But it’s a baby,” Tori said. “You can’t kill a baby.”

“It’s not a baby,” stated Laura. “It’s not even considered a person.”
Tori took a long sip of coffee and stared at her friends. “Maybe that’s why I don’t think she should have an abortion,” she said. “Maybe that’s why I think it’s wrong.”

“I don’t get it,” Heather said. “What’s that have to do with anything?”

“You say if anyone should be pro-choice, it’s me? I don’t think so. I think if anyone should be pro-life, it’s me. Someone has to say that baby is a person. Someone has to stand up for him, just like someone stood up for my ancestors.”

“What are you saying, Tori?” asked Laura.

“I’m saying that you can’t sit there and say that baby isn’t a person, because two hundred years ago people would say I wasn’t a person, either.”


To read more from Billy Coffey, visit him at at his new website and follow him on the twitter at @billycoffey.

We interrupt this Twitter update for a special annoucement

A VERY brief twitter update this week. Sorry, I’m pretty stoked about some other news, which I will get to in a minute. For now, here’s the shortest twitter update ever:

@peterpollock: The slave driver has put me to work again!…. just sayin’

@katdish: @PeterPollock Mush! Mush!


@katdish: @billycoffey Thanks. Staying busy?

@billycoffey: @katdish Sigh…yes. And cold and wet.

@katdish: @billycoffey Oh, don’t fret. I have a feeling your week will end on a high note.

@BridgetChumbly: @katdish All this ‘code’ talk between you and @billycoffey is driving me crazy! Will we get to hear this news on Friday, or no???

@billycoffey: @BridgetChumbly Hmmm….

@katdish: @BridgetChumbley Stay tuned….


@katdish: RT @PeterPollock: I’m scared this morning. I was woken up by orders given through twitter DM’s… I’m just obeying, it’s safest //Mwha ha ha


So what’s the big news? Well, hang on…I tell you in just a minute. But first…

Billy has done some really great interviews. I’ve enjoyed each and every one of them. But no one does an interview quite like my pal Matt at the Church of No People. Here’s a brief excerpt from Billy Coffey’s latest interview with Matt:

Your writing has a signature style. It’s been said by readers such as myself that it can be calming like a butterfly, fierce and poignant like a tiger, or ironic like a three-legged dog. What do you say?

I would say my style resembles a three-legged dog who gets so distracted by chasing a butterfly that he doesn’t see the tiger that comes along and eats him.

Now as a test of writing dexterity, I’m thinking of three random things: a hula-hoop, a pudding cup, and that three-legged dog from the previous question. Can you write an inspiring story using all three?

To read how Billy answers this and other questions, hop on over to Matt’s blog,
The Church of No People. I’ll wait right here….

Are you back so soon? Did you go read the interview? Good, huh?

Okay. Here’s the big news: I’m not going to tell you. You have to go HERE. to read about it. Okay…bye!

The Manly Man(ifesto) by Billy Coffey

I usually don’t introduce Billy Coffey’s posts here, because let’s face it — no one comes here on Monday to read what I have to say. But hey — this is my blog after all, and I couldn’t be prouder to present Billy’s first ranting post. Not incessantly ranting, but still…


My daughter is perched on my lap in front of the television. Her blond hair pokes me in the eyes and tickles my lips, but she’s almost asleep and I dare not move. Besides, I like her here. Every little girl belongs on her father’s lap.

The show we’ve been watching goes to a commercial, where I see three boys prancing around a stage surrounded by thousands of screaming prepubescent girls. The noise is enough to stir the little blondie on my knee.

“Yuck,” she says.

“What’s yuck?”


“I thought all girls loved them,” I say.

“I don’t,” she answers. “I love you.”

She rests her head back onto my shoulder and I smile. There are a lot of things I’m still not doing right when it comes to raising a daughter to be a woman, but I’m doing okay with this one.

From what I understand, the three boys on our TV are the types of males women seem attracted to nowadays. The guys who know more about hand cream than their mothers. The ones who exfoliate, wear pink shirts, and like to talk about their feelings.

This is what most women call men nowadays. My father has another word for them—pansies.

The Oprahfication of our society is such that we’ve been told the male of old is outdated and barbaric. That we’re mean and nasty and dirty. There’s no place for Neanderthals in the modern age. We must evolve into kinder, more nurturing people.

Somehow along the way kindness was remade into softness and “nurture” was turned into “neuter.”

I still blame men for this. Yes, my own kind is at fault here. More than anyone, guys are to blame for allowing themselves to buckle under the whims of convention.

I’ve heard faint grumblings lately that men are making a comeback. Manly men. And for that I am exceedingly grateful. If there was ever a time when the world needed more real men, it’s now.

The problem is we’ve gone so long since the manly man was common that no one knows how to spot the real ones from the fakes. Wearing flannel shirts, lifting weights, and cussing a lot doesn’t make you a manly man. There’s a little more to it.

So for the uninitiated and the confused, I offer this little primer on what it means to be a manly man.

A manly man does not draw attention to himself. He blends in rather than stands out, does much more than he says, and his eyes will say much more than his words ever could.

He knows the realities of this world, that despair and conflict are the norm rather than the exception. But even as he sees the way things are, he will work toward what should be.

A manly man knows the unimportant moments are just as meaningful as the important ones. No matter how alone he is, Someone is always watching.

He is eager to open his hand to help the helpless, and willing to close it to defend the defenseless.

A manly man is at ease regardless of his surroundings. He is a man of the world and yet untouched by it.

A manly man is by nature kind and compassionate, but those traits have their limits. He is not a doormat and will refuse to be stepped on.

He knows it is better to die with courage than to live without a spine.

A manly man knows that there is no equality of the sexes. Women are a step above men and should always be treated as such. To make a woman a man’s equal is to make her less than she is.

A manly man knows that this world is not his home and keeps his end in mind. He is ready to die, whether it be on a battlefield ten thousand miles away or a bed in the next room. And he knows that it isn’t the manner of death that defines him, but how that death is faced.

And maybe most of all, a manly man knows he will not always act like one. He knows that he is fallible and fallen, beaten and scarred. His mistakes and faults are many, and yet he owns them. He sees the darkness in his heart and yet chooses daily to stand in the light.

That is a manly man. Someone worthy of one day taking the hand of the blondie snoozing on my knee. I hope she finds him. And I hope that once she does she hangs on to him tight.

Because there are far too many kittens out there and far too few lions.


To read more from Billy Coffey, visit him at What I Learned Today and follow him on the twitter at @billycoffey.

Classes in Life (by Billy Coffey)

Classes have begun in earnest at the college where I work. The serenity that was summer is now long forgotten, replaced by the franticness of fall. Hundreds of fresh and not-so-fresh faces are about, crowding classrooms and sidewalks in a symphony of chaos. Some of these faces are cool and collected, veterans of higher education. Others have the look of a lost child in a busy shopping mall—freshmen.

College is getting to be a more and more important part of life. Whereas folks my age could make a decent living with nothing more than a high school diploma, that’s not the case now. The world is changing. It’s bigger and more complex then when I was a teenager, and it’s easy to get turned around and never find your way.

Which is why all of these students are here—to find their way.

And I can think of fewer places better suited for such an endeavor. The college here offers dozens of majors and minors and three graduate programs. The professors are brilliant and products of some of the finest universities in the world. The administration is dedicated and professional. Both work together to ensure that each student receives the necessary knowledge in his or her declared discipline to find success in the world.

Last week I spoke with Emily, a young lady who had done just that—found success. It wasn’t long ago when she walked across the lawn just down from where I’m sitting now, fetched her diploma from the President of the college, and said hello to the real world. It was an easy introduction. She’d already fielded several job offers and one marriage proposal.

Life was good. No, better than good. Easy.

Now, two years later, Emily knows better. Her job is steady, but also stressful and demanding. And the marriage proposal she accepted was rescinded one year and one child later, leaving her a single mom.

“Don’t get me wrong,” she said. “Life is still good. It’s just not that easy.”

I understood. College can’t get you ready for everything.

Wouldn’t it be nice if it could, though? If college could not only give you theories and laws, but training for life’s hiccups as well? Yes. Now then we’d have something.

I’m not privy to decisions concerning curriculum and how much of what must be taught. I’m simply an underling, paid not to form policy but to make sure the day-to-day runs smoothly. I have no fancy initials under my name, no suit and tie, and the only piece of paper framed on my wall is a movie poster from Tombstone.

But what I lack in formal education I more than make up for in experience, which just so happens to be a fine instructor as well. And while the students I see throughout the day are getting much in the way of preparation for the workplace, I think improvements could be made in the way of preparation for life.

Classes like Applied Mathematics, General Physics II, and Mass Media Law and Ethics are fine in themselves. They do seem to be pretty specific, though. How about some classes that offer both a broader appeal and a more practical application?

Maybe something like Bearing Hardship 101, for instance. Because sooner or later every student here will have to do that.

Developing Patience would be another good one. Also a class I would gladly pay to attend.

Holding Onto Hope should be a requirement for all graduating seniors, if only because hope seems to be so easily snatched away nowadays.

Cleaning Child Vomit 350? A must for the future parent. Being Thankful 400 would be just what people need to keep a little perspective. And let’s not forget Living Well and Dying Better 750.

Like all the other classes offered here, there would be lectures and papers and finals. But I’m thinking the class attendance would be greater. And I’m thinking the grades would matter more, too.

Of course, it’s doubtful any of this would ever happen. On most college campuses knowledge will always trump experience. But maybe that’s just as well. Classes like those probably wouldn’t work anyway. Most of what happens in life you just can’t be prepared for, no matter how much studying you do. Just ask Emily, who now knows that the world might indeed be a classroom, but it’s the sort of classroom where often the tests come first and the lessons come later.


To read more from Billy Coffey, visit him at What I Learned Today and follow him on the twitter at @billycoffey.

In Praise of Useless Information (by Billy Coffey)

It’s somewhat alarming to think about how many things I forget during the course of a normal day. The exact number eludes me; I forget how many things I’ve forgotten.

There are little things like forgetting where I’ve put my keys and wallet, and also big things like where I’ve put my children. I’ve forgotten appointments, to eat, to set my alarm, and, I noticed today, the fact that the oil needs to be changed in my truck.

The reasons for this may be many or one, depending upon whom I ask. My wife says it’s because I’m too tired, my friends say I’m too busy. Standard excuses for everyone with a short attention span. My mother, however, offered her own reason in her typically loving way:

“Your head’s too full of useless stuff,” she said. “There’s no room for things that matter.”

I thought about that and had to agree that what she said was at least partly right. I wasn’t sure if it were possible to have so much in my head that nothing else could get in, but I did have a lot of seemingly useless stuff stuck in there.

Stuff like the fact that a dragonfly can eat its own weight in thirty minutes. Or that Hollywood was founded by a man who wanted to build a community based on his conservative religious principles. Couvade is a custom in which a father simulates the symptoms of childbirth. Einstein went his entire life without ever wearing a pair of socks. I could go on.

Where I’ve managed to scrape up such tidbits of uselessness is beyond me. So is the manner by which I can remember that John Milton went blind because he read too late at night but not the name of someone I see at work every day.

The fact that I may simply be absent-minded occurred to me. It’s a distinct possibility. I come from a long line of absent-minded people. But that seems like a poor excuse in itself, and I keep thinking about what my mother said to me.

There’s little doubt that we all fill our lives with things that don’t matter, thereby sacrificing some of the things that do. Worry robs our faith, doubt our hope, and discord our love. But is that true for knowledge? Can we know too much for our own good?

Some people think so. I have friends who believe that faith is all they need, that thinking has done nothing but bring the world a whole lot of trouble. Communism, moral relativism, and Deal Or No Deal wouldn’t exist if someone hadn’t thought them up and ruined all of our lives. Sometimes I think that’s true, especially with Deal Or No Deal.

Faith is pretty much the most important thing a person can have. I also think having as much knowledge as possible easily breaks the top three. Because despite what everyone says, ignorance is not bliss. It’s more like a prison cell with walls of our own making.

Of all the inborn traits God sees fit to give us, few are exercised less than our curiosity. Spending some time with the nearest child will convince you that we’re all born with a probing mind. But that somehow gets lost as we get older. We all are tempted to reach a point where we just don’t care to know anything else. We already know enough about the world to realize it’s all spiraling downward. Why pile it on?

I get that, I really do. There are plenty of things I would rather not know, things that would keep my life chugging along rather nicely if they weren’t stuck on one giant playback loop in my brain.

But then there’s this to consider—our world really is a wonderful place. Flawed, yes. And a bit ugly in some places. But it’s also amazing and inspiring and so utterly almost-perfect.

The truth? I want to know everything. Even the stupid stuff. After all these years, I’m still curious. I still want to know. Because I’ve found that the more I can know about God’s world and the people who inhabit it, the more I can know about God and me. If that keeps me from checking my mail every once in a while or not realizing the truck’s almost out of gas, then so be it.

I think we would all be a little better off if we cracked a book every once in a while. There’s too much ignorance in this world. Life, like music, must contain several parts equally. There must be melody and beat. And there must be heart and head. That’s how we dance through our days. And God is a musician at heart.

Just ask the common housefly. Whose wings, by the way, hum in the key of F.

To read more from Billy Coffey, visit him at What I Learned Today and follow him on the twitter at @billycoffey.

Things that scare the heck outta me (by Billy Coffey)

It’s a little ironic that though I tend to be a bit picture kind of guy, it’s hours and days I’m more interested in than months and years. What’s happening down the road doesn’t really concern me. What’s happening now does. This is why I tend to pay much more attention to my watch than my calendar.

This is also why it’s a good thing God made department stores. Otherwise, I would not know what holiday is upon us.

The department stores here say that Halloween will be soon. There are costumes and candy and ghouls and, even, greeting cards. You know you’ve arrived as a holiday when you get your own greeting cards. Halloween is getting big.

And I think it should be big, if for no other reason than it focuses upon one of the great issues of our lives.


In the interest of writing-frees-the-soul, I can confess that I normally do not talk about my fears. I’ll even go so far as to say that I go to certain lengths to maintain the lie that I do not have any. I do have fears. Many, in fact. And I don’t care who you are, how tough you happen to be, or how much faith you have, you’re scared of something, too.

However. The thing about fear is that it’s often a very big shadow of a very little thing. Dragging it out into the light and seeing it for what it is can be a liberating experience, or so I’ve heard. So it’s along those lines that I will blaze the trail for anyone else who might read this and admit those things that send a shiver up my spine and force me to sleep with the light on.


Ghosts? Ghosts don’t bother me. And I laugh at monsters. Vampires run from ME. But zombies freak me out. I think it’s the slow but steady movement. Zombies are patient, and I don’t understand patience. Honestly, the whole taste for human flesh thing doesn’t really bother me as much as the ratty clothes, the pale skin, and that “AAAHHHH” sound they make. Zombies are the worst creatures in the world. I don’t care who you are, if you turn into a zombie and come at me, I’ma killin’ you.


The fear of clowns is shared by so many people that it actually has a clinical name—coulrophobia. Stephen King wrote about Pennywise the Clown in It. John Wayne Gacy, one of the worst serial killers in history, dressed as Pogo the Clown for children’s birthday parties. And who can forget Crazy Joe Davola on Seinfeld? He dressed as a clown, too. And he was crazy.

Ventriloquist Dummies

When I was a kid I dreamed that I got a ventriloquist dummy for Christmas, but instead of using it, it put me on it’s knee, shoved a wooden hand up my back, and took me on tour around the country. He kept me in a small wooden steamer trunk and all he’d give me to survive on was Nilla Wafers. I’ll never forget that dream. And to this day I can’t eat Nilla Wafers. Nuff said.


Along those lines, dolls freak me out, too. I was watching Destination Truth the other night and they visited a place in Mexico called Isla de Las Munecas. Island of the Dolls. Legend states that the spirit of a drowned girl haunts the island and the dolls are there to appease her. Evidently that’s not working, though. Because now the dolls are haunted, too. Wanna see a picture of the lovely surroundings? (photo by esparta courtesy of Flickr)


Ice Cream Trucks

Those of you who have never seen the movie Maximum Overdrive may not truly appreciate how utterly mortifying ice cream trucks are. As much as I believe Stephen King to be a genius, he’s ruined more than one seemingly innocent thing for me. This is one. There’s an ice cream truck that drives around our neighborhood in the summer (blaring Christmas music, by the way), and every time I see it I make a hasty yet dignified retreat back into the house. This, by the way, is not that ice cream truck. I get too shaky to take a picture of it, so I borrowed this shot from the movie off the internet.

Yes, I know this one may be a little stupid. No, I don’t care. Ice cream trucks are evil. You’re just gonna have to trust me on that.

So there you go. All my fears laid out for your reflection and mockery. I figure I’m good so long as I never run into a zombie clown whose ventriloquist dummy is driving an ice cream truck sporting a doll as a hood ornament. Chances are that won’t happen.

But I figure most fears are like that, anyway.

To read more from Billy Coffey or to hyperlink pictures of zombies, clowns, ventriloquist dummies, dolls and/or ice cream trucks, visit him at What I Learned Today and follow him on the twitter at @billycoffey.

Monsters (by Billy Coffey)

Our home of four has recently become a home of five—father, mother, daughter, son, and monster.

The former four seem to have the run of the house, able to roam and ramble both upstairs and down, inside and out, and in all hours of the day. The monster, however, seems strangely confined to both the small hours of the night and the smaller confines of my son’s closet.

For the last two weeks he has awakened my wife and I with shaky cries of fear, pleading for rescue. I will toss the covers back and trudge into his bedroom, where I’ll settle him down with a big hug. In a few minutes he will yawn, flutter his eyes a few times, and drift back to sleep. I do this without thinking. After all, I should know what I’m doing. I’ve been on the other side of that hug.

My monster arrived when I was his age. I woke one night to the shifting sounds of something in the bowels of my closet. It happened again the next night, but this time the noise was loud enough to even penetrate my cotton cocoon. That’s when I started to cry. And when my father woke up.

I remember him coming into my room and giving me a hug, softly talking to me until I yawned, fluttered my eyes a few times, and fell back asleep. He did it without thinking. Because he’d been on the other side of that hug, too.

My father made the trip down the hallway and into my bedroom countless times over the next few years. He never once complained or hesitated, and I always felt better afterwards. But Dad never offered the one thing I most needed. He never told me what I desperately needed to hear.

He never said there are no such things as monsters.

I learned later on that the sounds coming from my closet were the result of gravity mixed with an assortment of poorly stacked toys. The Thing I saw in the corner of my room? Just the moonlight shining on a discarded jacket. And all those guttural sounds I thought were the churning stomach of a hungry ogre were just the furnace turning on and off.

In high school monsters became a source of entertainment rather than dread. Freddy Kruger, Jason, and Pinhead? Not only were they not scary, they were sort of ridiculous. And they always got theirs in the end.

It was during my brief flirtation with college that I finally learned monsters weren’t real. They were instead misunderstood aberrations, products of a poor childhood or a few misfired brain synapses. They deserved of our sympathy and pity rather than our fear and anger. It was a notion I found supremely appealing. A world without monsters was a world I could better understand.

But the problem was that I couldn’t.

There was genocide in Rwanda, which left tens of thousands raped and butchered in mere weeks. Then another in Yugoslavia.

And then came 9/11.

I knew then why my father always came to my room in those small hours of the night, why he would hug me and comfort me until I found sleep but never said there were no monsters in the world. And it’s the same reason why I spare my son those same words.

It would be a lie.

There really are monsters in this world.

They’re not slimy or horned, they look like us. Men and women who live in the black places of the soul, who seek to imprison rather than set free, who murder and rape in the name of God. To deny their existence is to give them power, and to spare them our anger and determination only lengthens the shadow they cast over our world.

As I write these words it’s both dark and late. I can hear my son shuffling in his bed. A sniffle makes its way through his door and around the corner to my ears. In a moment he will cry out softly for me, and I will answer. I will sit by his bed and hold him until he’s asleep again, and I’ll leave the hall light on just in case.

I will not tell him what he wants to hear. The truth, even at his age, is better. Like me, my son will believe in monsters. And like me, he will be raised to fight them.

To read more from Billy Coffey, visit him at What I Learned Today and follow him on the twitter at @billycoffey.

The Faith of a Child (by Billy Coffey)

I posted this yesterday. But because it was a holiday I wanted to make sure that everyone who might have missed it had an opportunity to read it today. Few things make me angrier than causing harm to a child and the so called prosperiety gospel. Combine the two? Grrrr….(okay, end of mini rant). Here’s Billy:

The television is largely ignored around our house for most of the day, but like all good rules it is relaxed after dinner. By then a day’s worth of school and play have left my children with as much energy as a bowl of Jell-O. Sitting on the couch and being entertained by Phineas and Ferb is all they can handle.

My daughter is generally Holder Of The Remote when I’m not around, and as my own energy level was Jell-O like yesterday evening, I wasn’t around. I had instead camped out in the rocking chair on the front porch, watching the mountains rather than the TV.

I rocked as the cool September breeze blew through the open living room window, letting in the fresh air and letting escape the sounds of my daughter’s channel changing.

News: “Unemployment continues to rise across the Commonwealth…”

A preacher on the Christian channel: “…faith can heal you of your greatest pains…”

ESPN: “…Red Sox continue their collapse…”

And finally Spongebob: “I’m so cold, I can use my nose drippings as chopsticks.”

Which is where I thought she would stay. My daughter loved Spongebob.

But then it was back to the preacher: “…God loves His children and wants to prosper them…”

I kept rocking, gazing out over the porch to the mountains beyond. A slight smile crossed my face, and why wouldn’t it? My daughter had just passed up Spongebob to learn something about God.

“…He doesn’t want anyone to be sick! Disease is Satan’s doing…!”

Still, it seemed a bit odd. A bit over the top. A bit…

“You’re not healed because you don’t believe!!”

“Dang it!” I said, jumping from the rocking chair and bursting through the door as calmly as possible but not quite. I sat beside her and palmed the remote, changing the channel back to Spongebob with as much nonchalance as I could.

“How ya doin’, sweets?” I asked.


“Wanna watch some Spongebob?”


“You okay?”


But she wasn’t. I knew that. And I also knew it was too late. The damage had been done.

At bedtime when I went to tuck my daughter in for the night, I could see her tears from the doorway.

“What’s faith?” she asked me.

“Faith,” I said, sitting down beside her, “is believing that God can do whatever He wants.”

“Do you have a lot of faith?”

I’d been father long enough to know that sometimes parents must lie to their children. But I never made it a practice to do so when it comes to matters of faith, so I said, “Sometimes I do. Other times I don’t.”

She looked at me, crying. “The preacher man said I have diabetes because I don’t have faith.”

“That’s not what he said,” I answered.

“He said if I had enough faith, God would take my sugar away.”

I didn’t answer that time. Because again, I couldn’t lie—that’s pretty much what the preacher man had said.

I sat by my daughter’s bed for a long while that night, holding her hand and stroking her hair until the tears left and sleep finally came.

As I gazed down to her I wasn’t thinking about how special she was or how she struggled with her disease. No, I was thinking about how much I would’ve liked that preacher to be there to hear my daughter doubt her faith. I wanted him to see the tears he caused her to shed. And then I would’ve taken him out back and shown him what happens to adults who hurt my little girl.

The whole prosperity gospel movement is still going strong, and there are no signs that it will slow anytime soon. Check the bestseller lists. Turn on your television. They’re everywhere, standing in front of thousands of people in their thousand-dollar suits and pretty smiles, prophesying that God is just chomping at the bit to make you as rich and successful and healthy as they are.

I don’t normally rant, and I never judge. But as I sat there looking down at my daughter, I knew without a doubt that there was a special place in hell reserved for people who manage to contort God’s word to equate faith with wellness and piety with affluence.

I can understand their appeal, I really can. A God who wanted nothing more than to heap material blessings on anyone who paid enough attention to Him makes religion seem a little more palatable. A little more…human. And their theology is mixed with just enough truth to make it seem right.

But if you think it is, if you think that’s how God operates, then I’ll invite you to spend a day with my daughter.

Maybe then you’ll see that God isn’t after our comfort or our health as much as our faith and our trust.

To read more from Billy Coffey, visit him at What I Learned Today and follow him on the twitter at @billycoffey.

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