Good Luck and Bad
GOOD Luck is like a down hill tide
That helps to make an easy start,
Where one may paddle, drift or glide
Without much effort on his part;
But though it takes you to the goal
And brings you in the world's acclaim,
It builds no fibre for your soul
Nor molds you for the rougher game.
Bad Luck is like an uphill sweep,
The test of courage and of class,
Where troubles grow and shadows creep
And none except the valiant pass ;
Where through raw gales that blow but ill
The entry clings to this lone dream :
The stalwart only stalks the hill
The gamefish only swims up stream.
If your main wish is but to win
Let Good Luck help to pull you through,
To know the cheering and the din
That go where laurel sprigs are due ;
But if you wish to build a heart
That scorns the fickle whims of Fate,
Take Hard Luck for the journey's start
With rugged Trouble for a mate.
Is the goal distant, and troubled the road,
And the way long?
And heavy your load?
Then gird up your courage, and say ‘I am strong,’
And keep going.
Is the work weary, and endless the grind
And petty the pay?
Then brace up your mind
And say ‘Something better is coming my way,’
And keep doing.
Is the drink bitter life pours in your cup—
Is the taste gall?
Then smile and look up
And say ‘God is with me whatever befall,’
And keep trusting.
Is the heart heavy with hope long deferred,
And with prayers that seem vain?
Keep saying the word—
And that which you strive for you yet shall attain.
It is easy enough to be pleasant,
When life flows by like a song,
But the man worth while is one who will smile,
When everything goes dead wrong.
For the test of the heart is trouble,
And it always comes with the years,
And the smile that is worth the praises of earth,
Is the smile that shines through tears.
It is easy enough to be prudent,
When nothing tempts you to stray,
When without or within no voice of sin
Is luring your soul away;
But it’s only a negative virtue
Until it is tried by fire,
And the life that is worth the honor on earth,
Is the one that resists desire.
By the cynic, the sad, the fallen,
Who had no strength for the strife,
The world’s highway is cumbered to-day,
They make up the sum of life.
But the virtue that conquers passion,
And the sorrow that hides in a smile,
It is these that are worth the homage on earth
For we find them but once in a while.
Ella Wheeler Wilcox
The Way Of It
‘THERE are roads that lead through valleys where the
grass is soft and green ;
There are lanes that lead through morning where the
friendly maples lean;
But for those who face the battle where the far height
holds its thrill
The only goal worth finding
Where the rock-filled road is winding,
Where the heavy burden’s binding,
Is the goal upon a hill.
We may think of life as something that is built up from
We may hear old songs that call us where the shafts of
But the storms beyond are waiting for the raw, un-
And though hearts and hopes are breaking
As we come to bitter waking,
Yet the only road worth taking
Is the road that leads uphill.
My Name Is Trouble
My name is Trouble—I’m a busy bloke— I am the test of Courage—and of Class—
I bind the coward to a bitter yoke,
I drive the craven from the crowning pass;
Weaklings I crush before they come to fame; But as the red star guides across the night,
I train the stalwart for a better game; I drive the brave into a harder fight.
My name is Hard Luck—the wrecker of rare dreams— I follow all who seek the open fray;
I am the shadow where the far light gleams For those who seek to know the open way;
Quitters I break before they reach the crest,
But where the red field echoes with the drums,
I build the fighter for the final test
And mold the brave for any drive that comes.
My name is Sorrow—I shall come to all To block the surfeit of an endless joy;
Along the Sable Road I pay my call Before the sweetness of success can cloy;
And weaker souls shall weep amid the throng And fall before me, broken and dismayed;
But braver hearts shall know that I belong And take me in, serene and unafraid.
My name’s Defeat—but through the bitter fight,
To those who know, I’m something more than friend;
For I can build beyond the wrath of might And drive away all yellow from the blend;
For those who quit, I am the final blow,
But for the brave who seek their chance to learn,
I show the way, at last, beyond the foe,
To where the scarlet flames of triumph burn.
Chapter 4 – Doing It Our Way
Jane called Grace later that night. Here’s how the conversations went:
“Grace, you’ll never believe what I’m about to tell you.”
“Then, why are you telling me, if you don’t think I’ll believe you?” said Grace.
Jane ignored Grace’s comment, “I called Ellen and invited her to the barbecue. Ellen asked me who else is going. I said, a few friends and there will be someone to play with Tommy. Then she said, if your friend Grace and her bully son are going, we’re not going.”
“What did you say?” Asked Grace.
“I said, “what happened?” That’s what I said. And, do you know what she said?”
“No,” answered Grace.
“Ellen said, “you’ll take her side. I’ve seen you two paling around with one another. Take this as a big, fat no.” And, she ended the call. What happened, Grace?” Asked Jane.
After Grace finished providing the details, she added, “It’s okay to cancel the barbecue, I understand.”
Jane said, “Not so fast, girlfriend. I have an iPhone and I know how to use it. The party is on 3:30 p.m. Saturday, at my house. Look your best, I’ve handpicked the one for you.”
“Who is he?” Asked Grace.
“Let’s say he’s a year older than you. He drives a BMW. He’s tired of playing the field and wants to settle down. And, his looks? If I wasn’t happily married to Fred, I’d tell you not to come and take my best shot at him. He’ll make you drool. Drop the gym clothes. A bit of makeup and take a trip to the Salon, please? It’s my last best shot for you,” pleaded Jane.
Grace chuckled, “I’ll drop the gym clothes, one out of three is pretty good, right?”
The friends had a good laugh. Grace went into the bathroom and began searching for gray hairs and seeing how noticeable the tiny lines were around her eyes. She walked out of the bathroom and into her bedroom, she stared at a photo of Mike and she on her bedside table and said, “Mike, what should I do? Can you help me? I’m so confused. I know Matt needs a good man in his life. I can’t imagine meeting another man like you. After all, you were the best. You always told me not to settle for second best. Please Mike, send me a sign. I’m running on a treadmill and going nowhere.”
Grace went back into the bathroom, played a bit with her hair, then went back to the dining area. Matt was sitting at the table texting on his phone. Grace said, “Who are texting, Matt?”
Matt turned at looked at Grace, “Tommy texted me and we’ve been going back and forth.”
“Yes, he apologized. He said he was out of line. I told him it was okay. Now, we’re trying to figure out where to play basketball since his mom is made at you and me. He said it’ll take her a week, but she’ll get over it.”
“What about his tooth?”
“The dentist saved it. Tommy wants to be on my team the next time we play two on two.”
“I don’t understand you boys at all,” said Grace.
“I told you, Mom, it was nothing. I can take care of myself. Dad always told me I was strong enough. Remember when he got deployed the last time, he told me, I was the man of the house. So, you don’t have to worry about me anymore.”
Grace took a deep breath, fought back the flood of tears that were threatening to overspill her emotional dam. She walk to Matt and gave him a hug and kiss on his forehead. She said, “Thanks, Matt.” Grace quickly turned away and went to her bedroom and cried.
Chapter 3 – Doing It Our Way
Grace’s stomach was upset. Oh sure, she thought, boys will be boys. But a bruise under his eye, possibly a black eye? And, Matt knocked a tooth out of his best friend’s mouth and gave Tommy a bloody nose to boot. Now, Ellen is mad at me and I didn’t do anything. Her mind was so busy she didn’t realize she grated an entire ball of mozzarella cheese. She opened a counter drawer, and pulled out a box of sandwich zip baggies. She used a table knife to scoot three-fourths of the cheese into the baggie.
She stopped what she was doing, placed both hands palm down on the countertop and took a deep breath. Get a grip, she said to herself. He’s only a boy trying to be a man. Listen to him before you lose it.
Grace took another deep breath, opened a cabinet door and reached for the tortillas. She knew Matt’s favorite lunch was a bean and cheese burrito. She laid out of a tortilla, opened a can of retried beans and spread the retried beans on the tortilla. She hollered, “Matt, do you want tomato slices on your bean burrito?”
A moment later, “No thanks, Mom. Just bean and cheese and and salsa on the side.”
Why did I bother asking? She thought. She laughed to herself, I wanted to hear him and make sure he was okay. Grace sprinkled the mozzarella on the retried beans, rolled it up, put it on a plate and put it in the microwave. Before she set the timer, she made herself a salad, opened a can of sardines, took the sardines out of the can and put them on a plate. She made two place settings on table. Grace walked to the refrigerator and poured a glass of milk for Matt. She grabbed a can of sparkling water for herself.
“Lunch is ready, Matt. Make sure you wash your hands,” Grace called trying to sound cheerful, but she knew Matt would see right through it.
Matt walking into the eating area, his hands still dripping wet. He saw his mom look at him and he wiped his hands on his t-shirt.
“Matthew, how many times have I told you to use a towel and not your shirt?” Asked Grace.
Matt stopped, put his right hand to his chin, tilted his head toward the ceiling as if he were thinking, then put his hand down and said, “I think eleven. That’s it, eleven times, because the last time was ten.”
Grace looked at him, bruised face and dark spot growing under his eye, red bruised cheek, an impish grin, and sparkling blue eyes. God, he reminds so much of Mike she thought. She couldn’t get mad at him, no matter how much she wanted to. Grace shook her head, “I’m going to buy you a shirt made out of towel. How would you like that?”
“That’s great, Mom. Then I can put it on right after I shower and I won’t have to waste time wiping myself down,” said Matt pulling out a chair, sitting down and taking a sip of his milk.
Grace heard the microwave beep, she walked over to the microwave and retrieved the burrito. She stopped by the refrigerator and said, “What kind of salsa?”
“The usual, dad’s favorite.”
Grace’s heart plummeted to her stomach. She opened the refrigerator, and reached for the hot, Texas Diablo salsa. “It’ll burn your stomach out.” She said.
“No it won’t, Mom. Dad said its good for you. If it was good enough for dad, it’s good enough for me,” said Matt.
Grace wondered how Matt could be so cheerful when he talked about Mike, and when she thought of Mike she wanted to cry. She carried the salsa and burrito over to the table. She placed the plate in front of Matt and put the salsa next to the container of milk. They joined hands and Grace prayed, “Bless us oh Lord and these thy gifts which we are about to receive from thy bounties through Christ our Lord, amen.”
Matt took hold of the salsa, opened the jar, and poured a generous portion on his plate. Grace rolled her eyes.
“You know you could have used a spoon for the salsa and it would have been much neater,” said Grace.
“I save time this way, Mom. Besides, I’d lick the spoon and put germs in the jar. You wouldn’t want that to happen would you?” Said Matt bitting into his burrito.
“No, definitely not. I wouldn’t want that to happen. Now, Matthew, what happened with Tommy? Don’t leave anything out. I want the whole truth,” said Grace.
Matt pointed to his mouth, it was full of burrito and salsa. Grace watched and waited. Matt took his time chewing.
“I can wait all day. Not another bite until you tell me everything.”
Matt swallowed his food, took a drink of milk, and said, “Mom, really, it was nothing. Stuff like this happens all the time.”
“When was the last time you came home with a black eye and bruised cheek?”
“It’s not really a black eye, yet. Besides, I think it looks kind of cool. Tommy started it. I didn’t have a choice.”
“What do you mean, Tommy started it. You have to do better, Matthew.”
Matt took a deep breath, “Here’s what happened. Tommy and Jimmy and Todd and me were playing basketball. Todd and me were on the same team. We were playing to twenty baskets. It was a tie game and I stole the ball from Tommy and drove past him and made a layup. We won.”
“He got mad because you won?” Asked Grace.
“No, he said I fouled him. I said I didn’t. He pushed me. I pushed him back. He said, ‘Admit you fouled me.’ I said I didn’t foul him, then he said, “You’re a liar like your old man. I bet he never earned his medals. He took a swing at me and hit me in the eye. I rushed into him and knocked him to the ground and hit him a few times until he screamed something about a tooth. I let him up and he ran into the house holding his mouth and nose. That’s the whole story. Nobody puts dad down to me, nobody. Can I eat now?”
Grace nodded. She wished she had something to say. She didn’t want to tell Matt he was wrong. She didn’t want him to be baited into fighting. Why did life have to be so damn hard, she thought?