Dear Highlights


Dear Highlights Magazine,

Regarding your June 2009 installment of Goofus and Gallant in which Goofus says, “It’s okay, we’ll stay in the shallow end.” And then you write, “Gallant only swims when the lifeguard is watching.”

You’re making a judgement call here and I think it’s way out of line. Do you want to build men out of boys or are you trying to teach children to blindly defer to authority? Are you trying to raise a nation of dullards bred to confuse fear with comfort? Are you trying to breed a nation of grown-up babies free of risk and reward? Lately I’ve found myself afraid of these young people as I watch them grow up to be the cop that shoots me or the neighbor that bores me to death.

Be honest with yourself. If you were shoved out of a bar bathroom by some big, hairy ball of negative energy … I mean, puts the palm of his hand on your face and pushes you out of the bathroom because his lady friend is regurgitating in the men’s toilet … who would you want by your side?

Gallant says, “It’s okay, let’s just leave.” Goofus knocks him out with a punch and laughs as the doorman drags his body out through the back. We would boast that we always carried bail money. Where there was bail, there was laughter. Goofus has a wife and a child now.

When I was a child I fell from a tree while picking berries. I got up and walked away believing I had some peculiar strength that no one else knew. The place could be on fire and I would still step on another person to follow you in there because I can’t leave that feeling alone.

I live in a suburb up north now and yesterday I was thinking about dressing as a pirate for Halloween. But then I thought, who wants to eat all that candy? I never feel the need for a costume in a place like that because it’s the one time of the year when you are whatever you say you are and they have to believe you.

Yesterday, I was contemplating my front lawn. I was wondering if I should deal with it now or if I should deal with it ever again. “Embrace the chaos,” I tell my co-workers as the day begins to panic. Sometimes the rainstorms come and I stand in the middle of the street, drenched and climbing atop the wreckage. The hectic assault of ambitious termites building more wreckage for me to climb and call my own. From the peak of this mess I can spot the cool of its service animal.

The enemy is a clang-bang of some sort of manufacturing device within a blue garage across the street. I don’t know what they’re working on in there, but I don’t think that it hates me because it doesn’t keep me up at night.


Paul Ferrell is a poet/comic living in Champaign, Illinois. His poems have appeared in Sonic Boom and Jet Fuel Review. He posts garble poem images on Twitter under the name memoryagent.