Sunday, February 26, 2006


Melody had a good birthday yesterday, no thanks to me. I’ve had a cold for about four days. We both got up at the same time yesterday morning (a Saturday), and I was a real drip. Melody sat on the sofa, I sat on a chair, and we just kind of looked at each other. I wished her Happy Birthday, but it was pathetic. I rubbed her feet for her, but I kept having to stop to blow my nose.

“I’m sorry I’ve been such a pain in the ass these last four days,” I said.

Melody said, “That’s okay.”

That’s okay? It wasn’t the answer I was looking for. Melody should have known I was fishing for a denial. She was supposed to say, “You haven’t been a pain in the ass.” It’s like somebody saying, “I’m stupid,” and another person answering, “That’s okay.” It’s not the answer you want to hear.

I gave Melody her birthday card. In it, I explained to her that I couldn’t afford to buy her a present. Instead, I was taking her out to eat. I was humiliated at not having enough money for a present and dinner.

“That’s okay,” Melody said.

A guy downtown stopped me two days ago and asked me for fifty cents. I had no paper in my wallet, but a lot of pocket change. This isn’t the first time the guy has asked me. Sometimes I tell the guy, “Nope, I don’t have it today.” I usually say this, for some reason, when I’m loaded. I’ve given him enough change in the past year that I could tap him once in a while. But today, all the money I had in life was in my pocket, so I reached in, pulled out a handful of change and presented it to him. There was one quarter, a few dimes, and hordes of nickels. I looked at the guy as if to say, “pick it out.” But he looked at me as if to say, “I can’t add.” So I just dumped the whole pile of silver into his upturned palms. He looked like he had hit the jackpot at Caesar’s Palace. I walked away content, realizing I’d given the widow’s mite.

“What would make this eon more difficult?” God asks.

“Freezing cold weather,” I say.

“I believe I can arrange that. What else?”

“A cold. You know, a virus that attacks the body and makes it produce histamine. In practical terms, I’m talking about a nose that constantly drips and agitates a person, and everyone around that person.”

God looks thoughtful. “Oh, I get it,” He says. “Life is hard enough without being constantly cold and having to incessantly blow one’s snot out, but this would make living damn near impossible.”

“You’ve got it.”

And so it was done.

It is an experience of evil Elohim has given to the sons of humanity, to humble them by it —Ecclesiastes 1:13.

“My sister and sisters-in-law want me to go shopping with them on my birthday,” Melody said. “I think it will be fun.”

“Then go ahead, please,” I said. “I’m going to take a nap.”

“But you just got up.”

“Have I wished you Happy Birthday yet?”


“I meant it, too. Good night, now.”

I thought I heard the door slam as Melody left for the mall.

When I awoke from my nap, there was a note on the counter. It was from Melody. In the note, Melody said that she would like the floors swept and washed, the upstairs bathroom cleaned, and the carpets vacuumed.

Here’s something I can do to maker Melody happy, I thought. So I ordered my three sons to get started, and drove to my office to drink a cup of coffee and eat salted peanuts. I had to get away and relax. My cold was stressing me out. I felt a little better after my nap, but the house was getting to me. But as I sat there in the beautiful silence of my office cracking my peanut shells and drinking coffee, I realized that I had better get home and help the boys. I had to redeem myself on Melody’s birthday.

I made it my task to clean the upstairs bathroom. I had no gift to bring, so I became The Little Drummer Boy, only with a toilet brush instead of drumsticks.

I scrubbed the toilet for her, pa ruh-pa-pa pum;
I scrubbed my best for her (a lie), pa ruh-pa-pa pum, ruh-pa-pa pum, ruh-pa-pa pum.

Melody came home with a sack full of clothes that her sister and sisters-in-law had bought for her. Thank God for those women. Melody was in a great mood because of the clothes. The boys and I had cleaned the house, and it looked great. Melody noticed, and praised our efforts. But wow, what a bunch of clothes. Melody pulled out each piece one at a time, and held them to herself while we men praised her. It was four p.m., and the day was finally shaping up. Better late than never.

Our son Aaron said, “I have a taste for El Campesinos.” This meant that he had a taste for Mexican food, as well as for going out to dinner with Melody and me. Our youngest son Jefferson said the same thing. (Our oldest, Artie, had gone to work.) I had snuffed any spark of romance with my incessant snuffling, so I was all for a family outing. Let’s go together, I said. Melody beamed.

Melody had a happy birthday. I’m so glad she was born. Without her and me together, our children would not be here. We looked at each other at the restaurant and appreciated being together. We visited Artie at his job. We drove home safely, and so did Artie, later.

Melody had a happy birthday.

We have all been born, thank God.

© 2006 by Martin Zender

Thursday, February 23, 2006


I’ve been forced recently to think of my 1982 run/walk from Philadelphia to Atlantic City. You would think that a person would remember every minute of something as fantastic as that. A person would be wrong. I hardly remember any of it; I sometimes wonder if it was me who did it.

I recall only small bits of the train ride to Philly. Coming into Altoona, I remember the conductor shouting “Altoona! Charlie’s brother, Al!” I remember riding around the famous Horseshoe Curve, and the conductor saying, “We’re in it. We’re in the Horseshoe Curve.” I remember arriving in Philadelphia, a place I’d never been, and hearing the conductor say, “It is 101 degrees this afternoon in downtown Philadelphia.”

I called a cab and had the driver take me to a hotel near the Art Museum. I have no recollection of checking into a hotel, or what I did there. I must have paid the cabbie, but I don’t remember doing it. I only remember the wake-up call the following morning. A man who sounded very much like Sylvester Stallone grumbled sleepily into the earpiece: “Yeah, it’s 3:45.”

By four a.m., I was bolting up the Art Museum steps, the same steps Rocky bolted up in the movie. I pranced and danced like the underdog boxer himself, overlooking the sparkling city. By 4:02, I was away into the darkness.

I remember seeing people in the shadows of doorways. I ran and ran. I was too naïve back then to be afraid for my life. My safe passage through the worst parts of that city at that hour only confirms for me that crazy people leave other crazy people alone—it happens all the time—and that God has for years protected me from my own stupidity.

At the Ben Franklin Bridge came trouble. A police cruiser pulled behind me, lights engaged: it was illegal for pedestrians to cross the Ben Franklin Bridge. Had I any identification? I reached down for the small change purse attached to my shoe, where I kept a small plastic card with my name and address on it. What in the world was a kid from out-of-state doing trying to run across the Ben Franklin Bridge at 4:30 in the morning?

“I’m running to Atlantic City,” I said.

The cop wasn’t sure whether to believe me or hit me with his nightstick.

“That’s sixty-two miles from here,” he said.

I said, “I know. I should be there by seven o’clock this evening.”

I begged him to let me run the bridge, but he wouldn’t hear of it. He probably considered arresting me for my own good. Perhaps he should have. Instead, he drove me across the bridge, let me out, and wished me luck. This was the last thing I remember until Egg Harbor City, forty miles away.

I take that back. I remember throwing my sweatshirt away in someone’s roadside trashcan. I had attached reflector tape to the sweatshirt and planned to discard it as the sun came up: plan accomplished.

I had never been to New Jersey.

I traveled insanely light. All I had on the train was a) what I was wearing, b) a toothbrush, c) the reflector-taped sweatshirt, which I carried, d) a plane ticket home, e) about a hundred dollars of paper money in my sock with the plane ticket, and f) the aforementioned plastic i.d., along with about two dollars worth of change in the tiny Velcro purse attached to my right running shoe. After leaving the hotel that morning, I was minus the toothbrush. After the sun had come up, I was minus the sweatshirt. All I had now was a little bit of money, a plane ticket, a plastic i.d. card the size of a matchbook, and balls the size of an elephant’s.

I cannot remember eating or drinking a thing, but I must have. I have no recollection of bathroom stops. I remember running through Egg Harbor City, for who can forget a city so named? I patronized a McDonalds there, but cannot tell you what I purchased, or whether I dined in or consumed my banquet en run. But as I sit here writing this, I suddenly see an apple pie. No, wait! I see two! Two apple pies are appearing in my mind! That’s it, then! I must have gotten two apple pies!

Another piece of the puzzle falls into place.

Next thing I know, Right Knee is complaining. This begins in the late afternoon, sometime after Egg Harbor City. I realized later the mistake of attaching the change purse change to my shoe. The purse is designed to be threaded into the shoelaces for short-term use. Employing it for this long-term run, I unconsciously asked Foot to bench-press it thousands of times. By six p.m., Right Foot told the accompanying knee: “Make him pay for this. Now.”

I was forced to walk the remaining distance to Atlantic City.

My fear caught up with my common sense at the same time night caught up with New Jersey. Route 30 became a wilderness as the highway wove around mysterious-looking marshes. But the cars still came, and I was now unable to reflect oncoming headlights. But there were the lights of Atlantic City ahead. Would I ever get there? I walked and walked, but nothing seemed nearer, not even the ocean.

I know I arrived. But sitting here today, I cannot remember doing so. But I do recall the grocery store where I found a phone booth and called a cab place.

The dispatcher said, “Where are you again?” I looked at the street signs again and told him.

“Shit, man, I don’t even like to drive through that neighborhood. Don’t do anything stupid; I’ll be right there.”

I stood very still and followed his recommendation to the letter.

The next thing I remember is a dark and damp motel room with no bathroom. I remember neither going to bed nor getting up, though I know I did both. My next memory is of the Atlantic City airport, blanketed in fog. I remember all of us passengers trundling onto a bus bound for Philadelphia. I have no recollection whatsoever of the plane ride home, but I do have a photograph of me standing next to my fiancé Melody and my sister Kelly at the Akron-Canton airport. They looked happy to have me between them, and I looked happy to be there, which I was.

(I talked several people into sponsoring me-- so much money per mile--and I raised over $2000 for an organization that grants wishes to terminally-ill children. Thus, the shirt.)

The trip to me, now, seems like a dream in the night.

And so will this life seem, when I am finally finished with it.

© 2006 by Martin Zender

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


Melody and her friend Jamie are doing a half-marathon at the end of April in Nashville. I got talked into it, and will accompany them. I told myself it would be a good getaway. Besides, I’ve never been to a city where they purposely misspell “opera.”

I want to walk the event and finish under three hours. To do that, I will have to maintain a 13.75 minute-per-mile pace. Lately, on my fast Friday walks, I’ve kept up 11 minutes a mile, give or take ten seconds. But that’s for three and a quarter miles only. I will feel primed for Music City success when I’m able to do eight miles at a thirteen and a half minute pace. I could probably do it today with help from my favorite elixir: Gatorade.

The girls did a seven-mile walk/run two days ago, and were tired. Melody told Jamie about my 62-mile walk/run in 1982 from Philadelphia to Atlantic City. The distance sounded so fantastic to Melody as she related it to her friend that she began doubting the distance. Jamie herself thought it a piece of science fiction. So Melody came home and asked me.

It seemed like sci-fi to me, too. Who was that alien of ’82 who tried everything and feared nothing? Yet I confirmed everyone’s worst fears. So Melody called Jamie and said, “Yep. He did 62 miles, all right. He just showed me his route on the map.”

I was flattered by the sudden fuss. Now Jamie is in awe of me. She does not care a whit that I am a writer of books. That the world’s most outspoken Bible scholar lives down the road from her elicits but a yawn. It’s Zender-Schmender, to her. But twenty-two years ago I did something physical that she now appreciates the difficulty of, and today it’s—Way to go, Martin!

Jamie is a Christian who enjoys the socially accepted end of the spiritual well. People who lower themselves via wooden buckets into that well, toward the secrets of Christ, are oddballs to her. Melody and Jamie do speak of spiritual matters, but always on Jamie’s terms. Melody’s terms would cross the border into Weirdsville, where Jamie is unwilling to be seen.

Two years ago, I talked Jamie into doing the sexy, “And now, here’s Martin” line on my Part-Time Sinner CD. I suppose she regrets it. For sure, she has never heard it. I can write anything I want to about Jamie without fear of reprisal—she never reads me. I gave her one of my books, Flawed by Design, because I thought it would help her through a trial. That was well over a year ago, and I’m still wondering about the book’s impression. Being an optimist, I’m assuming she buried it. But never mind that, for I am a god of forward motion to her now; an idol of self-propulsion.

I like Jamie. She is a good friend to Melody, and a good person. I wonder how she would have fared in first-century Palestine. Even if she hung out at the well with the other women, I suspect that the theology of Jesus would have been way too weird for her. But His walk from Jerusalem to Nazareth—now that would have tickled her bones sure.

© 2006 by Martin Zender

Saturday, February 18, 2006


INTERESTED BYSTANDERS: Was that you we saw walking out on Route 9 the other day?

MARTIN ZENDER: I suppose it was. Unless it was Admiral Peary.

IB: Were those ski goggles or WWI aviator glasses?

MZ: Ski goggles. They really keep the wind out. I don’t care what I look like.

IB: You needn’t have said that. We thought you might be an Eskimo at first, but we couldn’t fathom why an Eskimo would be out on Route 9. Besides, an Eskimo would have been wearing fur mukluks and not New Balance 763’s. We do credit you for that. How cold was it?

MZ: Twenty-five degrees, but the wind was the problem. It’s really bad on Route 9, especially at the top of the hill on the curve before Base Line Road. There’s no wind block. The wind was at least twenty-five miles per hour that day. The wind chill felt like a hundred below. It’s like an open tundra out there.

IB: ‘Open tundra.’ Isn’t that a redundancy?

MZ: If you’re riding in a car, I suppose it would be.

IB: There now. Are you disparaging our means of transport?

MZ: Not overtly. Cars are a necessary evil. If you can stand to drive one, go ahead. I just hope you get some sort of exercise. I mean, not that you need it.

IB: You are exercising our patience. Does that count?

MZ: The exercising of the patience burns only 35 calories an hour. At that rate, it would take you three months to lose a pound. I’m afraid you’d have to do better than that.

IB: Yes, well—How many miles do you walk a day?

MZ: Eight.

IB: Honestly now.

MZ: I’m walking eight miles a day right now, Monday through Thursday.

IB: How long does that take you?

MZ: About two hours, give or take five minutes. It depends on how many times I stop to tap the bladder.

IB: Tap the bladder! Don’t tell us you are able to manage such a feat in that Eskimo suit of yours.

MZ: Where there’s a will, there’s a way. I carry a liter of Gatorade on my back, is the problem. Plus I drink about nine glasses of water a day. So there are issues.

IB: We have heard quite enough, thank you. So when you are not despoiling the countryside, you average about fifteen minutes a mile.

MZ: That’s right.

IB: So what do you do on Fridays? Collapse?

MZ: Not at all. I do three and a quarter miles of speedwork.

IB: You mean you actually drive your car?

MZ: No. I walk fast. Last week, I averaged 10.78 minutes a mile.

IB: People don’t walk that fast from a fire. At that pace, you may as well be running.

MZ: I used to run—all the time.

IB: I suppose we’re going to hear about it.

MZ: I started running in 1972. I remember watching the great miler Jim Ryun in a track and field event on television. I got inspired and did ten laps around my house when the next commercial came on. It was pitch dark out, about ten o’clock at night. I was probably wearing high-top Converses. My parents thought I was crazy.

IB: Your parents were wise.

MZ: I did my first marathon in 1980. I would end up doing four more. My best time for the 26.2 miles was a 3:06. But I decided I needed to do longer distances.

IB: All right now, hold on. Excuse us for asking this nonsense question, but—twenty-six miles was not long enough for you?

MZ: No. I wanted to do journey runs. I wanted to run over the curvature of the earth.

IB: Why?

MZ: Because it was there. I’m always striving to whittle life down; I want basics; I want essences. I want to live fit and simply. Lots of things conspire against that in this world, but running seemed so pure to me; pure travel, just the human body and the earth. And maybe a box of Granola bars. So I wanted to do more of it. I wanted to experience where such simple motion could take me.

IB: And so you put this madness to the test?

MZ: You bet. I did forty miles around my city, in one day. Then I did a two-day, seventy-five mile run. Then I did a one-day, fifty-four miler. Then I did a sixty-three mile run/walk from Philadelphia to Atlantic City, across the state of New Jersey. That was in 1982.

IB: Sixty-three miles in one day?

MZ: That’s the farthest I’ve ever gone on foot in a day. But I’d discovered the secret of mixing walking with running. I would run fifteen minutes, walk five, run fifteen minutes, walk five. I just kept doing that from four a.m. until nine-thirty at night.

IB: Isn’t walking cheating?

MZ: Not if they’re aren’t any rules.

IB: Were you alone on these adventures?

MZ: Yes.

IB: Ah. We thought so. So we are correct in surmising that you are some radical, ascetic, monk-in-motion.

MZ: Hm. Well…yes, I guess. Thank you. It’s not altogether true, but it would make a great bumper sticker.

IB: If you had a car!

MZ: You got me on that one.

IB: Back to your mad schedule of present. On Saturdays you…

MZ: Rest.

IB: God be praised! Amazing! You actually sit down! Oh, hallelujah. You are a Sabbath keeper, then.

MZ: Well, no. Saturday just happens to be the first day of the weekend when everyone is home. We just hang around because the kids are home from school, and Melody is off from work. She’s a secretary at the school.

IB: A secretary. Thank the Lord there is at least one normal person in your family. Tell us about Sundays. On Sundays you go to church, obviously, since we hear from so many that you are a man of God.

MZ: Well, no. I walk nine miles on Sunday. But I’m trying to build up to eighteen.

IB: The devil you are! Ignoring for the moment that you are an apostate of some strange and singular variety, may we ask why you—or anyone—would want to build up to eighteen miles of walking on the Christian Holy Day of Obligation?

MZ: I’m sort of training for a walk to Pittsburgh.

IB: Oh. Of course. Well, why didn’t we think of it? We should have know it, from all you have said. Pardon our inexcusable daftness on this. It is a most natural course for you, to walk to Pittsburgh. We are tempted to ask—why Pittsburgh? But please do not say. Because of course we know that the answer will be…

MZ: Because it’s there. Plus, it’ll be a five to six day journey, depending on whether I want to do twenty-five or thirty miles a day. I’ve never done more than a two-day trip on foot, so I’m excited at the prospect of this.

IB: Oh, yes, well, who wouldn’t be? But why don’t you just run to Pittsburgh? You were so crazy about running. You disobeyed your parents because of it, and brought them grief. We think you owe it to them to run to Pittsburgh.

MZ: I don’t run anymore.

IB: What? Are you out of Granola bars? Gatorade? Some other foul product? Do tell.

MZ: Actually, I just got tired of it. It got to be too hard. Walking is more relaxing. It’s easier.

IB: Easier! Why, that should be enough to damn it for a person such as yourself. Are you turning over a new leaf?

MZ: My body’s telling me to walk. Besides, it’s even more basic than running. It used to be the main mode of transport in this world. The car is a Johnny-come-lately, you know. I’ve discovered that a Biblical day’s journey was between twenty and twenty-five miles a day.

IB: So?

MZ: So, people used to regularly walk distances like that. It was an ordinary thing back then to be able to walk twenty miles a day. When grandma said she’d be walking from Jerusalem to Jericho, nobody thought anything of it. It was no big deal. They said, “See ya, Grandma!” It was a common state of fitness, to be able to do that. These days, people don’t even want to park on the outskirts of a Wal-Mart parking lot. It’s too far. They’ll drive forty laps around the lot in their cars, just to get fifty yards closer. It’s pathetic.

IB: Oh, have some sympathy. People are old, you know.

MZ: Well, they wouldn’t get old if they’d get out and exercise. Ever hear of a guy named Edward Payson Weston? He was a famous pedestrian of the late 1800’s, and he walked across the United States at the age of seventy-one. Seventy-one. And he averaged forty miles a day!

IB: Another radical, ascetic, monk-in-motion, no doubt.

MZ: Not really. Just a man who valued exercise and fresh air. In fact, the more I think about it, this radical, ascetic, monk-in-motion label no longer describes me. Maybe I used to be that way, but I’m not anymore. I just want to be normal.

IB: Glory be. You call walking to Pittsburgh normal?

MZ: It would have been normal a hundred and fifty years ago. Nowadays, normal is weird and weird is normal. If you ask me, it’s weird to drive around a Wal-Mart parking lot for fifteen minutes looking for a spot next to the handicapped space.

IB: Hm. Well…perhaps you’ve made your first point of the day. But—say, where are you off to in such a hurry?

MZ: Excuse me, but I’ve got to use the restroom.

© 2006 by Martin Zender

Thursday, February 16, 2006


I called Melody off sick today from her job. What a terrible week Melody is having. First her husband gets her nothing for Valentine’s Day, and then a virus invades her fair frame and convinces it to produce ridiculous amounts of histamine. I assure you that Melody would be at work today, performing her usual miracles, were she not talking like a frog. It would not do well, I told her, for her to answer the phone at the school and say, “Ribbit?

“I need Kleenexes,” Melody told me before I headed off to work. “And those vitamin C cough drop things. Ribbit!” Having gotten her nothing for Valentine’s Day, this trip to the grocery was the least I could do. I hopped to the task.

As I stood in line at the grocery store at 8:15 a.m., a strange thing happened. The woman at the cash register told the woman in line ahead of me: “I think I’m getting Alzheimer’s.” She said this on the heels of forgetting the customer’s regular brand of cigarettes. It was not Alzheimer’s, of course, but that her mind was overloaded with grocery facts. She is also the owner of the store, and there must be no end to the details she must remember: How much does a can of garbanzo beans cost—per thirty-can carton? When will I have to order more Ajax? Will our twelve-packs of Lincoln-shaped marshmallow heads get here before President’s Day? Why does mold grow on all of our grapes?

At this juncture, the woman in line ahead of me said, “You just need a vacation.”

The storeowner responded, “Well, I’m going to a food vendor’s convention next weekend. I’m going to be buying hams.”

I was so taken aback that I almost reached for an impulse item. The woman in front of me said, “Well, that’s no vacation. That’s work.” Amen, sister. Preach it for both of us. A grocer going to a food vendor’s convention would be like a bullfighter going to church: business as usual.

I should have let this intelligent customer make our mutual point, paid for my Kleenexes and vitamin C cough drops, and left to attend to my dischocolated wife. But it entered my head how to make the food convention fun. I saw mental pictures of how to accomplish it. I can’t help what I think of. I can usually help saying it, but I thought my comments would enlighten and edify this gathering. So I said, “The only thing that might make a food convention fun is if there was a food fight.”

I realized then that I should have slapped myself in the head with an impulse item. I stared at the black conveyer belt thing, waiting for someone to laugh. I stared at the ingredients of the cough drops, waiting for someone to laugh. I noticed that there were 200 Kleenexes inside the box I was preparing to purchase, waiting for someone to laugh. For a reason I will never understand, I gained courage from the silence. My vision of the food fight at the convention had budded, and I was not even at the flower shop. So I looked up into the owner’s eyes and said, “I mean, I would love to throw a ham. Wouldn’t you? Imagine that. Throwing a ham. Try to imagine actually heaving it at someone. I’d throw it thawed, of course. I wouldn’t want to throw a frozen ham. Can you imagine getting hit on the head by a frozen ham?”

It was so quiet after this that, for a moment, I thought I might be at the library. But I looked around and noticed that there were no books. There were only impulse items like little pencil sharpeners, packs of bubble gum, and issues of TV Guide. I knew it was the grocery store then, because patrons at the library are discouraged both from chewing gum and knowing ahead of time what will be on television.

Someone had come into line behind me—another woman. She had heard my ham soliloquy. I looked to her for comfort, but she was staring at a rack of beef jerky, pretending to read the ingredients.

To me, throwing hams is a healthy antidote to the rotish observance of Hallmark Holidays. My advice to everyone is: Do the unexpected. Be unpredictable, and good things will come to you.

You can always apologize to everyone later.

© 2006 by Martin Zender

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


Someone e-mailed me this morning and asked me what I got Melody for Valentine’s Day yesterday. This was my answer:

I am an eschewer of Hallmark Holidays. I know that Hallmark did not invent Valentine’s Day, but it has become so closely associated with it that the firm has hired Cupid as its East Coast Distributor. As for lauding Melody with such things as flowers and chocolates, I avoid predictability whenever possible. I am a man of spontaneous combustion.

On the way home from work yesterday, I saw a guy emerging from the flower shop with a vasefull of product. He looked so sheepish. He really did resemble a sheep—a sheep carrying a bottle of roses. Getting one’s wife flowers on Valentine’s Day is like going to church on Christmas and Easter. It’s like saying to God, “Okay, God. I’m doing what I’m supposed to do here, so please try not to send me to hell.”

I knew the guy, so I gave him a knowing wave. He yelled across the street, “Marriage insurance!” I had to laugh. Fire insurance, marriage insurance—what’s the difference?

You will never find me at the flower shop on February 14, or at the bar on St. Patrick’s Day, or in Selma on the Day of Martin Luther King. I’m more likely to visit the florist on Wednesday, April 12. Why then? What does that day mean? It means nothing. The day does not exist on Hallmark’s hallowed calendar, and this is why I favor it. It is for this very reason that I may be there. April 12, 2006 is an arbitrary day. It’s a day on which spontaneous love for my wife could very well spill from my heart and land on her desk at work in the form of a professionally arranged bouquet. But now I’m doubting it. Because now that I’ve announced this day as a possible contender for my spilling heart, I am forced by my own doctrine to avoid it. Notice to one and all: I, Martin Zender, will not be seen walking from the local florist with a vasefull of product on Wednesday, the twelfth of April, 2006.

I may, however, venture surreptitiously to Selma.

© 2006 by Martin Zender

Monday, February 13, 2006


I had an intriguing dream the other night that I did not remember until the following afternoon when I was interrupted at the corner of Snyder and Milbourne Roads by a funeral procession.

“That figures,” I mumbled. I couldn’t turn left because the hearse was coming on, followed by seven or eight hundred cars (or so it seemed) with their lights on and the requisite purple flags suction-cupped to their roofs and hoods.

Oh, woeful and wretched man am I. This procession, at first, was but an impediment to my forward progress. I was inconvenienced so that I could not immediately turn left and hurry back to work after lunch. This, while some poor and lunchless person lay prostrate in a box at the back of the hearse, making no forward progress whatsoever. And here was the family, in mourning.

I came to my senses and shifted into “park.” Now I had to watch it; God said, Watch this.

My radio does not work, praise Him. The February sky hangs low and gray this day, as it does on most days here in my state. Lukewarm air comes through my venting system and my car rumbles because God has damned the exhaust system. To His credit, He has granted 235,000 miles of miraculous travel to this machine, my machine. It used to belong to my earthly father, who died himself two years ago and no longer suffers upon this vale of tears.

I could see the entrance to the cemetery from my stop-sign vantage point. The cars pulled so slowly into the place; right turn, right turn, right turn; outside wheels obeying inside wheels; wheels, wheels, scrunching against the pavement and leather-gloved palms. I stared at the wheels and their slower-than-death turns.

Steering wheels; tire wheels; the wheel itself, invented thousands of years ago and still the workhorse of this “advanced” age. By now we ought to be visiting wheels in museums, but instead we surround them with balloons and flapping plastic pennants. Wheels should humiliate us, but instead they excite us. We decorate them with spoked covers and kick them. If they maintain their constitution, we delight in them and incur debt because of them. We take care to polish them. We tell our friends we have got “a new set of wheels.” We “wheeled and deal.” We have become “big wheels.” Wheels are as humiliating as crutches and the rubber-bottomed boots used for casts, but nobody gets it. The race is hobbled and no one notices. As I watched the cars, I though of travel in the hereafter: wheels will be conspicuously absent. But here beneath the modern February sky, I watched the deceased suffer the final humiliation of mortal flesh: transported to the grave by means of the wheel.

At that precise moment, I remembered my dream.

Take this lightly. My dreams may be inspired by the wheat germ I sprinkle on my oatmeal before bed. What I am about to relate to you may not even have been a dream, but a mental picture in the seam between consciousness and sleep. It was real enough to me, though, and it thrilled me.

In the dream I saw colors, but not colors as we know them. You may think that an apple is red and a leaf is green, but what we call “red” and “green” are poor substitutes for the real things. The real things have names that we don’t even know. Red may actually be splerdon, and green florn. What we see now are baby colors; primitive hues; dialed-down driplight. The colors of my dream were mature, ripened, bursting. It was as if God had suddenly cleaned my dirty windshield with a miraculous blue fluid. I saw an apple tree that was so beautiful it made a noise. The colors made sound, so pure were they. They attacked me in a pleasant way and attached themselves to my eyes. A simple close-up of an apple made my breath halt. Even the air had color; even the air made a noise. I realized then that, even while seeing, I had for my whole life been blind. In this dream, God removed the veil and I saw glory.

I knew then the trouble God went to to mute the glory of His creation. He works hard, daily, to keep it under wraps. He must not reveal it before the time. It is as if God has a glory knob and has turned it far left to the lowest notch and nailed it there. But on this occasion and in this seam of unconsciousness, He turned the glory dial up one notch to grant me a glimpse at the real; this reality; these colors; this air.

It was brief, but momentous. My initial reactions was: God! I see now why evil had to come. It’s worth it! This was my instant response. All evil fell away to nothing except for its bare-bones purpose: to reveal glory. I knew in a moment that every evil was justified. Every pain fell into place at my first glimpse of the real world. And God may well have said: You justify me because of this? Greater things than these shall you be seeing!

He had barely nudged the glory dial and I was ready to proclaim Him “The Pure Genius, God! Father of all! Justifier of Everything!”

What a sucker I am for glory.

For now, I endure the trains of death, with accompanying headlights, purple cotton flags, and the endless convoy of wheels. But now I see God behind it all, winking, gripping the glory knob with His right hand, smiling so pregnantly toward my tired face.

© 2006 by Martin Zender

Thursday, February 09, 2006


I am capable in some areas of living, in others—no. For instance, I am mercilessly incapable in the area of sorting socks.

I can distinguish Melody’s socks from those of my sons because Melody’s socks have a feminine look and feel. The best news for me is that Melody wears a certain variety of black, lacy sock. I know the socks are hers; they better be. I enjoy folding Melody’s socks; I linger over them. I do not do the same over the socks of my sons. I love my sons, but I am afraid of their socks and avoid them. All of my sons’ socks look alike; I cannot distinguish them.

It is an experience of evil that Elohim has given to the sons of humanity, to humble them by it. –Ecclesiastes 1:13.

Darn those socks! There are too many of them. Each of my sons has two feet, making six feet in all. Each foot has a sock, and each sock looks like all the others. To make matters worse, one size appears to fit all. Compound this with the fact that my sons change their socks every day (a habit they learned from their mother), and you can appreciate my dilemma. I am not a patient man, at least not when it comes to sorting socks. I tried to be patient one day last month. I attempted to sort the socks that day; I made an honest effort. But I ended up throwing the socks against the wall and talking loudly to them. The static electricity made the socks stick to the wall, and so I cursed the stuck socks; I cursed them verbally where they vertically lay. I wondered if it was worth it, this sock-sorting business. In a short time, I decided it wasn’t. I was willing to serve Melody, but was unwilling to lose my mind over underwear made for shoes. It was at this time that I devised Plan B.

Plan B, stated flatly, is this: GIVE UP. This strategy has worked wonders for me. I have used it several other times in life, to good result. So I began gathering up the socks and plopping them on the dryer in a pile, much like a sock hodge-podge—a sock-podge. “It’s a free-for-all,” I told my sons. “A sock-podge. It’s a sock give-away. On top of the dryer, you will encounter sock hell. If, by some mad gift of God, you are able to distinguish what is yours from that of your brother, then do so. Now!

Melody did not like this, at first. She tried to persuade me that I was capable of sorting the socks.

“I am incapable,” I corrected her.

“Try it,” Melody said.

“Oh, Melody. I have tried.”

“What happened?” Melody asked.

“I failed miserably.”

Melody asked if I could demonstrate my conception of “failed miserably.” Being more than happy to, I grabbed a handful of socks, threw them against the wall, then cursed them where they vertically lay.

Melody was impressed. “Does this happen every time?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” I said, “I’ve only tried it once. And once is all I intend to try it.”

So now the socks somehow disappear from the top of the dryer, and everyone is wearing clean socks. I don’t know how this happens, and I don’t care.

I only care that it happens, and that I have nothing whatsoever to do with it.

© 2006 by Martin Zender