Counting with Clichés (a Poem)


Counting with Clichés (a Poem)

  1. When the fair maiden, Belle, laid eyes on the tall, dark, and handsome stranger, Beau, it was love at first sight.
  2. The more they got to know each other, the more the happy couple realized they were two peas in a pod.
  3. Although things were rough at times—leading to two separations—the third time was a charm.
  4. Their passion for one another was the one constant to persist through all four seasons.
  5. One day, when Belle found the scent of another woman on her man and questioned him, Beau pleaded the fifth.
  6. Beau was lucky Belle chose to bury the hatchet and not plant him six feet under.
  7. So grateful, Beau sailed all seven seas with Belle; they were in seventh heaven.
  8. The stork delivered several babies, until they decided that eight was enough.
  9. Although they went the whole nine yards for their kids, for every inch they gave, the kids demanded a mile.
  10. Their eldest daughter, Fair, was a perfect ten, but more spoiled than their youngest child.
  11. In every argument, Fair would hold out until the eleventh hour.
  12. Eager to get Fair betrothed—and out of their hair—they invited suitors to meet and greet her with a dozen roses.
  13. The thirteenth suitor, Jinx, finally agreed, but it proved to be an unlucky number.
  14. He literally broke a leg, had to put in his two weeks’ notice at work, and called the engagement off.
  15. The next thing they knew, Fair was fifteen and pregnant.
  16. Needless to say (but I’ll say it anyway), it wasn’t a very sweet sixteen for Fair.
  17. To make matters worse, Fair’s seventeen weeks ultrasound revealed triplets.
  18. Her parents fought with her like cats and dogs; it sounded like the War of Eighteen Twelve.
  19. Fair wanted an abortion, but her parents refused; she cursed them for living in the nineteenth century.
  20. Each of Fair’s brothers and sisters played twenty questions with her.
  21. Fair was one girl who was not hoping to be forever twenty-one.
  22. Then one day, Jinx showed up on her doorstep and proposed with a twenty-two karat diamond ring.
  23. Suddenly, Fair felt not twice, but three times a lady.
  24. The triplets made more work than there were hours in a day, yet Fair loved every minute of it.
  25. Of course, everyone lived happily ever after.

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen

Beating a Dead Horse

Beating a Dead Horse

Artwork by Melissa Stevens @

“Beating a Dead Horse” is the follow-up to the original poem of clichés, “Once Upon a Time.”

Out of the gate, the detective was bored out of his mind.

Not a single person was even horsing around.

He couldn’t hold his horses for a case to work on.

It was a one-horse town, but it wasn’t his horse.

Then a damsel in distress strolled into his office.

She was a bombshell; a perfect ten; out of his league.

He was a silly goose to be daydreaming about her.

What chance did a loser like him have with a girl like her?

So he picked his eyeballs off the floor and stuttered like glue.

Turns out her horse had been murdered in the dead of winter.

Even worse, she caught someone beating the dead horse.

It was a knight in shining armor beating the poor beast like a drum.

A knight living in 2013? Sounded like an open and shut case.

It would have been a challenge if the knight had had some horse sense.

What kind of fool would linger at the scene of the crime like that?

He told the damsel that he would take care of the matter.

The next morning he went to see the horse with his own eyes.

It was an absolute nightmare; the horse was literally black and blue.

Now that was a horse of a different color.

Her story fit: The horse had been struck by the broad end of a sword.

The detective went to the station to call in a favor.

They gave him the address to the only castle within a hundred miles.

Sure enough, he found the culprit just where he thought he would be.

The detective asked the knight to confess to his sins.

He had no doubt, but wanted to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth.

But it was no use: The knight wouldn’t say a word.

It was like putting the cart before the horse, without first having proof.

So the detective went outside to dig up the buried hatchet.

Of course, it was a sword, not a hatchet, but you get the idea.

The sword had the knight’s fingerprints all over it.

However, the knight still denied it. He pleaded innocent.

Well, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.

There was one thing the detective needed to make his case: Motive.

What he had was only close enough for horseshoes and hand grenades.

The detective pried into the knight’s life like a crowbar.

Turns out that the knight was up to his ears in debt.

He had been sued for food that turned out to be horse meat.

So the knight had bet all of his money on a long shot.

He was hoping it would be a dark horse that would make his day.

But the damsel’s horse edged it out by a nose.

The knight begged the damsel for mercy.

He lost his cool when the damsel got on her high horse.

That’s when the knight plotted his revenge.

The knight showed up at her house with a box of chocolates.

She had been hungry enough to eat a horse.

So she looked the gift horse straight in the mouth.

That candy had a sedative that knocked her out like a light.

The knight slipped into the stable to do his dirty work.

But he was too late: The horse was already stone dead.

The horse’s heart just couldn’t take it anymore.

The knight couldn’t even do a simple thing like kill a horse.

So he took his frustrations out on the poor horse’s corpse.

The case was solved; it was a done deal; finis.

He reported his findings to the damsel. She was impressed.

What the heck? He got up the courage to ask her out.

The worst she could do was crush his heart like a bug.

Yet that didn’t happen: She took him up on his offer.

They got married and lived happily ever after.

He never could figure out what she saw in him.

Not that he minded one little bit.

He would have given an arm and a leg to be with her.

And that’s exactly what she saw in him: chivalry.

In the end, it didn’t take armor to be a knight.

Click here to see the original poem of clichés, “Once Upon a Time.”

Copyright © 2013 Chris McMullen. Educators and parents may use this poem for free for non-commercial, instructional purposes.

More Clichés?

As you are probably aware, my poem, “Once Upon a Time,” which told a clichéd fairy tale while also being composed of clichés, was Freshly Pressed here at WordPress. (Thank you, WordPress, and all the wonderful bloggers here who supported my humble effort. I’m extremely grateful.)

Is enough, enough? Or should I dig up the past?

Just in case, I have begun another, to be titled “Beating a Dead Horse.” What do you think? Do you really want more clichés?

In the comments for the original, a couple of people suggested getting it illustrated and publishing it. For me, of course, that means publishing it myself; but I might hire an illustrator and cover designer.

I’m not sure if there is a demand for it. The original was very popular, but also free here at WordPress. I would like to leave the free version up permanently. So if I publish the story, the customers would basically be paying for illustrations and the convenience of holding it in their hands. I would include the two poems together, and depending on page count (in color, the paperback price becomes expensive if I go much beyond 40 pages), would like to add additional material so there is some new content, too. (Obviously, this precludes an e-book edition from being in KDP Select, if I leave the originals online for free.)

Does it seem worthwhile? I’m not worried about recovering the cost in the near future. I would pay for the cover design and illustrations as a gift to myself. 🙂 But if I go to the trouble, I would like the published version to sell periodically and provide enjoyment to people. Maybe the free poems on WordPress are already enough? (I would keep the price of the published editions as low as possible, like 99 cents for the e-book.)

If I did this, I could also make an anthology. I have a few short stories and other poems that I could combine together. The anthology would be black-and-white in print (but color as an e-book), and a much better value to the buyer. I wonder if an anthology may help to get a couple other of my short stories read.

One major hurdle I have with my short stories and poetry lies in the categories. I tried publishing one short story, “Why Do We Have to Go to School?” It’s really an interesting dialog between father and son with many twists and turns, though it probably sounds like something much different than the actual story (that’s a packaging problem, plus not one of my better covers). I didn’t find a good category for it on Amazon, but even if I did, I suspect that it’s just not a popular topic.

Another story I have in the works is called “Romancing the Novel.” This is based on one of my very first posts here at WordPress. You’d have to be one of my original followers to have seen “Reading & Writing with Passion.” (There is a link to it below.) I continued this idea, making a romance out of a man and a book, and even telling half the story from the book’s point of view. Several months ago, I hired a cover designer to make a cover for the paperback, but have yet to publish it. I’m a bit concerned about the category.

With this cliché concept, many people seem to like it, but I have concerns about the category, and whether or not it would sell. Maybe bundling all of these ideas together would be a better value, but then finding the anthology could still be an issue.

I guess the real solution is – as I often discuss here on my blog – effective marketing. I market my math workbooks and self-publishing workbooks, but more than doing my own marketing I enjoy trying to help and support other authors. I’m primarily a nonfiction author, since I have expertise relevant for that. My humble short stories and poetry are a fun hobby.

To what extent do I want to market my fiction? I guess that’s the question I have to ask myself, especially since I prefer to use my free time to help or support others or to do my nonfiction marketing. All fiction authors probably feel much this way. Is your work good enough? Is there an audience for it? Mainly, how much do you believe in your work? Enough to perfect it, share it, and especially to commit to marketing it?

If you’re inclined toward the negatives here, please feel free to share your opinions. You won’t offend me. 🙂 I definitely don’t want support for the sake of support.

It’s far easier to advise others as to what to do than it is to make the best decisions for yourself. With that in mind, I give you the opportunity to offer some advice.

I suppose it ain’t over ’til it’s over. 🙂

Once Upon a Time


Once upon a time, it was a dark and stormy night.

A tall, dark, and handsome knight was bored out of his mind.

Far, far away, a damsel was in distress.

The knight woke up and smelled the coffee.

The time had come to cut to the chase.

So he put the pedal to the metal.

He went the whole nine yards.

Then he went the extra mile.

He was careful not to burn any bridges along the way.

But he did break a leg.

It was nothing to sneeze at.

He took two cookies and saw the doctor in the morning.

Then he felt snug as a bug in a rug.

He turned nutty as a fruitcake and barked like a dog.

Unfortunately, he was barking up the wrong tree.

Fortunately, he had an ace up his sleeve.

Until he lost his shirt.

So he followed his nose.

He arrived just in the nick of time.

Better late than never.

The damsel was over a barrel.

A tiger was playing mouse with her.

The knight took the tiger by the tail.

Since he had a bone to pick with that tiger.

It was like playing with fire.

He cleaned the tiger’s clock.

Then he rubbed salt in the tiger’s wounds.

The tiger went stiff as a board and then bit the dust.

Next he buried the hatchet.

And the tiger was up a creek without a paddle.

When the knight and damsel met, it was love at first sight.

It was so romantic.

Because it takes two to tango and three’s a crowd.

They were like two peas in a pod.

He was dressed to the nines and she had money to burn.

So they tied the knot.

They even put the icing on the cake.

And they lived happily ever after.

They were on cloud nine.

Until they kicked the bucket.

Life goes on.

All’s well that ends well.

That’s a wrap.

The end.