The Furious Gazelle

Literary as hell.

Month: May 2015

“Feast of the Virgin,” by Anita Haas

Feast of the Virgin

By Anita Haas

 

“Try it on, Soli. You’re so saintly, it’ll look perfect on you.”
Soli looked at her cousin with misgivings, then at the garment with longing. “We’ll get in trouble.”
“They’re all over at your house. They won’t be back for ages.” Pati argued, lighting a cigarette.
“Oh no, Pati. The cigarette. My mother will kill us.” Soli was stroking the blue and white embroidered cloak dreamily.
“I don’t care. My mother let’s me smoke. God, it’s hard to believe they’re sisters!
Soli lifted the gleaming cloak up in front of her chest and turned to see her reflection in the mirror. “And it seems … kind of sacrilegious.”
Pati rolled her eyes “Don’t tell me you still believe in that crap?”
“What crap?”
“All that hocus pocus they made us learn in school. All those stories about saints and …” she turned around and took another drag from her cigarette.

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“Birthright,” by Diego Luis

Birthright

 

Mr. Weaver lost his hat. He felt it tumble backwards down his cranium and disappear into the dark. “Must have been an owl,” he muttered.
Motley grunted and drove the horse on. The reins jingled in his pale hands.
Mr. Weaver’s head felt cool. A harsh, autumn wind with an early hint of winter’s chill rushed his hair. He feared the worst for his appearance. He squinted at the night’s impenetrable black veil, thinking he saw little shapes flitting about in the corners of his vision. Mr. Weaver cleared his throat. “How much further?”
Motley mumbled something. He covered his eyes with a ragged hand, his lips moving inaudibly. His head swayed from shoulder to shoulder with each bump of the carriage. “Ten minutes more, I should think,” he said. He tugged at his collar.

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She is my mother, by Jennifer Lesh

She is my mother

As she drives, she explains to me why she married my father. I listen by closing my eyes to her words. I take in her scent. It is a subtle scent, not flowery or over powering. It reminds me of when I was a child, and she would tip- toe into my bedroom. I would pretend to be asleep as she kissed me good night after coming home from a party or dinner with my father. It was the perfume she wore for special occasions that she wears now. As she drives I breathe her in. She is my mother. She is wonderful and beautiful, yet she causes me great anxiety.
Last night, as I sat on her bed, watching her rub face cream on to her freckled face, she complained that her skin is getting dry. She eyed me from the bedroom mirror as I picked at my finger nails. I pretended not to notice her staring at me. She wanted to talk to me about something last night, I knew. I sensed it, but I flopped down on the bed and started going on about how she always makes a production about everything. I complained. Why did she always have to go over-board, kissing me in public, bragging about me, telling people my secrets?
“You have secrets?” she asked, “You better not have any secrets from me. I am your mother,” she laughs, “I know all.”
“Oh please, you only know because you read my diary, and half the time I make up stuff because I know you are reading it.”
I am angry with her. I am always angry with her these days. I feel so out of sorts with myself.
She calls me a sour-puss.
How many trips have we taken together? England, France, Italy, Germany, and Switzerland, and that doesn’t include the States. She was always about the trips. She loved planning adventures together. She’d come home from work and say, “Girls, we are going to Italy this summer, start looking through the apartment for all the twenties I hide.” We found hundreds of dollars, stuffed in books, hidden in her purses, folded under the carpet, tucked away in the china cabinet. Hidden away until my mother had the urge to flee from our Chicago apartment and find our summer adventure elsewhere. We piled all the loot on our parent’s bed, and counted it out. “Girls, I think we have our plane tickets, and then some.”
I did not want my college visit to be our last trip together. I wanted it to be the next stage of our trips. I wanted her to be well. I wanted her to not worry about me. When I met her green eyes in the bedroom mirror last night I saw her tears. I knew, despite the silence between us, that she did not want this to be our last trip either. Earlier in the year, she had spoken of wanting to go to China to walk the Great Wall. “They eat dogs there,” I whined.
“You always have a complaint about something,” she had said.
I take a deep breath. To me, her scent does not smell of flowers, but an earthly manifestation. My mother’s essence bottled and stored. When I was a child, I would dab the perfume behind my earlobes. I felt strong when I would sneak a bit of her perfume on my wrists. “Are you wearing my perfume,” she would yell. The scent lingered between us. It intermingled with my sweat, my own scent.
She sent me away on my first trip to France alone, “to find myself.”
“You complain now,” she said, “but later, when you are older, you will understand why I wanted you to travel.”
“I am not lost,” I said. “I know myself very well.”
“Really, at fourteen,” she retorted.
Angouleme, a town in southwestern France, was my first trip alone. I had made my way alone through Charles De Gaulle airport, then to the train station that would take me to Angouleme. I lugged two huge bags filled with presents for my house family. It was my mother’s idea. She believed that people always like presents, even if they don’t like you. I spent the summer trying to understand why my mother had sent me away, why she didn’t want me near her.
My mother has a thing about French stuff. She used to sell French wines for a living, but she hadn’t married a Frenchmen; doesn’t know a word of French. She speaks Italian, like the rest of our family, as her second language because in her world, everyone should speak a second language. I can’t speak Italian. I can barely speak English correctly, I am told by my father, but I have attempted to bumble my way through four years of French, a language she wanted me to learn. Je suis Americane. Je suis fatigue. Je suis triste. I can also count to 100 in French.
My father had spent two years in Paris after his stint in the Korean War. He taught English to wealthy French children. He rented a small apartment in St. Germaine de Pres, and sipped coffee and smoked cigarettes at the same café that Simone de Beauvoir and Sartre wrote their philosophical offerings. My father studied philosophy in college. He went to Paris because he wanted an adventure. He was not looking for love, but a sense of who he was. That’s what he told me before I left for Paris this last time.
I wanted to go to college in France, Aix-en Provence, but my father had laughed and said my French was so horrible that I would be laughed out of the town. So, I chose a Liberal Arts college in Ohio where I had gotten a scholarship.
My mother continues to tell me her story. I tap my fingers on my lap, wanting to turn on the radio and tune her out. I close my eyes and let the hot air blow on my face from the open passengers’ window. I am the little prince, flying from planet to planet. I am touching the sun with my fingertips. My mother’s voice takes me to a place where nothing else matters, where my joy comes from knowing when I open my eyes, I will see her. She will tell me everything I ever wanted was in the palm of my hand.
“Roll up the window,” she shouts, “I don’t want my wig flying off.”
“Now that would be funny,” I joke. She laughs.
What lingers now in my dream state is the “bloody thing,” her words, that now grows in the womb that once housed my sister and me. If I could, I would lacerate the damn thing that has entrenched itself in my mother’s womb. I would kill it if I could. I’d tell it to fuck- off and never come back. The “bloody thing” has become, to me, like a misanthropic step sister. She gets all the attention now, with all of the late night trips to the hospital and discussions on the next step in treatment. She is an intrusive one, but very much a part of the intimate circle of our family of four.
She has become an omnipotent presence who invades my every sense of being. I cry myself to sleep, squeezing my eyes tight in my darkened room. I am infinite in my own space. I am outer space. Darkness has invaded my home, my safety, my love for my mother. I picture “the bloody black thing” growing in my mother’s womb. I blast it with my mind. I want it gone. I want to know that my mother’s womb is still safe and beautiful, empty of all ugliness and odorous foreign bodies.
For my college visit, I am wearing a black skirt, black blouse with black boots and black leather jacket. I refrained from wearing my fishnet nylons, and opted for black tights.
“Are you in mourning?” my mother asked.
“Yes,” I said.
“You are so damned dramatic, you should be an actress.”
“I am. I am always acting.”
None of my clothes are from French designers; all of them had been bought at local thrift stores. My mother does not understand my look. She does not understand since she has made it her job to refine my tastes by instilling culture and beauty from our world travels together by influencing me with being proper and well- groomed, by sending me to France for the last three summers to educate me, and in her words “to instill a sense of class, as well as to get me away from the ordinary.” I tell her that I know how to use a bidet. She laughs, and shakes her head and says “a $6,000 investment and that is all you got from three summers in France?”
“No,” I say, “I have impeccable table manners. I love the Provencal life-style, and when I am old and dying, I will escape to southern France and live in a chateau and wear only purple.” Again, she laughs.
We cross into Indiana. I turn up the radio. She turns it down. I start to sing to myself. She interrupts me and tells me to listen. I want to take a nap, to block out the mundane landscape of 1-95, the brightness of everything and the silence that lingers between us. I glance at her profile as she concentrates on the endless expressway. She continues to tell me about how she first met my father. It was at a party. First, she noticed the well- tailored suit he was wearing. At the time he was a social worker for the city of Chicago, and broke but he still dressed well. My mother was also a social worker at the time. My father had been back in the states for three years, leaving Paris in 1964.
Sometimes it is hard to piece together my mother’s stories. She often goes off on a tangent, like now, as she tells me that she didn’t want to go the party at first, but had nothing better to do. She had gotten into a fight with her mother and wanted to get out of the apartment. My mother did not have her own apartment at this time. She lived with her parents, as was the custom of Italian-American families, until she married my father. I can picture the fight they had—things being shouted, maybe even thrown, my grandmother crying at the kitchen table that nobody loved her and my mother running for the door. My grandfather would be on the couch, his false teeth lying out in front of him, watching T.V, ignoring the fight, and, if it got too loud, he would turn up the volume on the T.V to block out the yelling that was going on between my mother and my grandmother. My grandmother was once very beautiful, but my grandfather’s womanizing made her old. She never felt loved. I think it was because her mother died of the same thing that is killing my mother. I share a special bond with my grandmother. We both feel unloved most of the time, even though we are both loved greatly by a woman who is dying.
I want to ask her what she was wearing, but instead I picture what she might have been wearing; a black dress with pearls, something smart and well cut. Maybe something green, to set off her red hair. Her hair was probably piled high on top of her head, and she was wearing a low heeled pump. Again, I glance at my mother. It bothers me that I didn’t get her petite nose. I do not understand why she married my father, who has such a big nose. Did she not realize that most daughters inherit their father’s looks? I say this to her as she drives, interrupting her story. At this point, she is telling me that she was there with a friend and at first she thought he liked her friend, but he asked her to step out on the porch to have a cigarette with him. My father has recently quit smoking for my mother, to help fight the damned thing that has taken over our family.
“Why you are telling me this?” she asks. “You have a beautiful nose.”
“To you,” I say, looking out the window. I press my forehand to the glass. All I see is a vastness of land. I feel overwhelmed and sick to my stomach. I want to roll down the window, but I can’t, for the hot air outside will do nothing but elevate the pain I feel inside. I unfasten my seat belt and crawl to the backseat. I lie down on the backseat, pressing my cheek to the vinyl. I close my eyes to my mother’s words. Somewhere around one of the turns is my college. It’s a place that I chose from a poster I saw in one of my high school hallways. I have this intense desire to be somewhere else. I cannot explain my pain to my mother. It overtakes me; it is physical, mental, and emotional. When I think of the thing taking over her womb, sometimes I gasp out in pain as if I am suffocating, as if I too am dying. I am dying. I feel it, I too feel her pain. I am like that. I try to move out of my own body. At night I pretend again that I am the Little Prince flying; flying away from the internal void I feel whenever I think of the black thing with no eyes and no mouth and no scent. But I picture it with ears; ears that are sucking my mother’s sound out of her, rendering her powerless.
“You are so goddamned dramatic,” my mother shouts. She pulls at my hair from the driver’s seat, not turning her body or taking her eyes off the road. It is just her arm, and extension of her body that I feel pulling at my hair. “Get back up here and keep me company.” I do what she says. I refasten my seatbelt and continue to listen to her story.
“I married your father,” she continues, “not for his nose, but for his brains, and his kind nature.”
My father is very smart; like my sister, academic challenges come easily for them. My father is a thinker, but he is also very removed with his emotions. I too am a thinker, but like my mother, we tend to go off our gut feelings, intuition, she likes to say. When I was accepted to college she told me she had a good feeling about the school. I had made the right decision. There was no logic in my application. I saw the ad, liked where it was, and because it had an Equestrian program, I applied. I didn’t even research the school. I ride horses. I have since I was six. Horses are my way of being, and my mother and father have invested thousands of dollars in me, not to be an Olympic rider, but because they both knew it made me happy.
My mother knows that when I am with my horses all my worries, all my insecurities, all my fears vanish. For a brief time I am invincible. I am infinite; my fingertips are only light and sensation. This I have confessed to my mother, and she is the only one that understands my love for the horse. She is the one that cried with me when my first horse died. She held me, and let me cry and she told me to love so hard is a good thing. To let a love take you over is a good thing, to feel the pain of love is a good thing. But now, I wish I was unable to love. I wish I could remove myself from all emotion. I wish that I could not feel the pain and anguish that I carry inside me every day. Despite my anxiety over my mother, she is my mother, and I am a reflection of her—I am her extension. I am part of her soul, as she is mine.
My mother is dying even if she will not admit it, even though she continues to move her legs and mouth, even though she continues to think the doctors will blast the bloody black thing from her womb, give birth to it, and everything will go back to normal. And yet, while her womb grows swollen and painful, I can only watch in silence. There is nothing I can do, but ride my horses, go to school, and pretend.
I glance at my mother again; her glasses are perched up on her hair. It is not her real hair. She lost all of her red hair six months ago. I heard her cry to my father through their closed bedroom door. I heard him say that he had not fallen in love with her hair. He had fallen in love with her brains. I hear them laugh amid muffled tears. My parents no longer have sex. She can’t because it is too painful. I know this because my mother told me. She told my father to take on a lover. I know that behind that closed door, he is holding her in his arms—what he is thinking, I will never know.
I know he feels her pain every day. This is what we share, and this is what I know without knowing. My sister is a shadow in all of this—I don’t even know she is around most of the time. I see her at the dining room table while we have dinner, but I have no words for her. Our sense of grief is too overwhelming to even communicate any love we might have for each other.
My mother confesses to me as we drive that she never felt complete. She always felt lost, and maybe that is why she traveled so much. She always felt she was running out of time, but when she became a mother she felt whole. She said to me that finally she understood what Plato meant in his writings on love—“that we all seek a union of one’s soul in order to form a union that will make one whole again.” She knew she had to travel, and that is why she worked and took my sister and me with her on her travels. I, too, feel as if I am running out of time. I, too, feel as if there is so much to explore that I would need five lifetimes to see and feel and smell it all. This, I inherited from my mother, the affliction we share- never feeling complete, despite the love around us.
When I think about the soul, and God, love, and the meaning of this life, I scare myself. I scare myself into not thinking. I think of jet-black dots, taking over my soul. I think I’m drowning from my fear. I want time to stop. To take a breath, relax for a moment and regroup, and then, very slowly start again.
I have for months been keeping bits of my mother’s hair that I find in the bathroom sink or on her bed pillow. I put them in plastic baggies, hiding them in my underwear drawer. It is as if I am a kleptomaniac. It is an impulse I do not really understand. I steal in to her room, and brush all of the hairs into little baggies. I do not know what my mother would think if she ever found my baggies full of her lost hair. She already thinks I am a bit weird, with my punk rock look and sulky personality. She hopes I will outgrow both. She tells me that once I get laid I might be less sulky. But then again, she feels no boy will look at me or want me because of my outrageous looks.
I don’t want to talk about my father, but it appears important for my mother to tell me her story of falling in love. I am fine with it just as long as she does not tell me about their sex life. My mother is very open about sex with me. I was told on my last trip to France that under no terms was I to lose my virginity to a Frenchman. It is a running joke with my family, because there was no chance I was going to lose my virginity in France. The boy I had fallen for turned out to be gay. I think my mother in some way planned it, willed it; some “secret mother power” still protecting me, even while I was thousands of miles away. When I had complained to her that I was unlucky in love and that is why out of all the boys I had met on that trip I had fallen for a gay boy, all she had to say was, “there is no logic to love, and love does not make sense, even to your father.”
“It is getting dark. Do you want me to drive,” I ask.
“No, I need you to listen to me,” she says.
“You know the kids hated me that first summer you sent me away. I spent most of the time riding their horse.”
“I didn’t send you away.”
“You know that Dad wanted me around, he wanted to know I was safe, not tramping around the French countryside on some strange horse. I wrote to him every week, explaining that he had no worries. I had fallen in love again with of course, a horse. He wrote back saying that was the best love to have.”
“Yes, I know, I read all your letters.” She says switching lanes, and putting on the headlights.
I learned that summer that memory is magic, and time can stop for a moment, or two. And now as I listen to my mother I think of that horse. I think how I galloped him through the hills. I breathe in his musky scent. I remember how he felt under my fingertips. How I cried when I left for home, knowing I would never see him again. He was a big chestnut with a flowing brown mane. He made my summer, and I spoke perfect French to him. “Je t’aime, Je t’aime. You have my heart,” I whispered as I felt his heart beat as we trotted through the wooded bridle path.
I continue to stare out the window, listening to my mother talk. I picture myself riding a horse across the openness of the land that parallels the expressway which we travel. I picture myself as a frontier woman, making my way into a new territory, staking my claim to a new land. I picture myself any other place than listening to my mother’s words. Her loquaciousness is exhausting to me. I feel selfish for not wanting to hear about her love for my father. I am ashamed for not being more interested, but all I can think about is myself, and what I am going to do without her. How will I define my own being without my mother’s guidance?
“I first noticed your father’s hands,” my mother continues. “You know, your father’s hands are well defined, well – manicured, not stubby, and fat like some men’s.” I think on this, and have to agree with my mother. My father has very nice hands, strong, with nicely shaped finger nails that match.
“He was smoking a cigarette and going on about the labor movement, and how we all had to organize a union. And all I could do was look at his hands, and wonder how they would feel on my body.”
“Really, Mom, please skip the details,” I whine.
“Oh please, like you don’t think such things when you see a handsome boy? Remember, I read your diary.”
I close my eyes, and listen to the car wheels along the expressway. I like telling stories. I like making stuff up to get a reaction out of people to see if they will believe me. I like making up stories to tell my mother. I told my mother that I had gotten drunk on red wine with a boy from Angouleme. We had met on one of the bridle paths while I was riding. He had stopped me and asked my name. He took me to a clearing where sunflowers grew along the side of the road, and kissed me. We met every day until I left to go home. My mother at first believed me, asking me what his name was, and what he looked like. I explained to her that his name was Pierre, and he had brown hair, and hazel eyes, and he was tall, and spoke perfect English. My mother’s eyes grew wider, and she took off her glasses, setting them on the kitchen table. I continued to tell her the story about finding true love in a field of Sunflowers—she interrupts me and says—“Jen, that is a beautiful story, never ever forget it, but I don’t believe a word of it.”
“Why?” I had asked.
“You would never have gotten off the horse.”
We had both laughed. She was right. I would have galloped past him, and laughed that his name was Pierre. I am told I have my mother’s laugh.
I think of the story of the Little Prince when he first meets the fox. The fox says to him, “What is essential is invisible to the eye.” I think of my father. I think of how love is invisible, and how with one touch, one glance, one first kiss, everything changed for my father when he met my mother on that porch in Chicago. When they kissed for the first time, their fate was sealed. Never did he think he would watch her die, and be able to do nothing.
“I fell in love with your father that night, she said with a sigh. I fell in love with the cadence of his voice and the softness of his kind hands, and how he talked not at me, but to me, as if I were his equal. It took me off guard. I was, at the time, dating a man who did not want children, but I wanted to get married. I wanted children. I always knew I wanted to be a mother.”
Despite the darkness in the car, I know my mother is crying. Recently she has been crying more—she has always been a sappy crier, the type that cries over touching commercials, endearing movies, inconsequential stuff that I would never cry over, but lately, I find her crying more, especially over my father.
“How did you know it was love?” I ask her.
“He told me on the porch that he wanted to be a father. It was like our paths crossed, as if I knew that he was the one, as if I knew this was meant to be.”
I reach for my mother’s hand in the dark. I do not want her to feel alone at this moment. I feel alone for her. I feel as if her love for my father is what, at times, keeps her going. I wonder if fatherhood answered some of the questions that philosophy could not. My mother feels too much. I know she feels the black thing growing inside her.
“You will promise me Jen, one thing,” she swallows hard as she makes the turn into my college driveway, “When I am gone, you will take care of him.”
My mother and I have had this conversation before. The first time was in the hospital. Now, as we sit in the car in the dark, she brings it up again. “Jen, you have a stronger nature than most; you process your emotions differently than most.”
What does that mean? I want to shout at her. What does it mean to process emotions?
“Jen, promise me,” she asks again.
I think of my father before we left on our trip. “Make sure, if she gets too tired you do the driving.” I gave him a hug, told him that everything would be fine, everything would be great. Now, I picture myself riding my horse, jumping into fields of the unknown. I picture myself as the little Prince, blasting off into space—I hold tight to my mother’s hand. I breathe her in. She is huge and infinite. She is my mother. I will do what she asks. I will take care of my father.
*****
Jennifer Lesh lives in a small village on the back side of the Sandia Mountains. She has several dogs to keep her warm at night and she rides horses. Several of her works are scattered on the Internet. She writes not for fame or fortune but because she likes to tell stories. She can be contacted atscrappsalot@aol.com.

“Sojourn No More,” a play by Eric Duhon

Click here to read Sojourn No More, a short play by Eric Duhon.

 

Eric is delighted to have his work featured in The Furious Gazelle! He graduated from Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, LA with a degree in Performance and Directing in Theatre. In the last decade, he has had the pleasure of working at several theatres across the country as an actor and writer in areas including Memphis, Minneapolis, New Hampshire and Chicago. Produced writing credits include: I Know (F.U.D.G.E Theatre Co.), Master Class (Fury Theatre), Meet the Tweedles (Curious Conversations, ECT) and Garcon (The Arc Theatre).

 

“Tripoli,” by Philip Bowne

Tripoli

The day the children received their letters from home, Mohammed had nothing. He was sitting on his own, as he always did, watching his peers at the summer school tear open brown envelopes. Each was marked with a different colour stamp from a different part of the globe.

‘I’m sure a letter will arrive for you soon,’ I said. He hadn’t had a letter from his family in the five weeks he’d been staying at the school.
‘If you say so, Mr. Raine,’ he said, squeezing his shoulder blades together as he waited for his first English lesson of the day. The tips of his brown fringe had been bleached blonde. The July heat was cruel and dry.
‘Tripoli is far away, after all.’ I squeezed his hand. It was half the size of my own and his knuckles were lined with white scars that stood out against his dark olive skin.
The last group of children ran into the hall. They jumped onto the stage at the far end and knocked a plastic table down to the floor, breaking off two of its legs. Mohammed jolted upright and moved closer to me. His eyes became two black marbles and a trail of goose bumps prickled up along his hairless forearm.
Another teacher ran over to the group and started pointing and shouting. Mohammed giggled. The morning bell rang for lessons to begin and the groups of children left.
‘Time for class, Mo,’ I said, gesturing to the door. He looked ill.
‘I will not go today,’ he said, folding his arms across his chest. His t-shirt was sitting looser on his shoulders and back. He’d been observing Ramadan for the past ten days and had only eaten before sunrise twice.
‘Wait here for me then. We’ll go for a walk.’

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MITES, by Alan Steinberg

Character: Joe: a man of indeterminate middle age, more blue-collar than white-collar

MITES

I know this guy ever since I was a kid. And every time something comes up we get into an argument over it. If it’s raining out and I tell him its raining, he’ll say, No, man, that’s not rain, that’s mist. And if I say it’s sunny out, he’ll shake his head and point and say, no, man, it’s partly cloudy – even if there’s just one little wisp of a cloud in the whole damn sky. You know the type. Mr. No, I call him. He doesn’t have an opinion about anything until you have one, and then he’ll take the opposite side just for spite. Like one of those mean little dogs that’s asleep until you walk by and then all hell breaks loose. Anyway, this one time he was talking about metaphors, trying to act smart and everything. And he says to me – What’s your metaphor for Life? And I said to him, I said: You want a metaphor for life? All right, I’ll give you a metaphor, Mr. Smart Aleck. Mites.

Mites? he says. And I tell him: What are you deaf as well as dumb? That’s no metaphor, he says, shaking his head and puffing himself up like he thinks he’s Socrates or something. How’s it a metaphor, Mr. Big Shot? he says. You tell me that.

So, I told him. I told him it’s a metaphor because it’s the size of a pin – the tip of a pin, you understand? Not the head, the tip. And it’s got a dozen legs on it, and every one of those legs itches. And about a million of these things are crawling down this spider’s leg and pretty soon they’re crawling up your leg, and that’s why they’re a metaphor. It’s because they’re dumb. It’s because they’re persistent. It’s because all they want to do is crawl and bite. You understand? They just want to get on you and bite and keep on biting. That’s their whole ambition. Their whole purpose in life. They crawl out of this spider’s belly, they take a deep breath, and then they look around for something they can bite. And every time they move one of their hairy legs, which you can’t even see except under a microscope, it’s a torment – an honest-to-God torment. And there’s not a damn thing you can do about it. Not once they get inside. Not once they start crawling on you. Because you can’t even see them, so that you gotta hold em up to the light and then this here spot starts moving and itching and you grab it between your thumb and finger and you squeeze the crap out of it till and then you look at your hand to see if it’s dead and the sonofabitch takes off like a bat out of hell as if nothing had happened.

   All that talk in the Middle Ages about how many angels you can get on the head of a pin – that doesn’t mean squat. Who the hell knows if angels exist? And even if they do, what is that all about? What can they do anyway – sing a hymn to you when you hold the pin up to your ear? But you take a mite – and you can maybe get 100 of them on the head of a pin – and you hold that up to your ear and they’ll bite the crap out of you. They’ll make that ear of yours a torment. You understand? All they’ve got are teeth and legs. Teeth and legs. Nothing else. No brain. No soul. No nothing. And all they do is bite and suck your blood and then use those hairy legs to move on down the line to the next poor bastard and bite him. Could be a mouse.  Could be an elephant. Could be the Queen of England, for that matter.

    Think about it. A whole planet full of them. I read where they catalogued 50, 000 kinds already. And they say there’s ten times more out there. Now what kind of universe goes in for a thing like that? You see God actually making something like that and sticking it in this spider’s belly so it can get on board the Ark? What kind of God would do that? That’s more like something the Devil would do.

     And if it’s not God, then what  – a whole universe of teeth and legs? Crawl and bite? All that stuff about a great white whale or the great white shark – that’s just a bunch of bull. The whole time Ahab was paddling around trying to shove a harpoon into Moby Dick, he’s got a whole shipload of mites biting the crap out of everyone.

   

   So, I tell my friend all this and you know what he says? He says, Mites don’t kill you. You don’t die from a mite. A lion bites you – now that’ll kill you. Or a mosquito that’s got a virus on it – that’ll kill you, all right. They got these flesh-eating bugs turn someone into a pint of slime. Now, that’s a metaphor.

    Man, you’re even dumber than a pint of slime, I tell him. You know that? The whole point about a mite is that it doesn’t kill you. There’s a whole universe of things out there that’ll come up and kill you. They probably got a movie about it already. Man-eating this. Man-eating that. But the whole thing about mites is that they’re such a torment they make you think about dying before you die. And you know what he says, that dummy, he says You really got this thing about them, don’t you?

    Yeah, I got this thing about them. I tell him. You know why? Because I used to be like you. Ignorant and stubborn. Thought they were just a bug. And then what happened was that I did a little kindness and I got bit for it. That’s what. And when I started thinking about it, I realized that’s the way the world works.  (very directly to the audience) You know what a phoebe is? It’s a bird. About the size of a blackbird. They spend their winters down south. Alabama. Georgia. Then they come up here for the summer. A pair of them – the size of a blackbird. Flying all that way up from Georgia. And you know what? They land right up over my window. And then they start building their nest right there. Right outside my window. Out of mud and grass. And they slap it up right against the wall. I can see em building it-the whole damn thing. And then before the summer’s out they hatch these two little phoebes and then they all take off for Georgia again. And then a year later, almost to the day, they come back right to that same damn spot. Not two inches away. Right there over my window. All the way from Georgia. Only now half the trees are down from this storm we had so the damn place doesn’t even look like it did. Looks more like a meadow. But still they find it. Only this time they come early. Maybe it’s global warming or something. Maybe something’s going on in Georgia they don’t like. So up they come. And they build their nest. And they have their two little babies. Only this time they don’t go away. Instead, they start to have a second batch of birds. Now all these other times right after they take off, I go ahead and knock down the old nest, because by then it’s all dried out and falling apart. Only this time, I can’t do it.

So, I tell this to my neighbor who’s always going on about nature and everything, and she tells me it’s not such a good idea. She says they stay like that bugs are gonna start coming around. Only she didn’t tell me what kind of bugs. She just said, If they’re gonna do that, then you really have to watch out for the bugs. That’s all she said. I thought maybe she meant mosquitoes. Or flies. I didn’t know she meant mites. And then those mites started coming in everywhere. Didn’t matter what you did. They’d get in. And they started crawling and itching. Crawling and itching. And that’s when I realized that’s the way the whole world works. Right from the beginning. Right from the Garden of Eden.  You got this apple hanging there. You got somebody who knows what’s waiting for you if you eat it, but all he says is “Don’t eat the apple because on that day you will die.” What the hell is that? Who the hell knows what death is? What it’s really like? So you go ahead and do a kind thing, you take the apple because it looks good, because it looks like it’d be good for you, and you go ahead and you share it, and the next thing you know you got a whole damn universe crawling on you.

    You see, if I’d knocked down that nest like I wanted to and didn’t give a damn about those phoebes, or instead of saying watch out for the bugs, my neighbor had said you let them stay there that long and you’re gonna get mites, and they’re the size of a pin – the tip, not the head, mind you – and they’re all teeth and legs and they’re gonna crawl on you till your whole life’s a torment, then none of that would have happened, would it? But no, I did a little kindness and I got bit for it. You better believe it. And you know what that jackass friend of mine said when I told him all this: Yeah, but you got a metaphor out of it, didn’t you?

Man, I just looked at him and shook my head. What else can you do? You can’t even be mad anymore. It’s gone past that. Gone way past that. All you can do is just feel sadness – sadness for all the ignorance there is in the world. 

You go ask Eve whether making the apple into a metaphor was worth it, I told him. See what she says.

*********

After many years of living in Idaho and Washington, Alan Steinberg now lives and works in New York. He has published fiction (Cry of the Leopard, St. Martin’s Press), poetry (Fathering, Sarasota Poetry Press), and drama (The Road to Corinth, Players Press). His radio play, The Night Before the Morning After, won the national award for radio drama sponsored by the American Radio Theatre.

Poetry by Changming Yuan

.

 

You are just a tiny pinpointing dot

But you can pin an end onto

Anything, anybody, even the entire cosmos

 

From the strongest statement

In the most powerful discourse

To the weakest form

Of the representation of life

 

A solid full stop

A minimal black hole

 

,

 

Among all punctuation marks

You have the most uses:

 

In ancient Greek you were meant

To cut off everything as if to show

All the continuity in modern English

 

Even in Chinese, or Babelangue

Word’s Worth: Wisdom in Nominal Formations  

 

Art should be a work able to startle the heart

Belief is impossible with a lie in it, while

Business never goes well without sin in between

 

Fact cannot be produced in a factory

Issue is anything that can lead you to sue, while

Life, like your wife, is always a matter of if

 

Recovery always implies something that’s over

Signature reveals the nature of the signer, while the

White have a hidden agenda to hit; by the way

 

Forget what you may wish to get:

Passion is the emotion of an ass

*******

Yuan Changming, 8-time Pushcart nominee and author of 4 chapbooks (including Mindscaping [2014]), is the most widely published poetry author who speaks Mandarin but writes English. Growing up in rural China and starting to learn the English alphabet at 19, Yuan currently co-edits Poetry Pacific with Allen Qing Yuan in Vancouver, Since mid-2005, Changming’ poetry has appeared in 997 literary publications across 31 countries, including Best Canadian Poetry (2009,12,14), BestNewPoemsOnline  and  Threepenny Review.

 

Away from the Flock by Liana Andreasen

Away from the Flock

by Liana Vrajitoru Andreasen

“It doesn’t hurt.”

The two boys hit Andrew’s legs again.

“Did it hurt now?”

Andrew shook his head, his eyes moving from one to the other. They were all about seven or eight.

“How about this?” One of the boys scratched Andrew’s face.

“It doesn’t hurt.”

“You’re lying.”

“It’s my turn,” Andrew said. “I’m gonna kick both of you and you aren’t allowed to cry.”

The two boys looked at each other. One of them turned and ran away from the low bushes, to the water. Now he was in full view of several other children, and one of the adults.

“Come back here,” Andrew shouted. The boy started running by the water, along the tree line. The geese ran away from his path.

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