The Furious Gazelle

Literary as hell.

Month: September 2015

“A Foreign Feeling,” by Josh Sczykutowicz

What you thought was the future disappears, all faith and belief vanishing like these swirls of smoke that roll into the distance and fade out. You knew so deeply the things that would happen, expected them like you expect the sun to rise tomorrow, with zero doubt, with zero uncertainty.

There are things you have always known would happen and these were some of them: the sun would rise and set, clouds would bring rain, air would enter your lungs if only you inhaled, water would enter if you were submerged, drowning, and you were going to get married soon. Your girlfriend was going to become your wife within the next year, no question, no doubt, just a fact of life. It was inevitable. None of your friends ever spoke any different; none of your family ever had a worrying word to share. And, if they did, they kept it silent, too sorry for you to speak out.

Everything from there on would mean something, would incorporate her into it. Anything you would ever do or anywhere you would ever go would have her injected into the very veins of these events like medicine. You have never believed in much but you believed in this, and now that belief is gone. And what does one do in a crisis of belief? How do you rebuild from this? How do you find the desire to want to? You have spent so long knowing in your heart that you would have this to count on, and now you do not, and what does that say about you? How much else might you believe in that is worth nothing? When do plans and certainties become lies and fantasies?

But she isn’t in love with you anymore and you are going to face this, you are going to suffer through the long empty spaces and pass through the hallways drained of life, the white walls looking no longer clean and bright but empty and clinical, because there are no other options.

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One Ridiculously Small Detail That Made Me Furious in Emma Robert’s new film Ashby

Ashby, a new comedy about a young boy who befriends an ex-CIA assassin, is not exactly a land mine of diversity. Not a single line was spoken by a person of color, and neither of the film’s female characters, played by Sarah Silverman and Emma Roberts, are given anything to do. Eloise (Roberts) has a mysterious MRI machine in her basement and even though she is really much more interesting than the male lead, played by Nat Wolff, she gets almost no screen time.

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However, one thing bugged me even more than this. Emma Roberts, what are you doing with your glasses? Her character has thick frames and brown hair, as befits a young nerd. But the actress seems lost on what to do with them. She wears them like an accessory. In one scene she has her glasses off, and puts them on to read a computer. Why does she do this? Is her character nearsighted? And if so why does she wear them to walk around? She’s supposed to be high school aged. Does she have bifocals?

I’m imagining a new final scene. Roberts goes to an optometrist. “But doctor, I’m losing all my near sight and my long-distance vision. I thought this was an ailment of the middle age?”

“No Emma, this is actually quite common in women of your age.”

Roberts hisses. “You promised me that the blood of orphans you gave me would keep me young. I want to keep playing high school students for another 10, 20 years.”

“The Size of Fruit,” and “Give Me Grace I Do Not Have,” two poems by Janet I. Buck

The Size of Fruit

 

When I was born

with disappointing body parts,

Mother cried in tears

the size of full green grapes,

did her best to hide their shapes,

make me smile like slices of a cantaloupe.

They hired surgeons by the herd,

combed the country for a plan

to help me walk, certain it was just a dream.

Because they didn’t quit in

centers of that prayer, I’ve stood

and walked for many years.

 

When Father read the fatal slide—

Leukemia with all the dots,

he couldn’t, wouldn’t try to talk.

Mother’s death at 33 left him there

in kitchen nooks with tart green olives

in a jar, martini glasses empty, clean

and put away, nothing left to celebrate.

He cried in plums, but kept them all away from us,

like pit bulls famous for their teeth.

 

Silence robbed so many years.

I told him straight I wanted some

acquaintance with her countenance,

the size of sweaters in her drawers,

the way she touched piano keys,

filled the room with sweet ballets inside his ears.

He played deafer than he was

the times I asked, punched his stomach

way too hard with question marks.

 

When death took him,

I wandered through a wilderness—

no figs on trees, no leaves on hope,

no corn beneath the stalks and strings,

no avocado under skins;

what scraps were there were bruised by then.

Desperate is desperate. I learned too late

dumping grief is not the goal—

you follow ivy to a grave and sit with it—

let the weeping willow weep.

My tears the size of coconuts,

I shook the tree and set one loose,

broke it quickly on a rock,

drank the milk, then found a plum,

seeded it, chewed the meat,

squeezed the juice and guzzled it.

 

If only I weren’t thirsty still—

I suck on ice all day long.

 

Give Me Grace I Do Not Have

 

The only thing that’s green today,

a heavy tank beside the bed.

He sucks on borrowed oxygen—

I bring him ice cream, watch it melt.

The final day of Father’s life,

a catheter runs his leg like caterpillars

up a branch, his fingers scratching

at the tape. I lotion skin around the edge.

 

I’m listening to piercing screams,

crows inside a muted glimpse

of Hitchcock films in black and white.

Pills will yield a scrap of rest,

but not for long. The real scuffle is with God

and what he says will happen next.

I pace the floor, leave the room,

return when I can breathe again.

 

His eyes are closed like sleeping owls.

I hear some noise, a vacuum sticking to a rug;

it’s sucking dust I want to stay,

anything to cover this.

“I want to die at home,” he says.

I sit up straight—a Blue Jay startled from a fence.

 

To steer myself away from wrecks,

I scribble on a notepad just inside my purse.

A poem smells old—mothballs in a dresser drawer—

all I own for coping skills, shaking stilts.

I’m not standing tall enough.

Times like this are not for kittens

whining for their mother’s milk.

 

I hold his hand, wishing it were mine, not his

inside this tome, between the shale

and blooming poppies in a field.

The quilt I was to keep him warm,

losing stitches one by one.

The hospice nurse suggests

we sing “Amazing Grace.”

A eunuch in the land of love,

I have no voice.

 

You can read more poetry by Janet I. Buck here

Poetry by Janet I. Buck

Janet I. Buck

 

Mugs of Tea with Hemlock Leaves

 

 

I’m here to place the last

of yellow marigolds to keep

the insects off romaine.

Here to water what is left.

The hose is crimped, its rubber

far too hot to touch.

An August sun that comes in June

could fry a slice of bacon

spread on lids of garbage cans.

 

I raise the blinds, stretching

out what sight is left.

Pods of lilies pop and bloom.

Their stems are 8 ft. tall at least.

I beg my husband: “Please buy stakes,

some sturdy rope.” He doesn’t see

our garden shows how seasons walk,

trip and fall. Dirt to daisy, then

to petals dropping off.

Embedded rocks along the grass,

once a trail to pleasantries,

mutate into shale and cairn.

Our neighbor has a hemlock tree.

 

Trumpets vines along the trellis

just outside our windowpane,

one deceased or getting there

in shrinking, melancholy strings,

the other wears a symphony.

The screen and view

insulted by a cobweb’s map.

Black widows or a brown recluse—

either way, the bite is sitting,

waiting there—

some stray arm will come too close.

 

Empty Answers—Empty Drawers

 

Liver Cancer started this.

Spreading fast like poison ivy—

lymph nodes to her burning ribs.

A prayer chain and a team of doctors

working hard to build a bridge to promised health

are not enough to calm me down.

Sending gifts—this fruitless fruit

of 13 scarves, sweaters for the trips to church,

all that tea, quiet music making noise

when rest is all she dreams about—

this isn’t very practical, when someone

spends entire weeks curled beside a toilet bowl.

 

Someone on the prayer chain types: “God is Big!”

Well, I am small, cannot sleep, lost inside a queen-sized bed,

twilight comes, then all the hours attached to moons

grow thick like building calluses.

I suck on pens, guzzle tea, notice that I haven’t touched

our black remote since March arrived

and this is June. Dozing off, head first into dinner plates,

I wipe the oil & vinegar, mashed potatoes off my face,

thank my husband for the towel.

It’s 2 a.m.—I haven’t hit the pillow yet,

grabbed a shower, answered e-mail, paid my bills.

I open windows, gulp the air to wake me up,

eavesdrop as the crickets sing, their clicking slippers

made of glass and fairytales.

 

I throw my laptop on the mattress, pick it up,

try again to write about what should not be her destiny.

It could be a Hallmark card or putting down

a facile pen, pinning ears to baser truths

that halted sterling symphonies. I don’t know.

She doesn’t say. Both of us are weak and tired

from tragic times divided only by their themes.

I’ve Googled every niche and corner

matching roads where this might lead.

 

When she calls, we listen to the silences

longer than we ever have—

breathe and sigh, a quick duet.

She’s got the guts to call it Cancer;

I’m the one who calls it IT.

We’re two birds that fly by strange

coincidence down chimney flues,

end up in the kitchen nook—

no idea where to go, losing feathers,

running into furniture and painted walls.

A whistling kettle on the stove

is making sounds I cannot hear.

I want to be a marching band

that hurries ‘cause it’s raining hard.

 

All she says is: “Aren’t you tired

of playing strong no matter what?”

We agree like matching socks.

I will sit until a fleet of hummingbirds

comes tapping at the window glass, self-assured

that nectar’s still inside a Calla Lily in a vase

poised upon the dresser’s wood.

Empty answers. Empty drawers.

Full of stuff, too much to move and organize.

I carry crystal with both hands to water

what is still alive. My husband turns the faucet on,

tells me that I need some sleep. Of course he’s right.

 

She’ll need me in the breakdown lane.

 

Hustle, Hustle—Hurry Up!

 

On this one day, I hated the shapes

of both our phones. Even tore one

off the wall, then put it back.

Stared at my insanity     —    until one rang.

Vomited beside the bed

before I ever answered it.

I have Cancer in my liver,

in my lymph nodes, in my bones.

My best friend’s voice hit me

like five olive pits thrown inside

disposals in the kitchen sink.

The silence gap—Grand Canyon style.

Then I can tell by listening,

she’s fighting hard, hard enough

to win some war, busy in a distant land.

 

She lives too far away to touch;

since all the gifts I mail off

aren’t medicine and she has that,

I stand between the shale and cairn.

She’s been a living, breathing angel

all her life. Every move is hurting her.

I understand why Rimbaud

scratched upon a brick on Paris streets:

Merde a Dieu! Artists try to be polite—

sometimes life destroys a clause.

 

Never certain when to call—don’t

break minutes when she sleeps—

they’re weak saltines. Don’t crush a second

in the day, where Cancer isn’t

what begins a sentence rolling in her head.

Pitch the stupid pansies in their pony packs;

buy perennials in bloom; grab the shovel,

move the dirt. Hustle, hustle, hurry up—

find that God-damned Northern Star,

cradle it in bubble wrap,

double check your address book—

ship it Fed-Ex Overnight.

 

Janet Buck is a seven-time Pushcart Nominee and the author of three full-length collections of poetry; her work has won numerous literary awards and she has published roughly 4,000 poems and non-fiction essays in print and internet journals around the globe during her 18 year writing career. Buck’s most recent poems are scheduled for publication in forthcoming issues of The Milo Review, Mistfit Magazine, The Ann Arbor Review, Antiphon, River Babble, PoetryBay, and other journals worldwide.

“Munich ’65,” a memory by Alan Stolzer

MUNICH ’65

by Alan Stolzer

 

Meister!” he exclaimed, displaying a profile that exhibited an eyeless socket and a grin, perhaps once steady now interrupted by a tooth here and there. He put his face nearer mine, breathed breath drenched in beer and pointed at his groin, his missing eye then pantomimed a rifle and its bullet entering each. The hauptbahnhof (railroad station) waiting room was smoke filled and noisy at 3am or maybe it was this way every 3am but since this was my first time I couldn’t say.

My friend swept an undamaged arm toward others in the room, several wearing wehrmacht (army) campaign hats (as he did) muddled in their thoughts or conversations. At any rate, it served as barrier against an ice-tinged, pre-sunrise morning in Munich, 1965. The ex-soldier didn’t seem to care my German wasn’t anywhere near his nor up to par for that matter. Consequently, I couldn’t begin telling him I was between jobs and without lodging for, hopefully, this night only.

His gestures and talk, some to me, the rest for the room, were easily absorbed by the erratic hum of voice and smell familiar to contained space peopled by crowded bodies; no time or inclination to wonder how one arrived here but surrender to inevitable need for warmth and companionship – desirable or otherwise.

I wanted to find out where he had served. Was it North Africa, France or most disastrously the Russian Front where I’m sure he was as ignorant of that language as I was of German – save a few necessary phrases. Was he hospitalized for long? If so, where? What about his family? Did they ever exist beyond a certain point in time? What was his name come to think of it?

Zu namen” I asked meekly, unsure of grammar or meaning (to him) for that matter. “Namen?” he straightened and showed me the good eye.

Ja” I replied securely using a word everyone knew.

Namen, namen” he went on, beginning to walk about the room, tripping on an extended foot, then shoved away by one whose lap he’d fallen into. No one queried him nor tried communicating: Here, civilized hostility seemed the norm.

He spun around room center, ended his whirl and addressed me again. “Meister!” unsteadily approaching, his nose having begun to drip, the tattered Wehrmacht overcoat open, its lining shredded, the outer part witness to who knows how many abuses or horrors.

For a wild moment I thought he was going to dance – here in this living grave of memory and reflex. How many dead had he seen? How many created by him and others? No, there was no dance, only energy that had no purpose or intention anymore. I knew he wouldn’t cry, sure whatever moisture for that outlet dried up years ago. Instead he was part of a celebration of lost souls not quite ready for last breath but acknowledging that event with the confidence of being, at last, right about death and welcoming that eventuality as one would submerge in endless ocean, warm to the skin, peaceful in benevolent introduction to forgetfulness.

I became even more frustrated knowing I was unable to even find out what his unit was, where he served and what the hell did he think of the war in the first place? There was one after all and now he was latter day victim, condemned by forces that controlled his thoughts to their own insane end. Did he, in any way, feel this? If he did, was he able to communicate what he wanted? I’d never known a shell of a human being before which aroused fascination as well as apprehension.

He was making drinking motions now, perhaps wanting me to buy him a beer. I’m sure I had a particularly stupid grin on my face as I, with difficulty since I was hemmed in, tried pulling my pants pockets out to inform him of my present state of affairs; insulted, he leapt into the stale air, pulled his pockets out then turned his back bending over to show me what he thought of my response.

Embarrassed, I huddled back into my place trying to sever whatever contact was left. But my companion would have none of that: Energized, he pointed at me and bellowed something to the uncaring room. It appeared he was trying to shame me to his world, or welcome a stranger (foreigner?) to their privacy, usher him into their present and dubious future. I couldn’t shrink any further back and couldn’t possibly dare the cold for the balance of the hostile night. Did he know he had a captive audience? Did any of it matter? Maybe he was telling them I was going to buy drinks, that an interloper had the price of relief after all. But I couldn’t say this wasn’t so and kept uneasy silence and waited for whatever came next.

Now his oration got louder. Whatever he was saying was apparently sincere. A face, here and there, rose from its previous place on its chest, some smiled, recognition of something in their eye – of what I couldn’t begin to guess. Here arose a shorter man on his feet trying to stand at attention, weak kneed but ridiculously willing. Another tried following suit and another pulled the short man’s pants down instead. Anger flared and I thought a fistfight was sure but the half dressed ex-soldier only flopped back into the lap of his undresser both laughing uncontrollably.

All jammed into this space must have been military since after a glance around the room there were clearly no civilians other than me; no civilians of 1965 nor years before. It was as if this room was reserved for those passing through all right, through a life best and deliberately forgotten by everyone in 1965. Indeed, the sooner the room was empty the better – even at 3am.

My thoughts, of course, didn’t affect my one-eyed and possibly neutered friend as he stayed on his feet not even seeking a seat among comrades. I wondered if this exhibition of resiliency would be his last and if he knew it. He certainly didn’t care and might be welcoming that waiting sea of eternity forever warm as might have been promised by a friendly prophet or two. Would he sing “Lili Marlene” as others might? Would he stiffen a good right arm in fascist salute, memory functioning mechanically as reminder of headier days?

At last he turned to me again and I saw fatigue, for the first time, exercise its will. He panted a bit, his grizzled face whiter than before. A step away he collapsed on his knees, his arms flung into my lap. Now what, I wondered? I can’t stay this way all night and who was there to help?

His face slipped down between my legs almost to the floor while he withdrew his arms to my legs, hugging them for all he and they were worth. “Meister, meister,” he moaned, now unconcerned over what friends and comrades might think.

 

**********

 

It would be some time, I don’t know how long before a crack of light entered this tomb but one did. Two policemen, clearly alerted by someone, had entered and began pulling my friend off. I could see his death even as its remaining teeth protruded through a dark mouth, frozen crookedly forever. No one murmured a syllable as the cops carried him out with his past probably only known to him – if that was the case in the first place.

 

**********

 

Alan Stolzer was born, raised and educated in New York City.  After completion of military service, he traveled throughout Western Europe working odd jobs while writing freelance journalism for International Herald Tribune, Mallorca Daily Bulletin and various other European dailies (translated articles).  Alan has been published in El Sol de Mexico and El Heraldo de Mexico.  He continued writing upon return to U.S. and have written for the stage since. He studied with playwright John Ford Noonan, and served as dramaturg at St. Clements Theatre, New York, NY.

 

“Doctors,” a short story by Linda Boroff

Doctors

by Linda Boroff

 

Berkeley attracted fugitives, Katie was beginning to realize, whether from the law, from failed relationships, or from the person one had once been. A young couple, Brigit and Tony, had just moved into the flat across the hall in the gray Victorian where Katie lived with her roommate, Cherie. Cherie believed in getting to know one’s neighbors, so she had invited Brigit and Tony to dinner. In the course of their conversation, Katie learned that Tony had done prison time in Georgia for robbery, burglary and car theft, and that Brigit had run away from her studies at Georgia State with this prize catch.

Brigit wore a short black skirt, scuffed loafers and no hose, revealing perfect legs, a grimy band-aid clinging to one knee. Though her ratty blue angora sweater had come from a Salvation Army bin, it did not conceal the fact that God had paid close attention when he put her together.

Tony was about thirty, a tall, lanky blond redneck with amused, larcenous blue eyes, an immaculate dresser and pathological liar who had also developed the bad habit of bigamy. For Tony, the law just kept breaking like a rotten shoelace. Neither Tony nor Brigit had any source of income, but masterful shoplifting kept them well provisioned.

At sixteen, Katie was on her own for the first time. Two months ago, she had arrived in Berkeley on a busload of Vietnam antiwar protestors from Santa Monica. When she called home to announce that she was staying there, her mother had not tried to dissuade her. Katie had joined a crowd at school that drank, used drugs, and had sex. She was truant and had been caught forging attendance excuses. Time and again, she stayed out all night. Her best friend, Erin, carried on with a married man. After school, Katie and Erin would get into Erin’s alcoholic mother’s vodka and call up boys and men, even teachers. Like her absent, errant father, Katie was tall and blue-eyed, curly-haired, and argumentative. The very sight of her seemed to infuriate her mother.

From day one, Berkeley had burst upon Katie, overwhelming and embracing her. This was not “another Berkeley,” or “a little Berkeley.” This was the real thing. Standing before Sproul Hall in a crowd of protesters, Katie had looked up the stairs to its Greek colonnades with a euphoric premonition that her life was at last beginning.

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The Miracle Maker, by David Scheier

The Miracle Maker

by David Scheier

I knew better than to go home with him, but he juggled planets, made arm-length dragon blood trees sprout from barstools and drank sun-fire instead of vodka, which shouldn’t impress me but did.

So how could I refuse? His head contained a wild ocean in place of his hair – a charming whirlpool at the chin that spun violently with thunder and lightning. Naturally, his eyes too, a hint of turquoise electric bolts cracking briefly in his pupils as he downed shot after shot of nuclear energy, pulled me in. He was a god all right, or part god, half Olympian bar-hopper and half culinary art school dropout.

“Sweet thang,” he said rolling bracelets of asteroids from wrist to elbow. “How ‘bout old Uncle buys you a drink?” I rolled my eyes. “All the drinks,” he added and my eyes rolled again. “Baby, I’ll turn the bartender into a mango martini, or how about a dirty Manhattan?” My eyes focused on him. He pointed his finger, the bartender swirled, body widened, and became transparent and hollowed out to a glass filled with liquid. The dirty Manhattan-tender sloshed and spun before breaking on the hardwood floor. “His name was Michael.” The god looked pensively at his finger. “And it was his time.” He raised his hands, towers of mixed drinks, canned beers, low-ball dancers and highball serenades lined the bar, teleported from the netherworld and into the hands of barflies. “Drinks on me, everybody.”

“Datz where it’s at!” shouted a blond fluffy-haired man with his shirt unbuttoned down to his navel. The god turned to me, fingers in the shape of a gun.

Oh god, he’s going to turn me into a vodka-tonic, I thought. He ran his fingers along my head, through my hair, and above my ears. I wanted to tell him how inappropriate this was: his pistol fingers, flipping my hair, and turning people into drinks.

“Susan, it’s okay Susan, I want to make you feel good.” His smile sincere, teeth chimed under the blue and purple tavern lights. “Now you’re thinking, how did I know your name?” He pulled me close using atoms, gently touched my shoulders. The tavern walls melted and transformed to an evening sky, light fixtures evaporated into the moon and street lights and finally my bedroom, yes, I was smashed. He kissed me, and kissed me some more, he kisses me aggressively, and kissing me still – when did this happen, the change from past to present tense in my story?

“Don’t worry about it Susan, we can jump time and all other narrative techniques.”

“My name isn’t Susan,” I told him. He smiled and undressed me with the touch of a finger and bite of his lip. He, too, bare now, skin, the olive smoothness of a Mediterranean dolphin. My hands possessed, caress his muscle, chiseled, and oh, god-sexy chest and arms. Just tonight, I tell myself. He winks at me. I won’t go alone to bars again. We make love for eons, looped in some out worldly time. He sets the mood with strategically placed pinhole stars, comets riding along the walls of my room and galaxies colliding and forming in the wake of our sex. The matter of space changed color, purple, blue, then a lighter shade of purple, and a then darker shade of blue. We started with headstand sex, our bodies melted to the stuff lava lamps are made of, I turned to clay and cracked when penetrated by his sex, and finally, invisible sex moving fast into the future while floating in this contained space of orbiting orange, and bustling blue stars around marble suns.

And it was over. I wake alone. My body aching from the stillness of time and my floor covered with tiny holes and ash from the scattered collections of stars and suns. A black hole still spins by my dresser, getting larger as it eats dust, dirty cloths and the paint off the walls.

*************

David Scheier is writer and illustrator who holds a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Texas at El Paso and a Masters of Fine Arts in Writing from the School of Art Institute of Chicago. Currently, he teaches at Harold Washington City College. Both his illustrated and written work have appeared in various publications including the following: The State, Spork Press, BlazeVOX, OVS, Front Porch Journal, Rio Grande Review, Petrichor Machine, Gather Kindling, Meekling Press,and Ginger Piglet. Visit him online at society6.com/davidscheier.com.

“back alley love,” a poem by Tiffany McDaniel

back alley love

i keep the
universe
in my
knees

the ground
is hard
and
cold

this night will
never
have a
day

my mouth is
wide
and has no
name

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