The Furious Gazelle

Literary as hell.

Category: Essay (page 1 of 4)

“Barbie’s Going to Hell,” an essay by Bethany Hunter

Jenny lived across the street and down three houses. Precocious, with white blonde hair in a bowl cut and a tendency to run around the neighborhood in her swimsuit, she was the first friend I had when we moved in.

My father was a fundamentalist evangelist and along with my mother, we had been traveling around the country in our big 1983 burgundy Buick, state to state, church to church, revivals, tent meetings and summer camps for the last seven and a half years. After years of pleading from my mother for a home of our own and empty promises from my father, he had finally found a church to pastor and we were going to “settle down.” The church was in a Phoenix suburb and had a small, struggling congregation that needed Jesus as much as they needed jobs and money to pay bills that were due last month. With little more than a pittance, a rental house with three bedrooms and two bathrooms, a front and backyard, as well as the long promised formal dining room, was found for us fifteen miles away in a largely Mormon part of town. As a homeschooled, only child whose friendships came on visiting preacher’s kid status and the backseat of the Buick that was the most permanent personal space I had, the move to a house in a neighborhood with an elementary school around the corner was new, exciting and often a culture shock.

Jenny’s family was what my mother called “rough around the edges”, but Jenny was friendly and curious and no cold shoulder from my mother seemed to discourage her interest in me. We walked the two blocks to school together in the mornings and rode our banana seat bikes around the neighborhood in the afternoons. Roughly the same age and in the same class at school, the thing that really cemented our friendship was a love of Barbie dolls. Barbie, Ken and her friends were my favorite, though they were generally given different monikers and often after various pastor’s wives or children I had liked best; small and compact, they were easy to pack up and play with in the backseat of the car. Barbie’s long hair, big breasts, tiny waist, plenty of dresses made out of my father’s old ties and tiny plastic high heels made her the perfect wife, mother and lover of Jesus in all the scenarios that I placed her. I was never aware that Barbie had a dream house or career aspirations. My Barbie had been baptized in the bathroom sink in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of her sins and cooked dinner for her family before going to church three times a week. Jenny’s Barbie dolls moved in different circles; they wore mini skirts, some cut their hair off and drove Corvettes. Regardless of our respective Barbie’s differences, Jenny and I loved to bring our haul together and spent countless hours in our imaginary worlds with them. Continue reading

2018 Spring Contest Winner: “Emily’s Garden” by Brandon Hansen

I knelt in Emily’s garden for the first time years ago, just as her and her sister, Stephanie, were moving into their new apartment – the first floor of a duplex, a beautiful place, close enough to Lake Superior to smell the water, to feel its chill on the wind as it snuck between the latticed streets, the lavish houses downtown, where Emily said it was a miracle, really, to have found the place at all.

Emily pointed to bare patches of soil in the garden, dry, pockmarked with withered grasses from transplanted seeds carried in the cheeks of, I’m sure, chipmunks and gray squirrels, who laid down roots and forgot them there. Emily tells me there’ll be a rosebush, a something-colorful here, something-tall there. I tell her I can’t wait to see it.

On the porch, Stephanie talked to my brother, Nicky, who’s three years younger than me, five years younger than the sisters. They’re both smiling, and the sun pours down on all four of us, and I remember thinking that I felt so lucky, then.

I first met Emily and Stephanie as a flash in my vision, really, two shapes against the blizzard outside who stepped through the doors of the University Center I was situated in, where I was advertising Windows 8, standing next to a high-table, holding a tablet “thin as a dinner plate!” and “very fast!” and “has Paint!” Or something like that. I needed Christmas money, needed money to make it home, and as I whispered to Emily and Stephanie, snow swirling on the linoleum floors from the door they opened to come inside and escape the blizzard, I didn’t really feel very passionate about Windows 8. I gave them free sunglasses and book bags, and we drew flowers on the “innovative touch-screen!” of the tablets, while I told them about none of the features, except for all of the colors you could make if you slid your finger like “this” or “that” on the gradient. Continue reading

2018 Spring Contest Finalist: “August, 1938” by Allison Brice

railroad crossing

At some point in the stickiness of last summer while I was detoxing from my psych meds, I got very scared and very sad for no reason and locked myself in my closet. (Ironically enough I had come out of the closet years ago; at the time I didn’t find it that funny, but these days I think it’s hysterical.) I assume that some primal part of me longed for the days of being swaddled as a baby while my brain was dry-heaving itself to death, so I found a nice dark corner behind my winter coats and novelty Harry Potter robes and stayed there sobbing for an hour. Eventually I came out and wrote a poem about it. A week later I took my last dose. Continue reading

“Endings,” an essay by Pamela S. Carter

Sometimes I see scenes from my life like a long, disjointed movie on which the credits should have rolled hours ago. But it just keeps going, at least for now. Still, my lifetime, like the life cycles of the ash trees in my backyard, is finite. My trees, although a year or two younger than I am, are at the end of their life cycles, according to an arborist who came out to determine why they looked so poorly this fall. He recommends cutting them down and replacing them with young catalpa trees, but I am torn. It will take years for the new trees to provide the shade the old ones do now, and I don’t want to leave my son John, who will inherit this house, with the cost and worry of taking down the ash trees. The trees are living beings but not sentient, as far as I know, so I assume they have no sense of their impending end of days.

Damn those trees. Until this fall I always took them—and their shade—for granted. I even planted a garden of shade-loving plants beneath the shelter created by the giant canopy of the tree on the north side of the house. But then I believed Paul, my third husband and the love of my life, would live forever. He certainly seemed invincible. In his sixties he had low blood pressure, even lower cholesterol, and the sex drive of a teenager. He shoveled snow, raked leaves, kept the yard weeded, and built every stick of furniture in our house—right up till he developed a pain in his right upper abdominal cavity in the spring of 2014. He went to the doctor in July, spent the summer months undergoing tests, was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer in late October, and died in the predawn darkness of November 7, 2014. It happened too fast for me to comprehend. Continue reading

“Why I Hate Spring, or How I Almost Hung Myself but Went to the Nervous Hospital Instead,” by Dr. Patrick Dobson

 

About five years ago, I went to the mental hospital. I was going to hang myself. Just as I was choosing the rope, I experienced an epiphany. Maybe this wasn’t a good idea, at least, not as good as I thought it was.

Springtime was on me. The season has always been difficult. As days get longer and the light more intense, I get more and more depressed. I find myself crying, seemingly just for the hell of it. Feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness grow. I stay in bed longer and sleep during odd times of the day. Fatigue plagues me.

Soon, usually by the beginning of March, the world looks and feels dead to me. I see the flowers and the trees busting into green. I hear the birds and see the rabbits. Beauty is all around and I have no connection to it. I isolate myself. Thoughts of suicide and of absconding from home haunt me. A pall hangs over me. I know I should be doing things but cannot find the energy or ambition to undertake them. All sounds are too loud. Activity around me, any activity, grates on me like sandpaper on raw nerves. Continue reading

“If the Shoe Fits . . .,” an essay by Mary Street

I have a fatal attraction to shoes. For a brief period, in my early adulthood, I strayed into a certain leather handbag attraction, but I never lost my lust for shoes.

A deep leather handbag, one that can hold a toaster comfortably, gave me a sense of completeness. What can go wrong in my world when I’ve got everything I need slung over my shoulder? Eventually the price of a good leather handbag exceeded my budget, and, like bitter lovers, we broke up.

Shoes have always captured my attention, with an urgent whisper saying You must have me! I was five years old the first time it happened. I begged for a pair of shoes like the older girl next door was wearing. “Can I have a pair of Beverly shoes?” I whined. They were red canvas espadrilles with long laces that entwined up Beverly’s ankles. To my five year old eyes they were riveting. Continue reading

“An Urban Legend,” an essay by Susanna Man

The bus headed for Cluj splashes in the puddle as it rolls in to the station in Gheorgheni, Romania on Friday at two pm. My heart jumps. I climb the few steps, hand the money to the driver and tell him to drop me off at the brewery, opposite the University of Veterinary Medicine and Agricultural Studies in Cluj. I squeeze my small backpack in the narrow alley between the rows of seats and look for an empty one. I find two vacant seats together, throw my backpack beside me and sink into the plush covering.

The bus cradles me. I slip into sleep, far away from my week of teaching English as a foreign language to lanky pimple-faced boys and wannabe fashionista girls in Salamon Erno High School in my home town, Gheorgheni.

Cluj, the flashy, fancy, everyone’s favorite city, boasts the largest student population from all over Romania. I graduated from one of its universities, Babes-Bolyai in English and Hungarian literature. Leo, my boyfriend of two years, still studies in Cluj to become a veterinarian. We meet every two weeks. He visits his family in Gheorgheni once a month, and I travel to Cluj once a month. I look forward to this weekend. Continue reading

“Pocket Knives,” an essay by Renee Igo

A knife has many uses in the wilderness.  I’ve taken Jamie’s knife from her, the weight of it added to mine in my pocket every day, the weight of trust hitting my leg, of no new scars.  

 

She is my student on a month-long wilderness expedition.  Our goals are to develop leadership skills, provide opportunities for reflection and growth, travel 150 miles by foot and canoe, and return everyone to their families safely.  On the sixth day of the trip, another student tells my co-instructor and me that Jamie has both snuck a pocket knife on the trip, and told her teammate about her history of cutting.  So it becomes my job, standing together on a trail slightly removed from the campsite, to ask Jamie for her knife.  I tell her I, too, snuck my knife onto my expedition when I was a teenage student in our program.  I ask her for the specifics of her past: where, when, under what circumstances, how recently.  She cries and then confides, cutting, scratching, wrists, thighs, the past two years.  I thank her and offer to carry her knife and allow her its use whenever she needs to chop vegetables or would like to whittle a stick or fillet a fish.  We return to camp with the weight in my pocket doubled.

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“Cast Out,” an essay by Marlena Fiol

Something was terribly wrong. My lower abdomen was swollen and sore. I had lost nearly ten pounds in the past two weeks. I could no longer keep my food down, and a screaming pain ripped through my vagina every time I peed. In order to keep this mysterious condition from my strict Mennonite missionary parents, I ran outside after almost every meal and vomited behind the hedge near the veranda of our house.

It was November of 1969. Just a few weeks earlier, I had graduated at the top of my high school class at the Liceo de San Carlos in Asunción, Paraguay. My life lay ahead of me like a shiny blank whiteboard, inviting me to imagine endless possibilities. Now, at home at my parents’ leprosy station for summer vacation, I felt only a dark cloud of pain and confusion.

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“Shake a Leg,” an essay by Susan Richardson

It was early Spring in Los Angeles and the day was perfect; temperature in the high 60’s, an easy breeze drifting across the city. The conditions were ideal for sitting outside, listening to music and maybe even taking in a show.  I have lived in Los Angeles for decades and learned to appreciate the colorful absurdity that is L.A., and the bizarre streak that runs through many of its inhabitants.  As a purveyor of public transportation, I know that freaky things happen while riding the bus, but just as many occur while you wait.

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