The Furious Gazelle

Literary as hell.

Category: Writing (page 2 of 33)

“All the Pretty Lights,” a short story by Alex Rosenfeld

For Lollie


Otieno (oh-tee-en-oh) feels lost, again. Lying on his bed, the Sixers game plays on the flat screen while the A/C forces the dust on the bookshelf to resettle. The bookshelf, really his wife’s bookshelf, encompasses both sides of the wall around the flat screen TV. A year’s worth of dust mars the spines. That must be her skin still existing in the world. On one of the shelves sit pictures of his parents, two of his best friends, and his beloved cat, Oliver. They’re all gone. Part of living as long as he has, he’s seventy-seven, has entailed outliving everyone he’s ever loved. Maybe he should have pushed his wife harder to have a kid. Then, at least he’d have someone, and he probably wouldn’t be contemplating how high to fill his rocks glass with brandy to wash down too many of the painkillers meant to manage his recent back pain.

Warm August air tiptoes through his apartment window – the apartment where he and his wife moved a few years ago when the house started feeling too big – while his eyes search the starless, moonless night. His shadow doesn’t reach up the wall as far as most men’s would, yet the shadow is enough for him to believe that the darkness isn’t just pressing in from the outside, but emanating from inside, too. He runs a hand through his gray, fading hair that sprouts unkempt above a receding hairline, as if present only to delay the inevitable. In the angled glass of the open window, the Sixers game reflects next to his face, which is so much older than the players’ faces on the screen. It didn’t use to be that way. Now his dark skin is worn down and sags away from his bones, away from him, as if it’s getting ready to leave him. He’s never used so many notches on a belt before.

Otieno doesn’t think about the TV being the only light in the room before turning it off. He lingers in his newfound darkness. Does it matter to have lights on when you live alone? The darkness speaks to his existence. He’s invisible. A retired insurance salesman living in Allentown, quiet Pennsylvania suburbia, with no reason to leave the house other than to buy groceries. Soon after his wife passed, he tried going to synagogue, hoping to meet people. The more he went to services, the more people talked to him about the importance of having God in his life, and the more it seemed God wasn’t going to save him. God appeared to have retired from burning bushes and parting seas. It seems modern day people don’t need miracles. They just need to believe in them. Continue reading

The Search for Alexander the Great by Charles Haddox

It’s strange how a person who would ordinarily be insignificant in one’s life, who should already be forgotten, remains in the memory simply because of an association with the first intense, passionate stirrings of love. Some dull, remote co-worker who introduced you to the man or woman of your dreams, for example, will forever be a part of a whole series of magical recollections, a minor character in one’s own personal fairy tale. For me, ugly, middle-aged Pauley Reddy, a ticket-seller at the Field Museum in Chicago, was just such a person.

    I worked for a time at a weekly tabloid-format entertainment publication in Chicago, where I held the inflated title of Film Editor. We had a Music Editor and an Arts Editor, as well as a Publisher—who my father-in-law would have called a “success story,” i.e., a trust fund baby—a motley group that along with me constituted the entire staff. All layout, sales, and production work was contracted out. I fell madly in love with the Arts Editor, Eliza Oberwitz, from my first day at the paper.

    One morning, the Music Editor, Mark Betts, and I decided to accompany Eliza to a traveling exhibit at the Field Museum that she was planning to review for our publication. The exhibit was called “The Search for Alexander the Great,” and I don’t remember a whole lot about it except that there were a bunch of Greek artifacts and stuff. Actually, I don’t even remember that much. I’m just assuming that there must have been. I spent the entire tour of the exhibition staring at Eliza, studying her smile and her walk, watching the enthusiasm in her eyes. She was born in England, and still retained a soft West Midlands accent—which sounded like music to me. Her family had moved to Chicago when she was fifteen. She still considered herself British, and had a snobbish preference for all things English. The only times I ever saw her act peevish or defensive were on those occasions when someone made negative comments in her presence about something related to England, however remotely. I remember her scathing response to an article Mark had written that was critical of the direction Kate Rusby’s career had taken. She told him in no uncertain terms that he knew nothing about English folk music, and had no right to pass judgement on what did or did not constitute genuine musical development. If it could be said that Eliza had one fault, it was her “Anglo-touchiness,” as Mark so aptly christened it. Eliza is the most wonderful person in the world, so it’s terribly unfair of me to focus on one of her only flaws. But her lovely English accent was part of what distracted me from putting more effort into “The Search for Alexander the Great,” as I listened delightedly to the questions that she asked the guide at every turn, comprehending little of what was actually said. Continue reading

“The Falcon Cannot Hear the Falconer, but I Can Hear the Falcon (I Think),” a poem by Julia Brown

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“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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“Hell’s Kitchen,” a short story by Karl Harshbarger

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“Exiting A Man’s Cave,” a One-Act Play by Holly Morse-Ellington



JUNEY, a college-aged female


GEORGIA, Juney’s mom, divorced, early fifties


CATHY, Georgia’s sister-in-law and neighbor, late forties


DAVIS, Cathy’s husband, late forties



Present day, afternoon.

A middle-class family in a suburban neighborhood in Kentucky. A front door opens from the wings stage left into a kitchen. Center stage, a kitchen table with four chairs. Stage left, a “kitchen island.” Upstage right, a modest Christmas tree with lights lit.


Note: The use of a working “kitchen island” with built-in stovetop can be implied by a cabinet, no electricity to this cabinet is necessary. A real, pre-cooked packaged spiral ham, such as Kentucky Legend, is needed as a prop.

Play begins when JUNEY and GEORGIA return home from Sunday church service.

JUNEY and GEORGIA are carrying plastic bags of groceries looped around their wrists into the kitchen. JUNEY holds a pamphlet that had been wedged inside the screen door.

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“The Movie Business,” a short story by Alan Swyer

Despite having moved up in the world from fledgling to promising and then to someone with actual screen credits, Cutler found himself stuck in one of what he called his Between Projects Blue Periods, funks that invariably started the moment he went from the precarious status of being Only the writer, Merely the writer, or Nothing but the writer to something far worse:  No longer the writer.  

He had been in Hollywood long enough to know that, with the exception of certain hyphenates — a handful of writer-directors, plus those fortunate writer-producers who happened to create a TV series — screenwriters were deemed at best a necessary evil, with the emphasis invariably on evil.  Their importance, to whatever degree such a term could be applied, ended the moment their final draft was turned in, which meant an instantaneous cessation of the phone calls and lunches designed to support a work-in-progress.

Though he detested Polish jokes, Cutler acknowledged that one was definitely on target:

Q:  How do you tell which actress in the cast is Polish?

A:  She’s the one fucking the writer.  

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“Things that make us furious: Sitting in bed, lying in bed, and sleeping” by Dan Tarnowski

I am not sitting in bed as I write this, and I am glad of it. Beds are terrible things, lousy with shoddy physics, crushed dreams, and sometimes, even lice.

A bed seems like a heavenly, therapeutic place. Ever since we upgraded from sleeping on splayed out hay (my uncle Shane still prefers this form of bed) the human bed has seemed like a lovely offering: four legs to elevate you, with a plushy surface on top to rest your corporeal frame, atop. The very invention of the bed seems like its creator got away with murder. Some shamelessly enterprising mind, at some point said, “Let’s not sleep on anything hard, anymore. Let’s put some marshmallowy stuff down, and go on top of that. In this way, we’ve made things better for ourselves!”

The unapologetic privilege of this maneuver suggests that beds were not invented by serfs.

O, the hypocrisy of a bed! A bed is manufactured for optimal niceness, but utilizing a bed is anything but nice.

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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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