The Furious Gazelle

Literary as hell.

“End Times in the Produce Aisle” By Gene Twaronite

As I reached for the organic cucumber, a woman wearing 

a polka dot dress over pajama bottoms and bunny slippers 

grabbed for the same one. 

With our hands clutching opposite ends of the vegetable

as if it meant the difference between survival

and a slow wasting death, 

we locked eyes in a grim battle 

of foraging supremacy. 

 

“Go ahead, take it,” she said, shaking her head. 

“What does it matter? Who needs a cucumber? 

Haven’t you heard? It’s the end times.”

 

Now normally I try not to get into discussions

while shopping, where I find desolation

and abomination aplenty, not to mention 

tribulations in the checkout line.

But the woman looked so distraught even the bunnies 

on her slippers had little screamy faces.

 

“Oh, it’s not as bad as that, is it? Look at this

tomato? Have you ever seen such a masterpiece? 

Almost a shame to eat it. I’d put it on my mantel if I could.”

I paused and smiled at the woman, but she wasn’t

buying it. 

 

“You poor stupid schmuck,” she said. “Yes, go 

buy your beautiful tomato and don’t forget your cucumber. 

Make yourself a divine salad and enjoy your last meal

while you look out your window and watch the world end.”

 

Her comment returned me to the salad I planned 

to toss that night, and I grabbed a head of romaine

and some radishes. “What makes you think the world

is coming to an end?” I asked as non-judgmentally

as I could, deciding while I was at it to grab some 

carrots, mushrooms, and a red cabbage.

 

  

“Open your eyes,” she said. “Downtown’s underwater

and the hills are on fire. They’re rioting in the streets 

and the locusts are eating everything. 

Arabs and Jews still at each other’s throats. 

Forty countries now at war while nuclear weapons are being 

baked liked cookies. And just look at that wilted lettuce. 

What is the world coming to?”

 

Tears streamed down her face and she began to wail

and gnash her teeth, which for some strange reason

I have always found irresistibly appealing,

though the streaks and gobs of mascara

around her eyes made her look like a crazed panda.

 

“There, there,” I said, which seemed at the time

a pretty dumb thing to say but was all I could think of,

having recently heard it in a Turner Classic movie 

starring Jimmy Stewart. 

 

Tenderly I dabbed her eyes with my handkerchief, 

which fortunately was still unused that morning.

I put my arm around her and we walked together

out the store, stopping only briefly in 

the checkout line to pay for my produce.

 

And that night, we made a salad that couldn’t be beat,

then gripped each other tightly and watched in wonder 

as the sun got redder and redder in the west, swelling to 

twice its size before bursting apart into those magic colors 

you see only at times like these. 

_____

Gene Twaronite is a Tucson poet, essayist, and children’s fiction writer. He is the author of ten books, including two juvenile fantasy novels as well as collections of essays, short stories, and poems. His first poetry book Trash Picker on Mars was the winner of the 2017 New Mexico-Arizona Book Award for Arizona poetry. Other poetry collections include The Museum of Unwearable Shoes and What the Gargoyle Sees, published by Kelsay Books. Follow more of Gene’s writing at his website: thetwaronitezone.com.

“Still Dancing (behind the glass)” a memoir excerpt by Katherine Davis

At the time of my bone marrow transplant for Hodgkin’s lymphoma, without retrospect’s safety net, morning came. I remember the scent of bagels from a biscuit shop across the street from the hospital. Sprinklers doused flower beds of marigolds, daffodils, daisies. I walked with my mother and sister to Swedish Hospital on Pill Hill in Seattle, entered, heard the elevator doors closing, sealing me off from the world of people worried about getting to work, kids scrambling for buses, sunlight amid trees. I did feel lucky that the official Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center inpatient facility didn’t have room for me. Devoted only to transplant patients, it seemed a dark forbidding place. Death, a gentleman in top hat and overcoat, held the door for families who walked in and didn’t leave. Instead, I would be committed to Eleven South West, a wing of the huge Swedish Hospital which the Hutch used for overflowing cancer cases. I much preferred being in a place called “Swedish” which conjured images of vigorous blond women, meatballs, and massages. Also, I liked it because it seemed more normal—white and sterile, instead of sinister and shadowy—and teeming with diversity. I may have been preparing for a torturous exit, but in the same facility, there were babies being born, tonsillectomies, broken arms, concussions, heart attacks. I didn’t want to be surrounded only by people like me. In Swedish, there were different dramas taking place, more like living than death. 

Despite having visions of nineteenth-century asylums, I entered my laminar airflow room on 11 SW in April 1986 with relief and terror. It certainly was not the torture pit of my nightmares. But it was horrifying in its anonymity. Welcome to the institution, baby! There was one hospital bed in front of a wall chock full of mysterious equipment—suction tubes, pumps, monitors, gauges, plugs. There were two chairs covered in blue vinyl, a television, stationary bicycle, clothes cupboard, and tray on wheels. From the hospital corridor, you entered a small room, a vestibule where you anointed yourself before seeing me. Okay, you actually scrubbed your hands with antiseptic soap and put on a surgical mask to protect me from germs. During my pre-transplant chemotherapy, you also had to don shoe covers, gown, and paper cap. It was actually fun after a while to watch the doctors go through all this just to see me, made me feel like royalty instead of a usual denizen of purgatory. Once dressed and cleansed, you could pass through a second very solid door, making sure the door to the general corridor was closed first, letting no germs in. The bathroom and wall with television were to your left, the bed to your right. Opposite the door, a huge window with triple-paned glass looked down on a magnificent view of St. James Cathedral. In the distance, there was Puget Sound. If this had been a hotel, I would have been very impressed. The triple-paned glass on the window was to ensure no breeze permeated my atmosphere; I was to live on rarified air pumped in through special vents. At the time, I also thought the extra panes discouraged despairing patients from jumping—momentary flight, then nothingness. 

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“eBay Violin” by Yongsoo Park

Because even his mid-life crisis takes only frugal turns and it would never occur to him to pay extra for shipping, the violin arrives just when he forgets about it. The mailman doesn’t even bother to bring it to the door but leaves it instead with a perfunctory wave just inside the periphery of his front yard.

He has to dig it out from among the ferns and brings it inside while his children and a boy from next door are playing under the canopy of a giant pine tree, which some of his neighbors have been passive-aggressively nudging him to do something about lest it keel over and cause god-knows-what damage. But such are concerns of grown-ups with too much time on their hands. The children are engrossed in their game and don’t even ask him about his strange-shaped parcel.

The last time he touched a violin was when TVs still came with adjustable antennas and telephones had rotary dials. He doesn’t remember what that violin, with which he took lessons with a self-proclaimed maestro named Mr. Kreutzer for five years, cost, but his eBay violin cost just 38 dollars, including shipping. It’s a frightening sum considering that it traveled to his home all the way from the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen.

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“Natural History” by Kurt Luchs

I.

Today we studied the ruins.

Your eyelashes were already a legend among the Byzantines.

Once, I believed you could read the stars,

perhaps even read your own mind.

Yet you can’t feel your own grave

rushing at you with its mouth open,

the branches of that place soaked in a green light,

the clenched teeth of the moon.

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“Eyes and Teeth,” a poem by John Tustin

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“The Body Remembers” by C. Christine Fair

To you, I was always “Bob’s bastard,”
A reminder that someone touched her before you.

 

My body remembers your grease-stained, gnarled fists
smashing my pink flesh to bone.

 

My body remembers your steel-toed shoes
ploughing into my belly and back.
Sometimes mom begged you to stop.
Sometimes she sobbed, immobile.
Sometimes she looked away.

 

Though you’ve been dead for years,
You live here now.

 

Imprisoned in the body of the girl you despised.

 

 

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“Chasing the Light” by Will Maguire

Years agoit was many lives agoI worked nights in Manhattan. Some people call that grave shifting or paying dues. Others call it chasing the light.

To stay awake I used to buy coffee at Smilers, the deli on 7th Ave in the Village. Usually around 3 am.

Every night on a crate in front of Smilers sat an old black man. White hair, blind. I think he was mildly autistic. He rocked back and forth endlessly. Like Ray Charles caught in the groove. Next to the crate was a boom box, and a simple handwritten sign: Please.   Continue reading

“Honeymoon Dressing” by Maureen Mancini Amaturo

Day one of married life shed no light at all on married life. Reality check: we were not going to wake each morning and leave for Italy.

The first day after our wedding, I still felt single, as if exhausted from a big-night bar crawl instead of my own wedding reception. That morning, my biggest concern was what to wear on the plane. I had planned to wear a black, denim, maxi dress, but before I left the office two days before my wedding, as I was hugging everyone and waving bye and collecting wishes and congratulations, my Creative Director’s last words to me threw a wrench in my line-up. She said, “Don’t wear black on your honeymoon.”

That last day in the office, I was in a hurry to catch my commuter bus and get out of Manhattan and home to the hundred or so wedding details I had to address, so I didn’t take the time to ask why. I fretted over my affinity for wearing black all the way from midtown’s Port Authority, locally known as Port Atrocity, to New Jersey. While waiting for my bus, I re-evaluated my fashion identity. Everything I own is black. Open my closet, and it’s like stepping into a cave. There’s security in black and mystery, sophistication, elegance, neutrality, and a metropolitan-ness, and aren’t I all of those things? And I work in Manhattan, where everyone wears black so that the streets seem to be crowded with shadow people. What’s wrong with black? I looked at the several hundred people shuffling and running by me on the bus platform. Ninety percent of them were wearing black. The other ten percent, wearing pastels, were obviously tourists. Continue reading

Book Review: The Wright Sister by Patty Dann

the wright sister by patty dannReview by Tess Tabak

Everyone has heard about the famous Wright brothers, who gave humanity the gift of flight. But who was behind the brothers, helping them face the public and knitting them zigzag socks?

 

Patty Dann’s The Wright Sister explores the oft-forgotten Katharine Wright, Wilbur and Orville’s sister. This is based on a true story: Orville Wright was apparently a very particular man, and although he and his sister were very close, he immediately stopped speaking to her after she was married. The book combines Katharine’s “marriage diary” with a series of letter she writes to Orville after he stopped speaking to her. (Wilbur had already passed away by this point.)

 

Aside from Orv and Katharine’s very real rift, much of the rest of the book comes from Dann’s imagination. She did some light research, but didn’t let details stop her rich fictitious version of Katharine’s life. Katharine Wright is an interesting character, a strong feminist with as strong a technical knowledge of airplanes as her brothers had. In Dann’s hands, she is very outspoken and honest in the pages of her own diary, admitting her lust for her husband and newly discovered pleasure (she married for the first time in her fifties). There are some tongue in cheek nods to the true author’s actual knowledge of historical events (in 1928 she writes Orville that she hopes he’s not investing money in the stock market, for example) but for the most part it feels fairly true to the time period in which it was set.

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“I long to enter the unholy…” by Kurt Luchs

Artwork by Sarah Walko

Art by Sarah Walko

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