The Furious Gazelle

Literary as hell.

Category: Writing (page 1 of 45)

“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

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

Artwork by Sarah Walko

Art by Sarah Walko

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“The Storms” by John Grey

Often at night,

when the sky seems as close as it does now,

and the trees tense up

as if knowing the clouds will soon break,

and the light’s an eerie shade of gray,

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“Targets,” an essay by Kay Smith-Blum

Who breaks their arm planting bulbs? Well, technically, I was retrieving bulbs, from a box on the other side of the low-rise-industrial-wire fence they put up around small urban gardens at street level to keep out the dogs that don’t keep out the dogs. Why build a fence just high enough for me to trip over? This question begets an annoying answer. The kind of answer that targets you, relentless as the sunrise. Most wouldn’t trip over it. The fact that I did is a visceral confirmation of aging, a steady and sure march to death, bringing with it the accidents of youth.

The virus is also on the march and the Governor has closed my pool eliminating the aquatic option to recovering my range of motion. So, here I am—albeit four staggeringly painful and miraculous-in-the-fact-my-bone-healed-at-my-age months later—in physical therapy, a risk of a different kind. 

Kim, my physical therapist, announced on Tuesday I should have worn a mask. They had sent an email. One I deleted before reading as I do most irritatingly-perky missives that fill up my inbox with random products, services or advice on healthy choices I thought I wanted to make. In the wake of the virus, I’ve decided I’m healthy enough for someone who may die soon and has long planned on dying at year seventy-five. Which is the perfect age to do so, and I could tell you why but I won’t digress.

On Thursday, I arrive orange bandana-bound. I insert my disinfected credit card for the co-pay. I Purell my hands and look right. A talkative young man, without a mask, seated on the banquette adjoining the front counter, his body twisted toward the receptionist, is chattering non-stop. His way-too-low pant waist is way-too-revealing. He twists again, his white fleshy cheeks pressing against the rust vinyl cushion in cringe worthy fashion. This can’t be the hygienic standard to which they aim.

The machine buzzes. I extract my card and whisper. “He needs to pull up his pants.”   Continue reading

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