January 2015

Welcome to the January issue of the Dragonfly Press Ezine! This month, we have:

“Tick” by Veronica Patterson (Prose Poem)
“Open Your Eyes (After Phil Levine)” by by Dixie Salazar (Poem)
“The Shape of Grief” by Lara Gularte (Prose Poem)
“Heart, River” by Lita Kurth (Flash Fiction)
“A Passion Play” by Cynthia Benson (Short Story)
“Elephant” by Marilyn Horn-Fahey (Flash Fiction)


All her friend had said on the phone was that a new study had concluded the earth had passed the moment after which we could halt or even slow the polar ice melting. For a moment, she couldn’t breathe.

What had she been doing when the ice crystal melted that took us past the point of no return? Even unnoticed, there had to have been one, winking into water.

She remembers a handful of snow she set once in the kitchen sink years earlier. As she stood there watching snow fall past the window, she realized she could hear the tiny collapses, each a tick.

Had the fulcrum tipped inside a glacier, perhaps as a multistory slab sheared off, displacing a fountain of water? Like the glacier she and her husband had seen in Alaska, 2009, from a small ship, where everyone watching on deck cheered as the glacier calved. How thrilled they all were to witness it. When the sea ran with sorrow, she wanted to say now.

But when that crucial particle melted, had she been walking by the lake? Was the water high then with snowmelt from the mountains, or flooding from hard rains and full of debris? Or was it low, drawn down to irrigate crops on dry plains? Was there one American pelican, white as an unexpected sail, or many spiraling toward the sun? A flock of coots or grebes, a rare common loon?

Had she been making a grocery list? She hoped she was reading poetry. Was she mopping the floor? She hoped she was writing. Was she listening to news, lost in concentric circles of crisis? She hoped she was talking to her daughter on the phone. Was she grieving a loss, taking a bath, watching two young mourning doves perched on a wire? She hoped she was hiking to the waterfall or noticing how light through the window patterned the wall with lattice and vine.

Had she been at the table? She hoped she was having dinner with him, a candle lighted by the promise she’d made when he was ill. And kept. That music was playing. The harp CD or classical guitar, Celtic music, Leonard Cohen. She hoped they were laughing. Though not about that.

Had she been driving somewhere she could have walked? Tossing something she usually recycled, careless and hurried? Using some handy product that injured the ozone layer?

Was she the clear and present danger?

Veronica Patterson’s poetry collections include How to Make a Terrarium (Cleveland State University, 1987); Swan, What Shores? (NYU Press Poetry Prize, 2000), Thresh & Hold (Gell Poetry Prize, 2009), & it had rained (CW Books, 2013), and two chapbooks—This Is the Strange Part (Pudding House, 2002) and Maneuvers: Battle of the Little Bighorn Poems (Finishing Line, 2013). She is a writer, freelance editor, and teacher. She currently teaches creative writing for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.
Visit her website at http://www.veronicapatterson.net

Open Your Eyes
(After Phil Levine)

I found a whole apple pie in the dumpster
took it back to share with one of my moms
and the rest of the camp. Then I walked
through the early evening smoke
where dust and smog scribbled the sky a fiery rose
and muddy canal waters gathered reds and pinks
and spread them out in watery scarves.
From behind the silos, stray gulls rose
and winged into a sunset that opened wide
to darker and deeper purple reds that just
screamed louder and louder –look
look at this wealth of colors
spread over the cracked earth.
Open –wider and wider- to streaked skies
fall down in the soft dirt–
to praise the sun dropping over the rim
of the world and breathe in the fire
no matter how many curses the man
behind food Max screamed after you –no matter
how many signs the city has posted
evicting you from your absence of a home.

There are some things that cannot be found
on E-Bay, appraised, amortized stolen or seized
by men in orange vests when they come to bulldoze
our beds and inventory our weary forks and spoons
to store them in bins with the rats and maggots–
some things are right and true and cannot
be sullied by words dressed up in official seals,
the simple joys that don’t break down in
either the grind of use or neglect.
My second Mom and I came to this, sharing pie
with Chuey and Wayne in a patched tent
beside a canal open to the raggedy wind.

If you don’t believe me…
open your eyes and see
dark shapes moving through the shadows
pushing everything they own from one corner
of the city to another- hidden from nothing—
not even eyes that attempt to hide
open your eyes and also
that parched, dry place where you pledge
allegiance to money and pat your wallet
pocket for reassurance –open your eyes
to a skinny bird stripping a carcass
quietly in a parking lot as the sun drips down
sharing what’s left of its meager light
into clumps of Ailanthus, the tree of Heaven
that some say are not even trees.

Dixie Salazar has published five books of poetry: Hotel Fresno by Blue Moon Press in 1988, Reincarnation of the Commonplace, (national poetry award winner) by Salmon Run Press in 1999, Blood Mysteries by University of Arizona in 2003 and Flamenco Hips And Red Mud Feet also by University of Arizona in 2010. Limbo, her novel, was published by White Pine Press in 1995. Her newest collection, Altar For Escaped Voices, was published by Tebot Bach in February of 2013. A young adult novel, Carmen And Chia Mix Magic, was published by Black Opal Books in 2014. Dixie is also a visual artist working mostly in oils with an extensive showing record in the Central Valley of California, Merced, Sacramento, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Nevada and New York.

She has also taught extensively in the California prisons and the Fresno County jail. Currently, she is involved as a homeless advocate and shows her art at the Silva/ Salazar studios at 654 Van Ness in Fresno, California. website: dixiesalazar.com

The Shape of Grief

The chime at midnight curves around the open wound of grief. Moths visit this sleepless night when the pain forces her to turn on the light. Dazzled by the glow, she watches their shadows flutter across the frost wrapped window. She wants something to hurt outside herself.

The night is long, and for hours she listens to beating wings against glittering glass. They will die from the freeze. In the morning their bodies, wings like open hands in the ice, stuck on brick work.

She lies under the ceiling bulb. A Gypsy moth grows inside her chest. It replaces her shrinking heart.

Lara Gularte was featured in the Autumn 2014 issue of The Bitter Oleander. Her poetic work depicting her Azorean heritage is included in a book of essays called “Imagineários Luso-Americanos e Açorianos” by Vamberto Freitas. Her work has appeared in such journals as The Bitter Oleander, California Quarterly, The Clackamas Review, Evansville Review, Permafrost, The Water-Stone Review, The Fourth River, The Montserrat Review, The Santa Clara Review, and she has been published by many national and regional anthologies. She is an assistant editor for Narrative Magazine.

Heart, River

Americans in Russia and still in love, the man wants to go with the woman to Moscow and St. Petersburg, visit white and gold palaces with ceilings like brocade where white stairs ascend to a marble heaven. It seems impossible such places still exist after the revolution. They cruise the beauteous Volga, its island spires and wide slow water, joy in their hearts.

The man avoids stone steps to onion-domed cathedrals colored like candy and Disneyland, leaves vodka untasted at dinner, lets heavy cream pass by, preserves his heart. He takes his medication, drinks his water. One day when the boat stops, and they walk up to the town, he has to sit on a bench and cough. This has happened before. The woman knows what to do. She knows it’s his lungs. He needs to sit up, needs oxygen. She stays with him. Someone calls an ambulance; it comes, and they lay him on a stretcher, close the doors. She can’t go with him. Terrible sounds come from inside the ambulance.

Her taxi follows through traffic sludgy as a river of mud.

They have brought him back; he’s unconscious, heart failed, in a Russian hospital. Thank God for translators. Doctors are good here; a kind nurse holds the woman’s hand, says words from the heart. His room is on the eighth floor but sometimes she takes the stairs, which are clean, not dirty.

She wants to be with him; every day by cab, she travels the wide, unmoving river of traffic. She sits and holds his hand on top of the white sheet, tells him everything in her heart. Some power translates. His open eyes dream untranslatable dreams, but he is with her.

She climbs the steps of each day, tries to find the non-rush hour time—there is none—learns how to Skype the doctor at home, how to add international minutes, how to cope with expiring visas—stay near your hotel; don’t go out—how to find someone to translate insurance and conditions, how to arrange an air ambulance. It seems impossible. The ambulance will have to fly at sea level to protect his heart. He will go with a doctor and a nurse. It costs about $60,000.

Each day, she goes for a walk along the park without him just for half an hour. The trees soothe her heart. Lap, lap, lap goes the river against the bank. It is not frozen yet. Sometimes she drinks water. Sometimes she eats a creamy dessert.

She wants to go with him through the air and hold his hand next to her heart. She wants to go home with him but it might not be possible.

Lita Kurth (MFA Rainier Writers Workshop, Pacific Lutheran University) has had work accepted or published in Fjords Review, Redux, Raven Chronicles, Main Street Rag, Tikkun, The New Verse News, Blast Furnace, eliipsis…literature and art, Compose, Tattoo Highway, Composite Arts, Verbatim Poetry, the Santa Clara Review, Vermont Literary Review, and others. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her CNF “This is the Way We Wash the Clothes,” presented at the Working Class Studies conference, 2012, won the 2014 Diana Woods Memorial Award (summer-fall 2014) and appeared in Lunch ticket 2014.

She contributes to Tikkun.org/tikkundaily, TheReviewReview.net, and classism.org. In 2013, she co-founded the Flash Fiction Forum.

A Passion Play

Liza did not miss Jose, his wild cocaine frenzies, the time he yanked the rear view mirror off the truck, just so he could chop a line. He had insisted on going to Mexico for another pick-up. Last time he had filled the spare tire with baggies of marijuana, made it no sweat across the border, and sold it in L.A. for a nice profit, a profit that lasted about three powdery weekends, two of them before he even came home to her.

It had been a month now. She didn’t know whether he was partying somewhere, or he lay dead on some dirt road in Tijuana. His brother Esteban had searched for him the first two weeks, but now he, too, was helpless, just waiting.

Liza was lying on the bed now, staring out of the French doors into the backyard. Jose had rented this apartment for the garden, the line of tall palm trees, their bushy tops lush and swaying in the night. She gazed out at them now, thinking that it was summer again, a full year since they had met. She could still remember it so vividly, as one always remembered beginnings.

It had been a Friday night at the club. Liza thought it ironic that she had ended up working her way through college as a waitress, surrounded by bellowing assholes, who cursed at her if she didn’t bring their beers on time, ranting just like her father, a man who had died of liver cirrhosis before he was 49. And worst time of all was the end-of-the-night ritual when she had to help the bouncers wake the drunks, lifting their cement heads off the tables, shouting at them, trying to get a reaction from their stone eyes.

But the music redeemed it all. As Liza squeezed between the tables, the rhythms pulsed through her. It was magical, as if all thought stopped, and she became totally instinctive, only feeling the pleasure ripple inside her.

In her literature classes, they had been reading that famous poem by Alexander Pope. The one about man being half-god and half-animal. She had always felt this way, always felt there was a place in your heart where spirituality and sensuality overlapped, where you could soar in guiltless passion, touched by God.

It was a sacred area where the two parts of her met. In her childhood catechism classes, she had smiled knowingly when they talked of “passion” plays. Liza knew the nuns didn’t mean that kind of passion, the kind in her body. But she knew that ecstatic link existed…. between body and soul. And she knew love would be like that. Just like the music.

Jose’s band was her favorite. They played wild salsa, and the people danced in a frenzy all night, hardly bothering to drink, except when they stopped to rehydrate. Jose stood center stage, the golden gloss of his congas gleaming in the light. His round face had the beauty of a choir boy, and a following of worshipping women draped themselves over the edge of the stage.

Liza would watch as his solo would begin, his taut, tanned hands brushing the skins, slowly and gently at first, tenderly tapping. Then the tones would grow fuller, tiny thumping pulses. And he would continue, edging the dancers until they had enjoyed their undulations for a good, long time.

Then, he would take the beats deeper. And suddenly he was knocking, slapping, pounding the surface, his hands flying, faster and faster, until they became just a blur, beyond the eye’s reach. And then the dancers would stop, mesmerized, the beat like an electrical current gluing them to the floor.

It was a fierce flailing, like some whirling dervish. He created a vacuum that sucked you in. Liza was sure that is what had happened to her.

That night she had watched him, the rapture crossing his face and his sweat glistening in the stage lights, and she had thought him the embodiment of pure passion. And then he had beamed down at her with that huge, charming grin, with the back of his hand wiping away the beads of sweat. In the stage light, his hair was ebony- blue, his skin gleaming. His teeth glowing pure behind his smile.

She supposed now it was his earthiness that attracted her, so different from the coldness of her father. They had gone home together that night to his place, and in the softness of his bed, she could not say no to him as he cooed over her and stroked her, calling her his “fallen dove.” And the moonlight poured in from the garden, and his arm draped across her as they lay together so still, his skin so brown against her white.

Before she knew it, she had become a part of his life, both of them working nights, but Jose coming home much later, needing time to wind down, he said, after each performance. He was moody at the beginning, an artist’s nature she told herself, at times completely ignoring her. And occasionally a strange bitterness would sweep over him like a wave that surprises you, wets your pants legs as you walk in the sand. Later, it would become much worse.

Liza rose from the bed now, crossing the room to lift a large straw basket off Jose’s dresser. With it cradled in her lap, she fingered the “toys,” the small percussive instruments that anyone could play, once you got the rhythm. She missed the Sundays most of all. The band would come over to the apartment then. She would prepare a pork barbecue for them that would cook slowly in a large iron pot all day, growing so tender to the fork’s touch, the smell wafting through the apartment, enveloping you like an embrace.

They would come with their friends, wives and girlfriends, and Liza would join the crowd on the floor, gazing up in adoration at the standing ones who jammed. And the basket was passed around and each and every person would grab a toy.

There was the coffee can-shaped instrument whose name Liza could never remember. You stuck your hand inside and pulled at a little plunger and it made a squeak like the cry of a bird in the rain forest. There was the guido, a large banana of polished wood that made a raspy sound when you drew the stick across its grooves, like a child running a branch along a picket fence. And of course the shush of the maracas. She held them now, their glossy surfaces painted with red blossoms. They filled her palms.

Liza would always choose the cow bell, with its muted clang, much too shy to venture anything more. And she would hold back, too, when they began to sing. Instead, she would whisper along to any English words, and hum along with the Spanish.

But the dancing was always easy. The salsa beats would grow stronger and stronger, pulsing through the floor, until one could sit no longer. Each would grab whoever was closest, or dance alone. The living room was crowded, toes trampling each other, like the tangled roots of some jungle tree.

The beat rocked them like the waves of a gentle bath, caressing their skin, relaxing and opening pores. They would grin and giggle. Eyes met and sparked like static.

It was like soaring…. a soaring that reminded her of other times. Times when that part of her had come alive…. in Mass….. the hypnotic smell of the incense, the sweet clear Latin voices…. In sex…so heady, intense, pure… She felt so not alone.

Later in the night, things would slow down. Blonde-haired Tony would blow the sweet, gorgeous trills of his jazz flute, and the single women and even some of the married would ache for him. And Jose would lay down his drums and come over to pull Liza off the floor and dance with her, their bodies forming a thin “S,” heads leaning against each other, their cheeks in soft union. Until all the others had gone, and the house was quiet.

And sometimes well past dawn they would lie in bed together. Jose would talk of his church, the daily masses his mother would have him attend. Liza would laugh, snuggling next to him, recalling the dented knees from long perches on pews, sunlight pouring through stained glass. It was what they could talk about. It was their bond. Along with the music.

Sometimes, they would stay up until the sun rose, until they heard the neighbor’s car engine growl toward work. And then Jose would play his drums softly, like a lullaby, the beat tender, like the pat given rhythmically to a baby in his crib. And after they would both crawl under the covers, their skin raw, falling instantly into sleep.

The apartment was so empty and silent now. Tonight she had wandered through, from room to room like a specter, not knowing where to settle.

She wished that she could just call up the band, tell them they could come over and practice. But they were out of her life, now. They had replaced Jose with another conga player already. They told her they’d seen it coming, had always had a backup in mind. They’d been there when Jose’s problem started years ago, when they were all going through hard times. They, too, had used sporadically, but had dropped it long ago. Jose couldn’t let go.

Liza hadn’t known about it for a long time. He had hidden it from her until he was sure he had won her. Then he would offer it to her, push the mirror across the table at her. But she was always afraid, afraid of ending up like her father. And Jose was never offended. “Just means more for me,” he’d say, snorting hard through the straw.

But it meant they had less to share. He had to leave the house each time to find others. He said it wasn’t the same doing it alone. The food she had cooked for him would dry up in the pan, and Liza would lie in the bed waiting, staring at the swaying of the palm trees, until her eyes grew too heavy.

But then, sometimes, he would come home and wake her. He would be longing for a fight, the drug having made him mean, and he would curse and flail fruitlessly at the air. It would go on for maybe half an hour, until exhausted, he would crawl into bed beside her, scooping her body into his, his body cleansed and pure again. And she would stare into his dark eyes as he enveloped her like a warm, second skin, her heartbeat mimicking his.

It was this embrace that tugged at her, grabbed at her like a wince of adrenaline, the way she imagined Jose felt when he took his first snort and she watched the pleasure flowing over his face.

But the fear of the past month had carved at her, made a hollow inside her. She had begun shoving the tender vision of him out of her mind, substituting another instead. A crashing sound, the shatter of vases, cheap souvenirs from their trip to Cabo, as he threw them one by one against the wall. He had not let her clean up the shards for days.

Lately, the substitution had begun to come without effort, her reverie became less and less. In fact, in the last few weeks, there were moments when she would catch herself…. catch herself thinking that he was dead. And then the guilt would wash over her.

If she knew for sure, it would be different. Then she would have to let him go.

The phone rang very early in the morning. She was still groggy when she heard his voice.

“Hi, baby, I miss you. It’s been a long time.”

She thought his voice sounded like honey, like the softness of their nights. The adrenaline was sweet this time, like nourishment to the blood. She could not remember the anger. Instead, she remembered his dark body, perched over her like a shield, his eyes full of pleasure.

“Jose. Where are you? I’ve been so scared.”

“Listen, don’t talk now. I only get one phone call. Those assholes threw me in jail, baby. I made it through, and then my buddy talked me into going back for more. I’m in San Diego. You’ve got to wire me money. For bail…. Don’t worry. I’ll see you soon. Right after the hearing, I’m coming home. You hear that, baby….”


“Listen, how much money do you have?”

“Well, nothing, really….only the rent money. It’s in the bank.”

“Well, take it out….”

“But how will I pay…

“Don’t be thinking of yourself now!” Then he paused, quickly changing his tone back to the trill. “Don’t worry. I’ll get it back to you….. That won’t be enough, though. I asked Esteban already. He won’t give me anything, the prick! I think I’ve got about $200 in the back of my bureau drawer….the top drawer. And you can take the congas to the pawn shop. Rudy’s on Pine Street. You should be able to get a couple hundred, at least….”

“The congas?”

“Do you hear me, Honey? I need money, NOW. Don’t be wasting time, baby. Get off the phone now and get it to me.”

“OK. I’ll get it to you.”

“Just wire it to the San Diego Jail.” He laughed. “This sounds like some Western Union commercial….but baby, it’s not so funny. Please. Please hurry.”

He hung up then, before she could say anything.

She felt dizzy. She stumbled across the floor, pulling on her jeans, and rifled through his sock drawer. She found the bills in a roll wrapped in a rubber band. She would stop at her bank on the way. Then she crossed the room to pick up the congas, nestled in the corner. They were heavy. She would have a hard time dragging them to the car.

She reached down to find a grip, but suddenly, in the quiet of the morning light, she paused. She could not resist running her hand over the surface. Her eyes took in the tiny golden veins in the stretched skin. As if she were filing it away in a place where the precious was kept…. but eventually seeped away.

She tapped the skin lightly. A faint heartbeat floated in the air.

And then she could not tear her hand from the drum. She sank into the bed, dragging the drum down with her, holding it between her knees, feeling the smooth lacquer against her thighs. She lay her face against its surface, skin against skin. Sweet rhythms rippled through her. She felt breathless. She stroked the strings down the sides.

And she realized then that Jose, with his cherub face, had strayed too far. She knew that now. The poet had left that out of his poem…. If you strayed too far toward the god…. life was sterile; if you strayed toward the animal…. you invited the pain.

She did not know why Jose had drifted so far. But she knew now that it was Jose who was the fallen dove, and she no longer believed he could fly.

It was hard to pack up the drums. It ached. She tried to do it quickly, like removing a band-aid, so it wouldn’t hurt. Bundled in a quilt with the instruments, they barely fit into the car.

And as Esteban’s slack face looked on, she deposited everything at the edge of his porch, like a baby in a basket, and handed him Jose’s money, holding back her own. She told him to tell Jose it was over, that she would be leaving in the morning.

When she returned to the apartment, she was starved. She didn’t want another frozen dinner, wanted to cook instead. From the refrigerator she pulled out a lemon, some peppers, a small onion, a little chicken. A drop of oil gleamed in the sunlight as it coated the skillet, and she watched the onions turn magically golden, hissing in the pan. The aroma floated up, tickling her nostrils.

When she reached for the red pepper, its slickness felt cool. She marveled at the brilliant scarlet, glowing in her hand. She had missed cooking for Jose… no, that was wrong…. she had missed cooking. She picked up the lemon now, rolling its bright, nubby surface between her fingers, its clean smell wafting toward her, and it was as if she had never held one before.

And then she thought about how she would probably never see Jose again, and how it was funny how sometimes those who took from you, unknowingly, gave you the greatest gifts. It was Jose who had led her to the music, to the dancing… to the passion.

But she had not known it was such a balancing act. That you had to stay in the middle…. find others who stayed there, too.

And when she had finished eating, she sat in the garden in the wicker chair and rubbed her belly, smiling and sighing with fullness. She sat there quietly until nightfall.

But about eight o’clock, she craved the dancing. And finally she could stand it no longer, and she went inside to the bedroom and put on one of Jose’s salsa CD’s, Rueben Blades.

And as she moved back and forth in the dark, she pictured herself in the jungle, in a clearing by the village, all of them dancing in the moonlight, their bare feet coated with the dust of the soft earth beneath their toes. And she danced and danced until her legs were too tired, and she collapsed on the bed.

And as she lay there, looking out at the moonlight in the garden, she missed the instruments again. And having no instrument now, except for her voice, she began to sing. She sang not softly this time, but out loud…. enjoying the sweet highs and guttural lows of the full range of her voice.

And she remembered that the nuns at school had said “Liza, you can’t carry a tune,” but still she lay there in her bed, enchanted by the beauty of her own voice, floating above her.

Cynthia Benson, who lives in Northern California, writes screenplays and short stories. She has published in poetry and short story publications, including most recently Confrontation, The Call: An Anthology of Women’s Writing, riverbabble, Doorknobs and BodyPaint, Palo Alto Review, The Pistol, DIQ, Potpourri, and Dodobobo. Her screenplay, About Face, was nominated for Best Screenplay at the 2012 Naperville Independent Film Festival.


I never should have gone out with Gary Ricter. I told myself, after the divorce, that I was done with all that — dating men. And wearing make-up. And shaving my legs. The whole thing. Forty-eight years old, a failed marriage behind me. Two grown daughters and a grandson. No need to start on a new adventure.

I’m happy with the way things are — well, not happy. But content. No, not content either. Stable: That’s the word I’m looking for. Upended by the divorce for two long years, and now I have finally begun to feel stable again. Able to sit down at the kitchen table and eat an entire meal alone; able to sleep through the night.

But last night, after the date with Gary, I hadn’t slept well at all. And now today, this morning, I don’t feel stable anymore. I feel … restless.

Saturday, a day I usually scrapbook, but I haven’t even got out my supplies. Instead I dig through the closet and pull out this pair of old jeans. The ones I used to wear when I lugged around post-baby fat.

My husband — my ex-husband — hated these pants. “You’re as big as an elephant in those things,” he’d say. “But they’re so comfortable,” I’d say right back, but without conviction, and then I’d change into something else.

Yet one date with Gary and here I am wearing these pants. It makes me nervous. Unsettled. Not stable at all. Not that the date had been earth-shaking. “What did you do on your big date?” my grandson asked when he called this morning, his mother egging him on in the background. “Not much,” I’d said, which was the truth.

We’d had coffee and pie at Carrow’s after Gary got off work. He was freshly showered, which made me nervous, because to me that meant he had romance in mind. But then explained. “I can’t have you smelling elephants on me,” he said. Elephants again. Me wearing my elephant pants after a night out with a man who worked with elephants. Unsettling.

Not surprising, really, that Gary works with elephants. Back in high school, he wrote an essay about elephants in English Composition and presented it to the class. Funny I should remember that. It didn’t interest me at the time, or anyone else, not even the teacher, but Gary didn’t care; he just rambled on and on about elephants until the bell rang. And now? “They call him the ‘elephant whisperer'” — I heard that more than once at the reunion two weeks ago. Not from him, though. We stood there in the low lights of the ballroom at the Hacienda Inn, Gary and I, and not once did he bring that up. Refreshing, in a way — a man who doesn’t blab about himself; who wants to know about you, and what you’ve been doing the past 30 years.

He’s losing his hair, that was the first thing I noticed at the reunion, but who am I to criticize? Me with my flabby arms and my sagging everything else. “I’m in the phone book,” I told him when he asked for my number, and wouldn’t you know — he looked me up and called. Who does that these days?

Which led to three all-night phone conversations and then to last night’s date. The one that’s left me unsettled.

But soon Gary will be gone. He told me himself, last night. “I’m flying to Nepal on Friday,” he said — to whisper to more elephants I suppose. “You’d love Nepal,” he added, as the waitress refilled our cups. “I doubt it,” I said, but the restlessness had already arisen. “The elephants there,” he said, a bite of cherry pie half-way to his lips, “beautiful. Gorgeous. Like no other elephants anywhere,” and the light in his eyes sparked like a fuse, and I remembered my eyes sparking like that, back when I belonged to the Guitar Club in high school.

“Do you still play guitar?” he had asked that night at the reunion, and last night, too, on the date, he had asked about my playing, only this time he asked why I didn’t play anymore. ” I don’t know,” I said, not knowing how to explain the lost time, the time I could have spent with my guitar, and he said I would have to take it up again because I played so beautifully in high school, although no one else seemed to remember it.

My guitar. I dug that out of the closet today, too. Restless, restless, restless — all this digging in closets. I hold the guitar near me, and after all these years, it still feels natural: like holding a baby almost, a similar joy. I pluck a few strings. The strings hurt my fingertips, but my fingers move nimbly over the frets.

C — G — D …

What had Gary said to bring on such behavior in me? Me, playing guitar. Me in my comfortable pants. I couldn’t recall one particular thing, but it scared me, all this strange new behavior. All these new possibilities. Which is why, last night, I told him “no” when he asked to see me today. And yet …

C — G — D … C — G — D …

And then I hear the ruckus. Out the front window, I see the neighborhood kids running by, pointing to something down the street.

Stepping outside I see it: an elephant. Covered in a deep-red cloth, with gold and silver sequins twinkling like dew.

Gary Ricter is on top of the elephant. He waves and grins, leans forward and whispers something in the elephant’s ear. She trumpets and makes the kids squeal.

And me in my baggy pants, I run toward him, knowing how perfect these pants are for riding elephants. The second thought, though, that’s the one that almost makes me stop. Because I find myself wondering if I can carry my guitar on the airplane. Or will I have to check it with my bags?

Marilyn Horn-Fahey is a technical editor and freelance writer living in Silicon Valley. Her short stories have appeared in publications such as Marathon Review and Waterhouse Review.