The Day Mamie’s Heart Stopped

orangebraids

by Rowan McConnell

The day Mamie’s heart stopped,
she’d just got her hair done.
She always had it done for special occasions –
church, birthdays, funerals –
and she’d been refusing to see her doctor about that
nauseous, gassy feeling in her chest,
because she hadn’t been to the beauty shop in a couple of weeks,
and her hair was just a mess –
like an old worn-out scouring brush.
You can’t go to the doctor looking like that,
especially when you’re over seventy.
They already treat you like a child.
They’ll think you can’t take care of yourself,
and put you in a Home,
and that just won’t do.
They don’t get the good cable channels at the rest home.
So she kept eating Tabasco on her eggs,
and munching on Rolaids,
and scrunching up her face like a constipated baby,
and canceled her next hair appointment because she
didn’t feel well.

On Thursday, it was her birthday,
and Haley,
her granddaughter,
(usually such a surly girl)
had offered to come over and
do up her hair for her.
Teenagers don’t know what
their grandparents want –
and who needs more hankies
and bracelets and pins?
A hairdo – that’s the ticket.
Cutting-edge cosmetology, plus
the joy of spending time
with the favorite granddaughter
(even if she is the black sheep
emo Goth-child of the family,
she’s still the only one who cares
about your pictures from Japan in the ’40s).

Having done her own hair
in three cuts and sixteen colors already,
Haley felt the urge
to make someone else
pretty.
Her teacher at beauty school
had just taught them cornrows,
and this wasn’t easy to do
with your own hair.

They had a nice visit.
They talked about TV,
and how Drew Carey was no Bob Barker,
and Jay Leno was certainly no Johnny Carson.
They talked about steampunk
and compared Sherlock Holmeses.
They ate chocolate Ho-Hos
and drank Dr Peppers.
It was the best birthday ever
until it wasn’t.

She swears
her grandma
picked the color
herself.
Grandma Mamie was always
a huge Tennessee fan
and orange would be
different –
a nice change
from the old-lady blue
that Miss Birch
always used
for her
rinse and set.

Haley will probably never have another customer
gasp in amazement, hands fluttering to her chest,
the way Grandma Mamie did that day
when she looked in the mirror,
but if anyone else ever falls to the floor
with a bloodcurdling shriek,
she’ll remember to call 911 right away.
She’ll know they probably aren’t just excited
about their new ’do.
She’ll remember that the med techs would rather you didn’t
paint an unconscious person’s nails with Blue Rapture #162,
no matter how nervous you feel while you wait
twenty minutes for the ambulance to show up.

Maybe she won’t be such a wreck the next time.
Maybe she’ll be psychopathically calm,
cool and collected, the next time she finds herself
putting the finishing touches on a dead person.
She’ll certainly remember to tell the family
about the radical new hairstyle,
the next time that happens.

But not this time.

No, this time there’ll be
a seventy-four-year-old woman
tarted up like a punk whore,
her close family stunned
to see her laid out like this,
in her sedate pink-lined casket
with the doves and the Bible verse –
something about going home with Jesus,
taking on a whole different slant
with Mamie’s face frozen in a smirk
the mortician couldn’t rearrange.
Maybe next time they’ll find
a verse about not judging.

Then the funeral:
how scandalous!
How quickly they turn
from raging on Haley,
the medics, the death staff,
each person involved with
Miss Mamie’s demise;
how swiftly their anger
disperses into branches
of family less treasured:
the out-of-town relatives,
nieces and nephews,
long distant cousins –
how could they not recognize Grandma Mamie
just because she had orange braids in the casket?
Oh, the thrill of self-righteousness,
the vindictive snark of
griefstricken, worn-down, put-upon family:
“Maybe if you’d visited,
helped out more often,
she wouldn’t look like a stranger
to you!”

 

© Copyright 2015 by Rowan McConnell


Header photo via Morguefile.

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Springtime at the Speedway

speedway

Photo via MorgueFile.

by Erin Abernethy

 

Welcome to “Race Week,” y’all!

Bring us your hicks, your drunks,

your gas-guzzling RVs,

your big-ass campers and overgrown pup-tents,

jockeying to park in a nearby churchyard.

That’ll be $20, son.

Bless y’all. Jesus loves ya.

 

Bring us all your bad habits –

we don’t have enough of our own –

all your trash and your spit,

your sweaty sun-stink,

your potbellied, yellow-toothed,

smoke-sucking men;

your brassy blonde women

overflowing their shorts,

your children more monstrous

than all of your trucks.

 

Come and jam up the traffic

bring it all to a standstill

while cousins with roadside stands

make a few bucks

from selling you tickets and

overpriced firewood,

t-shirts and caps sporting

Earnhardt and Petty;

pocket the cash and

don’t tell the tax-man.

That’s the American Way

around here.

 

Never mind all the locals,

so lucky to live here with all this

Excitement. Oh yes,

it’s a great big adventure,

trying to get out to work

when the cops fix the stop-lights

to let trailers through.

Watch the race car parade:

look, it’s Bobby!

Is that Greg’s Ford?

We may die of amazement,

so impressed by these strangers

you call by first names.

 

Like a biblical plague,

this infestation, this

visitation of fools;

smell the diesel, the smoke,

as the cars run in circles,

the dinosaur roar

scaring dogs miles away.

How much gas do you think

will be wasted this weekend?

This is what our troops fought for:

more American horsepower!

 

So welcome to Race Week, y’all!

Get to the grandstand,

grab a beer and sit back.

If you pay close attention,

some driver might wreck;

you could be there, ringside,

see some cars crash and burn!

Holy crap!

Oh, sweet Jesus!

It’s the American Way!

Waving flags,

making noise,

blood and brains on the track.

Welcome to Race Week.

 

© Copyright 2015 by Erin Abernethy.

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This Week at Gatewood: August 30–September 5, 2015

shield-905059_1280

by Frasier MacKenzie

Hello, and thanks for stopping in!

This week we have a question for you, and we’d like to ask you to cast a vote to tell us what you think. But before you do, I should assure you that Dr Nicholas is not leaving Twitter. We’re just considering the possibility of adding a human presence, and would like your input.

 

Now, then, here are our features for the week of August 30–September 5:

Monday:Lunar Eclipse,” art by Eduardo Rodriguez Calzado

Tuesday:She Visits Her Beastmother’s Uncle,” poetry by F.X. MacKenzie

Wednesday:The Magic Door” photography by Hartwig Koppdelaney

Thursday:Musicophrenia,” short fiction by Patrick Redding

Friday:Perception and Memory,” photography by P.L. Miller with a quote from neurologist Oliver Sacks

Remember, the Friday photo can be downloaded for free as a meditation card for your phone, tablet or computer. Share, print, ponder… enjoy!

docBe sure to follow @docnicholas on Twitter for daily updates on Journal posts as well as humor, literary opinions, animal pics and rescues, and all your behind-the-scenes Journal action.

pigeon1Did you know you can subscribe to Gatewood Journal and receive a monthly newsletter with all our features for the month? Like a weekly wrap-up, only monthly, so your e-mail box won’t get cluttered. Like a magazine, only digital, because we love trees.

That’s it for the Gatewood Weekend Wrap-Up for the week of August 30–September 5, 2015. Enjoy your weekend, and visit us again soon!


Header photo via Stefan Schweihofer at Pixabay.

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She Visits Her Beastmother’s Uncle

VAHospital

by F.X. MacKenzie

He talks endlessly about “The War”–
there was only one, you know–
the one he fought in;
all the others were just spats and squabbles.

He refers to his time “Overseas”
as though it were all one country
from the tip of France to the top of Siberia:
everything outside the continental U.S. being “Them”
(godless communists and terrorists)
against “Us”
(God’s Christian soldiers, defenders of democracy).

He calls his oncologist “that colored-girl nurse”
Language that would elicit a ten-minute hellfire rant
or a swift kick in the shins
from his spitfire of a niece
if it came from the mouth of anyone else
but she tolerates him, this venomous ancestor;
she has a blind-spot fetish for old men.

“What color is she, your doctor?” she needles him,
hoping against all evidence to the contrary
that 87 is not too old to learn…
but he grunts and spits into a plastic cup
and beckons her closer to confide his suspicion
that the hospital is run by Jews.
Before she leaves, he will ask her to fetch his wallet
so he can bequeath her a dollar and a warning
about the New World Order.

 

© Copyright 2006 by F.X. MacKenzie. Republished 2013, 2015.


Header photo via Morguefile.

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This Week at Gatewood: August 23–29, 2015

SDRandCo (36)

by Frasier MacKenzie

Hello, and thanks for stopping in!

Before getting into our weekly wrap-up, I’d like to make a quick announcement. Freelance writer Robin Flanigan is working on an article for BP magazine, and would like to interview bipolar people over 50 years of age. Please email robin@thekineticpen.com to get in touch if you’re interested in this. Also, we’d appreciate it if you’d help spread the word for her, so feel free to pass the information along to other folks you know. If you want to check out some of her work, her website is The Kinetic Pen.

Here are our features for the week of August 23–29:

Monday:Peace Will Never Give Up,” art by Delawer-Omar

Tuesday:After the Races,” poetry by Erin Abernethy

Wednesday:Baseball in New York, 1950” artwork by Zengael

Thursday:The Psychology of Ritual” by D.V. Gray

Friday:In the Mystery,” photography by P.L. Miller with a quote from physicist Fred Alan Wolf

Remember, the Friday photo can be downloaded for free as a meditation card for your phone, tablet or computer. Share, print, ponder… enjoy!

docBe sure to follow @docnicholas on Twitter for daily updates on Journal posts as well as humor, literary opinions, animal pics and rescues, and all your behind-the-scenes Journal action.

pigeon1Did you know you can subscribe to Gatewood Journal and receive a monthly newsletter with all our features for the month? Like a weekly wrap-up, only monthly, so your e-mail box won’t get cluttered. Like a magazine, only digital, because we love trees.

That’s it for the Gatewood Weekend Wrap-Up for the week of August 23–29, 2015. Enjoy your weekend, and visit us again soon!


Header photo via Morguefile.

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After the Races

junk-420827_1280

by Erin Abernethy

After the races have been run
and the cars rolled into trailers
and the drivers have changed out of
brand-plastered jumpsuits
into cheap Wal-Mart casual
and moved on to the next track…

After the crowds have vacated the grandstand,
left their bottles and go-mugs and wrappers behind,
maybe a diaper or two in the parking lot
(people get paid to pick that shit up –
don’t trouble yourselves)…

After the festive blue portable toilets
have been whisked away to
other fairs, other carnivals,
other gaudy pageants of
carnage and noise…

After the fields are returned to the cows
and no longer used for parking or
camping or public displays of
stupendous redneckery…

Still I’m surrounded
by forests of shotguns,
thickets of Confederacy,
bald patches of people so swollen with pride,
so whitewashed with bliss, so willfully ignorant
they could just bust their buttons at the
sight of it all –
these supreme infestations of loud local color
will never be gone,
hidebound and rootbound,
with their blonde Jesus gospel,
after the races.

 

© Copyright 2015 by Erin Abernethy


Header photo via Pixabay.

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This Week at Gatewood: August 16–22, 2015

squirrel-700100_1280

by Frasier MacKenzie

Hello, and thanks for stopping in!

The kids are back to school here, summer’s winding down a bit, and we’re starting to see the squirrels very industriously gathering and hiding nuts among the trees. Most of us here look forward to fall; we know winter’s not far behind, but for now, we look forward to that very brief time of the cooler temperatures and that certain stillness in the air. Unless you’re a squirrel, and then it’s really all about the nuts.

Here are our features for the week of August 16–22:

Monday:Appalachian Postcard,” art by Zengael

Tuesday:Arcade Funeral,” poetry by R. Kane

Wednesday:Bathroom Crucifix” photography by Nez

Thursday:The Duckling Says…,” some humorous short fiction of the supernatural variety by Patrick Redding

Friday:Sea Walls,” photography by P.L. Miller with a quote from psychologist Kay Redfield Jamison

Remember, the Friday photo can be downloaded for free as a meditation card for your phone, tablet or computer. Share, print, ponder… enjoy!

Be sure to follow @docnicholas on Twitter for daily updates on Journal posts as well as humor, thoughts on books, animal pics and rescues, and all your behind-the-scenes Journal action (or lack thereof). It’s like getting all the extras that come with a DVD, plus cat hair!

Did you know you can subscribe to Gatewood Journal and receive a monthly newsletter with all our features for the month? Like a weekly wrap-up, only monthly, so your e-mail box won’t get cluttered. Like a magazine, only digital, because we love trees.

That’s it for the Gatewood Weekend Wrap-Up for the week of August 16–22, 2015. Enjoy your weekend, and visit us again soon!


Header photo via Pixabay.

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