Turtle Summers

.
hat season the creek bed dried

to hardpan where we would drive
three-wheelers over crusted husks
of mudskippers, crawdads, and turtles.
It was the August my brother flipped
end over end, rolling six times before
coming to a stop after swerving
from a turtle he thought he’d seen.
I braked hard, seeing nothing
but the heap of him while my father hobbled
from the calf hutches as hurriedly
as he could on already failing legs.
He arrived quick enough: my brother stood,
then fainted into outstretched arms.
He spent the next six months sleeping
in the leather chair in the family room
until his collarbone broken into three
healed back into one.

The next summer began just as dry,
the earth cracking, the leaves wilting
and falling from the oak
where they had buried the Indian woman.
A summer so dry I couldn’t believe
the day I found the basement breathing
with hundreds of turtles:
concrete walls holding a world of water,
and the turtles a landmass.
It was like a river dammed,
or a lake choked, but alive.
Into that dreamscape
my father descended, and rose
an hour later with three bags
he buried out back. It was three days
before the rains began, flooding all
the way to the shed, drowning
the field where the oak stood.
That tree greened up in a day.

And the turtles returned.

*

This post is part of a series on trees. Submit your tree features to snakeoilcure[at]gmail[dot]com.

* * * * *

Kevin C. Peters transitioned into functional adulthood in Fairbanks, Alaska, where he received his MFA. He then fled the cold to spend several years teaching and traveling abroad. He currently resides in Oregon. His other contributions to Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.

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Impression № 041: Dans l’herbe

One of our favourite artists, Gaëtan Vanparijs, brings us “Dans l’herbe”. The Snake-Oil staff are whimsically and wonderfully reminded of the work of Quint Buchholz.

* * * * *

A native of Brussels, Gaëtan Vanparijs is a young independnt illustrator. He frequently exhibits and enters competitions in order to share his universe. Through “l’étrange vie des autres” (“The strange life of Others”), he inserts a touch of the absurd into everyday scenes, leaving each reader to his own interpretation. He recently finished  working on a book about illustrated Monsters’ Biographies,”Monstrueusement  vôtre”. He is influenced by movies and the Belgian surrealism that surrounds him. More of his work can be seen at Flickr.

His other contributions to Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.

Dr. Hurley’s Digest, Week 47

Fiction, photography, and poetry graced the pages of Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure this week, and we had some great submissions for our two contests. Read more about our contests below:

Catch up on what you missed this week below, and get submitting to our contests!
Fictional

Photographical

Poetical

Stay tuned for more this week!

Exposure № 060: Festivals of the Provinces III

Photographer Luca Napoli continues his series of festive photos. Go here and here for the previous installments.

* * * * *

Luca Napoli studied electronic engineering in Ferrara and then moved to Milan, where he currently works. He lives in a small town close to Milan. A self-taught photographer, he was influenced by his father, who always involved me during sessions of street photography in Taranto, his hometown. In 2006 he bought his first digital SRL and from then on he never abandoned photography. His most popular projects are Commuters and Taranto Vecchia. He is fascinated by reportage photography and always tries to put a story into a photo. Wonderful photos without a story are useless in his opinion, a pure aesthetic exercise.  His photos can be seen at his Flickr.

His other contributions to Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.

People of the Night

Shadow
is all fading sunlight
makes of trees.

Oaks grow horizontal.
Pines likewise.
The ice itself is the forest.

Slowly,
we trudge through
black trunk,

bodiless branches,
the crust
of treetops.

Nothing
but dark feelings
rapier thin.

Silhouettes
in all
our depth.

*

This post is part of a series on trees. Submit your tree features to snakeoilcure[at]gmail[dot]com.

* * *

John Grey is an Australian-born poet, and US resident since late seventies. He works as financial systems analyst, and has been recently published in Xavier Review, White Wall Review and Writer’s Bloc, with work upcoming in Poem, Prism International and the Cider Press Review. John Grey has been published recently in The Talking River, South Carolina Review and Karamu with work upcoming in Prism International, Poem and The Evansville Review. His other contributions to Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.

Thinking Like a Hog Deer in the Himalayas ♦ Part 2

Read part 1 of  “Thinking Like a Hog Deer in the Himalayas” here.

.

ng doesn’t stand a chance. He never even hears me approaching. I flap my wings while he is lost in prayer. Snowflakes swirl around his face. I am the first thing that he sees when he opens his eyes.

Lhamo,” he says in a reverent voice. “Goddess.”

I don’t correct him.

“I need your help,” I say. I try to look commanding. “I need you to help me escape.”

He looks confused. “Escape from what? You are a goddess of the mountains.”

This gives me pause, but I don’t show my own uncertainty. “I need to get back to the Sundarbans. If you help me, I will give you anything you want.”

His eyes latch on to that sentence. Anything. I can see him turning the word around in his mind. Snowfall dusts the smooth prayer stones of his gompa. I know from the way he kneels there is something that he wants.

“Anything?”

I nod. “But you have to get me out of here. And you can’t tell any of the other girls.”

“Girls!” He snorts a little, blowing out small, white puffs of air. To him we are not girls we are monsters.

High pitched yips rise up over the mountain pass and we both shiver.

“Will you help me?” I ask.

Ang locks eyes with me. There is something between us in our stare. “I am loyal to Pomegranate. I don’t want to anger her.”

I shrug. “If you don’t help me then I will tell Rani about you. Pomegranate will be thrown out of flight school. Then you will anger all of the Astomi. If you help me, no one has to know anything. We will keep each other’s secrets.”

Ang’s face pales. The snow swirls. Another Sherpa calls out from close by. He jumps to his feet as I retreat back into the swirling snow.

“I’ll be waiting for you,” I tell him.

He doesn’t answer.

.

hen the girls return I search Pomegranate’s face for some sign of Ang’s betrayal. As the days pass I don’t find any.

One night I am lying in my bed scratching at my wings and thinking of crocodiles when I smell Pangboche on the breeze. Ang is waiting at the window.

“I thought you’d never come,” I say.

He grimaces in the moonlight. “We have to be quick. My father is dying.”

Despite his somber tone I follow him out into the snow with feet like flower petals. I am so happy I could dance on the breeze. Literally.

My note to Rani says not to search for me. I thank her for her kindness and say that it is something in myself that makes me so unhappy. I know the story of my mother’s scarred back will support this claim.

Ang leads me carefully down the side of the mountain. He walks like a grief stricken mountain goat. He says nothing and the moonlight fills in his silence.

Crunch. Crunch. Boots over snow. Flutter. Flutter. My wings are straining for autonomy from my shoulders. My toes are skimming the soft snow drifts. My footprints are no more than a suggestion beside Ang’s heavy bootstep.

The sun is rising when we reach Pangboche. It is my first time ever in a Sherpa village, and Pangboche is the oldest. It contains secrets and mysteries that only the mountains know. We walk through forests of birch and rhododendron. We pass potato patches, curling rivers, grazing yaks, and houses built into the sides of the mountain. The immediate terror of the other moth girls fades under this landscape of rural domesticity.

Ang’s face is still tight. His chin slants upwards towards the rising sun. “He needs you now,” he says.

I follow him to the house where his father is dying.

There is a butter lamp burning on the doorstep. The smell of sickness comes from within. Ang picks up the lantern and goes inside while I wait on the threshold. My wings flap about my back uncomfortably.

After a moment he appears in the doorway.

“Come on,” he says. “It is time for you to do your magic.”

I follow him in, my heart thudding in my chest. Bouncing off my ribcage. Clacking across my conscience. His father is lying beside piles of turnips and dried yak dung. Ang throws some wood on the fire, feeding the flames with hot hopes and ancient prayers.

“Here is the Astomi,” he says.

The old man’s yellow eyes turn towards me.

In that moment, I am renounced as a fraud. The Sundarbans seem small compared to this. A dying father.

“Do something,” Ang urges.

My wings begin to stir.

Astomi,” whispers the old man. They both look hopeful.

“Leave us alone,” says the old man. His voice is raspy.

Ang stares at us both for a moment before shuffling back outside. I am weak with the responsibility that has fallen on my shoulders.

“So,” he says. “You have come to find out about your mother.”

Whatever I thought was going to happen still leaves me unprepared for this. My mother’s image floats before me. Beautiful and sad and strong. In the Sundarbans they called her witch. Her life was solitary except for me and the marsh animals. I can see no connection between her and an old, dying Sherpa.

“No,” I say. “I came to help Ang. In return he will help me. I am on my way home.”

It is hard to recognize any expression in the bed of wrinkles that is the old man’s face. There may be sorrow or surprise. I can’t tell.

“My son’s name is Pasang,” he says. “He was born on a Friday.”

I don’t say anything.

“Ang is the name that you Astomi give to all the Sherpa’s. Your mother called me Ang.”

Suddenly I am wishing for sky rather than this closed in space on the side of a mountain. I feel trapped. “How do you know my mother?”

“I can see her in your features,” he says. This time I am sure his face wrinkles into a thirsty smile.

“She was very beautiful. I was already married to Pasang’s mother, but I still noticed how beautiful she was.”

Of their own accord my wings are flapping. They are pounding at the air with a pattern I have never heard before. The wailing of a secret wind.

“Who is your father?” he asks me. His voice is papery. Dusty. It splinters on the motion of my wings.

Not you, is what I think to myself. “He is a Sundarban chieftain.” As I say it, I envision it and tell myself it must be so.

“It was such a long time ago,” Ang’s father says. He sighs like he has stored up that sentence forever.

I know what he is trying to tell me and I don’t accept it. I square myself up against him even in his weakened state. “My mother had one love and that is me,” I say. “She did not cut off her wings for some old, married Sherpa.”

In the Sundarbans, most of the animals exist in groups of mother and child. Anything else is too precarious and unsteady to be trusted. Even the hog deer forgo their normal species mode of herd survival and live in pairs of two. I don’t know how to tell Ang’s father this. My wings are angry. My skin is scalding hot.

“Maybe not,” he says.

We stare at each other for what could be hours. It could be minutes. Although he doesn’t say anything more, his eyes tell me a story. I see my mother young and unafraid and powerful. I fill in the spaces that led her to the dangerous sanctuary of the ocean forest.

“Were you there when she did it?” I ask. Cut off her wings is what I mean.

“She killed my wife,” he says. “I had a son to raise with no mother.”

I don’t believe him. He stinks of death and lies. I call for Ang to come back inside. The Sherpa’s hovel looks rank and diseased. Filthy. I try to go outside but the old man thrashes about on his mattress. My wings are still flapping and the ripples from their motion seem to soothe him.

“Please,” Ang says, touching my arm. “Please help him.”

I don’t do it for the dying man. I do it for his son. The Sherpa that led me down out of the mountains. Though I am furious with the suggestion that my mother gave up her wings for a man, I let these thoughts fuel my flapping. Inside the hut, the fire blazes to life, washing us all with warmth and the scent of the rain lily oil that Rani had rubbed into my wings the day before. Ang’s hair blows back from his face, and I can feel my own swirling in a cloud above me.

The old man’s face is washed with wing gusts and torrents of faded moonlight. He smiles and Ang’s expression smoothes into something recognizable. I see my own longing for the ocean forests. I see my mother when she was my age standing in this very place. I see abandonment and isolation. I see Rani with her limp wing. Instinctively I reach for my onions, however, I absconded into the night with Ang so suddenly I forgot to pack them. I feel myself growing weak and light headed.  I feel myself begin to swoon.

When I wake up Ang is brewing sherpa tea in a wooden churn with salt and melted yak butter. He pushes a mug in front of me. It smells like hiking boots and old vomit. The old man has died in the night but Ang is not angry at me. In fact he seems relieved. Lighter somehow.

“I’m sorry,” I say. I’m not, although somehow I had not expected it would be over so quickly.

He smiles at me with small, chipped teeth. His face creases like oiled animal hide. “You helped him,” he says. “My father had renounced the mountain spirits. My mother died in an avalanche.”

My head is reeling from all of the strong smells of earth and animal and man.

“You took away his fear,” he repeats.

I gag on the tea.

“Do you want something else?” Ang asks.

“I wouldn’t mind some onions,” I tell him. “And maybe some coffee. Plain coffee.”

While Ang is busy with a tin of instant coffee I stretch my wings and look around the small house. It is built into the side of the mountain. The walls are cold earth stuffed with herbs and old rags. The old man’s corpse is in the corner, covered with a white shroud so that only a vague outline is visible. That outline is enough to make me shiver.

Ang hands me two onions and I grab at them desperately, taking big greedy gulps of the scent while he watches me with raised eyebrows. It smells heavenly.

“What will you do with your father? It must be too cold for a burial.”

He nods. “Tradition says he will remain in the house for some time. That is how the spirit likes it.”

I nod.

“But I haven’t forgotten my promise to you,” he says. He looks very sincere. “I will help you get back to the Sundarbans.”

I watch Ang closely as he makes dough cakes over the fire and waves burning juniper wands through the small space to dispel the death smell. I clutch at my onions and try to find similarities in our faces. Ang is sharp and slanted. His body is pure muscle, compact and energy efficient. He is pulled in close to himself. I suppose there is something of the hog deer in him.

“What makes you like Pomegranate anyway?” I ask.

Ang shrugs. “She picked me. I don’t know. She is Astomi. And she’s not like you.”

“Like how?”

He shrugs again and my wings shuffle and rearrange themselves. The initial spotted ochre pattern has faded and they are pure moon white now. Dazzling. I don’t have to imagine myself as a goddess anymore.

I leave him with his dough cakes and go outside where the snow has fallen fresh and clean. The air is ripe with the spicy scent of conifers and shivering yaks. Ang follows me outside with a mug of coffee.

“Your father upended my world,” I tell him. I sniff the breeze for some indication of what to do. “I don’t need your help anymore.”

He looks crestfallen and relieved. “Will you return to the Astomi?”

My wings are slow, steady flapping. They are building up to a new level of strength and speed. I can count the scars on them from the months in Rani’s boarding house. I can see the soft patches of new fur where the other girls shaved me. They are beautiful nonetheless. Perhaps the most beautiful wings in the Himalayas. Certainly the most beautiful wings born in the Sundarbans. I think they are worth the weight of the stories of the past.

Ang helps me load my pockets up with onions and we say an awkward and secretive goodbye.

“I haven’t decided,” I tell him. In truth, I haven’t. My homing sense is utterly disoriented. Something else has taken its place. Something that is bigger than my mother, or Ang’s father, or flight school. I wonder if I will return to see Ang again, and if I will tell him about his father and my mother. It would make us less alone.

“You can stay here for a while if you like,” Ang says. “Pangboche is good at keeping the mountain’s secrets.”

Already my wings are flapping. This pattern is different than any I have felt before. It is strong and rhythmic. Every muscle in my body strains as they open out to their full breadth and thwack at the sky with an ancient and powerful rhythm. Ang is knocked back into a soft drift of powder snow.

I forget all of my training immediately and listen to my instincts. As my wings get their first real breath of mountain air and I launch into full flight, I am not thinking of any of the things that could go awry. Instead I am thinking of my mother.

She died on a day full of rain and saline waters. She was eaten by Bengalese tigers.

In the mornings, my mother liked to bathe in the salt water lagoons. She felt like she was one of the animals. Not separate. Never in any real danger. Sometimes, nearby villagers would come to her for advice or good luck. My mother always sent them away with too much information. Things that they didn’t want to hear. Things that they couldn’t hear. They called her a witch. And when she died there were very few who mourned her.

There were many who should have.

My mother was buried in the driest part of the ocean forest, where the sea just creeps up to the edge of the mangrove trees. Her grave is marked with the hoof prints of stubborn hog deer.

Her wings are buried somewhere apart from her.

* * * * *

Kimberly Lojewski is an MFA candidate in UMass Amherst’s Poets and Writers Program. She has her MA in English from Florida Gulf Coast University, and comes from the swampy parts of Florida, where whippoorwills sing and alligators crossings are commonplace. She has been published in Mangrove Review, PANK, Aesthetica Creative Works, and has work forthcoming in Gargoyle, TOAD, and Blood Lotus. She is also the founder and Editor in Chief of Belletrist Coterie, a new Literature, Arts, and Culture magazine that focuses primarily on storytelling through different artistic mediums.

Her other contributions to Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.

Exposure № 059: El amor a la patria

Photographer Naama Sarid continues to share her wonderful images with us, and tells us a little about “El amor a la patria”:

The title of this photo is taken from a national Cuban song named Abdala, by Jose Marti, which talks about one’s love for his nation. This photo shows the other side of this love, sacrificing yourself for your ideals.

* * * * *

Naama Sarid-Maleta’ is an architect. She began an intense career as a documentary and conceptual photographer in Madrid (2008) and has contributed to magazines and publications in Europe and Israel. She has participated in numerous exhibitions in Ukraine, Spain and Israel. Her sustained challenge as an artist is the desire to “build dreams” in visual codes. She had developed a scheme of work based on the interaction of enforcement procedures and the organizations of architecture and a conceptual result more expressionistic and plastic in its nature. Her husband is also an architect and photographer from Cuba, and they work as a team with multidisciplinary projections.

Her other contributions to Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.

Thinking Like a Hog Deer in the Himalayas ♦ Part 1

.

n the freezing dark of our first winter together our wings solidify and grow. The fragile tissue-paper transparency thickens and turns rubbery, making us slow and awkward. Making our movements as sticky and uncertain as glue. During this first phase of new growth we are crepuscular. We exist in between dark and light. We sleep in heavy, deathlike trances and only venture outside during the gloaming or when the moon is full. In the beginning, I am sedated in order to keep from leaving the school. I gnash my teeth between wing-growing spasms. I hold myself separate from the rest of the girls.

Rani is our teacher and our surrogate mother away from home. She does her best to make us comfortable while we undergo our transformations. The dim warmth of the boarding house cocoons us against the frozen Himalayan winter. The air is perfumed with smoky incense haze, and piles of grouse-down pillows litter the polished floors in case we are stricken with exhaustion walking to and from the common area and our shared bedrooms. We suffer growing pains and homesickness in synchronized waves. We sleep in identical quilt covered beds. Delicate wing buds unfold from our shoulders while the mountains creak and groan outside the walls that contain our new selves. The wind dusts the rooftop with the music of falling stars and snowflakes.

In the beginning there are seven of us. However, while we are still drowsy with change and slow with transformation, the most disoriented moth girl wanders off and disappears into a blizzard. Rani assures us that she has likely been taken in by friendly Sherpas, but all of us secretly suspect the paralysis of sudden avalanches or the deadly silence of prowling snow leopards. Becoming a moth girl is fraught with its own new brands of unaccustomed peril. Danger lurks at every twist and turn. Rani paces our development. We huddle together in timid, knock-kneed, weak-winged groups.

To pass the time, we learn celestial navigation by candlelight. We chart and explore the dim boarding house, bumping into things and misgauging distances. Many of us bruise. Some of us scar. For the longest time we are so easily bent and dented that it is hard to imagine anything else. And then, almost overnight our new appendages become strong and supple and covered in a soft fur. The group mentality fractures as the corners of Rani’s house collect piles of glowing, moon-white moth dander. No matter how we try to groom ourselves it embarrasses us all.

“I know this is yours, Gurdeep,” Rani says, toeing a coppery-colored fluff ball towards me. She smiles like she is making a joke out of it. As if to say: molting is something that unites us all together.

It does no such thing. Rani’s smile doesn’t dull the savage scorn of the other moth girls. They avert their eyes. They want no part of my personal disgrace. My face prickles with humiliation. I pick my wing lint up quickly and stuff it down into my pocket. The first molting is always the worst. Fur and hormones all over the place. This is what Rani tells us anyway.

“Relax,” she says. She touches my shoulder so close to my new wings that I jump. “Be proud of it. It is part of you now. It sets you apart and makes you an individual. Embrace it.”

Her outpouring of motherly moth-woman advice makes the other girls giggle and ensures that I will be teased for the rest of the day.

Embrace yourself, Gurdeep,” Shobha says with a snicker. “No one else ever will.”

Shobha has quick become the bully of our pack. She elbows Pomegranate in the ribs and they both crease forward into wild laughter. I could point out the several wisp tufts of silver-green that float down to the floor from their movements, but I don’t. I am too much of a lady.

As a group, our wings firm into strong, lightweight, whiskered propellers. They purr and vibrate against our spines. By the time the sun rears up over the ice fields in early spring, we are different creatures entirely. Shobha no longer looks like herself. She is truly terrifying. Her hair has been bleached white by the thin Himalayan nights. Her skin glows. Her black eyes glitter. Pomegranate is frosting pink and magenta where she used to be an awkward ginger color. Now her tangled curls are a sugary shock of color that is obscene against the frozen landscape. She exudes a terrible wanton-ness that worries Rani and awes the rest of us. The Sherpas follow her around like hypnotized animals.

The other girls have made similar transformations. Daya and Deva, twin sisters who speak to each other in serpentine whispers, have become icy, mountain wraiths. Their hair coils out from their cold faces in frozen corkscrews. Their fingers and toes are pale purple. They smell like the sky and eat popsicles made of marmalade. Candle is less terrifying than the others. Her eyes have turned the color of honey. Her wings drip with the sticky shade. She is a distant cousin of Rani’s, which makes her act superior to the rest of us, and she is quick to rat us out for any minor moth girl infractions we might commit. She spends the days gazing at herself in a mirror above her bed and only comes outside for the required flight training regiments.

I can only imagine that I have changed into something in some way similar to the others. I try hard not to glimpse my own reflection in the frosted glass of the windows. I am terrified at meeting an unfamiliar face. I am the only one of us who is having some heartsickness over losing my former self. The others shiver and shine with winged sky greed. They shriek like frozen mountain banshees.

“Yip! Yip! Yip!”

The hills echo with this sound. Voices of moth-girls bounce off the glaciers and crack the clear ice near the edge of the stream. We are practicing wind-running today. There are icy swells running down off the snow caps and rippling the air in giant blasts that gasp for the sea. Our wings spread out from their cramped crouches to taste the evergreen breath of the mountains. Our feet pound the ice and snow trying to keep up, combining ancient rhythms with familiar ones. Rani has forbidden us to be completely airborne yet. We are still in the fledgling stage.

“There is nothing worse than premature flight,” she tells us. There is such vehemence in her voice when she says this that we all believe her. Even Shobha follows directions with a discreet roll of her eyes.

Contrary to popular belief, flying is not something that comes naturally as soon as you have wings. It takes lots of practice before you attempt the real deal. Throughout the winter we studied aeronautics and memorized stellar navigation co-ordinates. Now Rani leads us in simulated flight patterns. We buzz beneath the frozen sun, our feet trilling across the ground, the wind filling our heads with false freedoms and frozen promises. The other girls practice restraint to keep from taking off. Me, I am quite the opposite. I don’t like heights. I hate the altitude. The air up here is so thin it makes me dizzy.

My sky-bound destiny keeps me awake most nights and torments me throughout the day. I never run out of things to worry about. There are all kinds of dangers to real flight: downdrafts, blizzards, frostbite, disorientation, snow blindness, and wing freeze. I click them off in my head like a recording as I run. It causes my feet to stick to the ground. It makes my breath wheeze and sputter. I carry onions in both pockets for moments like these. The fleshy aroma restores my equilibrium and replaces the ground beneath my feet. It is an old trick. One that Rani told me about. I try to draw on the strength of ancient moth girls who may have been more like myself. Girls who relied upon totems to channel the solid strength of the earth.

“Gurdeep is holding us back,” Shobha says when we stop for a break. She is panting lightly. She very nearly touched a cloud. Tendrils of it are impaled on her icicle spike hair. As soon as she points this out, six pairs of glowing, slanted eyes turn towards me. I drop the onion that I’m holding up to my nose. The rest of the group looks disgusted.

“Some people don’t deserve wings,” Pomegranate mutters.

“Some people didn’t ask for wings,” I say in my own defense, but it falls on deaf ears. The girls turn away from me as a group and move off again. I huddle close to myself and pick my onion up out of the snow.

Most of the girls are from around here. Shobha was born on a nearby mountain. Pomegranate was raised in a grey city that curves alongside the Ganges River. Daya and Deva are from Kathmandu. Even Candle grew up among ice and snow. They have spent their lives preparing for the moment they would grow wings and receive their training.

I am different. I was born in the Sundarbans. The ocean forest. I was raised among the salted roots of the mangroves and the gentle swells of the sea. My mother fled these mountains when she was my age. The only part of the story that I know is the shape of the cauterized scars on her back. Wingless, she delivered me into a world that was hot, and poisonous, and slow. Back home I know how to watch out for the strong jaws of the water monitor, the low growl of a hungry Bengalese tiger, or the knobby hide of a crocodile’s back. These are threats that announce themselves in their every movement and appearance. Here everything that is beautiful is dangerous. I toe my way along miniscule fissures in crystal pure glacial ice like I am walking a tightrope of hot flames and certain death.

About the time that the rest of the girls booby trap my flight pack with a rotten banana, demagnetize my compass, and shave patches of fur off of my wings while I am sleeping, Rani pulls me aside for a chat.

“Listen Gurdeep,” she says, her smooth skin furrowed with concern. “I know you are not adjusting here. Tell me if there is anything that I can do to help you along and I will do it. I hate to see any of my girls having such a tough time.”

“Send me home,” I tell her. Home is where I belong. I miss the memory of my mother. “I’m done molting now. The worst of it is over, right? I don’t even want to fly. Please let me go home.”

I can see by the tears swelling behind the polished black of her pupils that this is not going to happen.

“You belong here,” she says. “Moth girls belong to the snow cold moon. They belong to the ice and the sky. It is a part of your destiny.”

“My mother left,” I say.

Rani is the same age as my mother. They were in flight school together when they were girls. My mother didn’t tell me much about those days, but she spoke of Rani as a friend. I try to picture Rani as a young girl rather than my teacher but I can’t.

“Your mother tried to escape her place in the world,” she says. “It never works that way. Moth girls belong to the mountains.”

I feel the mangrove forests receding from me as she says this. I feel my mother becoming farther and farther away. The heat that has swirled beneath my skin all this time suddenly evaporates. My veins turn to threads of icy tinsel. Rani’s face is sad but impassive. She touches my wings and then touches her own.

“This is your new family. This is your new home.”

I refuse to accept her words. Instead I keep watch for some kind of way out of here.

.

omegranate is having a lusty affair with a Sherpa. This is strictly forbidden. Moth girls are to stay celibate for the duration of flight school. Rani says that our new identities are too fragile. Our concentration is too important for carnal distractions. The Sherpas pose a constant threat with their sinewy climbing muscles and almond shaped eyes. They watch us with something akin to reverence. They build our landing platforms. They mark the white mountain tops with flight pattern flags. They call us the Astomi. The Apple smellers. They believe we are an ancient race of mythological monsters rather than a pack of adolescent winged girls.

Pomegranate’s Sherpa is from the village of Pangboche. Whenever he visits, the frosted air fills with the scent of old mysteries and conifers. He looks at Pomegranate as if she is a goddess or a beast. Enraptured. She becomes bigger than the horizon.

“Ang says I am more beautiful than the sun,” she brags as she combs out her curls before supper.

The other girls hang on her every word with a combination of envy and anger. We would all like a Sherpa, but we don’t dare face Rani’s wrath. Her disappointment is terrible.

“Moth girls don’t need mountain climbing men,” she is fond of saying. “For what? Soon you will be able to fly on your own. Don’t make ties to the ground. You have bigger things in store for your lives.”

Rani has a bum wing. That’s how she got stuck here with us rather than becoming the queen of her own mountain range somewhere. She makes a wonderful teacher, but the look in her eyes as our feet begin to lift off the ground is more painful then windburn. I recognize this look. It is in my memories of the Sundarbans. I fantasize scenarios where I yank off my own wings and hand them to her. She stitches them to her back and flies me home. In my fantasies Rani flies like she is made of fire. She swoops and dives and glides and somersaults before returning me to my marshes. My mother is waiting at the edge of the ocean forest surrounded by hog deer and smiling crocodiles.

But this is only a dream.

“Come on, Gurdeep,” Rani says after a particularly grueling flight practice. “Why are you so stuck to the ground?”

“I am a hog deer,” I tell her.

She gives me a questioning look. There are no hog deer in the Himalayas. There are only snow leopards and the occasional wandering yak.

“They are little things that bark and run like heavy pigs,” I tell her. “They duck under branches and high roots rather than soaring over them like other deer.”

“There are no hog deer here,” she says.

It is just as I suspected.

No one will save me. I know I have to hatch my own plan. I decide to go after Pomegranate’s Sherpa.

.

n order to talk to Ang I have to catch him away from Rani and from the rest of the girls. I don’t relish the thought of Pomegranate’s rage if she discovers I am trying to steal her man. I tell myself that it is only for survival’s sake. I don’t acknowledge the petty thrill that the idea gives me.

The Sherpas camp together in a clearing of snow-covered huts. They are the only men who can breathe the air this high in the mountains. Over many generations, their bodies have adapted to the altitude. They are a funny mix of mountains and ground. They speak in old languages peppered with new. They wear traditional woolen bakhus and bright colored thermal jackets. They worship us. We are a part of their mountain religion.

Ang moves apart from the other men. His bakhu is somber and he wears an embroidered cap lined with yak fur. While the other sherpas are keeping warm in huddled groups around fire pits with mugs of chang and instant coffee, Ang prays alone at a makeshift gompa. I don’t know what he prays for because I am always watching him from behind large snowdrifts. I know his prayers make my wings flutter.

After weeks of covert spying with no results, finally I decide to fake an illness in order to be left alone in the boarding house. Rani takes the other girls out on an all day flight expedition and they leave me behind after I pretend to have cramped wings. Shobha and Pomegranate are particularly delighted.

“Try not to bore yourself to death while we are gone,” Pomegranate says.

It takes away any guilt that I am feeling.

After they leave I strut around the empty boarding house, rifling through the other girls’ belongings and speaking to myself in confident tones.

“I am a temptress. I am a mountain goddess.”

I force myself over to the mirror by Candle’s bed. I prepare myself for a shock. I hold my breath, still my thoughts, and look square in the face of it.

I have changed.

Black eyes and black hair. Eyebrows like arrows. Skin the color of salted mangroves. My wings are spotted ochre. They shimmer in the faded sunlight, dusting the air with miniature prisms.

I think of the hog deer to regain my composure. They are unflappable and small and strong. I pull an onion out of my pocket and sniff greedily. I have no more baby face, only a wild sorrowful look. Like a marsh witch or a hunted animal. I pull Candle’s makeup palette out from under her bed and with a steady hand I draw exotic shades of experience and mystery on my face?

The Conclusion of “Thinking Like a Hog Deer in the Himalayas”
will appear this Wednesday, January 25th.

* * * * *

Kimberly Lojewski is an MFA candidate in UMass Amherst’s Poets and Writers Program. She has her MA in English from Florida Gulf Coast University, and comes from the swampy parts of Florida, where whippoorwills sing and alligators crossings are commonplace. She has been published in Mangrove Review, PANK, Aesthetica Creative Works, and has work forthcoming in Gargoyle, TOAD, and Blood Lotus. She is also the founder and Editor in Chief of Belletrist Coterie, a new Literature, Arts, and Culture magazine that focuses primarily on storytelling through different artistic mediums.This is her first contribution to Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure.

Dr. Hurley’s Digest, Week 46

The Doctor featured some fantastic art this week from Matthew Cox, as well as poetry and more photography from regular Luca Napoli. Check out Cox’s work below, under the “artistical” label!

Also, remember to take part in our two contests! Click below for more information.

Check out more goodies below:

Poetical

Artistical

Photographical

Stay tuned for some guest-edited goodies coming up soon, and some more on our contests.

Impression № 040e: Avatar #1 – Krishna

* * * * *

Matthew Cox is a Philadelphia- based artist who embraces and joins a variety of media to produce several thematic series of work. A 2008 recipient of the Pew Charitable Trusts Fellowship in Painting, Cox studied at the Parsons School of Design in New York and Otis/Parsons in Los Angeles. He exhibits his work nationally and is featured in many prominent collections. He is represented by Jonathan Ferrara Gallery in New Orleans [www.jonathanferraragallery.com], Pentimenti Gallery in Philadelphia [www.pentimenti.com] and Packer /Schopf Gallery in Chicago [www.aronpacker.com].

His contributions to Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.