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November '05 -- guest edited by Claudia Smith

Learning to Ride a Bicycle
  by Amanda Deutch

  by Dorothee Lang

  by Terri Brown-Davidson

Kisses on the Forehead
  by Liliana V. Blum
   translated by Toshiya Kamei

Margaret and Beak Discuss Jazz for the Last Time
  by Kathy Fish

Lawrence Welk's Last Erection
  by Linda Boroff

The Star
  by Bob Arter

  by Kim Chinquee

mailing list?

I didn't feel at all well in the recovery room. I'd been on the table, I would learn later, a lot longer than anyone had expected. The docs were removing the metal strap that they'd installed the year before, to stabilize the neck I'd managed to break in the Atlantic Ocean. Vertebra bone had grown over the spare parts and it was tough for them to chisel it off.

Someone had slipped, cut me, and blood and other fluids were seeping into my lungs.

Air was increasingly hard to come by. At last, someone came to push my gurney back to my bed in the Neuro ICU. I barely cleared the door of the recovery unit before I couldn't breathe at all -- nor speak. I waved my arms wildly and a nurse came running. She took a look and ran away again. Soon she was back, with what appeared to be a hot-water bottle. She fitted its opening over my mouth and squeezed the thing, forcing air into my lungs. Ambu bag. I'd never heard of it.

By then a circle of masked faces huddled over me, gazing down. The nurse stopped pumping and slipped out of their way.

"He's not breathing," one said calmly.

"Not at all," said one whose voice I remembered: the anaesthesiologist.

Someone said, "If he doesn't start breathing soon, I'm going to trache him." The voice was dreamy, far away. I paid it no heed.

While they continued their discussion, a buzzing commenced in my ears and became a roar of white noise. I stared up, my view encircled by a ring of absolute black. The black irised in, much like an old-time television wipe. Finally there was only black, onto which was flung a scattering of diamonds-night sky in the desert. As I watched, they flickered off, several at a time.

At last there was only one, dead center. I found that if I focused the whole of my attention on it, I could prevent it from moving. Or dying.

I knew exactly what that last star was. Life.

It teetered and winked. I bore down and held it there.

I lost consciousness.


When I awoke, after several days packed in ice to bring down my temperature, I found myself staring at the ventilator that was supplying my air. Enclosed in a glass case were two pumps, each one a street-artist's squeezebox, taking turns gathering air and pumping it into me.

I took a particular interest in those pumps. Was one faltering? They looked old and dusty. Surely the hospital had a newer machine. But it kept its weary vigil, and soon I drifted back to sleep.


It was an interesting time. I visited the circus and saw women in fancy dress aboard camels, a fellow riding a bicycle across a high wire, clowns that bore an unsettling resemblance to J. Edgar Hoover. On another evening, a doctor who was taking his wife to dinner kindly invited the entire ward to his home. We gathered in the library, a high-ceilinged room, three of whose walls were shelf upon shelf of books. The other wall -- there was no door -- was an enormous fireplace built of large, rugged stones. In it, huge logs blazed; we all soon removed our hospital gowns. I selected a book, The Pokey Little Puppy, and read it while chatting with the rest.

It was a lovely night.


I woke up for good as they were pulling the breathing tube out of my nose, which was not as unpleasant as it sounds. I was able to breathe, with some effort, and a fellow pulling a device that resembled an upright vacuum cleaner came around at thirty-minute intervals to give me breathing treatments, inhaling a foul-smelling mist that loosened the remaining gunk in my lungs. Then I coughed my head off, no easy task given all the pectoral and mid-back muscles that no longer worked. When I finished, the vacuum man would be back.

In time, his visits were spaced more reasonably. In time, I was released and returned to my rehab facility. There, in the hour or so devoted to Occupational Therapy, I typed letters to a woman some three thousand miles away, whom I was wooing with love letters.

All's fair in a couple of arenas, and one day inspiration struck. As I was telling her all about my hospital tribulations, I got around to the last star. And told her, That star was you.

Bob Arter likes to call his habit of lying fluently "a common but likeable tendency to exaggerate." His exaggerations have peppered such sterling venues as Zoetrope All-Story Extra, the Absinthe Literary Review, Pindeldyboz,, FRiGG, Gator Springs Gazette, Lit Pot, Ink Pot, and host of others.