Issue 6.2 of Harpur Palate isn’t the strongest I’ve seen, but there are some enjoyable stories here, including T.J. Forrester’s “Revolving Door,” which I had the pleasure of seeing in draft a few months ago. Chad is “living,” if you can call it that, in a hospice, along with other patients dying of AIDS. He spends his time writing letters to his former lovers, those whom he might have infected or, possibly, who might have infected him. He doesn’t worry about the distinction, nor does he read the replies.
“Yesterday, I sent a letter to Joy Goochland. She was a bartender in Seattle when I was living out there and selling crank to college kids at this bar called La Casa Loco. She was around fifty-five, I think, fifteen years older than yours truly. I won’t lie. Glands under my throat were swollen and I’d had trouble shaking colds, so I suspected something was wrong. I didn’t dwell on it; the sex was too good to pass up.”
Although Chad is despicable, he is an engaging narrator and the reader is quite happy to listen to his sad story.
Another enjoyable read here is “The Troubles” by Charles Haverty, about a husband and wife who have traveled from Boston to Ireland in order to get past the fact that the wife has had an affair. The two characters are wonderfully rendered, with flaws and pasts and quirks, and watching their skirmishes as they travel through the Irish countryside is most enjoyable.
“Michael didn’t answer, but his quiet had taken on a different quality. Steering the little white rent-a-car through the outskirts of Dublin required his total attention, and for the moment his survival instinct displaced Rachel’s confession of the night before. He felt paralyzed behind the wheel, while the brightly painted doors of the row houses streaked along his peripheral vision.”
The couple stop at Waterford and buy crystal glasses, which rest precariously in the back seat of the car, a fine metaphor for their marriage.
I also have to mention a poem, “The Magician’s Tale” by Jilly Dybka, which appears to be part of a sequence (judging by the subtitle, “I. The Early Years”–forgive me if I’m wrong, Jilly!)
“Back in the States, I had to pull some strings,
But got through the College of Manual
Dexterity and Prestidigitation.
Poof! I became ZAMTEEN: The Magician.”
I hope there’s more!
Next up: One Story