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issue 21: november -december 2000 

 spanish translation| author  bio

When Animals Attack
Alicia Erian


      "I want you to do me a favor," my mother, executive secretary, says on the telephone one Thursday.
      I'm standing at my kitchen sink, washing a chicken I plan to bake for dinner. Suddenly I feel very aware of salmonella, one of my mother's archenemies, along with streptococcus and bat guano, which, studies point out, is often found on the organic produce purchased by yuppies like me and Cyrus. My mother, in turn, points the studies out to me.
      "No," I say, preemptively. Her favors tend to involve me asking people she barely knows, like my in-laws or co-workers, what their favorite color or flavor is so she can buy them extravagant gifts that signify little except that she is crazy and I must be as well, since I helped her out in the first place.
      "I picked up a runaway on the way to work this morning," my mother continues, "a very nice young man who needed a hundred and fifty dollars to get back to his people in Florida. He'll be arriving in Orlando at four-fifteen tomorrow and I want you to meet him at the bus station and talk to him about careers before he reboards for Tampa."
      "No," I say again, removing the giblets from inside the chicken and setting them in a stainless steel bowl. "Forget it."
      "And just why not?" she asks, indignant. I am a guidance counselor, which my mother seems to think is similar to being a doctor in that I am bound to help all troubled high schoolers at any time of the day or night.
      "I'll be at work tomorrow at four-fifteen," I say.
      "It's four-fifteen now and you're not at work," my mother argues.
      I set the chicken on a plate and begin patting it dry with a paper towel. "Mom," I say, "you gave a stranger a hundred and fifty dollars?"
      "He's interested in animals," she says excitedly. "That's why I thought you could encourage him to become a veterinarian. His people sound sort of, you know, common, so I thought talking with someone like you might be just the thing to set him straight."
      I picture her at her desk in New Jersey: coral lipstick faded from endless coffee sipping, hair fuzzy from ineffective conditioner, locket once devoted to me and my brother (though now that mother and Farrell aren't speaking, modified to include a baby picture of Cyrus) resting atop the substantial shelf of her bosom. Over the phone I hear her boss, Dr. Mondo, dean of communications, hacking away with emphysema. He and my mother behave as if they're married, though Dr. Mondo is already married to someone else and my mother swore off men after my father left her years ago for a woman much heavier than she. This, my mother announced, was a personal affront, since at least if he was going to dump her he might have done so in a way that indicated her appearance was at fault, and not her company. It was the shame of this, she insisted, that caused her to lose face with all her girlfriends, while Farrell, fed up with her teary midnight phone calls, assured her that no, her lousy personality had simply struck again. Hence the loss of his locket ranking.
      "So you'll go?" my mother asks me.
      "No!" I say, resting my hand atop my own human shelf, a belly six months pregnant with a girl Cyrus wants to call Georgiette. My mother has informed him that this is unacceptable, however, and that my suggestion of Twyla is even worse. I understand she will settle for nothing less than Meredith, her own name, which has compelled Cyrus and me to refer to the baby by her chromosomal construction: Double X.
      "Oh don't be so uncharitable!" my mother says.
      "Listen to your mother!" Dr. Mondo yells in the background.
      "How is it that my idea of common sense equals your idea of being uncharitable?" I ask.
      "Who knows what kind of crappy ideals you picked up in college?" my mother says, irritated, while Dr. Mondo chuckles nearby. "In any case," she continues, her voice alarmingly smooth, "it turns out you have to go and meet the boy."
      "Why?" I say.
      "Because he has something for you."
      "What?" In my head, I quickly compose a list of things I'd be happy to do without: money, baby clothes, a dozen real bagels.
      "Your baby pictures," my mother says. "Didn't you ask me for those?"
      I did indeed. I am a pregnant, thirty-four-year-old guidance counselor who recently had a hankering for my baby pictures and expressed as much to my mother, who in turn expressed a reluctance to send them through the mail as there are no remaining negatives, and the post office is completely incompetent.
      I wash my hands with orange antibacterial soap, then move down the counter to a spot where we keep Post-it notes and a cup of pens. "Okay, Mom," I say. "Tell me again what time he gets in?"
      She repeats the boy's itinerary and I do not bother to point out he probably won't be on the bus, and that she and I will never see my three-month-old bare butt being washed in her kitchen sink again.
      We hang up. I return to the chicken and rub its skin with olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic. Cyrus will be home shortly and when he sees I have made dinner he will kiss me everywhere and tell me how wonderful it is to have the night off from cooking. He will then tell me I most certainly will not meet a runaway at the Greyhound station tomorrow, after which I will tell him about the baby pictures, and he will curse my mother and the biology lecture he cannot afford to cancel the following afternoon. He will want to call my brother, Farrell, instead, who lives nearby, but I will assure him that the bus station is a public place and I will be perfectly safe. After much hemming and hawing he will concede that I am a grown woman who knows how to take care of herself, though if anything happens to me or Double X, he swears, it will be curtains for Meredith.
      The next day I chicken out and call Farrell myself. He is only in Orlando temporarily, studying storm trends for the National Weather Service in the city with the greatest number of lightning strikes per year. Farrell himself was struck by lightning as a teenager one April morning. He had just screamed at my mother for telling me and my father he must have had a wet dream since why else would he be washing his own sheets before breakfast, then stormed out of the house, threatening never to return. Eyewitnesses saw him pedaling maniacal figure eights in the relatively empty high school parking lot (it was a Saturday) when a storm rolled in and he was knocked to the ground by a crinkly yellow bolt. Doctors attributed his survival to his great physical strength (he was a varsity linebacker) and the fact that the rubber tires on his ten-speed were poor conductors of electricity. Still, he was no longer able to play football after the accident, and his memory was short-circuited. Much to my mother's delight, though he remained hateful toward her, he could not recall specifically why. She made my father and me promise not to remind him of the wet-dream argument, and I agreed, not for her sake but because I didn't want to embarrass Farrell a second time. My mother then threw away his old sheets and made his bed up with brand-new ones. When Farrell returned from the hospital and asked where she had bought them, she shook her head sadly at what had become of her son's mind, then gently reminded him we'd had these since he was a kid.
      Because he heads his Orlando research team, I know Farrell can get time off at the last minute, especially with the safety of his beloved niece at issue. This is the reason I tell myself I am calling him, in any case. The fact that he can get particularly violent where my mother and her shenanigans are concerned is neither here nor there. Double X requires protection, no matter the cost. Anyone would agree with me on this.
      "That stupid bitch!" Farrell yells when I get him on the phone. It is three-thirty in the afternoon and I have just seen my last appointment of the day, an Indian senior in tears over a postgraduate arranged marriage her parents are planning for her. Nothing makes me feel more powerless than other people's cultures. If only she had been pregnant or abusing drugs I might have been of some real help.
      "Don't say 'bitch,' Farrell," I say wearily.
      "Why not?" he asks.
      "It's very antiwoman," I instruct him. "There's no equally derogatory term for men, so until there is, we have to be fair." This works well with my male students in that it seems to give them a bizarre hope for the future. Farrell, too, has heard it before, but the lightning keeps him from retaining it.
      "Oh right," he says. "I forgot."
      "That's okay," I say.
      "But she is such a stupid cow! I mean, picking up boys on the highway and giving them money just because they ask for it? Please to meet ya, shit for brains!"
      "Be that as it may," I say, "I've agreed to meet this kid at the bus station and I really don't feel like going alone."
      "I don't know, Joyce. There's a big storm coming in."
      "C'mon, Farrell," I say. "For the baby."
      He sighs. "As long as I'm back at the weather station before the storm."
      "What time does it start?" I ask him.
      "Say, oh, seven thirty-eight p.m." Farrell is the only person I know who expects the weather like a favored dinner guest: nervously and with high hopes for a glorious evening.
      "We should be done by then."
      "Did she send any of my baby pictures along?" he asks.
      "I don't know. I mean, I'm sure you're probably in some of mine."
      "Unless she cut me out."
      "I doubt it, Farrell."
      "Stupid bitch."
      "What?" he asks sincerely.
      "Never mind," I say.
      In the outer office my secretary, Gwynn, is eating from a box of chocolates my mother sent her the previous week. "Want one?" she asks as I head out the door.
      "No thanks," I say.
      "Why did your mother send these again?" she says. "Refresh my memory."
      Gwynn likes a good laugh, and I decide to humor her. "Because," I say, trying to recall my mother's exact words, "she's so glad that you, unlike so many other secretaries, know your place and do not feel resentful toward me simply because I am your boss."
      "What if I increase my words per minute? What do I get for that?"
      "Job satisfaction," I say.
      Gwynn laughs again and calls me a bitch, which I permit her to do on occasion, and we say good night.
      In the car on the way to the bus station I can see Farrell's storm approaching -- a series of gray, smoking clouds ruining a vacationer's sky. They remind me of Farrell himself and the doom he brought to our family after the accident. For he became increasingly angry at my mother as the years went by, who cried pitifully in response and demanded to know what she had done but nurse him back to health, after all? "You know what you've done!" he would tell her uncertainly, and we would all give a start because it was true, she did. I decided if Farrell ever asked me about that Saturday in April I would immediately tell him the truth, but he never did, and I couldn't bring myself to raise the issue of the wet dream first. It was part embarrassment, part selfishness on my part, as I had come to relish his attacks on my mother. In his rage he spoke for both of us. Often I pictured myself as hysterical as Farrell, screaming at Meredith, her fleshy neck caught between my hands, but I had not been struck by lightning and so had no excuse.
      The Greyhound station is one of those modern-looking brick structures that seems like it could be worn as a helmet should someone decide to shrink it down. As I pull into the parking lot I see that Farrell is already there, idling the engine of his black truck. His vanity license plate from New Jersey reads LIT-NIN, while painted along each side of the truck are jagged renderings of the bolts that once struck him.
      When he sees me coming, Farrell cuts his engine and eases out of the truck, briefly checking the sky, as is his habit. He remains a big man but he moves slowly and painfully, as if the electricity were still in his bones, shocking him. Only his eyes move quickly anymore, alert to the slightest atmospheric change. His standard uniform is jeans and sneakers along with a neatly pressed shirt, and as he comes toward me, I take in the familiar smell of English Leather.
      "Hey, Double X," he says, throwing a genial, fake punch at my stomach, something that never fails to set Cyrus on edge. "Hey, Joyce."
      We hug lazily, then head toward the station entrance. "What's this guy's name anyway?" Farrell asks as he opens the front door for me.
      "Ellsworth," I say mournfully.
      "Ellsworth!" he yells, and several people inside turn to look at us. "That's not a real name."
      "Quiet down, Farrell," I say, looking around the station. To our left is the ticket counter; the waiting area takes up the central part of the building directly in front of us, with all its molded plastic chairs and requisite pay-TVs. To our right is an impressive bank of vending machines and, looming in the distance for those requiring a meal, a small kitchen offers made-to-order hamburgers. The place smells of smoke (though there are No Smoking signs everywhere), and is mostly populated by unkempt teenagers hauling backpacks and tired women hauling children.
      "Is that where he comes in?" Farrell asks, pointing to the set of doors along the glass wall bordering the waiting area.
      I nod. Each door leads outside to one of several diagonal parking bays, where already two buses rest, chugging gas so the passengers aboard can enjoy some air-conditioning in the offensive May heat. "That one," I say, pointing to empty Bay 6.
      Farrell nods and checks his watch. "We have a few minutes. You hungry?"
      "I'm always hungry, Farrell," I say, laying a hand on the baby.
      We trek over to the counter and order two burgers each, along with french fries and soft drinks. "Make sure they're well done, now," Farrell tells the young woman cooking our food. "We've got a pregnant lady here."
      She nods fearfully as she pulls on her food-service gloves. Inside them her fingernails are long and pink, while under her hair net I sense a meticulously styled do just waiting to escape. "Don't say things like that to young people, Farrell," I tell him. "You'll frighten them."
      "Ever heard of E. coli?" he counters. "You'll thank me when you don't have the shits tonight." He persists in keeping an eye on the food preparation, while I keep an eye on him, watching for signs of the red face or sweaty temples that indicate his internal rage is not far from the surface. Aside from the tense muscles in his neck, however, he's clean.
      Farrell insists on paying, after which we sit down with our meals, squeezing plastic pouches of ketchup and mustard indiscriminately over everything. "So what do we do when he gets here?" Farrell asks, eating roughly one-third of his burger in the first bite.
      "If he's on the bus," I say, licking grease from my fingers, "I plan to get my pictures and leave."
      Farrell affects a warbly falsetto meant to be an imitation of my mother. "You mean you're not going to counsel him about careers?"
      I laugh and pop a fry into my mouth. "I don't think so."
      "Here's the thing," Farrell says. "I'm already here. I've got some time."
      "So?" I say.
      "Maybe I'll counsel him."
      "About what?"
      "Careers. I'm an accomplished meteorologist. I have a lot to offer a kid."
      "We'll just get the pictures and leave," I say.
      "We'll get the pictures and see what happens. Leave our options open." He shoves the last of his second burger in his mouth, then reaches for my second burger, which I have not yet started. "Can I have this?" he asks, and I nod.
      "He probably won't even be on the bus," I say, and suddenly I feel tears coming to my eyes. "My baby pictures are probably lying in a ditch somewhere on the Jersey Turnpike."
      "What does this kid look like anyway?"
      "Mom says he's rail-thin and wears a jean jacket. She thinks he seems a little bit gay."
      "What the hell does that mean?" Farrell says.
      I sigh. "She says his hair is shiny and clean and he seems to know a lot about hair-care products."
      "That stereotypical bitch."
      "I really wish you would stop saying that."
"It's offensive. It offends me. What if someone called me or Double X a bitch? How would you like that?"
      "But they wouldn't call you that."
      "Sure they would."
      "Not in front of me. They'd be too scared."
      "So as long as you don't know about it, it's all right?"
"Joyce," he says plaintively, "that's the only word I have to describe Mom. I don't know any other words."
      He looks slightly panicked and I decide to lay off him. We load up all the trash on our orange plastic trays, dump it, then go stand in front of Bay 6, where the bus from Jacksonville is just pulling in, and a young man with shiny black hair is the first person to descend the Greyhound's grooved, metal steps.
      "Mrs. Marquette!" Ellsworth yells as he bursts through the glass door and into the bus station. I assume my mother has told him of my pregnancy and that this is how he is able to identify me so quickly. "I'm so pleased to finally meet you," he says now, coming toward me with an outstretched hand. I'm momentarily surprised, as none of the kids I counsel seem to have been taught this simple gesture by their parents. I take Ellsworth's hand and shake it, and as soon as we're finished, he reaches into a tote bag reading I LOVE NY and whips out the album containing my baby pictures. "First of all," he says, his breath a sweet mixture of chocolate and pot, "let me give you this. I'm sure you've been pretty worried about it. I told your mother not to give it to me just in case anything happened, but she said she trusted me like a son, so here you go!"
      "She said what?" Farrell says. He's beginning to go a little bit red now, and I understand that soon I will not be able to make him hear me on any subject.
      "Ellsworth," I say, tucking the photo album under my arm, "this is my brother, Farrell."
      "Oh," Ellsworth says, and his face drops a little, which tells me my mother has been very busy indeed. Still, he holds out his hand and says, "Pleased to meet you, sir."
      Farrell takes Ellsworth's hand and squeezes it hard, so that after they let go, Ellsworth places the hand behind his back, as if hiding it might erase his discomfort. "So she trusts you like a son, eh? Well, I hate to tell you, Ellsworth, but that's not a compliment."
      "Yes sir," Ellsworth says, nodding.
      "What kind of manners are those, anyway?" Farrell asks him. "I thought runaways didn't have manners."
      "It's just that my dad's in the air force, so that's where I learned it, I guess."
      Farrell nods. "You going back to your family in Tampa?"
      "Yes sir," Ellsworth says. "I had a long talk with your mother and she really thinks it's what's best for me."
      Farrell and I stare at him blankly. We are unaware of anyone who might follow Meredith's advice. Ellsworth smiles then, revealing charmingly crooked teeth that have clearly never seen braces, and frankly don't need to. Next he removes the stuffed red backpack from his shoulders and sets it on the floor beside his tote bag. In the face of our silence he finally blurts out, "Mrs. Marquette, your mother is so sweet! You must love her."
      "That's a little strong, isn't it?" Farrell asks, agitated, but Ellsworth's eyes are glued to me, waiting for my response.
      "Somewhat," I say numbly. Try as I might, I feel incapable of putting this young man at ease or shielding him from my brother, who I can see is gearing up for something. If only we were back in my office at school, the one with the sign on the door saying my name and that I am a guidance counselor, I might know what to do. If only my secretary were here.
      "She loves you, I know that," Ellsworth says.
      "What about me?" Farrell demands.
      "Oh sure," Ellsworth says, nodding eagerly at Farrell. "Anyway," he says, "I was wondering if I could buy you guys some dinner and maybe talk a little bit about colleges with you, Mrs. Marquette. I really want to get my life back on track, you know?"
      "Just for the record," Farrell says, "who exactly is paying for this dinner?"
      Ellsworth looks at Farrell, then at me, then back at Farrell. "Okay, I mean, sure, that's a good point. Because I guess your mom told you she really helped me out a lot financially, and so that's true, actually. Yeah. Technically she's the one buying the dinner."
      Farrell nods.
      "Of course, in the end I'll be the one paying since I'm going to pay her back every penny. That was all I meant, I guess. About me paying."
      "Good man," Farrell says, clapping Ellsworth on the back. "Tell it like it is!" He then picks up the boy's luggage for him and we all head back to the restaurant counter, where Farrell and I each order two hot dogs. The girl behind the counter smiles at me and we say hi. Her name tag reads CLARICE.
      Ellsworth pays for the food as promised and leads us back to our old table, where Clarice has not yet wiped up the stray gobs of ketchup and mustard from our previous meal. "God," Ellsworth says, using his own napkin to clean up some of the mess, "people eat like pigs!"
      Behind his back, Farrell and I look at each other. My brother smiles at me serenely, for Ellsworth has just given him a gift, a reason to attack. Since he was struck by lightning I have come to imagine Farrell's brain as a complex series of wires instead of blood vessels, and now they are telegraphing a message to me: Did you hear that? He just called us pigs! No matter that Farrell and I really do eat like pigs. What's important now is that Ellsworth understand that the affection he shares with our mother does not make him our brother. Regrettably and quite involuntarily, I offer Farrell a wink.
      We sit down. Farrell engages aggressively with his condiment packets. "Anyway, Mrs. Marquette," Ellsworth says, trying not to look as the ketchup and mustard begin to flow, "I was telling your mother how much I like animals, and that was when she suggested I become a veterinarian."
      I wipe some of Farrell's ketchup off my drink cup and nod.
      "Oh, hold on," Farrell says, reaching into his pocket for a pen. He takes a napkin and writes VETERINARIAN at the top of it, then PROS and CONS beneath that, drawing a line between the two words to create columns.
      "Oh," Ellsworth says, watching him.
      "What a good idea, Farrell," I add, willing Ellsworth to believe I mean this.
      Farrell says, "It's a little trick I use to help keep my brain straight." He looks at Ellsworth then and taps the side of his head. "You know, short-term memory loss and all."
      Ellsworth clears his throat. "From when you were struck by lightning, sir?"
Farrell nods.
      "May I ask what that felt like, sir?"
      "Like fucking a rosebush," Farrell says.
      Ellsworth nods slowly, then takes a sip of his Coke. "Do you know anything about veterinarians, Mrs. Marquette?" he asks me after his drink goes down.
      I find myself saying, "Just because you like animals doesn't mean you should be a veterinarian."
      "Oh," he says. "I guess I never thought of it that way."
      "How do you feel about blood and fecal matter?" Farrell says. "Because that's what it's really about, you know. It's a mess."
      "Hmm," Ellsworth says.
      "Same with childbirth," I tell him. "Everyone says it's so beautiful but it's not. It's gross. I might even crap myself in the process."
      "Oh boy," Ellsworth says.
      "It's not like working in a petting zoo, for godssakes!" Farrell puts in.
      "No," Ellsworth says, "I mean, I didn't think it would be. Of course, even as a vet, you would have to pet the animals sometimes, right? To put them at ease?"
      "I suppose so," I say.
      "One thing I was thinking," Farrell begins slowly, "is about your hair. You have lovely, shiny hair, Ellsworth."
      Ellsworth touches his hair with his hand. "Oh. Thank you."
      "Did you notice my mother's hair?" I ask him.
      He shakes his head.
      "She uses generic conditioner. That's why it's so frizzy. She's kind of cheap."
      "Oh really? Hmm. I mean, I guess I thought she was pretty generous with me."
      "I object!" Farrell announces abruptly, standing up from the table. He walks over to the vending machines and begins pacing in front of them. His thin, curly hair has gotten a little wild-looking, though I don't recall having seen him run his hands through it.
      Ellsworth leans across the table toward me now. "Is he all right, Mrs. Marquette? I mean, I don't mean to be rude, but your mother says he's crazy. She says she had to remove his picture from her locket because it was too painful to look at him anymore, the way he used to be."
      "Here's the thing," I say sympathetically. "I think all my brother is trying to say is, have you considered the field of hairdressing?"
      "Pardon me?" Ellsworth says.
      "You just strike both of us as more of a hairdresser than a veterinarian. Do you enjoy that sort of thing?"
"Well," Ellsworth says, retreating back into his seat. "I mostly just like animals, I guess. I thought you might have some advice for me since your mom said you were a guidance counselor."
      Just then Farrell returns with packages of Oreos for each of us. "He doesn't want to be a hairdresser," I say.
      "But why!" Farrell yells. Several people in the waiting area turn to look at us, and Farrell acknowledges them by announcing, "This boy is a runaway who has finally come home!" The people see it is not wise to get involved, even if this is true, and they look away.
      Ellsworth stands up then. "I'm afraid I'm imposing on both of you," he says shakily. "I'm going back to Tampa to enroll in community college. I promise I'll do lots of research on what it really means to be a veterinarian, taking into account what you've said here today. Thank you very much for your help."
      With that he picks up his bags and heads over to a chair with a coin-operated TV attached. Farrell and I watch as he takes several deep breaths, then puts a quarter in the slot and begins watching Oprah.
      "Let's get out of here," I say to Farrell. He nods, and before we know it, we're in TV chairs, too, on either side of Ellsworth.
      "Hi, Ellsworth," Farrell says.
      "Hi," Ellsworth says.
      "We're going to leave soon," I assure him. "My husband, Cyrus, and I have a ballroom-dancing class tonight and Farrell is tracking a storm."
      Ellsworth nods politely.
      "Watcha watchin'?" Farrell asks.
      "This is The Oprah Winfrey Show," Ellsworth says.
      Farrell nods. He offers Ellsworth the PROS and CONS napkin he created earlier, except now the word VETERINARIAN has been crossed out and replaced with HAIRDRESSER. "You can keep this if you like," Farrell says. "It might help you to make up your mind later on."
      Ellsworth takes the napkin, reads it, then places it inside his jean jacket.
      "Ellsworth," I say, trying to sound sincere, "I'm sorry I couldn't be of more help."
      He nods again, keeping his eyes on the TV and Oprah's special guest, a child who is meeting his long-lost father for the first time.
      "Do you have any other career-related questions?" I ask him.
      He shakes his head so that the black shiny hair catches the fluorescent lights above and nearly glitters. On the other side of him, Farrell can't seem to resist as he reaches out to stroke the boy's head. A couple of tears spill from Ellsworth's eyes, though he refuses the tissue I offer him.
      Suddenly Farrell stands up. "Bon voyage, kiddo!" he says, then turns and walks away. We both watch him lope out of the station. For a second I think about following him, but then we'd have to talk to each other and I'm not sure what we'd say. Anyway, my work now is with Ellsworth -- cleaning up the mess my family and I have made of his juvenile life.
      In the end he decides to take my tissue. "This wasn't even my idea," he says. "I was going to stay in New York and try to get a job until your mother gave me those stupid pictures. She said I would ruin my mother's life if I didn't go home. She doesn't even know my mother!"
      I nod.
      "I didn't have to do this, you know!"
      I hand him another tissue. He tells me a little about his family in Tampa and, to his surprise, I counsel him not to go back there. I charge him a ticket to New York instead, then give him all the cash in my wallet, a little over eighty dollars. I instruct him to stay away from my mother and not to ride his bicycle in the rain, if he ever gets one. Everything I say seems to make sense to him. When his bus pulls away at seven p.m., he smiles at me and waves, while I imagine him sleeping in a cardboard box beneath the Brooklyn Bridge.
      Outside in the parking lot, Farrell's truck is long gone, while his storm is rollicking overhead. It will follow me home, briefly threaten my safety and sense of well-being, then move on to harass someone else. Meanwhile, Cyrus and I will dance the fox-trot to the Abba music our instructor likes to play, and I will tell him a modified version of what happened at the bus station -- one that doesn't make me and Farrell look quite so bad. I will tell him I can't wait for Double X to be born because I just have this feeling I'm going to be great mother. Three months later, when she finally does appear and I scan her eyes for any memory of my transgressions, I will see only hunger and rage.

Alicia Erian 2000

"When Animals Attack" will appear in the short story collection The Brutal Language of Love, due out in April 2001. This electronic version is published by kind permission of the Donadio & Olson literary agency and the author.
Book ordering available through amazon.com

This story may not be archived or distributed further without the author's express permission. Please see our conditions of use.

author bio


Alicia Erian's fiction has appeared recently in Zoetrope and Nerve. Her first collection of short stories, The Brutal Language of Love, will be published in April 2001 by Villard. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband, David Franklin.

navigation:                         barcelona review 21                 november- december 2000

Steve Aylett: Atom and Drowner
Charles D'Ambrosio: Her Real Name
Alicia Erian: When Animals Attack
Jim Grimsley: Boulevard
Matt Leibel: Columbus Day
Anthony Neil Smith: Everyone Grieves in a Unique Way
Paul A.Toth: Psychologically Ultimate Seashore

-Article November and December in Barcelona

Gothic/Horror Fiction Quiz
Answers to last issue's Harry Crews Quiz

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