Negative Pressure


The voices are airplanes patrolling from impossible distances. Sally flies through the dark. She tries to relax, let the images come. This is a hospital gurney. She can tell. They are wheeling her in through the back. The cracks in the tiles


shatter the scaffold she builds her impressions upon. There is a blue jalopy, a hairpin turn, a canyon. How many times has she watched her father's nimble fingers run over its chrome bumpers with a wet sponge? The lights reflect, refract, she forgets which is right, the insides of her eyelids burn with the brightness of it. The anesthesiologist's snickering tells her, too late, what's going to happen next.

(Hi Daddy, she says, thinks she says.)

The table drops away. The canyon air buffets her weightless body. She remembers round headlights, a flash of blue, a snow shovel scraping the sidewalk as she


plows off the road. Lights flicker flash. She seeks a dark hole opening up for her hide in. He can do that. He can take her apart, put her back together again; he's been doing it for years.

But something's gone terribly wrong. The bronchoscopy reveals dark striated tissue where the lobe should be. Empty of air, it resembles a dried-up tongue, a speechless vessel that tells him he's lost her. Sally's father


steps away from the table. The nurse cleans the gutters. The first assistant prepares to close. The black equation metastasizes in their minds.

Sally takes her feet off the brakes, loosens her grip on the wheel. Inside the membrane that protects her last thought, a shiny red balloon, taut with the fullness of dreams, evacuates the airless cavity and rises into the sky.

About the author:

Jim Ruland's friends have repeatedly warned us that those who dismiss "What Shall We Do with the Drunken Sailor?" as a whimsical rhetorical question do so at great peril. Jim will also be reading at the 215 Festival in Philadelphia this October 17th .