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Photography by Eleanor Bennett

They’ve Taken Away My Guns


by Bobbi Lurie




Ellie was finally flying home, anxious for her books and her bed, after traveling six months alone.


She’d forgotten her reasons for leaving America; something about starting over…


There were days when her boredom with places and objects forced her to feel gratitude for simple pleasures, like coffee. She was drinking coffee, as was the passenger next to her on the plane. She barely slept the two days before flying. She sipped the insipid airplane brew while trying not to listen to the heavy-set woman beside her.  “It’s amazing I’m even able to fly,” her fellow passenger said, to whoever was listening. “By the way my name is Fran.”


I didn’t ask, thought Ellie. It was obvious Fran was speaking to Ellie. She couldn’t deny it.


“Hi, Fran. I’m Ellie.” That’s all she was willing to give.


Ellie and Fran were in first class and the flight attendant, handed out menus. Ellie ordered the chicken; Fran, the filet minion.


The couple in back of them had a screaming toddler who they encouraged to play with her puppets on the back of Ellie’s seat. Ellie felt a headache coming on. Fran was examining the contents in her purse.


Ellie refused to look in Fran’s direction. When Fran open a copy of “Sky Mall Catalogue,” Ellie closed her eyes; she tried to recall the relaxation techniques she learned in her cancer support group.


Fran closed the magazine and leaned over to Ellie. Ellie felt Fran’s breath on her neck.


“I know I shouldn’t say this to a stranger,” Fran said, “but you seem better than a friend because you won’t be able to try and save me.”


“Save you from what?” Ellie couldn’t help but ask.


Ellie felt surrounded by something she couldn’t escape. She wanted to sleep but Fran’s breath on her neck, her ominous words, combined with too much coffee, some of it having spilled on Ellie’s blouse and skirt, put an end to any idea of rest.


“I’m jealous of my relatives,” Fran continued. “They demand a description of my activities but they do as they wish.”


Ellie turned and faced her, seeing a crucifix lying between her breasts. “I’m gay, you know,” Fran whispered.


Ellie wondered if Fran thought she was a lesbian, too, because she had caught her examining her breasts.

“I just had an organ transplant in Atlanta,” Fran blurted out before Ellie could try and change the subject.


“Why did you have an organ transplant?” Ann hadn’t planned on responding. “What organ?” She found herself asking.


“When I say, “liver,” that gives people the idea that I’m going to die. But really I’m fine.”


Ellie wanted to hear her story.


“I have cancer,” she said, nonchalantly. It was then that Ellie noticed Fran’s skin had a yellowish tinge to it. Fran leaned forward, importantly, and pulled out photos of the medical professionals from the hospital in Atlanta where she had her surgery. “Don’t worry,” she said, seeing tears suddenly appear.


Ellie tried to dry her tears with the back of her hand but the tears kept coming. “I have cancer, too,” Ellie choked on her words. “That’s why my husband left.”


“I hate men,” Fran said, as if to put an end to what Ellie was saying.


Ellie didn’t tell her about all the female friends who avoided her when they heard she was terminal.


“Our food is getting cold,” Ellie sighed, pulling the first-class silverware out from the white, cloth napkin. She dipped her fork into the potatoes, avoiding the rubbery object covered with globules of grizzle.


Fran pressed her finger into her filet. “I’m testing the temperature,” she said to Ellie, seeing Ellie staring at her hands.  Only Fran's thumbs were free of rings. “This has no bacon on it,” Fran said bitterly.


“Bacon isn’t good for cancer,” Ellie said, not caring.


“No meats are,” Fran lectured, then stood up as if someone were calling her. Ellie looked down at her piece of grisly chicken. “I need to pee,” Fran said, climbing over Ellie’s thighs, forcing Ellie to balance her tray on her coffee-stained lap.


As she walked to the front of the first-class cabin, Ellie noticed Fran’s limp. When Fran came back from the lavatory, Fran stated quite bluntly, as if reading Ellie’s mind, “My limp is from a gun. It slipped from my chin when I was trying to shoot. It was an accident that it hit my calf. Now no one speaks to me now. They sneak around me. They’ve taken away my guns.”


Ellie sat stiffly, trying not to look into Fran’s face.


“Do you mind if I steal some of your potatoes?”


“Don’t,” said Ellie, no longer feeling Fran was worthy of respect. Those rings, choking her fingers … She closed her eyes, feigning sleep.


The flight attendant took their trays away, telling them to stow their tray tables and put their seats into their upright positions.


The little girl behind them was screaming. Ellie tried to ignore the baby talk of the parents, clicking their tongues, singing songs. Fran was busy taking things out of her purse.


Ellie fell asleep. She woke with the announcement that they were in La Guardia.


Ellie and Fran looked out the window at the jagged skyline, as the plane descended into the smog of the city. “I don’t mind if you look out my window,” said Fran.


When the flight attendant gave them permission to turn on their cell phones, Fran eagerly pulled hers out of her purse. “I promised to call my nurse,” she explained.


When the engines stopped, Ellie stood up, pulling her suitcase out from the bin above them.


Ellie walked out, without looking back.


Fran was too busy talking to take notice.





Bobbi Lurie’s fourth poetry collection, “the morphine poems,” will be published in 2012 by Otoliths. She is the author of three other poetry collections: Grief Suite, The Book I Never Read, and Letter from the Lawn. Her work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in numerous print and on-line journals, including Fence, New American Writing, E-Ratio, Counterexample, The American Poetry Review and Big Bridge. Her fiction can be found, or is forthcoming, in Smokelong Quarterly, Pif Magazine, Noir, Dogzplot, Pure Slush, Wilderness House Literary Review, Marco Polo, Apocrypha and Abstractions, Camroc Press Review and others. Some of her visual artwork can be found on Otoliths, and Tip Of The Knife. Her television reviews can be found in Berfrois.

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Summer 2012 Issue