by Louis Gallo

THERE SHE STANDS, nimbused and hazy, behind the screen door of her portion of the once only house, a plantation mansion, in our neighborhood now reduced to hovels and shotguns, the street not even paved, a rough surface of tar and gravel, there she stands forever, a witch we call her, Jack and I, because she screams feebly, her voice like the street, reduced, a tissuey rasp, “Get out of this yard—I’m going to tell you grandmother.” Oh how we hate her and wonder how anyone could be so old and why, whenever we trespass her bounteous gardens separating her house from our double-shotgun, a garden of fig and kumquat trees, roses, calla lilies, blueberry bushes, tropical ferns, angel-bedecked fountains…why she never fails to catch us—she must stand sentinel every moment—or why she yearns to kick us out of paradise (for that garden was Paradise), the lingering splendor still of a region gone to seed.

Was it because we picked a few berries and devoured them on the spot, or sniffed the roses, or touched the ferns? We never ransacked the place, nor littered, nor pissed or spit into the  fountains.  We ventured in for relief from the general ugliness and squalor and poverty and yet she persisted in her wrath and loathing, standing there in her doorway as we slouched on the banquet, ready to invade gently—she knew! She knew!—and our recourse to her threats to tattle on us occasioned our taunts, “Old witch, go back inside.”

Little did we know then that we were barbarians, she the sole heir to a vanquished kingdom, its horse stables now converted into parking stalls one of which my father rented for his black, primed Ford pick-up. So now I like to imagine her when young, the belle of some carnival ball, beautiful, sensuous, courted by dukes and jesters alike, rejecting them all because none approached her haughty standards. And to what end? A frail, sad, angry crone standing in the doorway of her castle chastising two ragamuffins who interlope her gardens, intoxicated by aromatic beauty not their own.


Louis Gallo’s work has appeared in Wide Awake in the Pelican State (LSU anthology), Southern Literary Review, Fiction Fix, Glimmer Train, Hollins Critic, Rattle, Southern Quarterly, Litro, New Orleans Review, Xavier Review, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Missouri Review, Berkeley Fiction Review, Mississippi Review, Texas Review, Baltimore Review, Pennsylvania Literary Journal, The Ledge, storySouth, Houston Literary Review, Tampa Review, Raving Dove, The Journal (Ohio), Greensboro Review, and many others. Chapbooks include The Truth Changes, The Abomination of Fascination, Status Updates and The Ten Most Important Questions. He is the founding editor of the now defunct journals, The Barataria Review and Books: A New Orleans Review. He was awarded an NEA fellowship for fiction. He teaches at Radford University in Radford, Virginia.