by Louis Gallo

I’D SPENT YESTERDAY afternoon examining the floor-to-ceiling golden and silver replicas of moribund human organs on display at St. Jude’s International Shrine of the Hopeless, about a fifteen-minute trek from my apartment. Thousands of tiny organs, people who were diseased, people who were cured, those praying to be cured, those lighting votive candles on the altar and dropping coins and cash into the collection boxes, people rubbing rosary beads as they hunched in some rear pew, people at their wit’s end because illness had sabotaged their lives, had constricted their futures, had eaten them alive. I told Genevieve that I wanted to write a story on this place for the local rag, En Courant, where I worked as a freelance. But the real reason I went was that, as usual, I thought I was dying. I say as usual because I’ve thought about dying every moment of my life, from the dim reptilian memories of my early childhood to the present moment. At one point I was convinced I would die at seven years old because of some strange spongey little lump that had formed on my right earlobe. I guess I was six then, maybe five. I walked about moping, pinching the lobe at all times between fingers to make sure the lump hadn’t grown or warped or multiplied. My grandmother kneaded some Dr. Tichenor’s into the lump—she said Dr. Tichenor’s cured everything. Sure enough, the lump dissolved in a few days. What am I dying of now? Of everything. I have every disease known to man and some new ones not yet discovered. What are my symptoms? Pretty vague here, feeling fuzzy and disoriented and riddled with malaise, maybe faint though I’ve never fainted, tweaks of pain in one part of the body or the other, vague amorphous symptoms accompanied by a sense of dread and defeat. The little tacked-on organs made it worse so I rushed out of the place onto Rampart and nearly got hit by a tourist buggy full of Iowans clutching Hurricane drinks. A few yards up the buggy donkey dropped dead of a heat stroke and two-seats worth of tourists were flung asunder. A middle-aged man wearing an Old Fart t-shirt landed in a fresh pile of dung deposited by the defunct donkey upon its demise. That donkey was too horrific to think about.


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.