Often when reading a work I’m enamored not only by the intensity of the story and the beauty of the language but also the way the rhythm of the prose lends itself to the dynamics of the story. Today I want to share such a piece. As our mission for The Ocotillo Review states, we publish writers from underserved and marginalized communities alongside award-winning writers. As an award-winning writer, poet, editor, and publisher David Meischen’s credentials are beyond question. In fact, the work he sent us was so extraordinary we were moved to publish several of his pieces. Of those we published this is my favorite. For the ultimate impact read it aloud.


            Kennedy International was hypnotic with light—escalator and turn and corridor and turn—drawing him onward toward airbridge, momentum, lift, at last the ocean vast and dark beneath his window. A pause on the tarmac at Reykjavik—Soon, he told himself, soon—overnight rail from Luxembourg to Munich, tiled surfaces of the central subway station hammering all the syllables of German, muted when the doors of his car slid shut and he rode to the stop at Odeonsplatz.

He walked the city then, a young man still, though the age he approached made his ribcage tighten, the days unfurling toward twenty-five—walking, walking—first snow in the English Gardens, the geese, the pond, the little Greek temple on its little hill beneath a perfect burnished sky. He walked Trümmerberg at Olympiapark, the athletes taken hostage here shot dead a year already, the hill beneath his feet rubble bulldozed after the Reich had fallen. And back to the walk-up on Salvatorstraße. At the table by the window, much talking—the words for what he wanted to say sealed away somewhere, the way his body felt when the man he’d come here to see looked at him, smiled. What his hands wanted to do then, where he wanted to put them, how he stared at the man’s fingers playing lightly over the tablecloth as if touch were the easiest thing in the world.

They had words for books, philosophy, the muddle of their century, words for themselves, even—for the heady days of first friendship when they’d gone everywhere together, mapping lives that took them nowhere near each other. The words continued after sundown, often with beer, often a glass raised between them. He favored an unfiltered little burn in the belly called Sternweisse. One night, carousing, he tweaked a shiny bronze nose much fingered by tourists and drunks, stood laughing where a stone boy stood pissing in a fountain, the hand on his shoulder a fever he tried to memorize.

The walk-up on Salvatorstraße. It was no more than a room—so little space, these nights after drinking, between him and the man who smiled but gave no other sign They had come to an edge. Life beyond, where two bodies might divest themselves of clothes and merge—that life was squared off like a cartographer’s dream of what can be known, with scaled creatures at the border, flame-tongued, to turn a tempted traveler back. A week more. Another. He packed his duffel and reversed himself—night train from Munich, Icelandic Airlines out of Luxembourg. Coming up out of Reykjavik, the jet began to shake, circled, shaking as if to free itself of rivets, turned back. On the runway when the plane came down, everywhere, fire trucks, foam trucks, ambulances crying out against stillness—head lights and blue lights and red lights coming for him. He would have traded his ticket; a rowboat would have served. Anything but the shaking he’d been through. Any place safe.


David Meischen received the 2017 Kay Cattarulla Award for Best Short Story from the Texas Institute of Letters. A chapter of his memoir in progress is a current nominee for the Pushcart Prize—The Gettysburg Review, Autumn 2016. Meischen’s work has appeared in Borderlands, Copper Nickel, Southern Poetry Review, Bellingham Review, Salamander, Valparaiso Fiction Review, and elsewhere. Co-founder and Managing Editor of Dos Gatos Press, he lives in Albuquerque, NM, with his husband—also his co-publisher and co-editor—Scott Wiggerman.




Just a Taste!

After more than a few months of work by several dedicated volunteers the initial issue of The Ocotillo Review has come to fruition. We were diligent enough getting the word out to receive well over 400 submissions for our debut publication. I read every one. I assured the editors of each genre that I wouldn’t influence their decisions on which submissions we chose to publish. I just like to read. So I don’t consider the slush pile a slush pile. I consider it a treasure chest, maybe a chest with many dull stones, but a treasure chest nonetheless. The cool thing about treasure is sometimes you don’t know what you have until you dust it off a little. Other times you may find a gemstone while you’re looking for gold.

As I explored the treasure chest I found a few submissions that either appeal to me on a personal level or looked at a well-worn trope from a new dimension. Some of these were already chosen by the editors, some were not. Some I felt had been submitted in the wrong category and needed a little restructuring to become part of our vision for this publication. I decided to publish these as my editor’s choice pieces. During the weeks prior to our publications on July 1 we will post a few of these pieces on our website to give you, the reader, a small taste of what’s to come.

One of the most rewarding things about these few months has been communicating with the authors of these wondrous pieces. I don’t think I’ve had the pleasure of working with a more generous, accepting, and knowledgeable group of artists in any field. I am overwhelmed with the positive responses I’ve had to the editorial comments, even in the rare cases where we did deep revisions. We are looking forward to promoting more work from underserved and eclectic writers alongside established and award-winning authors. We invite you to acquire a copy of The Ocotillo Review for yourself and another for a friend who appreciates quality literature. Thank you for your support.

This week’s Internet offering is a nonfiction piece titled The Diagnosis of Dr. Gupta by Jonathan Smulian. Jonathan travels widely in his career as a professional civil engineer. I think you’ll find this analysis of medical care both entertaining and thought-provoking. Enjoy.

The Diagnosis of Doctor Gupta

The monsoon season had finally reached Jamshedpur. That afternoon torrents of rain had flooded the crowded streets. An Indian engineer colleague and I walked back to our hotel after dinner dodging both stagnant puddles and hundreds of shift workers from the Tata Steel plant weaving their way home on their bicycles. He wanted to get back to watch the Test cricket on television. I didn’t feel well and wanted to go to bed. I thought it might have been the rich lamb curry and pungent chutney.

The next morning I felt nauseous with a pain in my lower right abdomen but was determined to participate in the bless­ing of the planning team’s new project office. My Indian asso­ciates had hired a part-time priest from the vegetable market to perform the “puja.” After the priest had smeared his forehead with paste, lit the incense burner, squatted in the corner with his bowls of oil, some fruit and garlands of orange marigolds, he began to chant the blessing. To include me among the blessed, he placed a red dot of colored paste on my forehead .The “puja” chant droned on and on for what seemed an eternity. I felt so ill I just had to leave.

“I’ll just go to the hotel and lie down for a few hours,” I said.

“Should we call a doctor?” The young Indian engineers asked looking concerned about their aged foreign consultant.

“Not necessary. I’ll be back this afternoon.” I replied. An hour later as I lay on my bed there was a knock on the door .To my surprise, there appeared my three Indian colleagues and a mild looking middle-aged man with a large mustache, a long soiled white coat and a shabby black bag. He was introduced as Doctor Gupta. He didn’t seem to speak much English and, without asking for my permission, began to examine me. With a very elongated forefinger he proceeded to prod my stomach, saying only “Pain?” with each prod. Eventually, after prodding

and prodding, he found a tender spot , grunted, packed up his stethoscope and bag and nodding his head from side to side announced—“Gall bladder infection.”

“Better in three days,” and finally—“will happen again in about six weeks.” He then took out an old blue-lined school exercise book, tore out a page and with a blunt pencil wrote out a prescription.

With another nod of his head he left my room and my col­leagues rushed off to the local chemist returning with some pow­ders wrapped in twisted cylinders of old newspaper and a few pills wrapped in a crumpled sheet of torn silver paper marked “Made in India.”

“But I didn’t pay him for the visit” I said.

“Don’t worry,” they replied, “we gave him 400 rupees.”

“400 rupees. Ten US dollars for a hotel visit and examina­tion,” I exclaimed. “I must pay him a reasonable fee.”

“No,” they insisted, “that is the normal charge and he was pleased to get it.”

After agonizing about the potential consequences I decided to take Doctor Gupta’s mysterious medicines. I felt better imme­diately and in three days felt completely healthy. Ten days later I flew back to Houston.

Five weeks passed. On a Saturday morning (My family, or our house pets, are in the habit of only taking ill on weekends), I felt the exact same nausea and pain as I had in India and drove to a well-known Houston multi-specialty clinic. The internist who normally acted as our family doctor was absent and a skel­eton staff were on week-end duty.

“Mmm,” said a doctor I had not seen before, “probably ap­pendicitis and you should have a CAT scan.” She sent me to an emergency clinic about a mile away where I was thoroughly examined again by two young doctors who, having done an extensive series of tests and discussed the case at length over a period of hours, thought it might just be an appendix problem. They eventually sent me to radiology for a CAT scan. Half an hour later came the verdict .

“Gall bladder infection.” “Make an immediate appointment with a gastroenterologist.” I saw that the bill for the process leading to that Saturday morning’s diagnosis, paid later by my health insurance of course, was $2,450.

When I told my internist the story of Doctor Gupta’s $10 diagnosis she said. “Well , it is sad, but with our reliance on our high tech equipment we may well have lost our ability to diagnose common symptoms.”

On my next visit to India I called on Doctor Gupta and presented him with a formal testimonial letter, that I had designed and written in Houston, resplendent with red wax seals, italic script on headed paper and signed with a flourish, praising him for his outstanding diagnostic skills. My Indian friends tell me that this testimonial, in an elaborate gilt frame with carved elephants entwined with wreathes of lotus flowers, is hanging in a place of honor on the wall of Doctor Gupta’s modest Jamshedpur surgical suite.

Jonathan Smulian (Houston TX USA)is a retired International Urban Planning Consultant who lived in 12 countries and worked in 32. Born in South Africa 1930, he has a UK and US nationality. He writes media articles and op-ed pieces and has been published in professional and technical journals This his first submission to a literary publication.