By Rob Carney

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Old Roads, New Stories: A Literary Series


Take the A) Sex Quiz, B) Personality Test, or C) Quick Break from Busywork:

  1. Would you rather be a cheetah or an antelope?
  2. Would you rather be an orca or a wolf?
  3. If you answered cheetah and orca, go to 4; if cheetah and wolf, proceed to 6. If you answered antelope with either, skip to 23, one for each hour you’ll be running. That’s the trade-off for looking delicious… that, and a diet of grasses, maybe iris bulbs if you’re fortunate and the rains have done your digging for you since your ungulate hooves aren’t famous for scooping dirt.
  4. Congratulations, you’re amphibious, fast in both Africa and ocean.
  5. But you lack the resonance of wolfsong and whalesong. Someone’s got a sexier voice.
  6. Congratulations, you’re a miracle, capable of hairpin turning at 60 combined with the stamina to hunt for 40 miles. You’re canine and feline, Northern Hemisphere and Southern, night and day. But also fractured. A wild rift, a howling schism, and
  7. perfect as scissors, I agree, but
  8. the world isn’t paper, it’s rock.
  9. And you orcas, I haven’t forgotten you. I see you raising your dorsal fins. I can hear you thinking There’s nothing wrong with my voice. My squeaks are expressive. I run my meetings efficiently. Go to 10.
  10. Certainty’s less creative than doubt. It puts a minute-hand on every circle.
  11. Doubt is what rounds some circles into spheres. It’s what taught us that we don’t fall off.
  12. You’re darn right that’s a paradox.
  13. Doubt is that catch, then rising, in the wolf’s song. After which longing seems longer—
  14. when will it come, our best moment…? when will it come, that feeling we’re imagining?
  15. Let’s turn our attention to fruit now: Would you rather have cherries or watermelon?
  16. Good questions. I’ll answer them one at a time.
  17. Yes, the watermelon’s real, not seedless.
  18. Yes, the cherries are Rainiers.
  19. The watermelon’s 19¢-a-lb. You can slice it however you want to.
  20. The Rainiers come from a roadside stand. It’s hot, but it isn’t breezeless.
  21. If you answered cherries, go to 25. You get an extra hour for just enjoying.
  22. If you answered watermelon, good for you, though any fruit would be perfect. Except bananas; that’s where we draw the line, and I know a dog who would back me on that—Dennis and Gloria Martin’s springer spaniel, Pacific Lutheran University, some dozen or more of us invited over, food laid out on the table, wine and whiskey. And Edith Piaf on the stereo, reinventing singing. And their dog enjoying the party—so many hands, so willingly reaching things for her: grapes and carrots and baba ghanouj, sourdough rolls and smoked salmon, turkey wrapped around Irish cheddar, plums sliced into accordions, and some kind of marzipan tartelette, all of it good. Except bananas. Bananas were a definite Nyet, which reminds me,
  23. I didn’t choose antelope, you did. You picked Gravity-defying Rangeland Lightning. But along with that comes restlessness. And troubled sleep.
  24. Think of your favorite sexual position. Go ahead, this quiz can wait for a minute…. Is the person you’re picturing doing this with more Orca, Wolf, or Cherries; more Gravity-defying or Hairpin-turn; or All-of-the-Above?
  25. I think our work here is almost done. A final question ought to wrap it:
  26. If you could do one thing a second time, what would it be?



Rob Carney’s fourth book, 88 Maps, was published by Lost Horse Press (distribution by University of Washington Press). Previous books and chapbooks include Story Problems and Weather Report, both from Somondoco Press.
Read poetry by Rob Carney appearing in Terrain.org: 6th Annual Contest Finalist, 4th Annual Contest Winner, and Issue 30. And listen to a radio interview with Rob Carney.

Photo of wolf by Sandra Petersen, courtesy Pixabay.


Terrain.org is the world’s first online journal of place, publishing a rich mix of literature, artwork, case studies, and more since 1997.