by Cameron Conaway

               “An effective vaccine has been 5 years around the corner
                 for the last 50 or 500 years.”
                                       — researcher from Cambridge University

The white door has a sensor on the floor that gauges the distance of my
foot and opens, as they tell me, accordingly, and the door shuts airtight
with a hiss, which it also has a sensor for, and just before this they told
me about how vaccine comes from the late 18th century and comes
from the Latin
vaccinus, from vacca or cow, because of the use of the
cowpox virus against smallpox, and then they told me how malaria is a
contraction of the Italian
mala and aria, which means bad air, because
people once believed it was caused by the unwholesome air around
swamps, and they told me to remember that in tropical theaters of war
malaria has killed more men than mortar round.  I didn’t respond verbally
to any of this because my own senses were distracted as my feet stuck
to tape on the floor so they could be disinfected and a vacuum lowered
from the ceiling and swept over my clothes and hair though my head is
shaved.  I step through the next door, and this door I’m told costs fifteen
dollars every single time it opens because I have to wear a special
astronaut-grade suit that must be immediately thrown away as soon as
I exit.  I suit up and walk through this door, and when I hear the hiss of
closing I see I am facing a third white door, and this one has a small
double-paneled window like on an airplane, and I’m told it is military-
grade.  What’s on the other side is blurry, but I see scientists in white lab
coats, and I see the smudge of their many skin colors, and I see steel
dry ice tanks, which I’m told the world’s best submarines use, and then
I’m told I can go no further, that this is the absolute limit, that I’m lucky
to get this far because they don’t even allow scientists from other
institutions to go this far because they may steal secrets, and then I’m
told that I’m free and, after a pause to clear their throats, that I’m free
to watch, and as the putty shapes move and hand each other things and
open things, I begin to feel trapped, though I’m free to watch, and I
begin to feel my own sensors firing, though they’re not military-grade,
and they’re telling me that although solutions may be on the other side
of the blur, I am far closer to the problems.

by Cameron Conaway

               “Malaria is far and away the disease most frequently
                mentioned by Shakespeare, a favorite metaphor for
                all things wicked.”
                            — Politicworm, “Shakespeare and Medicine”

If I could tell you all the names, it wouldn’t be the same, so I’ll say my
feet sink slightly into the soft soil but not enough that it comes up over
my toenails.  A blood red ant just carried a twig that must have been
three times its own bodyweight on top of and over my foot, and I
couldn’t move because of the power of it all.  My ankles itched this
morning, and now they are a bit swollen I guess from bites during the
night, and my pants are rolled to below the knee, which is the level of
most of the grasses surrounding me ranging from dry and rigid yellow
cream to waving ocean algae green, and these are the few who can
listen intently and sway to the instructions of Earth maestro.  On all
sides of me there are huts the size of eyelids, and every now and again
I can hear some tinkering or some drum or a cockadoodle.  Just
beyond these huts hills roll like jaguar shoulders, and where they end
blue begins and climbs upward with such organization until an orange
sun closes it all up like a navel.  To my left there is a puddle, and the
rain is coming, and when it does it doesn’t play, and it’s coming harder
now, and the drops pelting the puddle look like a million mosquitos
jumping up and down, but this is because they are on my mind and I
was born with the luxury to think of them and the malaria they carry
as but a metaphor or simile and not as something that could kill me.  
Even here where I am if I get bit and do get malaria, I’ll be okay
because of where I come from and who I know and what is already
in my system.  I am here, but I am not really here as the locals are,
and as much as I try I never will be.  All I can think about right now
as the rain stings my head and my feet sink deeper is how somewhere
out there or up there or down there or over there and definitely later on
the hush will be accompanied by a hum so gentle as to be imperceptible,
and this hum is so gentle that this place is still indefensible against it
after all these years of days.

by Cameron Conaway

There is a store that stands out because it is nearly three years old
and because it is made of treated lumber not thatch and because its
logo is a photo of a man white as lightning using two hands to choke
a human-sized mosquito.  The store sells insecticide-treated nets, but
it has never sold any because each net costs as much as two years
of work, and although the store shows no profit, it stays open and clean
and luminescent.  A local diplomat comes once a month, whenever fits
his schedule, to cut the grass around the store with a shiny red
lawnmower and from the looks of it to jingle some of the rust off the old
silver latch on the door.  When the store first opened, an acting troupe
made up of people all white as lightning rolled through and put on a free
free free performance for the tribespeople.  One of the actors wore angel
wings and a giant mosquito head mask with antennae that wobbled and
must have wobbled so much before in other performances that duct tape
was used to hold them together.  This mosquito man went around
flapping his arms, and when he touched the other actors they all fell to
the floor and convulsed and then came to a still or tried to come to a still;
after all they were in the grass and had to scratch when bugs crawled
on them.  There was one who never even came close to convulsing or
coming to a still though.  He was a man who wore a net over his entire
body, and he had a cape with the logo of a man white as lightning using
two hands to choke the human-sized mosquito.  He didn’t run around
or run from but he frolicked without a care in the world, and when the
mosquito came over and danced around this superman and looked
confused and then dove in and made contact with the netted crusader,
the mosquito fell and then convulsed and then came to a still and joined
all the other people white as lightning who were sprawled all over the
field trying to be still but giving in to the itching.  The tribespeople
laughed and cheered, and some were so happy that tears did not frolic
but ran down their cheeks, and when the sun hit their tears just right
the clear of the tear burned white as lightning.


Cameron Conaway is the 2014 Emerging Writer-in-Residence at
Penn State Altoona.  He is the author of
Caged: Memoirs of a Cage-
Fighting Poet
(Threed Press), Until You Make the Shore (Salmon
Bonemeal (Finishing Line Press), and Malaria, Poems
(forthcoming from Michigan State University Press).  His work has
appeared in
Rattle, Juxtaposition, FictionWeek, and Ottawa Arts

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Apple Valley Review:
A Journal of Contemporary

ISSN 1931-3888

Volume 9, Number 2
(Fall 2014)

Copyright © 2014
by Leah Browning, Editor.  

All future rights to material
published in the
Valley Review
are retained
by the individual authors
and artists.