This week's stories are all about the passage of time, traveling in time, and things that occur when time happens all at once.
Quiet Hour by Peni Griffin | Crossed Genres Magazine
Mama looked gray and small, her face covered by the oxygen mask: an echo of the day Papacito died, but Mama, at least, was able to describe her symptoms to the EMTs in English. Delia followed the ambulance to the hospital, where she filled out paperwork and then sat beside Mama, watching the lights on the monitors. "You're going to be all right," she said.
Mama's mouth moved under the oxygen mask.
"Whatever it is, tell me later. Your job now is breathing."
Mama made writing motions, so Delia fished a pencil and an old receipt out of her purse. Mama wrote (in Spanglish) "If I'm not okay, you go to my kitchen for Quiet Hour next week."
Delia blinked. "What?"
"All right, but why?"
Mama's smile looked shaky beneath the plastic dome of the mask. The pencil skittered across the receipt. "Next Thursday. Just do it."
When the matriarch of a family dies there are so many levels of grief and loss. It's the person who's gone plus all that she represented and all that she held together and the place where she lived and how she lived in it. Griffin captures all that so well in this story, and finds a way to make it feel all right in the end.
Image: Americano by Mo Riza on Flickr.
The Shape of My Name by Nino Cipri | Tor.com
I picture you standing in the kitchen downstairs, over a century ago. I imagine that you're staring out through the little window above the sink, your eyes traveling down the path that leads from the back door and splits at the creek; one trail leads to the pond, and the other leads to the shelter and the anachronopede, with its rows of capsules and blinking lights.
Maybe it's the afternoon you left us. June 22, 1963: storm clouds gathering in the west, the wind picking up, the air growing heavy with the threat of rain. And you're staring out the window, gazing across the dewy fields at the forking path, trying to decide which way you'll take.
My bedroom is just above the kitchen, and my window has that same view, a little expanded: I can see clear down to the pond where Dad and I used to sit on his weeks off from the oil fields. It's spring, and the cattails are only hip high. I can just make out the silhouette of a great blue heron walking along among the reeds and rushes.
You and I, we're twenty feet and more than a hundred years apart.
So much I want to say about this story can't be said without spoilers, so when you read it please come back and have a discussion with me in the comments about it. Wrestling with identity, failed coping strategies, and the choice between settling into the inevitable or fighting against it — all of that is in there but the whole of the story is so much more. It's beautiful and wrenching and I highly recommend you read it.
Image Credit: Richie Pope.
Even the Mountains Are Not Forever by Laurie Tom | Strange Horizons
"They cannot see us from here?"
Though the red-painted walls were worn by years of children's hands, the classroom was new to Kunchen Tsering. It had not been here during her last revival, and the upper half of the southern wall was all dark-tinted window. Kunchen and Sonam Lobsang stood in the darkened hall on one side looking into the brightly lit room on the other where an assortment of students from ages eight to eighteen sat chattering with each other as they ate bread and yak cheese and drank cups of butter tea.
"The lighting prevents it," said Sonam, and though his tone was respectful, Kunchen did not miss a hint of impatience, as though she should have known.
Perhaps she would have, if she had been around. Every revival required her to learn, even simple things that others took for granted.
"I see," she said simply. Kunchen missed her previous abbot. The sad part of reviving was discovering who had passed on while she was sleeping. Gyaltsen had been a good man, middle-aged, and he had seemed like he was in good health when she had seen him last. She had no reason to think she would need a replacement. But then, nine years was more than enough time for cancer to develop and take its course.
Sonam had good qualities to recommend him, several people had told her of how he successfully renegotiated their isolation agreement with the other colonies, but she had hoped for someone more accommodating in her old age. He was very young, only in his thirties, so there was a fair chance he would be the last abbot she would ever have.
There are many ways to move forward while keeping a meaningful connection to the past, and the culture in this story chooses one that is both very skiffy-feeling and borne of ancient, time-tested sensibilities. That theme runs throughout, as does the main character's quiet, powerful voice.
Which of these stories is your favorite? Any suggestions for next week?