The Infinity Effect
Water runs slow and narrow in this part of southern central Georgia. I watch one of Muriel’s second cousins, Courtney, and Courtney’s boyfriend play on the tire swing above the river and behind our motel. Courtney waves to me but shrieks when she temporarily loses her balance on the tread. He keeps pushing her, and I imagine how an alligator could spring up to bite off her leg. Courtney doesn’t care. She sways between sunlight and shadows in her cutoff shorts. I admire her. She doesn’t act like a supporting character. We met twenty minutes ago when we discovered we had adjacent rooms and were both going to the same wedding.
The longer I sit with my back pressed to the picnic table, the more I regret coming here. We’re old friends, me and Muriel, and I suppose she only meant to solicit a gift from me, not actually see me on her wedding day, but here I am, after one overly-enthusiastic RSVP (“YES!!”), two plane rides, and one three-hour drive. Since moving to northern Ontario two years ago, I decided that travel would have to wait. That meant missing Christmases, Thanksgivings, spring breaks, summer jaunts, but Muriel’s wedding was different.My parents understand. They have my sisters, at least.
My mother made a comment once over the phone: “Why are you moving there?” She didn’t get the transition, but if it really bothered her, she didn’t let on. That was all I heard of it. Phone service comes and goes with the storms; sometimes we go weeks without talking. When I told her about Muriel’s wedding, she’d asked if I would bring Dave. No, he doesn’t want to go to Georgia, I said. In reality, I didn’t want to bring Dave, because then it would mean something. He has the future ideas. I have the reality-based truth.
The heat lays heavy on my exposed thighs. Everyone complains about humidity, but its omnipotence comforts me like an overbearing grandmother.
The Matryoshka Dolls
“What is purpose of this?” Zoya picks up Destiny’s jar and shakes it in my face. Three lonely quarters clink at the bottom and echo in that hollow place deep inside me.
“Luck,” I say. “Hoping to turn bad luck into good.”
“I do not understand.” Zoya is intense, Russian, and unapologetic.
“It’s a fundraiser. That little girl has cancer, and the family is collecting money to pay her medical expenses. They have a Go Fund Me page, too… anything to raise money.”
“It is begging!” Zoya says. “You must beg to cure child in America?”
I shrug and get a pack of Marlboros for her from behind the counter.
She pays and then drops a twenty in the jar. “I have healthy son and much luck.”
Eliza and I met four years ago when we were paired up to swap novel manuscripts in a class at Hugo House in Seattle, designed and taught by Waverly Fitzgerald. Over the next five years, many of us from that session, including Waverly, remained in touch– it was that kind of class. Waverly and Eliza went on to start the local chapter of ‘Women Who Submit,’ now called ‘Hit, Submit.’ Eliza and I started HotFlashFiction.com. Several of us continue in a monthly writers’ group. We check in regularly, support each other’s successes, and give encouragement through the tough times.
Waverly passed away late in 2019. In honor of her life as a writer, teacher, and prolific connector in the Seattle writing community, and as a way to memorialize her support as a mentor and friend to both of us, Eliza and I dedicate this issue to our friend and teacher.
Quite appropriately, both of Hot Flash Fiction’s stories this month are studies in how women– in these cases, two fairly young women– approach and embrace private life-changing realizations amidst the lives of the people who surround us. In The Matryoshka Dolls, author Sandra Cimadori ‘s character, a convenience store clerk, recognizes “that hollow place inside,” as she opens up to a repeat customer with a thick accent and an exotic presence. The imagery of Matryoshka dolls, each brightly painted, nestled and protected, but hollow themselves, is a potent metaphor for her own ache-filled heart and her sadness about a young girl’s looming destiny.
In Kendall Poe’s short story, The Infinity Effect, Anna Stewart, ‘Stewie,’ is emotionally detonated when she attends her old roommate’s wedding: “Muriel gave me one last little squeeze on the shoulder before excusing herself to another congregation of women.… They were her new friends, most likely. They had another spot on the shelf, with less dust than mine.”
While the narrator of The Matryoshka Dolls floats calmly, if not a bit sadly into her awareness of new opportunities for love, Stewie, self-possessed from the start, is knocked off course, stumbles and nearly causes irredeemable harm. By the end of the evening, just hours later, she uses isolation and a childhood trick to regain balance amidst her unsettling, but now entirely apparent, self-revelation. We hope you enjoy these two stories and the characters who tackle the vulnerable, hollow spot inside themselves and move forward. – Susan Welch, Editor