Claire sat alone at one of the small tables lining the glass half-wall, overlooking the museum lobby. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see the giant yellow Chihuly sculpture hanging from the ceiling in its impossibly glassy, spiky way. She was tired of having to marvel at it, tired of having the same conversation over and over: How did they ever get it up there? And: How did they manage to ship it from his studio in—where was it again? Seattle? Portland? Somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, anyway. She was tired of hearing about the documentary someone had seen a portion of while flipping through the channels—it must have been on PBS—showing Chihuly at work. That eye patch! That crazy hair! What a wildman, a genius. Isn’t he dead now? Or is he still alive? Google it on your phone. She was tired.
In the cafeteria line, she had chosen the Greek salad, the obligatory slab of French bread added to her plate by the server, a plastic-gloved hand holding the tongs. “Enjoy,” he or she had said, not looking at Claire. “Thank you,” she said back, not looking either. A cup of coffee, a glass of ice water. Debit card, tip added, receipt. “Have a nice day.” “You, too.” The condiment station with the insulated carafe of half-and-half, a saucer holding chilled pats of butter wrapped in gold foil. Returning to the table, Claire picked up her sweater from the floor, where it had fallen after slipping off the semicircular back of her chair. It was impossible to hang anything from those chairs: a jacket, a purse strap. The same chairs had been here since the early eighties, at least. Why hadn’t the museum replaced them with something more functional? She sat down with her tray. The Chihuly hovered, ablaze in her peripheral vision, a sun that never moved.
It was Sallie’s first time. She smoothed the crumpled notebook page on the bar and squinted at her poem. She’d bought reading glasses over a month ago. She wasn’t yet in the habit of carrying them with her, but at the moment it didn’t matter that she couldn’t see. The paper was for security purposes only, as she’d practiced for days.
Alonzo Matsusaka took the stage, an open mike regular, a boy––man, she corrected herself, mid-twenties, a bit older than her son––dark and slight, in a black t-shirt, jeans, and sensible shoes. None of the flashy sneaker stuff and dragging pants she saw in her classroom every day.
She’d complimented Alonzo a couple of weeks before on his poem about drinking a hallucinogenic tea he’d brewed from jimson weed that grew in his childhood backyard. He’d built castles with invisible blocks for three days until the effects wore off. He wasn’t her student or her son, so she was free to appreciate the poem without worrying over the content. She enjoyed his work full of the California desert where she’d never been, board games, and boyish antics, juxtaposed with current events. So many of the poets used their time in the spotlight as a public therapy session––a phenomenon Sallie found slightly admirable and very disgusting. Though direct and open with friends and colleagues, she would never be so blatantly self–revealing on stage. She would never share the words she’d written about Olivia’s accident,
Eliza and I took great heart from the quantity and content of submissions to Hot Flash Fiction in the weeks since our launch. The pace of new stories to review and the enthusiastic support we both encountered at the recent Association of Writers and Writers Programs (AWP) energized us for this current issue— and will continue to for months to come. Eliza and I share the expectation that with each issue we will bring our readers powerful stories— whether personal essay or fiction–that will speak to us as mature womxn progressing through the various stages of growing older and wiser. Sometimes, like in this issue, we may even stumble upon a common theme that unites the otherwise separate contributing authors and their work.
Each of our new stories portrays a woman observing herself through the lens of her relationship to characters younger than herself. In both pieces, the women teach young adults—one in literature, the other art history. In Almost Ridiculous, Connie Biewald explores female vulnerability as we find our way amongst new colleagues or peers who can remind us of our youth and in sometimes painful ways, of our own children. Through the protagonist in Leopardess, Katherine Schaefer writes beautifully of the timeless nature of both great art and quotidian routines–immutable markers that remain constant, even as we, the observer age and change.
We hope you enjoy our latest issue of Hot Flash Fiction. We look forward to hearing from you on Facebook or Twitter, and look forward to reading your work on Submittable.com.—Susan Welch, Editor