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  • Writer's pictureAlan Allinger

So Familiar a Gleam

We were out on an evening walk and saw the Fae lines in the sky

above us, seemingly close enough to reach. Magic happens around my

mother, so this was not unusual. We paused in our stroll to observe the

antics of the light.

“When a line frays and is ripped apart like that, what happens?” I

asked mother. She took my question seriously and responded in her

thoughtful tone, which means she’s remembering something. We both

looked at the streaks in the sky for a moment.

“What would that be?” I asked, handing her a flask. She looked first at the Flask, then at me with a small smile.

“Look, I’m not enough of a grown-up enough to observe this ‘Dry January’ thing, so don’t expect me to be honoring that particular adult custom.” She shuddered in mock horror while nodding in agreement, and then took a sip, indicating with an airy gesture she was too old for such foolishness.

“They become two,” she said, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. And it certainly became obvious, if you were looking at it. We regarded the fragmented line in a comfortable silence.

“Have I told you the story of the magic book?” she asked.

“All books are magic, Mother,” I said with a smile.

“Not exactly,” she answered, with a smile of her own. She took another sip from the flask, so I gave her a prompt.

“The story, of course, begins with a girl,” I began. She gave me that glance to remind me that, of course, any story worth reciting begins with a girl.

“The girl had spent her day walking around the park,” she began, “and because she was tired and wanted to sit on a bench to rest a few moments, she picked out one that was unoccupied. She noticed the old lady on the next bench was reading a distinctive looking book and the girl became curious as she looked upon it. The book looked to be an antique; the cover was beautiful but faded, and the gold-leafed title was very difficult to make out from where the girl sat. After a moment she noticed something peculiar and realized that only about half of the book actually remained.”

“As the old woman turned the pages, each page broke off into her hand. The old lady would examine the loose page with care and then drop it to the ground, watching it as it gently fluttered downward before she went back to her reading. Without looking up she spoke to the girl.”

“ ‘It can’t be replaced once it’s fallen from the book. Therefore, one can never go back to any pre-existing page, it simply isn’t there- because it has already passed from existence.’ ” The girl saw with surprise that the page she had seen fall to the ground was rapidly melting, like ice turns to water on hot asphalt, and the water was disappearing into the earth. She opened her mouth to ask a question, but the old lady spoke again.”

“ ’All one can do, my dear, is keep turning the pages that are still attached. The ones that fall from the book are only memories. One can only travel forward.’ ” The girl realized she had to modify her question.

“Do you- do you die at the end of the book?” she asked the old woman. Now the old woman looked up at her.

“I prefer to think,” she told the girl, “that when the last page is gone, I will be free to start on a new book. Leaving the story you’re in is just the beginning of the next grand adventure, you see.” I handed Mother the flask in appreciation of her tale. I knew what she might say next, but I did love to hear her say such things. She pointed at the Fae streaks that strained just above our heads.

“Rather than a frayed line divided, I see two separate lines reaching for one another,” she said. “And they’re so close now. Soon they will connect, because if you look at them properly you’ll see both of them as traveling forward.” There was another pause while I took a sip, and then I nodded to her and handed back the flask.

“Mom,” I said. “I like the way you think.”

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