Flashes from The Other World
 by Julie Ann Weinstein

All Things That Matter Press
2009
First Collection

Awards: Finalist, 17th Annual San Diego Book Awards







"After the heart attack my Grandma lost her will to live. Then her mind started to wander... The family called her behavior 'crazy making'. The doctor called it Alzheimer’s. I never called it a name. But for some reason I kept running past a bumper sticker on an old van that made sense with what was going on. It said, ‘some of us wander and get lost, others just wander.' "


Reviewed by Daniela Norris

An other-worldly presence seems to run like a scarlet thread through this collection of short fiction which is a delight to read – probably because the author delighted in writing it. Spirits of the dead that connect to the spirits of the living in surreal yet tangible ways attract the reader, as a veil of mist lifts and allows us a glimpse, real or imaginary, into The Other World. This Other World is not a pure creation of the author, but feels eerily familiar.
There is a blue bead that always appears on the base of the town clock at certain times throughout the year. The locals don’t know who leaves the bead, just what it heralds; a life lost to violence. Would-be mothers kick at the beads, sending them to the gutter, down the sewage lines, hoping if no one sees it a child will be spared. Once I was such a mother. I wore my headscarf when others in my neighborhood didn’t. Religion for most here in Istanbul is a private matter, but I didn’t like my hair. The scarves in brilliant shades of green and purple looked so very pretty. (from Blue Beads)
Sometimes it is dreams that connect us to a world we recognize, if only for those moments when the dream takes over and feels as if it is the one place we truly live in.
This week I dreamed of flag poles, empty, dewy, singular poles. Grandma says it’s a sex dream. But I’m still a virgin and I think there’s more to it; there’s always more in these parts. The dream last night even showed a pole with a white flag. Ah surrendering images. It waved, it billowed, a bit inviting, almost a smile in the sky. And the face in it, lest I forget that… never! A boy’s face shown in the flag, if one can call it that.
(from Ziba)
But dreams and reality are not mutually exclusive things, as we can see in some of Weinstein’s haunting tales.
In the interlocking limbs of two eucalyptus trees I see your soul. Can you know it’s me gazing at you from the window? Do you know I dream how it feels to be joined in wood, not flesh? I see elephant tusks and the flesh of paper in your limbs. My boyfriend calls and says 'I must stop my staring’. It’s dreaming, I say. Our limbs don’t join as mirrors like yours. Can we wait 'til we grow this close? How long did it take your right limb to match your left? Oh… you say it was a lifetime, that’s too long.
(from Eucalyptus Moonlight)
But a lifetime is not too long if you are a spirit coming back, like in The Vacant Tub.
The ghost of past baths sat soaking up rays on the front lawn. Suds of yesteryear dripped off the porcelain surface of the tub. A bird chirped. Its bidding, its call, a young boy heard. He sat in the tub and raced a sailboat. A swell tipped the boy over, then moments later the boat stood upright and the boy pushed it along. Fine lines appeared on the base of the tub. A man emerged from the house and turned the bath over on its side. But the boy and the sailboat didn’t fall. They didn’t fall. They continued sailing the boat. The man ran his hands over the bottom of the tub. 'those scratches… they weren’t there yesterday. I know they weren’t there. I cleaned the tub myself’. A little boy laughed as the man dumped bleach into the tub and scrubbed with a yellow sponge.

Some of these tales make sense in a magical sort of way. Others make the reader reflect and open their eyes – all three of them – to the sounds and smells around them. To the Other World. Read with an open mind, and you shall be rewarded.

Read a story from this collection on Fictionaut


Daniela Norris is a former diplomat, turned writer. She is the author of numerous award-winning short stories, articles and essays, and co-author of Crossing Qalandiya: Exchanges Across the Israeli/Palestinian Divide (Reportage Press, 2010). .

Daniela's other Short Reviews: Lynne Patrick (ed) "Criminal Tendencies"

Dede Crane "The Cult of Quick Repair"

Alexandra Leggat "Animal"

"Tales of the Decongested Vol 2"

David Eagleman "Sum: Tales from the Afterlives"

J. Robert Lennon "Pieces for the Left Hand"

Dylan Landis "Normal People Don't Live Like This"

Wells Tower "Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned"

Jo Cannon "Insignificant Gestures"
                     
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Julie Ann Weinstein has over ninety published stories and is a Pushcart Nominee, freelance writer, editorial consultant and flash fiction workshop leader. She is also published under the name Julie Ann Shapiro.

Read an interview with Julie Ann Weinstein