September 23, 2021 by The Citron Review
One of my sincerest hopes for my children is that they will be comfortable as life-long learners. Because of who they are, being open to learning at all points in their lives is necessary. This is why it thrilled me that my oldest son saw a woman well into her forties learning to swim for the first time. Anxiety and circumstance kept my boys from learning how to swim until recently. My oldest is ten and well aware that learning this skill as an older child is not typical. This fact compounded the anxiety around learning and made it all the more difficult to both get him in the pool and to try if others outside of our family were present. And then, during a make-up swim lesson on a different day than usual, an adult woman entered the pool immediately after my boys and proceeded with her own lesson. She simply did not learn as a child and wanted to learn now—better late than never, she told my son with a wink. It worked! In a few seconds, a stranger accomplished what neither me nor my husband could accomplish: convincing our son that a person can acquire a new skill at any age.
I have been thinking a lot about learning lately. Undoubtedly, this is from years of being both a student and a teacher and the natural association with the time of year. I have also been thinking about the learning that comes from reading, and writing, and the truths that are amassed from our issues. When we read through the submissions the quality pieces stand out almost immediately. It is more than their craft that calls to us, but also the truth the reveal.
“Triboluminesence” by Joe P. Squance sets a scene of boys gathering on the last night of camp with their counselor to look at the stars and find the spark of light they can make with mints in their mouths. The setting is simple and even the task at hand for the boys even simpler. The magic in the pieces comes from the wisdom the counselor is trying to impart on boys before they separate and return to the real world. The narrator struggles, as we all do at times, to grasp the message until the end of the piece. Anyone who has worked with children or remembers being a child understands the significance of that a-ha moment. Squance beautifully unravels that reveal with such precision, and like the mint in the mouths of the boys, ignites such a spark.
Sparks are central to “Mama Knows Best” by J. Isaiah Holbrook as well. Holbrook unfolds a lyrical tale of secret love and a mother’s haunting advice to not be fooled by men. While the content feels like an age-old story, the craft of the piece elevates both the longing and the tragedy with the meaningful, abrupt language. Rather than feeling choppy, Holbrook’s words feel like the gut punch of first love.
“We Fade with Time” by Mileva Anastasiadou is another example of highlighting the loss of love in a fresh way. Anastasiadou employs repetition in her succeeding paragraphs that progress with the urgency of the characters’ loss until they are seemingly ethereal. Many people write about break-ups and relationships that do not work out, but Anastasiadou creates a powerful visual that rings universal: what are the shadows of beloveds that remain with us?
Shadows also seem to be at work in “Sheets” by Sam Simon. This story is perhaps my favorite of the fall selections because it is not completely apparent what is happening. A man rolls pasta in an empty apartment that did not start out empty and reads a bit like a fairytale. Each time I read it, I wonder which part is imagined: the seemingly endless rolled pasta, the narrator, or the living situation. Each focus adds a new layer of interpretation and possibility. Each focus is just as heart-breaking.
Finally, we chose “How to Make Fire Prints with John Cage” by Suzanne C. Martinez which first took me on a rabbit hole of Google searches about John Cage. (If you are intrigued, you can even find video of him making the fire prints.) Writing a story as a list is difficult. Add to it a depiction of a real person and you will find more stories that do not work than do. Martinez is an exception. Written well enough that you believe each scenario and emotion and John Cage becomes realer than the videos you find online.
We hope that you are learning, not only from the work we publish, but that you are comfortable with being life-long learners in all areas. And maybe this is just the teacher in me hoping to see those a-ha moments, but I wish it regardless. Enjoy.
Elizabeth De Arcos
Senior Fiction Editor
The Citron Review