Glimmer Train Stories is an amazing publication filled with wonderful, unique, and powerful short stories about love, life, death, loss, and the power of family. Two sisters have produced this literary magazine since 1990 and they delight in publishing emerging writers’ first stories, while also sharing interesting details about the authors’ lives (including photos).
Issue 98 starts with, “Your Swim,” by David Mizner. As two families spend a day at the beach together, the main character reminisces on how he and his wife have tried to help their strange son. Later in his life, when his wife has passed and he is now on his deathbed, this strange son is by his side to the end. It is during these final months that he starts to think that his son may be okay after all: “Maybe it’s because I’m dying, but I find his attitude healthy. Is it possible that in his warped way, Sammy has found peace?”
As he struggles with his sickness and impending death, one very serious issue lingers in his mind because “What frightens me most is losing control, ceding it to doctors or, even worse, to Sammy.” This powerful theme stands out as an issue most terminal patients must deal with—they don’t want to give the burden of a life or death decision to their loved ones. It is an unimaginably difficult choice to make, but it could give the patient some small comfort that it is their choice.
Theodora Ziolkowski, in her story “We Thank You For Your Cleanliness,” also deals with the difficulties of parenting and loss. Amy is struggling to raise a teenage son while coping with her husband’s death from a terminal disease. Suddenly, she starts receiving strange phone calls that quickly become the highlight of her day. Through these calls, she starts to connect with the world around her again, trying to reach a point where she can move on. “Stasia is saying something to me about how brave it was for me to keep going; how good of me it was to continue sharing my life [ . . . ] while my Josh, ever determined and set on the future, is beginning to paint the walls.” Loss can leave us in a fog like Amy, unable to move forward in life, lodged in the past, but we cannot stay there—we have to continue to share our lives with the world and set our paths toward a future.
The story of “Suzette,” by Gabe Herron, brought me to tears. In this family of three, the son is very sick and has been in and out of the hospital. The outlook is not very good, but the family does not know what to do. The father:
made the deals every parent makes, and then more deals, offered trades: my life for his, etc. So many deals I couldn’t keep track of them all, or keep them, even if I could remember. In the end, if it’s nothing but silent words you’ve offered, it’s nothing but silent words that are returned.
Through his sacrifices and his actions, he then tries to do something that is not silent in an effort to save his child. It is hard, and it is painful, but in the end, he is certain, “This would be enough.” Even though it was a story, I could feel myself rooting for him, hoping that he was right and his actions would be enough to save his son. I cannot imagine how this would feel for a parent—to see their child suffer and feel so helpless. I believe that I, too, would do anything possible to save my child, which is why this story felt so powerful.
Taiyaba Husain shares a story that hits home for me too, in “Everything But What We Need.” Set during the California drought that caused some cities to be evacuated, she gives a glimpse of life where a family refuses to leave, even though there is very little water left. This home is all they have, and they will not give it up for anything. This story is a strong reminder to appreciate what you have, conserve whenever you can, and bind together in emergencies.
In this issue of Glimmer Train Stories, I found many wonderful stories that each shared a unique glimpse into the lives of other people and how they struggle to find meaning, love, and motivation despite the difficulties they encounter. I was also treated to personal pictures shared by the authors and pages at the end that give each of them an opportunity to express their inspiration, motivation, or experiences. These elements combined make Glimmer Train a beautiful publication, and I cannot wait to read the next issue.