The Time-Blossoming Birthday Cake – Part 2
The magenta rosebud I picked off the rose-covered birthday cake given to me by Cousin George is now in full flower. The cake is still in the fridge. I’m afraid to cut a slice and eat it, because when I took this rosebud off and put it into a crystal vase, I found myself thrown back in time to the day before my birthday party. So now I can only watch the rosebud — now fully open — and keep checking the date on my phone like an obsessive maniac.
I’m not a believer in things like time travel or magical cakes. My feet are firmly planted in such realities as spreadsheets, To-Do lists, and my five senses.
But it did happen. I wasn’t daydreaming or hallucinating.
A petal just dropped! And of course I checked my phone. As I was about to read the date on my calendar, a woman peered in my window and then knocked on the front door. I didn’t recognize her at first, because Cousin Maria had lightened her hair color from auburn to a coppery red. Her head seemed to be on silky fire. I hurried to open the door.
“Wow, that’s gorgeous!” I said, gesturing her inside.
She stepped in quickly, bringing with her a gust of today’s stiff breeze. Except that when I last looked out the window, there was no wind, and now there was.
“I had it done last month,” she said.
That was odd, because my birthday party was just a week ago, and Maria definitely had had her normal hair color. Then I did look at my phone’s calendar. It was three weeks later than it had been when I made coffee this morning.
Maria made herself at home, grabbinbg a cup and pouring herself some coffee. That was odd, because when she had come to my birthday party a week ago — or was it now a month ago — she hadn’t even known where the bathroom was. Maria was a distant cousin, though we lived in the same town. But we kept a distance because we shared a secret about our relative, Uncle Harry. We children all knew he was the adult to avoid at family gatherings. Maria and I avoided each other from the day he had taken her by her eight-year-old hand and agreed to show her how to collect eggs from the chicken coop. Girls treat secrets that are too big as if they don’t exist, except in each other’s eyes. Today, Maria’s blue eyes were wide open, like gates to a private beach flung open. I had the feeling we were going to talk about that party.
Click on the subheading to read my definition. Magical realism in fiction is expanding to encompass larger territory in spectulative fiction than it had before. Witches, magic, time travel, ghosts — many elements formerly classed as fantasy are now getting the magical realism treatment. The difference between contemporary fantasy and magical realism can be like two sides of one piece of thin paper with bold writing. Turn it over and the writing turns backward, but can still be seen. The difference is more in the frame than the content. In my fiction, I like supernatural elements to exist in a natural way, so that it’s not an immense surprise to find yourself in a time three weeks earliler than where you were a few minutes ago. But different things can happen given such possibiities, and that creates stories that are dreamlike in their intensity.