Glimmer Train Winter 2015: “Number 41” by Kimberly Bunker (also: In Memoriam)

It appears that my life, during the past few weeks, prepared me for this story.

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“Number 41,” the first short story in Glimmer Train’s Winter 2015 issue, starts by describing the mugging and subsequent murder of Lynn, a junior sales representative who had just started a new lease on life after her sister gave birth. That’s just in the first few pages… the rest of the tale cycles through various reincarnations of the being once called “Lynn.” From a Ghanese immigrant to an absent, businessman father; from delinquent to poet; from the future to the past, and some occasional loops in between the two. “Number 41” also touches on a lot of subjects that my current book, Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now, discusses. Despite this story’s talk of all-being-one and how-only-the-non-tangible-aspects-of-life-matter, “Number 41” ends on a bittersweet, heartbreaking final sentence that reveals an empathetic side that some sages like Tolle forget to include in their teachings.

Tolle’s disciples influenced my therapy sessions and general spiritual journey. Tolle makes the process sound easy. Bunker captures what the journey feels like: even though we must let go, there’s a reason we held on for so long to begin with.

I could talk about “Number 41”’s reoccurring themes of redeeming childbirth and unsatisfying riches. Or I could look into how this story keeps a reader interested by good structure and impactful, well-timed sentences. Maybe if I were in a critical mood, I’d discuss how the narrator’s detached, sometimes aggressively disinterested attitude invites questions about why he/she is even telling this story. None of these topics address the important question: whether this story is worth your time. To answer this, let me segue into mentioning that, 12 hours after reading this story, I found out about the death of Carrie Fisher.

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Despite all the times I talked about Star Wars on this blog, I find myself at a lost for what to say about Fisher through that lens. Of course she was a great Princess Leia— everyone knows that. She was also a talented writer, script doctor, and mental health advocate. More than all those titles, she was human. She had more challenges than the rest of her equally iconic co-stars, and she handled them with the grace and wit that can only come from this crazy species. Spiritual saws like “This too shall pass” and “Death is only the next step in a journey” and “all is one” and “you must let go of what hurts you”… there’s a reason humans forget those basic facts. We just love each other too much.

On most levels, it’s silly to grieve for dead celebrities. Carrie would’ve told us that. I’ve never met her, and I’m not even that familiar with her written work. I will learn acceptance, for both this and other things, but I will not lose sensitivity. It’s dangerous, insane, naturally and unnecessarily tragic, to hold onto things in the material world… but there’s a wonder and a joy to it too. Fisher, even after Star Wars lost its magic for a lot of people, held onto that spark of humanity. That’s more powerful than being an icon. In the future, I might learn to let go of sorrow, but while I’m on this blue marble spinning through space, it’s worth acknowledging what I’ll miss. Some things are, if only for a little while, worth crying for. “Number 41” didn’t just come to me at the right time— it got everything, worth putting down on paper, right.

Kimberly Bunker lives in upstate New York, and published stories in PANK and Used Furniture Review. This was her first print publication. If the rest of this issue of Glimmer Train is as good as “Number 41,” then I’ll absolutely love it. But you already know.

Interested in this story? Buy it and many others here!

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