We end the Winter 2015 issue of Glimmer Train as we began it— with a globe-hopping look at how every life interconnects. And, would you believe it, it’s even more plotless than “Number 41” was! That’s not all bad. Like I said, some stories move along by theme instead of plot. And in a couple of those stories, theme’s all you got. I loved “Number 41” like a comfort pillow. “Transit”’s more like bubble wrap… fun and cozy, to be sure, but not as substantial or even as appealing as such a pillow.
The epigraph tells us what this story’s about. According to an astrology website, “you will see life differently during this time, due to sudden insights that change your perspective dramatically,” (Burnes, 227). “Transit” portrays the many lives receiving a revelation that day: from a medical relief worker to a retired technical engineer, from a 3-and-a-half year old to a 91 year old. Each section (well, most sections) contains an aphorism that puts a person’s life into perspective. A couple of people learn more about themselves or their relatives. Some of our cast discover truths about life, from the simple yet profound “everyone will die” to the thought provoking and reassuring (“maybe death is going to be ok”) (Burnes, 234).
“Transit” isn’t a story. It’s a couple of flash fiction pieces (well-written and thoughtful ones, mind) with a rather generic theme. So why did Glimmer Train say “yes” to a collection of these, and not just one or two for their flash fiction contests? Both Glimmer Train and I appreciate the wisdom stories can spread. Is this the potato chip version of that? Bite-sized musings wrapped in well-established scenes? One revelation doesn’t lead to another in “Transit.” The story invites us to take an omnipotent view of all these events occurring in the Eastern Time Zone. When we have this much information as a reader, I don’t know why discovering a hidden crush should be significant. I like certain messages by themselves, but I don’t know anyone who would need every message here.
In the end, “Transit” defies explanation, despite how plain it presents its proverbs. It’s solid enough that you can take it for what it is and still enjoy it. I fell like putting this work in Glimmer Train, itself a collection of short stories, is like making a set of all sets contain itself.
Surprise surprise, Gillian Burnes writes flash fiction! Here’s a fine example. Also, she works as a freelance copy editor and has a history of journalism. I can be judgmental, at times, when discussing Glimmer Train stories. Well hey, finals approach, I tire out, and I’m always in transit too. Unlike other short stories, my lingering questions don’t affect my reading of this tale, only my thinking about it. “Transit” is fine.
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