Thirst

by Harmony Hazard

I picture my mother at the helm of a boat somewhere in the thick of ocean. Floating behind the boat is a glacier, a compression of quiet grace. My mother has tied a thousand ancient ropes to the glacier and is pulling it through the water with the same conviction that I imagine Moses had when he parted the sea.

16286584359_778ff002ed_k

For years, she has whispered her plan to us. Before they all melt, my mother wants to transport a glacier from Alaska to wherever my sister and I are living, so that we will have a secure source of water. To keep it from melting, she will coat the glacier in sawdust, as if sprinkling confectioner’s sugar on a slice of bundt cake. Then, she will chain it to a tugboat and tow it across the ocean, where it will finally be left in a dry pond or a desert’s scorched riverbed so that my sister and I will not die of thirst. We have always rolled our eyes to this idea. Impossible, we’ve said. But, recently, I’ve wondered.

On the night of her seventieth birthday, my mother told my sister and I that some scientists believe the moon was once part of the earth. This theory surmises that when the moon separated from the earth, the Pacific Ocean was formed in its void. We were eating pineapple-upside-down cake in the flicker of candlelight, she was wearing a white kimono and a halo made from fourteen carmine flowers, and my sister and I balked at the idea. But my mother insisted until my sister googled it. It’s called the fission hypothesis, my sister says. I guess I have to get a PhD, my mother responded with a tilt of her halo, for people to listen to me.

Over a decade ago, my mother had a theory that the energy from the moving bodies at gyms or playgrounds could be used for electricity. When she and I walked past fitness centers with treadmills in the windows, she pointed to the sweating bodies and said, Imagine how many light bulbs they could be powering? My eyes went from the runners’ wet, mangled hair to the ceiling, where fluorescent lights hummed incessantly above their heads, but I wasn’t convinced. Years later, my sister saw an advertisement: a company was utilizing the velocity of playing children to power electrical outlets in a playground.

Maybe I’m wrong to not believe that you can part the sea, that a body can run enough to flash on a light bulb, that the moon can slice itself from the earth and spiral out into the knitted black of the sky. Maybe I am wrong to not picture the glacier, hulking and glossy, rising over the sea like a skyscraper; to not look closely at this image until I can see my mother’s reflection in the ice, waving at the distant sight of land, her salty seaweed hair swept into the sea-wind, rough waves smacking against the sides of the boat. If I look even closer, I will discern on my mother’s face not only the knowledge that her family’s thirst will forever be quenched, but also that now, after all these years, they will maybe, finally, believe her.


Harmony Hazard hails from both Tucson and New York. She is completing her MFA in creative writing with Stony Brook University. She edits the “Participate” column in make/shift magazine, has been published in CALYX and Border Crossing and is part of a collective editing an anthology of creative writing about the Sonoran Desert borderlands.

Photograph by Timothy Neesam.

Editor’s Note: Ancient Moments of Telling

Biologists reconstruct the descent histories of life forms on planet Earth as the tree of life, its dense trunks and branches leading from common ancestors to new species. Such phylogenetic relationships are not limited to biology. Sara Graça da Silva and Jamshid J. Tehrani from the New University of Lisbon in Portugal applied the same analysis tools and techniques to storytelling.[1]  Using the catalogue of categorized written folklore in the Aarne-Thompson-Uther (ATU) Index, they “recorded the presence/absence of each [of] these tales […] in 50 Indo-European-speaking populations represented in the ATU Index” and traced along the resulting tree-like descent histories how these stories were transmitted.[2]

The vertically-transmitted story is passed down within a culture through cultural inheritance. After migration and time, the story might show up around the world, told in daughter languages that emerged out of the original language in which it was first told. A horizontally-transmitted story leaps across cultural and language boundaries to reach foreign audiences. Graça da Silva and Tehrani found evidence for stronger vertical than horizontal transmissions for many of the folk tales they studied. When “accounting for spatial relationships among linguistically related Indo-European groups,” many folktales seemed to have been rejected by adjacent cultures. Rejection by foreign cultures and missed opportunities to translate and adopt such stories that might have changed them significantly helped them to retain much of their original form.

Graça da Silva and Tehrani traced this remarkable retention of the basic story arc across hundreds and thousands of years and miles to glimpse—for a few stories—ancient origins in the oral traditions. They discovered that “The Smith and the Devil” fairy tale might have originated over 6000 years ago in the Bronze Age. Preserved in the phylogenetic relationships are ancient moments of telling: a blacksmith and their fictional story about the struggle to smelt copper and alloy, or other community members and their fictional stories about the blacksmith. After all, to pursue craft is isolating; to pursue work with metals is magical, powerful, dangerous, and thus perfect for gossip and exclusion and storytelling.[3]

Certainly the Devil is involved.[4] There’s the bargain—the smith’s soul for mastery over the new dark arts—and there’s the twist—the morally questionable smith beats the Devil at his own game—and there’s the implication that art, craft, technology, knowledge itself are both divine and damning. From roots to branches, it’s an implication that susurrates thousands of years later.


This Editor’s Note was written by Tiny Donkey Editor Richard Leis.


[1]Graça da Silva, Sara and Tehrani, Jamshid J. “Comparative phylogenetic analyses uncover the ancient roots of Indo-European folktales.” Royal Society Open Science. 3: 150645. 20 January 2016. Web. 31 March 2016. <http://rsos.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/3/1/150645>

[2] “Aarne-Thompson-Uther Classification of Folk Tales.” Multilingual Folk Tale Database. Web. 31 March 2016. <http://www.mftd.org/index.php?action=atu>

[3] Monbiot, George. “The Smith and the Devil.” George Monbiot. 1 January 1994. Web. 31 March 2016. <http://www.monbiot.com/1994/01/01/smith-and-the-devil/>

[4]“330: The Smith Outwits the Devil.” Multilingual Folk Tale Database. Web. 31 March 2016. <http://www.mftd.org/index.php?action=atu&act=select&atu=330>

Editor’s Note: Magic Mirrors on Every Wall

Locations are connected by wormholes.

Ask Neil Postman, media theorist. As early as the 19th century, new communications technology and mass media collapsed the space between local and distant. Postman writes that after news from Washington, D.C. made its way to Baltimore along the first telegraph lines on May 25, 1844 to be printed in the Baltimore Patriot that same afternoon, “The paper concluded its report by noting: ‘…we are thus enabled to give our readers information from Washington up to two o’clock. This is indeed the annihilation of space.'”[1]

Ask Amber Case, cyber anthropologist. She explains the concept of a wormhole by telling about how her father taught her the shortest distance between two points on a piece of paper is only a straight line if she ignored how the paper could be folded so that the two points touched.[2] While writing her anthropology thesis on cellphones, she “realized that everyone was carrying around wormholes in their pockets. They weren’t physically transporting themselves; they were mentally transporting themselves. They would click on a button, and they would be connected as A to B immediately.”

Ask your magic mirror, that display you hang on the wall, hold in your hand, or hide your eyes behind. At your command, your TV, computer, gaming console, smartphone, tablet, heads-up display, and virtual reality gear mirror your mind, your voice, your avatar, and, eventually, a wholly-immersed you through wormholes that remap location and body instantaneously to the hybrid realities—destinations where the analog and physical real world merges with or vanishes into digital and virtual new worlds. These places are not limited to their sights and sounds but will soon engage every sense. With emerging technologies surrounding your person, upon your person, within your person, your skin is a new skin, like your tongue, like your nose and ears and eyes. In so many new worlds to explore with your wormhole-enhanced cyborg physiology, you may find a home, or the horror of an endless virtual. At every destination on every wall there will wait a magic mirror, this hall of mirrors, this labyrinth in which you arrive so easily but cannot be certain that you arrived where you wanted to go.


This Editor’s Note was written by Tiny Donkey Editor Richard Leis.


[1] Postman, Neil. Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. New York: Penguin, 1985, 2005. 66. Kindle.

[2] Case, Amber. “We are all cyborgs now.” TEDWomen 2010. Dec. 2010. Web. 6 Dec. 2015. <http://www.ted.com/talks/amber_case_we_are_all_cyborgs_now>

Editor’s Note: Muon, the Castaway

μ−

The muon is our hero, a thing that begins with being cast away: a proton shimmies from deep space into our planet’s atmosphere, collides with one of anything, decays into a pion, which in turn decays into our muon. She is given two millionths of a second to explore this strange country we call Earth: were it not for the relativity of time—objects moving fastest experience time slowest (and she moves fast indeed)—our muon would decay well above our heads. She would become an electron and two neutrinos; no helper could reordain her old spin. Decay is more permanent than being magiked into a deer, into a raven. The pieces are harder to find, when they too decay: imagine a deer becoming eight rabbits becoming a hundred butterflies becoming a trillion muons.

600px-Muon_Decay.svgThen we have to ask what it is the muon means to accomplish here, because she is not going back home. One possibility is that by her transformation she transforms us: she might pass into our upturned palms, break apart one of our cytosines, alter our genetic happenstance. There’s a rumor that’s how some species, even ours, were made: the most kind muon mutation. Maybe instead of fearing her radiation, this thing we ordain her bremsstrahlung, we should embrace her: she could know a way to make us better.

This pilot who has survived a high-speed cartwheeling from the center of our galaxy or beyond inside the belly of a proton—let’s catch the muon as she falls. She is one in three million to survive the fall. So we should ordain her with speeches about our three lives of water and other such nonsense. We should make her feel at home. Let’s remember to hold out own palms. We could let her keep falling—what is a dozen feet of bedrock after galactic travel—but then she would be like people: purposeless, unsure, our palms turned to the sky, trying to hold a conversation with bones.


This Editor’s Note was written by Tiny Donkey Editor and Fairy Tale Review Managing Editor Joel Hans.