Vision: A Resource for Writers
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Holly Lisle's Vision

The Week of Two Thursdays,

OR THE MAGIC OF REALITY

By Caroline Allard

2001, Caroline Allard

I don’t know if God exists, but I owe him one.

My grandmother died of a nasty cancer in April 1995. The last two weeks were very difficult. She had received an ill-adjusted treatment, and her skin was burnt on the right side of her body, from her shoulder to her waist. While I had never witnessed such episodes, my mother told me that she was beginning to forget things; sometimes, she wouldn’t recognize my grandfather. Because of her cancer and her medication, she couldn’t do anything alone. The nurses were doing the cleaning jobs and the family was taking turns to help her eat.

The last week, I was scheduled to go help her on the Thursday evening. She was sleeping when I arrived. When she woke up, she looked at me, startled. 

“What are you doing here?” 

“Coming for your supper, Grandma!” 

“But… Wasn’t it supposed to be Jacques tonight?” 

“Uncle Jacques was here yesterday, Wednesday. It’s Thursday today, so I’m here!” 

“Oh. I don’t remember your uncle coming here yesterday. I could have sworn we were Wednesday!” 

I was wishing I wouldn’t see her lose it, but here I was. I wasn’t taken aback, though. I felt a rush of tenderness for my grandmother. She smiled. 

“But I’m so happy to see you here today!” 

We chit-chatted about my studies, the family. I made her promise she would contact me from the other side to tell me what God looked like, if he was a man or a woman. We laughed a lot. 

Then my uncle Jacques arrived. It was my turn to be startled. 

“What are you doing here?” 

“I’m coming to help your grandmother for her supper. It’s Wednesday.” 

And it was Wednesday! I had been wrong all along! My grandmother had a good laugh at my expense on that one. She was the one who was supposed to be losing it! But then she took my hand. 

“I’m so happy you came today! I wished so much to see you. God answered my prayers.” 

I stayed with her a couple of hours. We didn’t say anything important, but I held her hand, and it was a beautiful spring’s evening. 

When I came back the day after, the real Thursday, she was unconscious. She never woke up, and she died during the night. 

*** 

What is it to “put some magic in your writing?” If you’d asked me a year ago, I would have answered sorceresses, dragons and magic sticks. But now I think that it can’t be just that. Reality can become magic just by itself. 

Before last year, I didn’t consider what I just told you to be a story. I still don’t, not quite. For me, it is an event, and it feels strange to put it on paper. However, since I began to write, I see this event differently. It is a story, and it has magic in it. 

What was magic in the event I recalled? Just a slight error. I was early. I thought it was Thursday. By itself, it’s nothing. But what came out of this mistake? I didn’t just put the garbage out one day earlier. No, it made me talk to my grandmother for the absolute last time. If I had waited until the right day, she would have been gone. 

Being in a place too early, or too late: there can be magic in that. Something unexpected can happen. Something dangerous, thrilling, moving. Taking the wrong door: What do you miss? And what can you see? You could be in a place where just being there at this moment makes a difference. And feelings: what about this guy that you should like; he brought back your lost wallet, he’s honest and easy going, he likes your cat. But you don’t like him. Why? What huge difference could it make if you had that feeling, and not the good feeling?  

Coincidences, errors, accidents, feelings. Tiny pieces of reality that your subconscious picks up without any obvious reason. These things happen in reality. They’re often full of wonder, they can make you cry, and they can make a hell of a nice anecdote. Why not summon them into your writing, then? Why not use them in your fictional stories to reach some great purpose, to reach another understanding of reality?  

I told you that I was not with my grandmother on the right day, that I was there because I made an error. It would nonetheless seem that I was there on the right day, that I would have made an error not to go this particular day. Is there such a thing as the right day, then? Is the right day, the right door, the right person, really the one we think it is? Playing with these ideas when we write is playing with reality in a way that introduces magic into it: new layers of understanding. Trying to see the hidden purpose of a mistake can make a good short story with an unexpected twist. 

I often think about my grandmother since she died. Missing her now is bad enough; I’m happy I didn’t miss her last moments of consciousness. She told me that she prayed to see me and that’s why, even if I’m not sure that God exists, I consider that I owe him one. And it’s true that I think a lot about her since I began to write. I often hint at her in my stories. Now, it seems that she’s also helping me in my writing, to see things differently, to reach some magical layers of reality disseminated here and there.  

Somebody can consider that I owe Him two.