Saturday 24 June 2023

'Kaleidoscope' by Annie Marhefka

Uncle Billy made kaleidoscopes by hand. He was a carpenter first but grew tired of the legginess of tables and the unnecessary curvatures of armchairs. The stillness of furniture made him anxious. He preferred the simplicity of a solid cylinder, the rhythmic sanding down of its endless curve. You could just keep spinning and spinning it and never know if you’d gotten back to where you started. You could pour a glaze and it would drip and drip, as long as you kept swirling the wood in your hands. He liked how its ends were indistinguishable from its beginnings, how you could break glass into a thousand shards and make it more beautiful. He liked how, when he gifted someone a finished product, they had to shut the world out with one eye to see what he’d made, the way his art required you to look. He liked how sometimes you couldn’t guess what he had crushed to make it whole: whether it was the blue glass of a soda bottle, the velvety red of a wine jug, or a fistful of seashells. Guess, he’d say, but never reveal the answer. After he died, my brothers would dissect the kaleidoscopes, inspect the mirror systems that refracted the light, pull the rainbowed fragments from the object mechanism and declare their origins. I hid my own kaleidoscope from them, buried it in my sock drawer. I did not want to know the pieces or to unveil the secret chambers within. I only wanted the mystery of the emerald green shards dipping into the blue and the amethyst and the triangles turning to circles and back to triangles again. I wanted to peer into a world where everything would always be whole.

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