Elise pulled the kaleidoscope up to her eye and turned the image wheel. Beads tinked against the magnifying glass at the end of the brass tube. She was none-to-pleased to find her sister Mary Beth had been right. It wasn’t possible to see through to the objects in front of her as she could with binoculars—and certainly not all the way, to the end of time.
As the beads turned, stained glass images of snowflakes appeared and morphed. The shifting patterns dizzied her. She opened the object box and removed the white paper backing. This time the scene in front of her was at least recognizable. Banana multiples, dotted with rainbow-colored freckles, swirled in a cartoon spiral. Dates on the calendar spun in circles, speckled with fading spots of light. It was as if she’d looked at the sun too closely. Her cat grew fat and thin, curled around like a Cheshire.
She took out the beads: blood red, midnight blue, and fierce orange. She threw each one toward the trashcan in the kitchen. Two made it in. One became a toy for the cat. She looked through the lens at Mary Beth’s graduation picture. The tassel on her black cap looped so quickly, Elise thought it might tangle itself into a knot. Of course, it didn’t because it couldn’t. Knots weren’t always inevitable. Mary Beth had told her that as well. In fact, in her gentle way, she had promised it.
Elise replaced the plastic gems with the Swarovski crystals from Mary Beth’s bracelet: lipstick pink, lemon yellow, and gumdrop green. It had taken Elise an entire year to save for her sister’s graduation present. Elise set the kaleidoscope down on the placemat at Mary Beth’s spot at the table. She sat in her chair. Placing two fingers against her budding breast, just near her armpit, she checked herself for knots—the kind that could twist themselves into her fatty tissue. The kind Mary Beth learned about too late.
Ellen Weeren's work has been published by the Kenyon Review (KRonline), Liars’ League NYC, the Hong Kong Review, Crack the Spine, and Stonecoast Review. She's the recipient of the George Mason 2019 Outstanding Graduate Student Award (MFA Fiction), the Porches Writing Fellowship, the Dan Rudy Fiction Award, the Marjorie Kinnear Sydor Award in Literary Citizenship, and the Kenyon Review’s Novel Writing Workshop Peter Taylor Fellowship. TripBase twice recognized her blog about living in India as one of the top 10 best travel blogs. Ellen earned her MFA (Creative Writing/Fiction) from George Mason University.