Flanders, and the Short Story
Charlotte Zoë Walker
If a writing life begins in childhood—why wouldn't a writer's muse come bounding in on four legs, tail wagging, ears flapping, fetching something marvelous from that far meadow?
A child in World War II during a blackout at a navy base in California sits on a doorstep beside her mother and baby brother, waiting in the darkness of that summer night until the sirens tell them it is all clear, and the lights can go on again. There is a song, “When the lights go on again, all over the world,” that the child hums to herself. She has heard that some children have dolls that glow in the dark to comfort them during blackouts, and she imagines that the doll in her arms can glow in the dark. But it does not. And years later, when she asks her mother if she ever did get a glow-in-the-dark doll for blackouts, her mother insists that no such thing existed. “They would have given off light, and then it wouldn't have been a blackout,” her mother says.
But the girl-now-a-woman reminds her mother that once, just after the war, they visited Knott's Berry Farm, where she was allowed to purchase a glow-in-the-dark Jesus. She loved being in her bedroom with the glowing green Jesus looking kindly at her after the lights were out. Was it the fluorescent Jesus that inspired her to ask a Sunday School teacher the unacceptable question? If Jesus had been born on Mars, would he look like a Martian? The question was rebuffed, but thinking about it might have been one of