Title: Magic O’Clock
Date of Publication: 7 May 2017
Genre: Short Story/ Novella
“If tears could build a stairway,
And memories a lane,
Then I’d walk right up to Heaven,
And bring you home again.” (Anon)
Heart wrenching novella of a family beaten down by the loathsome disease of Dementia.
Reminiscences are what people live by. It is memories that make good and bad stages of life. Though ironically happy memories hurt the most but it is some memories that make life more bearable. In this rugged terrain of existential absurdities that make up human life on this planet, it is memories that provide solace, hope and some bitter sweet lessons. Memories warm people from the inside and life becomes an endless effort of making unforgettable memories. But what if memory decides one day to walk out of someone’s life? Can new memories be made while befriending forgetfulness?
L.S.Fellows rattles both the mind and the heart in this crisp fictional tale of dementia and hope. Acceptance is one of the greatest lessons of life and the earlier it is mastered the easier it becomes to live. The loss of a dear one is difficult to accept. But it gets much harder when one has to live with the thought of being with a loved one who fails to recognise anyone or goes missing one fine day. The story treads this field of unfamiliarity experienced by a child whose retired father can no longer recognise anybody. The status quo is reversed as the parent who’s supposed to be the first guide in a child’s life has become the child in need of some guidance from his own progeny but refuses to receive any. It is this unfamiliarity that is crippling to the author.
The writing style is fluid and ideas roll in easily. The narrative is very descriptive to the extent that the pictures rise out of the page and can be seen like a film on screen. These vivid descriptions add to a good eye for detail. It is reflective of someone who not just writes for leisure but writes often and understands the art of storytelling. The story is told from the first person narrator’s perspective. Throughout the narrative the vocabulary used is simple but stress is made on the mode of expression of everyday ideas. Certain ideas are put forward in a way so as to have expressions hurled at the reader’s face to arouse a shudder or a slight chuckle. The humour adds to the pathos but it is not a hilarious account by any sense. The despair is maintained throughout the narrative along with a sense of respectful devotion that the narrator has towards the old man Archie. The death of a parental figure is hard to accept but their absence in their presence is much harder. The core of the suffering lies in the fact that all one can do after a person’s loss is to console oneself by recalling how well the deceased one had lived and how much they had enjoyed their sustenance.
It is ironic that a man who otherwise cannot recall anything is able to narrate such interesting tales articulately and with all the information intact. It is as if Archie takes up a different persona all together during the storytelling sessions at his old age home. He becomes a regular, normal person for those few hours. The narrator’s comments not only add to the reader’s idea about Archie but also give a sense of grief that is gnawing at the narrator’s heart who can merely sit and watch and do nothing at all. It is the helplessness at the hands of an irreversible situation. The child sits through the story telling sessions in hiding as a member of the audience and cannot even go and hug Archie due to the fear of rejection. The longing of a child to be recognised for its efforts and the longing to belong somewhere is overwhelming. The surprise ending baffles the readers who are left to sympathise with the narrator. The novella is very well constructed within barely twenty five pages. There is the constant criss crossing of laughter and tears. Readers familiar with Lisa Genova’s Still Alice will find the two books working along similar lines.
Heartfelt and difficult to swallow with a pathos that is every child’s dread.