Chapter 20: The Three Sisters
Hazel, Olive, and Myrtle Wintergreen have moved to Long Beach from Minneapolis.
They already know about the circle and want to join it (or take it over).
Emma Clare is finally persuaded to come out of her isolation … at precisely
the wrong time. After a visit to the sisters and some major weather changes
in Southern California, the Wintergreen sisters visit Emma Clare’s home
and threaten her and Julia and Brooke.
This chapter begins a three-chapter arc that concludes with the major
The Three Sisters, a play written in 1900 by Anton Chekhov, concerns
the existential questions of modern life. Chekhov’s three sisters live
in a provincial town and want to escape to Moscow, where life is (they
think) more interesting. The Wintergreens prefer Southern California in
the winter to Minnesota in the winter. They can have more fun here.
The Wintergreens seem to be dotty old women. Hazel speaks in malapropisms.
(I once knew someone who talked that way.) In an ironic echo of Celestia
Wolfe in chapter 8, Myrtle flirts with every man in the Towers. This earns
Bertha’s total enmity, which has consequences in chapter 22.
The Wintergreens are named after trees. Hazel is associated with age,
magic, and wisdom. Twigs of hazel are said to guard a house against lightning.
Myrtle is a love herb used to preserve youthfulness and to keep love alive
and exciting. The powers of the olive are healing and protection; a branch
of olive hung on a door is said to guard a house against all evils, including
(again) being struck by lightning.
It is Herta who, observing that the circle seems to “have been outreached,”
proposes the little get-together with the Wintergreens. Members of the
circle who were earlier in favor of “outreach” do not, however, want to
meet the Wintergreens. Why do Herta and Emma Clare pick exactly the wrong
time to change? Why are the other women suddenly cautious?
When Myrtle talks about dead husbands, she is referring to Emma Clare’s
family history and also planting seeds of doubt in Brooke’s mind. The women
don’t yet understand how the Wintergreens know so much about them.
I have a friend who says that if you want to make people crazy in an elevator,
just start humming “It’s a Small World.” The song stays in your head forever.
Sweetums the canary is named after the biggest, ugliest Muppet monster.
The “Dos Amigos” post card is real. I may still have one.
Madame Blavatsky discovers that the Wintergreens’ suite is warded, that
is, magically sealed and protected. Even the powers of a magic cat seem
to have limits. The transparent eyeball comes from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s
Nature (1836), in which he writes, “I am nothing. I see all.”
Emerson (1803-1882) was one of the most famous American 19th-century transcendentalists.
Jacoba’s cancer is growing. Maude and Macha know that Jacoba lost money
in the two stock market crashes of the eighties. Disease and poverty are
problems old people still face.
The Pac-Man analogy was very popular at the time—gobble up those nasty
The description of the effects of heavy rain on the freeways in the L.A.
Basin is accurate, if exaggerated. Weather magic is real.
Gazebo. This is a reference to the
Rose Park gazebo, which was restored in 2009. It’s really pretty.
Here’s a photo of it.
When the Wintergreens invade Emma Clare’s house, Olive uses the same words
that Rosa used in chapter 4.
“Attention must be paid.” This is a famous line from the modern tragedy
Death of a Salesman (1949) by Arthur Miller.
Like Mephistopheles tempting Faust, the Wintergreens know the secret desires
of the crones. Like the famous cinematic Godfather, they have come to make
the circle an offer it can hardly refuse. But our women do refuse, which
leads to the weather war in the next chapter, which leads to the destruction
of the circle.
Why does Herta suddenly decide to accept the Wintergreen sisters? Have
they pulled the wool over her eyes? What’s going on here?
Have you ever tried weather magic? How did it work for you?
What other examples of temptation occur in
Copyright © 2011 by Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D. All rights reserved. Permission
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