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Smoke & Mirrors with Natalie Warther

Interview by Amy Cipolla Barnes (Read the Story) June 21, 2021

Natalie Warther

Natalie Warther

The point of view in “Two Towels Drying” is evocative and feels essential to the narrator expressing herself. How did you choose the unique viewpoint? Do you have a personal connection to the story?

While I’ve never shared a husband with another woman, I’d bet most women have found an old hair tie in their partner’s bathroom and fabricated an entire story about a gorgeous woman with mile-long legs and perfect hair. Objects like this can be terrible little clues, and I wanted to drop myself into the mind of someone who is constantly tortured by them.

I think this piece relies on the kind of mystery only first-person narration allows. Additionally, addressing the husband brings another level of sadness to the surface: Here is a wife who feels ostracized in her marriage, attempting and failing to communicate with a husband she can no longer reach.

What is the significance of the ordinary objects here that define and delineate the narrator’s life?

The objects serve several narrative purposes. The shirt and shampoo bottle, for example, show how the speaker is constantly measuring herself and her relationship against the invisible other. The enchilada, newspaper, and lipsticks signify an unspoken shared bond; small acts of solidarity and kindness that both comfort and haunt the speaker. The earrings symbolize her desire to transform, to adopt the other woman’s desirability. Once the earrings are on, however, she is still only herself, but heavier. With the earrings, the shift from pair to individual is important. After putting them on, our speaker is left feeling singular, even more alone, not part of a pair at all.

The title bears so much weight. How did you choose it?

I wanted to begin with a strong visual that conveyed the everyday heartbreak of a love triangle—small and undramatic, but also crushing in its plainness. For me, there are two possibilities. Either the speaker’s towel is drying beside the other wife’s, symbolizing the neverending side-by-side comparison. Or, alternately, the two towels belong to the husband and other wife, symbolizing how there is no room for the narrator. Kicked out of the relationship, her towel has no place to dry. Both situations, I think, are devastating.

About the Author

Natalie Warther is a senior writer at 72andSunny and an M.F.A candidate at Bennington College. She is a prose reader for GASHER Journal. Her most recent fiction is forthcoming in Hobart After Dark, X-R-A-Y, Maudlin House, and the 2021 Bath Flash Fiction Award Anthology. Natalie lives in Los Angeles.

About the Interviewer

Amy Cipolla Barnes is the author of three collections: Ambrotypes, Mother Figures and Child Craft, forthcoming from Belle Point Press. She has words at The Citron Review, Spartan Lit, JMWW Journal, Janus Lit, Flash Frog, No Contact Mag, Leon Review, Complete Sentence, Gone Lawn, The Bureau Dispatch, Nurture Lit, X-R-A-Y Lit, McSweeney’s and many other sites. Her writing  has been nominated for Best of the Net, the Pushcart Prize, Best Microfiction, long-listed for Wigleaf50 in 2021 and 2022, and included in The Best Small Fictions 2022. She’s a Fractured Lit Associate Editor, Gone Lawn co-editor, Ruby Lit assistant editor and reads for NFFD, CRAFT, Taco Bell Quarterly, Retreat West, The MacGuffin, and Narratively.


This interview appeared in Issue Seventy-Two of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Seventy-Two

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Next Date to Join: January 1!

On September 1, SmokeLong launched a workshop environment/community christened SmokeLong Fitness. This asynchronous community workshop is happening right now on our dedicated workshop site. If you choose to join us, you will work in a small group of around 10-12 participants to give and receive feedback. Each Monday, you will receive a new writing task (one writing task each week) designed by the senior editor team of SmokeLong. The core workshop is asynchronous, so you can take part from anywhere at anytime. We are excited about creating a supportive, consistent and structured environment for flash writers to work on their craft in a community.