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Smoking With Luke Wiget

Interview by Cynthia Larsen (Read the Story) September 24, 2013

Luke Wiget

art by Alexander C. Kafka

Why is the husband so tall? 6’7″ is like basketball player tall.

I had the wife’s character drawn first. Her name was Macy, I think, in an initial draft. Her concerns and appearance were figured out, so when it came to the husband, it seemed most amusing to me to have him so physically different than the wife. It’s great when our stories are read by others—have an audience as they do here—but I suppose my initial impulse was to amuse myself. If nothing happens with a piece at the very least I’ll be entertained some.

My elementary/junior high principal, Mr. Gross, was 6’7″ and his wife was built just about like the wife in “Champagne?” I remember being in maybe 4th grade thinking how odd they looked together. Also, Mr. Gross was fairly old. I’d never see an old man who was that tall.

On a more technical level, in a story without much, if any, real interiority and only a couple lines of dialogue, it probably doesn’t hurt to wring out the physicality of things and people for all they’re worth.

Clearly it is important to wring people out for all they are worth. Though I’d like to think my family would be supportive if I suffered such a tragedy, I’m pretty sure they’d draw the line at sleeping in the garage. And Princess Diana hairdos. The husband was so tolerant, this really seemed like a love story in a way. But I noticed he didn’t wear a suit and dress up like Prince Charles—is that the line he draws?

You’re right, I think. This is a love story. I find love, this kind of lasting sort, which will hurdle such a strange expression of grief, very difficult. I think attraction and lust, all the first things happen as easily as, I don’t know, drinking a beer or breathing or something. And so, yes, you pick your spots. The husband could get himself into the house and listen and watch and open the champagne. Beyond that, I don’t think he had it in him. Also, he doesn’t own any suits. He’s a blue jeans, black boots, workshirt kind of guy.

I love that you know what color boots your character wears.

Endings are always difficult for me. Your ending was perfect. I read it as the husband wishing he could stuff the miscarried baby back in. Is this what you meant?

Thank you. I can appreciate that reading, though that’s more sophisticated than I guess my reach for that final image.

As I said, love is difficult, I think. The version of love we generally get on TV and in most movies and all, is a kind of effortless love. Effortless or breezy love is sexy. Here, though, with the husband laboring over the cork, I guess I was trying to show the effort it takes to love long-term and in the midst of grief. It sounds a bit sappy put down this a-way. But yes.

And, to be honest, I’ve had this story kicking around for a while but it never worked. It never felt satisfying because at the end of other drafts the husband didn’t engage his wife. At one point, in another draft, the husband is standing outside the living room window, like rubbing his arm or something melodramatic like that. The end line was something to the effect of, “He felt the place on his arm where a bicep used to be,” whatever the hell that means. He just hated her and hating is usually pretty easy. Hate is flat and non-surprising, so that ending didn’t work.

Shit! I thought I was so smart. But that’s one of the things I love about fiction, especially flash fiction—once you get the story out there the reader owns it and is free to read it any way she chooses. SO THERE.

Where do you think this couple would be today, in light of Kate’s impending birth?

Good question. A few thoughts.

1. I’d draw the same scene more or less and go with that bicep ending.

2. The husband decides to help plan a Royal baby shower and brings a piñata fashioned after the baby? He crowd-funds the best Royal shower the California-side of the Mississippi.

3. The husband is called in for jury duty and does whatever he can to get picked as a juror for the week.

I don’t know, really. I do think these folks make it. Trauma builds a relationship like nothing else. It’s like steroids. You can take some but not too, too much.

I am a fan of option 2. I would like to read that.

What are you working on now?

Thanks for asking. I’m working on a collection of short stories called December Water. It’s about disappointed people living, mostly, in a fictionalized version of the two sleepy beach towns I grew up in California.

About the Author

Luke Wiget is a writer and musician living in Brooklyn, New York. His stories have appeared or are forthcoming in decomP, Green Mountains Review, Hobart, Big Truths, Heavy Feather Review, among others. Luke is co-curator and host of drDOCTOR, a podcast and reading series. Find Luke on Twitter @godsteethandme.

About the Interviewer

Cynthia Larsen lives in southern Vermont with her husband and three daughters. She runs the office for their landscaping business but is often caught writing. Her short story, “A Cup of Coffee,” recently won the WOW! Flash Fiction Contest, and she has a piece forthcoming in Liquid Imagination.

About the Artist

Alexander C. Kafka is a journalist, photographer, and composer in Bethesda, Maryland. He created the cover image for Lost Addresses: New and Selected Poems by Diann Blakely (Salmon Poetry, 2017). His work has also been published at All Things Fashion DC, BuzzFeed, Fast Company, Juked, Vice, The Washington Post, The Writing Disorder, and many other periodicals. He has been on the documentation team for the Washington Folk Festival at Glen Echo and is a contributing concert photographer for DMNDR. Kafka studied fine-art figure photography with Missy Loewe at the Washington School of Photography and portrait photography with Sora DeVore at Glen Echo Photoworks.


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