New Fiction at jmww,

One of my favorite columns at jmww is Meg Tuite's exquisitely curated "Exquisite Duet," in which two writers are given the same sentence or phrase and asked to write a poem or short fiction piece incorporating it. Of course, I was thrilled when Meg invited me to duet for December, with one of my favorite writers, Elise Levine. Our phrase was "Let's pretend it happened." I've posted the first few lines of each of our responses. You can read the entire duet at jmww:


"Let us pretend. On a warm summer afternoon in the country it happened that my brother slapped me. In the flash that followed the bees ceased to hum. The ivy hardened despite the breeze. I wept and our cherished nurse Chantal clucked from her bench and waddled over. Her thick kiss quieted me. My brother—famous now, ruthless even then—bit his tongue from laughing, so hard the blood poured. The wound festered. After a brief confinement, he died."


I am curious. I guess that’s why I go–I want to know what I’m missing. Like a cast-iron French oven, champagne flutes. Hand-braided abaca placemats and 12-cup Cuisinarts. So many ways to design a life, encapsulated in a printed-out bridal registry at Crate & Barrel.

“You’ll never need all of these things,” I point out as her fingers caress napkin rings, ceramic bowls.

“But you’ll never know which one of them you’ll need,” she smiles. She knows how to knot a scarf so that it floats effortlessly around her neck; on mine, it always looks like a noose. “You’ll get married someday, too.”