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A Conversation With PEN America Best Debut Short Stories 2018 Author Megan Tucker
“The idea here is the casual way children can accept and parrot this kind of simple, black-and-white math about worth. So much so that in a pinch they are willing write off their own mother!”
The television is on but no one is watching. The end of the day at the end of October and our mother closes the door to the den and tells us what she has done: “I’ve switched it on so the man who is coming will think your father is home.”
We try to imagine our father as someone who watches television behind a closed door at six o’clock in the evening. Light shines around the door in thin lines. The noise comes through in full. Together we watch the door to the room where our father might be.
The voice coming from the television that no one is watching is Dukakis. We know it is sad to be for Dukakis, as we must. We know who will win: Bush will win. Even here in California. It will be a landslide.
When the doorbell rings, we scatter to the brown-tiled kitchen where our mother has abandoned a skinned pineapple, angular and wet, cupped pores left behind in the yellow meat. The pineapple sits up on a chopping board on the counter with an old serrated paring knife, the pale plastic handle pocked from turns in the disposal. Later, we will try to eat all of the pineapple, even the core.
Our mother answers the door and on the porch is more than a man. Three people walk down the hall toward our bedroom, where our bunk beds are stacked. One person is our mother. One is the man. One is a very pregnant lady. She asks to use our toilet.
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“Every interaction between adult siblings presents a chance to get more clarity about the past. Hopefully, we’re able to seize at least some of these chances.”
“I wrote much of the story listening to jazz, including the title song, for inspiration on how to shift without imposing too much of a structure.”
“I wanted to portray the pain of trying to reach someone who is inside their own, unreachable pain, and how this often puts untenable pressure on relationships.”
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“When writing this story, I was thinking explicitly about a tendency in players to play games as murderous kleptomaniacs.”
“Interracial love has been codified and digitized, and we’ve found that it sells less ads, is less addictive, than its alternative.”
“I think so much art—especially cinema—acts as an instruction manual for women.”