Frontier Psychiatrist

Archive for the ‘Words’ Category

Last week, we published Khaliah Williams’ What the Bay Broke, a somber short story about summer spouse swapping in Cape Cod. After its publication, we chatted with Williams via email about the inspiration for the story, her literary life, adultery, Vampire Weekend, and what her graduate work at Iowa Writers Workshop taught her about writing and whiskey.  

Where did you get the idea for “What the Bay Broke” and where did the title come from?

I pulled that story from a lot of different places, including my own struggles with learning to love someone besides myself, unrequited love, and standing up for myself. I also like the idea of someone who is slightly terrified of the beach owning a beach house. But the real inspiration for this story came from a trip to Cape Cod in September of 2009. I was there with a group of friends for a wedding and sometime around midnight (fueled by wine) we decided to go down to the beach.  I lost one of my sandals in the water and one of my friends found it two days later. That’s always stuck with me, that sometimes the water will take something away and it just might come back to you. This will sound silly, but I have no idea where the title came from. I’m terrible with titles, and I often run with suggestions from other people. T. Geronimo Johnson (whose book Hold it ‘Til it Hurts comes out in September) re-titled what eventually became my graduate thesis in workshop one day. The title story was “The Heart Stops Beating When You Least Expect It” and he suggested a more manageable “Until the Heart Stops Beating.” He probably doesn’t remember that. But the new title had so much elegance to it that I kept it and than began writing a lot of stories around that idea. Besides, I like titles that start with the word ‘what’.

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It was Clay who suggested that they invite another couple for that last weekend. His college roommate Craig and his wife Lisa had recently transplanted themselves from Golden, Minnesota for the more harried pace of New York.  Because the three weeks Olivia and Clay spent in Wellfleet differed little from their lives in the city—just the two of them and the alley cat they’d adopted the year before—it was without hesitation that Olivia agreed to the intruders. She said it would give her a reason to get the house in shape for the summer renters. She hadn’t known Craig and Lisa long but unlike Clay’s other friends they were unpretentious and uninterested in art openings and coffee appointments with moderately famous—but fading—artists like Clay or other young, promising artists with whom Olivia often shared gallery space.  Even though they lived in the same city it seemed as if their worlds were still so very far apart. Craig worked a nine to five in a suit somewhere in midtown and Lisa taught long division to third graders. They reminded Olivia of people she had known growing up and Clay seemed to like the idea of having a friend around who was still impressed by his decision to take photographs of decaying urban landscapes.

Olivia looked forward to a break in the monotony. She’d already gone through a stack of books, nearly finished two cases of wine and cooked the more complicated meals in her Moroccan cookbook. They had fucked spontaneously in the house’s numerous rooms and made the same tired jokes about being able to have a choice of which room to have sex in. In those slick, blissful moments they would hold each other close and contemplate a life together in the house year round just the two of them—maybe the cat.  The idea of such a quiet life depressed her, and so it was with ease that she would return to their comfortable and familiar two-bedroom apartment in the city. The weeks in Wellfleet were lazy and decadent but life there felt small and was just enough of a fantasy that she was always glad to return to New York. In the city, things could change, they could expand.

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Sons of Dionysus

A Transmedia Novel of Myth, Mirth, and the Magical Excess of Youth.