Susan Tepper: Misti, I had difficulty choosing from your work because you write so many good pieces. But I decided to go with “Bad Wiring“ for this chat because it seems to contain a universal theme vis a vis women and men. You write:
She was a defective model. He wanted to send her back but no one would take her.
I don’t think there is a woman dead or alive that hasn’t felt that way at least one time in her life. Now I’m going way out on a limb here by saying: Despite the Womens’ Movement, it’s still a man’s world.
Misti Rainwater-Lites: Thanks, Susan. It’s absolutely a man’s world. I say this with all the weight of almost four decades of life at the poverty level in America behind me. I’ve spent time in three different mental hospitals, given birth twice, been married and divorced twice, begged men in various topless bars to give me tips so my boyfriend wouldn’t leave me and been betrayed by numerous women (including my own mother) because of men. We don’t need a new wave of feminism in America. We need a tsunami. I’m willing to sacrifice my lipstick and my eyeliner if I have to but I refuse to put down my vibrator and my pen.
Susan: Damn straight. And keep that pen and vibrator going.
Your stories and poems are all voice and color. They burst on the page, they murmur, they scream. But they do not bore. In this particular story “Bad Wiring“, we get a whole world in a flash fiction. You write:
It seemed she was all his until she completely broke down. Then he could scrap her and go shopping. The idea of that shiny day kept him going.
Now where I see the brilliance that is unique to your voice, is your choice of the word “shiny.” That shiny day… One word and it turns this piece into very black humor. But, humor. Not simply a dark passage of writing.
Misti: Humor is natural for me. I wrote a short ghost story a few months ago and it was published online. When I went back and read it a couple of weeks ago I laughed out loud. This happens a lot. I tend to shy away from genre but the few times that I have written erotica, pornography, science fiction or horror, my weird sense of humor infiltrates the tone. When I was a kid, whenever I was in a bad mood my mom and maternal grandmother would poke fun at me by singing a song that went “nobody loves me everybody hates me I’m going to eat a worm” or by telling me, “You’ve got the same little britches to get glad in.” You can’t come out of a childhood like that without a strong sense of humor intact. My favorite novel of all time is Slaughterhouse-Five. Kurt Vonnegut was the master of black humor. And my favorite comedian is the late Bill Hicks. His rage fueled his hilarious commentary. I love that, the marriage of rage and humor.
Susan: the marriage of rage and humor is so perfect for describing your work, Misti. Now in this story we have a group of poet friends (hmm… poets…always a risky venture) haha! But it all seems to circle around the theme of the imperfect woman, or as you write “the defective wife.” That is such a big issue for women over the age of 25! I’m way older than 25 but I don’t feel old. Yet, statistically, today, women are tossed aside for much younger women at a greater rate than ever before in history. Ours is a money driven culture and it all boils down to economics. The sugar-daddy syndrome alive and thriving. You write:
The husband and the valuable associate entered the kitchen to find the bad wife mopping the linoleum, naked except for a pair of red high heels, screaming along to an Iron Maiden song that was blasting from the stereo. Well, he thought, at least she’s finally taking in interest in housework.
The image is kind of almost classic. It’s funny, due to the nudity, but the red high heels give it an old-time sitcom feeling, sort of Donna Reed on acid.
Misti: I married late by Texas standards. I was 27 when I married my first husband. We had horrible fights. He had never lived with a woman before. He came from a protective, close-knit, middle class New York Italian family. I come from an extremely dysfunctional working class Texas family. We came together because of a mutual respect and admiration for each other’s writing but that wasn’t enough to keep us together for any length of time. One of our worst fights occurred in a grocery store parking lot the night before Thanksgiving. He wanted me to go inside the store and buy a turkey. I was in no frame of mind for shopping. He tried to force me out of the car and it got real ugly real quick. My second husband was much more tolerant of my idiosyncrasies and weird mood swings. He never expected me to bake a turkey.
Susan: The way you bring your emotional life into the work feels seamless. A dysfunctional marriage leading to a story of a dysfunctional marriage. Quite lovely to be able to accomplish this. It isn’t easy, many writers shirk from their “truth.” In method acting we were taught to dig into that stuff and use it in the role. I think you could easily be an actor, Misti, if you ever tire of the writing life.
Read “Bad Wiring“ by Misti Rainwater-Lites
Monday Chat is a bi-weekly series in which Susan Tepper has a conversation with a Fictionaut writer about one of his or her stories. Susan’s new book From the Umberplatzen is a collection of linked-flash published by Wilderness House Press.