Marie-Helene Bertino, "Edna in Rain"


It's December 7. Marie-Helene Bertino, author of 2 a.m. at the Cat's Pajamas, carries an umbrella when she remembers to.

How would you describe your story?

MARIE-HELENE BERTINO: Poor umbrella-less Edna shoulders through raining exes while walking to the coffee shop.

When did you write it, and how did the writing process compare to your other work?

MHB: I just checked to see when I wrote the first version and to my surprise it was in September of 2011. It was called "Tell Me Everything" for three versions, one version in 2012 was titled "Make Hay While The Sun Shines," then it spent a few years being called "Ave, Ave" before going into six versions with its current title. I heard the sound of the last line before I wrote the story, which happens when I'm lucky.

What kind of research went into this story?

MHB: Once in a while I'll be walking somewhere and suddenly feel the ghosts of past relationships, romantic and platonic, hanging on me. I've also worked as a barista. I confess I put a few of my girlfriend's exes into this story, too. I borrow my dear friend Manuel Gonzales's answer from last year re: being a fiction writer.

What, to you, makes the short story a special form? What can it do that other kinds of writing can't?

MHB: A short story can wholly slay you in twenty pages. A small, perfect punch to the throat. Like Steven Millhauser said about the short form, "smallness is the realm of perfection."

Where should people go to learn more about you and your work?

MHB: Find my mother in a red kitchen in Philadelphia circa 2001. There are also a few people in California, Pennsylvania and New York who have a good idea. But if time travel's not your thing:

What's the best gift you've ever been given?

MHB: My favorite gifts are those that people have made with their two hands. My mother made me a lamp out of an antique candlestick telephone—you lift the receiver to turn the light on and off. My uncle built me a wooden curio for my jewelry and keepsakes. My husband made me a book trailer for my first collection.

* * * * *

What did you think of today's story? Use the hashtag #ssac2017 on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to check in with your fellow advent calendarians.

Michael Hingston