The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: This. This. This. Is. Love. Love. Love. by Jennifer Wortman

This selection, chosen by Managing Editor Krista Cox, is an excerpt from This. This. This. Is. Love. Love. Love. by Jennifer Wortman, released by Split Lip Press in 2019. 

Excerpt from “Which Truth, Patricia?”

            Nathan’s driving but it feels like falling, and in the fading day he sees nothing but the road, not the wooded hills or cornfields or farms or the nice new houses on the outskirts of town or the shabby houses at town’s edge, and even the road he barely sees, having driven it so many times years ago, the road between his small college town and her bigger small town, between his house and her smaller house, and as he approaches her Nixon-era ranch on a street of like ranches, he seems to float, a parachute spreading as he drifts to ground. Dead leaves, the same sapphire-gray as everything in the dimming light, layer the yard. The big oak. Shrubs. Decorative brick. His mother suddenly dead; his sudden trip home; his father telling the story—“I came home and . . . ” —again and again; the excess of flowers and well-meaning people; the ludicrous God-talk from church-going locals; the absurd comforts from professors who believed nothing; the brand-new holiness of his mother’s piles of crap; the siege of all the ways he’d been a bad son: all leading here, always here, to Angie’s door.

            He’s here. She can feel it. That opening in her throat; that perfect awareness of her mouth. Consumed by the need to consume. Keep washing. Bubbles sparkle. Sponge whispers against plate. When you wash dishes, wash dishes, Buddhists say.

            He’s here!

            Her sponsor said not to go to the service and she didn’t. Because she’s learned to be good and careful. Every fucking minute of the day. Plus, how much better that he came to her? Some part of her knew he would. The same part that’s been waiting six years for this, the same part that always wants a drink. Then again, she doesn’t really know he’s here. It could be—is probably—her wishful addict’s thinking. She should open the door and check. But her mother. Her daughter. Wash the dishes. Bubbles. Plate.

            All those years, her mother had trusted her because it was less work to trust her and her mother already worked so hard. Before Nathan, Angie had stayed out of trouble, kept up in school. With boys, just kisses, not sex. If she ever fell in love, she’d thought, she would have so much sex. Sex was the opposite of being abandoned. Had her parents stopped having sex? Is that why her dad left? Her mother blamed the booze. It was easier than blaming herself. In that picture Angie had kept under her bed, her dad wore old jeans and a brown plaid shirt, a farm-boy cap, his feet a good yard apart, making a mountain out of his skinny self. His eyes are shadowed, his grin, huge. As if the grin itself is a joke. On the person behind the camera: her mom. On the viewer: her.

            Now she’s an adult, so to speak; her mother doesn’t trust her anymore and she’s glad. Maybe if her mother had been a different so of person, lazy, happy, unpragmatically less trusting, maybe if her mother had been the opposite of herself then she, Angie, would be the opposite of herself. Would be better.

Jennifer Wortman is the author of the story collection This. This. This. Is. Love. Love. Love. (Split/Lip Press, 2019), named the Westword Best of Denver 2020 pick for best new short-story collection, the 2019 Foreword INDIES bronze winner for short stories, and a finalist for the Colorado Book Awards and the High Plains Book Awards. Her work appears in TriQuarterly, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Electric Literature, Brevity, Best Small FictionsBest Microfictions, and elsewhere, and has been cited as distinguished in Best American Short Stories. A recipient of fellowships from MacDowell and the National Endowment for the Arts, she lives with her family in Colorado, where she teaches at Lighthouse Writers Workshop and serves as associate fiction editor for Colorado Review.


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