Welcome, Patricia Horvath!

This month we are celebrating the titles that we’ve acquired over the past twelve months. These manuscripts came to us through our open reading periods. Today we bring you Patricia Horvath, whose short story collection But Now Am Found is due out next spring. 

Have a manuscript you think we’d like? During our June Open Reading Period we are looking for poetry (chapbooks and full-length collections), short fiction (again, both chapbooks and full-length collections), novels, novellas, nonfiction (CNF, biography, cultural studies), anthology proposals, and translations from German. 



The Author

Patricia Horvath is the author of the memoir All the Difference (Etruscan Press). Her stories and essays have been published widely in literary journals including Shenandoah, F(r)iction, New Ohio Review, The Los Angeles Review, and Confrontation. She is the recipient of New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowships in both fiction and literary nonfiction, the Goldenberg Prize for Fiction at Bellevue Literary Review, and The Frank O’Connor Fiction Award at Descant. Since 2001 she has served as a fiction editor at The Massachusetts Review. She teaches at Framingham State University in Massachusetts.



On Writing But Now Am Found

I wrote But Now Am Found over the course of several years while I was also working on my memoir, All the Difference (Etruscan Press, 2017). I write out of what I term vexation and inquiry: something is bothering me and I write to try to figure it out. The stories in this collection are mainly concerned with the idea of loss in its myriad guises: loss of agency, of health, loss of illusion or of loved ones. Taken together, the stories examine the resiliency of the human spirit confronted by abrupt and rending change.

Mostly the stories were written in New York, where I live, but also at The Hedgebrook Writers’ Colony, in Puget Sound, The Blue Mountain Center on Indian Lake in the Adirondacks, The Millay Colony for the Arts, and the Can Serrat Artists’ Center in El Bruc, Spain. I am grateful to all of these places for their support, as I am to The New York Foundation for the Arts and to Framingham State University, where I teach.

Wakey Nights

            Fifteen across, five letters: Night in Nicaragua.  She wrote noche, she wrote it in pen.  Do the easy ones first.

            Her coffee had turned cold, dregs of the pot. Behind her eyes a steady thrum.  She squinted, blurring words, rubbed her eyes with chafed knuckles.

            Twenty-one across, seven letters: Site of Triangle.  Do the easy ones first because it was important to be methodical.  She smoked in this way, lighting each new cigarette at half-hour intervals, five cigarettes so far.

            Bermuda, where planes went down.  She filled in the letters, all caps.

            She did not know why she’d wakened so early, sitting up in bed, hugging her knees, telling herself it was nothing, this headache, a mother’s low anxiety.  Silly to bundle into her robe, grope her way down the hall to her daughter’s room where the bed was untouched, sheets taut, hospital-like in their precision.  She pulled back the comforter as though perhaps.  Foolish, she said aloud.  A broken curfew, that was all, she should be angry.

For a while she’d played solitaire, spreading cards on the kitchen table, listening to the oldies station.  But the cards were alarming—suicide king, ace of spades, that jack with the axe at his head.  Why depict them that way?  And the crackle of words on the radio.  Happy Meal, Proof of Purchase, Drive By, State Lines.  In her rush to switch it off, she’d upset the ashtray, spilling butts onto the floor.

            The cigarettes were her daughter’s.  She’d found them, two unopened packs, hidden in the girl’s bureau.  Two packs of Kools, five condoms in garish red wrappers, blue eye shadow, drugstore perfume.  No address book, not in any of the drawers.

            She hadn’t known about the cigarettes, nor the condoms, certainly not those.  So there were boys—no, a boy—someone hunched in a leather jacket, mumbling, or earnest perhaps, with short hair and a football sweater.  Could this be right?  What were they like now, boys?  And what else didn’t she know?  Scribbling notes on yellow Post Its: Do the laundry, do your homework, there’s casserole for the microwave, Love.  Hefting patients twice her weight to get at bedpans, prodding for veins, rubbing lotion into torsos, reaching to change glucose bags, untangling wires, retying gowns until her arms ached and her feet swelled in the white shoes she kicked off the moment she got home each night, her daughter already asleep or maybe, she thought now, pretending.  Because what did she really know?          

            Sixteen and sneaky-quiet, whip thin.  A temper that could wear anyone down.  Wailing, Why, why can’t I ever have the car, what’s the point in my even getting a license?

            Suspect, victim, barricade, police sketch, until she’d turned the damned thing off, knocking ashes to the floor.

            Danger, she knew, was everywhere.  No need to leave home.  Candles sparked blazes, stoves leaked gas, animals turned rabid, even food concealed toxins.  Still, one could take heed.  Seal cracks, lock doors, read labels.  One could control things indoors.

You keep that cell phone on, she’d warned.  But ma, the movies, c’mon!  And now it rang, uselessly.

Fourteen down: Father of Rome.  She knew that one.  She had to think.

            The sun was beginning to  rise, dim shapes taking form in her neighbor’s yard—swing set, sandbox, hedges.  Somewhere a penned up dog was trying to bark itself free.

The geraniums shivered in their boxes, a sudden wind scattering dead leaves across the empty driveway. Make sure you’re home by midnight and—I mean it—you leave that phone on.  But she’d never listened, not through years of piled up words: Now I Lay Me, Drink Your Milk, Don’t Wiggle That Tooth, Clean Your Room, Put It Under The Pillow, Look Both Ways, I Don’t Care What The Other Kids, Once A Month Yes I Know, Don’t Talk Back, Two For Cramps, Take An Umbrella, Keep Your Phone On, Twelve O’clock, Period.

            Years of words.  Reprimands, sweetness.  Honey and baby and bun.  Honey bun, baby cakes, I could eat you, gobble gobble.  Blowing air into a tiny navel, the girl wriggling, shrieking, kicking fat legs in delight.  Then—later—Ma, don’t call me that why can’t you just use my name?  Summer days, strawberries rinsed from the hose, her daughter running naked through the sprinkler, not caring who might see.  Or blizzards, the house swaddled in snow, a perfect, muffled world.  Just the two of them, the way it she’d planned it, right from the start. You and me, pal.  Popcorn, Old Maid, anatomy texts piled on the table, studying late into the night so she could pass the exam, earn her pin take care of them always.  You and me, who needs anyone else?

            If she could sleep.  Lose herself in the murky world, wake to brightness.  Her daughter eating breakfast, rumpled and defensive with some last-second excuse.  Her own relief calcifying to anger.  “Wakey nights” she called these sleepless hours.  Wakey nights cooing the girl through some babyhood terror. Sandman, Mr. Sandman, bring me a dream….  Telling her about his castle of sand with its sandy furniture and turrets and moat and Yes, I’ll build one for us, a castle with a drawbridge; we’ll live there someday

On the page, order and sense. Father of Rome, seven letters.  There were two, though, twin infants with their sucking mouths.  Romulus, Remus, abandoned to die but for the wolf. 

            A car pulled into the driveway.  A car!  Not hers. Two men in trench coats stepped from a dark green sedan.

Abandoned, but why?  And what had happened to the wolf?

The men conferred by the hood of the car.  One of them pointed. 

The puzzle was filling too quickly.  She needed to slow down.  She needed coffee, fresh coffee, to quell the pounding in her head.  It was louder now, it competed with the knocking on the door.

Two men in trench coats, they could not come in. 

            Ma’am, she heard.  Ma’am, please.

            But it was only grief that would find her, grief on the other side of the door, banging, insistent, and what was another word for that?