An interview with alumnus Matthew Zanoni Muller (fiction, ’10) about his story “Presence” appears online at NANO Fiction:
Will McCarry: Your piece “Presence” appears in our most recent issue of NANOFiction, 7.1. It’s a really great look at a day in the mundane life of an old woman who has lost her husband. I found it easy to relate to because everyone at some point in their life has known a lonely old person. Does this piece draws from someone you’ve known in real life, or if it is completely fictionalized?
Matthew Müller: I do not know the old woman in this story though I have seen her. She lives on a road near where I work during the summers. The description of her trailer and property are all relatively faithful to the actual place where she lives. I noticed her because I became interested in something I began to notice on my drives to and from work or to pick up supplies (I paint houses during the summer). It was that people would sit out in front of their houses to watch the traffic going by just to be close to the action, no matter how limited. There was a couple who set up lawn chairs in their driveway and would park themselves there with a cooler. Other times I’d see people out on their porches or front lawns, just sitting and watching. I know this seems pretty obvious and normal, but what I began to think about was how people in general still want to be connected to the life that’s going on around them outside of their home, some version of the life of their community. I think that television has to some extent taken this away from us. We watch shows about people we do not know, and our community with these people takes place on a much larger national scale. In essence, anyone, anywhere in the country can tune in and see these same people. What is more difficult nowadays, I believe, is to get closer to a sense of connectedness or relationship with the people that actually live near us and in a sense share our lives. This is something that television can’t replace, so people will still come and sit in their driveways, their front lawns, or their porches. Her little place of connection was to my mind one of the saddest ones. She was down a slight incline inside of this glassed-in porch, a mud room really, where she had to look up at the road. But this was still better than being cooped up or hidden somewhere in her kitchen or shadowy living room.
Listen to a recording of “Presence” and finish reading the interview online at NANO Fiction.