We recently published Beth Moulton’s brilliant “Tongue Tied.”
Here, we ask her two questions about her story:
1) The woman the narrator visits is never identified — it could be anyone, which is a really neat choice, I think. Do you have an idea who the narrator was visiting?
I do not know the relationship between the two people. I was drawn to the idea that the woman in the hospital could be anyone, leaving the readers to imagine for themselves the relationship between the visitor and the sick woman. I think the mystery of who the woman is unsteadies the readers in the same way that the woman and her visitor would be unsteadied in this setting, a setting that no one can imagine themselves in until they land there, as if arriving in a foreign place where they do not know the language and cannot speak the names.
2) That last image for me is so strong, I love the idea of the silent tongues of shoes, how they keep secrets. What made you choose this imagery?
Shoes are universal, yet they can be so different, just like people. There are many shoes without tongues or laces, but I have seen folks walking around with unlaced shoes with the tongues flapping around, and that image stuck with me, as if I had to make sense of it somehow. As with many short stories, it took a long time to find the right words. But when I thought of the tongues of the shoes as physical tongues, that can move or be restrained, and when I remembered that the lace-holes are called eyelets, it was as if I had solved a puzzle. I then needed a setting where the unrestrained tongues and unblinded eyes would be some brief concession to an illness, instead of, perhaps, the cause of the illness, and restraint would be considered normal. That took more time. I enjoy writing stories where everyday events, like unlaced shoes, can be twisted just a little and then become something entirely different.