We recently published Michele Finn Johnson’s searing “Hunger, Listen, Thirst.”
Here, we ask her two questions about her story:
1) I like how the narrator calls the baby’s father “the man who is the baby’s father” or simply “the baby’s father.” For me, this gives a really clear indication of their connection … or lack thereof! Did you ever consider having her call him anything else, or is this really the only option she has?
As soon as I wrote the line—”He’s a man who stayed when we both know he would’ve been long gone by now, if not for the circumstance.”—I knew the father would remain nameless in the story. His only tie to the narrator’s life is because of this baby, and I imagine she can’t help but feel the thinness of this tie every time he points out yet another failure on her part as a nurturer. He also seems to take his role as the baby’s father seriously with his tip-toeing and baby-burping and amazing catalog of nursery rhymes. That title defines him in this household; he’s certainly not a lover anymore, which is something our narrator hungers for.
2) The baby and the father both show how they aren’t satisfied, how the narrator can’t satisfy them fast enough or in the ways they want. But she is unsatisfied as well, though her feelings simmer below the surface, quietly. Do you think she will ever let them — let anyone — know exactly how she feels?
I’d love it if she would! The narrator in this moment of life is so incredibly overwhelmed and over-needed, it’d be a miracle if she had the time for self-assessment. She’s in total sacrificial mode for the benefit of the baby, but pretty soon she’ll wean him and get some bits of herself back. That seed of hunger for more is definitely there. She’s listening for some hope in the baby’s father’s throat, but I’m pretty sure that’s a dead end. I wouldn’t be surprised if she has her own equivalent moment of banging on a plastic tray of CheeriosTM in the not-to-distant future. Maybe once she finally gets a solid night’s sleep!