“The Idea of Marcel” from the collection Safe as Houses by Marie-Helene Bertino
University of Iowa Press

I don’t really do fantasy realism. Is that even a term that applies to anything? Regardless, some stuff in this story is clearly fiction within fiction, or shall we say, hallucinogenic prose.

Emily is going on a date with her ex Marcel and she’s a bit nervous. He shows up as the guy she wants him to be, not the douche bag he is. They sit, as couples do, dinner, and all that goes with it. She is really impressed that he has changed. He admits to being 180 from what he was, and for all real and imagined purposes this date sounds good. Then it goes into the alternate universe, which rubbed me the wrong way. But that’s okay, the story is on greased rails and Bertino soothes my fears and teaches me to tread water in this new version of the date we just saw.

Marcel is now out with his ideal Emily, all the things the real Emily is not. And it’s like watching a shooting star. The real Emily is trouncing around watching this date from the shadows, she knows way more than she should mostly because she is miffed at all the things she should be, or could be. It’s like watching trying to catch a dealer dealing from the bottom of the deck; humming birds couldn’t see these moves.

I can’t really spill any more about this story because it will really spoil it, but if you haven’t called your local bookstore to inquire about this book, you should.