The Fate of Others

  For Adam and Emily Chiles

1.

They spent the early afternoon talking about literature and history and the currents of American life, all with that guarded conviviality of new in-laws—Billy Jordan and his wife Michelle’s father, the distinguished poet Thomas Fearing. Because Michelle had to complete her midterm exam in musical composition by that evening, she couldn’t do much more that first day than take a coffee and sandwich break with them. This was the third stop on Fearing’s thirty-two-city tour for his new volume, A Faltering, a Rising: New and Selected Poems, 2008–2018. The plan was to spend three days with Michelle and Jordan, and then head back to Phoenix and catch a plane west to Los Angeles, and then San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle. He had driven down from Phoenix in a rented Honda, and brought with him a bottle of Glenlivet and six bottles of wine as a gift.

After sitting with the men for an hour, sipping a glass of pinot gris while they drank Bordeaux, Michelle went on with her studying. She had seemed relaxed, anyway, talking about life with her father, and managing to avoid—without seeming to—the subject of her mother’s mental troubles. But she was quite casual and firm about staying behind in the little house on Coral Street while the two men drove over to the college in the Honda.

At the college there would be a reception followed by dinner, the reading, the after-reading party, and finally, of course, the inevitable barhopping.

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