The Whispering Arch by Anne Valente
Shale stands at the right-angled edge of the Welsh Baby Carriage Factory roof, an edge pointing at once east to the Mississippi River and north toward Busch Stadium. The Factory is an upside-down F, a rooftop corner where Shale takes breaks to watch the water only four blocks away, a river glittering with the reflection of St. Louis streetlamps instead of the sun long gone in autumn’s early light. He sets down the blueprints for future homes, the building codes and zoning laws for historic preservation. He looks toward the stadium, floodlights visible on a swath of empty red seats, stands that will be packed for Game 3 in only three days. His handheld radio blares Game 1. The third inning of the 2004 World Series in Fenway Park. The Red Sox already up seven to two over the Cardinals, KMOX broadcaster Mike Shannon’s voice already winded of energy and steam, a game that keeps Shale company as he works a late Saturday alone.
Historic preservation: A remediation of 1870s factory space into loft apartments. A factory in the heart of downtown, a design project he spearheaded, new living spaces for families from the ruins of industry. A team organized in April, structural specialists and electrical engineers and a general contractor. A team that once called him Mr. Shale and then John and now only Shale as the project nears completion. The Welsh Baby Carriage Factory built in 1875 for the production of shoes, then for baby carriages and then a mental institution and then a commercial haunted house, nine stories of terror a few men on the team remember visiting before it shut down and became a storage facility for Halloween costumes. So many ghosts whispering through half-completed lofts filled with history, Shale’s contractor Jane Patel says, ghosts she claims she can still hear.
The radio crackles with a spike in Mike Shannon’s voice, a fourth-inning rally of Cardinal runs when the Red Sox’s pitcher walks four batters. Shale picks up the blueprints. He glances toward Busch Stadium, scheduled to be torn down, the new ballpark already in construction beside it. He glimpses the old stadium’s classic arches, sold-out stands he’ll see from the Factory’s roof in three days. A game Carson would have cherished, the Cardinals’ first World Series appearance in the entirety of his seven-year-old life. A game even greater than the West County Warriors Little League division he’d won last year before they visited St. Louis’s Union Station together for the first time, right before Shale bought him ice cream and Carson stood on the other end of the Whispering Arch with a mint chip cone, right before Shale spoke into the Arch’s curve and his son disappeared.
Union Station: an architectural marvel, a National Historic Landmark designed by the same man who built Forest Park’s palaces for the 1904 World’s Fair. At its opening in 1894, the world’s largest passenger train depot that buzzed through the Great Depression and the Second World War before renovation past the 1970s into shops and restaurants and a hotel. Still enfolded in the hotel’s lobby: the Whispering Arch. A remnant of the depot’s Grand Hall where passengers once gathered. A semicircle entryway, a protracted parabola. A structural secret Shale would share with his son.
He stood with Carson in the Grand Hall beneath the Allegorical Window, a Tiffany stained glass beneath the entry arch depicting three women, three connected cities by rail in 1894: San Francisco, St. Louis, New York. Hands shaped that glass over a hundred years ago, he told Carson, and the marble arch above it. Carson looked up, eyes tracing the contours of glass, palms curled around the mint chip cone in his hands. Shale told him the arch held a secret, discovered in construction when a worker dropped a hammer and another heard the sound clear on the other side of the Grand Hall. The Whispering Arch. The softest of echoes across the largest roof span in America, traveling through the coil of the entryway above the stained-glass window to the painter’s ear on the other side. A local phenomenon for those who knew it, a bearer of prom date propositions and murmured marriage proposals, so many private declarations caught in the smooth bend of hundred-year marble. Shale told Carson to stand at one end and crossed the Grand Hall to the entryway’s other end.
Shale remembers looking back, Carson standing in the Arch’s corner. The sea-green beacon of his mint chip cone. He remembers a middle-aged couple sitting in the hotel lobby, suitcases beside their chairs. He remembers whispering into the Arch’s symmetrical curve, a perfect equation. He can’t remember what he said. If it was Good job on the division win. If it was I love you. If it was You are the best decision I could have made. He knows it wasn’t the last though the blue wash of regret lets him believe sometimes that it was. He remembers only leaning in and hearing silence in return and looking back to the Arch’s other end where there was nothing but the bright splash of dropped ice cream on the lobby floor, his son gone, the couple still seated in their chairs.
Shale arrives at the Factory mid-afternoon on Sunday, a late morning past a late night of surveying the first five of the building’s scheduled 132 loft apartments. He walked through every one of them, checking pipes and testing electrical wiring and listening to the Cardinals lose Game 1. Redbird rallies in the fourth and sixth and eighth but not enough to top the Red Sox’s thirteen runs. He once avoided working weekends but the Factory feels more livable each day he renovates, more like home than the one-story ranch he leaves behind in West County every morning.
St. Louis’s late October sun warms the Factory roof but the building’s interior stays winter-cold without windows and central heating. He wears a black ski jacket. He moves from room to room. He eyes every brick wall and exposed beam for traces of asbestos and lead paint, the main contaminants the team eradicated before design began. He knows construction is in charge of removing toxins but can’t stop himself from identifying every danger future tenants face, from making sure risk is erased completely.
He stops in the center of the skeleton of a two-bedroom apartment, its structural beams in place for building walls. He closes his eyes. Hears a light wind ricochet through the steel and wood. Imagines a family moving in. One child. Two parents, even still. He never married. Never had a partner. He knew only and always that he wanted a child, that he would adopt, an incalculable want beyond the mathematics of design.
No rest for the weary, a voice behind him calls. Jane Patel’s voice, the general contractor, a voice he knows without looking.
I could say the same to you. Sunday afternoon work?
I was here late on Friday, she says. Heard strange noises in the courtyard. I just wanted to make sure no one broke in.
Shale knows she means the outdoor pool, still in construction, an empty well of concrete she’s been supervising since late September. He knows Jane has a family: a husband, two small girls. Clara and Alice. He remembers their names.
The kids let you get away on a Sunday?
Hardly. This is the first bit of time I’ve had to myself. I’m expected back soon.
Backyard nature hunt. Clara has a project due in science class.
Shale remembers Clara is older, fifth grade, and that Alice is in kindergarten. He follows Jane through the half-built apartments and down hallways beneath 16-foot ceilings to the latched door that leads to the courtyard, an unfilled pool splashed in cold sunshine. Jane climbs down into the pool’s base and looks up toward the right angle where the courtyard walls meet, the corner of the building’s F-shape.
Shale stands at the pool’s edge. What was it you heard?
He expects her to say a rattling, someone jimmying the locks on the chain-link fences surrounding the construction site. But she looks toward the Factory’s brick walls, toward rows of floor-to-ceiling windows that will spill natural light into every apartment. He remembers what she said of ghosts, every voice the Factory’s history carries.
Or what was it you saw? he finally asks.
She shields her brow with her hand. You’ll think I’m crazy. But I swear I saw someone in that window. She points to a corner window on the fourth floor. I heard a tapping and I looked and there was a face and then it was gone.
Shale knows no one was here. He watched them all go home Friday night until only Jane was left standing in the courtyard, one of the only nights she outlasted him at work. He knows the Factory’s security is airtight, that no one else could have entered.
It’s been windy, Shale says. Probably gusts. Heard the same on the roof last night.
You were here? Jane squints up at him and says nothing more when he nods. She catches herself again, as she has before, in questioning him for working late. The only member of the team who knows about Carson, who once asked if he had a family too.
I should get home, she says at last. Just wanted to check.
Shale walks her to the construction fences and padlocks them behind her. She waves from the car window as she drives away. He glances up at the Factory windows, panes colorless and opaque, no match for an Allegorical Window. He believes nothing of industrial ghosts or baby carriages or the remnants of haunted house screams. He believes only in mistakes, in the fault of losing sight for a second, the only ghost the past can hold.
After dinner, Shale sits in his living room and listens to Mike Shannon preach Game 2 on KMOX. He could turn on the television, every game of the World Series broadcast on network, but prefers imagining each play with Shannon’s drawl. He holds a bag of peanuts, the shells cracked and salted in a bowl. As if he were in the stadium. As if Carson were here, the same peanuts he once brought to his son’s Little League games.
The announcer’s voice rises when Albert Pujols hits a double in the first, then sinks at the inning’s end when Cardinal pitcher Matt Morris gives up two runs. Red Sox up two-nothing in less than ten minutes. Shale sets down the peanuts and lowers the stereo. He heads to the bathroom but stops in the hallway before Carson’s room. The door open. The bedroom unchanged. Carson’s hamster still alive, a small heat lamp the only light in the room, the wheel’s spinning sometimes the only sound echoing through the entire house. Shale steps into the bedroom and thinks of Jane’s daughters. Thinks of the backyard nature hunt, imagines giving the hamster away. He sits down on Carson’s bed and pushes a finger through the cage’s wire, a grid of perfect rectangles, but the hamster remains buried beneath a pile of wood shavings.
Shale had searched the hotel lobby. The men’s bathroom, the women’s bathroom, anyplace Carson might have run quickly after throwing down his ice cream cone. Shale asked the concierge, the couple sitting in the lobby, his voice blooming in volume and panic. He hurried through Union Station’s halls of shops and back to the ice cream stand, the last place Carson might have thought to recall. He checked the Hard Rock Café and movie theater and the outdoor pond before finally calling the police.
The police waited a full 48 hours before issuing an AMBER.
The police dusted for prints, sought vehicle sightings, checked license plates.
The police had no leads, even now. The case, they claimed, was still open.
Shale hears the broadcast spike in the other room, the fuzzed roar of stadium songs rallying. Another Pujols double. Already the fourth inning. Shale glances at the bedroom wall where Carson’s Little League pennant still sticks, a flag pinned above the hamster’s cage right before they visited Union Station. He’d gone back so many times. For weeks and then months, in case Carson came back to the last place he knew. He’d sat in the lobby and watched hotel patrons and witnessed countless people send one another to the opposite side of the Whispering Arch. He saw parents lean in. Couples murmur undetectable words. He saw so many children’s faces light up when a message breathed just for them through the marble.
Shale stands and runs his fingers down the hamster cage’s bars, fur and teeth and small lungs he imagines on the nights he can’t sleep, the rolling rhythm of something alive. His eyes fall on Carson’s desk and their shelves, a bug box and magnifying glass his son never used. Jane’s daughter. The beetles and pill bugs in their backyard. He pulls the box and glass from the shelf and leaves the room, the bedroom door open, the cage’s lamp casting shadows against the walls.
Jane sits across from Shale taking notes for her construction and design teams. Monday morning meetings with zoning officials. Regulations for parking, for building surfaced lots, for preserving original exposed brick, for determining height requirements of loft ceilings. It isn’t until after lunch that he catches her in the Factory’s basement where the team plans to build a laundry room servicing all 132 apartments.
Watch the game last night? he asks. He holds a paper bag in his hands.
The girls aren’t much for baseball, but Devin and I tuned in after they went to bed. Jane glances up from her clipboard. It was a disaster. Another late-inning collapse.
I stopped listening after the eighth, Shale says.
He doesn’t say that he shut off the radio in the sixth inning when the game grew exciting for only a moment, the Cardinals tying the Red Sox seven to seven. He doesn’t say that he sat in the living room’s silence, the peanuts unshelled, the hamster’s wheel slowly spinning in the other room.
They have a travel day to recoup, he says. The home games should be better. He motions to Jane’s clipboard. Taking notes on the laundry room?
Hardly. She sets the clipboard down and pulls open the rusted door to the basement’s storage, an original edifice the team has used to deposit found debris. Among the tarnished cogs, the oxidized metal of old factory-line equipment that workers have accumulated in the storage closet, Jane points into the shadows toward a mottled pram.
Wow, he breathes. Did you just find this here?
I found it upstairs this morning. She hesitates. The room where I heard the noise.
Shale bends to the ground, runs his hand across the pram’s two tarnished wheels. He’s worked in the Factory every day since April, has never seen a remnant of Welsh Baby Carriage’s operation. He knows the entire building, each room, recalls the fourth-floor window Jane motioned toward in the courtyard.
That apartment’s beams aren’t even in place yet. Not the safest corner of the building to be exploring on your own. You brought this down here?
Utility elevator. Jane sighs. I had to see. I’ve been in that corner of the building a million times. A million times and I’ve never seen something like this.
Shale touches the baby carriage’s cloth hood, a band of fabric that feels diaphanous enough to dissolve beneath his fingers.
Anyway, I thought we should remove it, she says. Get it down here with the other building debris and storage. She moves away from the closet and Shale follows though he can still see the pram through the storage door’s slats.
Jane picks up her clipboard. I should get back upstairs.
Shale remembers the paper bag in his hands.
I’ve been meaning to catch you, he says. He extends his arm, an offering. She sets down the clipboard and reaches into the bag and touches the bug box’s screen. She pulls out the magnifying glass and looks up at him, her face unreadable.
For your daughter, he says. I thought she could use it for her school project.
Her eyes flinch, but she only smiles. Thank you, she says. She turns toward the utility elevator, the bag and clipboard in her hands. He steps in with her and presses the lever for the third floor, an afternoon meeting of adjusting blueprints for building codes.
This factory is huge, he says. There’s so much we could have missed on our first pass through so many rooms.
She nods but says nothing, the elevator doors closing on the Factory’s basement.
Shale drafts plans for the complex’s one-bedroom apartments through the afternoon, the second phase past establishing two-bedroom foundations. The crew leaves slowly as October’s dusk slants light through the floor-to-ceiling windows, including Jane who raises the paper bag in thanks, her mouth a thin line. Once the windows fill fully with the dark, Shale sets down his pencils and takes the stairs to the Factory’s roof. The crisp air a welcome shock, the movement of wind after so many hours inside.
Beyond the highway to the north sits the stadium, crimson stands glaring beneath floodlights, seats already being auctioned off for memorabilia collectors once the foundation is demolished. A baseball city. Busch Memorial an icon of St. Louis’s riverfront skyline. Shale remembers taking Carson to his first Cardinal game the year Mark McGwire chased the home run record, Carson only two but already holding up his baseball glove to catch foul balls. A stadium with ghosts. The same as any other structure readying to be torn down, the same as every other architecture. Shale glances down the edge of the Factory’s courtyard and finds the fourth-floor window Jane indicated. The window holding a face, a baby carriage. Holding nothing but history and dust.
Shale studies the panes and notices for the first time that every single one of the Factory’s windows is beveled by an arch.
He looks back at the ballpark. The stadium’s roof: a crown of arches scalloping the circumference. Ninety-six half-circles meant to echo the city’s Gateway Arch. He remembers sitting in the stands of the upper deck and hearing the wind whipping through each arch’s curve and how Carson pulled his t-shirt tighter around himself even though it was August, how the breeze bit through them as they shelled peanuts to the ground.
How Carson called the sound the ballpark’s whisper, a word he knew.
Its hum through the arches the same as a secret.
Shale is in the car before he can reconsider, before he can stop himself from steering toward Union Station. Where the police gently told him at last to go home, to let them do their job. Where he hasn’t been in months. He parks in the hotel’s garage and enters the lobby beneath the Allegorical Window, the Grand Hall a cavern of voices. Business travelers spilling from the hotel bar, their shouts and laughs, three women-as-cities in the Window’s stained glass looking out over all of them.
What did you see? He wants to ask them. Their stares unblinking, inanimate faces chiseled into glass by ancient hands. The Whispering Arch wheeling above them, the bend of a question. There are so many types of arches, Shale knows. Three-centered arches. Horseshoe arches. Gothic arches. Lancet arches. The Whispering Arch a perfect semicircle, rounder than the 96 inclined curves supporting Busch Stadium’s roof. The Gateway Arch: an inverted catenary where the links grew lighter in the center, the same shape of silken webbing, a spider’s perfect geometry. Shale remembers taking Carson to the St. Louis Science Center where children reassembled the Gateway Arch with padded blocks. How Carson held a larger block, base anchoring the center’s weight, still too short for the center reaches where older children stacked smaller and smaller blocks until they completed the curve, a teenage girl cheering as she wedged in the connecting piece.
Shale takes in the Grand Hall’s design, how so many arches crown the ceiling’s architecture. He wants to find his son in the bend of limestone. He wants to stand where Carson stood. His shoes find the lobby tiles where the mint cone pooled. He leans into the curvature of the arch and finds a gilded plaque, what he never noticed before: The Whispering Arch—an architectural accident or the shearer of secrets? Shale closes his eyes and imagines the arches above the Factory’s rows and rows of windows, a secret only Jane saw. Elliptical arches. Segmented cement. So many curved conduits, so many tunnels reaching up from the past. His task preservation, with the factory and with his only son. The hotel-bar echo through the lobby, voices rollercoasting across the vaulted ceilings. A hall of mirrors, a hall of memory. Entire lives enclosed in the edifice of brick.
Game 3 crackles through the handheld radio, a packed stadium Shale can hear on the brisk wind lashing through downtown. The din of car horns. The faint piping of organ songs warming up the stands only four blocks away. Shale sinks into the basin of the Factory’s pool, the shallow end’s concrete cool against his back. The game begins with a Roberto Clemente Award for player retirement, with Stan Musial’s ceremonial first pitch caught by another former Cardinal. A crowd cheering the past, the sound bouncing against stadium walls scheduled for demolition. Shale watches the Factory’s rows of windows as the Red Sox take the lead in the first inning. A grid of symmetry, so many seamless quadrangles and arches. Perfect equations of mathematics that still hold a secret. The Cardinals end the first inning without a run and Shale focuses on the fourth-floor window where Jane saw a face. He sees nothing, no more animated than the blank stares of painted women in Union Station’s stained glass. He focuses until he hears a noise, the rattle of chains, and looks up to see Jane making her way through the construction fence.
Working late again, I see, she says. She sits beside him on the pool steps.
I could say the same to you. Heading home?
Just locking up before I pick up dinner for the girls. Thanks for the bug box, by the way. Clara loves it, and Alice has taken a shine to the magnifying glass.
I’m glad they’re going to good use, Shale says.
Mike Shannon announces the top of the third and Jane hesitates, the beat of a breath Shale can hear. How are you doing? she asks at last. I mean, about your son.
Shale keeps his eyes on the corner window. I’m doing fine.
Jane follows his gaze to the fourth-floor panes. You don’t seem fine.
Shale flinches at the first words she’s broached in months about Carson. He’s told her only that his son disappeared. The term kidnap she surely saw in the news. He watches the windowpanes and wonders what he can say, what words he can spill that will sound halfway sane.
There was an arch, he finally says. The Whispering Arch. In Union Station.
I know the one. Jane slides from the pool steps and leans beside him against the pool’s wall. I’ve taken the girls there before.
That’s where Carson disappeared. We were speaking to each another. It sounds crazy, I know, but I can’t make sense of it. He was there and then he was gone.
Jane nods toward the corner window. You’re not the only one who sounds crazy.
The noise of the crowd rises on the breeze through the Factory’s courtyard and the radio fizzles to life with two Cardinal runners on base.
I remember when the last trains pulled out of Union Station, Jane says. I was just a kid. I remember because it was Halloween. We were trick-or-treating and I had on a scratchy witch’s costume and my father wanted to see the last trains go.
Shale wonders if Union Station has a basement, the same as the Factory. A crypt of trains caverned in an underground tunnel like the baby carriage in the storage closet.
I lost a child once too, Jane says softly. The broadcast breaks between innings, no Cardinal score. Not like you, she says, but I lost a child between Clara and Alice.
Shale recalls the distance between her two daughters, kindergarten and fifth grade. The word miscarriage on his tongue though he can’t bring himself to speak it.
You mentioned arches, Jane says. She motions toward the rows of windows, their beveled crowns. Arches comforted me through that time.
How do you mean, he says. The radio buzzes, the top of the fourth.
I’d just finished design school. We studied Roman ruins, Mayan tombs. How arches were in every single one of them, an in-between. A safe passage.
In between what, Shale says, though he already knows the answer.
I imagined my son there too.
Shale’s throat catches. He feels her shift against the cool of the concrete.
We were far enough along to know he would’ve been a boy.
The radio booms with a Red Sox run, the start of a win sliding toward a series sweep and Shale imagines every arch above every window as a bridge, a million channels between this world and another. There is nothing to believe. There is only a here and not here. But Jane breathes beside him and the entire city fills with so many in-betweens, so many spaces beyond the clear gridding of graphed lines. A history of architecture, a history of design. A history of liminality, so many indistinct geographies. Cahokia Mounds across the Mississippi River: a civilization Shale once studied for the ways an ancient city structured itself as a boundary between land and stars. Bloody Island: an embankment of silt within the River’s rushing center, used for Civil War duels between the jurisdictions of Missouri and Illinois. And the Gateway Arch itself, a glint of steel Shale spies on the riverfront from the pool’s empty basin: east and west, neither one nor the other. The same straddling as beveled curves, a former factory’s ghosts. The same weights of a Whispering Arch’s two sides, the only anchor for everything lost between.
Morning strains through Shale’s bedroom blinds, the hamster spinning in the other room before the sun fully rises. Another Cardinal loss, four to one. A game that droned on long after Jane left for home as Shale watched the rows of windows and listened to the inevitability of losing beneath the starless sky.
He tunes into Mike Shannon’s broadcast through the afternoon, the city buzzing: Game 4, the Cardinals’ last chance. He listens to an interview with manager Tony LaRussa and another with team organist Ernie Hays, his voice salted as he shouts the struggles of motivating a defeated crowd. Shale passes Jane only as she leads the construction team through the third floor where two-bedroom apartments will be built. He meets her eyes and imagines a boy, what a face would have looked like as a mirror image of hers. She nods before looking away, before continuing her tour, a brief acknowledgment of a pool’s concrete and of sitting beside him against the cold.
He thinks to go home at dusk, to watch the final game on television. He imagines the lean quiet of the house, the hamster’s wheel, nothing silent enough for the blare of a television. He unfolds a metal chair on the Factory’s roof when the crew leaves, the stadium visible beyond the flashed taillights of the highway at dusk. A moon pools on the horizon of the clear October sky, light stone-skipping against the river.
Shale holds his breath for the first pitch, for possibility, a winning game his son would have loved. He imagines the ball fields. Little League diamond. The scent of leather and sweat and cut grass. His son in the other room, how close he was, the thin passage of walls between their headboards. The Red Sox swing a home run to right field on the first at-bat, the radio static-silent as the Stadium falls quiet across the city.
Shale turns away from the stands, from the crowds sitting stunned in their seats. He knows they will lose. The glossed beacon of hope a failing game. The hotel lobby. The Grand Hall. So many hours of sitting and watching patrons and remapping in his brain the Whispering Arch’s curve. He kicks over the folding chair and the radio sputters. He turns from the city and looks down at the courtyard’s right-angled roof and sees a gleaming-white flicker before it fades, the faint flash of something in the corner window.
He expects to feel vindicated. He expects to feel awed. The radio drones the second inning and he feels nothing but a quick-detonated blast of rage.
He rips down the stairwell to the fourth floor, shoes echoing against the Factory’s walls until he finds the corner room. He shoves the door open and stands in the entryway and anticipates a ghost, a house of cards, a roomful of baby carriages piled to the ceiling. But there is nothing. Just exposed pipes. Just weak light spilling through two dirt-flecked windows. He hears the sound of his own heart, the drip of condensation off corroded lead. He imagines the baby carriage silent in the basement’s storage and looks at the beveled arch above the corner window and wants to tear the bricks from the walls.
The Factory’s stale air is suffocating. He pushes back through the room’s door and forgets the radio still buzzing on the roof and races down through the stairwell, the elevator too slow, until he finds the padlock of the construction fence and makes his way onto the streets of downtown. The night wind a knife, the still moon suspended in a hazed sky. A roar erupts from the stadium, sounds of protest above organ-piped cheer, and Shale moves toward Busch Memorial to leave behind the Factory entirely.
When he arrives at the stadium’s gates, the crowd is pin-drop silent. Fans gather around the entryway to the sold-out stands. A man in an Albert Pujols jersey watches Shale approach and shouts to him, Sox just blasted the lead to three. Shale stops in the dark past the crowd and looks up at the stadium’s signature arches. Ninety-six curves, only seven visible from where he stands. Passageways to nothing, not victory, every history a losing streak. The last World Series. A demolition. Everything built only to be torn down. Preservation futile, caretaking futile, time relentless in its menace toward destruction. Fans gather around the gates, hope they’ll hoard until the last floodlights go out. Shale approaches the stadium. He holds a hand to the brick. All edifices crumble, every structure falls and even still he wants to feel history pass through his hands. A history of ghosts, what Jane believes. A face to the window, a conduit of safe passage. The corner room filled with only dust but he glances up regardless toward Busch Stadium’s high arches and strains to hear. He hears the wind shear through the sharp curve of every angled crown. The ballpark’s secret, what Carson could hear, so many lives trapped inside so many structures. The hum of a stadium, the hum of a whispering wall. The hum of an island or a lost civilization or a tomb underground. Something buried, beyond range. The hum of an entire city, a sound no structure can hold.
Anne Valente is the author of the debut novel, Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down (HarperCollins 2016), and the short story collection, By Light We Knew Our Names (Dzanc Books 2014). Her fiction appears in One Story, The Kenyon Review, The Southern Review, and The Chicago Tribune, and her essays appear in The Believer and The Washington Post. Originally from St. Louis, she teaches creative writing at Santa Fe University of Art and Design.