Smoking with Bob Arter

Read the Story September 15, 2005

Well, Mr. Arter, how do you do it? From where do these voices come?

They’re in my head! Transmissions from the Martian Communists! Hate to blow my cover, but actually, this story is largely autobiographical—I was the dumb yuck, the weekend hippie, back in the day.

Talk about the relationship of style and voice to the narrative. What carries what? What comes first for you? How’d you get this story to work so well? How’d you get to be so darn good?

I’m not sure what the difference is between narrative style and narrative voice. I guess this one’s about voice—the hip-hop bounce of the telling was my first aim, and it became the style of the piece. I wanted energy and humor, so I just let go. The kid from the ‘burbs is my hero. He walks away happy with food he can’t eat and dope he can’t smoke. We should all be so copasetic.

Someone ask, “What story you write?” And you say to someone “Chitlins.” And this someone say, “Chitlins? What’s that one about?” And you say…

Boy want to be a twenty-minute liberal, and it just ain’t happening for him.

What are doing to survive the miserable California heat? And how’s Gomez your desert tortoise making out?

I’m treating the heat stroke with strawberry popsicles. And Gomez sleeps the day away under a bed in the guest room. That’s one smart critter, given his dim little brain.

How’s your health? We were all mighty worried.

Well, I’m weak as a strung-out kitten, but every day, in every way, I grow progressively purpler. I guess that pretty much covers it.

About the Author:

Bob Arter lives and writes in Southern California. His stuff has appeared, or soon will, in Zoetrope All-Story Extra, The Absinthe Literary Review, Painted Moon Review, Lit Pot, Ink Pot, Night Train, and elsewhere.

About the Artist:

A native of Ohio, Marty D. Ison lives with his wife transplanted in the sands of the Gulf of Mexico. He studied fine arts at Saint Petersburg College. In addition to the visual arts, he writes poetry, short stories, and novels. See more of Ison's work here.