Smoking With Young Rader
by Brandon Wicks
This story is packed with wonderful historic artifacts—such as the pianola and the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire. Are you frequently drawn to moments or settings that aren't contemporary? How do these things enter your fiction and what do they mean to you?
Art by Eleanor Leonne Bennett
Thank you. Most of the time, my stories unfold in a nebulous time and place, but this past summer, I started working on a few projects where I included historical moments and settings into my writing as a challenge. I found that, in most cases, I arrived at a place in my writing I didn't expect and found this exciting.
"Temperature" has many vivid images that propel the reader through the scene—an icy, wet beard; writhing moths; and most notably, tiny holes and perforations that appear everywhere. Tell us something about the prevalence of the latter in your story.
I wanted to explore the notion of incompleteness through the holes prevalent in the woman's apartment—her moth-eaten rugs, the perforations in the roll of music she cannot operate, the holes in her sweater, and the way she feels porous. But I also wanted to contrast this with the notion that through absence, something new can occur, or be fashioned. The perforated roll creates music when operated and interpreted correctly and is the impetus behind the father the daughters' arrival at the woman's apartment. Finally, the dancing figures at the end of the story are created using the holes in the discarded rolls.
While we get a lot of background on the daughters, there is an unrevealed history to the woman who owns the pianola. When the daughters guide her hands to the instrument, we get this juicy snippet of indirect discourse: "she has been waiting for someone strong to show her what to do for a long time." What's going on there? What's behind this encounter for her?
I imagine the woman as someone trying to maintain an imposing façade, someone high in stature, with the means to afford a pianola, yet someone incredibly lonely, vulnerable, and unhappy. When the daughters guide her hands, it is an admission she is not prone to express—she needs, even desires, help.
Factories play a large, if secondary, role in this story—the shirtwaist factory from which the daughters plunged and the pianola music-roll factory—and at points they seem almost interchangeable. How do you see these institutions impacting the lives of your characters?
Having lived in cities where crumbling factories are very much part of the landscape and the people, I wanted the factories in the story to live inside the characters. Factories are an integral part of their lives. For the woman, factories represent hope, manufacturing objects she can purchase that might fulfill a need, erase her loneliness. For the father, factories provide for him and his daughters. And for the daughters, factories are perilous, destructive, yet have proved to them the limitlessness of their strength and their will to live.
Read The Temperature At Which Paper Burns.
Eleanor Leonne Bennett is a 16-year-old internationally award-winning artist who has won first places with National Geographic, The World Photography Organisation, Nature's Best Photography and Postal Heritage. Her photography has been published in the Telegraph, The Guardian, BBC News web site and on the cover of books and magazines in the United States and Canada. She was also the only person from the UK to have her work displayed in the National Geographic and Airbus run "See The Bigger Picture" global exhibition tour with the United Nations International Year Of Biodiversity 2010.
Issue Thirty-Seven (September 24, 2012):
Two Boyfriends by Simon Barker «»
Two Days in American History by Patrick Allen Carberry «»
What I Told God by Sarah Carson «»
Partners by Simon Jacobs «»
Wreck by Will Kaufman «»
Keep It Down by Harry Leeds «»
Ants by Lindsey Gates Markel «»
Quantifiable Consequence by Adam Padgett «»
The Temperature At Which Paper Burns by Young Rader «»
Bad Traffic by Matt Rowan «»
Clearings by Joseph Spece «»
Texas Vs. London by Jon Steinhagen «»
Clichés by Aaron Teel «»
When I Was Twenty-Three by Dan Townsend «»
Revived by Eugenio Volpe «»
Jalapeno Summer by Ryan Werner «»
A Collector by Bess Winter «»
Simon Barker «»
Patrick Allen Carberry «»
Sarah Carson «»
Simon Jacobs «»
Will Kaufman «»
Harry Leeds «»
Lindsey Gates Markel «»
Adam Padgett «»
Young Rader «»
Matt Rowan «»
Joseph Spece «»
Jon Steinhagen «»
Aaron Teel «»
Dan Townsend «»
Eugenio Volpe «»
Ryan Werner «»
Bess Winter «»
Cover Art by Jennifer B. Hudson «»
Letter From the Editor
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