Smoking With Aaron Teel

by Tara Laskowski September 24, 2012

In the very first line, the mom says, “You’re a single soul spit in two.” I actually had a few readers email me to point out we had a typo in that line. However, I defended it, saying that the mom was drunk and misspoke. So set the record straight: does she say “spit” because she’s drunk, or have we been holding fast to a typo all these weeks?

When it first went up I was surprised to see it that way, and I thought about asking you guys to change it to “split,” but then I came to the same conclusion you did, and I kind of fell in love with the sound of it. It was unintentional though, so I guess the short answer is that your readers were right, it’s a typo.

Many of the stories I’ve read of yours, including this one, seem to be strong one-scene stories that are character driven. Is that true of your latest collection Shampoo Horns? Can you tell us a bit about how you put that collection together?

Shampoo Horns is a collection of flash, so in that regard each piece centers on a single scene or image, but they also add up to a larger narrative when read together. They’re all told from the point of view of a single character, a kid named Cherry Tree growing up in a trailer park in Texas. It started out as a series of non-fiction flashes that were first published in 2007 and got some positive attention. The finished version is largely fiction, but it’s still reflective of my own experience, as close to a memoir as I’ll probably get.

How did this story begin for you—did you go with the idea of clichés first, or did you start writing these characters and the idea of clichés emerged from that?

“Don’t speak in clichés,” is something I heard a mother say to her son at a restaurant. He’d said he was so hungry he could eat a horse, and she reprimanded him, so he sat quietly for half a minute, thinking, and then said he was so hungry he could eat an elephant. I liked the idea of a mother not wanting her child to use phrases like that, but the literal notion of trying not to speak in clichés is really just a frame for this kind of revealing little watershed moment between a mother and her twin sons.

If I were to force you to write another story about these characters, set ten years forward in time, what has become of them?

I’ve actually written several stories about them. The twins are the main characters in another collection of linked flash I’m working on now called Pop Gun War that follows them over several years. So I’ll just say that they keep struggling and kicking against each other but never end up very far apart. There’s another piece about them called “How To Disappear” over at Monkeybicycle.

What’s next for Aaron Teel?

I’m a high school teacher, so I’m back at work now, but I’ve been doing readings all over the place for Shampoo Horns. There are still a few left. I’ll be at the Sunday Salon series in Chicago on September 30th. You can see all the dates, get info on the book, and lots of other fun stuff at www.aaron-teel.com.

About the Author:

Aaron Teel is the author of Shampoo Horns, winner of the Sixth Annual Rose Metal Press Short Short Chapbook Award. His work has appeared previously in Tin House, Monkeybicycle, Matter Press, Brevity Magazine, North Texas Review, Side B Magazine, and others. He teaches language arts and English as a second language in Manor, TX, and is a workshop instructor for Badgerdog Literary Publishing in Austin, TX.

About the Interviewer:

Tara Laskowski has been editor at SmokeLong Quarterly since 2010. Her short story collection Bystanders was hailed by Jennifer Egan as "a bold, riveting mash-up of Hitchcockian suspense and campfire-tale chills." She is also the author of Modern Manners For Your Inner Demons, tales of dark etiquette. Her fiction has been published in the Norton anthology Flash Fiction International, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Mid-American Review, and numerous other journals, magazines, and anthologies. Tara lives and works in a suburb of Washington, D.C.