Smoking With Adam Peterson

by Ashley Inguanta Read the Story December 16, 2013

How did this story begin and evolve over time?

The story began with that first sentence. If you ignore the minor consideration that the supermarket probably won’t let you live there, leaving doesn’t really make sense. I believe this. Because that’s where the food is. I don’t understand why nobody else seems to feel this way. The rest of you are wrong.

From there, most of the work was in figuring out who that person was speaking to and in creating tension between them and their life inside the store versus outside of it. It led to the whole thread of being in a relationship and having to make decisions. Not only what kind of juice to buy but bigger ones like, is this feeling enough? What should we do next?

Uncertainty is a powerful theme here. The narrator says to his/her partner, “But consider what we risk: everything. We don’t know what’s going to happen when we’re home and all we’ve got are your organic bananas and my non-organic bananas and all of our possessions and all of our questions.” The narrator speaks with such love here. Tell me more about this love and uncertainty, how the two work together.

I don’t know, it’s not quite as simple as saying love is a sort of salve for uncertainty because a relationship brings with it all these other questions. But at its best it can be, right? Like, we know it doesn’t cure everything, but it has the capacity to make us feel better? Even if just because we’re not uncertain alone? It’s a really wonderful thing to be certain about another person, and it’s a really terrifying thing to realize how little that might solve or to have that certainty shaken or dissolve (or to have another’s certainty in you do the same).

This is where I should point out that I have no idea what I’m talking about and am not married. Possibly because I use the word salve.

But I do know that I’m glad you see the narrator as speaking with love there. Misguided and silly and whatever else, I wanted the feeling to be genuine. And for it to provide few answers.

One of my favorite things about this piece is that the characters’ genders are ambiguous. Did you intend for this ambiguity, or did it just happen? Tell me more about this element of the piece.

Yeah, I didn’t really want to say too much about these people. That ambiguity—which I imagine some find obnoxious—is maybe my favorite thing about short pieces. I feel like I get to openly not care about things I don’t care about which, here, is making this general feeling of a relationship at a crossroads into a specific plot about Tiffany and Amy’s relationship or whatever. I’d rather focus on that feeling and that voice and leave the specifics to things like the bananas or what the narrator’s building the home out of.

I feel like there’s enough in those details to identify the issues at play and, if one insists, probably even assign genders and fill out the world around them more than I cared to.

If you could tell the narrator one thing, what would it be?

It’ll be okay.

The narrator’s partner?

It’ll be okay.

About the Author:

Adam Peterson is a Kathy Fish Fellow and writer-in-residence at SmokeLong Quarterly for 2013-14. He is the co-editor of The Cupboard, and the author of The Flasher, My Untimely Death, and, with Laura Eve Engel, [SPOILER ALERT]. His short fiction can be found in The Kenyon Review, Indiana Review, The Normal School, The Southern Review, and elsewhere. Originally from Nebraska, he currently lives in Houston, Texas.

About the Interviewer:

Ashley Inguanta is a Florida-based writer and photographer whose work has appeared in Redivider, PANK, and The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review. She is also the Art Director of SmokeLong Quarterly. In 2010, Ashley’s story “The Heart of America” earned an Honorable Mention in Glimmer Train for their Very Short Fiction Award. She is a former art director of SmokeLong Quarterly and author of three poetry collections: The Way Home (Dancing Girl Press, 2013), For the Woman Alone (Ampersand Books, 2014), and Bomb (Ampersand Books, 2016). In 2019 Ampersand Books will publish her newest collection, The Flower, about how death shapes us.