Smoking With Cherie Hunter Day

by Tara Laskowski Read the Story March 26, 2012

This story is killer in its description. It is a very full story, and yet also sparse. We only get what we need here to draw our own conclusions. Can you talk about the process of writing this piece? Was it originally larger and had to be whittled down? Or was it always this length?

I like that you describe this story as having “killer” description. It started out much shorter as a descriptive paragraph in my journal. It’s so unbelievable, but the story is true. I watched my next-door neighbor chop down his mimosa tree using a chef’s knife. Did he kill his wife? No. His marriage was a victim, however. The first draft of the story was 262 words. It went through six separate drafts over the course of six years. I worked to add description to get it up to the 513 words of the printed version.

At the end of the story, we are six months later in time. So what is this man going to be up to another year later?

I know where he ended up. His new svelte self entertained a much younger woman in his backyard under a beige canvas sunbrella. He waited on her hand and foot, feeding her little tidbits of food, his hand stroking her thigh. Another few months went by and he sold the house and moved away. The new owners weren’t anywhere near as interesting, even though they installed a hot tub and a plastic lawn.

What is a plastic lawn exactly?

A plastic lawn is artificial turf—rolled out like shiny green shag carpet. Confuses the heck out of the rabbits that live in the canyon.

If you were going to kill someone close to you, how would you do it so not to get caught?

Wow, what a question! “Not get caught” is the clincher. Faulty wiring comes to mind.

Would you be more likely to get a story idea from a National Geographic magazine or from overhearing a conversation in a restaurant?

Oh, that’s a tough question because I’ve done both. I wrote a story based on a short segment about the Elephant Listening Project that I watched on 60 Minutes. African forest elephants hear in the infrasonic range, sound frequencies far below what humans can hear. It piqued my interest that we may be missing other conversations.

Obviously, I have no qualms about spying on neighbors. It’s not even as active as spying. I simply observe people because my desk is next to a window. In the case of “Eversharp,” he made a racket pounding on the knife with a hatchet. That got my attention. As far as overhearing conversations in restaurants, I actively listen to people talking in public. It’s a great way to improve dialog in stories. I come home from the library, or the neighborhood park, or the grocery store, and try and recreate what I heard. It’s great practice.

What have you read recently that you’ve fallen in love with?

A couple weeks ago I was stuck in the Las Vegas airport for four hours. Our flight to San Francisco was delayed due to fog. I purchased David Sedaris’s squirrel seeks chipmunk and read it cover to cover. It was perfect—the right amount of quirky, wonderfully absurd and naughty—toxic little triumphs of fiction.

About the Author:

Cherie Hunter Day currently lives in Cupertino, California. Her prose poems and flash fiction have appeared in a number of journals including Mississippi Review, Quarter After Eight, Quick Fiction, and Wigleaf. She has been a finalist and Editors' Choice four times in the Mid-American Review Fineline Competition.

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.