Smoking with J. Chris Rock

Read the Story December 15, 2006

“The truth exists whether we ask it to or not.” How does this line inform the whole of this terrific piece?

It’s about the inconveniences of reality. We control so little of our lives. The narrator didn’t want someone like Tauten coming around and screwing up his life, but he couldn’t do a thing about it. He didn’t intend to shoot Tauten’s dog, thereby enabling a widening of the conflict, but he did. Reality happens. At the same time, truth also refers to the evidence of our actions. The narrator is, albeit a little passive-aggressively, standing by what he did. He shot the dog, and there it is. Whether or not we want to face consequences doesn’t matter; they exist.

The ending has that sense of “waiting” in it, a tension and urgency often reserved for beginnings rather than endings. Is there a risk with such an ending?—and, if so, what makes the risk worth it?

For me, there’s something lasting in a story that widens as it ends, rather than narrows. It feels more like a brief glimpse into a real world and less like a tidy story. There is a risk to that, if the reader wants things wrapped up, but it’s worth it because it allows the story to hint at so much more.

Also, this story in particular is about self-fueling feuds that seem incapable of resolution. The open ending is about the fact that retribution is a choice, and that any cycle of violence is made up of individual, conscious decisions.

“Fresh Dirt.” Why that title?

Fresh Dirt refers to the evidence of our actions. Again, back to the fact that reality exists unhindered by our own little hopes, and what we do has consequences. Fresh Dirt also alludes to sowing seeds. The narrator has (sorry) planted Tauten’s dog, and we’re waiting at the end to see what that seed will grow.

Whatcha doin’ hangin’ with the young head bangers on My Space?

Really, I’m just there for all the naughty True(r) ads.

The 2005 Edge Annual World Question (www.edge.org) asked a question that the BBC called “fantastically stimulating.” One year later, we ask you this same question: “What do you believe is true even though you cannot prove it?”

That, in all the universe, the earth cannot possibly be the only place to get a decent sandwich.

About the Author:

J. Chris Rock feels lucky to have been featured in The Science Creative Quarterly, Opium, Barrelhouse, Hobart and McSweeney's Internet Tendency, and is equally humbled and giddy about upcoming work in publications including Cimarron Review and Wild Blue Yonder (the in-flight magazine of Fronter Airlines). He can be found with all the kids and their loud rock and roll music at www.myspace.com/gladyouasked.

About the Artist:

René Magritte was a Belgian surrealist artist (21 November 1898 - 15 August 1967).