Smoking With Jacob Aiello

by Matthew Fogarty Read the Story September 22, 2014

The story makes great use of the second person to establish intimacy and immediacy, forcing us to confront the tension and discomfort of the narrator’s relationship with “you.” Which makes me wonder: Did you have a specific “you” in mind when you wrote the story? What I really mean is: Do you know someone who has a bird inside them? Or are you addressing us, your readers? Are you saying we all have birds inside us? Because that would be disconcerting.

I did in fact have a specific “you” in mind while writing the story, however re: everyone having birds inside of them, I’m reminded of eating scrambled eggs as a child, and if the eggs were even a little close to their expiration date, I’d refuse to eat them because I was certain that when they hit their expiration date a little chick would hatch. I don’t know if that entirely answers your question.

Are leeches still used in medicine today? How much research did you do before writing this story? Or do you just have a wealth of knowledge regarding arcane medical practices that you leverage in your writing?

God, I hope not. The research for the story was pretty much limited to human anatomy. I’m sure I read somewhere about the leeches and it stuck, and then I double-checked the information to make sure I wasn’t making it up.

If my half-assed, Google-based research is correct, you live (or lived) in (or around) Portland, Oregon, the setting for the acclaimed television series Portlandia. Is this story your attempt to demonstrate, in a metaphorical sense, the dangers of “putting a bird on it”?

Oh, Portland. I was made aware of this association after I’d finished the story and honestly hadn’t consciously connected the two. That said, the feminist bookstore from the show is less than a block away from where I work, and I’d love for Fred and Carrie to take their skit to its obvious, logical conclusion: this story.

A brief writing exercise: You’ve been hired to design the next great inspirational Internet cat meme. Describe it.

Easiest question ever! I would combine my two most favorite things outside of writing: cats and Woody Allen. Maybe cats reinterpreting the lobster scene from Annie Hall? Internet: go.

Are you a cat person or a dog person? In your opinion, how large of a role should the answer to this question play in our assessment of potential life partners?

Definitely a cat person. Unabashedly. Most of the women I’ve dated have veered more toward being dog people, and in fact my wife, when I first met her, didn’t like cats at all. We now have four cats, all at her insistence, which I think goes to show that binaries like “cat people” and “dog people” are just absurd social constructs. Deep down, we’re all cat people.

About the Author:

Jacob Aiello is the co-creator and curator of the Soft Show, a bi-monthly experimental reading series that weds improvised live drawing with short stories read aloud by their authors. His own short stories are forthcoming from Stealing Time, and have appeared in The Portland Reader, The Portland Review and The Wordstock Ten, an anthology of fiction from the 2007 Wordstock Festival.

About the Interviewer:

Matthew Fogarty is the author of Maybe Mermaids and Robots Are Lonely, a collection of stories and a novella published by George Mason University’s Stillhouse Press. He is originally from the suburbs of Detroit.