Smoking With Judd Hampton

Read the Story December 15, 2005

“When he speaks, birds fly out of his mouth.” And so it begins, until the final image of what they might be flying into, those “jagged teeth.” It’s all so remarkable. How did it all come together?

The idea came from another project I was working on in which the point of view character (who is stoned) observed, “Words flapped from his mouth like birds.” So I thought why not actual birds-cool image, right? So then it was just a matter of figuring out what the hell an image like that meant. Although the “empty nest” idea is probably obvious, it took me a while to figure it out, but once I did, the piece clicked into place and I had the finished product after one rewrite.

Incidentally, the Smokelong Annual was a tremendous inspiration for me. The book sat on my shelf for months before I finally opened it. After I began reading, I couldn’t put it down. All those short, perfect little stories stirred my imagination in a way I can’t explain. This story is a response to that experience. So thank you.

What do you like best about this story? How does it strike you upon re-read?

I like the image of the birds (of course) and the conflict he has with his mother over the birds, the way she swats the goldfinch with a broom so matter-of-factly. Like, Grow up-can’t you see this is just a fact of life? Of course from a parental perspective, adjusting to life change isn’t any easier simply because it’s inevitable.

On a mechanical level, I like the way some of the sentences came together like “waits and watches” juxtaposed with “weight” and “wanting, willing.” All those “w” words makes your tongue feel like it’s doing the hula.

How does it strike me upon re-read? Like a blank piece of paper. I’ve lost sight of it. I need to put it away for a year and then reread it. I’ll let you know.

Dang, you’ve been nominated for a bunch of awards. What’s it take to win one of these? How has the near-miss of everlasting glory affected you?

The near-miss of everlasting glory. Ouch. I never felt like crying over it until now. Seriously, Pushcart and Best American Short Stories are long-shots for someone like me, so I don’t expect to be selected. It’s still exciting to be nominated. What does it take to win? Exceptional quality work-work I’m probably not capable of, but hopefully someday.

A couple of days ago, I was browsing my local bookstore looking for Christmas gifts when I happened to find The Journey Prize anthology. Hell, I was shocked the store even carried it. So I flipped through the index to see whose stories beat mine and by golly, there’s Pasha Malla. So congratulations Pasha. Everlasting glory is yours.

You’ve got this Noah thing going on. Two children, two cats, two trucks, and two jobs-in the oilfield and as a writer. Do you know something about the end of the world that we don’t? And how does the oilfield work translate into the writing work?

A sign of the last days: when Tom Cruse declares his love from couch-tops. Or so Nostradamus believed. Drawn from his famous quatrains The Centuries, verse X.22 (based upon “a precise numerical decoding system” developed by V.J. Hewitt): “.Tom Cruise will give courage to those people who are in fear for their lives. He will calm the social order that cares for a hardened people.” (Nostradamus: The End of the Millennium, 1991 Simon and Schuster) Soon it will rain frogs. Or something like that.

I thought blue-collar work would give my writing a down-to-earth realism, but it’s more like other way around.

A new year approaches (yikes!). So, what’s the best that 2005 had to offer in literature, web sites, music, movies, television, DVD, and the like? Also, any predictions for 2006? And we’d love to hear your New Year’s resolution.

Man, when it comes to media, I’m the last guy you should ask. I’m sure someday I’ll find out what 2005 had to offer. Probably once all the receipts are in. Hopefully it won’t be irrelevant by then. Anyway, I prefer to look forward…

2006 will be a tumultuous year filled with specific events which will produce a wide range of emotions among those affected. Alberta (I’ll start with home) will announce the discovery of what is believed to be a petroleum deposit the size and shape of Texas. Texans are not amused. Consequently, George Bush declares Alberta has weapons of mass destruction (probably). Premier Ralph Klein gets drunk and tells Bush to get a real job. To everyone’s astonishment, he does. At John Kerry’s swearing in, he loses everybody’s confidence by stumbling his lines. Someone declares, “We should have got Jim Carrey,” to which nods of assent spread until someone mentions he is Canadian. After George Bush’s departure, his popularity skyrockets thanks in part to Mattel who introduces a plush toy in the ex-president’s likeness called a “Bushy Baby.” When squeezed, the toy responds with phrases like this one: “When you open the door to Freedom just a crack(pause for dramatic effect) the door can never be closed.” For hopelessly nostalgic reasons, Americans buy the toy by the truckload. While Americans rush to buy Bushy Babies, Buena Vista, a subsidiary of the Disney Corporation begins filming its first pornographic feature. Skeptical stockholders dump Disney in favor of Starbucks. Using mobile grind technology, Motorola invents a cell phone capable of producing on-demand cappuccino. Owners enjoy on-the-go lifestyles while staying connected to friends and business and an unrestricted source of caffeine. Due to the popularity of the new Motorola, Starbucks shares plummet with the kind of speed heretofore unknown in a Starbucks coffee shop. Finally, Paris Hilton plays a lackluster blonde hussy with a fallen ass in a television sitcom based on her life. The role catapults her to obscurity and once again Paris Hilton is simply a hotel in France.

About the Author:

Judd Hampton lives in rural Alberta, Canada among the pump jacks and canola fields of the north. His writing has appeared in Night Train, Vestal Review, Flashquake, Paumanok Review, Danforth Review and NFG magazine, among others.

About the Artist:

A native of Ohio, Marty D. Ison lives with his wife transplanted in the sands of the Gulf of Mexico. He studied fine arts at Saint Petersburg College. In addition to the visual arts, he writes poetry, short stories, and novels. See more of Ison's work here.