Smoking With Kyle Hemmings

by Meg Pokrass Read the Story March 29, 2015

Can you talk a little about your piece? What inspired you to write Gertie?
Yes. I was thinking about the past lately, my own past, and how some people who you haven’t seen in ages, or will never see again, can never vanish from your imagined life. How they still exert a strong influence on you from some time long ago, or maybe, not so long ago. But even though they’re not “real” as far as the present is concerned, they are very much there, aren’t they?

Is the character of Gertie based on any specific character in your own life?
No, I would say she is a composite of nice and not so nice authority figures in my youth and the child molestation bit was something thrown in, but very crucial to the narrator’s feeling of being uprooted, of being aimless, having this heavy baggage to carry. By the way, in an earlier version, I had this taking place around the time of the second world war to give it both a sense of urgency, but also to give it that post-war sense of uprooted-ness, of values being cast aside, of railroads never reaching destinations.

Why did you end this piece on an ambiguous note with Gertie thinking of the sea.
Well, I wanted the reader to interpret this anyway they like, but I think at the end the sea for Gertie means there are other possibilities, perhaps a life of travel, or different ways of relating to people.I don’t see her as totally evil, as she has lost her husband and has her own baggage to contend with. But you can see the effect of the damage from this relationship on the narrator. But like so many things in life, those that inflict damage get away, and the victims keep suffering. Life is unfair and often cruel.

As you wrote the piece, did you judge Gertie? Do you sit apart from judgment toward an abusive character… as the creator?
Yes, I suppose I sit away a bit. I don’t see Gertie as evil, as she has lost her husband and has her own baggage to contend with. But you can see the effect of the damage from this relationship on the narrator. But like so many things in life, those that inflict damage get away, and the victims keep suffering. Life is unfair and often cruel.

In a previous interview with Smokelong, you said your favorite album of all time was Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys. Is that still true?
Let me revise that somewhat. I think the best album of all time was Love’s Forever Changes. Pet Sounds was one of the best albums of all time.

About the Author:

Kyle Hemmings lives in New Jersey. His work has been featured in Five Fishes, FourPaperLetters, Lacuna Journal, and others.