Smoking With Meg Carroll

by Joshua Denslow Read the Story September 23, 2013

It seems to me like there could be a lot more to this story. Any plans to continue with this narrator?

I’d never envisioned this as a longer story, but it’s also something I never rule out.

I love how flash fiction allows you to build a small, self-contained structure that completely encapsulates a character and a moment in her life. I love reworking those 300 or 700 or 1000 words until they can stand on their own. But sometimes they also seem to grow legs and walk themselves right into another 20 pages. For now though, I’m content to leave my narrator in the grass with Sally.

This story is sneakily heavy, but it’s folded into a wonderfully funny voice. And it feels effortless, as if the narrator sprang to life fully-formed. Did the voice change at all as you went through various drafts?

For me, especially in flash fiction, the voice almost always comes first and remains mostly consistent while various scenes and set pieces shift around it from draft to draft. Although sometimes the voice that emerges during the first draft surprises me. In this story, I sat down thinking I would write a more straight-forward humor piece, but found that by the end of the page, a sense of loss had braided itself throughout the story.

The one image I can’t get out of my head is the baptism of the frog with beer. It’s just so outlandish that it could be true. I couldn’t help but wonder if it was based on any true-life events.

I wish I could say that scene was based on some zany childhood incident, but it was just something that emerged from the various Catholic rites of passage in the story and the knowledge that Bukowski the frog would meet his maker on the business end of a stiletto.

I will admit that I once went to my aunt’s house and fished a frog out of the filter in her neighbor’s pool for a Fourth of July frog race at a nearby park. My frog lost, of course, because I’d rescued him, barely clinging to life, from a pool filter. I can’t help but picture this aunt’s garage as the setting for Bukowski’s boozy baptism.

There are a lot of great observations here, but the one I found most poignant was the one of the mother being buried in her least favorite dress. Do you think that final image of her mother has shaped the person the narrator has become?

Absolutely. The loss is still fairly fresh for her, and she’s currently navigating life in a bit of a grief-haze. But I think the knowledge that neither the narrator nor the mother herself had any say in how she would be seen in her final moments is significant. The narrator feels that lack of control in her life, in her body, even in her memory, as she reaches for better, more vital images of her mother, but can only turn up visions of her dead, wearing that crappy dress.

I understand this is your first published story! We get all excited when that happens here at SmokeLong! Tell us what the future holds for you and if you have any upcoming publications we should know about.

I’m very excited too!

I’m working, as always, on several short stories and flash pieces. But I’m also currently at work on a novel that touches on coming of age in a small town, the headlong intensity of female friendships, and how the open road sometimes contains party-busses full of Amish teens on Rumspringa.

About the Author:

Meg Carroll lives and writes in Boston where she currently serves at a nonprofit that provides kids with free writing and tutoring programs. "A Special Hell" is her first published story.

About the Interviewer:

Josh Denslow’s stories have appeared in Barrelhouse, Third Coast, CutBank, Wigleaf, and Black Clock, among others. His collection, Not Everyone Is Special, is forthcoming from 7.13 Books.