Smoking With Michael Patrick Brady

by Matt Norman Read the Story September 22, 2014

Where did the idea for this story come from?

Someone once told me about a time when they’d narrowly missed getting into a serious car accident. They joked that it was such a close call that they couldn’t entirely believe that they’d escaped—that maybe they had crashed and died and that everything since was some sort of dream. On top of that, my own mother’s macabre sense of humor greatly influenced the tone of the story.

So, you had this compelling idea for a story. What made it feel like something you wanted to tell in 318 words?

A lot of the ideas that I’ve been pursuing recently have turned into sprawling, seven-to-ten thousand word stories. I wanted to challenge myself to do something tighter and more economical. I briefly considered going further, but the story just felt done to me. And I didn’t want to spoil that feeling.

When the narrator meets his mother in the hallway and asks what she’s doing, she giggles and says “haunting you,” and then she runs away. I found this moment to be surprisingly moving, and it made me like her very much. But it also points to the idea that she’s in on the joke. How aware is she of what she’s doing?

She’s just enjoying the simple pleasures of being a ghost.

She’s liberated by her “death.” Do you believe the trauma counselor? Will this run its course, or is she forever changed?

I think it’s inevitable that the rush we feel when extraordinary things happen eventually subsides. That’s why the narrator tries to preserve things as they are for just a little longer at the end of the story. But that doesn’t mean we don’t take a little something back with us when we return to reality.

What are you working on now?

I’ve completed a rough first draft of a (longer) short story about a group of squatters who take refuge in a Gilded Age mansion following a natural disaster. I’m hoping to take what I’ve learned from “Here, Hereafter” and tighten it up a bit.