Smoking With Sabrina Stoessinger
by Beth Thomas Read the Story July 25, 2010
What are the origins of this story?
I was on a flight from Denver to Winnipeg in March and there were several different families with young children on the plane. The parents were trying to entertain and comfort their babies by walking up and down the aisle, and strangers were offering sympathetic looks and kind words. I was sitting at the back of the plane watching all this transpire when the first sentence popped into my head and my imagination took over. I jotted down some ideas during the flight and sat down to write the story a couple days later.
Who is “her” in the first sentence? Is there anyone who can someday answer the narrator’s question?
“Her” is the last person with which the narrator entrusted her baby. This unknown lady haunts the narrator and I believe she will, one day, find her. During her continued search for more information the narrator will answer her own questions.
Tell us about the shift from past tense to present tense after the first paragraph.
The narrator is trying to piece together this mystery, trying to make a timeline for what she can remember. Inevitably with any trauma people can become confused, can block out certain information or completely forget everything that happened. Just as you may retrace your steps to find a lost item, the narrator is replaying events over and over in her head, trying to assemble concrete facts in the hopes of reclaiming another memory and eventually discovering the truth. In the first paragraph the narrator is relatively cognisant and in control; after the plane and passengers are plunged into turmoil her thought-processes become jumbled and “everything drops and crashes.”
The title tells us there is a truth to be had here. Can you tell us the truth about the baby?
You’re correct. There is a truth here. But the title refers to the perceptions of the third parties regarding the narrator and her behaviour. The doctor dismisses her. The airline customer service agent assumes she is joking. They think she is suffering from stress or delusions or a mental disorder and has created a baby to cope with the ordeal she’s survived. So for them, her current state is “explicable” and no other explanation or investigation is required. They are content to believe their own conclusions, for the sake of time and effort. But what if they’re wrong? How simple would it be for identification documents and passports to be destroyed or misappropriated in the midst of mass chaos? How easy would it be to claim a baby in your possession as your own, to be taken for your word and then disappear?
Do you like to fly?
I love to fly. If my schedule allows, I’ll book flights with connections through airports I’ve never been to before just for the experience. I love people-watching as well and airports are excellent for studying human behaviour.
About the Author:
Sabrina Stoessinger has many useless talents, among them constructing paper hats from IHOP placemat menus. Her works have appeared in Skive Magazine, Tuesday Shorts, decomP, Word Riot and Wilderness House Literary Review.
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