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Smoke & Mirrors: An Interview with Jonathan Cardew

Interview by Michael Czyzniejewski (Read the Story) June 18, 2018

Jonathan Cardew

Photograph by Saffu

My wife showed me this once: If you dig your hands in the wet sand at the beach, then let the sand drip away, there’s usually a few tiny crabs crawling on your fingers and palm. This means that there’s billions—trillions—of tiny crabs, inches from the surface, right below where you sit, in your bathing suit. Did you know that?

I used to go crabbing as a kid in Norfolk or Suffolk (one of the ’folks). I remember the bridge across the inlet where we’d drop the orange line, unspooling from the wooden handle—the hook hitting the rocks below eventually (or else hitting some crabs). I remember the tall marsh grasses and the massive sky and the salty tang of the ocean and the way the crabs looked (spaced out and indignant from being plucked from their regular business on the marsh rocks). I remember it so vividly. Like I can reach out and touch my eight-year-old self on the shoulder. Bottom line is, crabs are ace.

It’s noted in your story that Maddie can get creative with her eyebrows. Describe the most creative way in which she—or anyone—can get with eyebrows.

If someone could reenact the Battle of Agincourt using only their eyebrows, I would be suitably impressed.

If someone could reenact the Battle of Agincourt, while paying close attention to the actions of the English longbowmen as they roundly annihilate the mounted French knights and other infantrymen, using only their eyebrows, I would also be suitably impressed.

I imagine Maddie’s eyebrows are a special sort of piqued—plenty of movement with a muscle twitch every so often (I think she’s got issues like Ron McRain).

Reading too much into this story might make someone think you’re providing a metaphor for the fall of print journalism. In this model, Ron McRain is print media, Maddie stands for the internet (or perhaps just Twitter), fish and chips is obviously masturbation, and the bar where they work is … I’ll just come out and say it: AI, the machines killing us all, robots with lasers, plugged-in toasters jumping into our bathtubs, etc.
That said, LeBron or Jordan?

I love this reading a lot. In fact, I love many things about the machine-turned-bad scenario, in particular toasters going berserk. Problem with that, though, is the range toasters have at their disposal. Two feet tops? We’re talking close-range action. Not a whole lot of damage, unless animated somehow without electricity, in which case we’re diving deeper into the fantastical realm.

I couldn’t really tell you my favorite between LeBron and Jordan. I’m not a fan of Americanball.

The first time Ron and Maddie have sex, what’s on the iPod shuffle playlist that Ron prepares for the occasion? Please include at least one book on tape.

Probably not a shuffle playlist, if we’re talking about Ron McRain. He’d have on a local radio station, heavily laden with commercials—in which case, an advertisement for window glazing could be the premier lubrifiant for Ron and Maddie.

The Kama Sutra on tape?

I was at the salad bar at Ruby Tuesday’s recently and saw a woman fill a plate with black olives—little, cut-up pieces, a heaping plate, dozens and dozens of black olives—then carry them over to a baby in a high chair and set the plate down. The baby tore into it, shoving the black olives into her mouth, devouring the entire stack. When she was done, she bashed the plate against the high chair until her mom ran to the salad bar and got her more. Tell me, Jonathan Cardew, what’s your plate of Ruby Tuesday black olive pieces?

Fucking chips.

Fish-and-chip shop style—no euphemism intended.

So much salt the tops of your cheeks become electrified.

Do you know what I mean?

So much vinegar you want to hug an indigenous tribe.

Throw some curry sauce on!

Throwsome mushy peas on!

Throwsomecheese on!


What was your question again?

About the Author

Jonathan Cardew’s stories appear or are forthcoming in Wigleaf, Cream City Review, Passages North, Superstition Review, JMWW, People Holding, and Atticus Review, among others. He is the fiction editor for Connotation Press and contributing books reviewer for Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine. He recently won The Best Small Fictions Micro Fiction Contest. Originally from the UK, he lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

About the Interviewer

Michael Czyzniejewski’s fourth collection of stories, The Amnesiac in the Maze, is forthcoming from Braddock Avenue Books in 2023.

About the Artist

Find more photography by Saffu at Unsplash.

This interview appeared in Issue Sixty — The SmokeLong Quarterly Award for Flash Fiction of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Sixty — The SmokeLong Quarterly Award for Flash Fiction

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