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SmokeLong Quarterly

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Smoke & Mirrors with Jason Sprinkle

Interview by Jacob S. Knabb (Read the Story) June 21, 2021

Jason Sprinkle

Jason Sprinkle

“Unlimited Options” takes place on a Friday night in America, complete with “trapped families at Cheeseburger in Paradise, an anxious security guard keeping watch over the Dollar Tree, and the narrator and his friend who are “stoned and weepy.” What drew you to this setting for the story?

I am drawn to the juxtaposition between the infinitude of the parking lot, the plethora of stores, and the claustrophobia of narrator’s situation. And you’re right, there is something distinctly American about this setting: Here are all of these options for food and goods; yet, these aren’t the types of freedom that the narrator is looking for.

What song would be the perfect soundtrack for the moment doing parking-lot donuts outside the McDonald’s, where your buddy lost his job for stealing a Happy Meal toy and how come you picked that one?

The perfect song for doing donuts probably depends on the mood.

Joyous donuts? “Money Machine” by 100 Gecs. The lyrics might not fit the joyous occasion, but the production is so sugary and blownout that spinning around to this at full volume would be a blast.

Despondent donuts? “At the Cauldron’s Bottom” by Full of Hell. It’s a six-minute song of blast beats and guttural screams meant to be played when you’re in the darkest of darkness. Also, cauldrons are circular.

The narrator seems ready to begin the process of decaying and turning back into soil that feeds nature pretty much right away. His buddy thinks the best thing to do is live from the Afroman playbook. Who’s right and what does it mean for someone to feel like they’re trapped with just those options?

I don’t want the narrator to render himself inactive, but I certainly don’t want him to lean on drugs to help him get through this crisis. So neither of them is right, I guess.

I think it means that this narrator is on the cusp of adulthood and doesn’t like what he sees. He’s learning that actions have serious consequences, which is terrifying in its own right, and he’s learning that a massive part of his life was predetermined by his family and where he was born. These two options are both ways of numbing himself to the disappointment of his future prospects. Ultimately, it means he needs help.

About the Author

Jason Sprinkle is a writer and software developer from Austin, Texas. He is an Assistant Editor at American Short Fiction, and an editor at Abandon Journal. His work is forthcoming in Rejection Letters and has been published in Moon Park Review, Trash Magazine, Free Flash Fiction, and others.

About the Interviewer

Jacob S. Knabb is a social media and communications manager for a large not-for-profit. In a past life he was editor-in-chief at Curbside Splendor Publishing, editor-in-chief at Another Chicago Magazine, and taught publishing and creative writing at Lake Forest College. Follow him on Instagram: @hambonehambone .

This interview appeared in Issue Seventy-Two of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Seventy-Two
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A SmokeLong Summer

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From May 30 to August 28 2022, SmokeLong is going to host a superworkshop. We want to spend the summer with you, the flash community. Our workshops take place on a devoted website where you can create a profile, interact with the flash community, and take part in group discussions on craft, but A SmokeLong Summer will be much more.