Though the main character of the story is clearly Jesus, the narration is plural. Tell me about this choice and how you feel it differs if the speaker had been a singular character.
The simple answer is that this story is part of a larger flash collection about two siblings and their fascination with gossip. My hope for the collection, and this story, is to explore how we keep people alive with how we talk about them. We all gossip. And not all gossip is bad gossip even though that word is often equated with bad mouthing. There’s some of that, of course, but gossip can be lighthearted, too. We gossip when we’re telling the people at home about all the cool things our friends are doing. We gossip when we’ve had a misunderstanding with a loved one and need someone to help us figure out how to work through that frustration so that a relationship isn’t severed. In this story, my use of the plural POV is an attempt to work through grief. To lighten it, if possible. I think of the small town my parents are from, and I think of the apartments my aunts live in in Los Angeles, in that everyone knows everyone. When a member of those communities is experiencing grief, the whole community experiences grief. I see some kind of magic in that. I love how they lift each other up. If someone in the larger we can hold onto hope, then there is a chance for light at the end of the tunnel.
The connection to religion and spiritual beliefs is clear, but not overwhelming. We have the title and opening line, other well-known phrases, such as “Jesus wept …” and then finally, Jesus appearing to them the night before his passing. Why was a religious connection or alliteration important to this story?
I’ve always struggled with my faith, and instead have channeled those types of feelings into people. Where others pray to God, I have prayed to my mom. Put all my faith in her always being the loving mother she’s always been. I wanted the narrators of this story to feel the same. It’s implicit, but the narrators’ biological dad is out of the picture. I imagine them seeing Jesus as a fatherly figure in their lives. But more so, a man who brought their mother joy, a man who wasn’t in their lives for long, a man they put a lot of faith in continuing to give their mom joy. The religious connection felt important in keeping some of that joy present even after his death. Jesus was a flawed man, but they are putting their faith in their good memories of him. And that’s my hope for this story ending the way it does—on an image of him living his cowboy dream—a small panel of light they can pocket when grieving.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems as if the narrators are growing up in the states—Nebraska–while Jesus has come there recently from Mexico. Tell me about how this may set up a cultural divide—perhaps generationally, perhaps not—between the narrators and their observations of Jesus.
Yes! In Omaha, Nebraska! Have to give my hometown some loving. In my experience, my generation is more open to pointing out red flags. Whereas my parents’ and Jesus’ generations will keep certain things silent, especially when it comes to men because of too much toxic masculinity among the Latinx population. Alcoholism, for example, is often brushed off as just a man thing. As in, if your husband is a drunk, you the wife shouldn’t worry about it. (Something my mom has been told before! Back when my dad was an alcoholic.) But being younger and having been born in the U.S., I feel that my narrators would actually name the things they are seeing for what they are.
This short piece of fiction is in a unique story-telling style: a list of attributes of one single character. In a way, the story itself is happening off the page, behind the scenes. Tell me more about writing, and what you believe to be the most effective ways of writing flash fiction stories.
I am probably lists’ number one fan. When I hit a writer’s block, I write a list. And when revising, my stories often want to become lists. Lists are my way of being poetry-adjacent. I’m not a poet, but I love the importance poetry gives to specificity, to details, to imagery, and lists really ask that of the writer. Ideally, every item is doing work. Has an Oomph! How the items are ordered matters, too—I’d say it’s where most of the story happens. In those revelations made with every new item, that then give even more oomph to previous items. Of course, the reader is being asked to make those connections, but that is one thing I love about flash. I love the possibility of interactivity. It’s not the only approach to flash writing, but my own personal favorites tend to be the ones that convince me to play along with their narratives. The ones that have gaps and yet say so much that I know just how to fill them.
Finally, I perused the internet for more of your work, and there are some excellent pieces out there. Tell me what other projects you’re working on or avenues of writing you hope to pursue in the future.
Thanks for reading some of my other work! Right now, I am mostly focused on my MFA thesis, which is a sort of memoir, sort of board game about anxiety, food, queerness, faith, and self-love. Really pushing that interactivity that I love about flash to the extreme! On the side, I am also writing more flashes to go along with this one. Stories told by two siblings who grew up watching too many telenovelas, so they are drama-starved, nosey, want in on all the gossip!