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Smoking With Alex Higley

Interview by Beth Thomas (Read the Story) December 20, 2011

Alex Higley

A Smoke Backstage by William Michael Harnett

Where did the bus driver character come from? Is he based on someone you know or knew?

The bus driver emerged from the line “Stole your dog boys.” I was thinking about what kind of person would speak those words. He is not based on anyone I know; not consciously.

The Coach is barely there, a non-character. Tell us about his lack of there-ness in this story.

Coach is meant to show that the bus driver chose to address the kids on the bus. The bus driver could have just drove the bus, or spoken to the team in the way other adults did, or ignored them as people as Coach does. Transporting the team alone would have been an enormously generous act to do regularly, free of charge, but the bus driver also chooses to engage.

Did you play sports and have to make these drives to and from games? If so, what did you learn on these trips? What do you remember about them? If not, what do you imagine these trips were like?

I played basketball and ran track in high school, and did make bus trips to the games and meets. I don’t remember learning anything on the bus rides. I grew up in Colorado, so I was probably looking out the window. Or trying to make whoever I was sitting with laugh. What I remember most is all the different gyms. Running into a painted brick wall behind the hoop at a school in Boulder where there was no padding behind the baseline. Another school had an indoor track on a second floor above the basketball court so the teams could run during the winter. The track rung around the seating though, so all the corners were blind. That was kind of amazing to me.

What are you reading right now?

Right now I am reading To the White Sea by James Dickey, and going back through Seek: Reports from the Edges of America & Beyond by Denis Johnson.

What else are you working on?

I am working on stories.

About the Author

Alex Higley lives in Chicago.

About the Interviewer

Beth Thomas is originally from New Mexico but currently lives in California due to military relocation. She works as a technical writer in the aerospace/defense industry—don’t ask what she writes about ’cause she can’t really tell you. She has a BA and an MA in writerly things from New Mexico universities. Her work has recently appeared in Pindeldyboz Online, SmokeLong Quarterly, Juked, Word Riot, and other places.

About the Artist

William Michael Harnett (August 10, 1848–October 29, 1892) was an Irish-American painter known for his trompe-l’œil still lifes of ordinary objects.

This interview appeared in Issue Thirty-Four of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Thirty-Four
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