From where did you get the idea for “Dirtclouds”?
Our backyard at the moment is mostly dirt and with two dogs running back and forth the patio gets frequently covered in what they kick up. I was cleaning the backyard one day and when I shook out the doormat I was amazed at the amount of dirt that came out of it, wave after wave. It seemed endless. For some reason I imagined random items falling out of my doormat. The first thing that came to mind was a young girl and I thought there might be a story there. I liked the idea of a man doing something simple, like cleaning the backyard, and stumbling into something rather fantastic.
The specificity and wonder attached to those things that fall from the mat! Remarkable. How did you know what would fall out? How did you get it so right?
Besides knowing dirt would fall out I wasn’t entirely sure. As I wrote the story I listed whatever came to mind and then went back and took out items that I didn’t feel worked. Like you mentioned, I think it’s the specifics of those things that fall out and not necessarily the items themselves that identify with the main character. The potato sacks are empty, the pieces of coral reef are broken, the cheese is single sliced, there is only one shoe and it’s missing its laces. For the more fantastic items, well, I wanted to write a story with whalebone in it and saw this as a perfect excuse. The donkeys, I’m not sure. They just happened.
Such a sense of loss. What “dirtclouds” might we find inside Charles Lennox?
If I were the man in the story, I think my grandfather would have fallen out of the mat. A little over a year ago he was ill and my wife and I had planned a trip to visit him but he died before we could get there. Through the years I had grown to appreciate him more and more and was disappointed to not have that chance to tell him so one last time. I’ve been fortunate not to experience a great deal of loss in my life, but it’s something that is unavoidable, it’s universal. Loss makes you appreciate what you have, however temporary.
I love the use of “the man” and “the girl.” What do you think that achieves within this story?
Typically I shy away from using names unless I feel it adds weight to the story or serves a purpose. The absence of names gives this story a little more anonymity, I think. The man could be any man, the girl could be any lost girl.
What’s life like in Southern California with a wife and the two dogs? Any writing projects we should know about?
Life is really good right now. We recently bought our first home, the dogs can be mischievous but we love them, the weather is sunny and clear nearly every day. There’s so much to do here, it’s great.
At the moment I’m working on stories for a possible God-themed chapbook. I’m also writing a few stories inspired by my hometown, Hawaii. I love the people there, the food and the culture. Plus, the scenery is beautiful. I think stories set in that environment or can capture its spirit could be something pleasurable to read. And write.