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Smoking With Josh Denslow

Interview by Tara Laskowski (Read the Story) March 27, 2012

Josh Denslow

art by Ashley Inguanta

Where did the idea for this story come from?

Over the years, I’ve made many attempts to write stories about what it’s like to be a valet parking attendant, which, incidentally, was one of the best jobs I ever had. It took me awhile to realize that the actual parking of cars wasn’t the interesting part, it was the stories of the people who worked there. I created the character of Squid, a composite of a bunch of people I worked with, and had him encounter many of the things that happened to me. Then I added in his skewed perspective. I keep coming up with new scenarios and saying to myself, “How would Squid react to this?”

The appearance of the roach at the end is what really tied this whole story together for me. Can you talk a little about that image and what you hoped to accomplish with it?

To me, the story is about incongruous images: The switched photos on the dashboards, Alicia in the wool ensemble in the heat, Squid being the only white guy at the funeral. But I’ve also had this image of a roach at a funeral that I have been trying to incorporate into a story for years. I attended a friend’s funeral where I was horrified by a roach crawling around on my pew. No one else seemed to notice. It didn’t have the courtesy to pose on the bible like the one Squid sees, but I always remember that moment of wanting to move away from the roach and being unable. I refused to draw attention to myself during the service. I tried to distill some of that into the relationship between Squid and Alicia.

The narrator’s nickname is Squid. Do you/did you ever have a nickname, and if so, how did you get it?

I love to dole out nicknames, but alas, no one has ever given me one that stuck. Well, not to my face at least.

Do you normally write flash? Or longer stories? Or something else?

I normally write longer pieces, and I even muddled my way through the first draft of a novel last year. But I read a lot of flash, especially online, and I’ve been dabbling a bit. This story comes from what I envision to be a chapbook of sorts with two alternating narrators, Squid and Cody, who work together as valets at a hotel in downtown Chicago. The challenge to myself is to keep each vignette under 1000 words. I imagine twelve in total. Two of the stories featuring Cody have been published so far. “Everyone Continued to Sing” is the first featuring Squid.

What other passions do you have besides writing?

My other love is music. I play the drums in the band Borrisokane (www.facebook.com/borrisokane), and I think everyone should like us!

About the Author

Josh Denslows stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Third Coast, Wigleaf, Used Furniture Review, Black Clock, and Twelve Stories, among others. He plays the drums in the band Borrisokane.

About the Interviewer

Tara Laskowski

Tara Laskowski has been editor at SmokeLong Quarterly since 2010. Her short story collection Bystanders was hailed by Jennifer Egan as “a bold, riveting mash-up of Hitchcockian suspense and campfire-tale chills.” She is also the author of Modern Manners For Your Inner Demons, tales of dark etiquette. Her fiction has been published in the Norton anthology Flash Fiction International, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Mid-American Review, and numerous other journals, magazines, and anthologies. Tara lives and works in a suburb of Washington, D.C.

About the Artist

Ashley Inguanta is a writer, art photographer, installation artist, and holistic educator. Her work has most recently appeared in Atticus Review, Santa Fe Literary Review, and the anthology The Familiar Wild: On Dogs & Poetry. Her newest chapbook of poems, The Island, The Mountain, & The Nightblooming Field honors a human connection with the natural world.

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