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Smoking With Joshua Rupp

Interview by Michael Czyzniejewski (Read the Story) December 16, 2014

Joshua Rupp

art by Leslie June

The perspective here is what makes the story work, the eyes of a child just going along with anything and everything. Do you often use unreliable narrators? How would this story be different if told from third person? From the dad’s point of view?

I don’t trust reliable narrators. Outside of telemarketers, it’s not a phenomenon found in nature. Anyway, reliability is a matter of context. If you’d been around in the medieval ages, and didn’t take precautions against werewolves, your neighbors would have rightly thought you were nuts. Because werewolves suck. This world is crowded with contradictory religions, crystal healers, false memory syndrome, and Republicans. People are not reliable. You can probably trust them to direct you to the grocery store, but other than that, every person you meet is fighting some insane invisible battle you know nothing about and probably believes something weird.

In third person it wouldn’t be a story; it would just be an occurrence.

I didn’t tell it from the father’s point of view because honestly, I think men like him get quite enough attention as it is. I’m far more interested in the shrapnel of their existence than in the men themselves.

Lauren’s dad seems to be a cat person. Are you a dog or cat person? Explain. I used to be a dog person, but I have a cat now and he has the fuzziest, wuzziest tummy in the world, so, here we are.

I’m a cat person, because dogs make me feel guilty. These stories show up all the time: “Some Dude Kicked His Dog.” And it’s the one thing all humans unite over. There are members of ISIS who send angry letters to the paper after some dude kicks his dog. And I’m always like: We invented Pomeranians. We did it on purpose. We took this race of noble, majestic hunters and methodically turned them into various subspecies of neutered slaves. Being mad that someone kicked his dog is like telling off a camp commandant for littering.

I’d like one, though. They’re cute.

What’s Mom doing in the basement? Not sure I want to know, but hey, interview.

I’m afraid to tell you that she is doing absolutely nothing.

Lauren is haunted by dreams, dreams of drowning. What’s the worst nightmare you remember? What do you think it means?

I generally think that dreams don’t mean squat. I also think that the sentence, “Let me tell you about this strange dream I had . . .” is synonymous with “I am a boring person. Jump out a window if that’s what it takes to get away from me.”

Anyway, I’m not sure if my first nightmare is a dream or a memory. We had just moved into a new house, and I got lost. I was in a room by myself. I was pretty sure I’d never see my family again.

There’s a lot of singing on this road trip, something to pass the time for Lauren and Captain Father-of-the-Year. Construct a mix tape for Lauren, something to help her cope, something besides funeral marches.

I can’t imagine that Lauren’s father would let her listen to a mix tape. There’s freedom in music, and he is that part of the species that dislikes the freedom of others. If I were able to violate my own principles and give her something the story doesn’t allow, it would be a mix of Peter, Paul, and Mary, Holst’s The Planets, and a bunch of Motown. I think it might make her feel better. I hope so.

About the Author

When Joshua Rupp was a child visiting Germany, he went to the Bone House, a cage in town where they stacked the skulls dug up from paupers’ graves. While he was staring at the skulls, a man from a local stall came over, wound up a mechanical chicken, and made it walk over the top of the cage. He then took his chicken back, bowed, and went away. Joshua realized that nothing more important was ever going to happen.

About the Interviewer

Michael Czyzniejewski’s fourth collection of stories, The Amnesiac in the Maze, is forthcoming from Braddock Avenue Books in 2023.

About the Artist

Leslie June is a digital media professional and underwater photographer. She currently builds websites and takes photos in Asheville, NC.

This interview appeared in Issue Forty-Six of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Forty-Six

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