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Story by Ethan Feuer (Read author interview) August 29, 2016

Art by Ricardo Viana

“I’m working on a theory of art supplies. Come down to the basement and I’ll tell you about it.”

“What’s downstairs?”

“Grandaddy’s gun. Working on that too.”

“Man, I don’t like guns.”

“Of course you like guns. You just haven’t met the right one yet.”

“I think I don’t want to.”

“Come on. You’ll thank me later. Gun knowledge could save your life some day.”

“Fine, but if you point it at me, I’m out of here. I knew a guy who played catch with a gun in college and shot his best friend in the stomach.”

“That’s made-up.”

“It’s not.”

“It’s bad gun safety, then.”

“You know what’s great gun safety? Not having a gun.”

“You pussy. See? Isn’t she a fucking lady?”

“It’s a gun. With a knife on the front.”

“Bayonet. It’s a Mosin-Nagant 91/30, manufactured 1939.”

“At least tell me it shot at Nazis?”

“Nazis? Shit. That was like a million years ago. Nothing’s older than Nazis. Grandaddy shot a home invader with it in 1979.”

“Okay. Jesus. Tell me about art supplies—please.”

“Huh? Oh yeah. So, just one sec—first you pop off the bayonet. Spring release, see? Here, hold that, we’ll need it later. Art supplies. Yeah, so I passed by this store downtown the other day. And God damn it was a beautiful store. Boutique. Big glass windows and these pale, plywood shelves just stacked to bust with perfect little notebooks in all these different colors and patterns—neon orange and turtle green and these fine dense gridded papers. All set up perfect in rows like they were gold watches, and—hold on. Almost forgot to check if she’s loaded—whoops! There we go. 7.62 x 54R’s corrosive, so it’s bad for the gun to leave those shells in there. Got to pull the trigger to get the bolt out. I love the shape of this piece, don’t you? The heft of it. It’s like a little die-cast submarine. Fits so perfectly in the hand. Here. Feel it.”

“No, I’m good.”

“Take it, take it. Just put it over there by, uh, the ‘knife’. Ha ha.”

“What time is it?”
“Two minutes later than it was two minutes ago. Christ, get your underwear out of your asshole. Okay, now the clips. Then we can get at the handguard. So this shop—they’ve got their notebooks, and their fine paper. And all the pencils and brushes and whatnot are in these little glass jars, next to their packaging. Packaging for individual pencils! Can you believe it? Little boxes for them and shit. And then the pencils themselves—there goes the handguard. Careful, it’s fragile. These pencils themselves are solid color all the way through. They look like candy. Or gems in a museum. Can you see what I’m saying? If you close your eyes?”

“Uh, sure. Colored pencils.”

“Well, okay. But fancy colored pencils. That’s the point. These are the fucking Taj Mahal of colored pencils.”


“And I mean, that’s not all. There’s $25 coloring books and fountain pens, postcards, gift tags, bookmarks, pen straps, pen cases, pen boxes, artisanal mugs in these cutesy modern geometric designs. It’s, you know, overwhelming.”

“Right. Sure.”

“So I’m asking myself: does anything in this whole store have any use? I mean, art is supposed to be this pure thing, right? You’re an artist.”

“Well, I’m a writer.”

“Well, writing’s art, isn’t it?”

“Can be.”

“Jesus, boy, you could argue about anything. But don’t you see what I’m getting at?”

“Not really.”

“Well, that there’s just something wrong about seeing these art supplies all set out there bright and shiny like brands of potato chip, don’t you think?”



“No. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.”

“We live in a commercialized culture, that’s all I’m saying. I mean—do you write with some $68 fountain pen?”


“Exactly. Alright. See, and this here is called the follower. Also spring-operated. Just pop it out like—that.”

“I guess I just don’t think the tool changes the nature of the task.”

“What’s that?”

“I was saying—about what you said earlier. I think if the task is ugly, the tool is ugly.”

“I just wish we didn’t live in such a commodified culture is all. Okay. So here’s the cool part. Check this out—pass me that bayonet again? Here we go. Doubles as a screwdriver! Use it for the tang screws. That’s fucking engineering.”


“Not so scary now, is she? She’s a lady.”

“Please stop saying that.”

“Then you can pretty much pull the barrel out by hand. Here, you do it.”

“I’m good.”

“No, you should do it. This could save your life someday.”

“I’ll watch.”

“Do it.”

“What time is it?”

“She’s not going to bite you.”

“That’s not what I’m afraid of.”

“Then what are you afraid of?”


Notes from Guest Reader Denne Michele Norris

Such a full and robust story, especially given that it’s all in dialogue. That’s so risky, and here it works beautifully.

About the Author

Ethan Feuer is a Poe/Faulkner Fellow in fiction at the University of Virginia. His work has appeared in Electric Literature / Okey-Panky and Neutrons Protons. He received and honorable mention in the Jan/Feb 2016 Glimmer Train Emerging Writers Contest. He is working on short stories and a novel.

About the Artist

This photo by Ricardo Viana. Used via Unsplash.

This story appeared in Issue Fifty-Three of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Fifty-Three

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