Out of about 1100 submissions and solicitations, these eighteen stories found each other. I imagine them hanging out at the start of this summer, ‘Slanguistic Lipstick’ full of “summer laughter” and that trademark “cherry moon on her crystal flute.” A garden party in Mexico City. Maybe that’s where they all spend this season.
‘Me and Theodore’ (a nickname for “Me and Theodore are trapped in the trunk of the car with rags in our mouths and tape around our wrists and ankles, please let us out”) holds to airplanes and rooftops, talks to ‘Good Friday’ about their shared tetanus shots. Imagine that of all things, they might say, tetanus shots! They present arms to each other, commiserate.
There is much talk of sky and light and smells. ‘Minor Setback’ has a nose stained with “perfume intermingling with powdered chicken broth,” a fort of noodles that rises to block window views, a “hiss of a fluorescent bulb burning out for good.” ‘Rats’ has nose held tight against a rat-infested dump, “beams of light” against the darkness. ‘Trace’ “taps dust with a fingertip…light flickering from the edges” and “air from the refrigerator sweep[ing] in.”
‘A Funny Smell’ speaks of the “smell [that] rolls in across the wasteland…not like a fart, which is actually a funny smell, if it’s funny at all.” ‘A Funny Smell’ looks skyward, anticipating hot air balloons. ‘The Hobblers’ looks out the window, the world something “sweet” or “something out of a horror movie.” ‘Home Economics’ also stays indoors, “lifts a vial to her nose, inhales the Amalfi Coast.” Outside, ‘Underfoot’ runs hands through sediment with Corona Mary, digging the way she smells, cigarettes and beer, but also [Mary] herself, strong, underneath.”
You think Corona Mary’s an odd name, ‘Northern Migration’ says. What of Uncle Bum, Norma Ermbauer, and South Carolina No Name Lake. Here, “evening set a low boiling sun against the trees.” The sunset, for ‘Exile on Payne Street’ “die[s] behind an abandoned hot dog factory.” In ‘Andersonville’ the sky holds rain, an odd kind of rain: “For weeks it rained keys.” ‘Flying Pens’ “cross over the the caution line…and pull a horde of other moments with them.” ‘Matt: How Will It Happen’ lifts eyes and waits. “Bush Chanting” looks “to the sky and trace[s] the pathways of the stars.”
“Skies all cry,” ‘Rain’ repeats, “and we all cry too.”
They find a home, we sometimes speak of stories, as in “I’m so glad this piece found a perfect home with [replace with journal’s name].” In reading these stories a fourth and fifth time, their vitality struck me, their urgency, the way they’ve set themselves against the triviality of everyday. It’s a wild home, with these eighteen residents. Later, when they are kicked out of the current issue and moved to Archives, they transform into haunts, and “Woman in a Bar” invites them all out to her place—the bar dark, “patrons swimming through the gloom-hovering light, neon letters spaghettied across the lacquered walls, blue smoke drifting tributaries above the heads of those who had just stepped in out of the rain or out of the too-bright sun, out of the wind or a stagnant heat.”
It’s summer, a season that smells of sky and light. Take a deep breath, “Funny Smell” says. Open your eyes.
Lead Editor, SmokeLong Quarterly
June 22, 2009