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The Extinction Museum: Exhibit #521 (steel drum of gasoline next to brightly illustrated petroleum timeline produced for children by the government in the early 2000s)

Story by Tina May Hall (Read author interview) September 18, 2017

Art by Carsten Stalljohann

Twenty dollars from your father’s wallet bought us hours of driving the unlit roads, bodies of bugs thwacking like kisses on the windshield. We had iced tea in mason jars and brownies from scratch, flowered dresses and orthopedic-looking shoes, heavy as books on barely-formed feet. Banjo music pulsed from the tape deck; we swerved for every possum and raccoon. We were rebels with the tastes of old ladies, howling like banshees across the farmland and the wasteland and the drained swamps of our childhood. Our knees were newly-blossomed things, loose as water snakes under the calico. We rattled and chattered along in my mother’s station wagon with its molting wood paneling and croupy engine. Armadillos peered shyly from the ditches. The soupy air frizzed our curls. You had never cut your hair. It was our emergency rope. My freckles formed a map of the country if I crossed my arms and legs just right. When we ran out of gas, we lay on the hot metal of the hood and waited for another car to come by. Invariably, some sweet boy or old man or potential serial killer would motor up and gallantly make us an offer. Our rule was to choose the third passerby, for luck, clasp hands to show we were dangerous in our own right, and then go with him, into the dark, as far as he would take us.

About the Author

Tina May Hall teaches and writes in upstate New York. Her collection of short stories, The Physics of Imaginary Objects, won the 2010 Drue Heinz Literature Prize. She was awarded an NEA literature fellowship in 2014 and has done residencies at Yaddo and Vermont Studio Center. Her stories have appeared in 3rd Bed, Quarterly West, Black Warrior Review, Descant, The Collagist, and other journals.

About the Artist

Photograph by Carsten Stalljohann via Unsplash.

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

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"The Shape of Things: Movement, Momentum, and Dimension in Flash CNF" with Steve Edwards

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From sentence-level craft concerns to questions of overall approach, this 90-minute webinar will explore strategies for adding shape, intensity, and depth to your flash creative nonfiction.

Steve Edwards is author of the memoir BREAKING INTO THE BACKCOUNTRY, the story of his seven months as caretaker of a 95-acre backcountry homestead along federally protected Wild and Scenic Rogue River in Oregon. His work has appeared in Orion MagazineThe Sun MagazineLiterary HubElectric LiteratureThe Rumpus, and elsewhere. He lives outside Boston with his wife and son.