Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Contributors' Notes for My Unwritten Stories: "The Channukah Gas Mask"

This story comes out of my experience working in the Barnes & Noble located in the northeast corner of the Westroads Valley Mall. I still work there, not happily, but maybe not as miserably as on the morning when inspiration for "The Channukah Gas Mask" touched down on me. I was in the stock room, opening boxes, checking in the latest order from Barnes & Noble's chief distributor, a corrupt corporate giant like Barnes & Noble itself. My soul, it's fair to say, was crying out in this dark room, and making things worse was the fact that Lisa Tillison, who is my age and single and beautiful in a way that not everyone might be able to see, was cheerfully perfecting the display of new novels stacked up by the mall entrance to the store. Why so cheerful? Does she not see the horrible spirit-puncturing fakeness of a store like the one where we are forced to work? If you and I, Lisa, can't relate to one another and in our connection find refuge from the general horror, what's to become of this world? Such were my thoughts pretty much on the fortunate day when I was lit through with inspiration for "The Channukah Gas Mask." News of the Sego tragedy had reached me, and into my creative mindspace came images of the poor miner, trapped by rock. In some sense, I, in the dark stock room, became the miner, and perhaps the miracle that readers have found so stirring in my story was inspired by some vague foreknowledge of the fact that Lisa Tillison, later that day, would ask me what the words on my neck tie said and would smile at me when I told her.