When Trop first decided to have podcasts, one of our ideas was to record readings of Trop writers’ short fiction. This was a pretty natural thought. We are, after all, a collective of fiction writers.
There are three Thompson children. Michael, the youngest, won’t be back from Mexico until March. Justin, the oldest, missed Christmas because he had other obligations. And Kathy wishes she didn’t have to do this.
It’s not a bad idea to listen to the first episode of Overheard before you listen to this one, but we don’t think it’s necessary.
A fictional story pretending to be a work of journalism within another fictional story that’s also sort of pretending to be a work of journalism? We’ve been wanting to get this project started since summertime. J.R. Nutt was our original muse, but he went to see about a girl. Luckily, though, we met the Thompsons: Caroline Slaughter, Nic Stanich, and Shawn Dempewolff.
Parts of this story take place in a Jeep Liberty. If you listen closely to those parts, you’ll hear quite a few off-mic giggles. The giggles, like the Liberty, belong to Katie Browne. Katie doesn’t want to sound pompous, but she considers herself an expert in driving. “You can’t be sheepish when you make left turns,” she says. “You have to be a stallion.”
I asked Naomi what her grandmother has taught her over the years. “Everything in life,” she said. “But I didn’t learn the one thing that she really wanted to teach me, the one thing she’s tried to teach me every day, every time I’ve seen her, which is that love doesn’t pay the rent.”
“I do like getting her high every once in a while,” said Myke. “I haven’t, though, not lately. You know how some people just shouldn’t get high when they’re having problems? I guess she’s one of them.”
Adam looked at my microphone and asked if I’d ever been to the place where his brother volunteers. I told him I’d never heard of it. “You should really go there,” he said. “It’s a good place for interviewing. It’s a place for senior citizens that are like eighty, eighty-five, ninety-five. Some of them can’t really hear well. Some of them get really grumpy. Some of them say, ‘Oh my god, I’m gonna throw up.’ And that’s when you want to get out of there. But you shouldn’t go right away, because you don’t want to embarrass anyone.”
Peter paused and put his shirt on. “What did I learn in the mountains this summer? Things that could help Stephan? Um, simple things, I guess. Like always keep track of your lighter. It’s a good idea to keep it close to things that you’ll need to set on fire. Um, that tomatoes and grapes are some of the best things to shoot out of slingshots. Oh and I think I learned that badgers and coyotes will work together to hunt prey. A coyote will chase down a rabbit, and it’ll go into its den, and then a badger will waddle up and dig it out. I don’t know who feasts first. I don’t think they feast at the same time. But, still, that’s cool. That’s a symbiotic relationship right there.”
She was dyed, permed, and backlit. Two of her fingers were curled and poking into the inside of my cheek. She tipped her head in front of the light, changed her angle. “When’s the last time you flossed?” Careful not to bite her, I told her I always brushed twice a day. “Do you ever floss?” she asked. I shook my head and licked some chalky mint off the backs of my bottom teeth. She tightened her fingerhook. “How many cavities?” None, I said. “That’s gonna change, you know. You’re nineteen. You’ve never had any reason to be afraid of coming here. But good teeth don’t last forever. Start flossing.”
I asked Gina if she knew any good jokes. She giggled. “What do a fish and a banana have in common? They both live underwater, except the banana… Most of the jokes I like have bananas in them, which is a whole other Freudian question… What’s Beethoven’s favorite fruit? Ba na na NAAA. That one literally came off a popsicle stick.”
Peter Nichols has made peace with his writer’s block. “It’s ultimately funny, someone in that position, someone that can’t go forward. I mean we laugh when we think about constipation. That shit’s funny.”
I’m sitting on a plastic chair in my bedroom, tipped forward, back arched, chin up for balance. The curtain’s half open, and light’s bouncing in off the white wall across the alley.
Tom Dibblee, it turns out, knows a lot about dogs. “There’s a difference,” he told me, “between a stray dog and a wild dog. You need forest for wild dogs. Milledgeville has wild dogs, no doubt about it. You see them in packs everywhere. You drive down a dirt road at night, and you just see eyes. You think it’s wildlife, and it is, but they’re dogs.”
Before we walked to the theater, I asked Stephan what he expected from Moonrise Kingdom. “Owen Wilson. He’ll probably be in this movie. So will Jason Schwartzman. And Bill Murray. I bet Bill Murray’ll be in this movie too. And a beautiful palette. It wouldn’t be a Wes Anderson movie without a beautiful palette. And lots of thick rimmed glasses.” I asked Stephan if he ever wears thick-rimmed glasses. “My sunglasses have thick frames, yeah.”
J.R. Nutt has a problem. “I think it’s a mockingbird,” he says. “I know exactly what it looks like.” I ask if he knows what a mockingbird looks like. He dips two fingers into his curls, scratches, and smiles: “No. I haven’t done the research yet.”