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Smoking With Matt Bell

Skull of a Skeleton with Burning Cigarette
""Skull of a Skeleton with Burning Cigarette"
by Vincent Van Gogh
This piece is such a rollicking, energized romp. I have to know. Where did you get the idea for this one?
I was sitting in a stairwell in Detroit when a woman with a seeing eye dog came up the stairs. She was carrying a Styrofoam coffee cup in one hand, with the lid only on about halfway. I wanted to say something, because obviously she couldnít see the lid and I didnít want her to spill on herself. At the same time, the only reason to speak up was because she was blind, and I didnít want to draw attention to her or make her feel uncomfortable. She went up and down the stairs with that precarious cup of coffee several more times, but by the third trip I was focused on the dog instead of her. I know what to do about dogs, I thought, and I didnít know any blind people. Then I realized that this was a seeing eye dog, and so it was different too and I couldnít pet it or anything, even if I wanted to.

I guess what Iím saying is, I started the story as a way to think through my own ignorance about a certain kind of person, and also about a certain kind of animal. Once I started writing, it turned into something completely different, as inspirations often do.

What was the longer version of the title?
You mean ďThe Adventures of the Blind Woman and Her Seeing Eye Dog As They Crash In and Out of Traffic While Finding Out Many Meaningful Truths About Themselves?Ē Unfortunately, Strunk & White clearly states that the title of flash fictions cannot be more than ten percent of their total length, so I had to cut it down to its current slimness.

How important is it for characters to have a hand in their own crashes?
I like characters that make decisions and then take responsibility for what happens next. There seems to be a trend in contemporary short fiction to have characters who were ruined by some childhood trauma or past relationship, which is fine by itself, except that so often the plot of the story is nothing more than how they learn to accept that fact. Iíd rather have characters who took responsibility themselves for being the way they are, living with both the rewards and the punishments their actions bring. If that brings about failure (or, in this case, crashes), then so be it. Itís still better than the passive acceptance of personal history or fate.

Tell all you can about Dancing on Fly Ash: One Hundred Word Stories.
Dancing On Fly Ash started in October 2004 as a microfiction blog written by Josh Maday and myself, with the goal of writing one hundred word stories and posting them on the web. Since then, weíve written a couple hundred stories each. Like anything else done often, we have our good days and our bad days, but eventually we decided we had enough strong material to publish a small collection based on the first year of the website. The bookís available through, where we also continue to post new stories several times a week.

Time for the first (and perhaps only) SLQ deserted island questionnaire. One CD. One novel. One flash piece. One movie. One very much alive famous person. One very much alive writer. One SLQ editor with the initials R.B.. Go!
Neutral Milk Hotelís The Aeroplane Over The Sea. Denis Johnsonís Jesusí Son. Etgar Keretís ďThe Asthma Attack.Ē Itís A Wonderful Life. Can I trade my famous person in for another writer? Iíd probably take Aimee Bender and George Saunders, both of whose stories I could listen to for years until we were rescued.

Read How the Broken Lead the Blind Until They Both Become Something Else Entirely.
Issue Thirteen (June 15, 2006): A Foreign Woman by Roberta Allen «» Fetichismo by Christopher Battle «» How the Broken Lead the Blind Until They Both Become Something Else Entirely by Matt Bell «» See Odi Naked by Lisa K. Buchanan «» Memory of Sky by Jai Clare «» The Captain by Ron Currie, Jr. «» Bingham by Steve Cushman «» The Table by David Erlewine «» Daffodil by Kathy Fish «» Fishing by Mike Hagemann «» Real Estate by Jennifer A. Howard «» Emily Avenue by Jeff Landon «» Tough Act by Steven J. McDermott «» Cheering by Srdan Papic «» Something Blew by Ellen Parker «» Euclid's Elements by Mary Lynn Reed «» Miracle by Chad Simpson «» Her Lips by Claudia Smith «» Man and Dog by Girija Tropp «» Randomization by Joseph Young «» Interviews: Roberta Allen «» Matt Bell «» Lisa K. Buchanan «» Jai Clare «» Ron Currie, Jr. «» Steve Cushman «» Katrina Denza «» David Erlewine «» Kathy Fish «» Mike Hagemann «» Jennifer A. Howard «» Jeff Landon «» Steven J. McDermott «» Srdan Papic «» Ellen Parker «» Mary Lynn Reed «» Chad Simpson «» Claudia Smith «» Girija Tropp «» Joseph Young «» Cover Art "Despair" by Marty D. Ison «» Letter From the Editor
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