Sunday, 23 August 2009

What McSweeny's didn't want

A month or so ago, McSweeny's ran a competition to find some new regular columns and columnists. This was my entry, which did not make the top 33 out of 800 or so submissions.

Exit Interviews with People at Culturally Significant Events by Stuart Evers

1. Brief description of the proposed column

Exit Interviews with People at Culturally Significant Events is a series of fictionalised monologues from people present at subsequently important happenings. Without the benefit of hindsight and cultural baggage, we discover the real stories of those who bore witness. All of them made-up, obviously, but authentic to their time.

In length they vary from the longish to the very short – one, for example is just a single sentence – and they would span the twentieth century, taking place in different cities and towns around the world.

2. Exit interviews with people at culturally significant events – full example

Jim Miller, 31.Office Clerk.

The march on Washington for jobs and freedom, August 28, 1963.

It’s not that I didn’t want to go on the march. Marching’s something I’ve been doing a while now and being part of that crowd and making my voice heard, yeah; that’s something that’s important to me, but if I’m honest I was only there because Anita got in a snit with me about it. She told me all about the march, but we’d been invited over to Phil and Janie’s and, well, we don’t get to see those guys quite so much these days. Not since Janie said those things about the Jews and Anita got all tense about it.

Not that I’m saying we only went on the march because of Phil and Janie. I bet Anita would have wanted to go anyway. All’s I’m saying is she seemed far more keen on Dr King once she found out what the alternatives were. And she always manages to talk me round. “We can see your friends any time,” she says to me. “How many chances are we going to get to hear Martin Luther King?” She always sounds logical, even when she’s just trying to get her own way.

We got here by bus. Anita wanted to drive, but I put my foot down. There was no way I was driving with all these people heading downtown. And anyway, there were buses going from a few blocks up anyway, so it made sense. Anita couldn’t argue with that.

The bus was hot as all hell and when it pulled off this man in front of us turned to talk to Anita. He talked to her the whole way to the memorial.


When we got to the meeting point, we both had a sweat on. I was using my hat to fan myself, while Anita stood on her tippy-toes looking out on all the crowds. She made a noise like she’d been thrown a surprise party and all the people she’d ever known had shown up.


Eventually we got to march. The man in front of me had the strongest body odour I’ve ever smelled. He stank like something had died in his shirt. I kept trying to guide us away from him, but no matter what I did, the guy just stayed right there in front of us. Anita was getting annoyed with me for trying to move her away from him, so I gave up and just smoked a bunch of cigarettes to mask the man’s stink.


When we made it to the Lincoln Memorial, Anita started talking to a bunch of guys dressed in faded denims. Beatniks, you could call them I guess, I’ve never really seen a beatnik up close before. I thought they were supposed to be dangerous. The only dangerous thing about those guys was that their shoe laces were untied.

When the speeches started we were a way from the stage and Anita was pretty much totally ignoring me; she was just talking to the beatniks. Once they all turned round and looked at me, then laughed. I tried to front it out, but it was pretty hard with them all smiling and nudging at each other. I got to thinking that if I left now I could probably get over to Phil and Janie’s for a few beers.

I should have felt bad for thinking about leaving my wife like that, but I was mad with her and it wasn’t like I’d done anything wrong save for trying to see my friends and get out the way of a man who stank like roadkill.

I asked her if she wanted to come and get a soda with me and she just said: “Dr King’s on soon. Nelson here says so.”

And then the kid nodded at me, so I told her I needed a drink and walked off.


I did catch some of Dr King's speech, but it was hard to make out all what he was saying. I heard, the “I have a dream” parts and one of the times he said it, under my breath I said “and that’s to find a goddamn soda.” It cracked me up for a moment, but people were looking at me kind of funny. They were all hanging on his every word, and the words drifted left to right on the wind so the people looked a little like crowds at a tennis match. And that just cracked me up even more.

I guess I’ll see Anita back at home. I mean it’s taken me a whole hour to get this far, and I’m still miles away from the buses. And there’s been no sight of any sodas. You know where I can get one?

No comments:

Post a Comment