I took as many classes from Stephen Graham Jones as I could while I was at CU Boulder. Though probably best known for his new novel Mongrels, Stephen has a ridiculously long list of short fiction publications, many of which are very short flash or experimental pieces. One night I went to a faculty reading, where he shared a brilliant little flash story, and admitted afterward that he had written it during the commercial break while watching Star Trek. After his section of the reading was over, he sat in the back of the room and scribbled a brand new story while one of the other professors read.
As a graduate student trying to balance classes, teaching, writing, and life, it was both frustrating and inspirational to see how he could squeeze writing in anytime and anywhere. So I decided to write a story on my bus ride home from that faculty reading. I would start it as soon as I sat down on the bus, and make sure I wrapped it up before my stop.
“It Pours” is that story.
This was still during the time when I was mostly using idiomatic expressions as prompts for stories (see my “Working Like a Dog” post for more on this), and so this title comes from the phrase “When it rains, it pours.”
The first drops fell before I noticed the clouds that had gathered in the corner of my bedroom. I heard them, a slow drip that I attributed to a leaky faucet, or to an overflowing bathtub from the upstairs neighbors that I heard fighting all the time. But when I dragged my eyes up to the ceiling, straining, my whole face pulled by the effort of it, I saw the cumulus bunched into the corner like a clump of dust. I watched it spread across my ceiling. Drops plunked on pant legs, dripped off my arms. I laid straight as a corpse on the bed and let it happen, until every inch was soaked.
A few months after "It Pours" appeared in The Cafe Irreal, I investigated a strange URL that was sending traffic to my website, and discovered that someone had translated this story into Vietnamese and posted it on some kind of Vietnamese online magazine. I know unauthorized translations are a big problem for some writers, but considering that I was paid a token amount for the original, and the Vietnamese site was nice enough to include my bio and link to my website, I couldn’t really complain. Google Translate tells me the way they translated the title meant “Rain in the Room.” I’ve lost the link now, or maybe they’ve taken it down, but it was kind of fun to know that this strange magic realist story I wrote on a bus ride found a few fans in an unexpected place.
I often think that I need long hours and perfect conditions to get any writing done, but I need to remember one of Stephen Graham Jones' biggest lessons: there are dozens of pauses in each day that could be filled with words.