I began writing ‘There is Something So Quiet and Empty Inside of You That it Must be Precious’ after I read an article about a mosque being burned to the ground.
I don’t remember where exactly that I saw it, not now, but I remember that it was in Missouri, and it was a small little thing that served fifty families or thereabouts. I also remember that the thing that caught my eye about it was that it had been the second attempt to burn it down. After reading it, I had this strong image of a cop standing outside it, a body burned up inside, and the image of the teeth, clenched in death.
I wrote it originally for Deb Layne’s next volume in the excellent anthology series, Polyphony (Forrest Aguirre stepped in for Jay Lake on this volume, but more of Forrest tomorrow). Deb is one of the best people I’ve met and was behind my book, Twenty-Six Lies/One Truth. She gave me a chance to push the boundaries in that book, and the success of the narrative in ‘There is Something So Quiet…’ owes a lot to her confidence and support then. Unfortunately, the economics of the world conspired, and the eighth volume of Polyphony didn’t happen, and in the intervening years, I never tried to sell the story elsewhere. I had never imagined it being elsewhere until last year, when myself and Stephen Michell were going through Dead Americans. I wanted to put it in because I considered it the companion piece to the final story in the book, ‘theleeharveyoswaldband’, which Deb (along with Jay Lake) published in the seventh volume of Polyphony. Music links together the two pieces, and whatever else you wish to decide is, most likely, there as well – but the link between the two is also the opportunity and support Deb Layne provided in the work and myself.
‘There is Something So Empty and Quiet Inside of You That It Must be Precious’ is a story that I get a deep personal satisfaction out of the structure of. It is one of the rare stories I have written that I feel, when I go over it, that the last line unlocks a deeper, more important meaning to the piece, one that allows for a second reading to take place. As with all things, the mileage of the reader varies, and certainly, in my experience, what the author often thinks and feels is at times dramatically different to the reader, which is one of the joys of being read, but in this particular case, I do feel a deep sense of something falling into place exactly how I wanted it to do so, and for that, I have always thought well of it.
Well, that and the fact that it has the longest title I have ever written, which is its own prize if, like me, you have a long history of people telling you how awful your titles are.
(This is a story note for my collection, Dead Americans and Other Stories, which is available now. The song is part of an illusionary soundtrack that I am putting into each of the posts for amusement, but if you owned the book, you could listen to it in the final moments of the story, if you were so inclined. If you don’t own a copy of Dead Americans and Other Stories and you haven’t read ‘There is Something so Empty and Quiet Inside of You That it Must Be Precious’ then you should follow the links, and buy a copy, because it’s good for you. And it saves a poor, starving American from being devoured on the road by capitalist monsters that cannot be described for all the Lovecraftian reasons.)