by Jesse Miller
Date of Publication: May 15th 2018
Publisher: Common Deer Press
Cover Artist: Ellie Sipila
Genre: Literary Fiction
Imagine the son of Cinderella and Noah. That's Alabaster Ash, professional window washer and amateur foot fetishist, thrall to his three physically fit, brutally aggressive stepsisters.
After polishing foot after foot of glass in the gingerbread city of Candyland and cleaning up after the “wicked stairmasters,” he haunts the bars and streets looking for love and appreciation -or a really nice pair of feet.
Like it or not, Alabaster finds himself reliving and reimagining his parents' lives as he roams from bar to bar, from thrill ride to stunt show in the linguistic funland that is ARK.
Ground squirmed past the windows, shuffling racks of bones and skulls under the soptoil as clouds crept along the horizon. On the bus, all the windows let in cold air and hung like a racked row of ice cubes in a tray, but I barely cracked the bottle.
Out I poured when the doors opened, unable to feel my legs, unable to see the ocean, but I could smell the salty marsh marching wet blue harridans, swiping and batting the spit, pushing the blood and saltboxing up fatjuices into my sinuses.
Jammed a kwata in the belly box and engaged the line.
–I’ve arrived. I’m here.
–That’s great. I bet a little walk will feel like a little slice of heaven, eh?
–Well, I’ll leave the light on for you, Buddy.
I slid on my gloves and tried not to flinch at the sudden mustering of prickly discs skipping to my face. I leaned in hard and clacked through town, blackened and boarded and unblinking, barely wicklit. Smatter rooms to let. Ingrown hairs. Offseason. Unseasoned in the savorless in and out drag of the tonguetide. I dashed through a carless parking lot and into an astralamped glass meadow jotting down quivering blue starlight ink- puddles into suckshifts of snowhunchbanks humpbacking the outermost stretch of tideland. To the left, a skit of cloven unguals stirred it seemed, crunchy, but I only got half an ear worth and couldn’t noctoscop the goings-on of could be caribou or elk or deer bowing their head, bowing their head before the almighty peering down hard and in, like the retractable Polton and Crane lamp in the dentist’s office that hangs my mouth open.
Inside the blackness, the stickiting, ricketing pickets of thickets wiggle on their dicot studs without me seeing, while they shot out the other side and stitched a black curtain against the edge of the rest of the world. I clacked another mile stretch as brine wafers tickled my ears and swizzled my nos- trils while Lawrence Welk drift popping jollyjawdropping orbs uncorked across my field of vichy.
Estrella’s was a lighthouse, though not the vertical variety. But it glowed.
Light hung out over the glass and flabbed fat, hotwhite dough out the sides as I took up her street. This was another gingerbread house, hundreds of miles from home, though this one in earshot of the beach. I rang and rang and rang and then just opened the door.
Jesse Miller is the author of Unwrap Your Candy and the forthcoming ARK, both available from Common Deer Press. He is a Visiting Assistant Lecturer in English at the University of New England. He lives in the great city of Portland, Maine with his wife, two cats, and dog. Jesse roots for the Red Sox.
The Book Junkie Reads . . . Interview with Jesse Miller. . .
How would you describe your style of writing to someone that has never read your work?
I suppose at points my books balance on the edge of the surreal. And then there’s the occasional fit, the phantasmagoric fever dream, and that’s the stuff that really excites me. The enduring tension for me has always been how far can I go with the surreal and still carry the reader along for the ride.
What are some of your writing/publishing goals for this year? Can you share you next creative project(s)? If yes, can you give a few details?
I just wrapped up my spring teaching; this has been particularly challenging semester and as is the case for many writer/teachers, the end of the semester usually swallows up most creative time, and all human-person time. I’m a husk with thumbs at this stage.
Soon though, I’ll return to near human form and then I’ll be turning my attention to the novel I’ve been working on for a long, long time, though I probably couldn’t even describe it to you at this point. My go-to is that the eye can never see the eyeball. I hardly know what I’m working on until I’m finished. But I think It’s about a guy who constantly gets passed over for things. It’s a bit of a language-y book that comes from the same place creatively as ARK, but if ARK is mostly about a kind of euphoria, a kind of intoxication, the book I’m working on is more focused on the subsequent hangover.
So that’s summer and its wishful thinking, but I’ve set the controls to the heart of the sun and that’s where I’m headed.
Do you feel that writing is an ingrained process or just something that flows naturally for you?
For me, if I’m not writing, I have a real difficulty organizing my thoughts and expressing things clearly in my non-writing human activities—I have trouble with this as a kind of bassline general state, but it amps up dramatically when I’m away from my creative work. I think I tend toward the fracturing and reassembling of language to manipulate, or coax something new out of the sounds or the collage of words together—nothing new in the approach obviously, way last century stuff for sure, but the attention to language, foregrounding language to share what I’d consider an equal role as the characters in the book, that is the thing that wears me out most, and helps iron me out, I’d say. I suppose there’s some analogue to working out physically—a kind of gymnasium for the mind. I’m at my most clearheaded and unblocked state, I’m most suitable for public consumption, when I’m able to work regularly on my book projects. As my wife likes to point out, Summer Jesse is more way more articulate than end-of-semester Jesse.
Where would you spend one full year, if you could go ANYWhere? What would you do with this time?
A full year? Jumpin’ Jesus on a trampoline—that’s a marvelous dream. As I write this, you’re catching me just as my semester ends—I just finished all of my grading last night, and I’m still spun into delirium, trying to feel what the ground is like after getting off the treadmill.
I’d like to go to France—my wife and I have talked about saving for our honeymoon. She’s told me about friends of hers who have travelled through wine country on bicycles, moving from town to town, tracing along the vineyards, and following the fragrance of grapes heavy in the air, really just drinking in the French countryside. If I could snap my fingers, I’d want that to happen.
Mostly, though, after a week or so in France, by day I’d spend 12 dedicated months working on a new book—a page a day gets you a real draft. By night, I’d sip some of the French wine we would have shipped back home and I’d chew through as many books in my reading queue as possible. I’d also want to listen to more opera. I really want to explore opera. That’s not really a literal place, but it puts me in an emotional place, so it’s making the list here.