This week’s On Location comes from Ecotone contributor Kevin Brockmeier, whose story “The Year of Silence” appeared in Volume 3, Issue 1 back in 2007, and was reprinted in The Best American Short Stories 2008. Unfortunately, that issue was so popular it sold out, but you can find Brockmeier’s story and many more in the newly published Astoria to Zion: Twenty-Six Stories of Risk and Abandon.
Kevin Brockmeier writes:
Shorty Small’s, the restaurant pictured above, is located directly across from the elementary school in Little Rock where I was once enrolled, and has been for more than three decades. When we were kids, we thought of it as the most grown-up and dangerous of grown-up and dangerous places—“a wretched hive of scum and villainy,“ to borrow the words of Obi-Wan Kenobi. A shack! Where people drink beer! With a dilapidated truck marooned on a post out front! Whatever you do, we warned each other, if the soccer ball rolls across the street during recess, do not follow it there.
Shorty Small’s is, as it turns out, a burger joint, named for the fictional saloon-keeper who founded it. It offers a dedicated children’s menu—which is to say a menu for children, not of them—with grill cheese, mini corn dogs, and kiddie catfish among the selections. I now live roughly a block from the place, and I’ve eaten there a few times myself. Rarely, though, even today, do I pass through the door without detecting a whiff of imaginary sulfur.
Kevin Brockmeier is the author of the recently released memoir, A Few Seconds of Radiant Filmstrip. His novels include The Illumination, The Brief History of the Dead, and The Truth About Celia. He has two story collections, Things That Fall From the Sky and The View from the Seventh Layer, and a children’s novel, City of Names and Grooves: A Kind of Mystery. His work has appeared in the New Yorker, the Georgia Review, Tin House, the Oxford American, McSweeney’s, Zoetrope, The Best American Short Stories, The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, and New Stories from the South. He has earned three O. Henry Awards, the PEN USA Award, the Borders Original Voices Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and an NEA fellowship. He lives in Little Rock, Arkansas, and often teaches at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop.