1429283316376There’s a lot of motherhood in your collection. Why?

Writing and motherhood rolled in on the same thunder, flashed with the same white electric. I’d just finished grad school and I read Louise Erdrich’s memoir and her babies slept in their baskets while she wrote. I was jolted awake by motherhood, and it seemed to me that the world was too.

Motherhood was also a foreign land. It amazed me, and I wanted to describe everything I saw. The pressure to write was acute, and because my days were bounded, insular, but with this exalted view, that tension intensified.

But then I ventured outside, and the air still echoed from the thunderstorm, but let’s say my mother was there, my mother-in-law, my grandmothers—there were women and children everywhere—and it turned out that what I was seeing was at once universal and personal.

SamSlaughter2

 

I’m going to go ahead and ask this because we’re all thinking it: are you drinking right now?

I have some double chocolate hot cocoa, if that’s what you mean.

 

Is that a shot? What’s in it?

It has water…and hot cocoa mix. Land O’ Lakes, if you must know.

AldenJonesThe adjectives “dark” and “raw” are often used to describe the stories in Unaccompanied Minors. Are you a “dark” person? Is there perhaps something wrong with you?

It’s funny you should ask that. My wife and I have an ongoing struggle with television and what to watch together. She can’t handle anything violent or cruel. Somehow every show I love involves this element of intensity and often this intensity is measured by how far into some area of darkness – crime, violence, psychological terrain – the show and the characters are willing to go. She says “Modern Family!” and I say “True Detective!” And we meet in the middle with “Orange is the New Black.” So this is something I think about a lot: Why am I drawn to the dark side?

I am like everyone  else — good at some things, bad at others. I am good at eating clementines. I am bad at drawing straight lines. I am good at drinking coffee. I would be bad at building a house. If someone asked me to build them a house, I would have to say no. Or I would say yes and worry they would not like the house I built. Why is the kitchen made of coffee filters, they’d say? Why are there no floors? And I’d say, I wish you hadn’t asked me to build you a house.

Who was that guy you were just talking to?

Nobody.

 

I could have sworn he just gave you money, a stack of money rubber-banded together. Nobody just gave you a stack of money?

I dropped that. He gave it back to me. Besides, it wasn’t a stack of money. Only the top of the stack was money, and that was only a $2 bill.

The first thing you to need realize is, nobody’s watching. I never said anything derogatory during the Super Bowl, a State of the Nation address, or a rerun of Friends. I’ve aired Saturdays, either 2 in the afternoon or 2 in the morning, not exactly prime time, and the folks watching TV then aren’t the kind of people you need to be image-conscious around. There are literally more of you here now than there are viewers, and that would be true if half of you left to go the bathroom. But enough with the excuses: This is an apology, so the exact number of people who heard you mercilessly mocked, week in and week out, for thirty years, is irrelevant. What’s important is that all of it is in good fun. People are laughing with you, not at you. Best of all, most of what I said isn’t true—not mostly. Besides: Who outside of Berwyn would even know what a Berwyn was if not for me? Imagine, all these years, that voice moaning, “Elk Grove Village” instead. Or “Shaumburg.” Or “Harvey.” “Minooka.” “Beecher.” Berwyn is on the map. Berwyn sings. Berwyn is where it’s at. How does any of this make me qualified to be your mayor? It doesn’t. But it reminds me of a story:

We were bound but not gagged; the wife wanted us to talk.  Her assistant had done the dirty work—jumped us in the street, knocked us out, transported us to wherever the hell we were, tied us tight to wooden chairs.  It was my day off.  I had been walking the Highline.  I heard footsteps behind me, turned, and everything went black.