I was recently invited to participate in the “Significant Objects” art project, joining the likes of Christopher Sorrentino, Ed Park, Maud Newton, Colson Whitehead and Nicholson Baker. Short version is they send a bunch of writers a random photo (I got the yo-yo pictured above) and we write a very short fiction concerning said object. Object and its “story” are put on Ebay, and the entire project is documented for posterity. The curators are interested in how narrative assigns value to seemingly meaningless objects.
Anyway, my piece has gone up today and I’m matching whatever it finally sells for and donating the proceeds to the Literacy Network of Los Angeles (or blowing it on booze, not sure yet). Either way, I’m pleased with the way it turned out – I’ve never done a short fiction to order like this before. So check out the site and the listing, and if you dig what I wrote at all, perhaps you’ll bid a buck or two for a yo-yo. Here's how the story begins:
When I was seventeen, I was expelled from high school. My father, reasonably enough, gave me a choice: Get a job or get out. The only job for a 30-mile radius was the night shift behind the counter at an Amoco station on a deserted back road off the interstate. Scott, the owner, told me I probably wouldn’t see a customer most nights. He was chubby, hairy and, at 26, overly proud of himself for owning a gas station.
Back then, gas stations had no mini marts, no hot dogs, not even Gatorade. It was mostly candy bars and smokes, if you weren’t picky about your brand. Gas fumes mingled with the scent of cleaning fluid used to wipe down tools. I had an AM radio with lousy reception and, on his way out the door, Scott tossed me an Amoco yo-yo for entertainment. Ahead of his time, he was branching out into branded swag.
Four nights into the job, Scott’s prediction had held up. I was fiddling with the yo-yo, which had become an obsession. There was something soothing about the bouncing repetition, and it helped pass the time. I was watching it travel up and down the string when I heard a girl’s voice.