“The Story Behind the Story: “What We Were When We Drew What We Drew”

Gabe, the faceless character in my story, has actually lived in my brain for about forty years now. He’s mostly quiet, but I have to deal with all his junk mail and his debt collector robo-calls.

Back around 1980 or so, when I was in high school, my younger brothers had reached the age I’d reached when I discovered dangerous little diversions—-messing around with firecrackers, stealing mower gas to burn things. I had managed not to lose any fingers or an eye to these experiments, but I was a lucky kid. My brothers were more reckless, and I was scared for them, yet I didn’t want to lecture them like a parent would. I’d surely get the tune-out. Instead, I thought a story could reach them—a slightly scary story, a sort of 80’s-era Brothers Grimm tale complete with bodily harm and moral lesson.

“You want to know what happens when you play with fireworks?” I began, as they sat around the dinner table. “Have you ever heard of Faceless Jimmy Johnson?” They bought it (for a while), the tragic accident and the charred, melted flesh, not even questioning the lazy, off-the-shelf fake name. It worked until they grew up, out of childhood and out of danger. Faceless Jimmy Johnson became a family story, another myth like the one about my private scab collection, all fading away to nothing, which is exactly how Gabe wants it. Like it never happened. People are cruel. He’s safer there inside my head.

About joe kapitan

Joe Kapitan is an emerging writer and mostly-emerged architect roaming the southern shore of Lake Erie. His short fiction and creative non-fiction have appeared in Hobart, [PANK], Smokelong Quarterly, Notre Dame Magazine, The Cincinnati Review, and others. His collection of short fiction A Pocket Guide to North American Ghosts was published by Eastern Point Press in 2013.