Something In My Eye
“If We Should Ever Meet”
“If We Should Ever Meet” is from Michael Jeffrey Lee’s debut collection, SOMETHING IN MY EYE (Sarabande Books), winner of the 2010 Mary McCarthy prize in short fiction selected by Francine Prose. Lee lives in New Orleans, Louisiana, where he earns his living as a typist, a waiter, and a nightclub singer. A frequent contributor to Conjunctions, he is also an Associate Fiction Editor at the New Orleans Review. He is at work on a novel.
Lee said this about his piece: The reason that this story got written is because my father sat me down one day and said, “Michael, everything you’ve been showing me has been so pitiful and dishonest…If you’re really going to make a go of it as a writer, you’re going to have to dig deeper and find a way to make a little honesty on the page. I think you should try and be funny; you’re a funny person. I won’t give you any more advice…this is all the advice I have for you.”
He was really sick at the time and I wanted to honor him, so the next time I sat down at the screen I made a concerted effort to put my All The Pretty Horses voice aside, and got in touch with my inner humor. I have always been fond of hard-luck stories, especially ones that involve a job search, and now it was time to pen one of my own.
Hearing a poignant, traumatized voice in my head, I started transcribing what it was saying. A good friend’s ghastly anecdote, about an outdoor lunch interrupted by a falling body, gave me the trigger. The memory of a soldier killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan provided the fodder. A three week layover in New Mexico–where I was searching, high and low, for my identity–supplied the rest. I hope it makes you smile.
Reviewers have said Michael Jeffrey Lee’s stories are “bizarre and smart and stilted, like dystopic fables told by a redneck Samuel Beckett. Outcasts hunker under bridges, or hole up in bars, waiting for the hurricane to hit. Lee’s forests are full of menace too–unseen crowds gather at the tree-line, and bands of petty crooks and marauders bluster their way into suicidal games of one-upmanship….violence and idleness are always in tension.”