Tell Everyone I Said Hi
University of Iowa Press
“Peloma” is from Chad Simpson’s debut collection, Tell Everyone I Said Hi (University of Iowa Press). Chad Simpson is the winner of the 2012 John Simmons Short Fiction Award. His stories and essays have appeared in McSweeney’s, Esquire, American Short Fiction, and other print and online publications. He also is the author of a chapbook of short fiction, “Phantoms,” published by Origami Zoo Press. He lives in Monmouth, Illinois.
Simpson said this about “Peloma:” When I first began imagining this story, the scenario I had in mind was absurd, comical. I was thinking of a child, a girl, just six or seven years old, trying to kill herself via ridiculous means. I wasn’t sure yet what those suicide attempts would look like, but I was certain they’d be outrageous, flamboyant, completely over-the-top.
The image of a suicidal young girl came to me when I was still working as a juvenile probation officer. I worked in a juvenile detention facility where we were especially vigilant of those kids on “suicide watch.” I suppose I initially yearned to find absurdist humor where I was surrounded by sadness, by my very genuine concern for those locked-up kids I’d gotten to know.
The idea percolated for a few months, during which time I quit my job as a probation officer and left for graduate school. At some point, I might have even entered a phrase like bizarre suicide attempts into a search engine.
The truth is, I write mostly realistic short stories. When I finally sat down to get to work on the story that became “Peloma,” I abandoned most of what had led me to the piece as soon as Clem uttered his first sentence: “My twelve-year-old daughter Peloma kept trying to kill herself.”
From there, I drew quite a bit on a job I’d once held in Indiana at a steel factory, at a place that made hot-coiled springs, and the story became a kind of meditation on loss and fatherhood and helplessness.