No. 44: Tim Raymond
Q. Why do you think the “heroes are never parents” in stories? Does it relate back to the revelation that responsibility is just a loss of hope?
It’s about choices in this story. “Hope” is believing there are choices big and small to be made, and “responsibility” is realizing the choices are in fact limited. This story is particularly sad in my mind because, despite the goodness of Aunt Sarah, there’s no one in the narrator’s life to teach him the wrongness of conceiving of the relationship between “hope” and “responsibility” in terms of loss. He could just as easily say responsibility is what happens when people opt out of hope (and choose love). The ending here is tender, I believe. And that the children, including the narrator, reach that tender point on their own is heroic. They are an echo of Aunt Sarah caring so well for Uncle George. There isn’t a figure, or time enough, to show the narrator the full heroism of responsibility, the being-there. That’s just too bad.
Q. I really enjoyed the melancholy poems written by the kids in “All Our Children.” Did you craft them to fill a need in the story as you wrote, or did you create them separately and find a home for them in this piece?
It’s the children who teach the narrator what pain means. It’s not his parents, who left. It’s not his aunt, who works so hard. Not his uncle, who is sick. Not the children’s mother, who was left alone to raise nine kids on her own. I write about kids a lot—including a novel whose entire premise is a young girl staging plays in her backyard. Maybe it’s because I teach high school and see their creativity and spirit being systematically removed from my students daily, but I like starting with this notion: that the kids are creative, and this means becoming open to all the terror and beauty and wonder that creativity affords. This is a good thing, the opening-up to light and dark, provided there’s someone or something there to stabilize this process. (I think the movie Inside Out was so successful in this regard.)
Q. Absentee parents are common in fairy tales, their roles filled by less-than-adept substitutes. Who is your favorite ineffectual guardian figure in a fairy tale?
The narrator in “All Our Children” is the fumbling guardian and also the person who needs guidance. When I read this question, I thought first of Alice going down the rabbit-hole. Here is a new world populated by ghosts who simultaneously know what’s going and don’t know what’s going on. (The girl in the novel I mentioned in my last response is deliberately named Alice.) Absentee parents are interesting because they make choices that carry consequences. This is the sort of thing—big choices—that generally makes fiction good. In my story, though, no one is making choices, beyond the “hero” initially entering a world he’s not ready for, and the issue is that they (all) don’t know how to reconcile the lack of preparedness. It makes sense to me to read Alice’s adventures the same way, right up to when she wakes.
Interview conducted by Fairy Tale Review Editorial Assistant Lucille Randazzo.
Tim Raymond’s story, “All Our Children,” can be found in The Mauve Issue of Fairy Tale Review.
an excerpt from “All Our Children”
My Aunt Sarah used to say that Tina Wallace has so many kids because she’s a Catholic, and I didn’t get it until later, last year, when I turned fifteen. Tina Wallace has a husband, somewhere, and she has five girls and four boys at home. Aunt Sarah is a funny person, though she doesn’t laugh when she tells her jokes. To me, that makes her funnier. She’s married to Uncle Joe, who also doesn’t laugh, but who is also not very funny. The three of us live next door to Tina Wallace.
Tina Wallace will go out sometimes, generally only to run errands, and Uncle Joe used to babysit, but then he had his breakdown and stopped, and Tina Wallace found someone else to watch the children while she bought her groceries. Once, desperate, Tina Wallace knocked on our door and explained that Uncle Joe’s inferior replacement had bailed, and that she would lose her mind if she didn’t make the clearance sale out at the mall. “It’s for the kids,” she said.
“There’s a marathon on,” Uncle Joe said. It was James Bond. He said, “Bring them over, if you want. I don’t mind.” But Aunt Sarah said No, Uncle Joe had had a breakdown, and Tina Wallace went home sniffling.
That was a few years ago. Before leaving, Tina Wallace had eyed me, like she was trying to decide if I was too young to be responsible. I think Aunt Sarah looked at her, and her look made it clear I was too young, and Tina Wallace started the sniffling.
Now that I’m almost sixteen, Aunt Sarah and I are on the same page about me practicing some more responsibility. Not long ago, I helped Uncle George put on a nice shirt for dinner. At dinner, I helped him eat some of his vegetables. I could see in Aunt Sarah’s eyes that I was doing well. I thought then that, maybe for my birthday, she’d buy me a car, and then I could drive around some. There isn’t any specific place I’d like to visit, though the ocean would be nice, except we’re states away from the nearest ocean. Even if I had a car, I’d have to prove my responsibility for at least another year before driving those 1,000 miles alone. Also, she’d probably have to pay for the gas, and while she makes enough money writing reviews of romance novels, she’d be hesitant, I’m sure, to fund my road-trip.
Uncle Joe and I are happy that Aunt Sarah can work from home. My parents were at home all the time, back when they were around. I assumed they were dead for a long while after I moved in with Aunt Sarah and Uncle Joe, but then when I was ten Aunt Sarah finally sat me down and told me about their own breakdowns. Unlike Uncle Joe, they had the breakdowns where it’s really important to move away. So, they left the house one day, just split: first together, then separately.
“They came back, then?” I’d asked. “Once?”
“For money,” Aunt Sarah said. “My sister. Well.”