Ten things about “The Mohel Mulligan,” published last week in the Chicago Tribune‘s Printers Row Journal fiction insert (hooray!):
1) The story, in its very first draft, was titled “It Takes Balls to Be a Dick.” This was something I said to a bunch of fellow musicians after a show at CB’s 313 Gallery. (When was this show? Maybe the Marc Rosenthal / Gloria Deluxe / Holly Ramos show on Saturday, 18 March 2000? (“[A]fterparty at Parkside Lounge,” says my calendar. I have vague memories of this being an amazing night.)
The line was the punchline to a story I don’t remember. I wrote it on an index card and put it in my mother’s old recipe box, where, pre-Evernote, I stored loose phrases and quotes and ideas. Starting grad school, I thought I should use it as a title for a short story. I’m glad I didn’t.
2) I workshopped the story twice at NYU. In workshop, it was titled “Blind Date.” Like me, the story is a lot more Jewish than it was ten years ago.
3) The draft I submitted to the Printers Row Journal was the thirteenth. It was the twenty-ninth time I’d sent out the story. (I’m grateful to Dan and Nicole and Jamie for encouraging me to keep sending it out.)
4) The story is an homage to / riff on Carver’s “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.” It’s the same basic setup: four people drinking and telling stories. The narrator is named Nick; the husband of the other couple is named Mel. Terri and Laura become Abby and Molly.
5) Riffing/signaling-of-riffing in the opening two sentences:
My friend Mel McGinnis was talking. Mel McGinnis is a cardiologist, and sometimes that gives him the right.
My new friend Molly had been praising the baby. She wanted to be a pediatrician, so I thought that gave her the right.
6) This is a completely fictional story. But it’s based on something that actually happened to me—a weekend-long blind date, at my date’s friends’ beautiful vacation house—which occurred on a weekend on which the sixth of July fell on a Sunday in 2003.
The real-life conversation that inspired the conversation of the story occurred on that Sunday.
The publication date for the story is the sixth of July, which fell on a Sunday in 2014.
7) The insert says $2 on it, but I can’t for the life of me figure out how you’re supposed to buy a copy. They may only be available in analog form, in Chicago, purchased with physical dollars. (Kicking it old school, Trib! This could potentially explain why the story does not yet exist at all on the Internet, according to Google. I don’t mean at all for this to sound disrespectful, but it does inspire a contemporary version of the if-a-tree-falls question: If a story is published in print, and no mention of it occurs on the Web, was it ever actually published?)
8) Emily will give some copies away on her Facebook author page. Which is an awesome reason to “Like” Emily Barton, if you haven’t clicked that button already.
9) The story-within-a-story is about a circumcision gone horribly wrong. I’ve been tempted, for a decade, thinking about that and thinking about Carver, to retitle the story “What We Talk About When We Talk About Cock.” I’m glad I didn’t.
10) Film rights are available.