ORIGINS: The Cigarette Story by Barry Graham

In this jmww ORIGINS, Barry Graham discusses the origin of “The Cigarette Story,” which originally appeared in the May 2008 issue of Storyglossia

Anyone who’s ever worked a fast food joint knows that the world that exists behind the counter is far different than the one taking place, simultaneously, though perhaps in a separate, alternate, universe, on the other side of it. On one side, customers order and wait, eat then go home. We’ve all done it. But things aren’t so simple on the other side of the counter. I won’t give details here because that information is private, sacred, meant only for the select few who’ve been blessed enough to belong in that world, even if temporarily. And fortunately I have. I managed a McDonald’s when I was in Grad school and many of the characters that find themselves in my stories from that time are bits and pieces and fragments of real people fused together into super characters, like Tom Sawyer standing in as a representation of all the kids in Twain’s neighborhood. But there was this one guy, a manager, who was later fired after he was arrested for stealing Magic cards from a grocery store, and on most nights, after the customers left and we should have been cleaning or stocking, we used to come up with ingenious ideas, true entrepreneurs we were. We discussed buying a cruise ship and turning it into a floating brothel in international waters. We discussed why there were no black people in Bedrock. But more importantly, and here’s really the point, we discussed all the ways we could rob a McDonald’s and get away with it. So that’s where this story comes from. I had the idea in my head of a botched robbery, so I invented the characters and the context surrounding the robbery and that was that. And as with everything I ever wrote, this is a love story.

To read “The Cigarette Story,” go here.

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