The Smiling Man

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The Smiling Man

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This story began as a writing assignment for a class taught by Eloise Bell. With the assignment, we were asked to start a story by taking something that had happened to us personally, and write about it.

I had worked as a prison guard in 1983 and 1984, and one day the prison went into lockdown as we feared a riot. At the time I found an inmate hiding in a coat locker, afraid that he would be killed in the coming riot if he were forced to go back to his cell, so he begged me to kill out of mercy.

So in this story, I tried to capture the potency of that image, along with the sense of madness that you sometimes feel when trouble surrounds you in a whirlwind, and there is no escape.

At the time that I wrote this, I had been reading Raymond Carver and was enamored with the gritty realism movement. However, my own studies into why people read had led me to develop what I called my “Stress Induction/Reduction Theory of Storytelling.” An article about this will be provided at the end of the book. So this was my first attempt at writing a story using my new approach.

This story won first place in the Ann Dody short fiction contest. Shortly thereafter, it was published in a small literary journal called Inscape.

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