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Brought to you by OBS reviewer Sammy

  • Be sure to read our review for The Unused Prom Dress here at OBS

the-unused-prom-dress-earl-staggsSammy: What prompted you to write this type of short story?

Earl Staggs: I came across a Call for Submissions for an anthology with an unusual theme.  Each story would involve a crime and would take place in a bathroom.  The idea interested me and, after letting it roll around between the ears for a while, I came up with the premise for this story.  I strayed from the bathroom element and the plot involved a restroom instead.  Also, the original word limit for stories in the anthology was a thousand words.  By the time I realized I was well past that limit, I found myself liking where the story was going and stayed with it.  This was another case where I started off in the direction I thought a story would take me, but the darn thing took control and took me somewhere else.  Once in a while, a story develops a mind of its own and I can only go along for the ride. I love when that happens.

Sammy: Did you have an experience when you went to a reunion that was similar?

Meaning someone you might have had a crush on in high school and when you saw them you felt relief you let them go or they let you go? Any missing teeth?

Earl Staggs: I went to several of my high school reunions and I confess to being anxious to see some of the several girls I had crushes on.  Some of them had lost their youthful good looks or their teeth or had added a hefty number of pounds, and that was a relief.  Unfortunately, one or two of them looked even better than back in the day.  That always left me wondering what might have been if I’d had the courage to make the right moves.  Too bad real life isn’t like writing where you can delete parts you don’t like and rewrite them.

Sammy: Even though this was a super short story, there was actually a lot of heavy things going on.

Do you know someone who has lived in the past that much?

Earl Staggs: I think most of us have someone or some event in our past that still makes us wonder “what if” or “if only.”  It might be an old relationship or perhaps a career move.  For instance, I know a man who said if he’d stayed in the oil business he’d be a billionaire by now.  Maybe holding to that thought makes the life he has now more bearable. Maybe we all need some lost possibility to hold onto to offset what we might consider failures or shortcomings.

I had that in mind when I wrote “The Unused Prom Dress.” Even though I exaggerated here and there to add a little humor, I wanted to deal with that part in all of us which stubbornly hangs onto something from the past.  That part of us takes up precious space in our lives that should be devoting to moving forward and enjoying new things.  In this story, it was good for Patti to see Timmy again in the right perspective so she could put that part of her life behind her and move on.  Most of us, I think, need to burn an old rag from the past as she did.

Sammy: Did you go to prom? 

Earl Staggs: Yes, I did, and I had a great time.  I loved music and dancing and had a terrific evening. My prom was held in the rooftop ballroom of the Southern Hotel in downtown Baltimore.  It wasn’t until a few days later I realized a significant part of my life was over and an even more significant and much more serious one was beginning.  More than once, the realities of adult life had me wishing I was still in high school.

Sammy: Favorite Pizza Hut pizza? Mine’s Vegetarian with Canadian Bacon.

Earl Staggs: I like mine with pepperoni and sausage and will get extra of both if I can.  I confess to being a meat lover, but I eat vegetables regularly because my wife insists on it.  Bless her heart.

Thanks for inviting me for this interview.  I suspect all writers feel the same as I do about our stories.  Each one holds a special place in our lives and we enjoy opportunities to talk about them.  It’s like showing pictures of our kids and grandkids.