Interview with: Don Ball
by Tom O’Grady
The names for the two male main characters are very unique; was there any significance in choosing the names Coke and Carbo?
In the small town in which I grew up, Batavia, NY, we always had nicknames for each other. Some were based on our names, some on our habits. Carbo’s nickname is a play off of his real name, Nick Carboni, and Coke’s is due to drinking at least a six-pack of Coca Cola a day (and of course that coke-dealing he was doing in high school). Creating this kind of back history for the characters helps me develop them even if I never use the information in the story. Plus I like the way the two unhealthily named characters contrast with the plain-named Mary, a name I always liked (perhaps a product of my Catholic upbringing).
What gave you the idea / inspiration to write this particular story?
The summer before I left for Alaska, I went back to Batavia to work for the summer with one of my good friends with whom I grew up. He was an independent contractor, so I spent the summer putting up drywall, something for which I had little aptitude. It was miserable work and long hours. One of the last places we worked on, before I caught the chickenpox while doing a small job in someone’s infected house, was a burned-out house on a little-used highway outside of town. I thought then that it would be a great location for a story, but it took me more than five years to figure out what that story was.
The first image I came up with was Mary pissing off the porch, and that led immediately to the title. Then I worked back and forth from there. The strangeness of the image and Mary’s expression is why it ends up being a central part of the story. This isn’t Mary’s story though—it’s Carbo’s. Everything is seen through his eyes, though Mary is a catalyst for his actions at the end. Those are the only questions I feel competent answering. I don’t want to explain the story or why Mary stays with Coke (though I thought it interesting that you ask that about Mary but not about Carbo, who has self-worth issues similar to Mary’s) or why any of the characters act the way they do. I think the readers can come to their own interesting conclusions about.