The Note: Writing Around Themes

On The Note (a story in Mike Bahl’s Scenic Utah)

“Would you agree that this short short is about drunk driving and road rage, without using those words in the text exactly? Do you often write “around” themes?”

MB: I considered writing, “I’m going to answer this as directly as possible,” and then writing around using the word yes, but that seems like too much work for a joke that isn’t funny, so I’ll just say yes instead. I live my life “around” themes. People who talk directly about things are scary and weird and did not grow up Catholic in the Midwest.

That said, I think it’s a stretch to say the story is “about” drunk driving and road rage. Certainly they’re a part of it, but I’d say it’s more “about” not saying what you mean/passive aggressiveness (which, I suppose is why it kinda seems like it’s not about anything).

“Is the length meant to reflect the title, in that it’s note-length? Coincidence?”

I titled it after I wrote it, so I can’t call it a coincidence, but this correlation was not my primary consideration.

“Strangers leaving mean notes for each other. makes me think of trolling on the web, leaving anonymous notes on peoples posts, etc. What is your thought about people owning up to their rudeness?”


I can’t remember if I actually got this note or not. I’ve certainly been the recipient of these notes at some point and have considered leaving them, but never have because it’s kinda dumb. There was one to the effect of: “If you want to park in front of MY house [on the street] then you had damn well better park farther away [than a foot] from my [very wide and easily negotiable] driveway.” I don’t know. If nothing happened, then why leave the note? What’s it matter?

The Internet is stupid. I’m as secluded on here as I am in real life so I’ve never really gotten into it with anyone so I don’t know how to actually answer this question. I want to say, who gives a shit, but I also recognize that my sensitivity would perhaps respond differently in an actual situation.

“Is his reading the note an atonement for his bad park job? Does he feel like he deserved it?”

Catholics must not talk about their sins except behind a veil. They must be punished for their sins.

“Where is ‘out here’? This is like city vs. country mouse too, then?”

I thought city vs. country was the main conflict in this story, but, like always, it’s man vs. self.

To refresh yourself on this series on craft tied to the book Scenic Utah, start here.


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