HOW I WROTE THIS STORY
published in Shotgun Honey.
By Jane Hammons
When I was about 10, I was goofing around with some tin cans (don’t ask) and almost cut my thumb off. After the stitches healed, I thought if I was ever fingerprinted, I’d have a pretty cool thumbprint. In the early 80s, long before laparoscopic surgery, I was a kidney donor for my older sister. When I told people I was having the surgery, they often made comments like, “Wow, your bikini days are over.” A big fuck you was usually my response. I’d wear a bikini if I wanted to, scar or no scar.
So when I read the “I don’t really mind the scars” challenge here at pattinase, I remembered that anger. This reminded me of an article by Jessa Crispin I’d read in The Smart Set that better expresses than I can some of my concerns about representations of the female body in crime fiction. But there’s no better way to kill a story than to burden it with a bunch of “isms” and a personal axe to grind. I didn’t make the deadline to post a story for the challenge because it took me a while to get off my hobbyhorse.
Then the character—a woman who begins cutting herself as a child—came to me. My grandmother used to talk about family members who “show their Indian,” a phrase that refers to skin color, which, depending on her mood was either something to be proud of or a cause for shame. I thought of this as a “scar” that my Cherokee grandmother dealt with most of her life. I remembered that I kind of liked my thumb scar. And that helped me understand the kind of tension I wanted in this story between impulses that are deadly yet also creative. Once these things started bumping up against each other, I began looking at maps and working with Indian place names. From a long ago anthropology class on body art, Hunapo, a Maori skilled in the art of skin packing, showed up. At that point, what had been a big noisy collision in my head, started making a strange kind of sense, and I began “Mapping the Territory.”
Jane Hammons teaches writing at UC Berkeley where she is the recipient of a Distinguished Teaching Award. She has work included in Hint Fiction: An Anthology of Stories in 25 Words or Fewer (W. W. Norton 2010) and The Maternal is Political (Seal Press 2008). She recently received a Derringer Award from the Short Mystery Story Society for Best Flash Story 2011. Her most recent crime fiction has appeared in A Twist of Noir, Crimespree Magazine, Powder Flash Burn, Pulp Metal Magazine, and Verbicide Magazine.