We recently published Kathryn Kulpa’s powerful “Road Runners.”
Here, we ask her two questions about her story:
1) The characters in this story are so vivid, so real — even in this small space! I love the detail about trying all the Slurpee favors; it gives them so much character. Did you have an image of these girls in mind when you set pen to page?
These girls came to life the minute I started writing. They took shape in motion, on the run. It’s hard to say exactly how I picture them visually, because they change their look all the time, trying on different versions of who they could be. Clothes, hair—they try everything, like the Slurpees. I see them as the kind of best friends where people call them “the twins” or ask if they’re sisters; they don’t actually look alike, but they feel alike. The kind of best friend you can only have when you’re that young, and friends are everything. It’s like the tree falling in the forest with no one to hear it: your friends are your forest. They hear you. They witness. And when you’re with them you can do anything and not be afraid.
2) There’s a dark note here, with Todd and his gun, which could be read in a couple of different ways. This part of the story speaks to a kind of toxic masculinity that the girls, despite their friendship and power and running, still will have to face. Or will they?
Todd took the story into a darker place, for sure. At first it was fun—he thinks he’s going to trick them into taking off their tops while his buddies hide and take pictures, but they’re actually pranking him—but the more I thought about Todd the sorrier I felt. As much as he tries to victimize them, he’s even more a victim of toxic masculinity and its expectations, and when he can’t prove his manhood with the girls he turns to the gun. That darkness is sunk so deeply into our culture that it’s something we all have to face. I don’t think any of us can outrun it. But you can refuse to be defeated by it, and that’s the way I like to think of these girls—still running.