We recently published Parth Shah’s sweet “Customary.”
Here, we ask him two questions about his story:
1) I love the detail here — the narrator plans to decorate their apartment a certain way, invite a friend over who will behave a certain way, move out to a certain farm, have coasters. Of course, this won’t all go as the narrator plans. Or do you think it will?
Some months ago I painted this crusty little watercolor of an imagined apartment. I used the image to inspire ‘Customary.’ The painting is sort of a postcard from the narrator, but the painting is much duller than the apartment described in the text. The watercolor walls are a boring blue, certainly not pomegranate. I think there will be material differences between the narrator’s plans and their reality. But it’ll be okay. Eventually, they will stop caring so much about plans. Their friend will teach them how to stop labeling their desire.
2) The interaction between the narrator and the friend is so delightful here — all these small details that make them both (and their friendship) feel so real! The one line of dialogue is “Fire is what separates humans from other animals.” Why this particular line?
I read something once about a cooking theory, that learning to cook with fire is how humans became humans. The narrator wants deep, elemental conversation with their new friend. They want a friend to make meals with.