We recently published Bill Merklee’s stunning “Grand Canyon, 1967.”

Here, we ask him two questions about his story:

1) The voice here is almost instructional, something more commonly seen in second person PoV — yet this story is in first person! What made you choose this particular style for this piece?

This story is part of a novella-in-flash I’m working on. In the novella, the MC has asked an old friend to write his life story for him, and the flashes come out of their conversations. I was struggling with this one. So I started listing the points the MC wanted to make, as if he were giving notes to his friend. When I read them back, they reminded me of those second-person stories, and I ran with it.

2) This is such a powerful, heartbreaking piece. It’s so timely now, yet there is also something timeless about it. What I love (well, one of the things I love!) is the relationship between the mother and child, the way the son-as-narrator looks back in understanding of his mother’s emotions, the son-as-character merely thinking of their journey as a road trip without dad. At what point do you think the narrator’s understanding of the situation changed?

It’s a fundamentalist household in the 1960s — there’s a lot that doesn’t get discussed, especially with a child. Even if he senses something is off, he would never dare ask about it. I think the narrator doesn’t learn the full story until he’s an adult, when he’s able to talk with his mother as more of a peer. I can see him recalling the trip while visiting her, then reading her face and asking, “What?”