Smoke City by Keith Rosson

Smoke City
Keith Rosson
Published by: Meerkat Press
Publication date: January 23rd 2018
Genres: Adult, Magical Realism

Marvin Deitz has some serious problems. His mob-connected landlord is strong-arming him out of his storefront. His therapist has concerns about his stability. He’s compelled to volunteer at the local Children’s Hospital even though it breaks his heart every week.

Oh, and he’s also the guilt-ridden reincarnation of Geoffroy Thérage, the French executioner who lit Joan of Arc’s pyre in 1431. He’s just seen a woman on a Los Angeles talk show claiming to be Joan, and absolution seems closer than it’s ever been . . . but how will he find her?

When Marvin heads to Los Angeles to locate the woman who may or may not be Joan, he’s picked up hitchhiking by Mike Vale, a self-destructive alcoholic painter traveling to his ex-wife’s funeral. As they move through a California landscape populated with “smokes” (ghostly apparitions that’ve inexplicably begun appearing throughout the southwestern US), each seeks absolution in his own way.

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a screenplay



Int. scene, bedroom, night. Small three-legged dog snoring in corner.

ROSSON is startled awake by a sudden elbow to his throat. He CHOKES, SITS UP. His partner continues snoring. The dog continues snoring. ROSSON lays back down, massaging his larynx. Still half-asleep, he thinks of his burgeoning to-do list, of the fragile state of democracy, of a new story idea, of how good a donut – ten donuts – would be. The dog’s snoring reaches a crescendo, sounds like a contralto being strangled halfway through Cosi fan tutte. Eventually, ROSSON falls back to sleep.



Ext. scene, transit center at Lombard St. and Interstate Ave., traffic passing by.

ROSSON is waiting for bus. Trash lays flattened and colorless in the gutters. A man leans on a nearby garbage can, rolled cigarette in his mouth the width of a nail. The man holding the sign for the marijuana dispensary dances on the corner, spinning his sign, rubber bands in his beard. Music strobes from the windows of passing cars. ROSSON puts his ear buds in, thinks of the story he’s writing, thinks of the novel edits he’s waiting to receive from his agent. He thinks about writing… always. The bus arrives. ROSSON gets on, opens a book, starts reading. The bus trundles along.



Int. scene, ROSSON’s office. A pair of desks, a metal shelf. A window w/ blinds closed.

ROSSON is on the computer. He opens a file folder containing a work in progress, a new story. His agent has just provided some feedback on the novel. Music plays in the background. Someone walks down the hall outside, their shoes squeaking on the floor. ROSSON should work; there is work to be done, always always, he gauges much of his inner life through the lens of how much creative work he’s done throughout the day, creativity is a kind of sustenance to him. He knows this. It’s taken a lifetime to understand it, but he knows this about himself. He should work.

Instead he scrolls through various social media sites, becomes quickly enmeshed in current state of the world, falls into abject despondency, eventually logs off. Attempts to refocus, attempts to write, can’t stop thinking of what he just read, the images he just saw.

Distracted, furious, heartbroken, he fires off a pointless, barbed missive on said social media that is guaranteed to accomplish nothing, to provoke a handful of likeminded people to agree with him and a profound disinterest in the rest.

ROSSON sits back. Onscreen, the cursor blinks. Progress is halted on the work in progress. The work in progress is currently unworkable.

Eventually, after hours of this, and a few hundred words painfully eked out, with a kind of heartsick rattle to his chest like something vital’s come loose, ROSSON locks up his office and takes the bus back home.



Int. scene, bedroom, night. Small three-legged dog snoring in corner.

I’ll do better tomorrow, ROSSON thinks. I have to somehow learn to remain uninvested enough in the world as it is. Or to remain more invested in the world I’m making, not the one I live in. But it’s hard. How do we do that? How do we craft some other world on the page when a kind of craven dystopiahere, nowseems to loom closer every day?

A snort, a shuffle.

I’ll do better tomorrow.

ROSSON’s eyes close.

A sharp cry, muffled.

The dog has stopped snoring.

Something, briefly, touches his leg. Insectile and skittering.

Before he can sit up



Author Bio:

Keith Rosson is the author of the novels The Mercy of the Tide (2017, Meerkat Press) and Smoke City (2018, Meerkat Press). His short fiction has appeared in Cream City Review, PANK, Redivider, December, and more. An advocate of both public libraries and non-ironic adulation of the cassette tape, he can be found at

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