I’ve been a fan of Susan Perabo ever since Robert Sean Leonard performed her story “Counting the Ways” on Selected Shorts, so it is a great pleasure to welcome her into the One Story family. We’ve just heard that Selected Shorts will be recording “Indulgence” in the coming season as well, so: keep your dial tuned to your local public radio station! And now: I’ll turn the mic over to contributing editor Will Allison, who brought this marvelous story to our pages. -HT
In 2007, the Motion Picture Association of America announced that it would start to take into consideration depictions of smoking when it rated films. Fortunately, the story in our latest issue—Susan Perabo’s “Indulgence”—isn’t subject to the MPAA’s scrutiny. Otherwise, it might be rated X for excessive smokiness.
This was no accident on the author’s part. “I wanted to write a love letter to cigarettes,” says Perabo in our interview with the author. “I wanted to write a story that genuinely, without irony, celebrated smoking.” (Spoiler alert: read the story before you read the Q&A!)
But “Indulgence” is much more than a delightfully transgressive paean to cigarettes. It’s also one of the most moving stories about death and loss that I’ve read—one that still leaves me choked up every time I read it, even though I know what’s coming.
Much of the story’s power derives from its unexpected ending. But this is no trick ending. Early on, Perabo quietly sets about preparing the reader for what’s ahead. That the ending still comes as a surprise is a tribute to the subtlety of her technique.
The result is one of those wonderful endings that is at once surprising yet inevitable in retrospect. “Indulgence” is a story you’ll want to read twice.