“Seven Minutes in Heaven” is named, of course, after the terrible suburban teenager party game. Like my protagonist-narrator, I never played this game. Despite going to middle school and high school in Middle America (Nebraska), I always felt like too much of an outsider to get in on any of those Americana rituals of teenagerhood – culturally different, and an awkward, quiet, hyper-sensitive bookworm on top of that. When I felt defensive I deflected with anger: my father died when I was ten, and I knew about death and loss and suffering when none of my privileged classmates with their self-described charmed childhoods had any idea. Of course I had no way of knowing whether this was true, and I’m sure it wasn’t. But it’s easier to punch back if you feel like you’re the only person in the room who’s onto the truth. I even had a keychain that said, “If you’re not pissed off, you’re not paying attention.” It was political, but it was more than that. Amanda Stone is a prototypical example of my type of character, and in case you’re wondering about the skull tattoos, think Tate in American Horror Story:
“Seven Minutes in Heaven” was also inspired by several stories I had heard from different friends – one friend who, in Annapolis, commented that its Church Street looked exactly like the one in her hometown; another friend who, on an island off the coast of Sicily, stumbled into a cave that no one in town seemed to acknowledge existed – as well as Aickman’s story, “The Same Dog.” I wanted to hit that unshakeable deja vu, the creeping feeling that you’ve forgotten something critically important to the very meaning of your life. And like I always do, I wanted to put someone messed up, some injured animal I could recognize, at the center of this waking nightmare. (I’m starting to think that putting broken people in incomprehensible situations is just what I do.)
“Seven Minutes in Heaven” is in Aickman’s Heirs, edited by Simon Strantzas.
“Soft Shock” – Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Ever lasts forever / Hey, what’s the time, what’s the day, don’t leave me
“Nobody Likes You When You’re Dead” – Zombina and the Skeletones: If they could see me now, that little gang of mine, you can bet your ass they’d run a mile
“If I Die Young (Band Perry cover)” – Conexus: The sharp knife of a short life / Funny when you’re dead how people start listening
Because while I like the song, there’s no way Amanda Stone would listen to the Band Perry. Sorry. Amanda Stone would listen to a band whose musicians wear DBZ shirts.
“Take Me to Church (Hozier cover)” – TETRA: My lover’s got humor – she’s the giggle at a funeral, knows everybody’s disapproval / I was born sick, but I love it; command me to be well
“The Suburbs (Arcade Fire cover)” – Mr. Little Jeans: You always seemed so sure that one day we’d be fighting in a suburban war / But by the time the first bombs fell, we were already bored