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Alex McElroy, Age 10

Alex McElroy is author of the chapbook Daddy Issues, out this week from The Cupboard Pamphlet; other work can be found in The Atlantic, New England Review, TriQuarterly, Conjunctions, and Washington Square. He wrote this fictional travelogue, titled Washington, in the fifth grade.

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— Alex McElroy, Age 10

“Rereading Washington, eighteen years after its original publication, served as a reminder that I have always written to get closer to people. I completed this book on assignment. The assigner: my fifth grade teacher Mrs. Wicki. Every student chose their own state. Exceptions included New Jersey (our state) and repeats. Nobody fought me for Washington. Like my classmates, I knew nothing about it. But my father once lived in Washington, I thought. In truth he’d only gone once and only for a couple days. I selected Washington to implicate him in the book’s construction. He would need to help me, need to hang out with me. I imagined late nights over coffee recording his Washington memories into a journal. What a strategic and lonely child I was! But of course my dad didn’t help. He had another family and lived across town. He worked six days a week, couldn’t spare any time. Well fuck him, I thought, and put him in the book anyway.

In Washington, my father and I and two friends drive cross country to Washington state to visit its historical sites. Throughout the book, my father is less my father than a father. He rarely speaks. His desires are those of dads in commercials: ‘My dad wanted to stay [at a Holiday Inn] because kids eat and stay free.’ At one point he catches eighteen fish. Could my dad have caught eighteen fish? How the hell would I know? But this father could. Sometimes in order to be with the people we love we need to create them.

I have always balked at the question: Why do you write? But I have no trouble answering why I wrote this book. I wanted to share a vacation with my father. Fiction offered the only way to make it come true.”