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Commentary on “Closed Captioning”

Edie Meade

My short story “Closed Captioning” began as a poem. Often I start writing one form (poem, nonfiction essay, flash fiction) and the piece itself decides it’s something else. When I started this one, I wrote entirely in the format of a closed captioning transcript. My concept was closed captioning about closed captioning. I liked the idea of all scene-setting description in brackets. It cut out the temptation to be florid.

But then the story started unfolding away from a simple poem – into an exploration of why I tend to enjoy reading the subtitles on movies that are already in the language I understand. Does it create distance or bring me closer to immersion? I have trouble watching a show or film; violence disturbs me for a long time, emotional scenes leave me distraught. Subtitles give me something to work on.

The story itself was inspired by the many storms and floods that have destroyed people’s homes without becoming national news. So many families end up living in motels, running on fumes in an open-ended state of precariousness. If you ever stay in one of those hotels, you will know them by the children, the cooking smells, and the volume of belongings in the cars. I always wonder and worry over their stories, how and whether they will get home again.

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Edie Meade is a writer, artist, and mother of four in Huntington, West Virginia. Recent work can be found in New Flash Fiction ReviewFractured LiteraryJanus LiteraryGhost Parachute, and elsewhere. Find her on Twitter @ediemeade or

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