Tag: microfiction

A quick lazy-Saturday post today.  A few household chores to do, but not much on my plate this afternoon, which is a nice change of pace.  :)

Here in Sicily, the puffy white clouds and hot North African winds are finally starting to yield to cooler temperatures, a welcome change from three-months of non-stop heat.  But the nights here are pretty nice year round.  Since we’re out in the country, the sky is a true sight to behold.  You can see miles and miles of stars spread about above your head, like scattered flecks of diamond dust adrift on a velvet black sea. 

Even though it’s cooling down during the day, it’s still hot enough for a swim, so we may take the kids down to the pool later this afternoon.  If I get a spare few moments, I may even have a look at my recent writing notes and see what’s what. Even during this last break, long as it was, I still couldn’t keep from making a few notes-to-self now and again.

I don’t know about you, but when it comes to capturing story ideas and snippets, I’m a compulsive pack rat.  I jot scraps of dialogue, scene or story concepts, interesting words, character descriptions–you name it–down on slips of paper, or more commonly I type them ad hoc into the nearest MS Word-equipped computer.  With the various computers I use on a regular basis between work and home, things can get a little untidy after awhile–mostly because my filing system leaves something to be desired.  Kindle is also a good tool for keeping notes, and I use it voraciously.

So the writing job in front of me over the next few days is to scrounge through my collection and begin to decide where I’m gonna pick up again–a task I’m looking forward to with great anticipation.  😀

I also wanted to pass the details of a contest I am planning to enter, and you may find of interest.

Esquire and Aspen Writers’ Association Short Short Fiction Contest

Win a trip to New York to study with Colum McCann, and a scholarship to the Aspen Summer Words Fiction Workshop. If you can beat Colum McCann (in 78 words). Starting now.

Deadline for submissions is October 7th.

Read more: http://shar.es/HTHIY

To get you through the balance of the weekend, I leave you with one of my favorite songs from the eighties.  Re-watching it this morning, I chuckled to see what passed muster for a music video way back when.

Have a great weekend, and stay groovy!

Ernest Hemingway famously wrote a story in only six words:  “For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.”  This was eons before the invention of Twitter. 

I’ve noticed a rash of contests and famous people following in Ernest’s brief footsteps.  All this brevity got me thinking: why not throw out a six word story/memoir exercise?  Wouldn’t that be fun? 

NOW–don’t wait!–quick as a whip, give me a six-word story or memoir in the comments!  I dare you!

Here’s mine:  Once lost. Writing fiction. Now found.

***Check back tomorrow for Part Three of my post series: Conquering the Page: Creating Your Own Fiction Writer’s Battle Plan:  Part Three will cover Organizing Your Battle Plan.  If you missed it, here is Part One: Overview and Part Two: Defining Your Writing Mission.***

Thanks for stopping by!

I leave my luggage in the entry hall.  The kitchen is just as I remember it.  I put the kettle on.  Once the day gets going, I’ll walk up the lane to the hospital. 

The air in the room feels stale, like the mood in a house where the family has gone away for the summer.  I close my eyes.  I can see Grandma sitting alone at the table, humming to herself and listening to the announcer on the radio, the back garden light shifting in through the curtains.

I remember sitting at the table with her once before. I was fourteen. We had breakfast: tea and brown bread with butter and marmalade. She buttered a thick slice on the top side with the wide blade of her knife.

How is school? she asked. How have your studies been?

I rolled my eyes–I had not yet learned my own impatience–and coughed up one word answers like “fine” and “good.”  To my teenage ears, the questions sounded like the ones my parents always asked.  My shortness must have left her wanting, but at the time she only smiled and nodded. 

Now her chair stands vacant in the corner.  I sit quietly nearby and wait for the kettle to boil, thinking of all the things I didn’t say.

Kid

For a blazing moment, the young infantryman was the only soul in sight.  The Sergeant Major and the Captain faded like ghosts.  Their grey faces washed into the sand and the sky and the tan canvas tents behind them.  The Captain studied his boots and smoked a cigarette.  The Sergeant Major cleared his throat and tried to think of something more to say.

The Battalion had been deployed to the desert six months now–feverish days under a baking sun, channeling defensive positions out of the stew brown caliche, erecting tents, stacking sandbags.  They weren’t due to rotate home for another eight months.  With no television or radio station within a hundred miles, news of the rest of the world was rare.  But bad news travelled fast.

The young Private shouldered his rifle, coughed several times, and looked away.  His pool blue eyes settled into a thousand yard stare.  He had known it would happen sometime.  The timing was lousy is all.

He was a good kid.  Tall, popular, with broad linebacker shoulders perched on a wiry frame, he was born the son of a Texas preacher and he carried himself with a relaxed confidence–unusual for his age.  Still, he looked too young to be wearing body armor and carrying an M-16.  Despite the muscle he’d put on in boot camp and infantry school, he could pass for a fifteen or sixteen year-old, easy.  The other guys in the company had taken to calling him “Frisco Kid”, or “Kid” for short, on account of his being from the west coast.

The Private coughed again, shook his head, shrugged.  On the far side of tent city, the clattering rumble of a departing helicopter cracked the air.  

Eyeing the aircraft as it lifted off, the kid spoke: “Will I…you know…can I go home?”

The Captain and the Sergeant Major exchanged glances.  They were down two men already.  Only yesterday they’d cancelled a combat drill because Battalion was short-handed. 

The Captain stubbed out his cigarette in the dirt.  “I’m afraid not, son.” 

The Private looked at the Captain–stared right through him–then looked at the ground.  His shoulders dropped and he squinted at the sand.  “But my sister, she–“

“We just can’t afford to lose you now.  That’s all there is to it.”

The Private turned away.  He put his hand to his face, rubbed his thumb along the side of his nose.  Gravel crunched under his boots.  He looked out from the compound, toward the low hills to the west, as if someone might appear there.  The Sergeant Major considered putting a hand on the Private’s shoulder then decided against it.  The Captain fidgeted and looked at his watch. 

“OK,” the kid said finally. 

“Good,” said the Captain.  “Sergeant Major, see that this man gets some time off.  He deserves it.” 

“Yes, sir.”

The Captain turned on his heel and started off across the compound.  The kid watched him leave.  Then something shifted in his eyes, in the way he gripped his rifle.  His jaw set.  He leaned down and clumsily grasped the strap of his assault pack. 

The Sergeant Major grabbed his sleeve.  “Look, I’m sorry man.  You know there’s nothing we can do.  We–“

The Private wrenched away, bringing the older man up short.  Their eyes met.

“I said OK.”

The Sergeant Major dropped his arm, stepped back, let him go.  The kid put on his helmet, turned, and left him standing in the dust. 

 
Mike the Senior Manager shook his head. “Sorry, Phil. The CEO has made up his mind. The economy’s bad. We have to let you go.”

The older man stood up and placed his hand on Phil’s shoulder in solidarity, then went downstairs for coffee.  Phil sat motionless and stared at the wall. The rattle of distant laughter drifted in from the breakroom. He gritted his teeth.

Fuck.

He’d worked for the company for five years, slaved for them. He’d stayed late when Mike needed him.  Worked weekends even. He put his time in.  These guys couldn’t just put him out on the street.  They owed him more than that.  I mean, who the fuck does that?

When Phil’s coworker Monica walked in, she found him hammering on his keyboard, cussing.

“What’s going on Phil?”

“Those fuckers!” Phil exploded from his chair and threw the desk phone across the room. It slammed into the wall and crackled to the floor. “I can’t believe they did this to me!”

Monica smiled. “What are you talking about?”

“My job. They fucking fired me!”

Monica started to make a wise-crack when she caught sight of the computer screen. A blue bar ticked up in one percent increments toward one-hundred percent.

Open-mouthed, she glowered at Phil. “What the hell are you doing?”

Phil grinned in the corner. “I’m crashing the servers. All of them. Every fucking one of them.”

Monica grabbed him by the sleeve. “You know it was a joke, right?!”

“What?”

“You know it was a joke? April Fool’s Day?”