Category Archives: Short Stories

40 minute stories, social writing experiments, and longer original pieces.

Forty Minute Story “Teardrop”

The girl next to me is wearing earrings like the ones I bought for my love.

I suppose she’s a woman, not a girl, but it’s difficult to tell from the gray wool hat she wears indoors even though it’s a mild day. I’m trying not to notice any of her other characteristics since I am a married man after all.

The earings are a simple smooth stone, hers are azure, the same color as my love’s. It’s in the shape of a teardrop, with a plain silver border, though the border on this girl’s earing looks a touch more elaborate. I wonder if she bought them herself or if someone gave them to her, maybe a lover or even a friend. Maybe even her parents, but she seems like someone who wouldn’t wear much that they bought her.

The teardrop bulges more than my love’s earrings, almost as if it’s ready to fall. When she turns her head to the side I can almost see through the stone, like a marble. I can only see one side of her head so I guess I’m assuming she has a matching one on the other side. She may have worn only one for some kind of a fashion statement. I can’t think of what that statement might be other than ‘I lost my earring.’

I don’t know where my love’s other earring is. I remember it, lying beside her on the living room floor. It had popped loose and was lying near her shoulder when she collapsed. It’s been a long time since she fainted, and I was worried. One minute we were arguing and the next she was on the ground, her face blank and unseeing. Her eyes were dry, not even producing a single tear. I remember looking at that earring and thinking it was the tear she couldn’t shed, in those terrible seconds that felt like hours before she regained consciousness.

She smiled at me, her face so warm after being so cold. She could see the worry, the tears I wasn’t shedding, and she wanted to make me feel better. Her own feelings would take hold later, concern and worry and shock, but in that instant I was all she cared about, and she was all I cared about.

Sitting here month’s later I can’t forget that moment. I’ve bought her a couple of pairs of earrings like those since, one black and one green, but I’ve never found that blue one. It might have gotten kicked under the couch when EMT’s came. I might have picked it up and put it somewhere without remembering. Or maybe somehow it wound up with this girl, so they could remind me to not spend all my time alone in coffee shops.

Do you think it’d be weird if I leaned over and asked her for it back?

Leave a comment

Filed under Short Stories

Forty Minute Story “All a girl wants is a big rock”

I’m a nice guy if you get to know me.

I know I seem hard on the outside. Well, on the inside too actually. But I like people, really I do.

It’s true that I’ve spent a lot of years doing the lone wolf thing, on the road all by myself, never staying in one place too long. But I used to have friends. I know how to be social.

Granted, all me and my mates used to do was bang into each other, but what group of guys doesn’t have a little fun rough housin’. Sure bits of us were broken from time to time but that’s life, you get a few cuts and scrapes.

But now I’m gonna die and it’s all because of a girl.

A real clingy one too. She’s been pullin’ at me ever since she first lay eyes on me. Hell, maybe even before that. I was mindin’ my own business, visiting some of my cousins when I first lay eyes on her.

She was so … blue.

Not sad mind you. But more like blue and innocent and pure. Virginal even. Unspoiled.

You can see the appeal.

But she’s a trickster. I didn’t stand a chance with her. She’s had her eye on me, and she’s been pulling me closer ever since. Already the air between us is becoming warmer. It won’t be long before she pulls me to her in one first, last, fatal embrace.

And all with him watching too.

See, she’s not as innocent as she looks. She’s brought men to her before. One in particular had such an impact on her he took a piece of her with him, and he’s been hangin’ around ever since.

Still, he did try to warn me. Not that there’s anything I could have done. And he isn’t gonna stop me, for fear that she’ll change her mind, and want him for another tumble.

That’s all women seem to want men for anyway, a little hay-howdy. Maybe kill a few spiders, or in this case lizards or giant birds or whatever the hell they are.

Wham bam and then extinction.

Earth’s a heartless bitch.

—————————–

PS. Brian, it’s been a long time coming, but I finally got this one together. Hope you enjoyed!

1 Comment

Filed under Short Stories, Writing

The Art of the Short Story

I’ve written more short stories for this blog in the last two years than I ever have at any other point in my writing.

Admittedly, at least half of those are scenes, extra short stories because of the constraint of the forty-minute story, but still much more of an effort than ever before.

I like thinking up novels. I think a lot of indie authors get the idea in their head that to get their work discovered they have to write short stories, get them published in magazines, and that’s how they’ll be noticed. An agent or an editor isn’t willing to put in the full investment of 70,000 words in you but he might read 4000.

For me, creatively, this was writing by obligation and not by desire. I like exploring stories in depth, whether it’s character depth, or an involved action narrative. One summer, a number of years back, I had the goal of writing one short story ever week or so. The first idea is what will be my next novel, Surreality. There were no subsequent stories.

I think for a while I just haven’t been inspired creatively by the form. I am wordy person (so maybe that’s a big part of it), but I also think there’s just a rational limit to how much can happen in a short story.

Writing this blog, and some targeted reading is getting me to change my tune.

I’m working on The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury. Most of the stories I’m pretty sure I’ve read in my youth, but reading them again with a writer’s eye is giving me an idea of what a master of suspense, horror, and painting scenes this man was. His brand of sci-fi is not exactly my brand, but the one thing we have in common is that for the most part he seems very concerned with the human condition, and not with aliens or vast empires.

Bradbury explores a single idea in each story, a thought or nugget, “what if…?” and then plays it out with a small cast of characters. In a short story you rarely have a “fully realized” character, but you do have someone you can relate to. I have a feeling The Veldt will have more of an impact on the modern readers of today than it did even on the readers of Bradbury’s day, the worries of a parent who has let their child be raised mostly by technology.

Writing for the blog has helped in that it adds constraints but removes pressure. I only have a set amount of time to write each post, and a set amount of words if anyone is going to bother to read them. But because it’s three times a week, I can run with an idea for a day instead of a month. I can play out something that may have no commercial application at all, just to improve my craft and see what others think. Between these constraints of word count and creative freedom I have written some stories I am actually proud of, and had fun writing too.

And that’s the thing about short stories. One of the reasons they are often used to judge an author’s writing is that a good author can write a novel or a short story in much the same way. Short stories inspire taut prose, accurate but not flowery description, a paring down to the essential. While flourishes are not always a bad thing, a good story moves, it reads well, no matter the length. Writing short stories is like writing a scene of a book, and a novel can be thought of as just a collection of 30-40 of these scenes.

Any short story collections you’d recommend?

5 Comments

Filed under Short Stories, Writing

Forty-Minute Story “Gray”

This is a sequel of sorts to a scene I wrote about eight months ago, itself a tangential piece relative to one of my works in progress. Before you read this scene, you may want to go back and read “Dust“. Enjoy!

———————————

The orange sphere arced through the air on the way to its target. Cora stood watching the ball, her “fingers” still out-stretched hoping to hear the satisfying flick of “nothing but net.” All her ears were met with, however, was the capricious clank of backboard, and rubber against the gym floor.

“Pretty close from half court,” a familiar voice shouted.

The last few months had brought a degree of informality between Cora and her commanding officer. Instead of snapping into a salute, Cora ran forward to pick up the errant ball and position herself back at the center line.

“I’d like to see you do better.” Cora pulled the ball up to her chest, her elbows flying out to chest pass the ball, but dropping at the last second with a little laughter, and a softer toss.

“A throw like that and you’d put me down in rehab with you,” He joked, passing the ball casually from hand to hand.

“No thanks,” Cora said, using her flesh and blood arm to wipe the sweat from her forehead. “Been seeing too much of you as it is.”

“I notice the arm’s sill gray.”

“Yeah, what of it?”

“You know the nanites can be rearranged to realistically mimic skin. You’ve got yours looking like a prosthetic arm from twenty years ago.”

“Mimic skin, huh? Like this?” Cora flicked her wrist and within in an instant she had a flesh and blood hand, attached to a dull gray robotic arm. She flayed her fingers to examine them.

“I could never get my nails looking this nice, even with a dozen manicures. See?”

She held up her other arm for comparison.

Her commander took her hand. It was cool to the touch, but otherwise felt perfectly normal. Her fingernails scratched his hand as she pulled back suddenly, another flick restoring the cold gray appearance.

“I keep it this way because I don’t want to stand out from the other soldiers. It’s bad enough I’m one of the only ones with a private room, I don’t need anyone else prying about the special hardware you’ve grafted onto me.”

“Excuse me?”

“I’m no fool. This wasn’t just a new experimental procedure, the next generation in prosthetics or whatever line you sold me. You built me for a purpose, and I think it’s about time you told me.”

She swiped for the ball with the new arm and flung it toward the basket without looking. The ball was palmed in her iron grip as her arm stretched and arced, her eyes never breaking contact with her commander. When her hand was just above the basket she just dropped the ball, and was rewarded with the swish she’d been looking for.

“That’s why I’m here, Cora. I think it’s time for your first assignment.”

2 Comments

Filed under Short Stories, Uncategorized, Writing

40 Minute Story “Real Life”

“What kind of coffee did they have?”

“Not bad for a vending machine. This here’s almond amaretto. It’s blazing hot though.”

“Why didn’t you use two cups?”

“It’s one of those that delivers the cups for you. And of course they’re out of guards.”

“Hence why you’ve got that bit of paper towell wrapped around it.”

“Yeah. Say want me to change the channel on the TV?”

“Already did. Got a little tired of the BBC.”

“But cooking shows?”

“Cooking shows are pleasant. Innocuous.”

“And hunger inducing.”

“You could always pop down to the cafeteria if you’re feeling peckish.”

“No thanks. Already had a peek down there. Coffee’s the only thing my stomach’s ready for in this place I think.”

“Hmm.”

“Say, you ever thought that you might be living in a TV show?”

“Change the channel, Dave.”

“No, I’m serious. I sometimes wonder if certain TV shows are a message from the real world, trying to tell me I’m trapped.”

“Trapped where?”

“In this world. My real life’s out there somewhere separated by a little 12″ screen.”

“If you wanted a bigger screen maybe you could stop being such a bum.”

“It’s not about the size, John. It’s about life.”

“What shows exactly?”

“I dunno ‘exactly’. The shows in deep space seem pretty real. I bet I’m an officer on the starship Enterprise.”

“Just don’t put on a red shirt.”

“That’s only the first series, John. If I was from, let’s say ‘The Next Generation’ then this world could be some holodeck simulation I’m trapped in.”

“But what about your memories of growing up?”

“Implanted by an alien race trying to rob me of my proper destiny.”

“Y’know. You don’t always have to talk. We can just sit here in silence.”

“Okay.”

“Heard anything yet?”

“No. They said the surgery could take hours, possibly even into tomorrow morning.”

“Your Mum’s gonna be alright, John.”

“Yeah, I know. Listen you don’t have to stick around. I’m fine by myself. I’ve got the barefoot contessa and everything.”

“Wouldn’t hear of it. What kind of an officer would I be if I left my friend here alone?”

“Probably some smeghead from Red Dwarf.”

“Have you seen the tenth series yet? I think it was smashing.”

“We watched it together Dave.”

“Oh yeah.”

“Think I might get me one of those amaretto things you’ve got. Been smellin’ it this whole time.”

“Smellin’ it is about all it’s good for. Pretty weak tea this.”

“Still.”

“No, you sit down. I’ll get it. Already burned me hand once today. No sense in us both suffering the same injury.”

“Dave.”

“Yes?”

“Thanks.”

“You’re welcome, John.”

1 Comment

Filed under Short Stories, Writing

Copy Center “Two For The Price Of One”

Wrote this back in 2009. Think of it like one of Bob Newhart’s telephone routines. Enjoy!

“Copy Center Support Hotline.  If your problems are double, we’ll fix ’em no trouble.  Your call may be monitored for training and quality purposes.  How may I help you today?”

“Yes, this is the Copy Center that makes clones.”

“No, sir, it’s not a silly question.  Sometimes the phone books aren’t always clear about the listings and put us in with office supply chains.  It’s actually helped me to learn a lot more about paper than I ever wanted to know.”

“Yes, it really is common.  It’s kind of ironic though, since our founder once worked as a copy machine repair man before he got into this business.  Guess it sort of inspired him, you know.  Anyway what can I help you with today?”

“You’d like to place a complaint.”

“Yes, you have reached the right department.  What is the nature of your complaint sir?  We aim to provide you with every satisfaction.”

“Really, I’m sorry about the wait sir.  Most of our callers are directed right on through.  An hour is quite a while to be on the phone.  I’ll have to speak with my…”

“Oh, I’m sorry on your lunch hour…”

“What would have been your lunch hour.  I’m not sure I quite catch your meaning.”

“Oh, I see, you lost your job, I’m sorry to hear that sir.  This recession has been tough on all of us.  I’m really sorry about the wait.  We’ve been increasing our call staff.”

“Well the usual way, sir, we’ve got about a hundred mes, I’m Mandy 75 by the way.”

“You’ll need the number if you’d like to comment on my service to you later.”

“Yes I wouldn’t want to keep you any longer.  What is it you were concerned about sir?”

“Your job, yes you did tell me you lost it.  I’m afraid we do all our hiring from within.  Our sales staff are copied of our founder, Harold Emmett.”

“I’m sorry I thought you might be calling about a job vacancy, since the company is expanding every day.  How did you lose your job?”

“A clone we made for you?  Would you hang on a minute sir while I pull up the details of your case.  By the way sir, what is your name?”

“Alright, I’m looking that up now.  Yes there you are.  You had Monday’s Harold Emmett correct?”

“There’s one for every day of the week.  I just wanted to make sure I had the details of this sale correct.  Now it says here you purchased one of our technical models.  I presume you bought this for the purpose of replacing you at work?”

“I’m sorry that was poorly phrased.  I meant to say so that you could spend more time away from the office.”

“Well as far as I’m concerned there’s nothing wrong with a little vacation, or even a long one.  After all our main sales staff is only here one day of the week, and I myself only work half days three times a week.”

“So you did use the clone at work.  It says here on the sales receipt you chose the basic social skills package, opting out of our premium package.”

“We believe it is worth any extra expense, especially in cases like yours.  Was your clone rude to your boss?”

“Promoted?  Well our technical models are very focused in their work, though with the social package you purchased he wouldn’t have made very good company on dates.”

“Well I don’t suppose you were planning on having him replace you in those areas sir.  Some of our married clients like to have someone to help out with the romance part of their lives, if they have work they’d rather accomplish.  But that doesn’t sound like you.  Maybe you’d better explain what happened when you had the clone stand in for you.”

“How did your boss find out it wasn’t you?”

“I’m sure you were careful to tell the clone everything he needed to know on the days you were in, and we guarantee the memory of our clones, so you should have received an accurate account.”

“Had a little snafu with the scheduling, I see.  So you both went to work on the same day.”

“Yeah, I’ve slept through my share of alarms before.  Did the clone go in to cover for you?”

“Well his heart was in the right place.  You didn’t find any kind of a note?”

“Well I don’t suppose it would be as helpful to find it when you got home.  Still you must have had some way of realizing your clone had gone to work before your boss saw you.  Did the clone usually stay at home when you were out?”

“No, I understand it can be a little boring sitting around the house all day.  Still it sounds like the clone was acting in your best interest, after all he is you.”

“I am not making light sir, I’m just saying these things can happen without the proper planning.  What happened when you got to work?”

“You were late for a presentation, and you walked in on your clone already giving it.  Was this in front of your boss?”

“And the shareholders.”

“No, you’re right, that sounds pretty embarrassing.  My boss probably wouldn’t be pleased either.”

“Well I’m just saying if there were only one of me to begin with.”

“No I’m afraid you can’t return him for a refund.  We have a strict no returns policy, given that we’re actually talking about real human beings.”

“I’m sorry you feel that way.  How did you try to explain him?”

“You tried to pass him off as your twin brother?”

“Yes sir, we’ve actually heard of a lot of people trying that, though they don’t tend to weigh and look exactly the same in real life.”

“Well he should be very good at finishing your sentences at least.”

“You have to admit it was a bit of a long shot sir.  I mean if your brother was standing in for your presentation, why would you bother to come in at all, and for that matter wouldn’t he have his own work to be doing?”

“Your boss said all that, and what else?”

“Well I think calling you that was a little out of line too.  After all, clones are becoming an accepted part of society now.  I am sorry to hear about all of this but I don’t see what we…”

“That’s not the worst part…”

“Well tell me sir, what is?”

“He liked the presentation?  We do take pride in our work sir.”

“So because of the presentation your clone got promoted.”

“For half pay?  That does seem a bit drastic.”

“Yes we do design our clones to work off fusion based sources of energy.  It’s part of our program to prevent over population, or at least some of the problems associated with it.  Our clones should only need to eat once every couple of months or so.  And any emissions are very green.”

“Well I guess you wouldn’t need as much money if you weren’t buying any food.”

“I understand you still need to eat.  Have you thought about trying to get yourself hired as your assistant?”

“Hello, sir?”

1 Comment

Filed under Short Stories, Writing

Forty Minute Story (“Future Self”)

“John, see that bloke across the street?”

“Where?”

“The one in the white shirt buying coffee.”

“I think you’ll have to be more specific.”

“He’s right at the front of the line!”

“What kind of coffee is he drinking?”

“How should I bloody know?! He’s across the street! You see him?”

“Of course, Dave. We’ve been talking about him for the last 30 seconds. What about him?”

“That’s my new boss, Brian.”

“I didn’t know video store clerks had bosses, Dave.”

“What? Of course they do, and I haven’t worked at the rental shop for at least three months.”

“Oh smart move. I don’t know who rents movies anymore. Where d’you work now?”

“Bookstore. Anyway, Brian’s me future self.”

“I don’t know if owner of a bookshop is the best life goal, Dave.”

“No, I don’t look up to him, I mean he’s me, from the future.”

“But he’s at least two inches taller than you.”

“A man can still grow after his twenties right?”

“I suppose so. How d’you know he’s you? Has he said anything?”

“No. It’s just a sense I have. I’ve thought it since the moment I saw him.”

“Even though he doesn’t look a thing like you.”

“They have plastic surgery! Maybe I’ve been sent back for some kind of mission, to change a critical point in my life.”

“Like preventing yourself from working at a bookshop?”

“No, I’m serious. Maybe it’s a dangerous relationship, some woman takes me for half me money.”

“You haven’t had a date in six months.”

“Well time travel isn’t the most reliable is it? Maybe he got here earlier than he planned and is waiting for the time to be right. Or he’s building up trust with his younger self so that I’ll believe him when he tells me what he’s come here to do.”

“That does sound like something you’d do.”

“Look I know it sounds like I’ve been watching too much sci-fi, but it’s a sense I can’t shake.”

“Oh, I know people are here from the future. I just can’t imagine what they’d need to do with you.”

“Pardon?”

“Well it’s obvious isn’t it? Take Conan O’Brien, his future self’s been walking around for years.”

“Really? Who?”

“Donald Trump, isn’t it obvious? Why do you think they used to work at the same network?”

“Trump?”

“Think about it. Conan’s never really gotten over the whole Tonight Show thing. Sure he seems cool about it now but add another ten years and he’ll become a bitter malicious old sod. What better way to take revenge than to amass a huge fortune, and tell a bunch of celebrities they’re fired.”

“But Trump’s so much shorter than Conan?”

“Well that doesn’t matter does it? Your future self is taller. Maybe height can be whatever you choose in the future.”

“What about the hair?”

“Well if I’m not mistaken your Brian’s wearing a rug. Maybe jumping back in time causes you to lose your hair.”

“You’ve gone daft man.”

“No, I’m serious. Here’s another one. Daniel Radcliffe, y’know Harry Potter?”

“I believe I’ve heard of him.”

“Well he’s obviously John Oliver.”

“Who?”

“The summer host of The Daily Show.”

“I’d thought Jon Stewart was looking better these days.”

7 Comments

Filed under Short Stories, Writing