Feigned screams and contrived hugs all round. To look from a distance, you’d be forgiven in thinking that these two girls were sharing an overdue and heartfelt moment, borne out of a lifetime of uninvited separation. They saw each other yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that. To be specific, with the efficiency and punctuality of German engineers, these two girls meet in this same café at 8am exactly, Monday straight through to Friday. I’ll need to find a new café. I’d rather not have to do so, as this cafe is a five-minute walk from where I work. However, before I embark, I may as well enjoy what could be my last morning here and bask in my current surroundings.
” Hey Bart, how’s it going?”
” I have a little problem.”
“My bank account is overdrawn $33”
“How’d that happen?”
“Not sure but I think my pay schedule to pay down my overdue tax bill just kicked in so I got hit with a new $500 withdrawal I wasn’t expecting by Uncle Sam.”
“I just need to borrow 40 bucks until I get a check on Tuesday then I can pay you back.”
“No problem.” Continue reading
At first it was thought to be an isolated case. A loud, self-important person said that his cell phone had overheated and mildly burned his ear while he was talking about his proctology exam on a crowded bus. When several others related incidents while talking loudly about work, grocery lists and fights with spouses or bosses occurred, the phenomenon quickly passed through urban legend into a genuine mystery. Because the cell phones only overheated in certain situations, no one could find any problem inherent in the phones themselves. The problem had to be external.
After the hot cell phone cases became well known, the long-suffering public began to cheer each burnt ear and was happy to lose the distracting and irritating chatter of the cell bozos.
This work is below our minimum word count. However, as we have said before, when something comes in that is just demanding to be published we are perfectly willing to be flexible. We have added our thoughts at the end of the post so that you can see our reasoning. Please feel free to comment – as always we love to know what you think.
She has a tattoo on her boobs with something written on it, but I can’t tell if it’s a quote from Marx or César Chávez and the uncertainty is killing me.
“Take a picture,” she says. “It’ll last longer.”
But a camera isn’t the issue, it’s the pronounced curvature.
“Don’t you think tattoos are like bumper stickers for humans?” I say. “It’s like the graffiti that used to be on walls moved on to the skin of people, making it much harder to read.”
She gives me a Frida Kahlo look.
“We’re alone in the universe with only our tattoos to express ourselves; they’re the only thing they can’t take from us. Show some respect.”
I apologize and change the subject, chat about the madness present everywhere and how we’re forced to squeeze a living out of whatever’s left.
“I work in a bar,” she says, “giving hand jobs. I need to get the guys early, while they still have money. It’s hard work. Some are older, and it takes forever, especially if they’re drunk.”
“You must have a strong grip,” I say.
“You can say that,” she says. “But work’s slow nowadays. No one carries cash and everyone’s on antidepressants. It’s like no one can handle happiness anymore.”
“It’s a damn shame,” I say.
“Happiness is in our Declaration of Independence, our Hollywood happy endings, our self-help books. Now it’s Citalopram and Prozac. It depresses me just to think about it.”
And I agree. America’s missing something, something vital. So, we keep lamenting our grim prospects, unpayable student loans, and I wonder how we’ll ever make it through the week, how will we ever survive. It’s an uphill battle, each and every freaking day. And I have no cash, and she has no hope.
I think it’s a real challenge to draw believable and visible character in such a short word count and that was the main thing that struck me about this piece, and what made me want to see it on the site. Just the very first line about the tattoo gives such a clear glimpse into the character of this woman. This is something with a literary quote on it, something more than just body ornamentation. Then we find more about her, her struggle and her despondency, her strength and confidence. I think the woman is the deeper character here and the narrator a foil for our look at her life.
When you consider that all this is packed into 294 words it is very impressive. It is a social comment of course and if it had simply been that – almost a rant – I wouldn’t have considered it for a moment, but it is a multifaceted story, a tiny slice of two lives which perfectly encompasses the problems of misery and struggle of modern life, mostly in the developed world.
Very clever writing in my opinion.
I have just read Diane’s views on this wonderful piece of writing.
The comments and points she makes are concise and well observed.
I can only add, for me, such a small word count only works if it has a cutting point that is perceptive and relevant. This powerful piece of work does all of that superbly well.
If you are going to write under three hundred words, this is the way to do it.
I experiment a lot with short pieces – 50 word fiction, drabbles etc. – because I love the challenge of getting depth into a story within the confines of a strict word count. It’s critical in my opinion that you get in two great lines – one to open and one to close – and that you keep it very simple for the rest. This piece opens well, closes well and is just a simple conversation. And yet as a reader I was able to picture the scene, flesh out the characters and feel a sense of hopelessness and despair. Clever stuff.
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Thomas Darwin, his cheeks stained with tears and his body quivering, slowly marched farther into the frigid Delaware Bay. The crowd gathered on the beach shouted for Thomas to stop, to turn around, to return to the shore. Eventually he did stop but not until the water lapped at his bare chest.
We sat at the desert inn, at the window which afforded a magnificent view onto Monument Valley, awaiting our luncheon orders. She sipped desert mint tea sweetened by hummingbird saliva and I lapped pomegranate wine, a divine concoction of pine sap sweetened by cactus rind and desert rosehips with a drizzle of wild honey, harvested not from the hive but from the beaks of mountain owl.
“So what brings you here today?”
Marguerite, as she told us to call her, was one of those confident women who left you with the impression they always had it together. I was pretty sure I didn’t like her already. Marguerite. Who names their kid that anyway.