The Pick 2001

The Pick 2001

Exercise By Bruce Taylor


Take a story from real life, one you are having trouble focusing. Cut the story in half. Cut it in half again. What you’re left with is the essentials of the story you will be able to see more clearly.

(259 words)

They have said nothing to each other for weeks except what matters to the day, the children, the budget or the dog. He is upstairs at his office window. She is reading in a chaise longue in the shade some book her recently widowed mother gave her. She sighs, he imagines, at how it was an easy mistake for a young girl to make, a less likely error, perhaps, for a man so much older.

Who remembers mostly a white dress, a waist your hands could fit around, the scent of Juicy-Fruit and Noxzema. When he asks what’s wrong, she always says she’s happy; the only thing is, if he were sometimes a little happier a little more often too…

What she thinks of him now he doesn’t even know, but fears it’s so much less than what she thought at first, when he was what he can’t imagine now, and obviously isn’t to her now, and why and why? In the grief of his fifties, hard liquor sits him down to pray.

They treat each other as tenderly at least as they’d treat a relative or friend, a needy stranger or the obligatory guest. Whatever it is they might be discussing escapes to the underside of the birch leaves in the gathering breeze. The lights across the river are brighter and seem more distant than the stars. The swallows give way to the bats and a tiny spider spins at the ruined screen a web someone less desperate might be tempted to take as a metaphor.

(130 words)

They have said nothing to each other for weeks except what matters to the day, the children, the budget or the dog. He is upstairs at his office window. She sighs, he imagines, at where love has led her and how it was an easy mistake for a young girl to make.

He remembers a white dress, a waist your hands could fit around, the scent of Juicy-Fruit and Noxzema — he wants to ask her what she remembers.

They treat each other as tenderly at least as they’d treat a relative or friend, a needy stranger or the obligatory guest. Whatever it is they might be discussing escapes to the underside of the birch leaves. The lights across the river are brighter and seem more distant than the stars.

(64 words)

They have said nothing to each other for weeks except what matters to the day. She sighs at where love has led her. He remembers a white dress. They treat each other as they’d treat a stranger. Whatever they might be discussing escapes to the underside of the birch leaves. The lights across the river are brighter and more distant than the stars.

© 2001 Bruce Taylor.

Bruce Taylor’s latest project is a collection of short fiction entitled, the Story Is. And this is Bruce’s web site.

 

 

This story is a tour de force into the magic of flash fiction. It demonstrates how the gifted writer can squeeze the richly evocative theme—in this case a sad tale of an unhappy couple drifting apart—into fewer and fewer words.  It shows that the limited word count is not a burden or shackles, but a shortcut to the story’s enhancement. Just like the people fighting the overwhelming odds could realize their full potential.

This story can start with the shortest part and then expand, or it can be read as it has been written, contracting. The way it’s written, as it diminishes, it loses the breadth of detail, but retains the all-too-familiar sadness of a failed family.  The whole story is only 500 words, but each part is getting progressively shorter by half. It reaches its crescendo in just 64 (count them, 64) words. That’s magic. That’s flash fiction at its succinct best.

Mark Budman

 

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