Stories that fit into 2 pages or less in Microsoft Word. I may use narrow margins sometimes, I cheat that way, because I’m sinister.
Originally, this was the final in-class writing assignment for my Creative Writing class: Write one scene using the following words: Money, ocean, planet, aggravate, grease, paddle, rooster, leer, gift, pillow, avocado, shoulder, wedge, planet, fortify. The first draft took about twenty minutes, and I polished this version with another twenty or so after I got home. Finally, I recently needed a story for a theater class I’m taking, so I revisited this one and added a little more polish to it. I think I actually kind of like this one. Tell me what you think in the comments!
Six Twenty Seven
“Six twenty seven.” Don thumbed through his wallet, counting what little money remained for food after buying his final bus ticket, the one that brought him here, to California from Kansas. This was the last leg of a three year journey that had taken him across continents in a quest to surf the waves of every ocean, on every coast it touched. He had exactly five dollars to his name, a pillow strapped to his back with a leather belt that had been a gift from his mother, and a simple digital camera, which hung from a strap on his left shoulder. From the corner of one eye he glanced toward the corner of the small building before him, where his surfboard leaned, its waxed and polished surface glinting in the evening sunlight as it rested comfortably on the warm, golden sand of the California coast.
“Six twenty seven. Please.” the cashier behind the counter of Mac and Dan’s Hamburger Stand said again, this time more insistently. Don counted the bills in his wallet once more, but they’d stubbornly refused to multiply since the previous count. He considered his options.
“What if we take off the avocado?” he asked, hoping that minor adjustment might lower the cost of the meal into his price range. He looked past the cashier, at the cook behind him. His gaze seemed lost in the bubbling grease of the meat-covered griddle while his hands, unwatched, lazily dismembered a wilted wedge of lettuce. The cashier sighed, cleared the transaction and started again. Don noticed a logo on the cashier’s shirt, a simple illustration of a rooster and one of those strange sets of toy wind-up teeth that automatically bite and vibrate along the floor. He smiled and considered that in all the states and countries he’d visited all across this little blue planet called Earth, he had never seen such a logo.
“What’s your shirt mean?” he asked, “I’ve never seen a rooster teeth logo before.” The cashier rolled his eyes and looked at Don—though it seemed more like a leer, Don thought—and half barked his reply.
“It’s not rooster teeth, it’s cock biter. They make machinima movies. Noob.” Apparently losing his place in the calculation of the pre-avocado cost of Don’s meal, the cashier banged his hand on the cash register and started over once more. Don smiled, hoping a little kindness might go a long way.
“Listen, I apologize. I’m new here, I didn’t mean to aggravate you, my friend. I’m just hoping to meet some new buds, fortify my stomach, paddle out a bit and catch a wave before calling it a night under the stars. I’m Don, if you’re interested.”
“Yeah, yeah, that’s nice, buddy, but I don’t give a flyin’ fuck. That’ll be four ninety nine.” The cashier put out his hand and glared. Don’s heart sank, then lifted; at least he’d have a meal. Without another word he paid the cashier and collected the small paper bag that contained his burger and fries. He stepped toward the corner where his surfboard stood, and glanced at his watch: Six twenty seven. He chuckled and breathed the crisp, salty air of the Pacific Ocean. He admired the gleaming body of his surfboard and smiled even wider, happiness swelling in his heart one last time before the long dormant aneurism in his brain burst, and he fell dead on the golden sand of the California coast.
I don’t know what it was I first noticed about her. Dressed plainly enough, she wore simple, form-fitting jeans and a flannel shirt with a green and black checkered pattern. Perhaps it was the clarity of her person, the unembellished form of a woman unconcerned with drab conformity. No, wait; it was nothing so high-concept as that, who am I kidding? I know what it was: her legs.
They were only revealed below the knees, her jeans rolled up just to that sensual spot that lives, too often undiscovered, just behind the bend. There was an elegance to their shape, a smoothness that wound all the way up to her ample, perfect hips. She wasn’t one of those stick-figure girls—no, she had meat on her bones, this one; just enough.
Her hair cascaded in an elegantly sculpted mess, framing her face on both sides with a reddish-brown color that perfectly lit up the hazel in her gleaming, thoughtful eyes. Her nose, a slender wedge that traced a path from her eyes to her lips—oh, her magnificent lips!—was a perfect piece of human sculpture, gracefully twitching and flaring in concert with her startlingly full lips.
Let me tell you about her lips. They wore expressions of every flavor, switching cleanly from one to the next in an orgy of fluidity. Motion and feeling danced together ‘twixt the succulent frame of her mouth, and I could not but admire. When first I saw, they sat pursed in rapt attention, her eyes narrowed in agreement as she listened intently to a short story being read by its author. At its conclusion, her lips shifted into a tender smile, beautiful and ardent, the soft pink flesh alight with gentle warmth, her eyes flashing with intelligence and passion as her expressive lips carved out a delighted and thoughtful critique from the living, pulsing air that surrounded her. To hell with the author and his damned story; this is a reading of her lips.
I ramble, I know. Whatever it was that happened then, I don’t know, not clearly. As a younger man I’d have thought, when she caught me noticing her and smiled, holding my gaze with that rare fierceness only a strong-willed woman can wield, that we’d made a connection, some subtext established, impassioned thoughts exchanged across the distance, carried by the power of a gaze.
But that’s a younger man’s hope, something I stopped chasing long ago. No, I’m content to admire those beautiful legs, eyes and lips from just across the way, and to consider the possibilities of a mind so sharp as hers. From here, everything looks just about perfect. How can it get any better than that?
This piece emerged from a prompt in my creative writing class, which asked for a story about a man or woman who’s had an affair in a hotel room the night before, only to wake up beside their spouse. The action was to take place entirely inside the hotel room, with no significant back story.
I got through about 3/4 of the writing of this piece while in class and had a decent response to it during the sharing and workshopping session, so I decided I’d go ahead and finish it up. I did that just this evening, along with a little polishing on the first section from the night before, and all in all I’m fairly pleased with it. What I wanted to get at in this piece is the idea that people don’t (usually) cheat merely out of a desire for simple sex or orgasm, but because they have a deep need inside that isn’t being met in their home life. That’s not an indictment of blame, incidentally; sometimes it’s just a matter of how people’s lives evolve, and my take is that mutual understanding and meeting of needs, not blame, guilt and penance, is the more mature way of coping.
I hope you like it; please feel free to leave a comment and tell me what you think!
A Night in Memory
Carl awoke with a start, the unexpected warmth of sunlight playing across his eyes through the half-open blinds of the Prudence Hotel and Bakery. He breathed deeply and smiled, reveling in the warm scent of sex that still permeated the room, a remnant of a night spent entwined with the most passionate, intense woman he had ever met. Still afflicted by the hazy, early afternoon sunlight that danced across his face, he closed his eyes for a moment and remembered, with fondness and an emerging desire for round four, the beautiful, vivacious redhead he pictured sleeping quietly beside him. She was everything his wife had never been: adventurous and experimental, open to touch and be touched in ways and places the mother of his children never had, for hour after hour into the night. The way her body responded to his worship of her every sensual part made him feel, for the first time in years, like a powerful, competent lover, like the man he thought he’d forgotten how to be. This new woman, he thought, was a little piece of bliss.
I wrote the first draft of this story in about 45 minutes during an exercise in a Creative Writing class. The inspiration was surprisingly simple and effective: the professor passed out two envelopes, one containing characters and the other, settings on campus. Students were told to choose two characters and one location at random, then go to the location and write. When I returned, this story is what had emerged. Afterward, I polished it a little, cleaned up all the typos and some of the language, and now it’s ready to join the cult of Damn Short Stories. Okay, I lied; there’s no cult. Dammit.
Rope and Whisper
Vinnie closed his eyes and breathed deeply. The soothing rush of water through Strenger Plaza’s fountain washed over and through him, and he imagined that somehow, it cleansed his soul of the grotesque scene which hung in the air not fifty feet from where he stood. One hand rested on the cold metal rail of the gurney that would convey her body back to his father’s mortuary in the back of the hearse; the other stayed solemnly upon his pounding heart as he silently invoked a godless prayer for her. As the soothing whisper of the fountain calmed his restless heart, he breathed deeply and wished it were just a bit cooler. “Why d’ya think she wanted to be hung, Vinnie?” Arnold Johnson, the lone detective sent to review the crime scene, was a peculiarly ordinary man, so extremely plain of face, body and style that he actually stood out only in how completely noteworthy he was not.
Vinnie exhaled. “It’s hanged, Arnie. She hanged herself.” Vinnie opened his eyes and looked again. She was a beautiful young thing, early twenties, and although he’d seen death many times in the ten years since graduating high school and joining his father’s mortuary business, this one was different. “What’s da fuggin’ difference?” Arnold asked, as he took a long pull from his coffee. He eyeballed Vinnie with disdain, irritated by both his composure and what he thought of as his holier-than-thou ‘Oooh, I can spell and say things all grammatical-like’ attitude. Vinnie’s eyes remained fixed on her sweetly innocent face, which even in death seemed to smile with warmth and welcoming. Her body, still suspended several feet above the ground slowly twisted with the rope as he replied, “The latter means a rope is tied around your neck and you’re dropped to your death. The former means that you have a big dick.”
Codey Cooksie was hungry. He marched with determination down the street, clutching a wad of worn-out one dollar bills. He imagined the tasty things he would soon eat at the street fair. Candy apples and fluffy spun sugar to start, with a healthy scoop of rocky road for a fine finish. Codey was so enraptured by his imaginings that he didn’t even notice the lonely foot protruding from a small doghouse. He tripped and fell face-forward toward the ground, slamming his eyes shut as he braced for pain.
Instead, he felt a stout tug at his waistline, and was lifted entirely off the ground as he turned to look behind. He looked into the first face he’d ever thought of as beautiful; a face, he’d recall, connected to an arm that didn’t look as strong as it plainly was.
“What’s the big idea?” he exclaimed, wriggling as his senses returned. The girl in question, about a foot taller than Codey, smiled as she put him down. “I just saved your butt!” she declared, hands on her hips. “You owe me!” Codey scratched his head. “Well whaddya want? I ain’t got much money, just five bucks!”
The girl’s lips hovered somewhere between a smile and a smirk, and she spoke in a confident voice. “What’s your name, anyway? I’m Darla, the meanest vampire in all the land!” Codey narrowed his eyes as he looked her up and down. “I’m Codey, but you don’t look like a vampire. And it’s sunny out, shouldn’t you be on fire or something?”
Darla folded her arms across her chest and declared in a loud voice, her face turned skyward, “I am a cookie vampire, the meanest of them all. I drain the chocolate chips and raisins from any cookie that dares cross my path!” She waited a moment for dramatic effect, then turned back to face Codey. “Since I saved your life, I’ll let you pay me back with a cookie from the street fair.”
Codey chewed his lip, thinking that buying cookies would probably put a crimp in his dinner plans. Still, she had saved his life, or at least his dignity, whatever that was, and he was sure his mother would say it was the right thing to do.
“Alright,” he said, shoving the money into his pocket as he extended his hand to shake Darla’s, “let’s go to the street fair, and I’ll buy you a cookie.” “Great!” Darla declared, her cheeks turning rosy as her smile stretched across her face, “It’ll be our very first date!”
And with that, she took Codey’s hand, meshed her fingers with his and with a tug they were off, and Codey worried—just a bit—whether or not it was a good idea to go on a date with a cookie vampire.