Monday, April 7, 2008

Short shorts

So recently, I had an informal assignment in my fellowship group to come up with a short short story, one that is under 250 words, otherwise known as "flash fiction." And since I'm feeling a bit brain dead today, what with getting my oil changed/tires rotated/annual car inspection/registration renewal (which took up my whole morning) and then the run I went on and then the talk I attended. And did I mention that for some crazy reason I was awake, and I mean bright-eyed-bushy tail awake, at 6:30am (I went to bed after midnight) and so I came downstairs and wrote, because that's what I'm supposed to be doing during my year off--working on this book--and I need, let me emphasize NEED to write the introduction because I need NEED to figure out exactly WHY it's important that we have another book about race and Asian American culture (anyone want to put out some ideas?)

Anyway, here's my short short--I'll be sharing this with my fellowship group tomorrow. I'm a bit nervous about it--because, my theory is that all English professors are really either closet poets or closet fiction writers (maybe some closet screenwriters or playwrights thrown in the mix too). What I mean is, I think that some of us love literature so much, that we have often dreamed about actually creating the creative works we critique. I know that's the case with me. When I was a kid and people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said "An Author!" A friend of mine reminded me the other day that I actually AM a writer--because I do write for a living (as well as teach) but, in my mind, a real author is a fiction writer.

So here's my stab at my dream profession--once you read it, you will probably realize that I should stick to my day job. But I figure, why have a blog if you can't force people to read the things that only my Mom would normally read!

"Foul Ball"

It’s Friday, and Forrest Lee silently prays to God that Teresa Williams will be out so that he can go home and the monthly humiliation of kick ball will be over. Forrest is always picked last—out of all of the boys and all of the girls. Forrest walks home from school alone; he eats lunch alone, from a Tupperware lunchpail filled with food his grandmother makes for him. Forrest never buys the school lunch.

Forrest sees Teresa make it to first base. The bases are loaded with two outs, and Forrest knows his team will lose because he’s now up. Suddenly, his whole class yells in unison, “Run, Forrest, Run!” Forrest hates this the most about kick ball days; the kids always chant “Run, Forrest, Run!” He looks at Mrs. Carter, his fourth grade teacher, who, as usual, is scribbling on her clipboard. He looks at the pitcher, Bobby Sanchez, who grins, then shoots the ball at Forrest, who, with eyes closed, kicks the ball as hard as he can. Amid the chanting, amid the heat, Forrest kicks the ball as if it contained all the rage, frustration, and anxiety of his brief nine years.

And the ball, following a trajectory of its own choosing, veers right and smacks Mrs. Carter square in the face, where she falls backwards, clutching her bloody nose. And Bobby’s eyes grow wide. And his class falls silent.

And Forrest runs.

[this is exactly 236 words (not counting the title)--and my challenge to anyone who is out there is to share your own short short story in the comments section of this post--or provide a link to your own short short!]


Genepool said...

Sorry, went over by two or three words.

It came as no surprise to Virginia Duffy (NOT Ginny!) that she should be thought of as extraordinary. She'd suspected as much for as long as she could remember. Her early rise as a prodigy among her peers earning her awe and ire from from the onset of her academic undertakings.

She was, naturally, the favorite to win the spelling bee her doting parents had entered on her behalf. She bragged to her co-contestants about her superior study habits and what surely must be a simple victory she was about to earn.

It was evident to all that while miss Duffy was probaly pretty smart, she was obviously pretty rude.

The epiphany that Miss Virginia experienced when she lost was every bit as profound as when she discovered flowers died when they were picked.

If she lost, she must not be the smartest. This put a real strain on her "special" identity and worse, really embarrassed her.

With no trapdoors to rescue her from the platform that had made her terrible loss a matter of public record, she walked, red-faced stage right. (180)

Her wet eyes gave away her shame and so even the kids she was particularly mean to offered her strained sympathy and kind words of understanding. One boy even offered a heartfelt hug which she eagerly accepted with a little sob of self-pity.

As she left the scene she decided crow didn't taste so bad if properly prepared. And she didn't even look up the proper spelling for the word o-b-n-o-x-i-o-u-s.

Jennifer said...

Thanks Genepool--I like the theme we've started with short shorts of children/childhood. Poor Virginia--losing does suck--but it also makes you human.