Wednesday, 24 February 2010

They are short, but are they stories?

For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.

Hemingway won a bet with that piece of writing. A bet that he could write a story in under ten words. We can argue about whether it is actually a story; though, at a stretch, we could say it does have a beginning, a middle and an end. And the first time I read it it certainly made me think, and feel.

I've been mucking about a bit with the idea of very short pictures or stories. Some of the outcomes are below. If Hemingway hated them, I might add more adjectives and adverbs.

A young couple, vaguely Germanic, and wearing very tall conical hats made of some kind of rough, undyed natural fibre, stood underneath a piano in silence.

The bird who pecks a hole in the top of my milk bottle and drinks the cream has returned to my doorstep this morning. It is the coldest day of the year. Inexplicably, things speed up. As the bird prepares itself, raising its bill, the milk freezes, emerging from the bottle like a time-lapse fungus. The bird receives a deserved but mild head blow. In some countries, naturally, this could not happen.

My son's birthday is coming. While I was selecting a suitable gift for him, the man in the toyshop told me that a medium-sized dog consumes more energy than a small car.
"You don't need to convince me," I said.
He replied, "I just mean that a soft toy is a good choice, environmentally, I mean."
Perhaps I'm over-sensitive. In any case, I'd had enough.
"I don't come into a toyshop to be talked to like this," I growled.
As I turned to leave, he said, "I see."

One still damp night, as timber merchant Warren was returning on foot to his home, he suddenly saw, from a distance of no more than ten metres, hunched under the glow of the third street lamp, a fox. The fox did not slip away. On the contrary, it gazed coolly back. To Warren, this encounter seemed remarkable.
"Incredible", he muttered to himself.
"What's incredible?" said the fox.

A man walks into a pub with a monkey. He chats to the barman.

Seven under-life-size snowmen are standing in almost organised ranks on the steps of the war memorial in a typical small town. The snowmen all wear sunglasses (the type with black frames). It is far, far colder than normal, even for the time of year. Nevertheless, the snowmen will melt before spring I have no doubt. My question is this: what will become of their sunglasses after they are gone?

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