She wore the necklace he’d always told her matched her eyes. She grabbed the photo album that he’d made of her 30th birthday party. He would light up when he saw her. They would sit and talk about years past. She rehearsed what to say. When she arrived the nurse gave her his room number. She took a deep breath and entered.
“Hi, Dad,” she said.
His vacant eyes searched her face. “Who the hell are you?” he bellowed.
Back in 2012, Esquire magazine held a short short fiction contest
in celebration of its 79th anniversary. The only two rules were that you had to compose a story that did not exceed 79 words in length (excluding the title) and you could only submit one story.
Piece of cake, right?
I worked on several stories that took me a couple of weeks to write, edit, re-write, re-edit, until I finally settled on the one I thought was the strongest and submitted it. Writing short, in this case very, very short, is much more challenging than one might think. The stories were judged on the following criteria: 25% plot, 25% characterization, 25% theme and 25% originality.
I didn’t win.
That’s okay, though. I’m of the belief that no writing effort is a waste of time. I had a lot of fun challenging myself to keep my writing tight and expressive in just 79 words. Not sure I succeeded, but the process is just as important as the end product.
Below is the (non-winning) entry I submitted to Esquire. It’s a bit dark, but that’s how I roll sometimes. It’s loosely inspired by an alleged real-life event that took place in my hometown when I was a kid.
I’ll post more of these 79-word stories over time and attempt to write some new ones.
Off the Beaten Path