Explorations in the Short-Short

The Challenge

Those who have taken Jim Heynen’s residency classes know that he is a brave defender of short forms of writing. Jim invites current RWW participants to submit short-short pieces to Soundings from now until the next issue in March 2013. This is not a contest, but rather a fun, non-competitive way of engaging all of us in the craft of reading and writing in the very short form.

Submissions can be made HERE.

Short-shorts courtesy of the Rapid City Social Club

Submissions can be anything from the six-word story (inspired by Hemingway’s “For Sale: baby shoes; never used.”) to prose pieces in the tradition of the short tale, the fable, the surrealist prose poem, to the “I’ve never seen anything like this before” categories.

Word limit: 200 words or fewer.

Four Quick-Takes by Jim Heynen

Like this. Any questions?

“The Chapstick Guy” (97 words)

For some reason this man wore so much chapstick on his lips that if he fell on his face he’d leave a skid mark like a slug. Nobody ever commented about it, even though his lips slid around so much when he talked that you’d think he was trying to invent a new language for romance. And he was in a job that put his face in the faces of the public all day long. He sat in a booth on the ground floor of a large office building under a sign that said, INFORMATION? ASK ME.

“Coffee Shop Chair” (92 words)
The chair absorbed her boredom. When she stood up, the black seat cushion still sagged with her implosive imprint, the four wooden legs lingered in their bent position, and the wooden slats on the backrest kept her dark circles deep in their grain. Meanwhile, she went outside to be brightened by the makeup of sunlight.

The chair was in trouble.

We all stared at the chair. Just stared at it.

But she? Ignoring the banner of her boredom, she went off into the world oblivious to how much she affected us.

“The Grin Reaper” (128 words)

These are not Jim Heynen’s short-shorts.

When others chuckled, he sneered. If someone laughed at a joke, he stared at them as if they’d passed gas in an elevator. If there was a smile anywhere in a room, he’d go after it with a scythe of bitterness, a sharp haughty look that screamed, Stupid! To say he didn’t have a sense of humor was like saying a snake didn’t have long legs. When he left a room, you felt that kind of peace that comes when you pull your hand out a meat grinder.

Talk about a wet blanket!

This guy doesn’t have an ounce of joy in him!

How can anybody be such a total downer?

How can anyone be so one-dimensional?

No one could explain him, but it was easy to give him a name.

“Tuesday at the Fireside Café” (173 words)
It was a Tuesday at the Fireside Café at exactly six o’clock in the evening when everyone’s cell phone rang at the same time. Talking stopped. Half-eaten tuna sandwiches and soupspoons froze in mid-air. There were sixteen tables and thirty-three surprised faces in the dining area when the cell phones declared their presence at the tables. Some beeped, some played “Ode to Joy,” one played “Little Bo Peep,” a few gave out ordinary rings, and the rest were a symphony of “Sea Breeze,” “Rain Drops,” “Tribal Summoning,” and “Underwater World.”

The diners cast accusatory looks toward someone at the next table as if to say, How dare you violate my sacred space with your coarse electronic contraptions!

But the looks of mutual scorn transformed into looks of mutual shame, and before the mutual reaching for purses and pockets, everyone’s eyes locked sympathetically with the person nearest them. They looked as if they had just joined a twelve-step recovery program and the confessional introductions were about to begin.