Wednesday, December 24, 2014

There's Gotta Be a 420 Joke in Here Somewhere

At the end of last week, I drafted 90% of a thoughtful post about a problem with the theme of fathers and sons in narrative art. One of those theoretical, "let's make believe I know what I'm talking about" kinds of posts, which I really like writing but which I have no idea if people like reading, or if they have any basis in actual discourse. By the time I was finished thinking about the theme and revising the post, I sort of hated my opinions about it, along with what I'd written. I think my brain is momentarily tired of being tested against the cruel light of what genuine experts know about these kinds of topics. Perhaps I'll like the post a lot better once the holidays are over, but in the meantime I'm just going to share something else.

Meanwhile just skirting the subject of what's happening this week

The final exercise I did in my workshop class this semester was after a writer named Lou Beach, who wrote a whole book of stories of under 420 characters each. (This used to be the data limit for Facebook posts. Good times, eh?) I wrote several, and I was pretty happy with what I came up with, so here are a few.

Never have I ever, she prompted. Never have I ever. I would have been happy to hear that little loop of R and V and soft H from her mouth for days, but she wanted a new truth from mine. Gossip, maybe. Tim told me last night that he. Did you hear that he. Kissed you, I answered. 
Why is Esther the only thing on my mind at this moment? Not my kids or my husband or my sainted mother, but Esther. Nothing under me but sky and flame, and the debris of 126 other passengers in a screaming lipstick tube. No parachute. No flotation device. My body moves at terminal velocity and my mind hovers on a stupid stuffed horse I bought my sister when we were both eleven. 
The fall made me dizzy, but trying to get up and failing, like a downed drunk, was worse. Engines muttering and a sharp bitter smell around me. Stay still. Keep breathing. I've got a kit for when this happens, even so far from home. It's a seizure, I tell myself, I've been telling myself for several minutes, until I realize it's just that I've fallen in love with the girl at the gas pump next to mine. 

Naturally these all pale in comparison with Beach's own work and with the greatest and famousest six-word story, but I really had fun writing them. Try a few of your own. 420 characters, not 420 words. MS Word doesn't keep track of characters automatically, but I estimate that 80 words is a good upper limit to keep in mind at first. What can you say in that amount of space?

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