55 plus 10: chair and rationalise

Posted: 27 August 2019 in 55 plus, fast fiction, fiction, writing
Tags: , , , ,

Housekeeping notes: (1) No blog entry yesterday. Some medical issues/consequences from Wednesday laid me low, and away from the keyboard. (2) I’d originally half-planned to keep the ’55 plus’ in the titles only for the first 10 entries after my birthday but I’m pondering keeping it going for… well, for 55 days. Yes, I know I’ve missed one already and I may miss others. But I kind of like the idea of running from ’55 minus 55′ to ’55 plus 55′. I dunno. I’ll see.

I’m going to keep going with the ‘stories from the vaults on Tuesday’ posts. People seem to like them, and with around 700 of the buggers in the vaults, I doubt I’ll run short for a while.

A decade and a half ago, I threw out a challenge. and then repeated it thereafter whenever I felt like it. The challenge was the same in each case:

Give me a title of up to four words in length, together with a single word you want me to include in the tale, and I will write a story of exactly 200 words.

That’s it. The stories that resulted always included the word, they always fitted the title, but usually in ways the challenger hadn’t anticipated. And they were always exactly 200 words in length.

Here are two very different tales; the first in answer from a challenge from my then 12 year old son. I always enjoyed writing stories for Phil, and tried never to write ‘down’ to him, but to write a story that he and others would enjoy. The second is one of those ‘playing with the format’ responses. I occasionally wrote them in verse, and even more rarely tried to write one in free prose.


Title: The Unusual Place
Word: chair
Challenger: Phil Barnett
Length: 200 words exactly

A marked drop of temperature accompanied him as he moved inside the cave, away from where his family were picnicking in the crisp air of the Norwegian countryside.

He’d noticed the place for the first time the previous evening, walking back with his parents and sister from dinner, a patch of blackness on the side of the hills, darker even than the dusk shadowed surroundings.

He gasped as he saw the object, a simple cane, lying on the floor. Nearby, he could see a sharp edged silhouette that resolved itself as he moved, light sliding past him to illuminate the chair.

Of course! he thought, Odin’s chair, and Thor’s cane!

With a rush, he grabbed for the stick, and slammed it to the ground.

The shock of power knocked him back into the chair and instantly he was aware of everything!

He was All-Powerful – how could he not have known his true identity previously?

He was… hearing his mother calling for him. And suddenly Asgard, home of the gods, was just a cave again. And Thor’s hammer was just a gnarled stick.

He left the cave and went out to join the mortals.

But he took the stick with him.

© Lee Barnett, 2007

Title: To All My Heroes
Word: rationalise
Challenger: [Livejournal account that no longer exists]
Length: 200 words exactly

A first date is merely a quest.
He’s waiting for her.
Just around the corner.

The traffic is heavy for a Monday.
She notes that as she notes other things.
The striking red hair of the large shop assistant.
The flickering light on top of the tall grey lamppost.
How strange.
Quick, look at something! Anything!
Don’t even try to rationalise emotional procrastination.

She lights another cigarette.
A new year, a new start.
And he’s waiting for her.

Or is he? Maybe he didn’t show.
Maybe he chickened out. Maybe he didn’t really want to meet her.

It would be easier.
No pressure. No forced politeness.
No checking the watch to see when it would be polite to leave.
If he’s not there.
If he hadn’t bothered to show, nor to let her know that he wasn’t coming.

She knows he wouldn’t do that.
He’d let her know with a gloriously inventive and entirely believable explanation.
Writers know how to tell stories.

She draws another lungful of tobacco.
She should go now.
She should.
And she will.

She thinks she knows what courage is.
And whether or not she has it.

And she leaves her spot.
For home.

© Lee Barnett, 2008

Something else tomorrow…

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