55 plus 52: sangfroid and taboo

Posted: 8 October 2019 in 55 plus, fast fiction, fiction, writing
Tags: , , , ,

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.

I’ve put some clever stories up in the past, some horror tales, some sweet and loving, and some where I hope you can find some suspense.

Here, however, are two very silly stories, two absurd tales. I thoroughly enjoyed writing both.

I hope you enjoy reading both as well…


Title: What Love Means Today
Word: sangfroid
Challenger: Douglas Townsend
Length: 200 words exactly

The official representative of the state looked at the two of them. He smiled as he saw her nervously giggle at something the man had said, and then with delight saw her start to colour slightly. The young man responded by running a finger around his collar.

The representative always enjoyed it when they were so obviously ready and willing to commit themselves.

The mothers were busily chatting and surreptitiously eyeing each other’s dresses. There was a moment shortly after meeting, he knew, when they each decided who was the better dressed. And what was more, both of them would reach the same decision. Ah yes, there it was.

He saw the young man’s father pacing nervously, and on the other side of the room, the younger woman’s father looking without a care in the world, exhibiting a sense of sangfroid that would do credit to anyone.

He called them all together, and asked each of the younger people whether they were sure of their choices. They looked at each other, then at their parents, then together announced in the affirmative.

And as the parents pulled their sidearms, the representative of the state gave his blessing to the forthcoming feud.

© Lee Barnett, 2008


Title: Gargoyles, Grotesques and Glad-Rags
Word: taboo
Challenger: Bevis Musson
Length: 200 words exactly

He paused for a moment, entirely at a loss as to how to respond when he heard the handle on the heavy oak door twist with the inevitable creaking sound, remembered from childhood.

The door opening saved Arnoth from having to answer the marriage proposal as his father entered, absent-mindedly scratching the suppurating sore on his arm and whistling a popular song, a painful sound.

“Ah,” his father said, seeing Arnoth and the strange individual, only at that moment becoming aware of their being there and also that he’d interrupted them.

There was an awkward silence, broached after a minute or so by the creature coughing, an astonishingly quiet sound given its bulk.

“Father…” began Arnoth, in a vague attempt to explain the presence of the immortal being made from living stone, but his father merely waved his hand in an offhand manner, far more concerned about the obvious social faux pas taking place.

Arnoth looked at his love, dressed in the flowing golden ballgown, and then at his father, identically dressed, a social taboo of great embarrassment.

Arnoth wondered which of them would volunteer to change clothes first, and uttered a silent prayer that it would be his father…

© Lee Barnett, 2007

And here’s an extra special treat. After I wrote the story above, the person for whom I wrote the story, artist Bevis Musson, turned his considerable skill to the story, and created the art below.

(It’s one of my great regrets that he and I never got to work on a planned project we had, an original graphic novel that I keep promising myself I’ll return to sooner or later.)


Something else tomorrow…

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