57 minus 35: underpants and shout

Posted: 13 July 2021 in 57 minus, fast fiction, fiction, writing
Tags: , , , ,

And so we’re back to the regular ‘fiction from the vaults’ posts on Tuesdays for the rest of the run.

A couple of fast fictions, one each from the 2007 and 2008 fast fiction runs; two tales with very different stories behind them, these two.

The first was one of those where I’d had the final lines rattling around in the back of my head for a while, and I’d been waiting for the right story in which to use them. Even though this challenge gave me the opportunity, I hesitated at first. Then the rest of the tale hit me almost fully formed and well, you have Worst Date Ever below.

The second one, though? Well, Dan challenged me and also added an additional requirement: less than 100% but more that 50%, of the story had to be in dialogue. (I never objected to additioanl challenges; made me work harder as a writer, and the story always benefited.)

So here’s the tale that resulted: The Sound Of Silence. Thing is, the first story I wrote with that title was a good story but it failed on the dialogue requirement. So I wrote an entirely different second story, with a different premise. And it was better, because of course it was better.

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.

Enjoy them…

Title: Worst Date Ever
Word: underpants
Challenger: [Livejournal: mathemavixen]
Length: 200 words exactly

He knew that they were somewhere in the bedroom and he racked his brains while he could hear the running water from the bathroom.

He crouched, looking under the bed, searching for his underwear, while she had her shower.

He’d not expected the night to end the way it had, not at all. Arriving at the restaurant late hadn’t impressed her, nor had his involuntary exclamation of “Holy Hell!” at the prices printed on the menu.

He smiled as he saw one sock, drooping over the edge of the chair.

So, starting out bad, it had rapidly proceeded to get worse as the date had progressed; it hadn’t taken too long at all to reach that stage where the two participants are surreptitiously looking at their watches, wondering at what point it ceases to be embarrassing to call a halt to the proceedings.

The door opened and she came in, still wrapping the towel around her.

His smile faded as he saw through the open door a chart, numbered from one to ten, and his underpants stapled to the wall… next to the number 5. What hurt more were the dozens of others, most of them higher up the chart…

© Lee Barnett, 2007

Title: Confusion: The Sound of Silence
Word: shout
Challenger: Dan Curtis Johnson
Length: 200 words exactly

“I’m genuinely sorry,” the fat balding man said, with well practiced but fake sincerity. “However, with the lack of collateral you can offer, the financial credit audit committee simply won’t allow me to extend you any…”

He got no further before the younger man stood up. “You don’t understand!” he started, wondering how he could rectify this. “We’re not just talking about a radio station but a community. You’ve seen our audience numbers! This isn’t my job – it’s my life!” His voice rose to a shout and he cut himself short, breathing hard.

The banker opened his mouth, but the customer continued, quieter. “Yes, I know our advertising revenues could be better, but at least they’re not dropping. Please – I just need another six months.” He saw the look of obvious incredulity and quickly amended his words. “Three months. Three months; that’s all we’re asking. Look, we’re surely not the only people who are having a rough time right now.”

“No, you’re not,” the banker said quietly, “that’s why I have to protect the bank,” and leaned over the detailed paperwork, writing.

The sound of silence? The softness of a pen scrawling the word DENIED on a loan extension application…

© Lee Barnett, 2008


See you tomorrow, with… something else.



Fifty-seven days. Fifty-seven posts. One fifty-seventh birthday.

I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

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