Short stories are special. They are little tasty morsels of verbiage that are just right for when your time is limited. Or for when your imagination needs a boost. Its like eating 3 m&m's instead of a whole chocolate bar...you just wanted to taste the chocolate.
Growing up an avid reader, i never really was interested in short stories. Chapter books were my thing. I don't know why though. One would think that a child with a medium-length attention span would welcome a story that you can begin and finish in one afternoon...maybe it was because whenever i'd see a collection of short stories, they just weren't short enough. Twenty, thirty, fifty pages they'd go on and on... It felt like a cheat. Like people who make 35-minute-long "short" films. To me, a short story should be only 1 page long. 3 at the most.
Even as i'm writing this, i've suddenly gained a new appreciation for my Fruit Nazi story. I wasn't really thinking of it as a short story as i was writing it, but when i re-read it today, i was like, hey now! *shakes a short-story tailfeather*
In last month's magazine, Oprah challenged 8 well-known authors to tell a story in 300 words or less. Here is my favorite one:
With One Wheel Gone Wrong
by A.M. Homes
With one wheel gone wrong, she careens into the checkout line. A perfect shopper, she prides herself on sailing the circulars, clipping coupons, buying in bulk. Her basket is overflowing with catnip and kitty litter, Pull-Ups and pomegranates -- plenty of all. She takes a magazine out of the rack; there's a spot to scratch, an offee she can't resist -- "Got an itch you can't identify, don't know what you want, let this be your moment." The background photo is of a beautiful house with everything just as you would want it to be -- untouched by reality. She scratches; her finger is quickly coated with gold powder and under that is something a little sticky -- tugging at her. It is as thought she is being pulled in to the magazine. A sudden burst of light, an explosion of inspiration, a fleeting illumination, and she is inside the picture and it is clear -- this is her house, this is who she is, the life she is supposed to live.
It is incredible -- she's seeing not only the future but the pathway there -- and it's a new kind of floor tile -- you just put one foot in front of the other, don't stop, and watch where you're going. And then, as thought in a faraway dream, she hears the scanner beeping, she hears the checker say, "Are you taking that magazine?" Drawing a deep breath, she pulls herself back into the checkout line. She takes every copy of the magazine out of the rack. "I'll take all you've got," she says.
"Paper or plastic?"