It’s past time for another quick tale in response to GirlieOnThe Edge’s Six Sentence Story, where the prompt was FLUID. My mind has been working on this for a couple of days, but my hands have been working with bedding plants. 🙂
“Oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid, shocks, brake pads, you name it, our new diagnostic robot –we call him Slicker– checks them all, faster and more accurately than a human mechanic.”
Keylie winced when she saw the total of her bill for the service, but the Lube-Tube manager had a ready response: “We had to lay out big bucks for a diagnostic robots like Slicker here, but with his smarts your engine will purr like a kitten now and run well for another fifty thousand kliks –guaranteed.”
Twenty minutes later Keylie was heading into an intersection on a green light when a driver speeding in from her left didn’t stop for his red light and his car T-boned hers. All traffic stopped as she and the other driver surveyed the damage.
As she watched her car’s precious fluids pooling on the pavement around her crunched front wheel, she dialed Lube-Tube. When the manager answered, she said, “About that guarantee…”
The Ragtag Daily Prompt yesterday was CHAMBER. I had a few thoughts lined up on that subject, but didn’t get them down. Today’s prompt is CRUMBLE; maybe I can combine the two.
Chambre is the French word for room, which is where we got it. According to my book on word etymology CHAMBRE + CHAMBER are derived from the Greek word kamara, which meant something with an arched cover or a room with a vaulted roof. This entered Latin as camara, which in turn slipped into English as CAMERA and brought its cousin COMRADE, which originally referred to someone sharing a room. The Germans did their part, too, in contributing to the diversity of English. The Greek kamara became the Frankish word kamerling, which hopped across the Channel, morphing into chamberlain en route and, in England, reshaped itself into a chimney.
Though the ancient Greek and Roman worlds have crumbled over time, linguistic bricks have been scattered far and wide, gathered up, and cemented into many other languages.
The word CHAMBER immediately reminded me of that old nursery rhyme, Goosey Goosey Gander. According to Wikipedia, the earliest recorded version of this rhyme was published in a London nursery rhyme book in 1784 and there have been several additions through the years. In keeping with today’s prompt, I’ll add a new verse to the story myself:
Goosey goosey gander wither shall I wander upstairs and downstairs and in my lady’s chamber.
And did you check the kitchen, too my pretty roaming goosey? Oh yes! I found the pastry cook, where lovely little Lucy was in the midst of mixing up a dish of apple crumble and when I tipped it on the floor you should have heard her grumble!
The storm had moved on, leaving a few trailing rumbles and a stiff breeze. Thunderous waves were still crashing on the rocks as I began my afternoon walk, strolling along the dunes overlooking the beach. I always start out facing the wind; I find going home is so much easier with the wind pushing you along.
I noticed an osprey braving the breezes as well, soaring high above the churning waves. Must be hungry. Probably missed his lunch because of the storm. I stopped to watch as the bird dived toward the surface, talons extended.
What sort of prize would it have as it rose into the air again? But the bird didn’t rise. It screamed as it fought to lift off and I caught sight of a writhing curve of scales. A huge fish; a good lunch indeed. I watched the contest for awhile, fascinated.
The osprey battled bravely but its prize seemed too great to pull out of the water. I wondered why the bird didn’t give up and let go, then the light dawned: its claws were likely hooked in the fish so that it couldn’t let go. I observed sadly as the osprey, screaming and beating the air, slowly lost strength.
Finally the bird’s strength was gone and it settled on the roiling water before a large wave rolled over it. I watched in horror as its wings thrashed the water for a moment, then with one last wild scream the osprey sank under the wave.
The next morning dawned calm and sunny, so I walked along the dunes again, scanning the shore. Finally I spotted the bodies of the osprey and its fish, still hooked together, lying on the beach where the sea had tossed them. That fish would have made a great dinner. Seagulls were feasting on both.
One writing site I follow recently held a contest: “Write a short story in 500 words or less.” As I read through the various submissions this morning, part of the problem for me was thinking a story is always fiction. However, this contest called for a non-fiction story. So I read brief memoirs, rambling musings about life, possible devotional articles, but few submissions that I’d consider a real STORY.
Am I off-base in my understanding of STORY? There are a number of weekly writing challenges I do participate in that call for writing a story in xxx words, so it’s good to get a handle on the concept, even if I didn’t enter this contest.
According to GRAMMARLY’s website, “Short stories are a form of narrative writing that has all the same elements as novels—plot, character development, point of view, story structure, theme—but are delivered in fewer words. … A short story is a short, self-contained work of fiction…”
And I see the ubiquitously quoted “Baby shoes for sale, never worn.”
Writer L Ron Hubbard gives good pointers on how to critique a short story: You need to judge the originality, the scene-setting, characterization, conflict and plot, a theme. It should be engaging and deliver some emotional payoff.
A short story should create a BRIDGE between a writer and a reader. Whether fiction or non-fiction, I need to reach out through my own – or my character’s – experience and touch your heart. It may be only a little chuckle, a small example of the human nature we all share, or a bit of sorrow.
If I write about the time our family went to the zoo, saw the polar bears, watched the antics of the monkeys, had a great time, and came home, will that touch your heart?
If our beloved Jr disappeared at the zoo and we searched frantically to find him, that experience could easily be crafted into a story and would resonate with all parents. If I had to tell it in 100 words or less, that would take a lot of whittling! There wouldn’t be a lot of room to develop scene or theme, but it could be done.
Stories, especially short ones, need to start with a bang. No “Our family was at the zoo one sunny morning in mid-July. We were watching the polar bears splashing around in their pool when our I noticed that our son had disappeared in the crowd.”
Rather… We watched the polar bears splashing so comically in their pool. I turned to lift my six-year-old so he could see more of their antics…and he’d disappeared! “Frank,” I screamed over the noise of the other tourists, “Where’s Junior?” Frank whirled around. “Junior! Where are you,” he shouted as we both scanned the crowd frantically.
Most readers would easily get the picture and feel some connection to this couple.
Anyway, enough of my musings. What do you see as the elements of an engaging short story? Do you like upbeat, happy endings? Or are you one who likes being left with a haunting melancholy when you’re done?
The Ragtag Daily Prompt word for today is CONCRETE. I’ve probably posted this story before, but the wordplay is so suitable for this prompt. This scene took place somewhere in England, back in the 1950s — when it was still possible to give a child a cuff on the ear for misbehaving.
LOVE THE CHILD
A professional psychologist was constantly admonishing parents to “Love the child.” An expert in his field, the doctor encouraged all his clients and his neighbors as well: “Children need to be shown love and kindness.”
One day the doctor had a new concrete pathway poured in his back yard. A few minutes later he looked out and saw a neighbor boy slopping through the wet concrete. He rushed out, grabbed the boy, and was about to give him a cuff on the ear when a neighbor woman saw what was about to happen. She quickly shouted out her window, “Remember what you always say, Doctor. LOVE the child.”
“To which he replied, “I DO love him, madam — in the abstract. But I DON’T love him in the concrete!”