Saturday, March 12, 2011

MicroFiction - Three Tiny Stories

Continuing our discussion of what constitutes a story...for Sample Sunday this week, I give you three microfiction stories -- two classics and one of my own. The classics are the shortest story ever written, by Ernest Hemingway, and a grand old joke. The one of my own is a rough draft that I wrote when I saw a call for microfiction on the theme of "spring break" - but I decided to publish it here rather than elsewhere, so we could talk about it.


For sale....
by Ernest Hemingway

"For sale, baby shoes. Never used."


Duck Walks Into a Bar

traditional joke

So this duck walks into a bar, and looks around, maybe a little confused, and finally waddles up to the bar, and jumps up on a stool.

"What can I get you?" says the bartender.

"Got any duck food?"

"No, we're a bar. We serve drinks. We don't carry duck food."

"Okay," says the duck, and he jumps down from the stool and waddles away.

The next day the duck comes back, waddles right up to the bar. The bartender gives him the evil eye, but the duck just jumps right up on stool.

"What can get you?" asks the bartender again.

"Got any duck food?" asks the duck... again.

"Look I told you, this is a bar. We don't serve duck food. We serve drinks."

"Okay," says the duck again, and he waddles off, as the bartender shakes his head at the bird brain.

The next day the duck is back. He waddles right up to the bar and hops on the stool.

"Got any duck food?" he asks once again.

"NO!" says the bartender. "I've told you twice, and I'm not telling you again. I'm getting sick of telling you this. We don't serve duck food, and if you come back here and ask for it one more time, I'm going to nail your little webbed feet to that stool, got it?"

"Um, okay," says the duck, and he waddles off, though this time he takes a cautious look over his shoulder.

The fourth day, the duck shows up a little later. When he enters, he takes a cautious look around, pauses, and then carefully waddles up to the bar. He jumps up on the stool, and he doesn't say anything.

"What can I get you?" asks the bartender, through gritted teeth.

The duck pauses. The bartender narrows his eyes and gives him the Clint Eastwood look. The duck swallows and opens his beak.

"Got any hammers?"

"Hammers?" says the bartender, nonplussed. "No, I don't have any hammers! This is a bar!"

"Oh," says the duck, looking greatly relieved. "Then, got any duck food?"


You Kids Get Off My Lawn!
by Camille LaGuire

They came back every year at spring break. Every dang year. Same kids.

Norton lay in bed and tried his best to ignore them. They didn't damage anything any more. They just ran around and hooted and shrieked. And every now and then they broke into one of those college songs, with drunken off-key harmony.

He figured they were from the college downstate. They only came across his place, there down a bleak country road, because they'd taken a wrong turn on the way to that beach resort. There was no reason for a carload of kids to come by his house at all. No reason for them to stop, except for that danged old apple tree that he had pruned to spread out into a wide shelter where he could sit in the summer and contemplate.

They saw that tree and stopped to dance under it. Naked. Two boys, two girls, bouncing naked all over his yard.

He cut down that tree, but they still came back. Every year.

And the only thing they seemed to want to do was disturb his sleep. He lay there and covered his ears, but the caterwalling only got louder. The sound penetrated his head like a bullet. He pulled the blanket over his head. He wasn't going to go to the window and watch them dance around where the tree once was. He wasn't going to run out there. He wasn't going to shout. He wasn't going to wave that danged gun around like he had the first time. They were so high, they hadn't even noticed when it went off.

He never should have buried them there in the yard. That was the problem. Soon as spring break was over, and the resort was empty again, he'd dig those bodies up and move them to where they were headed in the first place. They could party at the beach for all eternity. Then maybe he'd get some sleep.


Tomorrow I'll talk about what makes these into stories. I may split the discussion up into several posts. (The duck, in particular, is a little harder to parse, imho.)

Next Post in series: A sacreligious post about Hemingway.

I also think we should consider very short dramas -- TV ads -- in figuring out what makes an appealing story. There are lots of "story" ads out there, and they really do push the envelope on many different methods.

See you in the funny papers.


Rex Jameson said...

So, I guess I've been living in a paper sack because I had never heard the Duck Walks in to a Bar joke, and I found it hilarious. The old man's story was pretty deep and surprising, and Hemmingway's story?

Eh, I agree with your later analysis. Sure, he might have been the first published author to argue such a point before, but in today's age of internet commenting and trolling, we see these types of stories everyday - whether we want to or not. Unfortunately, our current experiences might even take away from the novelty of his words / story.

The Daring Novelist said...

Thanks, Rex.

The truth is, I am a fan of haiku, just as I am a fan of jokes (and movies, and clever ads, and LOLcats), so I think it's cool that people are developing new creative genres for limited venues like Twitter, but that's something other than story.

It matters, really, only in understanding what we are trying to, no matter what others were trying to do.