Late April 2011 I discovered http://StoryADay.org and the project that is to write 31 stories in 31 days. Anyone who knows me or follows this blog, knows how passionate I am about short stories so my clichéd eyes lit up at this new marvel. And just a few days later there I was, breathing life into new characters. This went on to become (with some editing of course) my 31-story collection eBook Story A Day May 2011.
And here we are a year later doing it all over again. Today’s prompt was to write a story in third person limited point of view. I was going to use a random news item for inspiration, but the internet was dodgy where I was when I started thinking about this but I’d just been typing up some notes from a back copy of Writers’ Forum so, following yesterday’s style of short story, I decided to pick out five random words from Sally Quilford’s column (the page I happened to be on at the time). The five words were: acceptable, skilful, encyclopaedia, concentrate and already. So, here is my 376-worder.
Without a trace of guilt, Noreen Townsend thought it perfectly acceptable to slam the door in the young man’s face. What would an 85-year-old need with a set of encyclopaedias? She knew enough about the world to know she didn’t want to learn any more. She’d never visit the endangered tribes in the remote forests of Outer Mongolia, she’d never need to learn how to make a car that could go 300 miles an hour or know how many breeds of stickleback fish there were. She was a people person, not facts and figures.
To Noreen, her husband Ernest was the skilful one, able to concentrate on his work whilst holding the longest of conversations. He’d been a walking encyclopaedia since they’d first met in the canteen of the electronics factory, until one day, not long after the salesman’s visit, Ernest had paused mid-sentence and stared at Noreen who’d waited patiently for him to continue, unsure as to why he’d stopped.
“A funny thing happened to me this morning,” Ernest had said.
“You’ve told me already, Ernest,” Noreen had wanted to reply but let him tell his tale.
Over the next few months she’d had more repeats, more unfinished sentences until one day he said nothing at all. He’d stare out the window and nod at each truck or car going past. He ate normally, looked after himself, but it was as if he’d run out of things to say.
“Tell me something new,” Noreen had said, tired of the silence, but Ernest would just smile as if to say there was nothing to tell, which there wasn’t as he didn’t go anywhere, just stare out the window at the trucks.
Then one day one of the trucks stopped. The doorbell rang and Ernest looked round, though said nothing.
Noreen went to the door, lead the delivery driver into the lounge where he placed the four cardboard boxes in front of Ernest. Noreen signed with the digital pen, and thanked the man as he left. Returning to the lounge, she peeled off the tape from one of the boxes and took out one of the items. Opening the ‘Hubbard’s Encyclopaedia D-F’ she found the entry for electronics and felt a tear trickle down her cheek as Ernest started reading out the text.
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Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are weekly episodes, usually released Monday mornings UK time, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.