To write a short story, is, for me, a lesson in traveling light. Condense. Refine. Edit. Simplify. Clarify my thinking. Ask - what exactly am I trying to say? Limit the words. Especially for short shorts, a short story limited to five hundred words: how to incorporate protagonist, conflict, climax, and a satisfying resolution in few words.
Working within a framework, within a given, limited space provides form and structure, like an architect designing a tiny house, including all the necessary elements, excluding anything unnecessary.
Process. Practice. Patience - to write, refine, edit, and do it again, over and over.
Every word matters.
Here is my next five hundred word short story. Not perfection, for the learning process, for practice.
Interesting things happen in grocery stores. Anywhere, actually, where people are, interesting things happen.
Brandy and I went to the store for two loaves of bread, chunky peanut butter and bananas. We giggled and talked about something silly - I don't remember what.
An older man walked past us. I thought he looked grumpy. Even that made me giggle. Some days everything is funny. This was one of those days.
Brandy said, "A loaf of bread. Mom didn't say what kind, and I have no idea. Shelves, thirty feet long, five shelves tall, six feet high. We could feed two whole schools with all this bread. Shandia, what do I get?"
"What looks familiar?" I asked Brandy. "What does she usually buy?
"Whole-wheat, I guess. This looks familiar. Yeah, this looks good."
Three little girls ran around us. One grabbed Brandy's jeans, to hide behind her. We giggled, they giggled.
Their mom scolded, "Really, girls, can't you behave? Leave her alone. Isn't it enough you smacked into that man?"
"It's okay," said Brandy. "She's just having fun."
"All day long she's just having fun. Nothing serious, ever, for her," the mom complained.
We couldn't help giggling. Brandy squatted down to be eye level with the girl, who gave her a sheepish grin. "You are mischievous, aren't you?" Brandy said. "I think you have a pretty smile, and, I think you should listen to your mom."
The girl glanced up at her mom. The other girls drew closer, drawn by Brandy's friendliness.
"Do you know what my mom tells me?" Brandy asked them.
The three shook their heads.
"'It's good to laugh,' in fact, she quotes some famous guy, 'The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.' And she quotes another famous guy: 'Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.' So, listen to your mom. She knows what she is talking about. Okay?"
Brandy held up her hand, and high-fived them.
"Not bad," I told Brandy. "You quoted a poet and a Roman Emperor to three cute little girls who probably didn't understand a word you said."
"Nonsense," said Brandy. "They understood perfectly. It will give them something to think about while they look at bread and pickles and bags of apples."
The older man turned toward us, a loaf of bread in his hand. "Please, excuse me. I overheard you. My grandmother had that plaque on her wall, 'Very little is needed to make a happy life.' She loved that, she always had it to remind her. Sometimes she didn't have much, but she was happy." He smiled, "Thank you for reminding me of her."
Brandy and I thanked him, then went to find the peanut butter. I told her, "Even a very little encounter with someone is interesting. Because people are interesting, and they do interesting things."
"And every day has a reason to smile," said Brandy. We giggled.
(In case you are wondering, the quotes are from e.e. cummings and Marcus Aurelius)