In various writers’ conferences over the years, I would occasionally hear about “short shorts,” stories with fully developed themes but significantly fewer words than conventional short stories. I experimented some with short shorts. This confirmed my suspicion that they are practically impossible to write. I even took a workshop, which was interesting, but frustrated me further.
To vent my frustration, I “rewrote” some familiar literary works as “short short stories.” I knew that none was really a short short — more nearly a précis. They don’t work well if you don’t already know the story. I was just having fun and even gave each a little twist at the end. Reviewing them, I thought maybe others also could have fun reading them.
They follow without titles, which I hope are not necessary.
Even if her wicked stepmother didn’t make her stay home and do all the house work, Cinderella couldn’t go to the Prince’s ball. She didn’t have anything to wear. That situation changed, however, after her fairy godmother appeared, magic wand in hand.
“Who is that beautiful princess?” people whispered as Cinderella dominated the Prince’s attention. All the other girls, especially Cinderella’s ugly stepsisters, were envious. She dropped her glass slipper, hastening to beat the midnight curfew her fairy godmother had imposed. This turned out to be fortunate, because the Prince didn’t rest until he found the foot that fit the slipper. He proposed to the person to whom the foot was attached. She said yes, and always had something to wear after that.
Juliet Capulet and Romeo Montague wanted to live happily ever after and to end the feud between their two families. They accomplished one out of two. The impetuous teenagers fell in love and eloped, even though (or maybe because) their families hated each other. The planned reconciliation was sidetracked when Juliet’s cousin Tybalt killed Romeo’s friend Mercutio and Romeo killed Tybalt.
Then the Capulets arranged for Juliet to marry a nice young man named Paris. Juliet was driven to consider suicide, but her priest persuaded her to fake it. She and Romeo could then sneak away together. Romeo, however, thought she really was dead. Crying, “Oh, my love, my wife!” he drank poison and died, but not before getting into a fight with and killing Paris. When she woke up and saw Romeo lying there dead, Juliet plunged his dagger into herself.
After counting the bodies, the two families decided to be friends.
Huck Finn’s friend Jim wanted freedom from slavery. Huck wanted freedom from his drunken pappy. First they got a series of adventures along the Mississippi River that even Tom Sawyer couldn’t have created, then one that Tom did create.
They missed the tributary that would’ve taken Jim into Ohio, floating instead all the way down the Mississippi before learning that Jim had already been emancipated. Jim, in turn, told Huck his pappy had drown sometime earlier in the same river. Thus, the Mississippi proved to be a somewhat indirect route to freedom for both.
While antebellum Southern culture fell apart and General Sherman torched Atlanta, Scarlett O’Hara married thrice. The final time was to her true love Rhett Butler. Yet he could stand her only so long, which would’ve been his last two words to her had she not asked, “Why, Rhay-ut, what shall become of me?”
So his final two words to her turned out to be ” . . .a damn.”
Billy Pilgrim survived a plane crash that killed his father-in-law. Then as a younger man, he was a WWII prisoner of war, ticking off a fellow GI he knew was responsible for Billy’s death. When not a captive on the distant planet Tralfamadore with starlet Montana Wildhack, he married the boss’s daughter (she died in her car rushing to visit him after the plane crash), fathered two children, became a wealthy optometrist and talked to anyone who would listen about being unstuck in time.
“Farewell, hello, farewell, hello.”
So it goes.
“I’ll get you Moby Dick!” Captain Ahab vowed.
He never did.
2 thoughts on “Just for fun: Ultimate short shorts”
It appears you have mastered the craft of short shorts!
In freshmen English class at UNC, we had to describe how to tie a shoelace in 25 words or less. I only learned that it was going to be a tough semester!
My immersion experience at UNC with brevity was in an advanced expository writing class. Early on we studied and tried to write haiku. Obviously, exposition uses a lot more words, but haiku forces one to make each individual word count. It was a valuable lesson, even though I never mastered haiku.