One of my most read posts ever is this one, a piece on why inflated, pretentious writing sucks. Part of what shaped that view was an essay I read in college that only used single-syllable words to demonstrate the beauty of simplicity. The title and author of that essay has long since left my memory, but the idea remains an important one to me.
I don’t know what made me think of it, but I decided tonight to try something similar with a work of flash fiction. Normally I revise the hell out of my stories and agonize over every line, but this is a raw experiment. That’s the fun of blogging, I suppose, not worrying about perfection or publication or adding to your body “legitimate” work. Tell me what you think, or try one like it on your own blog and post a link in the comments.
Barb Meant It
I know she saw me. I heard the noise, turned, and our eyes locked. Her teeth were bared, like a dog’s.
She meant to hit me.
In court, Barb tells the judge I “ran out.” She says she could not stop in time. Blah blah blah. It was pure chance she hit me, of all the scum on Earth, she says. Or, she tells the judge, it was guilt. That is, I ran out in the street to snuff it on a car hood from guilt for what I did to Gail, and by pure luck it was her car hood. A death wish, she calls it, which is a bunch of shit. I have no guilt, and, trust me, no death wish. I like it here. Well, I liked it back when I had yet to be mashed by a car.
Be straight, Barb. Own it. You meant to hit me. You meant to bounce me off your hood. You meant for my bones to break, my flesh to tear, my life to bleed out. I don’t blame you. You knew what I did to Gail. Worse, you knew I had fun with what I did to Gail. Poor Gail, still not found.
In court, I want to shout, “I know where she is, Barb. No one knows but me.” I want to taunt her with, “I played with her for days, Barb. She was lots of fun, first warm then cold.”
What would you do? Barb just lied! She said she did not see me, and they buy it for God’s sake. I want to hurt her soul with talk of Gail and all the bad things I did.
But Barb can’t hear me or see me. No one can. Not since I heard that car noise, saw Barb’s teeth and mad eyes, and felt that big, hard slam. A man turned to a bag of blood and bones, in a flash. A bag of bones deep in the cold ground now, just like Gail.
A ghost, doomed to walk that space not light or dark, up or down, in or out (or some crap like that… it’s not like they tell you), I go to court to hear Barb lie. She lies real good, and I guess she thinks court oaths are a joke too.
I mean, how could I have known Gail had a twin? A twin who is a stone cold bitch, natch.
My inspiration for this subject matter came indirectly from a “literary suspense” novel I just finished in which the killer, a mutilator of women, escapes at the end. I don’t mind dark or violent content (duh, I write horror stories), but I do find this conclusion distasteful and unsatisfying. Many good books have forced us to identify with a bad person or a criminal. However, this particular work left me feeling that the writer had two agendas: to set up a sequel and to screw with reader expectations, the latter of which is fine in some circumstances, but not in this one. Either that, or the writer truly thinks we like this repugnant character. I hope not. Anyway, the killer in the above story gets no such mercy from me.
Update: A two-syllable word found it’s way in thanks to a last-second tweak before I posted. Example # 753 why you can’t edit your own material.