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Sunday, November 15, 2015

Six Word Short Story. And how writing helps deal with life.

First, here’s an exercise sure to stretch your writing muscles. At the end of it are my thoughts on how writing helps us deal with life.

The exercise is the famous “six-word short story”, most often credited to Ernest Hemingway. I have heard, though, the author Margaret Atwood reel off an impressive assortment of the same six-word short story format. Apparently it’s a favorite pastime for her.

Lots of folks try their hand at it. Here are a few.

Failed SAT. Lost scholarship. Invented rocket.
- William Shatner

Heaven falls. Details at eleven.
- Robert Jordan

Corpse parts missing. Doctor buys yacht.
- Margaret Atwood

And here’s a poignant one credited to Hemingway:
- For Sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.

Coming down to a lesser level of expertise, (smile), I wrote the following ones.

1.    He winked. She smiled. Bells chimed.

Or is this version better?

He winked. She smiled. Rings exchanged.

The first one is more ambiguous, while the second one definitely implies they married. Which one do you like best, and why?

2.    Flash flood. Car submerged. Requiem said.

This second one is the result of a recent, tragic accident that weighs on my heart, and writing this simple six-word piece is part of how I’m dealing with it. Putting words, however simple, to the incident helps me process it and make room for it in my consciousness without keeping me in a swirling eddy of sadness. 

On October 30th, we experienced a sudden, tremendous, and extended downpour of rain out here in the country. People who live in this area usually know to avoid the low-water crossings because of the danger of flash floods. The water over the road may not look deep, but if it can reach the body of the vehicle, at all, it can easily sweep the vehicle off the road. You’re stuck to the road only by the contact surface area of four tires, remember, and a flood can easily overwhelm that traction.

A short-term resident who lived in the hills across the creek attempted to drive over the low water crossing at the creek. You can predict the ending of this sad story. The car went into the creek. Days later, local authorities found the deceased, several miles downstream. The car wreckage remains twisted between large boulders in the creek. Right where I am fond of looking down into the woods and the waters.

I think of the first line of Keats’ poem Endymion, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever:”. Perhaps not. The creek has always been a thing of beauty for me, while I respected the dangerous, mud-colored churning waters frequently witnessed from the safety of cliffs above. Today the creek’s spring is crystal clear, easily revealing the world that lies below its surface as it burbles a pleasing song. Is it a lorelei, luring me to death?

No. It reminds me that nature is blameless, without motive, and not a mechanism of mankind. We are wrongfully audacious and foolish if we think otherwise. With this in mind, I readjust my perspective, thank God for the beauty, and say an Ave for those lost to the flood, wherever it may swell.


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