Tuesday, December 30, 2008

7 Beginnings to Short Stories I Never Finished

1. She had two hours in which to make him love her again. These were his criteria: The proof must arrive in the form of a small envelope or package, she must not deliver it herself, it must arrive between the hours of 8 and 10 a.m. She went about it systematically.

2. When they were several feet from shore, they dispensed the cows to swim the last stretch by themselves. Children on shore waited with sticks to switch the cows to safety.

3. He kept sending her videos of himself performing the most mundane of tasks— shaving, pouring the breakfast cereal, mowing the lawn—and now she felt it was time for him to stop. That morning a videotape of him sleeping in a lawn chair had been delivered to her home. She did not want to watch that video. Despite this, she watched. The video was entitled “Lawn Chair.” It was the most relentlessly dull film she had ever watched. The only discernable action was when he awoke, briefly, and swung at a bumblebee that had alighted on his thigh. The sequence had been relooped so that he awoke, again and again, blinked his eyes, and flung a big hammy hand in a scooping motion toward his leg. She counted, eight, ten, twelve times. Then she snapped off the tape with a vicious impatience. She would call him tonight after dinner, and tell him clearly but politely that his films were no longer of interest to her. Admittedly, her curiosity had been piqued by the first one, which was an hour-long shot of his feet shuffling along a wooden floor, back and forth, back and forth, until the shuffling sound had become almost hypnotic. She searched the film for some hidden message traced by his feet, but they shuffled in one direction only.

4. He was a little man, and she was a big woman. The first time they arm-wrestled she won handily, striking his knuckles against the wooden bar table. They had a conversation that was hardly appropriate for a first date.

5. That was the day that the saints were unashamed to perform little miracles, and they stood on the street corner selling blessings two for a dozen, and the fat old women danced to earn some; because they smiled so nicely they got a few cheap ones for nothing. They took them home and tossed them in their dinners and the grouchy old men ate them without blinking an eye.

6. Beneath the wide compass of her thighs her son Peter crouched like a struck stone. She was conscious of a deepening embarassment, as if she had whelped him right there on the floor, amongst the shifting conversations and cocktail glasses. He was too big to be here anymore, though he didn’t know that yet. He was soon to learn. He was almost ten.
“Peter, go upstairs,” she said, nudging him with an ankle. He crouched closer to himself, and moaned audibly. She took a deep drag of her cigarette.
“Peter, I said to go upstairs,” she said, as she saw Mrs. Moody approaching.

7. He was calf-deep amongst toasters, fans, baby strollers, his hands tearing at a bag of discarded clothes, when something deep underneath gave way. Marcy, on the street below with the flashlight and the bag, yelled something out, but he didn’t hear what it was under the rasp of sliding metal. His arm came up against something rough and serrated, and he pulled it up sharply, opening a thin groove in his skin. It was a rusted saw, small—small enough for a child, really—and he jerked it up and out and onto the pile.
“Marcy?” he called, and he heard a banging, and then her head appeared above the edge of the dumpster. She wore disposable green gloves, and her arms were stained brown with rust and grime up to the elbow.

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