Tuesday 11 January 2011

The horses

Here's another attempt at a one-paragraph short story:

She complains that he is always distracted, always off in his own world, emotionally distant, that he doesn’t understand her anymore, doesn’t really listen, it's as though you're not even here she said. When she told him one night that she wanted a divorce, he worried for weeks afterwards, wondering why she wanted the horse, wondering how they could afford it, how they would feed and groom it, where they would ride it and how often, where it would sleep on the cold nights, whether it would need to be vaccinated, and whether she really wanted the horse, or if the horse signified something deeper, some repressed need, whether perhaps she was unhappy, whether she lacked companionship, whether he was no longer satisfying her, whether she had found someone else or was starting to dream of a new life without him, free and unbridled. They never spoke of the horse again, but from that day on he spent more time with her, went on long rambling walks with her, looked and listened attentively, bought her ice cream in the park, and, once, on her birthday, presented her with a large lavish illustrated book on the history of artistic representations of the horse. She turned the book over in her hands, mystified, and asked him why horses, what did it signify, what did it mean, but he only gave her a small knowing smile, and kissed her brow, and asked if she would like to go out for ice cream.


roger flyer said...

She said: "No, let's ride the horse bareback together. You take the reins.'

Anonymous said...

i have found life to be immeasurably more interesting now that i have aged into your protagonist's hearing range.

By Jarrod Longbons said...

Calvin Coolidge said, "I have never been hurt by what I have not said." Maybe your story teaches that we wont be hurt by what we do not hear! Very nice

Unknown said...

Now make it into a shorter poem.

John Hartley said...

Dear Ben,

Need to pay attention to tenses.

It seems to me that one difficulty with the "one paragraph" formula is that it is very difficult to finish with a punch line. A short story very often relies on a twist at the end, delivered by a sentence which changes the whole scenario in an instant - but a punch line almost always feels as if it ought to be in a paragraph of its own. I think your story above is rather successful at avoiding this pitfall.

Here is my own favourite short story of all time. It was written by a girl in a primary school in Ashton-u-Lyne while I was there on a period of observation before possibly starting teacher-training (which I didn't do, because I got a grant to do research instead), and in my opinion it has never been bettered:

"Once upon a time a little bird lived in a nest. One day the little bird fell out of the nest and hit its head on a stone and blood came out of its head. The end."

I hope the little girl (now grown up) has forgotten it, but I never will!

Yours sincerely - JOHN HARTLEY.

roger flyer said...

My favorite.

"It is very hard to live in a San Jose apartment with a man who is learning how to play the violin. That's what she told the police as she handed them the empty revolver."

-Richard Brautigan

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