Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Flash Fiction: 79-word "Squirrels"

Today, I got up at 3:30 a.m., microwaved a cup of coffee, then went downstairs and wrote three short stories.

I'm not bragging, just stating the facts.

Would it make a difference if I told you those three stories were each 79 words long?  And would you believe me if I told you I agonized over those 79 words as much as--maybe even more than--a 7,900-word story? 

I wrote the three stories in preparation for entering Esquire magazine's current fiction contest in which all stories are limited to 79 words (in honor of the magazine's 79th anniversary this year).  I worked on those three stories for two hours until I felt that the 237 words were the best they could be.  Then, since I could only enter once, I selected what I thought was the best of the threesome.

I don't really care if I win, because it was a pleasant exercise in quick, flash-fire creativity.  Here's one of the two stories I didn't enter in the contest, in its entirety....


Tim and Tina jolted awake at 3 a.m.  Their eyes snapped open like cartoon windowshades as they lay listening to what was in the walls--the claws, the teeth, working through the wood of their house like a ravenous man sawing at a stale, hardened loaf of bread with a serrated knife.  It was relentless.  Outside, the wind disturbed the branches of the now-vacant Georgia pines.  The squirrels no longer needed the trees; they had Tim and Tina’s house.


  1. It's an interesting exercise trying to hit an exact word count. Most flash you see says "100 limit" or whatever number they choose. But to nail it on the dot? That is a fun task.

    Good luck on the contest!

  2. Lots of vibrant imagery. I can hear it and see it.

  3. Loved your story. It's the best of several I have been reading this morning. I also submitted a piece; hate to say it, but I kinda think yours is better.

  4. David,

    Any indication of the ones that actually won? I submitted one too, and was turned down. My wife dislikes the magazine (some of the covers, actually), so I don't subscribe any longer. I get it occasionally at the newsstand in the airport.

    My submission:

    I stole the kiss, though it seemed you expected it. Like a hobo finding the warm pie you purposefully left at the open windows's sill, as the train clattered down the tracks, it's wail growing deeper and distant.

    Mine was the prerogative, to kiss with passion and purpose. Yours was to resist and relent with tension as gently sure as the buttons on your blouse, searching for truth from a thief, and the return of diamonds for stolen gold.


  5. Good short-short story, Dale.
    As far as the Esquire contest is concerned, here's what I was able to dig up on the internetz: http://www.esquire.com/fiction/short-short-fiction-contest-winners-2012

    1. Thank you kindly, David. After I asked the question, I did the simple search myself and found the winners. Looking forward to the 80th anniversary opportunity.