49 Very Short Stories

The mood at the time was against story and narrative. Naturally, I had to put 49 stories into a single "short story."

All the he's and she's are different people. Each of the stories is complete and separate, and they can be read in any order.

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“He means well,” his mother said about his father. The son realized that she had been saying the same thing for three decades. Probably his father didn’t mean well at all.

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On her fourth trip to Italy she realized what an oddity she was for the men there. She never went back.

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He couldn’t understand people who didn’t plant a hedge in front of their property. He wanted a wall there, a boundary, where his world started. But perhaps these people were more open than he was, more trusting. Better people, really. This was a disquieting thought to have in his world.

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“You have to forget,” she said. “Why,” he asked. “I’m not the least bit interested in forgetting. I want to remember every detail.” Each thought the other had a stunted conception of life.

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He became so accustomed to her body, she seemed a part of him or an extension of his own body. Making love seemed something like masturbation. He wasn’t sure if this was true love or extremely narcissistic.

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She had cancer for five years and went out laughing and all her friends felt quite cowardly.

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His regrets in life all had to do with women, and the things he hadn’t said to them, or hadn’t done.

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By the time their third child was born, they no longer loved each other. They kept their anger and guilt well hidden, and spoiled that boy something awful.

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They drove cross country and by the time they reached L.A., they had settled all their differences and decided there wasn’t much point in continuing the relationship.

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The only thing he liked about himself was his capacity for awe. Much of the world seemed to him a miracle. When he tried to explain this to his wife, she yawned.

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He always regarded bourbon as his real wife and sometimes murmured things like, “Oh, you sweetheart” or “My, aren’t we beautiful tonight” or “Love you? I’d kill for you.”

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He had gone out for cigarettes and never come back and his wife, crying, said, “Damn cigarettes will kill me.”

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“When I was twenty,” he said earnestly, “I looked like a boy and felt like an old man. Now it’s the other way around.”

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Actually, she thought the female body more logical, the way everything was tucked into place, but she hesitated to tell him this.

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For relaxation he read serious magazines; seeing people deeply worried about incomprehensible problems always calmed him.

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He had the flu for a week, really bad, and at the end he felt weak and light-headed. The robust man he used to be simply had to be another person.

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It was a very bad marriage but after such a mistake, neither one had the confidence to make another big decision so they stayed together.

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She thought that New York was a curiously unintellligent place, as all the smart people had the same opinions.

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“It’s not the money, it’s the secretaries,” was how he explained taking an undesirable job.

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When the last two angel fish died, she filled the aquarium with dirt and plants, and tried to forget all the fish she had flushed down the toilet.

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When he drank, he seemed to become more of a man and more of a fool, feelings he enjoyed.

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She judged a man by how he handled a cigarette and as a result ended up married to a man who spent hours in front of a mirror learning to smoke like James Dean.

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They lived together almost three years, until sex had become routine and even dull. They both felt they should marry in order to put some drama back in their lives.

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He spent many years traveling and wondered if he was looking for something or running away from something. But now he stayed home, and he had the same feelings.

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After she married, she wished she hadn’t slept around so much. Her memory was too good; the other men always seemed to be there with her. She hoped she would some day see this as a blessing. Probably, she thought sadly, when I’m a widow.

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They discussed politics a lot, carefully analyzing all the subtleties, but she always knew his opinions were silly.

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He thought it scary that baby cockroaches, with their brains so tiny you can’t see them, came into the world knowing so much.

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“I can’t think of anything that would surprise me,” she said a minute before the taxi ran up on the sidewalk and broke both her legs.

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A twist of the weather left the beach littered with thousands of baby crabs, all dead. She said it was sad while he said it was natural.

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When he was in California, he missed New York, and vice versa. He leased a home in Omaha so he wouldn’t have to make a decision.

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As a teacher, she could bend young minds, and this was more power than a lot of people realized, especially the parents.

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The woman swam for an hour and after all that she couldn’t get the smell of him to leave her alone.

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“I’m not the man I used to be,” he said, “but I doubt I ever was.”

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When underwear fell out of her suitcase and she was embarrassed, she knew she would have to break off the engagement.

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They had the cat put to sleep and then had sex, and both felt this was a mistake.

--

“I tip big,” the man said, “because I always feel the best part of me is what I give away. That’s also why I got divorced.” He seemed to think this was funny.

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When he went to the bank, and there was a line, he hoped the bank would be robbed, he was that bored.

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The woman was obviously on heroin and her boy friend shouted into her half-shut eyes, “I want you to stop feeling sorry for yourself.” You knew he had said it a hundred times before.

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They skied all morning and then spent the afternoon arguing about what to do in the evening.

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He had been elected to something years before but now he was reluctant to talk about it. His wife assumed he had hurt someone.

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When he couldn’t sleep, he imagined the lectures he would give when he became famous, and the sound of clapping soothed him.

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The boy never blinked even when the truck hit the door behind where he was sitting. “I thought I was going to die,” he said, “and I didn’t want to miss anything.”

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The man rolled over in bed and remembered, again, that he was alone.

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They talked a lot about the proper way to raise their children, but then they would become angry at one of them and forget all the techniques. In this one odd way, they were a perfectly matched couple.

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In the hospital she read two books a day and realized that even the worst ones were more real to her than her own life.

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He called himself a progressive for more than 55 years until he realized one day that Lenin, talking about useful idiots, had been talking about him.

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The business just seemed to slip away from him, and then his marriage did the same thing.

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Christmas was the worst time; she had to see her grandmothers, always older and older, and she knew she would be like them.

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When he was 16 and had stared up at the stars and realized they’d look the same, exactly, to his grandchildren and great grandchildren, he felt depressed and miserable for the next ten years.

 

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©Bruce Deitrick Price 2011

 

 

 

 

 

Lit4u

 

 

LITERATURE FOR YOU 

 

 

 

 

 

by

 

 

Bruce Deitrick Price

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

--MY THEME SONG--

 

 

ARS POETICA

oh to uncage words
as startling as birds
naked and silken
full of song and shriek
flung into the envious air
on a wonder of wings
to spin and soar and rise
dazzling our days
with surprise

 

 

 

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Poster boy for Saving K-12