Five Minute Stories


Over the years, one of my favorite Bubonicon panels has become the “Snack Writes” panel, hosted by Josh Gentry.  Josh is fascinated by the question of how to fit reading and writing into days increasingly packed with work, various entertainment options, and the always important distraction of spending time with friends and family.

His “Snack Reads” website (on which he published my short story “Hamlet Revisited”) was part of the still-growing flash fiction trend.  Later, he produced “Snack Writes,” which provided short story prompts.  The panel has outlasted the website, and while the featured authors are required to read what they wrote, the audience has the choice whether or not to participate.

This year the participants were me, David Lee Summers, and the very brave Diana Rowland, who filled in for regular Robert E. Vardeman at the last minute.  Diana did great, and I hope she’ll join us again next time, even if Bob is back.

In our fifty minutes, Josh offered four prompts, two of which were single phrases (the others were a bit more detailed).  I’ll offer my end results, starting with the prompt.  I did not improve my prose, although I will not make you suffer my handwriting.

First Prompt: I am the squeaky toy of god.

Kibeth was filthy, and so her human had to take her to the groomer, thus missing part of Bubonicon.

How to explain?  Kibs had had to dig.  Something had been under the cherry tree.  At first, Kibs had thought it was a bird.  But it didn’t move.  A dead bird!  Even better!

Kibs went digging after it, deeper and deeper, driven by an impulse beyond sanity.  It chirped over and over: “I am the squeaky toy of god!”

Who could resist such a call?  Certainly not the Disreputable Dog.

But as the suds foamed around her, Kibeth heard the second part of the dead bird’s refrain: “I am the squeaky toy of God, and for me you will be washed clean!”

By my great good luck, right before the panel, I’d been told that my friend, Melissa Jackson, would be late because her dog had gotten into something and really needed a bath.  This combined with the dog in question being named for a character from Garth Nix’s novels Lirael and Abhorson, is why she is referred to as the Disreputable Dog.  Write what you know!

Second Prompt: Put them in the mixing bowl.

Take faith (in what?), take hope (not despair), take love (of one, of all, of that which is unique).  Put them in the mixing bowl.  Stir.  Agitate.  Subject to heat, to pressure.  What will you have made?  The great contradiction, even to itself, the great on-going project of every individual life: the immortal soul.

My ingredients here are the three things that remain: faith, hope, and love.  (Corinthians, 13:13.)  Back in my earliest writing days, I made a lot of “cold” submissions to theme anthologies.  I knew to have a chance, I had to avoid the usual takes on dragons or wizards or whatever.  That impulse hit me again with this prompt, and I set out to come up with an unusual recipe.

Many of the other contributions were creative variations on magical spells, which were certainly more amusing than my philosophical offering.  Nonetheless, I quite like it.

On that note, I’m off to do the sort of writing work that takes a lot more time than five minutes.  I’ve finished a rough draft of House of Rough Diamonds, the sequel to Library of the Sapphire Wind and Aurora Borealis Bridge.  Note: I’m using the term “sequel” in the sense of being subsequent, not in the sense that between them Library of the Sapphire Wind and Aurora Borealis Bridge leave you hanging. 

Take care!

2 Responses to “Five Minute Stories”

  1. EvaVincent Says:

    That sounds fun! I really like your 2nd prompt. So poetic, ” The great contradiction, even to itself, the great on-going project of every individual life: the immortal soul.”

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