Wednesday, December 12, 2018


I have been experimenting with flash fiction of different lengths. Some stories simply aren't suited to 150 characters, or even 150 words. But 1,500 words can be long-winded. I've settle on an in-between but can't decide if it says too little or too much. Maybe I cut the wrong bits.

One key to effective flash fiction is the order of things. I think I've tried each sentence in every position. The conventional formula is end, beginning, middle. My beginning hints at the end, but still starts more or less at the beginning. I'm not convinced the beginning is strong enough.

Related to chronology is the issue of verb tense. I've been deliberate in my choice of past and present, but perhaps I've made the wrong choices.

Think of this as a character portrait, one of a series.

Feedback welcome.


#21. Mike.
In business sharp practice sometimes succeeds, but in art honesty is not only the best but the only policy.
The Razor's Edge, W Somerset Maugham

“Atypical businessman,” his profile stated. “What’s so atypical?” I texted. “The average person sets a pretty low bar these days!” (I’m still not sure what he meant.)

I agreed to meet him at the hotel bar. We mock our surroundings. He’s… nice. I’m not uncomfortable (it’s hard work sometimes to not be shy).

I expected a note the morning after, some kind of acknowledgement. In return I would politely, wittily, thank him for a terrifically sordid evening.

[He was beer, I was wine.]

He’d gone to university in New Hampshire. English degree. Wanted to be a journalist. Ended up in IT. Everyone’s in IT. We’re knowledge workers.

He tells me about Thanksgiving dinner at a private club in Manhattan (was it the Colony Club?). He must’ve meant last week (or maybe some recent year past?). Thousands of dollars per plate. “How did you come to be there?” He glosses over long-standing ties to a moneyed family (college girlfriend, I surmise). Kissinger was there. I don’t know why he told me this story.

I comment on the absurdity of our meeting, how I don’t like how judgemental dating apps make me feel, how I don’t think I could ever date a vegetarian (or, you know, a heroin addict). It’s not that I don’t like judging people, it’s that I don’t like to admit to it.

“You know, for some years in New Hampshire I was enamored of W Somerset Maugham’s books,” he segues cryptically.

“Oh, I read all his books!” All of them. Before I was 18.

“…and I had this thing regarding The Razor’s Edge…”

“I love The Razor’s Edge! Larry! Poor Sophie! Gawd, it’s so much better than Of Human Bondage!”

“…and I would judge girls according to whether they were familiar with the book and how they ranked it among his works.” His voice trails off and his left eyebrow arches.

Maybe the algorithm knows more than we do.

Three beers, two glasses of wine. We giggle.

We touch on the standard taboo subjects, for the sheer hell of it. Politics: He read What Happened; I have a white supremacist cousin who voted for Trump. Religion: I’m fascinated by cults; he pays Sunday devotion to Costco. [Single men don’t shop at Costco.]

I go with him to his room. We sit on the sofa and kiss. Kissing is pleasant enough, but no sparks. The whole evening seems a little duller for that. Sex will probably be a disappointment, I think. He says he feels like a teenager. He’s grinning like a mischievous boy. And I think about my friend’s boyfriend, in a hospital in Costa Rica, who was lying in a hammock when a palm tree fell on him (five surgeries and counting). And I think, what if a palm tree falls on me on my way home in the snowstorm, I may never have sex again, maybe it won’t be so bad, I should just do it, I may be pleasantly surprised, and it’ll make him so happy.

It was fine.

He’ll be coming to Montreal more eagerly from now on, he says. (He’s a little uglier now than he was before the drinks.)

No morning message, but he was working, he’d find time on the afternoon train ride. The hours wore on. Surely he was crafting a perfect love letter.

This user disabled their account.

For the man who in the throes of passion repeats quietly like a rosary oh goodness, my goodness — in the name of mediocrity, I absolve thee.
When passion seizes the heart it invents reasons that seem not only plausible but conclusive to prove that the world is well lost for love. It convinces you that honor is well sacrificed and that shame is a cheap price to pay.

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