25 Word Stories
By Kevin Hodgson She began walking backwards in the assumption she could reverse time. Step by step, the world passed by like a comet's tail. For days, the guitar lay in tatters. He took time between treatments, yet still could not find the D string. She had it. The cat cried and cried for days. The dog was silent, as usual. Things had gone the dog's way again, and the cat knew it. The clay felt smooth in her hand. She mixed, remixed, & brought to life an entire world of soft people. Then, she crushed it. He stretched his legs, snapped his fingers, heaved himself up out of the square & wondered how long he had been in the comic. Hush now. The baby quieted in his arms. Outside in the moonlight, two deer wandered past -- a silent, beautiful work of art. I pursed my lips to blow dust off the old board games and looked at my son, whose attention was firmly fixed on his iphone. In the time it took her to answer the phone, fumbling through her purse, he had already hung up. It was wasted time anyway. She reminded me that memories were like origami, before quickly folding me up and tucking me away into her pocket. The crumpled note dated 15 years earlier fell out of the library book. He immediately recognized the handwriting: his mother's. ... bases loaded, bottom of the 9th, whiffle bat clenched tightly. Somewhere, a crowd roared. Out here, it was only crickets. The pencil tip broke. The computer crashed. The crayons melted. Still, she wrote, carving imaginary words in the clouds. He heard his father's words in his head, 'don't run - you'll fall.' He heard them on the run as he was falling. At night, when the world was asleep, he'd wander around, erasing all the chalk drawings in the 'hood and then act surprised. He stared at them: little bugs on his fingers. One flicked its wings; Another opened wide & bit down. He smiled, fiercely. He'd wake up at night to melodies he heard in his head. Softly, in a whisper, he's sing for her. By morning, she'd forgotten. How the wish for one drop of rain ended up in a deluge is a story for another time. We huddled beneath the umbrella together. She told me, 'If you can imagine the sound of elephants rushing for water, then you would know how I felt.' I couldn't. When no one was looking, Sadie took out her box of crayons. She sniffed each one, w/eyes closed, and colored outside the lines. Ten years from now, the decision to do so would make perfect sense. Ten years ago, the possibility was utterly unimaginable. His young eyes scanned the page, fingers running over symbols. There were words in there. He just knew it. There was only enough room for 25 words on the scrap of paper. He paused, wrote, and tossed the glass bottle back into the sea. The dawn arrived, early .. again ... and
she was left wondering where her dreams had gone to.
Somehow, the night erased it all. If only this mouse had an eraser. Then, he could scribble backwards w/no trace. Unfortunately, his footsteps were everywhere began it before collapse story her letting, backwards thoughts her bend to mirror the using, reverse in wrote she She wrote in reverse, using the mirror to bend her thoughts backwards, letting her story collapse before it began. The mouse ran. The cat sunk to the dirt, belly down. Overhead, the hawk floated, and suddenly, the hunter became the hunted. He smiled inward when he heard her ask how it was that the quietest boy around could be the most active text-er. He stared, his hands remembering the feel of the Atari controller, as his son zipped through virtual worlds w/a gun in hand. Harry Potter. Charlie Bone. Percy Jackson. Ralphie Samuel. Only one imaginary hero didn't belong on my list and it wasn't me. Was it Bono who noted that all you need is "three chords and the truth"? She now had the chords, but the truth? Elusive. As if saying her name over and over again would make her suddenly appear, he wandered, calling out "mom ... mom ... mom." Here's how she saw it: everything she said to them from now on would be in pictures, not words. Let the world figure it out. The darkness of the morning held only the sounds of frogs and far-off cars. It was here in silence that it dawned on him. As the leaf fell, it occurred to him that if brown was always beneath its green, what colors lay below the surface of him? He jammed the flag down and declared it all of his own. "Can you get that off my foot," she shouted. "I was here first." When she wanted to think differently, or change identities like avatars, she'd move the pencil from her right hand to her left. The handwritten notes on the margins of the novel the teacher handed me to read were something I needed to decipher, & quick. How one could go through life without shuffling their feet through fallen orange & red leaves was beyond her. But he hadn't. Somewhere, in that noisy saxophone of Ornette Colemen, a sliver of something special wormed it way into his head, and remained. All day, the dog sat, and stared out the window. Not a thing happened. Some days are like that. The dog just didn't know that. She heard him say, "National Day on Writing" but how to put images into words? She began with an empty canvas & painted. There's a moment while night-swimming when you are too far out to come back in. This was one of those moments, she mused. Eavesdropping on the conversation, he suddenly realized he knew the voiceless person on the other end of this person's line. Remembering her test-taking strategies from high school, she used the election ballot for a game of connect-the-dots. "Are you leaving us?" the boy asked. His father jammed another sock into the suitcase. "No," he lied, "I'm just making room." He wondered how it was that all the components - the ink, plastic, tube -- meant so little when words refused to flow. For every piece of candy handed out, the old woman furtively hid a second in her pocket. She would not miss out this year. The knife slipped. Blood dripped. As he instinctively sucked his finger, he noticed the pumpkin looking much, much scarier. His knotted fingers transformed the large flag into tight triangles. Memories, like the flag, were folded up for another year. He stared upward, counting dots on the ceiling tiles & calculating the distance they would cover if placed in one long line. Some scars are visible, like maps on skin. Others, not so. She ran fingers along a scar no one could see, & hoped for healing. In a box set way back behind sweaters & shirts & scarves, their letters live on. He; overseas. She; home. Words connected them. Remember how you used to hide behind corners, shooting imaginary enemies and celebrating death? It's never like that. Never. It seemed impossible for him, just back from Afghanistan, to sit next to him, a hero from WWII, but there they were, together. What she would always remember, as the nurse surrounded by trauma & chaos & war, was holding their hands: gently, softly The little boy looked up, seeing only Grandpa. He didn't see the man who stormed beaches, dug trenches & survived friends. His knotted fingers transformed the large flag into tight triangles. Memories, like the flag, were folded up for another year. White lights set against black sky made her wonder if every single star was a story, and if so, which one would fall. See the full transcript