Short and Sweet

Posted by Shades Mountain Student Ministries | Posted in , , | Posted on Monday, November 09, 2009

I have begun to grow a fondness for short stories.

I think it use to be because I was lazy. Why read a novel over a week end when a short story would only last a few minutes? And you could read more than just one.

But in the past few weeks my decision to read short stories has turned from laziness to appreciation.

The first ting that began to spark my interest was the writer/tweeter of  @veryshortstories

All of his stories use only 140 characters (the aloted Twitter amount) and somehow manage to create a sense of place, story, character and so forth.

To give you an example here are a few of my favorites.

I held her pretty hand, intertwining my fingers with hers. Enjoying the moment, then putting it with the rest, in the freezer.
Tommy found his mother on the floor, her back broken. His mind rushed back to the walk home, paying no attention to where he stepped.
 And my personal favorite:
Steve, the ranger, showed the children where to swim in the lake. That was the agreement. Feed the monster and it wouldn't feed on him.

Many of these seem like pictureless captions from a Far Side comic, witty with a subtle darkness.

It began to make me appreciate how each word mattered, not a single word of filler. Just simple and presice.

A few weeks ago I was on a trip to Virgina and downloaded a podcast that seemed of interest. It was PRI: Selected Shorts Podcast

Each podcast consisted of several shorts read by various actors. It seemed that most shorts have this interesting arch. You feel in some ways thrown into the middle of a story (I can't imagine how hard it is to establish characters with little time) and you spend the first part wondering where you are and where you're going. The middle you feel as if you're getting the gist of things. But then there's that final twist or climax. Almost like a punch line. Something comes a long leaves you silent and thoughtful.

I always liked the way these stories left me feeling. It was as if I had just witnessed a work of heart and some of it's soul was still left in me, like a pleasant after taste that leaves you with an appreciation for what you just tasted.

Out of all of these shorts I listened to there was one that stood out. It was by far the shortest, but certainly the one that left me the most silent.

It's a short story by the author Joyce Carol Oates entitled "Slow."

She reads it in this podcast at 32:45 into it. It's only about 2 minutes long. (I've posted the story below but I'd recommend listening to her read it instead, preferably with your eyes closed).


The wrong time for him to be returning home so she stands at an upstairs window watching as he drives up the driveway but continues a little beyond the area where they usually park in front of the garage and stops the car back by the scrubby evergreen hedge and then there's another wrong thing, it's that she doesn't hear the car door slam, she listens but she doesn't hear, so she turns slow and wondering from the window goes downstairs and at the door where there's still time for her to be hearing his footsteps she doesn't hear them so like a sleepwalker she continues outside moving slowly as if pushing through an element dense and resistant but transparent like water and at the end of the walk she sees that he is still in the car still behind the wheel though the motor has been turned off and the next wrong thing of course is that he's leaning forward with his arms around the wheel and his head on his arms, his shoulders are shaking and she sees that he is crying . . . he is in fact sobbing . . . and in that instant she knows that their life will be split in two though she doesn't, as she makes her slow way to him, know how, or why.

How masterful. How beautiful.

Short and sweet.

Comments (1)

Okay, that made me get very teary-eyed. It was SO sweet!!

Again, congratulations! Taylor is blessed to have you and Kristin for parents!