Short stories are a devilishly difficult form, particularly when there is a brief to adhere to. This one had to be less than a thousand words, with a contemporary setting, and nothing dark or depressing. There was also the issue of a fast deadline, so no shilly-shallying. Pick up a pencil and get on with it. The story appeared a week or so later in the Sunday Express magazine, and had been further cut by the editor in order to fit it on the page. It took me at least a fortnight to pluck up the courage to read it, knowing that it could (and should) have been so much better.
I love short stories. Always have. The writers who do them well are nothing short of astounding in their mastery of the craft. Annie Prouxl’s “55 Miles to the Gas Pump” is barely one page long, yet packs a punch like a real heavyweight. After just one reading, that story is burned into my memory. Charles Bukowski’s “The Copulating Mermaid of Venice, California” is another one that sticks in the mind, although I realise the rather sick nature of much of his subject matter is not everyone’s cup of tea. Put it this way – I wouldn’t buy any of his books for my mother.
Stephen King, too, is a master of the art. If you haven’t already done so, make a point to read “Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption”, which was later made into a film like so many of his other works. As usual, the written story is better.
The short story artform is, I am glad to say, experiencing something of a resurgence lately, with some excellent volumes being published recently. I have a few of them on order from my local library who are very good at finding me virtually any book I want for the princely fee of £1. Then, if I love it, I go to a bookshop and buy a copy. As for this short story offering, I am left with just one overwhelming intention: must try harder.