Six word storiesI submitted a couple of my efforts to Six Word Stories several weeks ago but neither has been published, which I'm now taking as an unspoken "no." So, in the interest of enshrining them somewhere other than just the comments section at that site (along with over 3,000 others), here they are:
Employee Appreciation Party. Cash bar only.The latter was directly inspired by Maddie, who recently uttered those exact first three words. (She's nine, however - I just thought making the child younger made the statement even funnier.)
We’re childhood friends, the six-year-old said.
The house in which he had grown up, living his entire life with his father and mother and four younger siblings, no longer felt quite as much like home as before. It had become home to strangers; rougher, harder men than the family would have liked to associate with. Men who drank, swore, fought, casually uttered the Lord’s name in vain, these latter blasphemies being the closest they ever came to Church.
Under ordinary circumstances the family would have had nothing to do with these sort of men. But these times were hardly ordinary circumstances, and the family really had no choice.
Mother cleared away the last of the breakfast dishes from the long dining table, all except those which sat before a stray boarder who appeared to be in no hurry to get to the mill on time, dirty plates and flatware hoisted in her wiry hands as she turned toward the kitchen doorway. The pivoting door was just swinging closed; before it stood Michael in his wool overcoat which was patched in several places and fraying at the cuffs.
“It’s time for me to go,” he said.
“Yes,” she replied as unemotionally as she could. But Michael could see hints of moisture in the corners of her eyes.
“Train’s leaving soon.”
“Yes…Michael, I’m sorry it has to be this way. We don’t want you to go, none of us. Your father did everything he could down at the mill. You do know that, don’t you?”
Yes, his father. He had inquired about openings, anything, at the mill where he worked. But Father had preserving his own job to worry about without cashing in any favors for his son. As if he had any favors left to drawn upon. He had said his goodbyes the night before, eager to get to bed early and snatch a few more minutes of weary sleep before rising before dawn to hurry off again to work.
There was nothing for Michael here in Rockdale, nor up the river in Joliet. He had inquired everywhere—foundries, wallpaper mills, printing plants, the breweries that struggled to adapt to the early years of Prohibition. He had even taken the interurban trains to both ends of the line, to Aurora and Chicago Heights, with no success there either. The collar cities, all of them once minor industrial strongholds, seemed to have no work for an unskilled laborer, with skilled craftsmen being barely better off.
This was his last best hope.
(Note: I'm trying something new--a short story, "Arrival," written in installments and published online. I can't promise that I'll sustain the early momentum and keep it going, nor that the end product will even remotely resemble a self-contained and coherent narrative. But we'll give it a try.)
He felt the great locomotive throbbing below him, reverberating through the sidewalk, through the thinning soles of his brogans and into his body where it coursed about him, as real as the blood in his veins or the nerve impulses firing across countless synapses. He could still feel the train rocking back and forth on unstable tracks as it slowed in its approach to the station, shrieking shrilly as it blindly negotiated the gentle bend into the platforms and finally came to a stop and the conductor announced over the loudspeaker that all passengers were to disembark at once. The end of the line had been reached.
The train’s end of the line. His beginning.
He now missed the train’s lulling rythym, its comforting embrace, even as he walked briskly at street level in moderately eager anticipation of his destination. The train got him most of the way and tapped most of his money, leaving him a ways still to go and without the fare for a cab or even the streetcar. But he was young, fit, and eager, and a three mile walk after riding all this way meant nothing to him.
His morning’s breakfast and his mother’s anxious farewell were already fading in his memory. He was unsure when he would be seeing either again.