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2018 Reading Challenge

2018 Reading Challenge
Jill Elizabeth has read 25 books toward her goal of 175 books.
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When Littler Actually is Bigger: On Flash Fiction (Includes “The Boys”)

So as I may have mentioned previously, I am trying to not only write a blog but to actually write stories (short and long). Well, turns out it is quite a bit easier to blog three-to-four times a week than to write either short stories or novels, and I’m starting to run into dangerous ground in which the blog becomes the product in itself rather than part of the platform for a larger career in writing. So, I have been hunting around online investigating writing and writers’ sites and requests for submissions and other interesting tidbits of that nature. Turns out there are niches for everything, and there is pretty much a writing format for just about everything too – there are no longer just short stories and novels (with the occasional novella, somehow always written by Stephen King, thrown into the mix for flavor), but there are about eight billion variations on each as well. One of my new favorites, and a format I find intriguing for a host of reasons, is Flash Fiction.

What is Flash Fiction, you ask? Well kind reader, let Auntie Jill tell you. Flash Fiction appears to be the net result of the sound-bite, short-attention-span-theater universe we currently live in. Flash Fiction pieces are stories of less than 1,000 words – and there is no minimum page requirement either. A Flash Fiction story can be any length you want as long as it does not exceed 1,000 words. 1,000 words, she said. And some definitions give you less than that – yes, honestly, an entire story in max 500 or even 360 words. To give you an idea of just how short that is, the writing you have read on here through the end of this sentence is exactly 298 words, according to Microsoft Word. So Flash Fiction stories at their longest are limited to just over three times as long as these two paragraphs – and sometimes are barely a paragraph longer than this.

As a long-time novel snob – and someone for whom “the longer the better” has always been a personal motto – I find it hard to think of anything that short as a story. How can you have an arc, character development, a denouement, conflict, ANYTHING in 1000 words, let alone 360? Good lord, I leave voicemail messages longer than 1,000 words (teehee). So I turned to google (honestly, what on earth did we all do before google?!) and investigated some sites and read some samples of Flash Fiction. I’ve read through a decent number by now – some honestly still don’t seem like stories to me but more like vignettes or pieces of a larger story. But I have seen a few that told a full-blown story – conflict, resolution, drama, intriguing characters, and even occasionally a lesson – and all in such a tiny number of words. So inspired by that (and by Rick – he won’t want me to, but I’m acknowledging him anyway, since the storyline is his idea and I really like it), I decided to try my hand. It JUST sneaks in at 996 words. Teehee. Hey – maybe I can write a whole book of Flash Fiction pieces! I mean, given the varied word count definitions, this introduction already counts (537 words)… J

***
The Boys

I love it when The Boys come over.

The Boys are six and nine. They are the boyest boys I have ever known. They are always covered in dirt and brush-burns and chocolate syrup. They smell like summer and freedom, and are always twelve decibels above adult human volume. They are brilliant and frustrating and crazy and entertaining and sweet and stubborn and they love me like no one else does. I am, after all, The Best Aunt Ever. They tell me so. Regularly.

When The Boys come over, my quiet, tidy, well-ordered, candle-scented, crumb-free little house becomes a completely different place. It is, for those hours, no longer mine. It is also, quite often, no longer a house. It is a pirate ship, a spaceship, an airplane; it is in outer space, in the middle of the ocean, in Timmyville (their own personal city) which is of course located in Jommyland (their own personal country).

Today we find ourselves in Timmyville. Nine-year old Jonathan (“don’t call me Jon anymore Aunt Betsy, my name is Jonathan because I’m fancy now that I’m old”) has politely informed me that the guest room is his apartment and that he wants to have a quiet day at home today because work was hard. He is, therefore, going to go watch his movie and would like his snack to be extra-big and served on a grown-up plate because, “believe me Auntie, I earned it working so hard today.” I express the appropriate condolences for his difficulties, of course, and agree that an extra-big snack on a grown-up plate while watching his movie is the only possible way to recover from such a day. With that, I go into the kitchen, pull out an extra-big grown-up plate and pile on a double order of graham crackers and not one but two dollops of peanut butter for dipping.

His Six-year old brother, Timothy, is in the kitchen cooking his own snack. Well, “cooking” may not technically be correct – what he is actually doing is not-so-carefully pulling apart a bag of peanut butter sandwich cookies and oh-so-carefully placing them in perfectly-arranged rows on his dinosaur plate. But he has informed me that he will be cooking today, so cooking it shall be. It is not the job of an aunt (let alone The Best Aunt Ever) to question such things. He has also informed me that he does NOT need any help and that he is not big enough to use the oven but that he IS big enough to have two snacks because he is STARVING because they had fish sticks for lunch at school and he HATES fish sticks and he REALLY wanted peanut butter and no jelly but they only had peanut butter AND jelly and that if I don’t have the GRAPE juice boxes than he does not want ANYTHING to drink and that when he is done he wants to watch a movie but he does NOT want to snuggle today because he is GROUCHY like Oscar. (I often wish I could speak in CAPITAL LETTERS the way he does.)

Ten minutes go by. It is frightfully quiet in Timmyville, and I am starting to get nervous. You would too if you knew anything about Timmyville – it is NEVER a quiet place. How was that, by the way? Can I pull off speaking in CAPITAL LETTERS? No, ah well, more’s the pity but I can’t say I’m really surprised. I may be The Best Aunt Ever, and not old-old, but I’m also not six. Or nine. And there are some things in this world that you can only pull off if you are six. Or nine.

As I was saying, frightfully quiet. I mean, I know Jonathan wanted a quiet day at home, but this is a little too quiet. And where on earth did Timothy go?

Just as I am preparing to send out the search party, Timothy plods heavily into the living room, where I am sitting, and crouches down in the corner, holding his arms wide like he is picking something up. I look at him for a moment, wondering if he will tell me what he is up to or if I will have to ask. A full four seconds go by as he carefully works his way from a squatting position to stand straight up, his arms held aloft and awide all the while. He sees me watching him and notices the single eyebrow raised ever so slightly – “I am moving something heavy for Jonathan,” he announces solemnly. I look at him and state, “of course you are. May I ask what it is?” “It is a new couch for his apartment,” he replies, and with that he proceeds to carefully maneuver himself and the “couch” out of the living room and down the hall to the apartment-cum-guest room.

I hear Timothy announce, “thud,” in an equally solemn voice (well, as solemn as a rather high-pitched, naturally giggly six-year old voice can sound) from the other room, and deduce he must have set the “couch” down. Five minutes go by, and Timothy does not return to the living room. I guess Jonathan did not need any other furniture.

Turns out this is a good thing because, two minutes later, Timothy walks into the living room, with the most serious expression I have ever seen on his young face. Oh, and with an old red and blue fake-Hermes scarf of mine wrapped around his arm and up around his little boy neck. I squint my eyes and tilt my head to the side – which happens to mean “what the heck?” in Timothese (the unspoken language of Timmyville). Fortunately, Timothy is fluent in Timothese; he looks me dead in the eye and, with the second most serious expression I have ever seen on his young face, politely says: “I broke my arm moving Jonathan’s couch. Insurance covered it though Auntie, don’t worry.”

So I didn’t.

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