A Century of Voices

bookI started the new year off with voices from the last century. I know, I’m weird.

The voices are contained within this volume of short stories. They’re in chronological order starting with the year 1915 so reading through them is like reading through history. Not the kind of history you read in textbooks, but the kind that’s filled with people’s thoughts and feelings. There have been stories about immigration and racial issues, farming communities and mobsters. Poverty. Cruelty. Injustice. And yes, hope.

Famous voices can be found through the pages, including the familiar ones of Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and William Faulkner. But I’ve enjoyed hearing the others, the ones I hadn’t heard until now.

One of my favorites so far, “A Jury of Her Peers” by Susan Glaspell, was published in 1917. It shows how often women were dismissed, even though they were always there farming, cooking, and cleaning. That attitude comes through as the normal way of things with passages like this:

“Oh well,” said Mrs. Hale’s husband, with good-natured superiority, “women are used to worrying over trifles.”

The two women moved a little closer together. Neither of them spoke.

“And yet,” said he, with the gallantry of a young politician, “for all their worries, what would we do without the ladies?”

The women did not speak, did not unbend.

Reading through this volume has reminded me why I love short stories. They give the reader so much in only a few words. The best short stories could easily be novels. They’re packed full of emotion. In these times with so little time (really the way it’s always been), it’s surprising that more people don’t read short stories.

It’ll be interesting to see how writing styles have changed over the last century. I’ll keep reading through time and will let you know how it goes in future posts.

What do you think of short stories? Do you have a favorite short story writer?

Van Gogh’s Café

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Van Gogh stares through the centuries. He could be studying every detail of the café for one of his paintings: every rose-tinted light, every bottle clink and curve. The colors of his century are abstract, inviting.

He scrutinizes a shadowed corner and finds me there. He is committing it all to memory. He just might go home and paint my stunned expression as I stare back at him.

I raise my glass in a toast, wanting him to know how much his art is finally appreciated. The bartender scowls. But then, she must think I’m toasting a blank wall.

For Friday Fictioneers, writers from all over the world come up with a 100-word story or poem inspired by a photo that’s posted every Wednesday. Thank you to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for hosting and to Ted Strutz for this photo.



Out of Reach

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He shuffled by the statue on his way to work. He tried not to look but always did.

On the worst and grayest days, a demon grasped and pulled at his ankle. Sometimes the demon was love and then it wasn’t so bad. Still, the man kept reaching. But for what? Salvation, freedom, a better life in some other, faraway place? All that reaching could turn into too much. All that reaching could make a man fall. The statue showed him that. He ducked away from the drizzle and went to work.

Still, the man kept reaching.

For Friday Fictioneers, writers from all over the world come up with a 100-word story or poem inspired by a random photo. Thank you to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for hosting and to David Stewart for this photo.


Virtual Reality

For Friday Fictioneers, writers from all over the world come up with a 100-word story or poem inspired by a random photo. Thank you to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for hosting and to Renee Homan Heath for this photo that taunts us with the promise of warmth during these frozen days.

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This one stirred her heart with the rustle of palm tree leaves. She could feel the sand between her toes and the warmth of the boardwalk. Her feet made a hollow echo while the waves sounded out their own rhythms.

Just as she was about to step onto the warm sand, everything changed and her feet squished onto a muddy jungle path. Monkeys screeched instead of seagulls and the leaf rustling felt much more menacing. These virtual realities never lasted long enough, but she knew if they did last too long, any fantasy could turn into a nightmare. She began to run.

Friday Fictioneers: Sunglasses at Night

It’s time for Friday Fictioneers, a chance to write a 100-word story or poem inspired by a random photo. Thank you to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for hosting and to Ted Strutz for this mysterious photo.

The sunglasses were strategically placed near the toys that fly. Most people ran right up to the flying toys and sent them whizzing through the air. They didn’t see the need for sunglasses, even as the toy airplanes buzzed by their eyelashes and almost landed on their heads.

Jake put his sunglasses on and strolled up to the giggling pack of girls. They became shadows. He could no longer see eyes rolling or the possibility of condescending looks. He walked up to the girl and held out his hand. She took it. Without a word, he led her away.