Tuesday, July 14, 2009

500-Word Story

Our clever friend Lynn has been stirring up fun on Facebook. She suggested we pick the nearest book and use the fifth sentence on the 56th page as our updated status. Then I suggested we use our sentences as the basis for a story with a 500-word limit. Lynn's sentence was potentially frisky, but here is what she did with it—brilliant. Mine was from a short story by Hemingway entitled "Fifty Grand."

So, here is my little story with the fifth sentence as the opening line. I don't think Hemingway would be amused.


He was wearing an old blue jersey and an old pair of pants and had on boxing shoes. The boy stopped in the hallway to take one last look at himself in the mirror. He lifted his chin and looked down his nose at his reflection, squinting his eyes and tugging at his shirt as if he were adjusting a suit coat. He felt tough.

Just as he spun on his heels to face the door, he caught a glimpse of his mother in the mirror, watching him from the living room. She had one hand wrapped around her waist and the other covering her mouth. The boy knew the look.

“I’ll be fine, Mom, really. I’m just going to work with a trainer. Think of it like I’m taking piano lessons, if that helps.”

“Do you want your father to go with you?” his mother asked. “Frank! Get in here and walk your son down to the gym!” She hollered down the hall for Frank who was in the kitchen. He was making a sandwich, but she thought he should help.

Frank came into the hall, wiping his hands on a towel. “You look good there,” he said as he patted the boy on the back. “Knock ’em dead.”

“Knock ’em dead?” the mother asked. “Knock ’em dead?” She repeated her question with a higher tone and a bite to the consonants. “Is that all you have to say? He’s going off to a gym, and not the kind with basketballs and nets. They’re going to teach our son to hit people and to take punches!”

She held her son’s jaw between her thumb and forefinger. “That sweet face, and he’s going to let people hit it. I just don’t understand.”

“Mom, please,” the boy pulled away and looked at his father for a little help. “Dad, tell her. I’m not going to get hurt. I’m going to box. It’s a sport. Would you tell her?”

Frank put his arm around his wife. “She knows. She just doesn’t like fighting.”

“No, I don’t. And I don’t understand why you can’t put all that energy into some kind of sport that isn’t about beating people up.”

The boy tilted his head, furrowed his brow, and exhaled through his nose. He made his way toward the front door, walking backwards to get there. “I’m going now, OK?”

“OK, fine,” his mother said, resigned to losing this one battle. “Be careful.”

“I will,” the boy said as he darted out the door, letting it slam shut just as his father yelled after him, “And have fun!”

He rolled up his sleeves as he took long strides down the sidewalk but then decided he’d look better with them just shoved up near his elbows. He had picked old clothes for his first time at the gym but wished his shoes didn’t look so obviously new. He dragged them in the dirt a little to seem like he’d been in the ring before.


Lynn said...

It's truly wonderful Robyn! I really felt his persona, his inner feelings, the way he felt about himself; the pride, apprehension and his need to put up an image. Absolutely loved it. I've done mine now over at my Things blog but ... I prefer yours! We must do this again, it was great fun and, as you say, a great exercise.

dive said...

You know I love your beautifully observed stories, Robyn, and this is another little gem.
Well done Lynn for setting the exercise!

savannah said...

I could see that little boy, sugar! Well done. xoxo

Mark said...

Wonderful detail, and great insight into the young man feelings. I think I'll have to try this.