I’m beginning to look into short stories for competitions. It’s great writing practise and depending on the competition you sometimes get feed back which is really helpful. I signed up for a flash fiction competition recently and was really excited to get my first assignment. You are in groups of 15 and there are 60 groups. Scoring points and hopefully making it through to the next round. My email arrived telling me the three things I had to do for my short story. (max 1000 words) It had to be a drama set in a vegan café and the story had to feature an object. In my groups case it was a coffin and I had 48 hours to write and submit it. What in the heck? I instantly regretted my decision to sign up as I really didn’t think I would be able to marry those things together. I would probably be better writing a comedy. However once I started I really enjoyed the challenge.
Any writing is very subjective. One person could love it while another hates it, so you’re laying yourself bare a little which makes me a little nervous, but here is the short story.
Christie came in to Vegan Eat-in and sat at her usual table. She was an unusual customer and never quite fitted in with the rest of the crowd. Not one to attract too much attention she always chose to sit away from the windows, but liked to be in a booth where she could people watch. After ordering her food, Christie pulled out the letter eyeing the now slightly crumpled envelope with caution. She wanted to be surrounded by familiarity when she opened it. In a place of comfort where faces were recognisable but not too intrusive. She didn’t want to have to engage in conversation or small talk; but wanted to know she wasn’t alone. Vegan Eat-in was an ideal choice as it was always so vibrant with people. Each life weaving into the next for half an hour or so. Lives momentarily overlapping as they all congregated in the same place to eat, before being on their way again. They often didn’t notice the girl in the booth with her black heavy over coat and long hair which hid her face. It was a shame, she had attractive features, great skin and a beautiful smile if someone could coax one out of her. But life was busy, people were busy, and customers rarely took in the person sitting opposite them never mind a quiet customer at another table.
Vegan Eat-in was by far one of the trendiest cafés in town, always delivering quality vegan food and drink. Everything about it was quirky and obscure. The place was filled with interesting artefacts and items to look at, all with some meaning and attachment to the premises. There was even a coffin standing in the corner. It had been painted in trendy muted colours and filled with shelves selling speciality cook books written by the owner himself. The premises had been a former undertakers workshop for many years and when Carlos, the owner moved in and found the old coffin in the back, he decided to make it a feature rather than throw it out; and it worked. Regularly people would photograph it. Often they would be photographed standing next to it holding their coffee cup or burrito before uploading it to Instagram with their clever tag lines and hashtags.
‘Just popped into Vegan Eat-in’ #thecoffeeistodiefor
‘Didn’t realise Morticia was vegan!’ LOL #VeganEatin
‘Honey, that’s a great cup of coffin!’ #coffincaféhumour
This was always welcomed as it was great publicity and such a unique selling point. It was quite ironic that something so symbolic of death should bring so much life and laughter not to mention financial growth. The coffin told a different story for Christie. Something in her had died long ago and she returned here week after week to be in the same room as the coffin like an itch she had to scratch. Now the letter brought news which could go either way. It would either bring hope, or such desperation it would feel like the wooden burial box had opened its jaws, pulled her in and snuffed her out completely.
The food arrived and Christie ate quickly and silently. The only noise coming from her table was the envelope screaming to be opened. But it could wait a while longer. It had waited since it landed on the mat this morning and a few more minutes wouldn’t hurt. In truth, Christie wanted to leave it closed forever. The not knowing was far less painful than finding out and being heartbroken. As long as the envelope stayed closed she could dream and fantasise the outcome, but once opened she would be hit with reality and have to face the contents. If it was good news then her life could be changed forever. If it was bad, her future would be as grim as her past.
Carlos smiled at Christie as he picked up her empty plate. He knew not to push conversation with her too much. She was never rude or unpleasant but often elsewhere and pensive rather than engaging in the present day. So he asked her if she’d enjoyed her food, talked a little about the weather then left her to her own thoughts.
Taking a sip of her Coffee, Christie knew she could delay things no further. She slowly picked up the envelope and tore it open, prizing out the letter which carried the contents of her future. The paper was thick and expensive looking. Expertly typed with the logo of the adoption agency embossed on the top. Nervously she began to read.
Dear Miss Menzies
Thank you for your letter regarding trying to find the daughter you gave birth to 22 years ago…….
9 thoughts on “Flash Fiction, Short Story”
Cool! You created, and then painted, a really real place with the ambiance and transitory interconnectness spot on. The coffin bookcase is genius! Reading it I wondered if the dramatic impact would increase if you saved introducing Christie til about halfway through; giving the life and feel of the place then contrasting it with her situation. However the way you did it keeps us guessing as to what’s up with her. When I read the brief (vegan cafe, coffin, drama) I could only think of a wake for someone who died of anaemia!
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Haha like me Enid hence the bit about me being able to write a comedy better. I was thinking along a similar vein. Thanks for the feedback, it’s interesting to see what people make of it. If a coffin bookcase appears in a café somewhere I’ll want royalties!
Maybe this is just me, but I was visualising Christie as quite young – late teens, early twenties – probably from her behaviour and hair-style. You don’t actually give any hint at her age-range until the final sentence. So when I got to the end I was a bit surprised and had to go back and re-read. A great strategy. 🙂 I loved it though. I could see and small the café. Somewhere I’d enjoy. Thank you. x
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She maybe had her baby very young, perhaps 14 or 15 which would make her 37 which is still older than the impression I gave. I haven’t figured it out yet and if I wasn’t in such a rush to get it written I might’ve thought that be through again. Still, it was an interesting exercise and I’m glad I did it. 🙂 x
Oh Sarah, I loved the story but need to know what happened!
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Lots of people asking for part two Jan! I’ll have to see what I can do 🙂
I missed that contest. It got filed in my spam mail and I didn’t hear about it until it was too late (by like, one day). Bummer. Good luck in round two!
How frustrating! And thank you. 😊