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The message

You texted me a message last night. It was written during a moment of joyful forgiveness, while sitting in a train & listening to some favorite Mozart on your bright yellow ipod. The Jupiter symphony, i guess. Final movement. Big string chords. Loud metal wheels.

Commuter counterpoint.

At the time, the plan was to meet an old girlfriend & to catch the week’s big movie. A hunk was starring, which would have made you both smile indelicately. The future was uncertain. If the night remained young & the pleasure led you both, you would have had a fast dance & a long drink at one of the city’s many nightclubs – a happy ending to a tense & often unfortunate week.

This is why you sent the message; which read, simply, beautifully: I love you.

It wasn’t received. I’m not sure why. If it had been, the three of us might still be alive.

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An experiment in flash fiction

Comments

  • TeresaC
    TeresaCalmost 7 years ago

    Beautiful picture and a sad song. Delighfully put, I like it sweetheart !

  • Thanks, hon. No ambiguities on this one. Just the point, the whole point & nothing but the point

    (& ipods, of course)

    – robtclements

  • graemef
    graemefalmost 7 years ago

    Great 1st paragraph, you set the setting soooo amazingly…

    3rd para – I thought you should divide this into more paragraph stages – I’d suggest that could help divide the thought-streams… (does that make sense?)

    I’m a bit of a punctuation Nazi, so please forgive me if i seem critical – I think that the use of paragraph breaks: colons; & semi colons help to lead a reader through a situation in the manner that was intended…

    I didn’t really get the ending… I read it again and again but it didn’t quite seem to gel…

    However, as a qualifier, and you may ask my fiancee…I’m a dooffass… I miss the obvious all the time… Could you make it clearer? I didn’t quite get the connection…

  • Thanks Graeme. I’m not comfortable with explaining my somewhat idiosyncratic literary approach (the reason i decided posting here-apart from the pushing of my ladyfriend-was to be able to write according to my own reading background (more Stein & Joyce than Bierce & Runyon; more Peake & Tiptree than Heinlein & Doc Smith) without the pressure of fitting a commercial mode. I rather like the old Charles Edward Ives principle that a true artist must remain an amateur

    I think that the use of paragraph breaks: colons; & semi colons help to lead a reader through a situation in the manner that was intended…

    I’m not fussed. I tend to use punctuation in precisely that way. What i don’t bother with punctuating grammatically. If it makes the logic simpler for you, i view the paragraph as a single coherent thought. The first & third paragraphs are stories embedded within another story

    However, as a qualifier, and you may ask my fiancee…I’m a dooffass… I miss the obvious all the time… Could you make it clearer? I didn’t quite get the connection…

    Peter (see below) had a similar problem. I’ll try to address this with his comment

    – robtclements

  • sastro
    sastroalmost 7 years ago

    Well done. Tricky to get so much meaning into such a short space. I’d love to know a little more about the relationships between each of the characters -I love getting to know the context of people…

  • Thanks, Sastro

    This story was written as a flash fiction (150 words or less), which rather limits what you can add to a tale. I think i managed to bulk it up pretty well under the circumstances. The original version of this story was exactly 41 words

    On the other hand, my approach to fiction tends to be more poetic & symbolist that strictly literal, so i’m not sure that i could help you on the character context

    – robtclements

  • Peter Davidson
    Peter Davidsonalmost 7 years ago

    I rather liked the sense of this but the point failed me and left me unsatisfied. (As did the use of the ampersand symbol in your writing) If someone texts you, how can you know what music is being listened to by the textee, especially if it’s only ‘I love you’ – and that text wasn’t received so how did the narrator know anyway?

  • Thanks, Peter, for your comment. I’m glad you liked my story enough to do so

    I don’t want to limit, define or even refine what you make of my story (it should rise, fall or sink without memory on its own merits), but may i ask you this:

    Why should a fiction-& this is a fiction-be forced to obey the factual constraints of space & time?

    The message may be a fantasy playing out in the narrator’s mind; or-if you are a transcendentalist (i’m not)-perhaps death has given the narrator insight he or she might not otherwise have

    (More generally, i wonder how many people assume that the narrator here is male. The gender is carefully unspecified)

    If you free yourself from genre expectations, the ending may make more sense. Whether its a generic twist is a completely different question

    The key question is: does the narrative communicate an interesting insight through its literary devices. I think it does-but then…i wrote it

    (Can’t help you with the &s & occasional @s, though. They suit my non-objective style of writing)

    – robtclements

  • TeresaC
    TeresaCalmost 7 years ago

    This is just my take on this, but perhaps, her old girlfriend told, the boy friend
    about the txt message & so forth (you know how girls love to talk). As for the ending, I look at it this way, everything has a finale, just like beautiful music carring our emotions like a wave to the shore, there it rests for a moment then, drifts back out to the endless ocean out of sight.

  • Peter Davidson
    Peter Davidsonalmost 7 years ago

    Thanks Rob for the explanation.

    You said:
    ‘Why should a fiction-& this is a fiction-be forced to obey the factual constraints of space & time?’

    You raise an interesting point. In conceptual art, and I would class your flash as such, it doesn’t. The ‘message’ is construed by the viewer or reader. Which is fine. In a tight, short flash however, it leads to confusion. (at least for me!)

    ‘The key question is: does the narrative communicate an interesting insight through its literary devices.’

    Sorry, no. (but I acknowledge it clearly does for others)
    Speaking personally (and as such completely subjectively) I’d have to ask, do you want your fiction, what you are trying to convey, to be understood by the reader? (Remember that in story telling, the danger of clever ambiguity can be perceived as authorial smugness. The ‘you don’t like it because you can’t understand it’ sort of thing)

    In this story, instead of finding the ambiguity and illogicality intriguing, I’m afraid (no offense intended) it came across as slightly pretentious. As a STORY. I think had you taken the prose and idea into poetry, it would have worked much better.

    Lastly, I don’t have any genre expectations and it’s a little patronizing that you suggest one has to free oneself from such in order to appreciate the piece.

    As always, this is only my opinion, and I do appreciate what you are trying to do. Just because it doesn’t work for me, means nothing, as others will find it inspirational. That’s the joy of creativity!

  • To begin with, i want to apologise for coming across as being patronising in my above comment. I didn’t mean to be. I appreciate the feedback; although i’m not really comfortable with explaining what i do. I put a lot of thought into my writing; although my literary principles may be different to others

    (Idiosyncratic is the most charitable adjective i use to describe my own writing)

    Speaking personally (and as such completely subjectively) I’d have to ask, do you want your fiction, what you are trying to convey, to be understood by the reader?

    It depends on the work. Some of my verse is extremely direct. I call that my chainsaw mode. The Words, with fury, for eg. For other stories, i’m less concerned with this (particularly when it comes to the mere mechanics of the story)

    In carefully describing this story & Contagion as experiments in flash fiction, i tried to label to any readers that i was trying things out. Way out, in the case of Contagion; but that’s literally another story.

    Moods, symbolisms, poetries, all working within the limits of the 150 word prose form. The device here is fairly straightforward: the story appears to be narrated by a dead person; who thinks that three people would still be alive if he/she had received a certain message. How the narrator received that information is of less importance to me than capturing the fatalism of a moment; & that fatalism was less focussed on the narrator’s despairing death (a double murder/suicide?) than in the woman’s innocent endplay. How much more important our moments seem when they begin to run out?; & how rarely do we know when they really are running out

    (You can tell that i don’t like discussing the mechanics of my writing, can’t you?)

    Some people seem to like what i do, some don’t. Not everyone who likes it seems to get it, either. I’m cool, whatever happens

    – robtclements

  • Naylor
    Nayloralmost 7 years ago

    I LOVE your work Rob , every piece I have read of yours is exciting !!!! I tend to read your words over and over before I comment trying to really make sure I get the full impact and I always walk away satisfied!!!!!! I actually would love to hear more of this story lol…. you have caught my attention and now have a new FAN :) This is wonderful … Keep it up hon ((HUG))

  • Thanks, Naylor. I’m no longer sure that this piece completely works; but the two stories embedded within the third seem to be excellent. Something to learn from for future efforts

    (& it did force me to talk about my writing process, which may have helped it)

    – robtclements

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