There is a legend—I can’t decide whether it’s true—that Earnest Hemingway once won a ten-dollar bet by writing a six-word story:
For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.
Hemingway reportedly considered the story some of his best work. Whether the legend is true or not, the idea is intriguing. Can one write a story with six words? I shared an article that explores this with some friends and said, stupidly, “I think we should all try this.” I didn’t expect that anyone would take me seriously. But MCF, as is his wont, took it as a challenge. I figured I should at least try, since it was my idea in the first place.
The challenge with such a short story is to inspire creative thought in the reader. You can’t say much with six words, but you can suggest a lot. A single sentence can begin a story or end a story, or even hint at what came before as well as what might yet come. James Thurber used to draw single-panel cartoons of people in bizzare situations just so that readers would think, “How did this predicament come about?” Of course, since Thurber used pictures he was working with the equivalent of a thousand words as opposed to my six. I don’t know how successful my attempts may be, but here they are:
After all that, I quit coffee.
Emerged. Loved. Married. Procreated. Died. Loved.
I’m still pretty much a virgin.
It’s six fifty-nine, and all’s well.
It’s only a story, he thought.
Curious things happen when I dream.
Most people are words. I’m punctuation.
The piglet controls his bloodlust, usually.