250 Word Stories

I’ve been writing a lot of 100-word stories, but what about a 250-word effort? Anyone? (from Emma)

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25 thoughts on “250 Word Stories

  1. First try, exactly 250 words plus title, in fact – but this is a lot harder. A Gerry Rafferty song prompted it, of course.

    Can I Have My Money Back, Please? by Gordon Lawrie

    In 2017, a previously-unknown retired teacher called William “Bill” Adbury changed the course of journalism worldwide when he bought a copy of the “Alloa Evening Gazette”. Bill’s attention had been drawn to a headline which suggested that every house in his own street was to be razed to make way for a Tesco hypermarket.

    The report was pure fiction.

    Two days later, Bill returned to his newsagent and demanded his money back under the Sale of Goods Act which insists that all items purchased must truthfully do what they claim. When the newsagent was unwise enough to refuse to refund Bill’s money, Bill engaged a solicitor to pursue a case in the courts – against the newsagent, the newspaper itself and even the reporter personally.

    The newsagent and reporter settled quickly. But the newspaper proprietors, afraid of creating a precedent, fought Bill and lost, costing them just £100.00 in damages but enormous sum in legal fees. They appealed, and when that appeal failed, appealed to a higher court still. Other readers and civil rights groups funded Bill’s legal costs until seven years later the case finally came to a standstill when the newspaper declared itself bankrupt. The newspaper survived only because ownership passed by agreement into Bill’s hands.

    On 31st March 2014, Bill Adbury attended the editorial meeting for his new newspaper’s launch the following day. Determined to set new standards in journalism from the outset, he instructed that his new acquisition’s first headline should read “Scientists Prove Earth Is Flat.”

  2. West Point Light by Eric Smith

    The cross country coach ordered the team to report to school in mid-August. We’d be running 100 miles a week until the first meet of the season. Joe Rafferty drove a bunch of us out at midnight to see what everyone called the West Point Light. That’s when the mysterious light supposedly made its appearance. The light was bright and about the size of a train engine head lamp; it moved along the tracks at a lonely crossroads. The light did not disappoint us that night. After a fifteen or twenty minute wait, it appeared about 100 yards down the tracks and began rushing toward us. As it reached the spot where we stood, it broke up in front of us. Then it reformed behind us. We saw it four or five times. Then it stopped re-appearing.

    One story claimed the light emanated from the lantern of a headless railway worker decapitated along the tracks. Another legend centered on a phantom train that disappeared during the Civil War while carrying wounded soldiers. I put no stock in paranormal explanations, but the light was real nonetheless. I think a lot of things in life are like that—you have no ready scientific explanation. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t one.

    The most interesting thing to me is how the light showed up at the same time each night and performed in the same way—as if something consistent was driving it. It remains a mystery to me.

  3. Pigs Can Really Move by Eric Smith

    As he pulled into his driveway after work, Matt saw right away something didn’t look right. He parked his truck and walked across the road. First he noticed his newspaper tube was lying on the ground. He’d had it mounted on a steel fence post–the kind you string barbed wire on. The post was now bent flat. Then he looked out into the field and saw fresh tire tracks that led about twenty yards and stopped. At the end of the tracks he saw an old wooden trailer busted up beyond repair. He started to put it together. The trailer had run over his post and newspaper tube. Four or five kids began surrounding him.

    “Hey, what happened here?” Matt asked the kids.
    “That trailer ran over your post, mister,” the biggest kid said.
    “Yeah, I see that, but where did it come from?”
    “It came unhitched from an old pickup came through here couple minutes ago.”
    “And they didn’t stop to get their trailer?”
    “Naw, it ain’t worth nothin’, now.”
    “Well, what was in the trailer?” Matt asked
    “Pigs,” the biggest kid said.
    “Then what happened to the pigs?” Matt asked.
    “Aw, they all took off into the woods.”

    As he pulled up the post and tried to straighten it, Matt wondered where the pigs might be by this time. He knew they could run a lot faster than most people thought. But it was none of his affair.

  4. Jane Reid

    Haven’t tried a 250-word story yet, and I’m wondering whether it would have more plot, or whether it would have more of the descriptions, characterizations and asides which I omit or trim out of the 100-worders.

    Speaking of asides, I came across an old Angela Thirkell book and have been re-reading her a wholly different era and outlook on life, and often very entertaining.

  5. Pigs Again by Eric Smith

    Matt read about the huge pig farms in the Midwest and the lawsuits over their odor. His first experience with pigs came when he talked to a neighbor about an easement. The neighbor was in his hog shed so Matt had to talk to him there. He got within thirty feet when it hit him—a palpable smell, like a wall. Matt choked and could barely take another breath. He stopped and waited for the guy to come out. His neighbor had about ten pigs, but he’d been cleaning the shed and had disturbed the straw on its floor. He also had manure on his boots. So Matt had a tough time talking to him. Someone had said the farms in the Midwest smelled like sulfur and ammonia. It wasn’t like either of those, though. He just associated it with pigs and would never forget it. He couldn’t imagine how a farm with tens of thousands of hogs on it would smell.

    Later, another neighbor, who lived across the road, began raising fifty or sixty pigs. The smell filled up the twelve-acre field between their houses. Matt kept the windows shut tight. It made no difference. The smell insinuated itself around his windows and under his doors. Fortunately, the pig-raising neighbor lost money at it and never tried it again.

    If he ever considered moving to the Midwest, Matt knew he’d have to research carefully to assure no pig farmers lived nearby–as in a nearby county.

  6. Giants in the Earth by Eric Smith

    “So what do think?”

    “Think about what?”

    “You know, how did we get here and why?”

    “That’s laid out in detail in the Book of Genesis.”

    “You buy all of that literally, word for word?”

    “Yeah, why not; it works for me.”

    “Hmm. A lot of people believe in the good book as long as it serves their purposes, but when a part of the text becomes morally inconvenient for them, they claim it’s just allegory, or that certain parts of the Old Testament are meant for Jews but not Christians. And where it’s self-contradictory they call it a mystery or say we can’t understand everything stated in the inspired word of God.”

    “Well, if you’re so smart, how did we get here and why?”

    “I don’t know for sure. I grant you it seems unlikely that the world and the rest of the universe is just an accident or an illusion. I figure a higher power must have put this all together. But I’m pretty certain God isn’t following the action all over the world or the entire universe and watching over what everybody does with their life.”

    “Well, I believe God is all knowing and all powerful, so it’s not much of a stretch to believe He’s following what kinds of choices every person makes.”

    “That’s where we part ways, I suppose. I believe God put the universe together but has better things to do than worry about all our decisions and revisions.”

  7. Pies by Eric Smith

    In the early 1980s I baked an apple pie–a Mrs. Smith’s (no relation) pie in the box.

    Directions were as follows:
    1. Preheat oven to ___degrees
    2. Remove pie from container
    3. Place pie on cookie sheet
    4. Place sheet in oven for ____ hour/minutes.

    I set and turned on the oven. Took the pie out of the cardboard box and removed it from its container–that was tough, I had to use a spatula to get it out of the tin. Then I placed the pie on a cookie sheet and slid that baby into the oven.

    I checked on the pie a little later. It had spread out into a flattened-out mess all over the cookie sheet. What could I have done wrong? I followed the directions, right? I blamed the directions. I guessed afterward that when they said “container” they were referring to the box–but why would anyone put a cardboard box into an oven? So, obviously, by container they meant the tin. We ate the pie anyway. I’ve looked at Mrs. Smith’s pies since. They’ve made the directions more explicit. They now have steps such as: remove the pie from the box. And, place pie in tin onto a cookie sheet, etc. Apparently, I was not the only ignoramus.

  8. (I’m still catching up with posting the 250-word stories from the new website. This one, though, was on the original F.F.F. discussion in the LinkEds & Writers group. — Russell)

    (Untitled) by Jon Brierton

    Oh fer cryin’ out loud…can’t you get a move-on?
    Just another damn day on the freeway. Could use an hour or two for something more productive.

    Well, AT LAST I’m here !

    “Hey, Benny, where the heck is that report I asked for?”
    (Jesus these people are so slow!) “I don’t have all day!”

    ***

    I don’t think I’ll come to this crappy restaurant again. Too damn slow!

    ***

    “Now Margaret, I asked for this analysis TWO DAYS ago! Do you think I’m made out of time? Now move it, girl, MOVE IT !! ”

    ***

    Oh hell. It’s just been another day like any other. ME, driving to succeed—everybody ELSE puttin’ the brakes on my success!

    ***

    The light had changed at the entrance ramp to the interstate (hadn’t it?).

    Oh hell, I don’t have time—he gunned the engine.

    The semi-trailer never had a chance to stop…

    ***

    “I couldn’t wait,” he said.

    God replied: “You’re early…”

  9. Philosophers by Eric Smith

    The two guys in the booth across the aisle didn’t fit together. Not even close, man. All you had to do was listen to them. They were about the same age, maybe 23, and both chain-smoked while they drank their coffee—that’s all they seemed to have in common. Their breakfast plates sat to the side where they’d pushed them, bits of uneaten eggs crusting over. It was always crowded in there on Saturday mornings when most of the clientele had partied all night, failed to hook up with anyone, and ended their evening with “Hey, do you want to get some breakfast?”

    One of the guys was Latino; the other Anglo. They both had accents. Doesn’t everyone? The stocky Latino guy had an Afro haircut and spoke fluent English with a Mexican accent; the scrawny Anglo wore his black hair in a pony tail and sounded like someone from western North Carolina or eastern Tennessee.

    The Mexican dude said, “I can’t see any reason to live past thirty, man. I want to shoot my wad by then and check out. How about you, hermano?” He lit up again, handed his butt to the scrawny guy, who jump-started another one.

    “No, I wanna live a lot longer than that before I die.”

    “How the hell old do you want to get before you check out, then?”

    “I don’t know—old, old like Granny.”

    They both held it in and then blew the smoke out against the window.

  10. Gordon Lawrie

    There’s something so distinctly American about Eric’s writing, isn’t there? It’s so evocative: never hurried, so much implied or left for the reader to wonder or guess at. Cars drive long distances along highways or dirt tracks between run-down towns; two characters share an exchange in which little is said but which means so much. And his stories are timeless – they could be set in the Wild West or in 21st-century Wyoming.

    And you’re always left looking forward to the next one…

    Cheers, Eric, and thanks.

  11. Russell Conover

    Well said, Gordon. I, too, can just see Eric’s scenes unfolding before me. The characters, the dialogue, the description … the scenes just paint themselves. Of course, the beauty of writing is that we can all imagine pieces of others in our own way–and interpretations can be vastly different (not to mention really interesting) as a result. I need to try my hand at some longer stories, too, as I’ve been meaning to do for way too long. I’ll see what I can do.

  12. Alison McHarg

    I’m loving the conversation here and the contributions from Eric – here’s an effort from me in the 250-word category:

    Sign Language

    “I know online dating seems so… tacky, but I’m so busy I never seem to get the chance to meet anyone in the ‘normal’ way,” says Trace, as she sketches quotation marks around normal.

    I look at her askance – she is a stunning girl – long glossy hair, which shifts and gleams in the light, manicured nails, slim but with enough curves. What are the single (and I’ll warrant, attached…) guys not seeing? Has the Sony Playstation totally blunted their senses?

    I feel for the less fair female population if Trace is having to resort to listing herself on a bulletin board.

    “And you have to work at it – you need to check your messages and begin a conversation with anyone who seems a possibility. I started seeing one guy and it was going well. Then he was busy at work. It hasn’t really gone anywhere since.”

    “Does it not feel totally weird turning up in a bar and hoping that the photo and brief online chat you’ve had matches up to whomever you’re meeting?” I ask, curiously.

    “Totally, there was one time, he was at least 10 years older than his picture and there was no way he worked out. It’s not so much the lying I hate, as the thought that they think I’ll just be prepared to let it pass.”

    I sense things are looking up for Trace, though – a really hot guy is glancing in our direction. He doesn’t need an online link to show he’s interested.

  13. One-Sentence Smoker by Eric Smith

    One of those guys who could “think into a typewriter,” he let the first cigarette of the day dangle from his lips unlit—a butt with a recessed filter, the full-flavored king variety, the other nineteen nestled snugly in the box that sat on the desk to the left of the manual while the wooden kitchen match waited on the right for him to stop when the moment arrived so he could light it with his thumbnail, touch the flame to the end of the coffin nail and return to work—as he pounded the keys, the desk shaking under his heavy touch, he looked down occasionally as the paper, the twenty-fifth page, filled with prose, yes, the best he’d ever composed, without a doubt, his confidence grew, as the plot rushed toward the climax, the characters expanded and continued to surprise, the sense of place blossomed in his head as he felt himself walking the same streets, sitting on a chair in the same house, the crisp staccato dialogue filling his head, he lost all sense of the time that had passed but felt an urge, a need, for something (what was it?) and then he knew; so, he stopped typing, stopped thinking, reached for the match and lit it deftly with his nail and drew the flame into the brown weed and paper, concomitantly pulled his first drag deep into his lungs, and lost all memory of what he’d been writing—it was lost.

  14. Jane Reid

    Wow, Eric. What an exercise. And until about halfway through, when it became clear that he was writing fiction, your story took me straight back to old-style newsrooms. I stand in awe of your ability to present a scene full screen and clearly visualized.

  15. Eric Smith

    Jane,
    I blew the last word. It should have been “gone.” In the late seventies I worked in a large room full of editors and writers. When not working we’d argue about compound-word hyphenation and things like that. An “older” lady in the group once asked me whether I was the kind of person “who could think into a typewriter.” I never forgot it.

  16. Jane Reid

    Eric, newsrooms are full of people who can think into typewriters (now computers). They must in order to meet deadlines. In fact, I can hardly write longhand, much less think in longhand, any more.
    But I had never heard the phrase “think into a typewriter,” and I quite like it.

  17. Emma Baird

    I loved One Sentence Typewriter too – and the wonderful phrase “think into a typewriter”. I thought you might like this quote that I read yesterday in an interview with the late Terry Pratchett:

    “It’s what I call the Black Mill. When my father was dying and my mother was weeping and I was comforting her – there was a part of my brain that was going ‘so this is what it’s like…’ It’s all grist to the Black Mill. It’ll be used sometime.”

  18. Lost Soul by Eric J. Smith

    Ray’s company often sent him to the Arizona office to edit manuscripts. On one of these trips Julie, a word processor operator, became interested in him—and not as a friend or colleague. Such things bemused Ray—he wasn’t rich or handsome, wore a wedding ring and didn’t stray—some men do, some don’t, and women on the prowl could tell the difference—or so Ray had been told.

    After he returned to headquarters the calls began. Julie rang him up a couple times a week—just to talk. The conversations were desultory—long pauses and awkward changes in subject. She complained she was tired of living alone; she wanted a man in her life. She’d had plenty of boyfriends but something always went awry. Some men told her she was needy, but mostly they said nothing. Instead, they’d stop calling or fail to return her calls, see her less often, and eventually drift out of her life. When she could pin them down—noting they hadn’t spoken to her for awhile—they’d justify their behavior by saying something like “I didn’t think our relationship was going anywhere.”

    She asked Ray what men meant by that. He told her it probably depended on the man—and maybe the woman—in question. That upset her although he hadn’t intended to hurt her feelings. Julie left the company abruptly and Ray stopped hearing from her. He was sorry he’d never apologized for offending her, but he was relieved she’d exited his life.

  19. The Blue Shade, by Bobby Warner

    “You’re the ghost writer?” the lady asked.

    “Yes, Ma’am. I here about your ad.”

    “I checked you, and your credentials are good. Come in.”

    She led me into the living room. I stopped and stared at the window in front of me with the bright blue shade, drawn all the way down.

    “That’s the portal to another world, a parallel dimension. I want you to help me write about it in a way that will make sense to people.”

    Something drew me forward. I crossed the room, with her yelling, “No, no, don’t touch it!”, pulled on the tassel, and the shade shot up, flappity-flap-flap, revealing a blinding light–and something beyond. Away out there beyond.

    * * * * *

    I awoke, ten days later (I was told), and blind as a bat. Just as I have been ever since. She was there, whispering in my ear. “I’m so sorry. You shouldn’t have looked. You never look directly at it.”

    She took my hand, held it for a long time. “Your medical bills will be paid, and you will receive a monthly allowance for life. It’s the least I can do. I must go now, see if I can find someone to help me explain it to the world. Again, I am so very sorry.”

    That was ten years ago, and I’ve never heard from her again. The house with the blue shade is deserted; totally empty. I’ve checked. And apparently she never found anyone to explain what’s on the other side of the portal.

    I don’t think anyone could explain it.

  20. The Stranger by Bobby Warner (344 words)

    Business carried me into The City. I had a small shop in a strip mall in a nice, quiet suburb, but often I had to go in and restock, as was now the case.

    I took my usual room in the Broddingtoom Hotel, at the edge of The City proper, and settled in. But there was nothing on TV. I had an internet hookup, but nothing there interested me. I became restless and decided to go for a walk.

    The City hummed with frantic life, even at night. I strolled along, enjoying the crowds, even the exhaust fumes which seemed to pervade everything. Suddenly, however, a stranger hurried up to me, pushed me back into the mouth of a dark alley, pulled a revolver from his coat pocket and waved it in my face. His eyes were wild-looking, and he growled at me: “So. So! It’s you, eh? I’ve finally found you!”

    “You must be mistaken,” I said. “I don’t know you, sir. I’ve never seen you before.”

    “Hah! That’s a laugh,” he said, waving the revolver about even more erratically. “I suppose you would say that. Well, I know you. Yes, I know you very well!”

    And with that, he turned the gun upon himself and fired. He staggered away, fell half-slouched against a brick wall, his coat front and shirt blossoming in a dark splotch; his life’s blood flowing out.

    Very quickly the police arrived, began investigating the crime scene, questioned me. Satisfied that I was an innocent victim, one of them showed me a piece of paper he had taken from the dead man’s hand. Written in the man’s blood was this message: “I KNOW YOU AND THE NEXT TIME I WILL GET YOU!”

    “Do you have any idea what he meant by this?” the detective asked me.

    “None at all,” I replied. “As I told you before, he seemed to think he knew me, but I had never seen this man until tonight.”

    Upon returning home, I sold my shop and retired. I have never been back to The City.

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