Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Flash Fiction: Homage to '253'

Homage to '253'
Nathan Ryder

Martin Reed
Outward appearance
Black suit, open collar, striped sweater wobbling on the line dividing trendy and nerdy. His hair, too short to do anything with, too long to look tidy. He pushes his glasses up (slightly too big), staring intently at a document. His other arm is slung protectively around a backpack resting on his knees.

Inside information
Martin isn't reading the paper on tutoring strategies. He looks through it. All he can think about is the growing feeling that something is now not right in his eight month relationship. Trying – and failing – to identify what is wrong now he has come to a conclusion: he must break up with Emily before they both end up hurt.

What they are thinking or doing
It's not you it's me. No, he tells himself, you can't say that after eight months.

I just feel like our lives are going in different directions; I don't want to hurt you. Well, the last part is true...

The announcer's voice mumbles the next station. Martin wakes from his thoughts and shakes his head. Putting the paper away he thinks about work.

That lasts a second, then he begins to think about Emily. What happened? What am I not getting?

Stepping off the train he clumsily drops his wallet. Picking it up he goes to take his ticket out and instead pulls out the picture of Emily that he keeps there.

Smiling eyes, her shy grin.

In a second he realises: the next step.

Walking away he rehearses in his mind, I love you. Will you marry me?

Creative Commons License
This short story is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works License. Feel free to repost and share it with others, so long as you credit me (Nathan Ryder, 2009) as the original author and link back to this page. It would also be nice if you dropped me a comment!


zero_zero_one said...

253 is a novel by Geoff Ryman from the 90s; it concerns the passengers on a full London Underground train. Each person is presented in the manner above, and aside from the framing words (outward appearance, inside info, etc) each person had their story at that moment told in 253 words. A piece of flash fiction has to be quite a short story, and I was thinking the other day about challenges and constrained writing and so on, and eventually that lead to this.

Check out 253 if you ever get the chance, it's a really good read, and what starts out with you thinking you are reading a collection of very short stories becomes something altogether stranger.

Latharia said...

Oh, very cool! Love the evocative imagery!

Karen F. said...

I like it. :)

Constrained writing is a good discipline. Difficult and challenging!

zero_zero_one said...

@Latharia: Thanks for the comments! I just had a random little idea, and decided to go with it. Quite happy with how things came out in the end, and made a difference from the usual sci-fi flavoured things that I would try.

@Karen: I agree on the whole constrained writing front; I'm thinking of trying constrained comics next... :)

Note to anyone else reading this: it occurred to me as I was thinking about the story the other day that the name I gave the character was a little familiar, and I couldn't place it. Eventually it dawned on me that one of the main characters in the webcomic Questionable Content is Marten Reed. He doesn't look like the character in this story though, at least not how I picture him in my head.

mattiecore said...

Hahaha, yeah, when I read this I immediately thought of Marten from QC....

Also, I, too, share an affinity for constrained writing. Poetry has a million easy examples, but one of my favorite poems is The Span of Life by Frost:

"The old dog barks backwards without getting up.
I can remember when he was a pup."

zero_zero_one said...

@Matt: I'm gonna do a few more constrained writing things soon... Am thinking of trying that old classic of writing something without the letter "e"!

Matt_Evans said...

Do you happen to know how the number 253 was chosen?

zero_zero_one said...

According to the novel, there are 253 seats on a standard London Underground train.

Matt_Evans said...

Well, that certainly makes sense