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Preview: Very Short Novels

Very Short Novels

—299 words. Anything more is waste.—

Last Build Date: Sun, 21 Jan 2018 20:45:02 +0000


Everyday Claritydavidbdale

Sun, 21 Jan 2018 19:42:15 +0000

Every day the world offers up the same secret: it’s not what we think it is; we’re not who we think we are. We’ve been distracted, acquiring and angling the furniture with its one good side to the audience, assembling a supporting cast, practicing lines, cueing the flattering lights. Heartened by rave reviews written by […]

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Homeward Angeldavidbdale

Thu, 21 Jul 2016 05:14:24 +0000

This precious house—my house!—this room, these walls, this bed, are all familiar, but I’m not. I’m the stranger who makes everyone uncomfortable. Three months in the hospital and a precisely but savagely excised brain have tweaked my personality the way a potion tweaked Jeckyll into Hyde. I’m clothed in the same skin as my healthy […]

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Getting Out of Linedavidbdale

Sat, 14 Feb 2015 04:15:46 +0000

Cars as far as anyone could see ahead and as far behind. This was to be expected, a tax for driving. Three or four snuck through on green when the signals changed but only to the next stalled stack, never to open road. Although we had all driven here deliberately, nobody wanted to be in […]

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The Listdavidbdale

Thu, 17 Jul 2014 03:19:59 +0000

I have a list. I think it’s complete. 1. To love. 2. To be loved. 3. There is no 3. To be honest, there is no 2: to be loved is inconsequential. Even 1 is secondary to staying alive, but when we can achieve it, 1 is the list. Picture this trivial scene: we have […]

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Christmas RoulettedavidbdaleCreative Commons License

Mon, 31 Dec 2012 04:03:29 +0000

Michael’s face was red. “OK, then, gun to your head,” he demanded, “what’s the best Christmas movie?” Though his tone suggested he might actually have put something to my head, he hadn’t. Well, first, I told him, with a gun to my head I wouldn’t be able to concentrate on movies; second, the category’s too […]

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The CostdavidbdaleCreative Commons License

Sun, 04 Mar 2012 19:17:31 +0000

The Deputy Assistant has died for an analogy. Some will recall four years ago his boss, the Minister of Health and Family Welfare, boldly revived the discredited effort to eradicate polio from the provinces west and south of the capital—bold because several children had been paralyzed by the vaccine given to protect them. Those precious […]

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Small NewsdavidbdaleCreative Commons License

Thu, 23 Dec 2010 14:52:41 +0000

I bought the newspaper out of pity before I boarded the local. It felt thin, and looked like nothing new. I swiped my card near the fare box and at the same time watched myself do so on a monitor showing me from behind, shot by the camera above the door. Other cameras grabbed me […]

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The MascotdavidbdaleCreative Commons License

Sun, 03 Oct 2010 01:48:26 +0000

I owe the Xuuxu my life but no gratitude. Once they flushed us from our valley and stood us naked, side by side in the long grass under the sickle moon, lowlands clansmen that the colonists favored—by which I mean tolerated and bestowed with courtesies that felt like slaps on the jaw—they had to kill […]

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Tunnel of LovedavidbdaleCreative Commons License

Wed, 25 Aug 2010 12:14:41 +0000

The water flows both ways through the tunnel of love, depending on which rusty lever I force! Like life, this tacky carnival ride with its soggy boats bobbing in a curving trough is not a circle but a figure-eight, or an eighty-eight, that doubles back and gives us second chances to be noble or to […]

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Our Littler TowndavidbdaleCreative Commons License

Mon, 16 Aug 2010 01:08:11 +0000

Although I could be fired for asking out loud, your city council have all been wondering if other towns are shrinking too, and if so, what’s being done to stop the trend or reverse it. They ask as if we’d already proclaimed our town is getting smaller, which we haven’t, but should. The change is […]

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Shadow BrotherdavidbdaleCreative Commons License

Thu, 05 Aug 2010 15:47:01 +0000

He’s not always easy to see. I can be talking to him in my room on a rainy afternoon with the radio playing and sharing a blueberry pie, and my dad will open the bedroom door and Deuce’ll be gone and it looks like I’m eating a pie by myself and talking to the radio. […]

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First Will and TestamentdavidbdaleCreative Commons License

Fri, 16 Jul 2010 00:08:56 +0000

Some of my stuff I want to keep after I’m dead, but Ariel can pick out three things from my toy-box, not three of the same things, like not three ponies, or not even two insects, but a pony and an insect and a piece of furniture would be good, and she can ride my […]

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Tan LinesdavidbdaleCreative Commons License

Sat, 10 Jul 2010 02:11:39 +0000

We boys had a club in the attic of Mitchell’s garage, the whole time I knew him and until he disappeared. We had handshakes and irrelevant passwords to guard against infiltration attempts that sadly never occurred. We thought we knew what a club for men should have, so we hired my sister to dance for […]

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Night DoctorsdavidbdaleCreative Commons License

Mon, 05 Jul 2010 11:38:00 +0000

Before it grew too big to lift, the hospital could have moved to a better neighborhood or invested in its neighbors. Instead it pushed out handymen and cleaning ladies and street hawkers like my uncles and nudged their tilting houses down, clearing room to stretch out one expansive wing after another, each named for a […]

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Neighbors ForeverdavidbdaleCreative Commons License

Sun, 02 May 2010 19:24:06 +0000

Our shabby little houses look like conjoined twins inexpertly separated. Her family’s house got the worst of the porch, ours got the sagging gutters. What used to be rivers of green grass flowing between the houses and the street, and between the houses and the houses behind, our families divided with chain link fences and […]

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Machete SmiledavidbdaleCreative Commons License

Sun, 28 Mar 2010 22:29:38 +0000

I picked it up on a minor island, the one with the grimy harborfront, I think, and the spine of useless mountains like a broken back along its northern coast as if it had been stepped on. The guidebook called the inhabitants a joyous and friendly people, and perhaps they are to one another. Their […]

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Money BoxdavidbdaleCreative Commons License

Fri, 12 Mar 2010 02:34:32 +0000

My dear wife, the gentlemen who detain me do not understand why you neglect to send what they ask for my release. Try to appreciate that when they saw us get out of your patron’s car at the embassy, they took us to be valuable. I think they will not bargain as long as I […]

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Very Early RetirementdavidbdaleCreative Commons License

Fri, 05 Mar 2010 22:57:50 +0000

You’re right. Management is at fault, not your hard work. The board of directors should lose their jobs; hell, they should probably spend time in jail, but we both know that won’t happen. Instead, you’re going to take the fall for their bad choices. Hold that thought. I’m still talking. You say you know some […]

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The Rest of the StorydavidbdaleCreative Commons License

Sun, 28 Feb 2010 02:55:32 +0000

Grammar and my own impatience landed me in jail. If I had only turned the page, I would have seen my healthy ex-fiancee smiling for the camera on the day of her promotion, very much alive in the finance section. Instead, I took a single appearance of the past perfect progressive tense in the article […]

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The Wanting SeadavidbdaleCreative Commons License

Sat, 13 Feb 2010 12:22:21 +0000

So, this is the ocean, I thought. The poets call it everything but what it is, poison from here to the horizon. My girlfriends in their candy colored bikinis ran ahead to the pier. They knew better than to be around me. How does it take rain and make it bitter, and why are we […]

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Box of What You NeeddavidbdaleCreative Commons License

Sat, 23 Jan 2010 04:49:57 +0000

Dad has gone and left me with this box of I don’t know what. It has stood like a book on the cookbook shelf with undiscarded yellow pages and other worthless paper, but I never called anyone whose number I didn’t know, or cooked anything I couldn’t figure out, or needed to save my life. […]

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Bob’s DoubledavidbdaleCreative Commons License

Thu, 14 Jan 2010 15:01:31 +0000

We hired a double for Bob so that the Bob the world required could be places Bob could not be. We oversucceeded. Immediately, Bob was a fraud. He was not intrinsically as entertaining as his double, and while he was older by a day, and then a year, and eventually the father of himself, the […]

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Proof’s HammerdavidbdaleCreative Commons License

Sat, 09 Jan 2010 15:22:43 +0000

Black and White each had doubts that the other existed, but for White the question had consequences. “At a minimum,” insisted Black from his seat on the tenure board, “Professor White should offer proof, before being declared permanent, that he temporarily is.” White replied, without indicating externally what his internal condition might be, that the […]

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Unscheduled StopsdavidbdaleCreative Commons License

Mon, 28 Dec 2009 16:09:08 +0000

The 5:42 to Belgenhagen left the station without our engineer. He chased it desultorily to the end of the platform waving his pastry in vain at the empty locomotive car as we pulled out from the shed into the icy dawn with certain questions. Among them, since the train had departed early, should we still […]

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A Christmas Sort of StorydavidbdaleCreative Commons License

Fri, 25 Dec 2009 16:16:31 +0000

You are not an accident, little one. You were in my care even before you were born. You have a place inside me still and always will. I have big plans for you, little one, plans as grand as galaxies and as unfathomable, but they mean nothing. Please, I beg you, scatter them and build […]

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Middle of the RoaddavidbdaleCreative Commons License

Wed, 23 Dec 2009 02:36:28 +0000

Halfway down the block from where we had just seen Uncle Mickey, Dad stopped the car and sat with his foot on the brake. He’d been crying, I think, my unfortunate uncle, or his eyes were bloodshot for no reason, and probably he’d been pacing the block looking for courage. At the driveway, he told […]

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Going in HopedavidbdaleCreative Commons License

Sat, 12 Dec 2009 22:37:17 +0000

Where we live, the troopers are always on call, even if their kids are in the patrol car with them on their way to the shoe store. I’m twenty minutes out, is all Mom said to the dispatcher, but I could tell from the road we took she wouldn’t be dropping me off. There was […]

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An Hour with the OgredavidbdaleCreative Commons License

Sun, 06 Dec 2009 03:31:04 +0000

We sit at a table in The Glade—a room named for the sappy paintings of pastoral scenes on its walls. Their grasses and trees are carefully balanced and in them nothing lurks or lives. Their author may never have been outdoors. My son stomps through these flat meadows sniffing for something to tree, to bother, […]

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Leaving Miller’s FarmdavidbdaleCreative Commons License

Sat, 28 Nov 2009 16:39:10 +0000

The children want to learn from me, but not until they know I’m someone with a knowledge. You’ll see at the assembly the moment they turn receptive, at which point you’ll know you’re getting your money’s worth. I have myself lowered from the flyspace on a pair of gymnastic rings, my arms outstretched in the […]

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The Gallagher-von-DurfeldomsdavidbdaleCreative Commons License

Fri, 06 Nov 2009 17:02:52 +0000

We are the family of everyone who means us no harm, whatever the results of what they do. We love Pizza Friday, snow days, and getting into pajamas in the afternoon when we’ve spent the day at the beach. In fact, Gallagher-von-Durfeldom heaven is a Friday snow day near the ocean sharing a pie in […]

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An OfferingdavidbdaleCreative Commons License

Tue, 13 Oct 2009 02:16:50 +0000

—Nevertheless you did kill him? —I was present at his death. —Present with a knife. —Mine was not the only hand on that knife. —You left the young men below? —As we often had before. —And took your son up the mountain alone? —As was our custom. —Did you meet anyone? —Nobody you would see. […]

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Under the BeddavidbdaleCreative Commons License

Fri, 02 Oct 2009 15:31:48 +0000

I had no magic as a child. I would have used it if I had, to stop the Boots from kicking me where I hid. Flat against the bedroom floor with the floor of the sky just inches above my nose, I knew no safer, more anonymous place to be, but even so certain shoes […]

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Salt ToastdavidbdaleCreative Commons License

Sat, 26 Sep 2009 14:41:52 +0000

In photos of my daughter’s wedding, I look thinner than I was and not at all as if I wanted to strangle the groom. There stands Sheila, radiant as always against a bank of pallbearer suits. Looking back over her shoulder, she lures the eye with one of those cheekbones and the reckless promise of […]

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Separate TrainsdavidbdaleCreative Commons License

Mon, 07 Sep 2009 02:00:58 +0000

They looked married. In what they took for granted, the other riders saw they had been together forever. He read the map of the system posted by the door, tilting his head to follow the lines, and kept his balance with a hand on the pole. She clung to the same pole and looked at […]

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ClaritydavidbdaleCreative Commons License

Thu, 27 Aug 2009 06:19:48 +0000

The Computative Assistant to the Acting Vice-Director of Apportionment Compliance for the local subdistrict stopped counting. For an hour he did nothing but stare at his screen and its pattern of numbers that veiled the white certainty beyond. Keys clicked throughout the office except at his desk. Over several fiscal quarters, he had not thought […]

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Borrowed LuggagedavidbdaleCreative Commons License

Tue, 18 Aug 2009 04:41:57 +0000

A simple man named Abraham Kosofsky watched his tiny town of Berezovka grow tinier every day. Fannie, he asked his wife, What will become of us when all our neighbors are carried away by this coughing fit and buried? But Fannie was too sick to answer. She lay in their bed in the grip of […]

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Trade RumorsdavidbdaleCreative Commons License

Sun, 02 Aug 2009 03:39:31 +0000

—Dad, are you trying to trade me? —What would make you say that? —Mister Moyer said you offered me for his daughter. —Not just his daughter, son. That was a package deal. —Why would you want to do that? —Do you mean why or do you mean why now? — —I don’t think you’ll ever […]

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The AntidotedavidbdaleCreative Commons License

Thu, 23 Jul 2009 02:29:07 +0000

Although aspects of the procedure must be painful beyond enduring, I’m not among the noisy many who call it cruelty to harvest an essential medicinal from its only source, but I admit I don’t envy the donor. Her lips are blue from blood loss and the trauma of repeated donations, and chapped from breathing through […]

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The Yellow PagesdavidbdaleCreative Commons License

Fri, 19 Jun 2009 20:10:39 +0000

Had they been a less practical couple, my parents might have had children by accident. Instead, one night, before I was born, at the wobbly table in the breakfast nook, Dad drew a line down a page of yellow paper to separate the pros from the cons of Kids, then a second page for No […]

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Terrorist’s WifedavidbdaleCreative Commons License

Sat, 13 Jun 2009 11:29:39 +0000

Something so good and pure at the core of a man like my husband hardens to a bullet in the forge of an inhuman world. He might laugh at me for saying so. He doesn’t need me to sing his praise. Those who don’t know him will never admit his humility. They don’t know how […]

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ForgivenessdavidbdaleCreative Commons License

Fri, 12 Jun 2009 00:49:06 +0000

She was never my girl until you took her and now that I will never get her back, I have reclaimed her. She’s certainly no part of you. For coaxing her off the bus in her plaid skirt and knee socks and taking her shopping for makeup, I forgive you because I was not able […]

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Life Plus a Daydavidbdale

Sun, 29 Mar 2009 13:38:44 +0000

I stole a brick from my neighbor’s house. With ease he had me convicted of stealing the whole thing, all three stories and the land it gouged, and rightly. We understand there is no difference. The one brick’s independence caught my eye. Almost unmortared it was and loose it seemed, nearly dislodged. In fact I […]

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Too Like TruthdavidbdaleCreative Commons License

Tue, 17 Mar 2009 01:42:04 +0000

The kid who glared across my desk at me had stolen our petty cash. We’d trusted him with a job and with proximity and access or acted as if we had. Suddenly, we needed to fire him or have him arrested, or somehow get him to pay us back, or all of the above. It […]

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Inaugural Addressdavidbdale

Sun, 08 Feb 2009 14:51:07 +0000

Our country is a mess, my friends, and no president can do much about it. The economy is what you believe. You wanted change? Start believing. At most, and only if good citizens like you comply, a president sets a tone for the national conduct. If his example doesn’t persuade, he has no power to […]

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Boy on the RoofdavidbdaleCreative Commons License

Sun, 18 Jan 2009 01:51:23 +0000

On the roof of our apartment building my son waited for his father to arrive so he could jump. Meanwhile I, the attending parent, persuaded the police chief not to upset, by storming the roof, what balance our child still clung to at the edge of a forty foot drop. Everyone wanted a show. Gawkers […]

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Love is Likedavidbdale

Sat, 10 Jan 2009 20:48:44 +0000

The light I saw flickering in my wife’s eyes as we sat at the little table we use for dinners that don’t involve watching reruns and the radiant golds that shimmered behind her, framing the face I love best after my own, may have sprung from my devotion or may have been reflected flames from […]

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Perfect Seasondavidbdale

Fri, 09 Jan 2009 00:05:44 +0000

Some teams just don’t have it; they suffer their greatest loss before the season begins. Others never win a game but end the season undefeated. My daughter plays for such a team. Perhaps you’ve heard of them, The Lower Sloughton Savings and Loan Mini-Mites, proud defenders of the league’s Most Consistent Performance title. They play […]

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Reasonable Suspiciondavidbdale

Sat, 03 Jan 2009 22:32:07 +0000

Doorbell. Door opens. —There’s been a report of abuse at this address. —Somebody’s already reported that you’re about to get hurt? —There’s no need to threaten me. —Good. Door closes. Doorbell. Door opens. —I know why you’re upset. —No you don’t. —All right, maybe not, but I’m obligated to investigate. —By what authority? —Child Protective […]

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Déjà Vécudavidbdale

Thu, 01 Jan 2009 16:16:23 +0000

Every shelf is stacked with books I’ve read and reread, or so it seems. This depleted room, these spine-cracked volumes rubbed of their wishes, cannot detain me long. If only the wider world offered something new instead of cheap diversions and bloodless familiars. I need a future. I would settle for a present. In the […]

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Blood Feuddavidbdale

Sat, 27 Dec 2008 05:13:46 +0000

I will never be friends with Besmir Hoxha, but he didn’t let the baby die, so I cannot expect my children to hate his children. Besmir Hoxha’s brother Jetmir beat me with a stave he took off a truck along Rovena Road and kicked me while I was down. His brothers and Kastriot Moisiu meant […]

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