I run several writing groups at the library where I work. Most of the kids have participated in clubs for years. I’ve watched them grow up. Been left behind as the moved on and went to college. I feel like I’m the one who never graduates, never moves on. Over the years, we’ve all – the students and I – written many epic novels. Some that never were finished. Many that never were finally shaped into a finished form.
This summer, we started writing flash pieces. Something that we might actually complete and finish. We started with stories under 500 words. Then we moved shorter and shorter. Six sentences. 100 words. 50 words. 25 words. Dribbles. Drabbles. Six word stories.
The teens were great at it. They could in 25 words, in even six words create a plot, a character, a twist. The stories were dark. It could be us. It could the prompts. It could be that in a few words, it’s easier to have a dark twist than a comedic, or romantic, or tragic one. I sat in awe of those kids wishing I had their creativity. But I too loved actually being able to produce something in just a few sentences or words. A complete thought, theme, story.
Here’s a story written from the prompt “Smoke hung so thick in the Library’s rafters that she could read words in it.” As you tell, it had been one of those weeks at the library.
The Impolite Library
Smoke hung so thick in the Library’s rafters that she could read words in it.
LIAR, LIAR, PANTS ON FIRE, it read.
Jen sighed. The Library was really developing a mind of its own, which was the whole problem with being a librarian at a sentient Library. “Smokes not good for books, you know,” she called out to no one in particular.
HOW ABOUT FLAMES THEN? The smoke reformed.
“Also not good for books.”
HOW ABOUT PEOPLE?, the Library said in its rather cryptic smoke signals.
Jen sat down at the circulation desk. The smoke was thinning a little. Now that the library had her attention, it didn’t need to billow quite as thickly. “Whose pants are you wanting to singe?”
A warm gust of wind blew the newspaper across the reading room. Jen hated it when the library sighed. She coughed, trying to clear smoke from her lungs.
THAT LIAR. YOU KNOW WHO.
Jen thought about being difficult and saying, “No, who?” But she did know who the library was talking about, because his lies made so much steam come out of her ears, that she was probably the reason the Library was talking to her in smoke signals. Instead she said, “Yes, I do, but we cannot set him on fire.”
WHY NOT, the Library asked. THEY BURNT WITCHES DIDN’T THEY?
The problem with a Library that had read every book within its walls was that it knew way too much history. Sometimes you just had to forget some of the things humans had managed to do to each other over the course of millennia.
“We cannot burn him at the stake,” Jen answered.
YOU COULD AT LEAST CALL HIM OUT AS A LIAR.
“It’s impolite to call someone a liar to his face,” Jen explained patiently.
BUT IT’S NOT IMPOLITE TO LIE?, the library asked.
Jen sighed. The Library was right. The Library was always right, but that didn’t make it any easier to be the librarian.