Exercise in micro-fiction

Micro-fictions are short stories of 100 words or less. I have three to write as this week’s homework for my creative writing class, all referencing in some way or another a door. I’ve found this to be a difficult task and it reminds me of something in a letter written in 1657 by the French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal: “If I Had More Time, I Would Have Written a Shorter Letter”. In only 100 words you cannot develop a back story or detailed characterisations. You are obliged to leave the reader with a fair amount of work to do, to speculate and fill in the inevitable gaps. This is par excellence an exercise in “show, don’t tell” a common creative writing course mantra. So far I’ve written five and I have until Tuesday to write more, refine them and choose three for submission and reading. Here are the five so far. Of these Julia likes the first three best.

The Clothes Horse

He has done the right thing she told herself after he walked out and hurt had given way to acceptance, even relief. She had never been able to take the place of the mother he always regretted leaving. It was after she had died that he disappeared. A month later she spotted his favourite scarf and jacket on the balcony of old widow Moretti’s apartment. She had smiled at this discovery. The widow missed her dead son more than her dead husband and now, presumably, she had found another son to dote on and he another mother to cling to. [100]

The Consolations of Dog Walking

There he was, as always, waiting expectantly outside the door, his lead in his mouth, eyes full of excited expectation. It was his children’s dog in theory but in practice, when it came to walks, it was his. Dogs live on instinct and automatic responses – wag, bark, fight, flee, sniff, scratch – a repertoire not dependent on reflection, analysis, or calculation. His dog gives him uncomplicated unconditional love. He in turn understands it completely. No second guessing, hesitant uncertainty or fear of being judged and found wanting. No questions or inconsequential conversation. Just the two of them, companions free to wander. [100]

I Baked You a Cake

She’d left the door ajar. The aroma of her baking, mingled with the honeysuckle perfume drawn out by the warmth of the evening sun, would greet him as he entered tired and hungry from work. She had some good news to tell and was preparing a special cake with love and care as a celebration. Only the best ingredients; Normandy butter, fresh vanilla pods, free range eggs. This had been the first cake she had made for him many years ago. The final ingredient would make it the last – a freshly brewed infusion of Jimsonweed to seal a fond farewell. [100]

God’s Door

Leaning on his stick, he knocked on the blue door, as he had done for over 50 years, first with his wife and, later, their children. Doing God’s work. The children eventually turned their backs on them and their religion. Then God, cruelly, senselessly, took his wife and, at a stroke, abandoned him too. If doors are answered now, he no longer talks of God and salvation. He just wants to exchange a few words, to see perhaps a smile, to see in someone’s face an acknowledgement of his existence. Salvation now is other people. Please God, open the door.  [100]


The old iron key turned in the lock. The ancient door yielded to the sound of groaning hinges, and the familiar musty smell of the church embraced her. As always, she was the first. This was the time she loved best, to process towards the altar, to climb the steps to the lectern, to address her imaginary congregation while putting up the numbers of the day’s hymns. Small in stature and bent, she shrank even more in the presence of others. But here, behind this door, alone under God’s understanding gaze, she found sanctuary from the rejection of the world. [100]


    1. Haven’t you been watching The Sinner on BBC4 TV Mary?! It is an even more poisonous cousin of Deadly Nightshade. Please don’t try this at home!

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