Can You Tell A Story In A Sentence?

Storytelling is hard, or easy, depending on who you ask. Traditionally stories were told by mouth, around a fire, by the moonlight or on the way back from the farm. The average folk tale would be the length of today’s short story, approximately 1500 words or less. With the advent of printers and the pay per word culture, story telling exploded into long epic tales with many chapters and even volumes. The average novel is about 70-80,000 words long. For some stories, a single book is not enough, volumes and sequels are needed– Harry Potter, Song of Fire and Ice (Or Game of Thrones Series).

But while stories have grown longer, they have grown shorter too. The Internet and the use of phones as e-readers have provided an opportunity for people to read things ‘on the go’, in the time it takes to finish a drink, wait for a train or ride to a bus stop, one can read and enjoy a complete tale.

These ‘shorter short’ stories have gone by many names, but the most common one seems to be flash fiction. Flash fiction is said to be any story 1000 words or less. Within this class there are many other shorter/smaller stories still:  there is short flash usually between 300-500 words, micro-fiction below 300, drabbles at 100 words, 50 word stories, and any number of words below.

( I have seen calls for 17 word memoirs, 10 word stories, six word stories and even four word stories)

Some other people classify their flash fiction by characters, so there are 280 character stories, 160 and even 140 characters. These were designed to take advantage of the character limits on SMS and Twitter, while giving a satisfying flash fiction experience. The emphasis being brevity and completeness.

The one sentence story is a twist on the theme. Can a story be told not only with a few words but with a single sentence?

A literary magazine, The Monkey Bicycle, is exploring this space. The magazine is currently taking submissions for their ‘One Sentence’ category which they hope to post every week.

A few stories are already up and the possibilities hinted at are endless. While some stories there are less than 17 words, others extend beyond 50 words. The test is in being able to keep the story going for as long as possible while delivering a pleasant reading experience.

Since I saw the challenge, I have been thinking about one sentence stories a lot. What can be done with the form? What sort of stories would flourish best in it? How can I use the form to create a pleasant experience?

I don’t have all the answers yet, but I will definitely explore the possibilities. For now, enjoy today’s offering

 

Village Rendevous

When Abel promised to show us a good time in the village we believed him, it would be a weekend filled with palmwine, bushmeat, and beautiful women, we thought; we weren’t ready for the gunshots that rang out that night and sent us running into the bush, or the severe malaria, diarrhea and rashes we had, in the days that followed.

 

Hope you liked my one sentence story. Now share yours in the comments or send to me via mail or send it to The Monkey Bicycle for a chance to be published.

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Mirage Mercy

He watched her wriggle into her gown, while questions flooded his mind. She smiled showing him her dainty gap tooth and even white teeth.

“I have to go,” she said. “It is getting late and I don’t want to miss my flight.”

“Of course.” Goddard said, as he rose to help her into her jacket. “When will I see you again?”

“Soon. You know how these things are. I never know when I’ll get a break from that crazy boss of mine. Let’s see maybe next month….”

Goddard knew she was lying. He wouldn’t see her for the next three months.

She would disappear.

Her phone would be switched off, his Whatsapp messages would pile up unanswered, texts would return undelivered, mini-calls would hover forever.

She would be nowhere in sight, as if she found the edge of the world and walked off it.

Just like she had last time. And the time before that.

When they met eleven months ago, he hadn’t really minded. He was travelling to Abuja from Okirika for an interview. His brother sent him money for a flight but the recent plane crashes were still too fresh in his mind. He decided to go by bus instead. Besides it was easier than travelling 100 kilometres to Port Harcourt International located at the fringes of the city. Road travel in Nigeria wasn’t hazard free but he preferred taking his chances with solid land beneath him.

He overslept on the day of the trip. His phone battery ran out and he lived alone. He barely got into the bus before it left the park.

“It looks like someone had a busy night.”

He turned to meet slate grey eyes looking into his and a full friendly smile that made him smile back instantly.

“I wasn’t that lucky. My battery died. I am Goddard.”

“Mercy”

And that was how it all began. The ride to Abuja was the shortest ever.

They exchanged phone numbers.

They talked about politics, music, the scar on his arm, her contact lens, the vice-president’s invisibility. When the journey was over and she was leaving, a part of him was leaving with her.

He didn’t get the job, there were five slots and 419 applicants. Some with recommendation letters from the Presidency.

He went back to Okirika, to the little apartment he shared with Max, his pet cat, a dozen wall geckos and his four year old TV.

He tried calling the number she gave him the next day but it was switched off. It stayed switched off for a week. He was about to delete it one evening when she called him.

“Hi Sailor,” Mercy said “Are you in Okirika?”

Yes he was. Of course he was. He gave her directions and soon she was alighting from a motorbike in front of him.

That weekend was perfect, it was like living in a dream.

She cooked, gorgeous dishes that melted in his mouth and had him wanting more.

She took, driving him to heights he never knew existed, places he had never explored.

She was a light in his drab world and he was a moth floating to her.

On her third visit she brought him a recommendation letter for a Federal job in Yenogoa. It was signed by senator Inimo Wodi.

“Where did you get this?” He asked.

“Oh Goddy, you are so serious. He is a family friend of ours. I just mentioned your case and he got interested. Make sure you go along with it though, the interview is next month.” Mercy said kneading his shoulder muscles.

He got the job. When he called to tell her the good news. Her number was “unavailable at the moment”.

He googled her. But none of the ,nine Mercy Odilis on screen were her’s.

He tried to talk her into getting on one of the Social Media Networks, Facebook at least.

“Oh Goddy! That’s so public. Eww, I could never do that. ” She replied.

So he let it go.

It wasn’t everyday one found a woman that was intelligent, sexy, caring and undemanding.

Undemanding. That was what really worried him. At the beginning he was ashamed when she would come to see him and he couldn’t pay her fare or take her out to any of the new eateries in town. Mercy never complained instead she came with foodstuff and made him gourmet meals, complete with dessert. In bed she was adventurous and fun. He was getting hooked.

But soon it was Sunday morning again and she was leaving. As he kissed her goodbye, he felt a rock settling inside him.

Soon it was a pattern. Great weekends followed by weeks sometimes months of silence. When ever he asked she laughed it off, but he wanted to know. Needed to know.

And this time he had a plan.

He had discovered a distant relative of his that worked at the Abuja airport. ‘Worked’ was an euphemism for acting as a human mule, he loitered around carried heavy luggage for small tips. His name was Dumebi.

It hadn’t taken much for him to convince Dumebi to wait for Mercy at the Airport and follow her home.

Soon he would know where she lived, from there, hopefully, who she was.

She was expected to arrive Abuja by 4pm, so he expected Dumebi’s call by 6pm latest.

Dumebi called by 8 to say he missed her. The taxi he’d hired for the chase ran out of fuel mid-way. He was sorry. Could brother please give him another chance.

Goddard threw the phone across the room. The Nokia obliged by splitting neatly into three pieces.

Fuming, he went to the kitchen and dished himself some of the Jollof rice Mercy had made that morning and a cold can of Star. He stood in front of the TV and began to flip channels when he saw her.

Mercy was on TV.

Only she wasn’t Mercy Odili. She was Mrs Mercy Wodi, the stunningly beautiful wife of Senator Inimo Wodi.

They were commissioning a new orphanage in Port Harcourt and she was smiling her open gapped, even toothed smile while her obese hubby mouthed some platitudes about giving.

The rice, remote and beer fell out of his hands.

He couldn’t breathe. The ceiling was spinning. Then all that was left was the sound of him moaning,”no,no,no o o o o.”