A word that has been throbbing on the collective consciousness lately. 500 words or less. Due Thursday, 5/14 by 8 pm EST. I am in the process of putting together a new podcast episode so one of the writers from the first three issues will be chosen randomly to be interviewed. I will also include a story from each issue to be read on the podcast. Perhaps a little incentive to get those words flowing. All 500 (or less) of them.
Submit here or send to email@example.com.
I am an avid reader of obituaries. This may seem to be morbid reading material, I realize, but the truth is that obituaries are about life, not death. Yes, it can be sad, especially when it was untimely. The most heartwarming ones are when the dearly departed are in their late 90s and died in their own sunlit beds, surrounded by thirty-nine great-grandchildren. More highbrow newspapers have obituary writers but the average local weekly relies on those left behind to come up with a brief summary of a complex life. Some obituaries just list the person’s role in society: father, soldier, post master general. Others might include their hobbies: fly fishing, salsa dancing, stamp collecting. When the person has had a long illness, they usually have a long obituary as the people around them have had a while to work on the piece, usually with multiple drafts. When the death was unexpected, then the obituary is usually written with the bare minimal of details as the survivors grapple with their shock and grief. All obituaries include a list of survivors, those who will carry the memory of the departed. For it is for those people that obituaries are written in the first place, those who must remember.
I love reading obituaries written by the survivors because they are more intimate, more engaging, more humorous, even, than if a stranger did the deed. Often these sorts of obituaries are riddled with terrible grammar and word choices but that is part of the charm. These are not professional writers but people who were experts on the deceased. They write with sincerity not with concern about correctness. Obituaries are all about function and very little to do with form.
As a writer, you are being given an insight into human life, details into worlds unknown, right there in your local paper. I suggest that everyone who is feeling fearful of death these days go and find an obituary page. Read the stories of those who have gone before us. Remember that death is not an extraordinary event. It is the final page of all of our stories. What is extraordinary is what happens in the preceding pages.
This week we have two stories, one from the formidable Kelli J Gavin, a frequent contributor to Mercurial Stories. The other one is from yours truly.
(1) Kisses, Ralph by Kelli J Gavin (2) Inheritance by Tiffany Key
This week, read through your local paper (I actually read my hometown’s small weekly) and find your protagonist. Find a detail from their life that resonates and go from there. Include a link to the obituary at the bottom of your story (it will not be included in your word count).
Submit here or email me your PDF at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let’s put on a show this issue, writers: the greatest show on Earth. This issue, let’s put up the big tent and see what we can do. You have 2000 words and an extended deadline, enough time and space to dazzle and wow the audience/readers. Let’s see what you can do, writers.
Last summer, the heat was a killer. Every day, the news reported more causalities of the brutal heat wave, old people, young people, people who worked outside, played outside. A first grader died during a short excursion to the local park, prompting a nationwide campaign of keeping the children indoors, protecting them from the heat.
And now that summer dawns again, everyone is worried. Will the heat be as cruel this year, will it make us suffer, make us melt?
Heat, anthropomorphized into a killer so that we have not something to blame but someone.
In this issue’s collection of eight stories, heat influences and threatens, heat appears as an actual weapon and as a vehicle of remembrance.
The heat is on. It is heating up. The heat is killing me.
Heat is a very diverse word, one that carries multiple meanings. And with summer revving its engine in the Northern Hemisphere, it seems like a good time to include the word in our stories for this week.
Note that the deadline for this week is Friday rather than Thursday.
The first time I heard this saying was in preschool. I do not remember the specific context, most likely it had something to do with my fiery best friend with the sharp comebacks, but I remember my confusion. Yes, getting physically hurt was undesirable but surely words were stronger than fists.
A bruise will fade, a cut will scab over, a broken bone will mend, but verbal attacks become permanent landmarks in our memories. The sting of a paddle is far less than a carefully crafted verbal lashing. A victim of spousal abuse will stay with the abuser as long as there is an apology afterward, a declaration of affection and remorse. Loving words can override vile behaviour, over and over again and just as easily work in the opposite direction: vile words can override loving behaviour.
Maybe the true phrase should be “sticks and stones may break my bones but names (or words, as I learned it) will break my heart, crush my soul, and trigger World War III”.
This week, we have six stories that explore this old English rhyme.
My mother was born a brunette with raven black hair that glowed blue in the sunlight. Her complexion rivalled Snow White, making her an exception in a blue-eyed, flaxen-haired family. She had me later in life, back in the days when thirty-six is older than it is today. Her style had changed by the time I came along, becoming more comfortable and casual than when she had raised my older siblings. I was born at the very end of the seventies but a decade earlier, my mother had been very fashion conscious and made the most of her dramatic features. She never wore pastels or flower prints or anything soft and flowing. My mother kept her color palate minimal but bold, choosing to wrap herself in black, white, and red. Very few people can pull off red on a regular basis but it was my mother’s signature color at one point and deservedly so. Her nails would be bright cherry red as would her lips, matching everything in her wardrobe.
As an adult, I have tried to do the same but red makes my face look flushed and here in Japan, people only have red cheeks when they are inebriated. So I avoid the color for myself though I appreciate it on others. Red is not an easy color to pull off, but those who can do so with aplomb.
Which leads me to the stories for Issue Four. Eight stories showcasing red as a political statement, as a symbol of hatred, of passion, a memory, a dream. All the stories this week are rich with the color, the authors imbuing their prose with a boldness only red can provoke, and doing so with much aplomb.