Short Story: Signs

Today I have another short story for you, and some comments at the end about what I do/don’t like about it, the specifications I wrote it with, and so on. It was written for a flash fiction competition that requires stories to be 500 words or less, so it is quite short. Nevertheless, I hope you enjoy.

“Shhh! Did you hear that?”

“Did I hear what?” Simone broke off her long, rambling story, looking irritated. I couldn’t blame her, the noise was getting to me too.

“That buzzing noise, it’s… there! Do you hear it? Check your phone.”

“It’s probably just traffic.” She crossed her arms, dismissive. “Richard, we need to talk.”

“We’ve been talking, and that sound keeps—there! You have to have heard it that time.”

Something crossed her face then, too quickly for me to recognise it. Just there and gone, hidden away with everything else she was feeling or thinking. Women, eh? Who could ever understand them?

“Are you even listening to me?”

“Of course I am!” I tried to remember the last thing she’d said. “You were talking about work.” A safe bet—it seemed like all Simone could talk about, lately.

She sighed, “Richard, I think we need a break. We’ve both been working so hard lately, work’s been so busy, and you’re trying to find a new job…”

“A break?” A holiday did sound good. “But who would look after Fiona?”

Hearing her name, our French bulldog puppy came trotting into the room, little jowls swaying back and forth.

I smiled; Simone loved Fifi. I’d bought her for Simone as an early birthday gift. Simone had told me at least fifty times how I shouldn’t have got her, that French bulldogs were too expensive, that she wasn’t sure she’d have time to look after her, but I knew she wanted her, really. Fifi was expensive, sure, but nothing was too good for my girl.

“I would, Richard. Or you could, if you want her. The hours I work, I don’t really have time for a dog.”

Simone’s face looked tired in the glow of the neon sign on the wall, another slam dunk of a present. I’d made it myself with a kit I bought off amazon—our initials inside of a love heart—maybe the heart was a little wonky and the cursive made the ‘r’ look more like a ‘u’, but it was made with love. It’d been flickering a little lately, and a trick of the light made Simone look almost…desperate.

“You wouldn’t be working on a vacation, Simone!” I laughed, she didn’t.

“A break, Richard, for us.” She broke eye contact, her eyes going to the sign, Fiona, and finally, the door. “For good.”

I understood then, and as the buzzing started again, I sat on the couch, watching Simone pack the few things she’d left here into a cardboard box she’d apparently brought with her, leaving Fiona at least. As Simone left, the echo of her protests rang once more in my head. Richard, you shouldn’t have. No, Richard, a dog is such a big commitment. Richard, I’m not sure we’re ready…

The door thumped shut behind the woman I’d spent nearly two years with, and with a final loud buzz, the neon sign sputtered out, leaving only darkness and silence.

I was playing around with more figurative writing here, and it seems too obvious. I think it could be improved, but I’m not entirely sure how. I think my issue with it is mainly that it’s the type of highly emotional writing that I need substantial backstory to enjoy, and the word constraints didn’t leave space for that. I’m satisfied that the characters I wrote weren’t lazy stereotypes, but it’s hard to relate to an emotionally oblivious man and that may be the issue here. The character I feel most sympathetic for is little Fifi.


Poor Fifi

The requirements for this story were as follows:

  • Each story had to include the name of at least ONE element from the periodic table
  • Each story’s first and last words had to begin with S
  • Each story had to contain the words TRAFFIC, JOWLS and HIDDEN
  • And finally, each story had to include something that BUZZES

I think I managed to integrate the required elements into the story well; the required words don’t seem shoehorned in (to me, at least), and I didn’t centre the story around the words that needed to be included.

Overall, the story is fine, but perhaps just because of the content matter/genre not being to my usual taste, I don’t like it. I’m lukewarm about it, which is potentially worse than if I felt passionately that I’d done something wrong. That could be fixed, this story is just… bland.

I’d appreciate any comments or feedback you have, especially if you’re typically a fan of emotion-focussed short stories, how does this one measure up?

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