Power Shorts: The Shortest Stories

lady bug

As I study aspects of story, I find it helpful to try to write complete short stories as short as possible. They should have a beginning, middle, and end, showing some change in a character due to an apparent or implied conflict.

 river-kwai Kwaiku

Rain on River Kwai.

Love nest on a bamboo raft.

You still want that bridge?

April 12, 2013
 jumping_bridge Bridge Over Teenage Troubles

When a mother demanded of her son why he had been smoking pot under the bridge with the other kids, he told her it was no big deal because all the kids do it.

“And if all the kids jumped off that bridge, would you do it too?” the mother asked.

“Oh, Mom,” the son replied, “Why do you say that stupid phrase every time I’m in trouble. It doesn’t even make sense.”

The mother thought for a moment and then said, “Because all the parents do it.”

April 11, 2013

The Bookie and the Bookie

(The Pimpkins #6)

Mitsy asked Tinker what made him want to own a bookstore.

Tinker told Mitsy when he was a boy his father was always on the phone with his bookie, and that had inadvertently set his ambition toward books.

Mitsy said she bet his mother was happy for the error.

Tinker said he didn’t think it mattered to her either way–considering she was his dad’s bookie.

April 10, 2013

This is not a Story

The mayor asked the fire marshal, “Why has none of the city’s citizens visited our new city hall?”

The fire marshal asked the mayor, “When is a door not a door?”

“When it’s ajar?” replied the mayor. He’d heard that joke before.

“No,” said the fire marshal, “When you hire Pepe Magritte, the half-brother of Belgian painter René Magritte, as your architect.”

“This cannot be happening!” exclaimed the mayor.

“It isn’t,” said the fire marshal.

April 9, 2013
 cheetah Fast  Food

Two cheetahs nuzzled after devouring their anniversary dinner on the Serengeti.

“Do you know what I like about fast food?” the female asked.

“What?” answered her mate.

“It’s never fast enough for us.”

And the sun went down on the Serengeti.

April 8, 2013

Horses for Courses

Late in the tortoise’s life, his biographer asked him how he had managed to beat the hare in the fabled race.

The tortoise said it was not much of an accomplishment. Left out of the original report was that he was a sea tortoise and most of the course ran under water. The hare didn’t have a chance.

The biographer asked what the moral of the story would be then.

The tortoise said the moral is you can always construe a sensational moral by leaving out a few facts.

April 7, 2013
 buttered-toast Toasting the Pimpkins

The Pimpkins #5

Before Tinker married Mitsy, his toast always fell butter-side down.

After Tinker married Mitsy, his toast no longer fell butter-side down. It didn’t fall butter-side up either, for Mitsy had helped Tinker to stop dropping his toast.

April 6, 2013
 footprint Must be Friday

After several weeks stranded on a deserted island, two castaways, one named Robinson and the other named Crusoe, lost track of the days.

Walking along the beach one morning, Robinson suddenly stopped Crusoe.

“We must celebrate,” Robinson said.

“Why?” asked Crusoe.

“Because,” Robinson said, pointing at the single footprint in the sand, “it must be Friday!”

April 5, 2013
 horses-in-a-stable The Night Mare

Two horses, Fred and Ted, shared adjacent stalls.

Fred asked Ted where he’d been all night.

Ted said he wouldn’t talk about it.

Fred asked Ted if he had visited the Night Mare.

Ted said he’d never go out after dark again.

Fred said he wouldn’t have to. He said the Night Mare would visit him from then on.

April 4, 2013


The Pimpkins #4

Tinker and Mitsy Pimpkin walked along the railroad tracks. They stopped where the tracks diverged.

“That’s sad,” Tinker said, looking off into the distance.

Mitsy gently reproved Tinker for his backwards thinking.

“The trains go the other way, Tinker,” Mitsy said, “How else will they come together?”

They turned around and walked back to town. Together.

April 3, 2013

To Swim

Eyes as blue as sapphire pools.

I swim,

I drown–

Without regret.

Except maybe I wish I’d seen the No Trespassing sign.

April 2, 2013

Vincent and Gertrude

Vincent was prescient. He heard voices from the future.

Gertrude Stein said forget grammar and think about potatoes.

Vincent listened. Even with only one ear he knew good advice when he heard it.

He forgot about grammar and painted potatoes. And he painted potatoes better than anyone with two ears.

April 1, 2013

Lily of Ararat

On the plains east of Mt. Ararat, lies Yerevan, the capitol of Armenia. Long ago, a man and his wife planted a lily by the banks of the river Hrazdan on the outskirts of the city.

Every day the lily watched the sun rise out of the Caspian sea, past Azerbaijan to the east, and set over the shoulder of Noah’s great mountain.

And the lily sang. Through war and famine, peace and plenty, the lily sang because the path of the sun formed the arc of a rainbow, and that reminded the lily of divine promises both fulfilled and yet to be fulfilled.

And to this day the lily still sings, and her song has grown stronger and echoes throughout the world.

Hush, can you hear it?

March 31, 2013
 pocket-watch The Watch

Mother had insisted I put dad’s watch in the casket during last respects.

The line was long. The entire village had gathered to see him put under.

The smile did not suit him. I clutched the watch and gave my bloodied handkerchief instead.

I returned to the prison and confessed to mother.

March 30, 2013
 Moddergat_(2688308991) Good Fences

The old man leaned on the fence and looked out to sea. He thought about his daddy. He thought about what they’d said about his daddy building the fence all around the family plot in the long-ago year of the old man’s birth.

An ancient poet wrote that good fences make good neighbors, and the old man knew this was true. They were far better neighbors than people were.

And the old man leaned on the fence and looked out to sea.

March 29, 2013

Communing with Double Jack

A bartender walked into his bar. A Buddhist monk was the only patron.

“Hey,” asked the bartender, “where are the priest, the rabbi, and the Baptist minister?”

“They’re at Madame Semnolier’s seance,” said the monk.

“Why aren’t you with them?” asked the bartender.

“It’s a re-run,” said the monk. “Double Jack and Coke please.”

March 28, 2013

Out of Alien Experience

The Pimpkins #3

“Doctor,” said Mitsy Pimpkin, “I want an out-of-body experience.”

“Those only happen around here by accident,” the doctor said. “Why do you want one of those anyway?”

“I want to see myself the way Tinker sees me,” Mitsy said.

“Have you seen the movie Aliens?” the doctor asked.

“Come on, Doctor,” Mitsy said, “I look nothing at all like Sigourney Weaver.”

March 27, 2013
 peacock_caterpillar The Caterpillar and the Peacock

The caterpillar complained to the peacock about how miserable he was crawling around on the ground all day.

“Don’t think about what you are,” said the peacock, “but rather what you will become.”

“Oh,” grunted the caterpillar, “You mean when I become a butterfly?”

“No,” answered the peacock, “Dinner.”

And with one swift snap of its beak, the peacock put the caterpillar out of its misery.

March 26, 2013

Peace Talk Jitters

Nerves already on edge, after a year of tireless negotiations finally brought the belligerents into one room for peace talks, all was lost when Wilbur began slurping away obliviously at his coffee.

March 25, 2013

For Butter or Verse

Darlene was a gourmand and poet.

She’d write while she cooked and sipped Moët.

Long lines she’d compose,

Inspired by her nose,

But pepper would cause her to blow it.

March 24, 2013

Who Wrote Jane Austen?

The Pimpkins #2

Tinker Pimpkin met his would-be wife at a graduate student cocktail party. He took her a drink and asked her name.

“I’m Mitsy,” she replied.

“What do you study?” Tinker asked.

She sipped her drink and said, “Jane Austen.”

Tinker stared at her glass for a moment, and then looked into her eyes and asked, “Which Brontë sister wrote that one?”

Later, as Tinker daubed a towel at the remains of Mitsy’s drink that had soaked his face and shirt, he was convinced a long and difficult courtship lay ahead.

But all the while, in another part of the house, Mitsy was already choosing curtains for Pemberly.

March 23, 2013
 gates_of_heaven  Dreams of Bad Jesus

One night I dreamed that in the twinkling of an eye Jesus returned and gathered all the powerful, the rich, and the depraved for a first-class trip to heaven. When I asked what would happen to the rest of us, Jesus said, “My child, I promised all along that the meek, the poor, and the kind would inherit the earth.” He scanned the horizon, wrinkled his nose in disgust, and said, “You can have it!” And with that, the blessed procession ascended into the clouds, bound for the heavenly city with its streets of gold.

When I woke up, I decided no more eating salami and peperoncini just before bed.

March 22, 2013

Strange Bedfellows

The penguin waddled up to the polar bear and asked for a light. The polar bear said he didn’t smoke. “Christ,” the penguin said, “This place is such a zoo.” And the penguin wandered off toward the zebras.

March 21, 2013

A Spitting Image of Diogenes

The Pimpkins #1

Diogenes said the only place to spit in a rich man’s house is in his face. Plato said the only place to spit in a poor man’s house is in his purse. If you want to spit in Tinker Pimpkin’s house, his wife, Mitsy, suggests you spit into the fan. Who says philosophy has not progressed in twenty-five centuries?

March 20, 2013
 Great_Wave_off_Kanagawa2  A Wave of Perspective

Two students gaze at a painting in the art museum. One student says that is one big wave. The other approaches the painting, spreads thumb and forefinger, and squints. He says he’s seen bigger.

An oar man in the boat looks above the wave and says that is one big hand. The tiller looks out of the painting at the approaching hand, spreads thumb and forefinger, and squints. He says he’s seen bigger.

You and I look at this story. I say that is one big story!

March 19, 2013
 lazy-lion The Miseries of Monday

Benny kept to himself and seldom engaged in office conversation, but he was fed up with his colleagues complaining about the miseries of Mondays. He finally shouted, “At least it comes at the beginning of the week so we can get it out of the way early. Imagine if it fell on Friday instead!” His colleagues kindly reminded him why he kept to himself and seldom engaged in office conversation.

March 18, 2013

Luck of the Leprechaun’s Wife

The leprechaun lay on his deathbed listening to his wife berate him for squandering his pot of gold on the drink that brought him to his present condition. He reminded her that the life insurance policy had a double-indemnity clause for imaginary creatures dying of human causes and that the DNR was in order. She fell silent, kissed him, and fetched him another pint of stout.

[Editor’s note]: We looked for a photo of a real leprechaun, but they were all under stringent copyright protection, so we settle for clip art today.

March 17, 2013

A Dose of Happiness

Chloe opened the prescription bottle and found it empty. She called her doctor and said she had used up all her placebos. The doctor said it was time he put her on a stronger dose and the new prescription would be ready in an hour. Chloe thanked him and said she felt better already.

Mar 16, 2013
 roman_soldier Quorum in the Forum

On March 16, Reluctus entered the Forum, dagger drawn and ready.
“You’re a day late,” Brutus said.
“Why didn’t you give a date?” Reluctus said, “I never could keep straight on which day the Ides of March falls.”
“No matter,” said Brutus, “We had a quorum.”

Mar 16, 2013

The Bracelet

Her bracelet had magic powers. It could render her invisible with a touch. The man in the booth had said guaranteed to work for all wallflowers. It hadn’t let her down yet.


Mar 15, 2013

Broken Mirrors

Smashing the pieces of broken mirror, Charmaine cut her finger and bled all over the brick. It was the last time she would bleed for his vanity.

Mar 14, 2013

The Waiting

The empty train had long left the station. Charlotte remained on the platform waiting for him in the cold summer night. It was too late even to throw herself under the train.

Mar 13, 2013

The Party

Cheryl wore the fluffy white rabbit ears and hopped around the room in the way that always made him laugh so hard. He was unaware that he wore the horns even more hilariously.

Mar 12, 2013


A tree fell in the forest only to find that no one was around to hear it, so it stood back up, a little embarrassed, and resolved to show more patience next time.

Mar 9, 2013
 cat_teeth The Spoils

The bloodied cat lounged in the doghouse eating the dog’s bone–its thigh bone.

Mar 9, 2013


On June 5, 1944, in a small town on Long Island, New York, little Joey asked his mother when he would become a man. His mother said not until his father died. The next day, Joey became a man.

Mar 9, 2013

Hungry Hippo

At noon on the savannah, a hungry hippo waded into the water but refused to eat without his shadow. A minute later he ate his fill and so did his skinny companion.

Mar 9, 2013

The Transaction

A man and his wife entered a dingy brothel. The wife told Madame what they wanted. Madame named the price. The woman and her husband left as new owners of a thriving brothel.

Mar 9, 2013


I died one night and stood at the gates of paradise. The chain and padlock were rusted and the place was desolate as far as my eyes could see. A faded foreclosure notice flapped in the breeze. Saint Peter sat in the dirt shaking a tin cup. He said everyone had gone to the other place. On my way I flipped a coin into his cup. “Sucker,” he muttered under his breath. A fitting epitaph, I had to admit.

Mar 9, 2013

Passing Storm

The storm blew itself out. Jimmy rushed outside to check for damage. He found that his wife had indeed ripped him a new one.

Mar 9, 2013

Loosened Words

Aesop had writer’s block. He couldn’t think of a creature to represent hypocrisy. He began writing about himself, and the words flowed smoothly thereafter.

Mar 9, 2013

Almost Spring

Ah, that moment when spring, though not yet arrived, is suddenly inevitable and no longer a fool’s winter memory of a long-forgotten dream. This time when the nihilist turns merely skeptical, the cynic merely ironic, and the broken and bitter become almost lovers. But not quite.

Feb 23, 2013


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