Short Story Challenge


This isn't so much a short story as it is the beginning of what could be a short story. But either way, I found this blog link up today and decided to try it. I chose a first-sentence prompt from a list and went from there. It just had to be 500 words or more.

This is 909. Let me know if you think I should keep going or never write again. Not that I'll listen to you, especially if you tell me never to write again.

P.S. This currently does not have a title.

P.P.S. I may or may not have written this while at work. Don't judge. Or tell.

* * *
She ducked as the plate smashed against the wall behind her.

“Seriously?” she shouted. 

Another loud crash sounded to her left, and a cheer went up. Jessica rolled her eyes. She loved her brother, but this was too much. It was one thing to force down Greek food and pretend not to be upset that her younger brother was getting married before she was—and to a girl he met on a study abroad semester in Greece his junior year of college, as if that happened in real life. She’d finally accepted the fact that she was thirty-one and single; most importantly, however, her parents had seemed to accept it in their own way, so that was a blessing.

But it was a whole other thing to have to dance around in circles with people she didn’t know while clapping her hands and avoiding the shards of glass coming from the plates these insane, dark-haired people were breaking all over the floor. For the hundredth time that night, she wondered when the torture was going to end.

While she eyed the exit sign and contemplated whether or not she could escape to the bathroom for the next few hours without being noticed, Daniel appeared and poked her in the shoulder. “Havin’ fun, sis?”

“WHAT?” she shouted. It was impossible to hear anything beyond the sound of glass shattering.

He cupped his hands around his mouth and leaned closer, and she caught a whiff of a cologne and sweat mixture. “HAVING FUN?”
She hesitated. What she wanted to say was, “Not really. This is ridiculous. I just want to eat my slice of wedding cake and go home.”

But she thought better of it--it was her brother's wedding day after all--and merely nodded. “Sure. I mean, yeah. But hey, do you have any idea when this will be ov—"

Just then, Alicia twirled over, her straight, white teeth a perfect match with her clean, strapless, white wedding gown. She hugged Jessica and laughed. “Isn’t this just wonderful?” Alicia looked over at Daniel and squeezed his arm then hugged Jessica again and gave her a conspirator’s wink. “Aren’t I marrying the best guy in the whole world?”

Jessica didn’t have a chance to respond before Alicia spun Daniel into the nearest circle of clapping guests. Standing on her tiptoes, Jessica scanned the large room for her parents, the only other people she knew beside her brother and his new wife.

Once again she considered the events that had led to her spending her first week of summer—the time she usually spent relaxing from her long, hard year of teaching eight-grade algebra—at yet another wedding.

Jessica and Daniel were eight years apart, so one would think there was enough space between children for Daniel to take on qualities found in an oldest child. It didn’t take long, however, for Jessica to realize that she was always going to be the more responsible one. She brought home dean’s list awards and straight-A report cards, and he spent his high school years in the principal’s office for lighting smoke bombs on the school bus and setting fire to the football field.

Jessica’s parents would never admit it, but she knew they were only too happy, albeit confused, when Daniel asked them to spot him the one-hundred-dollar admission fee to apply to a conservative private school not far from their home in the suburbs of Chicago. Jessica couldn’t believe it when he not only attended the school but produced a B- average in his freshman year. Her parents celebrated, and she worried he was on some type of weird reverse drug.

He spent the next few years maintaining the same average, while Jessica came home to her empty apartment filled with math textbooks and old quizzes, dreaming of becoming the head of the math department at Naperville Middle School. 

Daniel asked to spend his junior spring semester studying abroad in Italy, and the Brices had agreed. “He’s earned it,” her father said. As if being the valedictorian shouldn’t have earned her a few months in Europe, she'd thought.

When he left, he had promised to keep in touch. Instead, he spent the first two weeks overseas with no contact, during which Jessica’s mother had frantically called the Italian embassy every day for a week, asking them to check hospitals for a twenty-one-year-old college student with wavy brown hair, freckles, and a noticeable scar running from his left earlobe to his collarbone—the result of a ninth-grade gym class prank gone wrong.

When he finally called, it was to announce that he was in love. 

Jessica had rolled her eyes and said, “Yeah right.” If she hadn’t been able to find the man of her dreams in twenty-nine years, there was no way her little brother had been able to find the woman of his in two weeks.

That was a year and a half ago.

Since then, two birthdays had passed--including the big three zero--and she had once again been passed up for the promotion she knew she deserved. “Nothing is fair,” she muttered under her breath, trying not the glare at the happy couple dancing in the middle of a circle of identical Greeks. At least they’d stopped smashing plates on the ground like a bunch of monkeys at the zoo.

Jessica sighed. It wasn’t that she didn’t want her brother to be happy; she just wanted to know how long she was going to have to wait for her turn—or if her turn would ever come at all.

LaLa said...

I liked it! I want to see her find her love =)

Anonymous said...

My thoughts...

1) I really like that you went the opposite of where most people starting from that sentence would've gone. Most people would've written about a violent fight. You wrote about a happy occasion. I also love that you added a twist and injected a sour note into this happy occasion.

2) It doesn't seem believable that the only non-Greek people at this wedding are Jessica and her parents. Where are Daniel's friends? Where are the Brices' family members? If you don't want all these people there, you should at least explain why they are not there.

3) The italics felt like overkill. Every time they appeared, it was in a place where I would've emphasized the word in my head anyway, but then the italics made me feel like I had to emphasize it even more.

4) The promotion bit seemed to come out of nowhere, but maybe it wouldn't feel that way if there were more to read.

5) 31 seems a bit young to be bitter about not being married yet, and the 30-something single woman being bitter about not being married yet feels cliched and stereotyped. Furthermore, as an unmarried 27-year-old trying to fight this stereotype and the negativity associated with it, it's difficult for me to appreciate such a character.

6) I can't see where this story would go from here. It seems obvious for it to follow a falling-in-love plot line, but obvious is boring. On the other hand, it's hard to root for or care about a character who is so bitter. I think that, to feel engaged in the story, I would need to have more scenes that make me feel sympathetic for Jessica, rather than what I currently feel, which is a desire to say, "Stop being a whiny, spoiled brat and just be happy for your brother!"

Sorry I don't have much positive to say, although, considering you wrote this at work, I don't think it's your best and most focused attempt anyway. I know you can do better because I've seen you do better.

However, I think this is an interesting idea for a writing exercise and hope to see more.


Amanda said...

@AudraSo what you're saying is, I should a) abandon this and keep working on the other story I have that actually stands a chance of not sucking and b) never again attempt to write a story at work.

Anonymous said...

Amanda- I'm so glad I found this on here. You can write fiction, too! What can't you do? I really liked it. I wish it had gone on further... because there is always more to learn about sibling rivalry/parents/weddings. They're what makes the world go 'round. I read the other comments, and I have to say, I actually really like italics. It makes me a more engaged reader and I feel like the voice of the character can shine through using this tactic. I kept picturing the bland parents in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Hilarious. Please either add to this or write another!!