Here’s something I like to do sometimes. I’ll pick a low number of words and decide to write a story as quickly possible. This time it was 300 words. While I went over a little bit, I like this practice, it makes you think about the economy of the word. It was shown to me by a professor at Memorial. This one is inspired by a (likely apocryphal) quote by Benjamin Franklyn. Anyrocks, here’s what I came up with.
There’s a train, chugging without moving, wheezing smoke or steam into the air. It’s at the station waiting for something. Rich, golden light reflects off the windows and some people squint against it. A man overhears something about the conductor’s wife and new baby, and the rumour has flown through meagre fist full of people sitting and waiting in the coach.
You know, I don’t mind this wait, a different man says to a woman with a paper as he seats himself next to her. I mean really, we’re held up because of a newborn. That’s not so bad. He removes his stetson and places it on his lap. His face is ruddy. There are eleven other people on the coach.
The woman, who doesn’t know this man, looks him in the face and says I suppose you’re right. She gives him a little smile, strained and tight, and wishes she were sitting on the outside. The man doesn’t notice this at all. He pulls his shirt sleeve, trying to eliminate the wrinkles that have bunched under his tweed jacket and her eyes drop towards the paper, but she doesn’t read.
I bet that baby is beautiful. He turns his hat over in his lap. So what is it that you do? the man asks.
She slowly turns her head. I attend university, she nods as she answers.
Oh? You look a little young to be working as a secretary, the man said, genuinely perplexed.
I’m a student. I study radiology. X-rays.
The woman is dark for a moment, shadowed as she glares at the man. A billow of steam passes the window. She is bathed in gold again as she looks back at her paper. Her hair is now gilded around her head and it frames her face.
Sheepishly, he grunts and looks forward, wishing he has something to read aside from the manufacturer’s label on the inside of his hat. What good’s an x-ray? he mutters.
The train slouches forward and begins to move West.
Without looking up from her paper, the woman also mutters to herself.
What good is a newborn?