I wrote a story once and put it down in twelve point Times New Roman. The next weekend, my sister and her husband came up for a visit.
The story took place in a bus station. I was in the bus station; it was a first person job. I was walking along making my way to the landing and I spotted a caterpillar. But not right off. First I described the day (morose baggy clouds hung down from the sky like bloated water balloons) and the people in the station (colliding into one another like the particles of a highly pressurized gas).
Then, the caterpillar.
My sister's taste in men always steered in the direction of the Neanderthal. Big hairy men with their heads too close to their bodies. Men with one syllable woodsy names like Colt or Chuck or Gill. Men that ate steak for breakfast.
Men that went snooping through their brother-in-law's office papers when they thought said brother-in-law was out on the fire escape for a smoke.
The caterpillar. The story.
I, the character, scooped the fuzzy guy up. There were so many stomping feet and I, the character, felt an obligation to protect him. Or her. I scooped him up and I described him with all the right words. Equal parts of lucidity and ambiguity. And all for under a thousand words.
"What are you doing, Buck?"
He looked up from my story.
"It's just a thing. Put it down."
"A thing? Like what kind of thing?"
"It's a story."
"Bullshit it is."
"Hey, come on!"
"What? You say 'story' and I say 'bullshit'."
"Say whatever you like. There's places that will publish that."
"And that means what? Published bullshit's still bullshit. Lookit—Moby Dick is a story. Hansel and Gretel is a story. Fucking Star Wars is a story. This. . .this is two pages about a caterpillar."
"With all due respect, Buck, what the hell would you know anyway?"
"I can read can't I? It doesn't take a master chef to know if a jug of milk is ruined."
"Are you done insulting me yet? I worked pretty hard on that you know."
"Forget it. You remember that story you told me when you came down for Thanksgiving? The one about the mountain climbers?"
"The one where they get caught in the avalanche?"
"Yeah, yeah. That's it. They're all snowed in and they start going nuts. Now that's a story. Write that. Or something about zombies or something."
At the end of the story, I let the caterpillar go. I set him/her on a large fern just before boarding my bus.
Buck tossed my two-page manuscript in the wastebasket and we went out for that cigarette. And chatted about zombies.
BIO: Kevin Winter lives and writes in Northern Mississippi. His stories may be found littered across the web in various and sundry places of at least questionable repute including Bartleby Snopes, The Battered Suitcase, The Medulla Review, Full of Crow, and The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature. Currently, he is completing work on his website, to be located at kevinwinterwrites.com and compiling a book of short stories to be titled A Place We All Know.