This is fun and challenging, taken from What If? by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter:
Write a short story using words of only one syllable.
Sometimes I need a kick in my WP pants. Yesterday’s pantoum was a kick. This single syllable exercise is a good kick. I decided to write a story idea I thought of last week: an art student pays someone to complete his portfolio. When I get an idea like that I try not to make the whole story in my mind. I need to keep a lot unanswered or the writing is forced, boring. I turned this idea over for a few days. This morning I decided to write it with the above constraint: single syllable words.
There is a lot you cannot say when you’re only allowed a monosyllabic vocabulary. My story changed. I couldn’t elaborate some things. I wanted to say she can’t draw people. Two syllables. Nix.
I’m going to keep working on this. It’s tough. It feels a bit like working your way up to fifty push-ups just to say you can. (I can’t. I wish).
Here you go:
I go to the same beach each day. I take my pad and pens in a tote bag and sit on the same bench and draw the same stretch of sand. I didn’t plan this when I came in June. It was too hot but I walked to the beach each day when I woke, to draw and think. I sweat a lot. My hand slips on the page. My days smudge. But it gets me out of the flat.
I try to make the shape of the sand new. The sea and sky too. I try to see what is new from last time I sat on the bench.
I don’t draw men, their wives or kids. I don’t draw packs of boys on bikes. I don’t draw the man there to fish, up to his thigh in the gulf, a whip arc of line lost on the flat sky. I leave white space where they should be, ghosts on my page.
One day a kid comes up to me and asks can he see that. I tilt my pad so he can see. He looks from the sketch to what’s in front of us. You’re good, he says. I am, but don’t say.
I am very good at this sand, most of the time. I could show him work that didn’t turn out but don’t.
You sell this?
I squint up at him, shake my head. No.
Well, would you? I’d take this. He lifts the top page. Or this.
I don’t know, I say.
I’ll give you ten.
I think. It’s mine. Each page a day here. I have two more pads at home, full. I can’t, I say.
He gets mad. More then, he says. I don’t care. How much?
I write down a five, a zero. I can’t breathe. A rich friend said price high, you got to think that way. The kid shrugs, counts out the bills. I tear the page and give it to him. He folds it in half, then in half once more. I want it back.
Can you draw fruit? If I come here next week, can you have fruit done? Same price.
I nod. He leaves with my day. I draw it all, two hours off now. The ghosts find new spots. I add red and orange, burn the sand.