Short Story Exercise: Gilles Is Sick

(using The Storymatic, I pulled four random cards, set the timer for ten minutes, and wrote a short story, lightly edited)

Gilles paced back and forth in his studio apartment waiting for the delivery boy from the pharmacy. He pulled his cardigan tight across his chest and heard the awful, unmistakeable sound of fabric ripping. Gilles groaned and slid his hands along the sweater. The seam in the armpit had torn open. He pulled off the sweater and threw it across the room.

No one in the shops would sell the clothing he created. The owners told him it was poorly made, poorly designed, and made from cheap fabric.

Gilles would argue, “I am a blind man! I make beautiful creations! You need only to feel them in your hands to know they are beautiful! Do not judge me with your eyes!”

And now he sits alone, sick and penniless. No one cares for him here. He has to pay people to help him, and the money is running out.

Gilles sank to the floor and hugged his knees to his chest. Rocking back and forth, tears gathered in his clouded eyes. He debated returning to France. His parents would provide for him. He could live the rest of his days in material comfort. But that would also mean he had failed to realize his dream.

The door buzzed and Gilles rushed to answer it. He opened the front door and pulled out his wallet to tip the delivery boy.

“Hello, are you Mr. LaPierre?” a female voice asked.

Gilles snapped his head up. “Who are you?”

“I’m from the pharmacy. I have your medicine.” The woman gently took Gilles’ hand and placed the paper bag in it. “My, your skin is clammy. May I?”

Gilles listened as the footsteps moved past him into his apartment. He shut the door behind her and weakly slid down to the floor. He listened as the kind woman cooked soup for him. He thanked her for helping him into bed and covering him with blankets. And when she raved about the beautifully textured dresses he had hanging around his apartment, Gilles knew that everything would be okay.storymatic-gilles-is-sick

Short Story Exercise: Ghost on a Boat

(using The Storymatic, pulled four cards, set timer for ten minutes, wrote short story, lightly edited)

Steve hung over the side of the boat, staring into the sloshing blue waves flowing beneath him. The ocean spray didn’t touch him any more than the rope moving across his torso. Steve drowned eleven years ago, but his ghostly spirit still remained aboard shrimping boat The Painted Lady, his home for most of his life. The men working her now hadn’t known Steve when he was alive, though they heard plenty of stories about him at Marla’s Pub.

Steve rolled himself up tall then floated down through the deck to the galley. Skipper was eating beans on toast, listening to the greenhorn complain about blisters on his hands. Steve leaned forward and covered the kids hands with his own. It took a minute, but finally the boy brought his injured hands to his face and stared at them with a bewildered look on his face.

“Stop hurtin’, did they?” Skipper asked.

The kid nodded, dumbstruck, and Steve sank through the floor. He checked on the engines and the cold storage, and then he peaked through a porthole hoping for a glance at the elusive mermaid. One day, he thought, I’ll see the gal ol’ Henry was always going on about.

Steve elevated himself back up to the deck to watch the sun fall below the horizon. As the sky faded from orange to red to purple Steve told himself again that, lonely as he may be, this was as close to heaven as he could hope to get.


Steve’s head snapped towards the sound. A deckhand had pulled a plastic, muscular doll from one of the nets. He pushed on the fearsome toy’s chest and a mechanical voice yelled, “Hey punk!”storymatic-ghost-boat

Short Story Exercise: Forbidden Love Fruit

(had Jason pull four random cards from The Storymatic, set timer for fifteen minutes, wrote short story, lightly edited)

After putting the final touches on her romance novel Forbidden Love Fruit, Dawn uploaded it onto every available digital platform for the low price of ninety-nine cents. She tweeted the release, posted a notice on Facebook, and sent an email to her small group of newsletter subscribers. Task complete, she popped the champagne and spent the rest of her evening relaxing with the television.

The following day, Dawn went back to work at the post office. Despite self-publishing fifteen romance novels, she still wasn’t earning enough as a writer to pay the bills. And so she spent her days selling stamps and weighing packages, and in the evenings she spun her tales of forbidden love and bodice-ripping passion. Writing brought in just enough money to fill the gas tank and buy a few bottles of champagne a month.

One week after the release of Forbidden Love Fruit Dawn was shocked to discover that the novel was selling, and selling well. In a single day, over three-thousand copies had sold from the combined retailers. Her blog received huge amounts of new traffic, the number of her Twitter and Facebook followers skyrocketed, and hundreds signed up for her mailing list. Dawn spent the next several evenings answering fan mail and arranging to send signed copies to the seemingly desperate fans. And last night, she stared in disbelief at an email from a Hollywood agent inquiring about a possible motion picture deal.

Back at work, Dawn smiled at all of her customers. She made small talk and laughed, all the while thinking, “This person doesn’t know they’re talking to a famous author!”

A handsome older man approached her counter. He carried no package, no envelopes. Dawn smiled at the man and asked, “Would you like to buy some stamps today?”

Frowning he replied, “You don’t even remember me, do you Dawn?”

Dawn blinked and gazed at the man’s brown eyes, his chestnut hair peppered with gray. “I’m sorry, have we met?”

“I was your Economics teacher in high school.”

Dawn’s cheeks burned. She opened her mouth to speak but her throat was suddenly dry.

He placed his hands on the counter and said quietly, “A hairy back? Small hands? Two minutes?”storymatic-forbidden-love-fruit

Short Story Exercise: Mrs. Shively

(pulled four random cards from The Storymatic, set timer for ten minutes, wrote short story, edited lightly)

Posey the clown wandered around the city park. When children approached, she would honk her horn and hop from foot to foot. The children inevitably screamed and ran away from her.

Posey tried a new tactic.

She went to the skate park and made balloon animals for the youths there. They especially enjoyed her balloon swords. After another hour working in the afternoon sun, Posey could feel her face paint begin to melt. So she pulled a flower from her pocket and beckoned for a particularly mean looking boy to follow her.

But Posey only managed to lure him ten feet before he turned back to rejoin his gang. Frustrated, Posey shoved the boy between the shoulder blades and in a fit of rage she began to throw the contents of her pockets at his cowering form. The other children ran towards them, some yelling while others filmed the odd scene with their phones.

Without thinking, Posey yanked the wooden box from her blouse and launched it towards the crowd. It shattered on the concrete, spilling bloody human teeth onto the sidewalk. Posey’s hands flew to her face and, in a panic, she rubbed at the makeup, hoping to hide her features. The children were pointing at her, screaming and shouting. Posey turned and ran to the parking lot. People chased her, demanding that she stop. Although it was nearly impossible to run in her ridiculously oversized red shoes, she somehow managed to unlock her Nissan, jump in and speed away.

Monday morning in the teacher’s lounge, Mrs. Shively shook her head in mock horror as all of the other teachers discussed the terrible events from the weekend.

“It was a clown! You can see it in the picture! And that boy, you remember Billy Nolan? They’re saying he shattered his knee cap when he fell down.”

Mrs. Shively clucked her tongue and mumbled something about how shameful the whole thing was. And as she made her way towards her kindergarten classroom she muttered to herself, “Shame I didn’t get the brat’s teeth.”

Storymatic Mrs Shively

Short Story Exercise: The Discovery of an Artist

(pulled four random cards from The Storymatic, wrote short story)

The others didn’t understand. Some tried. Some would come to his place in the woods and look at the preserved squirrels in their silly poses, the stuffed beavers and rabbits frozen in bizarre angles as if dancing, and they would pat his shoulder politely or grunt with feigned interest. But they never came back. He was alone.

His macabre hobby confused and frightened his tribe, forcing them to ostracize him, and leave him alone forever with his creations. The moon waxed and waned. Seasons changed. He made a home for himself in the forest surrounded by the bits and pieces of his prey, now forever preserved in humorous positions. 

That fateful morning, with the sun barely in the sky, he awoke to the sound of a shriek. His eyes opened but he remained perfectly still. He could hear laughter and shouting and clumsy footsteps. From his burrow he watched the hairless creatures gesture and wail at his stuffed companions. They made terrible sounds and bared their teeth. The females clustered together while the males made a game of rearranging his squirrels. One of the smaller males moved Bob the rabbit into the mating position on Belle the skunk.

This was too much.

He rolled out of his burrow and ran to the clearing to defend his friends. Feet spread and arms held at his side, he uttered a warning growl. The hairless beasts immediately quieted and froze in place. He didn’t wish to frighten them, only to make them stop mocking his taxidermy skills. He moved slowly to the rabbit and the skunk, and returned them to their correct positions.

That’s when the hairless beasts screamed.

“BIGFOOT!” they yelled. The females ran away and after a moment’s hesitation the males chased after them.

He watched them go. The feelings of rejection and shame overcame him once again. He collected Anton the badger in his arms, then sat down among the stuffed critters, his only friends.

Storymatic Discover of an Artist