250-word challenge #storygym

Various models place “e” as the most commonly used letter in the English language (with or without correction for word frequency) — Oxford dictionaries. And so we have this:

I love the #storygym exercise, that short burst of focus and the challenge of constraint that makes you think about every letter. Here are 250 words exactly, but I broke the rule and used a single “e”. 



It’s Thursday night and today, work was tiring. Driving was tiring. Now is tiring.

Ruth’s body hurts from wiping floors, commanding kids, stacking chairs and trying not to think of that man (who only wants a trophy woman, or a car, or a TV show, or anything but Ruth). Hurts from hiding in a bathroom again; crying, picturing hands on hands, mouth on mouth, stomach against stomach… company, warmth, touch, talk… but no.

Night will bring a glass of malt whisky, itchy Dorito crumbs, and cold pillows. 2am holds four options: work and mail (an inbox bulging with notifications); food and drink (soup, salad, Scotch, junk); Instagram and Spotify (photos, words, music to cry to), or… nothing. A void; a Mobius strip of thoughts on what is not.

Ruth sits watching hour on hour drain away, moonlit clock hands clicking till dawn paints a dull horizon; crimson sun and albino moon both mocking: who can’t find company in this swarming, clamouring world? How ludicrous, to want for talk.

Tortuous thoughts of Thursday, Friday, Saturday… March, April, May…

No man. Or woman. To talk to. To touch. To hold.

It’s autumn. Ruth’s skin is wrinkling. Ruth’s hair sprouting gray. Ruth’s back is curving forwards, folding, softly caving into tomorrow. Ruth sips and swallows. Thinks, film or book? Cushion or pillow? Pills or alcohol? Window or cliff? It’s probably not important.

‘OK,’ says Ruth. ‘It’s just Thursday. Thursday’s always a bad day. It’ll all turn out OK tomorrow. Friday’s good.’



This story is now available on Fictionaut (if you haven’t seen Fictionaut, do go, it’s a fabulous community of writers and a constant stream of fiction, poetry, and more, all coming on live!)

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Ouvroir de littérature potentielle; roughly translated: “workshop of potential literature”) is a loose gathering of (mainly) French-speaking writers and mathematicians who seek to create works using constrained writing techniques. It was founded in 1960 by Raymond Queneau and François Le Lionnais. 


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