Story Words
Very short fiction, written on the fly, from words submitted by readers.
© 2002, 2003, 2004 Jay Lake

Saturday, November 08, 2003
Boo Hag

Storyword by guest author David Jones

Michelle intercepted Bobby's hand as it went sliding up her inner thigh past the hem of her red miniskirt.

"What's the matter baby?" asked Bobby, huffing the words into her ear. He sounded like an overexcited rottweiler.

"You're moving too fast, Bobby honey."

He pulled away from her, leaning back on the cushions of his soft leather couch, then stood abruptly like a soldier coming to attention, and paced over to the broad windows that gave onto a brilliant and clear Chicago skyline.

He remained there for a moment, watching the bright city lights that seemed to taunt the dim stars above. Little they know, thought Michelle.

"You're ruining the game, girl, you know that?"

"What game is that, sugar?"

Bobby turned to look at her and she saw the gleam of city lights in his eyes.

"It's an easy enough plan, but involved. A country girl like you shouldn't waste valuable thinking time on it. Suffice it to say, it starts with date number one and a goodnight kiss then progresses through subsequent stages until a night like this, many dates later. You've made it to home base, Michelle. Don't you know what happens at home base?"

"I thought I was safe."

Bobby chuckled.

This wasn't going right, it was far too soon – no time for the little pleasures, the little tastes that always made pursuit sweet. He was going to ruin everything.

Bobby came back to the couch – a slow, sauntering predator – and sat beside her. His big frame, so muscular, so well proportioned, dwarfed her.

"You're a pretty thing," he said as his hands slide along her ribs to take her by the shoulders.

Then he was on her, holding her down, bearing his weight upon her torso like a rock.

Michelle laughed. It was a gleeful sound, but bitter.

"What's so funny, bitch?"

"How many women you take on this couch, sugar? Ten, twenty, a hundred?" Michelle's voice was huskier than before, and her southern drawl was thick – almost a slur.

"What's it to you? Lay still, you know you want this. It's gonna feel good."

"Oh, I know it's gonna feel good, sweetie. I know what it feels like."

Bobby raised up as if noticing the difference in her for the first time.

Michelle lifted him bodily off her chest and off the couch, toppling him to the floor. But she didn't let go. He fell on his back, the unexpected concussion knocking the air out of his lungs in a harsh cough, and she was on him.

She lay atop him, her weight seeming to have increased exponentially in the last few seconds of the fall. Bobby tried to raise his arms, his legs, his chest – it was no good. He was pinned like a leaf under a car tire.

"Get off me, you bitch!"

"Shhhh, shhhh," she said releasing a hand and caressing his cheek. Bobby's eyes immediately began to close. His breathing became deep and his heart slowed.

"What are you doing?" The effort to speak was monumental. He tried to struggle, to raise his free arm and punch her in the face, but it was no good. Sleep was upon him as surely as this woman.

"I have a game of my own, sweet thing. You see where I come from, down in the swamp marshes of South Carolina, we have a legend – an old haint from the Gullah days. You ever heard of the Gullah?"

Bobby shook his head. At least he thought he shook his head. His eyes were closed and they refused to open. The only thing keeping him awake was the sound of Michelle's rough voice floating above him.

"Gullah were the slave folk set free on the swamp lands, made to live where white men didn't have to see 'em and be reminded of their loss. The Gullah found many a strange thing living in them swamps. Creeping things and magical. Flying snakes and talking dogs. And they found my sisters."

"Who . . . who are you?" Bobby managed to ask with his last conscious breath.

Michelle leaned back, grasped the skin just at her hairline and gave it a sharp tug. It pulled away like tight fitting clothes, revealing fulgid red skin beneath – red like sausage; bloody and glistening. She peeled the skin to her waist, a horrible chuckle leaking from her raw lips, then leaned next to Bobby's ear.

"I'm a boo hag, Bobby. And you're dead."

("Boo Hag" and today's story word both courtesy of David Jones)

Friday, November 07, 2003

Rotund was a little woman, not much taller than my thigh, who talked like she'd been hitting the whiskey for hours, even if she was straight from a nap and the showers. I asked her about her name once. She just shrugged, ran her fingers across the stubble of her shaved scalp and said, "Mama don't know much."

She worked downtown as, I swear to god, a bouncer at the Elizabeth Mary Club. I mean, we're talking two foot eight, sixty pounds, maybe on a good day. But she could fight like a weasel on amphetamines, and always hit where it hurt. You know what I mean.

Came a day when Rotund met her match. He was this big Norwegian dude, so large his ears had their own muscle groups. Came in with a touring performance art company playing an Esperanto version of Waiting for Godot, except with an all-nude cast mounted on albino donkeys. I think maybe he was the donkey wrangler. Hell, he smelled like one, even at the arraignment hearing days later.

So Sven or Olle or whatever his name was tried to get into the EMC. Rotund popped him for some ID. He laid some Scandahoovian berski-berski on her, along with a big gap-toothed grin that probably rocked the chicks back onto their heels in good old Stavanger or where he was from. Rotund said, "Out, Wobegon Boy."

Apparently, "Wobegon Boy" was some kind of mortal insult north of the Arctic Circle. The Norwegian took a swing at her with a fist the size of a pannina loaf. She ducked, stepped inside the swing, and brought her clasped hands right up into the big boy's business end.

Holy flaming rats, his pants exploded with fifteen or twenty snakes. The dude was an exotic animal smuggler come to meet his contact! There were mambas and shit all over the place, two or three of them hanging off Rotund's face and arms. She started running around in circles, screaming, while Nanook the Norwegian was cussing his fool head off in several languages nobody else spoke. Everyone in the vicinity was already high-tailing it for the snake-free zones further down the block.

By the time the cops showed up, with animal control and some poor sucker from the Oregon Zoo with a long-handled snare and a couple of burlap sacks, Rotund had swollen up to where she looked like she'd dressed up as the Great Pumpkin. Elizabeth Mary had called me to come down and help my homegirl, but she was way past help. Nimrod of the North was halfway up a lamppost, crying for someone or other, but except for a couple of cops with shotguns trained on him, nobody was paying attention.

"Eddie," Rotund said. She couldn't talk so good because her lips were as swollen and rounded as the rest of her.

I leaned in close. "Yeah?"

"What goes around..."


She coughed hard. It was like one of those stupid Hollywood moments, except this was real life and paramedics were pumping quarts of clear shit into her veins and shouting into their radios, and she was dying.

"What goes around..."

"Yeah?" I tried to take her hand, but the pressure of my touch really seemed to pain her.

"It's fucking..." She giggled, coughing again with the pain. "What goes around, it's fucking rotund."

Then she died, a hell of a lot more quietly than she lived.

They argued, a lot, over at the Mount Olive Cemetery, but that's what I put on her headstone. "Fucking Rotund."

The squarehead? They deported his happy ass, and the donkeys got shipped off to some refuge out in the Tualatin Valley. As for the snakes, let's just say I'm even less interested than usual in ever going down into the sewers.

Fucking rotund, my ass. Her mother was a crackhead. Had to be.

("Rotund" courtesy of Q, who is right now...)

Thursday, November 06, 2003
Propter Hoc

Propter Hoc went for a walk one brightly summery day
Propter Hoc stopped to talk and then he lost his way
Propter Hoc went to the doc and asked him what to say
The doc he told Propter Hoc to put his behind before away

("Propter Hoc" courtesy of AnnaH)

Wednesday, November 05, 2003
Frog march

A catchy little tune played by the tadpole review at their matriculation ceremonies.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003
Holy Office

God's Holy Office is a mess, as all good offices should be. There's a stuffed Piltdown man leaning in the corner, with God's Cub's windbreaker tossed over his head. Sisyphus' vulture is chained to a huge oaken rest with silver links, feasting on a dish of fresh liver constantly replenished by its former victim, who now works as God's office boy. God has a huge mahogany desk, slightly flame-scorched, that He won from Lucifer in a memorable poker game one Easter weekend. God's desk is covered with tchotchkes, pencils and paperwork -- even in Heaven, there is paperwork.

But the main purpose of God's Holy Office is that is where He goes to ask the tough questions. If you are called there, you will be Inquired of. Pay no attention to the rusted, oddly-smelling implements stacked in the corner behind the wicker dress form. Do not think on the stains in the throw rug Torquemada gave God upon his own arrival in Heaven. Just smile, nod, and confess your faith.

Monday, November 03, 2003

Smoldering in their valleys in the long-lost Haupt Range, the neesings were once the terror of the Villareal Empire. They had to be fought with great warkerchiefs and the Giant Spork of St. Dismas, but fought they were, suppressed until only memories remain.

That and their tiny ghosts in your nose.

Sunday, November 02, 2003

The frazzle lurks in the prose thickets of the Lower Narrative estuary. Often confused for the more elegant and bewitching dazzle, the frazzle is symptomatic of an authorial disruption -- an unfortunately common event on the Lower Narrative. The fisherfolk of the riverside villages consider a frazzle sighting unlucky and often head for the hills to camp, drink and avoid the sloshing water of subconscious angst that so often burble in a frazzle's wake.

  I've been nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Novelette, and for the John W. Campbell, Jr. Award for Best New Writer!
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Read the Hugo-nominated story for free at

Q: What is this?
A: A fiction experiment. Every day, people email me words. At some random point in the day, I pick a word, write a quick story about it on the spot, and post it unedited (except for a quick typo patrol).

Q: What did that word mean?
A: Look it up:

Q: Can I send you a word?
A: You bet. Include a definition if the word is deeply obscure -- or not, if you prefer. Send it to

Q: I've got something to say about this.
A: Click over to the Story Words discussion topic.

Q: Who else is silly enough to do this? I think it's kind of neat.
A: David Jones, for one. Surf over there and check him out. Drop him an encouraging word, too. He's a brave man.
A: Jeremy Tolbert, for another, with his Microscopica project. Likewise show him some love.
A: Jason Erik Lundberg with his Mythologism blog.

Q: You're even cooler than KITT the Knight Rider car. Do you have a mailing list to announce your latest hijinks?
A: Of course I do. What kind of self-promoting, narcissistic writer would I be otherwise? Email me. Occasional mailings regarding stories appearing in print and online, weird stuff in general, and appearances of the Greek Chorus.