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

Saturday, November 15, 2003

Lowjack's a big man, chew your fingers off soon as look at you. Comes from a hard place, tougher even than the stripleather of your own heart, and we all know what you're like. If he's got a redeeming virtue, ain't no one found it yet. We keep looking, though, on account of a wide, collective streak of masochism.

'Sides, what else we gonna do but follow that bipedal natural disaster around waiting for the proverbial shit to happen?

Well, you set Lowjack up for a fall one day last August, with your fancy-dancing and dime-dealing with the Crescent City law. There was a bust or two, some of us went down on short rides, but in your zeal to roll out of a stint in orange pajamas, you turned one of Mr. Tonetti's boys. Somehow Lowjack's Christian name got attached to the prosecutor's jacket in that little square on the the form where it says , 'source.'

Instead of, say, your prissy white ass.

Mr. Tonetti ain't got no sense of humor when it comes to little rooms with bars on the windows, so he pulled his usual strings inside the DA's office and some secretary with a coke habit and too many boyfriends copied the jacket and dropped it in the mail. Presto digisturges, Lowjack's marked for some Tonetti style career counseling.

We're following Lowjack around one night near the shipyards like we're a rubbly ass gas tail on the head that is his comet when Mr. Tonetti's boys catch up with the putative rat. Four moonlighting Tulane starters and a couple of hard men with big guns pile on to Lowjack, who takes offense. Shit happens. More shit happens. A couple of .44 magnums get fired a few times. One guy gets a chance to scream. Then Lowjack stands up out of a pile of sweetbreads with something stringy hanging between his lips and shouts at us, "Who the hell did this?"

We gabble like geese with runs, but pretty soon the word "Tonetti" gets heard. Little while after that, your name gets heard. Lowjack ain't no dummy for all he behaves like a gravel truck with bad brakes. He pops Mr. Tonetti's big Cadillac his late assailants use and goes off down the dock like Speed Racer with a woodie saved up just for Trixie. Or maybe Chim Chim.

So why are we telling you this story? We're bored. It's late. And judging by the fire from Mr. Tonetti's part of town, Lowjack's done with the first portion of his home-based anger management program, you've got about twenty minutes to live.

Can we have your car?

Friday, November 14, 2003

The Shill people are a small clan who live in the industrial detritus of the Steam Age, subsisting largely from a tea made of the powder shed by the wings of butterflies. Their most noted folkcraft is the weaving of winding sheets for the dead from the threads of lost stories, so that the sounds of mourning may rise up to Heaven even when there is no one there to pray.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Trow drops like rocks in a bucket to bang upon floor in the light of the bright rise of a double moon.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Shoes breed beneath beds, behind couchs, in the lint-riddled dens of sin shadowed in the corners of laundromats. Some shoes are proper, lying only with their own kind, left with right as God intended. Others imp the perverse, frolicking right-on-right or left-on-left. The truly outre party outside their class, a Manolo Blahnik slingback tumbling greased and warm with a blown out Converse high-top, for example. When one of these miscegenations leads to a new bud, called an aglet, it nurses a while off its parent's lace before breaking free to live wild among doll's feet or in the bins at Goodwill until it matures into the next generation of bas couture.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Piscine is a rare and dangerous hormone extracted from the pineal glands of enraged baboons. (Typically the extraction process itself is sufficient to enrage them.) Mixed with the bile of the lesser Maldives sea cucumber in a tincture of vanillin and absinthe, it can be ingested orally or via nasal irrigation. Piscine produces hallucinations that the user is starch, cornflower or some other mass-noun substance, lacking in individuality or corporeal coherence. However, it also induces the ability to breathe underwater for some hours, and is thus highly prized by various Naval special forces, whose frogmen can be seen splashing about in combat zones hooting and howling and calling for a pinch of salt.

Monday, November 10, 2003

We found the pintle among his effects, though at first none of us recognized it. It was just another odd-shaped piece of metal from a life filled with odd-shaped pieces of metal. Mary Ellen thought it was something from the old Morgan rusting in the carport, but Kwesi said it was kitchen implement. I just thought it was junk, and said so, because Braun and Kitchen-Aid never made anything quite so ugly, utilitarian or military green.

Later that night, drinking the last of his homemade wine and toasting in his honor, Kwesi brought the pintle out again. "What would it ever have been for?" he asked.

"The key to the largest can of sardines ever made," I said grandly.

"Something that had a 'Do Not Remove' tag on it," Mary Ellen offered.

"The plug in the dike that is the world," Kwesi said.

We all laughed, then drank some more. Later, out in the back yard, we dug a little hole, dropped his journals in, poured kerosene and burned them. We took turns spitting wine into the fire. When Kwesi threw the pintle into the flames, the house behind us groaned like a dying man, then sighed. We all turned to see a pale wind blowing up toward the moon.

"It won't stop until he reaches the stars," I said.

One of the other two murmured, "Uh-huh."

It's nice when the soul has such a simple release. It was even nicer that he had found his during his lifetime and set it aside for us. When I get home, I'm going to tear my life apart looking for mine.

Sunday, November 09, 2003

Their majesty burns. It's like a fucking oil refinery on fire. I dial up the filtering on my goggles, which plays bloody hob with my peripherals, but I've got to keep an eye on the prize. The airship isn't going any faster, my time-state solution has almost run out of parameters, and I've got to get to Them before sunrise.

Elohim have wings like a starship's light sails. Their eyes are windows to a brighter Heaven, but we all know that to be a false promise. Their beauty beggars the imagination. If not the flames, we might all worship at their mighty feet.

The airship staggers in the thermal currents as I approach. It's a tough job to fight the stick on this puppy. The time-state solution still has a few pips of green left, but I'm sinking fast into the amber-red sea of failure. Arm the love bomb, I think. Not too early, not too late. Like the little bear's bed, it has to be just right.

A distended head swings toward me. A mouth the size of a city yawns open. The vectors flicker into insantiy on my time-state solution. They're going to speak! Or swallow me whole!

I goose the airship's engines way past the redline. A series of unsettling thumps shakes my gondola, but I get the speed. Not for long, I figure, with the bearings already going red hot. I sail between the flaming pillars, teeth tall as mountains, into the maw of the Elohim where I release my cargo of love.

Making war on God's angels is a bitch, I think, even in my ultimate moment of white-hot ecstasy.

  I've been nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Novelette, and for the John W. Campbell, Jr. Award for Best New Writer!
Award info | Me

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.