, a sub-genre of fiction
specializing in brevity
. Lacking aspiration for the minimalist Poundian
Zen moments of haiku
or the "top this"
bravado of Ernest Hemingway, the goal is merely to find how far you can go (and how far you can take the reader) within the confine
s afforded by the space available for writing
on the back of a - you guessed it, postcard
- generally from a half to two-thirds of the total rear real estate, depending on how much area is allotted for the address entry. (This tends to fall from one to two hundred words - a drabble or double-drabble to some - with formal constraints physically imposing themselves in three of four directions.)
No deliberately writing extra-small, and no outlandishly-oversized postcards, please - the contrivance dishonours the standard handicap shared by all writers in this style. Postcard stories generally do what they can to contain a beginning, middle and end (and usually even in that order!) but the medium is known for being especially conductive to the production of grotesque vignettes. To get us off to a good start, I'll share my introduction to the form, Sunflower Seeds, by one "Carlos Diamond", from the second issue of the Rabelaisian (November 1996):
When my beloved died, I asked permission to see the corpse before it was buried. I entered the morgue, hiding a number of sunflower seeds in my fist. When the guard was not looking I quickly stuck a few seeds into my dead beloved's vagina.
As I anticipated, some months after the funeral small plants could be seen sprouting round the grave. And a few months later, tall and yellow sunflowers grew, turning their heads in all their glory.
The crop was great, and to this day I sit on my porch and eat their seeds.
I enjoy postcard fiction. Bereft of room for bombast, these stories are stripped down to essential
s either of plot or style. It is a moment of virtuosity
, a trifle
both for the reading and of composition - not taking much of anyone's time, and as such (unlike larger works) rarely taking more time than it's worth. Little investment or commitment is needed for a slice of postcard fiction, and as such the bang for your buck (so to speak) is quite high.
I will send you original, unique postcard fiction (on an honest-to-god postcard, no less!) in return for work of a similar nature from yourselves. Indicate with a strategic asterisk somewhere that I have permission to repost the contents (if not necessarily the provenance) here and stop by often to check for updates.
Last night I had an out-of-body experience. Rising buoyantly among coils of my silver cord, I looked down upon us in placid sleep, curled around each other like common weeds choking a garden path. It was then that the profound tragedy of it all struck me - My God, what is she doing with such an ugly, ugly man?
But then something changed. You made a bestial noise, my darling, and a convulsion racked your prone form. Your tongue protruded gracelessly and your eyelids fluttered, revealing intently crossed eyes. So it was that I saw that perhaps you were as ugly as I.
Satisfied by this resolution of the perceived inequity, I smiled and sank down back into my body. Some hours later, as dawn singed the edges of the sky, you rolled over and farted at me.
An unexpected splash tore me from the dazed tedium of lathering my bristly and forgotten flesh. Had I inadvertently dropt the soap? Gazing at the tallow bar in my hand I knew it was not so.
Shielding my eyes with my other hand from the shower's percussive torrents (it erasing the sudsy markings from my clean lines) I was treated to a final glimpse of my generative organs bobbing somewhat sadly before whirling down the drain.
I held my breath - would they clog the pipes? - but exhaled as the drainage continued unchecked. Smearing mounds of foam across my now-perfect, unmarred juncture, I sighed in relief.
There's one less thing to worry about.
from trust the doctor
Underneath the grapevine Thomas leaned against his shovel and admired his handiwork. He peered into the shallow grave and studied the two bodies; Lauren laying there, a trickle of blood on her chin, still clutching the bread-knife, next to her the deflated Suzanne - beautiful still despite her puncture wounds, her latex legs shimmering in the moonlight.
Thomas always wanted to be an only child. She shouldn't have done it, no sir, shouldn't have killed his girl.
As he was filling in the hole a latch clicked within. Thomas froze.
What would his mother say about the herb garden?
to trust the doctor
My head sat on the corner of the desk, glaring at me like the wormy apple from the teachers' pet. I did my best to ignore it, but it kept wrenching away my attention with a steady stream of grumbled epithets.
"I hope you realise," it muttered grimly, "that responsibility for this whole state of affairs falls squarely on your shoulders." This was nothing new, but after it spat on my left arm I knew measures had to be taken. What if it bit one of my fingers off?
Fumbling with the drawers for a few minutes I managed to open the top one. Groping blindly until I reached an ear, I lifted my head and gently lowered it into the drawer. Sighing as it closed with a soft click, I almost smiled contemplating the impossible logistics of swallowing the key.
to a scar faery
The beautiful girl sits on the curb outside the subway station and lifts the gauze covering the wound on her knee. It stands stalwart beneath her gaze and only when she applies the inexpert ministrations of a sticky finger's probing does it surrender a glistering drop (en Francais, a salty taste bound to the fall), rolling down her shin.
At a blink, innocuous passers-by are seized by an atavistic frenzy of distraction the engrossing sight compels - greybeard grandfathers, gazes drawn, walk head-first (albeit slowly) into lampposts; grown men find themselves piloting muscle cars into roadside market stalls, tumbling prime artichokes into the street; small boys let fall banana peels before open manholes with nary a thought for potential tragicomic consequences.
Days later a cell of Freudians claim responsibility for the whole fiasco, but sensibly she ignores them almost altogether.
Still snowing - still a week away fr. Kansas City - still no food. The cattle are growing more ravenous + more daring. We are vastly outnuumbered + I do not know how much longer we can hold out. Give my love to my w--
from a scar faery
I knew a Frenchman once who taught all his children to breathe underwater.
Almost every night, their mother came armed with towels & blankets to fish them out of the river where they had played hide-and-seek since breakfast, perplexing the village children and always, always winning.
Their neighbour out of jealousy tried to teach his son to fly, but his Icarus never reached the sun.
Maurice was walking down the hall, when Edith approached him and said, "Here, take this, and read it. When you're done, come back and tell me what you think." Maurice took the pamphlet and put it in his coat pocket. He thanked Edith, and went on with his business, which at the time consisted of washing his hands. Soon thereafter, his hands were clean, and he decided to go home. At home, he watered his plants and played a game of chess against the automatic computer opponent, which ended, at least in Maurice's mind, quite unsatisfactorily. Soon it was time for bed. He lay quietly in his cold bed, and thought of his cat, Sheila, who had recently died.
He never did read the pamphlet.
from Megan Gendell, c/o postcardX.net
Today the writing group convened outdoors for a picnic. After eating, each member wrote a ten-minute writing prompt on a scrap of paper and dropped it into the center of the circle. They were drawn one at a time, read, carelessly tossed aside, and written to furiously. The prompt Marie wrote was captured by the wind and carried to a supermarket parking lot, where a woman bent over to pick it up. "How do you know you're not dreaming?" she read, pinched herself, and then woke up.
to alissa, c/o postcardX
I kept the miniature closet behind the darling corner doorway empty until you could come by to witness its preciousness in person. Follow me, I croak, hunched shuffling - I have something important to show you. No room no room! you despair, smiling. (Under the proper circumstances, two bodies can be coaxed to almost assume the surface area of a solitary one.)
Still grinning despite yourself, it is awful claustrophobic in here. Further in, exclaiming as I slither to falsely scrutinize the far end, and close that door! How can you show me with no light? To fully experience this, swearing solemnly I, it is essential that door be closed. (A click, darkness rubbing gooseflesh to attention as it falls.)
What is it? your words moist on my shoulder. Wait listen, rustling. Do you feel it? This is what it's like to share an enclosed space with someone that you like a lot. (knees touching and the sound of me breathing.)
Um. you know the knob is around here somewhere. I don't see it. All I have experienced is being in a small space with someone who likes me a lot. (I would like to leave.)
After writing out what seemed like the intended twenty pages of manuscript, I set them to dry before the setting sun and turned away. Attending to them again as an errant breeze threatened disarray, I was distraught to find that I had in fact produced only ten pages.
Rededicating myself to my task, I copied out again in the growing darkness the entirety of the memorized passages of the missing ten pages, following which the production of a supplementary thirty pages of footnotes, annotations and introductory material occurred. Briskly corroborating the veracity of the written matters with a pince-nez firmly affixed to my visage, it was to my extreme dismay that I found I now totaled but five mere pages of material!
Wondering as the moon ascended along its rooftop arc if I would be in fact getting any sleep at all this night, I applied myself with great gravity and seriousness to a final assault on this manuscript, correcting my posture, cutting a new quill and filling the lamp with oil for the shadows it would need to cast longly. The blessed stylus quivered, jerked and twitched in my hand, shaping letters faster than I could read, and in the subsequent hours a page of commentary slipped out to accompany each of the fifty prior pages, paced by the wearying calls sounded by the men of the night watch. Here this night the meditative repetition of my thoughts as a mantra was drawing from me what was surely to be counted as my masterwork, and as dawn's rays rendered the guttering tongue-flickings of the lamp more distraction than aid I put aside my writing implements, holding up with swollen and protesting hands the hundredth and final leaf.
Turning to place it with finality among its legions of fellow sheaves and sheets, my heart plummeted, counting only the solitary page still held in my trembling hands. To fading birdsong there in the cool air, I sat back in my chair and only then began the reading of what I had instead of the recreation and embellishment on what I had lost.
That reading has never yet had cause to cease.
from bus ridin' fool, on the back of "Kids decorating their camp cabin in Langley, BC"
Last night, I had a dream that I
was laying in bed, staring at the
ceiling, tossing and turning, rolling over again
and again, trying to fall asleep. I
dreamt I couldn't sleep for most of
the night. Finally, I did, and in that
inner dream you were
there, and you
were hogging all the covers, and so I was
too cold to sleep, I stole the blankets
and woke you up, but it was really
me who woke up, and again I couldn't
sleep and you weren't even there, and
then I cried and I truly woke up
and here you are in my arms and
I think I might be dreaming still.