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  • H.T. Grossen

Really, Really Short Fiction

Updated: May 16


https://www.press53.com/53word-story-contest



I believe all good writing is intentional but when there’s only 53 words to work with, you really have to focus. I have enjoyed Press53’s monthly 53 Word Story contests for some time, and in April, I finally decided to try my hand. I won, which was a really nice surprise. It was also just before 5/3, Press53 day, so I got to read my piece at their pop-up event. It seemed small in most senses, a small piece in a small contest with a small prize read at a small digital get-together; but it was sort of a big moment for me. Press53 is a respected indie publisher and has put out an incredible volume of short fiction and poetry over the last 15 years and everything about this experience was wonderful. Except perhaps Hard Country, I have never had so many people reach out and send encouraging emails and messages about a piece of my writing.


The prompt for April was “A Date.” I thought about what kind of dates I’d like to have with my own wife and a porch picnic seemed like a nice, romantic thing to do. But when I thought on the prompt for a while, other things sprang to mind as well. I thought of the “expiration date” we all have. I also thought of important dates, namely: a 50th Wedding Anniversary.

The initial idea for the piece came together fairly easily, and a roughly 100 word story emerged that I refined down to half of that for about an hour. It went quickly, I thought; but deciding on a title took me nearly as long as the first draft. I think titles are important, especially in formats like flash fiction and poetry where the title should not just compliment the writing but also reveal something about the piece, as well. From a list of about ten titles, I finally landed on “Dusk.”

I then revised the first draft to include some clear symbols. This was an elderly couple in the “dusk” of their years. I already had the motif of the “sun setting” on their lives; I added Geraldine’s apprehension that her “parents,” or God, would soon call her home. But before that can happen, she recognizes a sweetness, this “sunset” in her life: her husband who loves her. Although it is a bittersweet ending, it feels hopeful to me personally: thoughts of golden sunsets and Golden Anniversaries are what I am left with…

So there it is. “Dusk,” a 53 word story about a couple in the “dusk” of their lives.

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