This coming Thursday will mark the first time in years that any fiction of mine will be published in something that is not funded by Gonzaga University. The Inlander, Spokane's weekly alternative newspaper, sponsored a 101-word flash fiction contest earlier this year and liked one of my submissions enough to print it in the upcoming issue. That's the good news. The great news is that they liked my pieces enough to invite me to compete in an eight-person, single-elimination flash fiction tournament as part of Spokane's Get Lit! Literary Festival. I'm not exactly sure what all that entails, though I assume it involves reading stories and advancing based on applause, or what the prizes are, but I am very excited about this. Incredibly excited, really. I literally jumped out of my seat when I read the email. To celebrate, all this week I will post my contest submissions to Spice of Life along with a little commentary on the thought process behind them. Without further ado, I offer...
The sun is setting. The shadows are long. They make it hard to see the gravel path, to find the soft spots which will twist and bend the bike's wheel, but I don't need to see them or the jump at the end. I've studied them all day, preparing for this moment. There isn't time for another run. This will be the last. No backing down again.
Deep breath. Both feet on the pedals. Don't wait. Go. Now. Too slow, push harder, lean forward, griptight, fasterbalancealmostthere
Keep the wheel straight, be firm, bend elbows and knees. Steady and brake.
* * * *
Content-wise, "Jump" is based on my own experiences trying to take a dirt jump with my bike two years ago. It took a few false starts, but when the shadows grew long, I finally knuckled down and hit it. It wasn't a terribly large jump, but the rush from that brief time in the air was incredible. With this story I was trying to capture my thoughts at that moment, how rationality took a well-earned break and was replaced by pure reaction.
Stylistically, I was influenced by David Foster Wallace's stories in his collection Brief Interviews with Hideous Men. You won't find anything like "Jump" in there, but his willingness to do different things with language and make the words themselves and not just their meanings integral to the story was an inspiration for me here. That, actually, was one of my joys in writing for this contest. It allowed me to be more experimental in my style. With such a strict word limit, I felt free to try some new things with my writing and was not confined to the limited third-person perspective that I am most comfortable with.
In the email which informed me of my upcoming publication, "Jump" was the only one of the four to not receive any compliments. So, if you didn't enjoy it, remember that the best is yet to come according to the contest judges.
2 years ago