She Dumped Him – Short-Short Silliness

Posted: April 30, 2018 in Uncategorized

The following is actually a writing experiment that came to me during one of the rare occasions I was allowed to be a passenger in a car. It’s designed to show that dialog isn’t the be-all-end-all of writing. There’s exposition, of course, but it’s woven around a single phrase of dialog — with variations for appropriate parts of speech — “she dumped him.” It also contains what some writers and editors misunderstand as “said-bookisms.” This is intentional. Words like “squeaked”, “whispered” and “muttered” (to name a few from the first few lines) are not equivalent to “said,” and they never will be. They convey additional information about how the dialog is spoken that is relevant to the story. A “said-bookism” does not. A fundamental misunderstanding of this difference led to an “edict” by the Big Five (okay, I’m dating this, since it’s now the Big Four — and I sincerely hope they’ve changed) that only “said” would be acceptable in manuscripts, along with the profoundly unscientific explanation that readers skip over the word “said,” so any other words would be skipped over, too. (Apparently, the gatekeepers hadn’t actually read any of the Harry Potter books they so desperately wanted to reproduce, or they would have noticed J. K. Rowling was the queen of what they thought were “said-bookisms.”) There’s also liberal use of adjectives and adverbs, which was also equally unfashionable. But, hey, I’m a nerd — I don’t have to be fashionable! Anyway, here’s the silliness in all it’s short-short (this kind of experiment really doesn’t warrant a longer, more descriptive treatment) glory:

She Dumped Him

“I dumped him,” Tracy squeaked as she slid into the corner booth’s newly-vinyled half-circle bench seat at her favorite greasy spoon, Sugar’s. The faint hum of neon punctuated her companion’s lack of response. She fidgeted with the buttons on her bright yellow sundress, waiting.

“You dumped him?” Sally whispered incredulously after a few moments. Still standing, she cocked her head at Tracy, unnaturally crimson hair flopping over her shoulder teasingly, and lifted an eyebrow quizzically. “You? Dumped him?”

Tracy nodded and forced a smile, which turned out more like a grimace. “I dumped him.”

“She dumped him?” Sally muttered to herself, shaking her head in disbelief. Shrugging, she plopping her ample bottom down onto the bench, scooting closer to her best friend.

A waitress in a red and black checkered thigh-length dress swooped past, chittering a promise to return soon. Two glasses of water remained in her wake, deposited on their table with such efficiency it almost seemed magical.

A slightly-built woman in a green halter and matching shorts breezed through the open front door, a slight gust fluffing her long blonde hair tantalizingly. Instantly, the air in the diner seemed more summery. A wide grin split her face when she saw her two friends already seated in what she’d come to think of as “their” corner booth. Waving enthusiastically, she flounced over.

Before the newcomer, Deena, had a chance to speak, Sally blurted out, “She dumped him!”

Deena’s mouth dropped open and she stared at Tracy, gliding smoothly into an open space by Sally. Deena nearly missed the edge of the bench on her way in, but she still managed to make the maneuver look graceful. That’s just the way she was.

Tracy sighed. “I dumped him,” she said flatly, peering intently down at her menu.

Deena whooped, drawing the attention of several people at nearby tables. “She dumped him,” Deena told the nearest table, as if that were all the explanation that was needed. She turned to another table and grinned. “She dumped him!”

A flash of red and black checkers accompanied the nearly magical appearance of not just another glass of water, but a plain brunette in a business suit, frowning down at Deena.

The last of the quartet, Mary, had finally arrived, dressed in work clothes.

Tracy glanced up at Mary, noticed her suit, and returned to her menu, sighing. She knew that meant a shortened brunch, but today she wasn’t going to let it get to her.

Deena and Sally both shouted nearly in unison, “She dumped him!”

Mary smirked and dropped into the seat next to Tracy and put a comforting hand on her elbow. “You dumped him?”

Tracy nodded, but didn’t look up from her menu. She took a deep breath, exhaling, “I dumped him.” Relief washed over her and she repeated it over and over, like chanting a mantra. “I dumped him. I dumped him. I dumped him.”

Her friends joined in, holding hands in a circle. “She dumped him. She dumped him. She dumped him.”

The group at the next table looked nervous and scurried away from their table, heading for the cashier by the front door. One stayed behind to pay, but the others sprinted through the door, slamming it shut behind them.

Even Checkers kept her distance.

Sometime before the silliness, though, a fourth water had materialized, and Mary took a sip between stanzas, breaking the spell. Chanting devolved into giggling.

The front door banged open, punishing the bell into a ringing fit before it stilled, its echoes reverberating off the walls. All eyes in the diner turned to look.

An unkempt beard jutted from a face so purple with anger it sent Checkers scrambling for a phone, presumably to call the police. Bed hair hung limply from his head as he tilted it back, gathering breath for the coming bellow. At the last second, he deflated completely and slumped where he stood, his head hanging limply. After a few labored breaths, he looked up and stared directly at Tracy. His mouth worked once, twice, before he managed to utter just three words, each one stabbing at Tracy’s heart.

“You dumped me?”

  1. naleta says:

    Nicely done. You are correct that it didn’t need to be longer.

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