Tall And True Short Reads
Stuck in Time
Episode 54 (22 June 2022)
It’s 1997. I’m fifteen, and Dad’s delivering another lecture on my poor prospects: “If you carry on like this, son, you’ll end up in prison.” I won’t admit it, but he may have a point. Because today on the drive home after catching me shoplifting again, the local cop issued a “last warning”.
Stuck in Time
Episode 54 (22 June 2022)
Read Stuck in Time on Tall And True: https://www.tallandtrue.com.au/short-stories/stuck-in-time
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Buy Robert’s short story collections online:
- Amazon Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/Robert-Fairhead/e/B086HZ36NM
- Rakuten Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/au/en/author/robert-fairhead
I celebrated my second anniversary of submitting 500-word short stories to the Australian Writers’ Centre’s Furious Fiction competition in March 2022 with Stuck in Time. The brief for March was:
- Each story has to include a character that commits a crime
- Some kind of DOOR being opened
- And the words CHALK, TALK and FORK (longer variations accepted with the original spelling retained).
Having “brainstormed” ideas, I set my first draft at the “Redundant Dads Club”. I felt the characters at this monthly meeting offered me opportunities for a crime and doors opening (and closing) on relationships and places for the required words, with lots of TALKing.
But I stalled after about 200 words, abandoned the draft, the first time I’ve done so in two years of Furious Fictions, and returned to my ideas list. And among my jottings, I spotted an alternative opening line: “My father is giving me another of his talks.”
I’ve blogged on Tall And True about following Ernest Hemingway’s advice to write one true sentence. And so I changed the opening line into something my father once said to the teenage me: “If you carry on like this, son, you’ll end up in prison.”
Ping! Like a light switched on inside my head, I suddenly saw the story, with my protagonist flipping back and forth between his teenage and “pushing forty” selves. And struggling to reconcile his feelings for his father.
How much of a writer’s work is imagination, and how much is memoir?
I used a true sentence in Stuck in Time. Yes, I live across the continent from my father. And we have had our “father and son” difficulties over the years. But I call him regularly and visit whenever I can. The rest is pure imagination — the shoplifting, mum and dad fighting, running away from home, dad dying, sharing a joint outside a hospital with my brother. And I was fifteen in 1977, not 1997, and when I wrote Stuck in Time, I wasn’t pushing forty, I was pushing sixty!
In another first for Furious Fiction and me, Stuck in Time was longlisted for March 2022. I was as proud to see my name and story on the list as if I’d won the competition, and it felt like a fitting reward on my second anniversary of Furious Fictions.
I hope you felt rewarded listening to Stuck in Time. You can read this and all my blog posts, short stories and other writing at TallAndTrue.com. You can also buy my short story collections from the Amazon Kindle and Kobo online bookstores.
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