Short Story

Friday Flash: I Have

I wrote this as a challenge: write a one-page nonfiction story like the first page of this piece by David Foster Wallace.

I have some (a lot!!) doubts as to how well I did. So . . . tell me! Don’t hold back. I can take it.
I’ve seen many people push themselves into a small box. I’ve squished myself onto trains so crowded there was hardly room for one more mouse. I have seen a man give   up his seat to an elderly woman. I’ve felt a woman’s sweaty, skirt-covered groin pressed against my butt – and wished her miles away.

I’ve seen rain splatter against the windows like a hundred spiders crawling across clear plastic. I’ve marveled at the confusion the subway map inspires in strangers. I’ve been puzzled by women wearing very high heels on wet platforms. I’ve had random conversations with clowns, a man who used to teach in India and a suburban housewife shocked to hear the city has no Walmarts.

I’ve seen rats scurry across the tracks ahead of a train thundering in. I’ve smelled a homeless man in the close confines of a car – and been grateful for a plastic orange seat. I’ve spent an hour reading the same beer advertisement over and over again. I have become sticky from no AC.

I have heard announcements over the overhead speakers: This is the last stop on this train. Everyone please leave the train. I’ve seen water pumps struggle to pump water. I’ve been forced forward by the push of a relentless crowd. I’ve walked inches from the edge – and come close to falling.

I’ve held fast to poles. I have stomped on the toes of dissipated men. I’ve tried not to see tear-stained faces. I have heard the announcement overhead: The train ahead of us has mechanical problems, only to be told later someone jumped onto the tracks.

I’ve seen boys turn cartwheels in a half-empty car. I have averted my eyes from public displays of affection. I have heard musicians good enough to make you weep. I have seen a flock of geese relaxing on the subway platform in the fall. I have witnessed the tenacity of grass growing in the middle of the train tracks. I’ve felt a baby tug at my fingers, attracted by sparkling nails – and been content.

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27 thoughts on “Friday Flash: I Have

  1. Excellent voice! I think you did a wonderful job. I agree that you really draw the reader in.

    One thing kind of threw me. I was expecting something to happen after the line, “Everyone please leave the train.” Some kind of conflict, like someone didn’t leave the train, or something. I felt like it was a setup, but then you moved on to the water pumps, which kind of seemed anti-climactic. Other than that, the piece really held my attention. Great job! 🙂

    (Once you have “overheard” instead of “overhead”.)

  2. You did good. I have . . . and you really put me back in those moments with your descriptions, whether I wanted to go there or not, especially the sweaty lady.

  3. I haven’t read DFW, I tend not to follow the flow when people gush about an author like that, then add interpretation to his work because he committed suicide, so I have no idea of the relationship of this piece to his style. But I loved what you did here Sonia. The rhythm was fabulous, almost like the clickety-clack of a train pushing through air itself. Great stuff

    1. It was a non-fiction essay type thing I did – I wasn’t trying to copy his fiction. (I haven’t even read any of his fiction!)

      Thanks! I am glad it worked for you!

  4. For me, the last lines really pulled it all together. For all the hassle, for all the trouble and outright danger, there are true human touches that make it all worthwhile.

  5. I really enjoyed this, particularly because often on the London Underground everyone looks at the floor, posters (anywhere but at anyone else), but you do absorb all of the other things that you have mentioned as you go. I adore the last line too, as Larry said above.

  6. Nice piece. I like the use of the repetitive “I’ve seen…”. It creates the rhythm of the story. And many thanks for stopping by my blog. Hope to see you there again.

  7. Great choice of “moments”. I liked how you ordered them too — something like this, I think the order the details come out is at least as important as the details themselves.

  8. Oh lord, you have been there haven’t you? This truly is my daily travel experience. It has all these moments captured, the mundane ones that stick in your head. Brilliant!

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