Shira’s post below reminded me of a story by Shawn Vestal, called The Pig of Happiness, which is one of the best short shorts I’ve ever read. It starts like this:
The story is called The Pig of Happiness and you’ve read it out loud for days now, it seems, when the only thing that will make baby calm down are the pictures of these pale pigs and your voice describing the way that one of them decides to be happy and spread happiness into the world like a neutral-colored paste sneaking from the leghole of an improperly sealed diaper.”
The story continues for another four paragraphs. Short shorts seem to almost always require surprise at the end, some kind of hard turn that makes the reader want to go right back to the beginning to read again. And again. Vestal’s has that, sort of, but the big shift is actually much more gradual. The story takes on weight and context line by line, the narrator becoming kind of disturbing as the piece goes on and he’s sort of torturing his kid. It’s also hilarious, not only regarding being a parent, but in the way it comments on stories themselves or how we sometimes talk or think about them as writers. Like any good short short, “The Pig of Happiness” is striking because of how much ground it covers in such a small space. And when I get to the end, I always think, How did we get here? thrilled that the story has done so much and landed so far from where I thought it would or could possibly go, and all in under 400 words.