Reader’s Digest Shorts

Good tales come in small packages, as these snippets prove. Feeling inspired? Write your own short short story and share it on Twitter with the hashtag #rdshorts. It will appear here on our website, in our iPad edition and possibly in the print magazine, too. How short can you go?

Bonus short fiction from August’s Reader’s Digest Canada

Do it Again

By Peter Jaeger

She wondered if she could tell him to do it again.

By Jen Pendergast

Mother says not to watch the drip, but it’s insistent: each one silently growing, then suddenly breaking off. It seems to shrink in the air. It lands with a gentle plink, and melds with all the others before it, in the rising waters of our burrow.

There is a rumour that this is how we will be. That we are growing silently stronger and one day we will have to leave Mother’s warm embrace, to join the world outside with no more than a plink of goodbye. But I watch the waters rise and wonder if we’ll be big enough.

Leopard Spots
By Hermine Robinson

Cold mornings were the best time to attend church. Harried husbands left car keys in jackets. Bill rifled through pockets, feeling for security fobs. With one easy press, cars would declare.

“Welcome, visitor,” said greeter Tom. “Can I help you?”

“I’m late,” said Bill. “I hope that’s not a problem.”

“You’ve missed the hymns, but you’ll like the sermon. ‘Do Unto Others.'”

A good message, Bill decided afterwards as he pocketed Lexus keys on a silver key chain labelled Tom. But Bill preferred ‘Asking For God’s Forgiveness’. Maybe one day he would.

By Anne Stone

Jason watched the orphans retreat into the alley. They’re going feral, he thought wildly, like dogs, like uncultivated wheat. When the last was gone, he jogged the two flights up to the dead woman’s condo. The door was open, Detective Kim already inside. Jason didn’t see it at first, his partner did.

“Jesus,” Kim said, “she was paranoid.”

It’s not paranoia, Jason thought, if you’re dead right. Then Jason took in the mirrors of every size and shape, carefully mounted so there was not a blind spot in the place. So you saw all possible paths of approach. Jesus.

Signet Ring
By Rachel Lebowitz

The air here holds a different damp. River breeze and water lily. Steady thump of the loom on this bird-songed, dew-spilled morning! Oh, muslin, muslin, such a hush on the tongue. So fine, a dress of it could pass through this ring! Ab-i-rawan, shab-nam, bakt-hawa. Running water, evening dew, webs of woven air. Like vapour, like mist, like wine.

The sky as blue as it will ever be.

And the mordant dyeing – but those are ugly words. For now, let there be no death. Fierce reds, cool blues, clean whites. And water falling through ringed fingers, dampening the dust below.

Proud Flesh
By Ashley-Elizabeth Best

Robyn had fallen out of love with everything. She thought about suicide a lot, but wasn’t serious enough to pull it off. It was calming to think of all the ways a person could go.

A routine gall bladder surgery had left her with a perforated colon. The doctors told her she may die, but she didn’t believe them. Robyn felt too calm on the delivery, had none of the frenzied disbelief of the truly condemned.

She fingers the dry stitches on her belly, imagines turning inside out, the stuff coming out like roots, like thread. Like the inside of a mackerel-the fine gut in a mackerel-the same colour, just like that.

By Rob McLennan

Describing himself as an errorist, he spends his day deliberately misspelling, otherwise the copy-editor could be out of a job, and he never see her again.

By Jen Pendergast

There was a shiver in the air, and the first sprinkle of red edged the leaves in the valley, but she noticed neither. She saw only the trees of home: The unbroken canopy of foliage that masked the village from sight, somewhere down below. 

They were not expecting her, but she would come. She would come and she would live among them as a stranger; the people she had once called friends, family even. They would hide her without knowing they were doing so, love her without knowing whom they loved. And she would be safe and home, at last.