Them & Me

by Pamela Painter

The first was Bob. Bob! She disliked that name. She renamed Bob Robert. But it didn’t make him last longer.

Lefty-the-Lifeguard became Lugar. James went from James to Jimmy and ended up Timmy. The die was cast. Somewhere into the second or third date of a potential thing/fling Greg became Gary and then a real Gary was Grinch. Sloan was Slick. Sam became Soup.

It went on this way. George became Jordan. Noel was Neal. Willy was William. The next William was Bill. Franklin was Fitzhugh. Tom was Thomas, segueing into Tomasina, though they remained dear friends. Pablo was Pet. Peter was Pet 2, though sometimes in the middle of making love he said call me Pet-2-Last. She didn’t. Professor Chung was Wing. Steve was Stove. Fred Refrigerator, and then just Fridge. Donald was Ronaldo. Harry was Hilt. Wayne won West. Rich was Rush. And Pat was Plush. If Wayne had come after Pat he might have ended up as Payne. Bret was Bracket. Russ was Racket. They couldn’t help where they came in the order of things or what they didn’t know, etc.

Gilmore was Gilt. Taylor Tilt. Davenport re-emerged as Port, then Park. Ike was Et tu. Rick was Ricky, then Dick, though not without protest, so he soon became Doc. Ken was Kenneth. Kin was Flynn.

And you, they say.

Mia, she tells them. But for short, just plain Me.

PAMELA PAINTER is the author of three story collections and is co-author of the textbook What If. Her flash stories have been reprinted in Sudden Fiction, Flash Fiction, Flash Fiction Forward, You Have to Read This, Stripped, and Microfiction, among others. Her own collection of very short stories is titled Wouldn’t You Like to Know. Painter teaches in the MFA Program at Emerson College in Boston.

I’m sure you’ve been asked thousands upon thousands of questions about writing very short fiction. What’s the one thing you’ve held onto for yourself, the one secret key to it all?

    I wish I had “one secret key.” Ideas for flash fiction occur to me in a flash—a word or an image, an anecdote—and I say to myself “that is the story I will write tomorrow.” I have learned the hard way, however (and just this past week), that if I don’t make a note of these very short story ideas, they are gone in a flash. A secret key: don’t go anywhere without a small notebook. Don’t let those story ideas disappear, because when they are gone they are gone absolutely.
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