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Short fiction story: Capturing the idea

I submitted this to Writer’s Digest last year. Didn’t make the cut, so I thought I’d post it here to give viewers an idea of what my fiction looks like. This went through about six edits before I finally got it to where I wanted it.

Capturing the idea

By Richard Zowie

Becky stopped, her blue eyes bulging, as if lost in a trance of excited concentration. She and Mike had been about to walk out the door of their home with their three daughters for a quick trip to the grocery store when she stopped on the carpet, right where it met the linoleum of the kitchen. Their girls were already out the door and were probably already getting into their seats in the car.

The glassy gaze remained on her face.

“Honey, what is it?” he asked, watching her reach with her left hand into her purse and produce a small purple notebook. After transferring the notebook to her right hand, her left hand then furiously fished for something else inside the purse.

“Becky, what is it?” he asked again, but she still ignored him, her eyes intensely concentrating on what they could see in the purse.

“Rebecca—” Mike began, knowing that when Becky was focused on a task like this, she completely ignored the world around her.

“I’m looking for my pen,” she finally said as her hand moved even more frantically, almost as if wrestling something inside the purse. “It’s in here, isn’t it?”

Becky’s disorganized ways, which he had long given up on trying to reform, didn’t surprise him as she always seemed to be losing something. But this time, things seemed urgent. It was as if the checking account was overdrawn and she was trying desperately to search the purse for any debit receipts she’d forgotten to have him ledger.

“I think so, why?”

Her hand moved faster still, as if about to tear a hole in the purse. Anger joined the excitement and scared look on her face. “I can’t find it, Michael! Where is it?” She only called him Michael (he detested his too-formal given name) when she was either angry or excited.

“I thought I saw you put it into your purse an hour ago.” He paused. “You had written some thoughts about that short story. Why?”

“So, the pen’s in my purse?”


“But I can’t find it!” her voice, a fevered shriek, was growing more frantic.

“But it should be in there, Rebecca.” She, like him, didn’t care for her given name but was far too consumed with finding the pen to notice him using it.

Ignoring his calmness and still unable to find her pen, Becky turned her purse upside down and shook it as hard as she could. Always one to hate clutter, Mike cringed as countless items cascaded onto the floor and plopped muffled onto the carpet: keys, compact, lipstick, a black day planner that she almost never used, change, cell phone and her wallet.

But no pen.

Exasperated and almost crying, Becky reached up to brush back a lock of curly black hair that had somehow come out of the ponytail on the back of her head. When she did, her left hand brushed up against her ear and hit something hard. Her brow twitched in confusion as she reached up to see what odd object was there.

Tucked behind her left ear was a blue Paper Mate Flexgrip Ultra.

Mike laughed as Becky snatched the pen, clicked it open, opened the notebook, sat quickly and started scribbling down words, so fast that only she would be able to read them. It took 30 seconds, but at the end, she felt relaxed. Her blue eyes sparkled as a wide smile crept across her face.

“Honey, are you ok?” Mike asked, his laughter subsiding as he started to help her gather the items to be put back into her purse.

“Better than ok,” Becky replied, oblivious to his laughter. They put the items back into her purse, including the pen and notebook. “I think I just came up with an idea for the next Great American Novel. You know that story about the woman who buys that old telephone?”


“I just thought of how to make it work.”

“Are you sure?” Mike asked.

Becky smiled again. “I’m as sure as I am that I love you.”

Mike shrugged, and Becky kept smiling. He wasn’t a writer and would never understand. Sometimes, these ideas come once in a lifetime. For a brief blip in time. Once they’re gone, they’re gone forever. And fleeting ideas don’t care if you couldn’t find a pen in time. Or that you had to empty your purse.

© 2007 richardzowie.blogspot.com. May not be reproduced without the author’s permission.

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