Writer’s Wisdom: O. Henry on Writing a Short Story

I’ll give you the whole secret to short story writing. Here it is. Rule 1: Write stories that please yourself. There is no Rule 2. ~ O. Henry

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Vinnie Returns February 20

Vinnie and his parents go on a road trip. What could go wrong? Plenty! LOL

Vinnie Returns February 20

Vinnie and his parents go on a road trip. What could go wrong? Plenty! LOL

Please Check on Vinnie

21

Vinnie’s dad continues to massage Vinnie’s mom’s shoulders. An eery quiet comes from the kitchen, then a beep and another beep, then the sound of the microwave. “Vinnie’s making popcorn.”

“Vinnie’s mom twists her head and looks up at Vinnie’s dad, “Go check on him. I don’t trust him.”

Vinnie’s dad gives a small chuckle, “What could go wrong with making a bag of microwave popcorn. You worry too much.”

The sound of the popcorn popping grows louder, faster, and with the furious beat of an angry rapper. “I don’t like the sound of the popcorn in the microwave, Dear. Please check on Vinnie.”

Vinnie’s dad says, “Listen to the popping, it’s almost …”

An explosion of sorts, the slamming of the microwave door against the cabinets, and Vinnie’s voice, “Wow! This is great. There’s popcorn everywhere. You should see this dad.”

Vinnie’s mom is out of the chair like a rocket taking off for the International Space Station. Vinnie’s dad follows a safe distance behind prepared for a series of ‘I told you so.’

Vinnie’s mom stands in the entryway into the kitchen, arms akimbo, “My God, what happen? There’s popcorn everywhere. What happened to the microwave? Popcorn and popcorn bags are sticking to the sides and tops. What did you do, Vincent.” 

“Nothing, Mom. Honest. I asked Rupert if I could pop three bags of popcorn together on high and he thought it was a good idea. He really likes the game and wanted to get back to play it.”

“You asked Rupert what you should do?” says Vinnie’s Mom.

“Yes, Mom. You always told me when I’m not sure of something, to ask someone smarter than me. Rupert is the smartest person I know.”

Vinnie’s mom turns to Vinnie’s dad, “Don’t say anything. Hold me. I need to get centered. 

Vinnie’s dad holds Vinnie’s mom in his arms. Vinnie’s mom lays her head on Vinnie’s dad’s shoulder and whispers, “Does this make Rupert smarter than you and me?”

Vinnie’s dad isn’t sure what to say. Instead, he strokes Vinnie’s mom’s hair and says, “You have to admit, life around here isn’t boring.” 

Vinnie calls over, “Mom, no need to worry about clean up, Dexter’s almost done. Can I lift him up and stick his head inside the microwave?”

Vinnie’s mom breaks loose from Vinnie’s dad. She looks at Vinnie’s dad and says, “I told you so. No, Vincent, don’t stick Dexter’s head in the microwave.”

“What did you tell, Dad, Mom? Did he remember? I bet he wasn’t listening to you. Is this true, Dad?”

“Let me help Dexter clean up,” says Vinnie’s dad. Vinnie’s mom starts laughing.

Ten minutes later the family is sitting at the kitchen table. Rupert is sitting on the table, his back braced against the lunchbox. Dexter is lying on the floor sleeping off three bags of popcorn.

Vinnie’s mom says, “Vincent, I am really trying to be patient with you. My patience meter is running on empty. I want this game to end quickly so I can soak in the tub undisturbed by any male in the house.”

Vinnie smiles, “Awe, Mom. Why don’t you take your bath now. We can play when you finish.”

“No, we’ll finish it now.”

Vinnie’s dad sits stoically staring at a photo of the three of them at Six Flags. His first thought was the happy time they all had, then he remembered what Vinnie did on the water slide. He decided not to bring it up.

Vinnie’s says, “Since you didn’t answer the question about Gramma’s teeth, I’ll ask you one about Grampa since he has most of his teeth. Is it okay?”

Vinnie’s Mom says, “Promise it’s not about Grampa’s teeth.”

“I promise, Mom,” says Vinnie.

Vinnie’s dad interrupts, “Perhaps we should narrow his choices down a bit more, Dear.”

Vinnie’s mom looks at Vinnie’s dad and says, “What could he ask that would embarrass me?”

Vinnie’s dad can think of seventy-three things, but smiles and nods.

Vinnie says, “Mom, when Gramma and Grampa visit us and have dinner with us, Grampa sits on sofa and wants me to sit next to him. I don’t want to sit next to him and Dexter doesn’t like lying on the floor near him. And, Rupert doesn’t want to sit on the sofa with him. Why can’t Dad sit next to him and me and Dexter and Rupert play in my room until dinner?”

“That’s terrible, Vincent. You love, Grampa, right?” asks Vinnie’s mom.

“Sure, Mom. I love Grampa. That’s not the reason I don’t want to sit with him.”

“Well, Vincent. What is the reason you don’t want to sit next to Grampa? says Vinnie’s mom.

“I wouldn’t go there, Dear,” says Vinnie’s dad.

“Where, Dad?” says Vinnie.

“Yes, where?” says Vinnie’s mom.”

Vinnie’s dad glances at Vinnie. He says, “Vinnie, I think Dexter has to go outside after all the popcorn. Do you mind taking him into the backyard? We’ll be ready to play when you come back. Here’s a dollar if you do it without saying a word.”

Vinnie grabs the dollar and head toward the kitchen, Dexter follows believing he’s getting more food.

Vinnie’s mom says, “That was so wrong to reward him to do what he’s supposed to do.”

“I needed to get Vinnie off the game before he asked you the question,” says Vinnie’s dad.

“Dad is the most gentle soul. Vinnie loves him. They’re best buds when he visits. What question could he ask that might bother me?” asks Vinnie’s mom.

Vinnie’s dad thinks about it for a moment. He weighs the pros and cons of answering this question forthrightly and honestly. Then he says, “I can’t think of a single question Vinnie could ask that will bother you.”

COME BY TOMORROW FOR THE CONCLUSION – ENJOY

Vinnie’s Dad Gets an Impossible Question

18

Vinnie’s mom, Vinnie’s dad, Rupert and Vinnie sit at the dining room table. Rupert’s back leans against Vinnie’s lunch box. Dexter lies on the floor next to Vinnie’s chair. The scent of the lingering fragrance of hotdog residue in Vinnie’s pant’s pocket has Dexter’s beagle optimism reader on high.  Vinnie’s dad says, “I’m ready to answer why you can’t do what you want.”

“Too late, Dad. The game’s rules say if you don’t answer it right away, I can change the question,” says Vinnie.

Vinnie’s dad knowing he has to score some points with Vinnie’s mom says, “Vinnie, this is a great game, but this is last question. The game ends after I answer the question, right or wrong.”

Vinnie’s mom glances at Vinnie’s dad and says, “You’ve got to do better.”

“I’m working on it, Dear,” says Vinnie’s dad.

Vinnie pulls an imaginary piece of paper out of the lunch box. He holds the imaginary paper in front of him and reads the imaginary words off of it, “When I grow up, will I be tall and skinny and nerdy looking like you, Dad. Or, will I be like Mom and be able to do sports really good and be really smart?”

Vinnie’s dad blushes. He says, “I am tall and you’re tall for your age group. You’ll be over six feet. But, I’m not nerdy and I like to run.”

Vinnie’s mom touches Vinnie’s dad’s arm, “Dear, you need to answer the question. It is entirely appropriate.”

“Thank you, Mom,” says Vinnie.

“It’s not even a question because it’s imaginary. There was no paper. Vinnie made it up,” says Vinnie’s dad defensively.

“No I didn’t Dad. It’s right here,” Vinnie points to an imaginary spot on the table. He adds, “Rupert wrote it for me. He has great cursive writing.”

Vinnie’s mom, now enjoying the game for the first time says, “Can I see the question, Vinnie?”

“Sure, Mom,” says Vinnie picking up the imaginary question and handing it to his mom.

Vinnie’s mom accepts the imaginary question, holds it up in front of her face and reads it, “When I grow up, will I be tall and skinny and nerdy looking like you, Dad. Or, will I be like Mom and be able to do sports really good and be really smart?” She adds, “You’re right, Vinnie. Rupert has excellent cursive.”

“This isn’t fair,” says Vinnie’s dad. “Can I have a different question?”

“I like this question,” interrupts Vinnie’s mom.

Vinnie reaches over to his mom and she hands the imaginary question to him. Vinnie says, “Dad, I’m going to mark you down. Don’t worry, I have a few extra credit questions for you to get you back in the game. Do you like ketchup?”

“Yes, Vinnie, I like ketchup,” says Vinnie’s dad.

“Dad, do you like ice cream?” asks Vinnie.

“Yes, I like ice cream. What’s the point?” asks Vinnie’s dad.

“Then, Dad, do you ketchup ice cream?” asks Vinnie.

Vinnie’s dad intuitively senses if he answers yes, Vinnie will go to the kitchen and bring his a bowl of ice cream with ketchup on it. If he answers no, Vinnie will tell him he didn’t tell the truth on the first two questions.

Vinnie’s mom says, “Dear, do you now understand what it’s like? Once you leave for work, he starts. Once he gets off the bus it begins again. Two or three times a week I’m called to school talk to teachers about Vinnie.”

“It’s all good stuff, right, Mom?” says Vinnie.

Vinnie’s mom glances at Vinnie. She says, “Vinnie, you amaze your teachers every day.”

“Thanks, Mom. Dad, do you want some ice cream?”

Vinnie’s Mom Wanted a Girl

17

Vinnie’s mom and dad tell Vinnie everyone needs a break. Vinnie’s mom and dad go in their bedroom and close the door behind them. Vinnie, Rupert, and Dexter head to the kitchen. Dexter’s favorite room. 

Vinnie’s mom sits on the edge of the bed. She pats a space on the bed next to her. Vinnie’s dad, well trained, walks to the edge of the bed, turns and sits down next to Vinnie’s mom. 

“Well?” asks Vinnie’s mom.

“Well, what?” answers Vinnie’s dad.

“Well, what are you going to tell him about Joey’s dad being horny?” says Vinnie’s mom.

“I don’t know. This never came up in birthing classes,” says Vinnie’s dad.

“It’s TV. We need to get rid of the TV,” says Vinnie’s mom.

“What will we do without football, basketball, and baseball, not to mention golf, winter and summer olympics. You’ll miss the food channel and the home fixer upper channels,” argues Vinnie’s dad as if he’s giving the closing summation in the trial of a serial killer.

“You have to do something. Talk to him man to man,” says Vinnie’s mom.

“He’s only eight years old. I can’t talk to him man to man,” says Vinnie’s dad.

“Then talk to him man to boy, father to son. Dear, he has an overload of your DNA. You have to take responsibility. You know I wanted a girl. But no, you said the first child should be a boy and you read that Indian book on positions more likely to produce a son instead of a daughter. Well … ?” says Vinnie’s mom.

“Do I have to?” asks Vinnie’s dad.

“You sound just like Vinnie. Yes, you have to,” says Vinnie’s mom. “What’s that smell? It smells like the turkey bacon I cook in the skillet for you. Oh, no. Do you think …”

“Yes. He’s cooking turkey bacon,” says Vinnie’s dad.

In the kitchen, Vinnie pulls the last piece of turkey bacon out of the skillet. He dangles it in the air to cool it. The dangling of the turkey bacon has a hypnotizing affect on Dexter. Dexter’s eyes sway like a metronome in four four time. Dexter is lying on the floor. Rupert is sitting against him. Dexter knows this is the easiest gig in the world for a dog.  Don’t move, let a stuffed animal sit against your side and be paid with food for performing this difficult act.

Vinnie’s mom is first to reach the kitchen. “Vincent, what are you doing?”

“I taught Dexter a new trick, Mom. I taught him to lie of the floor and take care of Rupert for me. Look, he’s real good at it,” said Vinnie putting the last piece of turkey bacon next to Dexter’s mouth. 

Dexter’s tongue is quicker than the hands of a blackjack dealer in a Vegas casino. The turkey bacon vanishes into the cosmic space of air, a beagle’s tongue, and a beagle’s digestive track.

Vinnie’s mom turns the stove off. She says, “Vincent, you could have burned the house down. Do you know how dangerous this was?”

Vinnie gives his mom a quizzical look, “I don’t think so, Mom. Look at Rupert. I put the fire extinguisher next to him. If anything happened, Rupert would be all over it.”

Vinnie’s mom turns and faces Vinnie’s dad, “Say something.”

“Looks like he thought of everything. Can we continue playing the game?”

“Dear Mother of God, please ask your Son why,” says Vinnie’s Mom.