In our view, a complete literary short story operates on different levels: 1) overall plot, 2) mini-story/facts/concepts in the form of a running metaphor, 3) short, beautifully-written phrases or ideas. Oh happy summer. Let's visit some of those random number 3s:

"If I hadn't been married to him, I would have never believed it... My other half was out at the railroad yards, hanging out where they've been painting all the troop trains, and he fell into a 250-gallon vat of lacquer." — from the novel "Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café" by Fannie Flagg

"In sleepiness, I see a rabble of dogs in a steamy heath, their hard-featured faces mottled with light from the yellow moon. I wonder if my cat's sleeping somewhere, if it's dreaming." — from the novel "Why Did I Ever" by Mary Robison

"He teaches me how to flip my Zippo lighter from hand to hand. He's an idiot but he knows one good trick and now I know it too." (same source as previous)

"'Done,' she said, waving her hand like the fairy who grants your wish knowing just how much trouble your choice is going to bring." — from the short story "The Former Star Carlson" by Lynne Barrett

"Your grandmother is a back-seat driver prone to blatantly obvious instructions: 'There's a traffic light coming up here on the corner and if it's red you'll need to stop.'" — from the short story "Apple Pie" by Thisbe Nissen

"She sat still on a stone, her heavy-lidded eyes impassively half-closed, the inclination of her head in beautiful agreement with her lean, severe arm and the cigarette resting in her intelligent fingers." — from the short story "Daisy's Valentine" by Mary Gaitskill

"To the west, the terraced estates of Coronado, where swimming pools glowed like sapphires." — from the short story "My Life in Heavy Metal" by Steve Almond

"I didn't love her as she loved me. What other sin is there, finally?" (same source as previous)

"Autumn leaf fires. The cook is drunk. Children make a barricade of leaves. Frost has slaughtered the begonias." — from "The Journals of John Cheever"

"Paint me a wall in Verona, then, a fresco above a door." — the beginning of the short story "Another Story" by John Cheever

"So help me God it gets more and more preposterous, it corresponds less and less to what I remember and what I expect as if the force of life were centrifugal and threw one further and further away from one's purest memories and ambitions; and I can barely recall the old house where I was raised, where in midwinter Parma violets bloomed in a cold frame near the kitchen door, and down the long corridor, past the seven views of Rome — up two steps and down three — one entered the library, where all the books were in order, the lamps were bright, where there was a fire and a dozen bottles of good bourbon locked in a cabinet with a veneer like tortoise shell whose silver key my father wore on his watch chain." — the beginning of the short story "The Death of Justina" by John Cheever

"Yellow leaves fluttering down the face of the building across the street, like messages from a princess in a high tower." — from the novel "Model Behavior" by Jay McInerney

"Janet runs barefoot across the lawn turned gem-green by the moon, a fairytale green, the green of lost cities at the bottom of lakes in the depths of dark forests. She is running across the bottom of a green lake and, oh, she's moon-mad, summer-loony, and anyway who cares, not her." — from the novella "Enchanted Night" by Steven Millhauser


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