“Misunderstandings” appears today in Tuesday Shorts. This is a classic case of re-formatting and recycling an idea that I was pretty certain was good until I finally found a place where it would fit. The rest of this post is a bit spoiler-ish, so I’ll make a break here in case you want to read the piece first (it’s very short).

“Misunderstandings” started out life as my first (and so far only) attempt at a tanka, all 26 words of it, for a Writers’ News poetry competition:

As a token of
his love, he gave her a small
white mouse, called Benji.

Gratefully, she received the
gift, and fed it to her snake.

It then acquired the title “Misunderstandings”, and mutated into a longer piece (139 words, to be precise), for the SlingInk Short Shorts competition:

On our first date, she told me she was an animal lover, which sounded promising until I realised that she was not using the word “animal” as an adjective. However, I did at least now know what I had to do to win her heart.

Between our first and second dates, I bought a small white mouse for her, called Benji. I looked after him for a week, feeding, watering and grooming him. By the end of our brief sojourn together, I had become quite attached to Benji, and I felt unbearably sad at the prospect of losing him.

On our second date, I presented the gift to her as she opened the door to her flat. She hesitated briefly, as if wondering what to do. Then, smiling, she took Benji from me and fed him to her python.

It then got trimmed back drastically to 50 words for the Charnwood Arts MiniWords competition, retitled as “The Misunderstood Gift”:

On our first date, she said that she liked animals. So between our first and second date, I bought a small white mouse called Benji. On our second date, I presented him to her and, with a hesitant smile, she accepted the gift. Then she fed Benji to her python.

At this point, I decided that it probably had run its course as a competition entrant, and looked for a suitable market instead. Tuesday Shorts looked a good bet, but I had to trim it back to under 100 words. So I went back to the 139-word version and tightened that one up, and the final result (at 100 words exactly) is, I think, the best of the lot.

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