I had the task of reducing an already flash fiction piece of 800 words to less than 300 words for a competition.

It turned out to be more daring than I had anticipated. Some darling phrases had to be given the boot and I was tempted to start all over with a new piece. Well, I didn’t.

Previously, I thought the story was finished, but with 280 something words left over after the word massacre, I wonder if it was even written.

On the other hand, I was asked by a couple of friends to “finish” a short story I thought was finished. One of them wanted to meet a character and the other felt the ending was too abrupt.

When is a story finished?
How does the writer know it is done?
Who should decide on “the end”?

Below is the chiseled down version of a flash fiction piece from the archives.

The coffin is stretched out in front of the room. An hour later and it still hasn’t moved. I expect it to. The lid flying open and the preacher asked to take back his sleepy sermon on why it is good to forgive.

Yesterday, my father was angry. He was shouting, using words like, “deranged”, “cold-blooded”, and “justice”. Words that I could not understand.
On TV, there was a man, holding a gun, talking. I was listening. There was a look in his eyes. A look that said, I am speaking to you, but I don’t see you. It scared me.

I was thinking. Thinking of my neighbor. A kind man. Always eager to tell stories and give bars of chocolate when we listened. A kind man who was dead now.
Death and kind; those two words should not be in the same sentence. Yet, father used them together. He told me the news.
We watched the news every evening at 7pm as a family. It was always sad and I was happy that it was about places far away and people I didn’t know.
“I have bad news”, father said. “Our neighbor was killed today.” It was not a kind death.

I listened but couldn’t understand. The well-dressed people on TV looked sad. They showed the man with the gun on TV again as he repeated the words, “I shot him.”

Our neighbor’s wife is seated on the front row. Her head is bent. She is crying. Everyone is crying. I stretch my neck till it hurts to find his children, my friends. I really want to tell them sorry. I can’t see them, so I focus on what I can see.

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