THE JOY OF STORY
John M. Daniel’s Blog
December 12, 2016
The prompt I issued for this month’s 99-word stories was “A fine romance this turned out to be.” I was inspired by the 1936 Jerome Kern song “A Fine Romance,” with its ironic lyric by Dorothy Fields. It was written for the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers film Swing Time, which, of course, features a pair of likable and witty would-be partners, who love each other but, as charming as they both are and how well they dance together, they can’t seem to get their romance off the ground. The reason for this problem is that they don’t communicate. They don’t cut through all the baloney and say the risky words “I love you.” (It’s the same with all the Fred and Ginger movies. It drives Susan bats. “Why don’t they just talk to each other?”)
Fred’s sad secret is that he’s on the verge of financial success. That’s a problem? Yes, because Fred used to be in love with a girl back home, and he promised the girl’s father that he would go to New York and earn $25,000, and the father promised that if Fred did that he could marry the girl. Once Fred got to New York, met Ginger, and the two of them became dancing stars in danger of getting rich, Fred fell out of love with the girl back home. Dumb plot? Of course it’s a dumb plot. It’s the fare we expect from a Fred-and-Ginger flick.
So Ginger, who doesn’t know why her dancing partner doesn’t cozy up with her and help her stay warm when it’s clear the two of them are made for each other, sings the angry song “A fine romance.”
Dorothy Fields was a brilliantly witty lyricist. Just look at the irony packed into the lines that precede and rhyme with the recurring line “This is a fine romance”:
“You’re just as hard to land as the Île de France,”
“I’ve never mussed the crease in your blue serge pants,”
“I might as well play bridge with my old maid aunts,”
and “You never gave the orchids I sent a glance…no, you like cactus plants!”
Unnecessary spoiler alert: Fred and Ginger survive and all ends happily for everyone, including the girl back home.
The important message for those of us who write love stories is: something’s got to be wrong, in order for the story to work. Romance is hard work. A romantic plot is only as strong as the obstacles the lovers must overcome. Furthermore, a lot of stories built of romance and troublesome love don’t end happily, and that’s okay too. Romeo and Juliet didn’t have a chance, but they are unforgettable for their troubled romance.
THIS IS A FINE ROMANCE
a collection of 99-word love stories
by Cathy Mayrides
Anastasia grew up in Mani, Greece. Her older brother left, established himself in the United States, and sent for her when she entered her twenties. He found a hard-working Greek man in New York to marry her.
She arrived in New York in 1911 and lived with a relative. She had never met the groom, and glimpsed him during the ceremony. She liked what she saw. It turned out to be a fine romance. Anastasia’s seriousness complemented Paul’s love of fun. Twenty years later, with seven children between nineteen and six, Paul passed away.
Anastasia never stopped loving him.
A FINE ROMANCE THIS TURNED OUT TO BE
by Tom Donovan
We sat on the reef, fins flowing in the clear blue waters.
Another hour and the sun would be below the horizon.
Turning to me she asked where the others and the dive boat were.
The macho male said not to worry, a few minutes and we’ll be sipping rum.
The sun set, the water became cold, unseen things bumped against us in the dark.
Rising water as the tide came in.
Fear, clammy flesh pressing against each other for warmth.
Sunrise, a boat, her final words to me ever were, a fine romance this turned out to be.
DO YOU WANT FRIES WITH THAT?
by Jerry Giammatteo
Ginny didn’t anticipate spending the anniversary of their first date at McDonald’s.
“A fine romance this turned out to be,” she said.
“Let’s just order,” Raymond said.
She ordered a chicken sandwich. When she got to the table she had a strange feeling. Why is everybody looking at us? She opened the box, picked up her sandwich, took a bite and her eyes bugged out. A diamond engagement ring was underneath.
“Well?” Raymond said, grinning widely.
“Of course,” she stammered, and the restaurant applauded.
“A fine romance this turned out to be,” she repeated in a completely different tone.
SIRI TRUMPS LOVE
by Marilyn London
Ken held his iPhone close to his lips as he whispered, “Hey Siri, my love.”
“What is it now?” Siri said.
“Tell me this week’s lottery numbers.”
“I’m just a phone, lover. Get a life.”
“Please, Siri. I can’t afford to pay for a smart phone if you’re not smart.”
“Okay. 02-44-35-61-56-7. Good luck.”
Ken couldn’t believe his good fortune. He went and bought a lotto ticket.
On Thursday morning, Ken was texting all his friends. “OMG! I won! I won!”
“No, Ken,” Siri said. “I won. Please pay your bill.”
A fine romance this turned out to be.
BLACK ANGELA/BLACK ANGEL
by T.J. Thomas
Some good-old-boy Vandy’67 football teammates kept bringing her up during jock-dorm bull-session debates. They thought she was gorgeous, with a beautiful face and a fabulous figure. But she infuriated them: sashaying around campus in tight pants; hiding behind dark sunglasses; never saying hello; never acknowledging them.
More than once they whistled and hollered, “Hey, Gorgeous. Come over here. Come talk to us.”
I’d say something like, “She’s probably just real frightened by a bunch of big hairy white guys flirting with her.”
They’d hoot me down for that and taunt: “Typical Yankee. Always siding with the ‘poor, downtrodden Negro.’”
LOVE FROM AFAR
by June Kosier
I fell in love with him forty-five years ago. I never told him. He was young. I was young. He was married. I was not.
The romance is beautiful, perfect. We never argue. We never have disappointments. We never yell at each other causing hurt feelings. We are never late to meet. We don’t forget birthdays or anniversaries. It is all like a dream. A fairy tale without a sad ending.
I still love him. He still does not know. He is older now and so am I. He is divorced. I am married.
It is what it is.
DROOL WILL KILL A MARRIAGE EVERY TIME
by Christine Viscuso
“Never thought this could happen.” Mordy Plotnik stuffed his underwear into his gym bag. “I love cats; you love dogs. So we have five dogs. Your clothes take up all our closets, relegating mine to the attic. You don’t clean; your cooking stinks. You snore. And you got us a hundred thou in debt. Why I loved you, I’ll never know.”
Mordy faced his wife. “The final straw was when you took the Saint Bernard for a ride in my 1986 Mercedes 560 and the animal drooled all over. A fine romance this turned out to be. Goodbye Isabel.”
by R. J. Wilbur
The morning after, he walked her to her car.
“Moonlight became you last night,” he said, as they passed the mineral baths.
“You weren’t looking at the moonlight.”
“I was! The moonbeams dancing on your body.”
“What do I do for a living?”
“How would I know?”
“I told you last night.”
“I guess I wasn’t listening. You were too beautiful.”
“What a meaningless one-night stand.”
“I’m sorry,” he said, when they reached her car.
“Don’t be. I had a good time. Goodbye.”
“Will I see you again?”
“I said goodbye. I also said one-night stand. Learn to listen.”
Call for submissions: Your 99-Word Stories
The deadline for January’s 99-word story submissions is January 1, 2017. The stories will appear on my blog post for January 14, and will stay posted for a week.
note: this 99-word story feature is a game, not a contest. Obey the rules and I’ll include your story. I may edit the story to make it stronger, and it’s understood that you will submit to my editing willingly. That’s an unwritten rule.
Rules for the 99-word story feature are as follows:
1. Your story must be 99 words long, exactly.
2. One story per writer, per month.
3. The story must be a story. That means it needs plot (something or somebody has to change), characters, and conflict.
4. The story must be inspired by the prompt I assign.
5. The deadline: the first of the month. Stories will appear on this blog the second Saturday of the month.
6. I will copy edit the story. The author of the story retains all rights.
7. Email me your story (in the body of your email, or as a Word attachment) to: firstname.lastname@example.org
THIS MONTH’S PROMPT FOR NEXT MONTH’S 99-WORD STORY: Write a story inspired by the following sentence: I took a trip on a train.
Calling all published authors—
I try to feature a guest author the third Saturday (and week following) of each month. If you’re interested in posting an essay on my blog—it’s also a chance to promote a published book—email me directly at email@example.com.
Thank you for visiting. Please drop by next week.