7 Short Summer Fiction Stories
I tossed up whether to read summer stories or winter stories this week.
I’m sitting here sweltering through a hot summer in Australia, so I considered reading stories set in the cold. But since 88% of the world population lives in the northern hemisphere, more people are living through a cold winter right now and might prefer to read about warmer times.
This week’s stories included a visit to the zoo, sleep camp, a teenager saving for a car, reuniting with an old flame, a husband eaten by a wolf, a strange grandmother, and a princess and a frog.
These are the stories I read this week and what I thought.
** I’m not here to criticise any writer. The fact that these writers have put themselves out there and made these stories available for me to read for free is amazing and I thank you.**
Sunday: Hall of Small Mammals
Hall of Small Mammals by Thomas Pierce. Read on the Literary Hub website.
Val tapped his sneaker on the asphalt, steaming from the earlier spray of the sprinklers. By this point we’d been waiting for almost an hour and had not even passed the Elephant House. I tugged my shirt off my sticky back to let in some air.
What it’s about: A man takes his girlfriend’s 12-year-old son to the zoo to see some rare baby monkeys.
The narrator (the man) wants the boy to like him, even though he doesn’t think he’ll be in the boy’s life for long. The boy is disrespectful and obviously doesn’t like the man much. They’ve been in the line for what seems like an eternity when the zookeepers decide to turn most of the line away. The boy is determined to see the monkeys.
Who hasn’t stood in a hot, sticky line at the zoo during summer?
Monday: ZZ’s Sleep-Away Camp for Disordered Dreamers
ZZ’s Sleep-Away Camp for Disordered Dreamers by Karen Russell. Read on the Conjunctions website.
“Sleep is the heat that melts time, children. It’s a trick that you will practice here. But — we don’t expect to cure you of your sleep disorders in these few short weeks.”
What it’s about: During Elijah’s third summer at sleep camp, he finds himself in the middle of a summer romance and a mystery.
This is a different type of summer camp; one that caters for children with sleep disorders. Elijah is attracted to Emma, a new camper, but struggles to get the romance started.
While he’s trying to romance Emma, one of the camp’s sheep is found murdered. Elijah, Emma, and Oglivy are determined to stay awake and find out who the sheep murderer is.
A murder mystery with a unique take on summer camps.
Tuesday: Way of the Dog
Way of the Dog by Douglas Silver. Read on the Post Road Magazine website.
I saw the Zippo first, and then Clark slouched over the balcony rail. He stared directly at me, eyes steely and unblinking. He held out his hand. I waved back, reeling in my arm as the Zippo moved under it and the blue-orange flame ignited, sweeping his static palm. Horrified and rapt, I stood as motionless.
What it’s about: The narrator reminisces about a boy he met one summer and how the experience shaped him into the adult he’s become.
Trigger warning: This story contains depictions of self-harm and abuse.
The narrator is working out how to explain to his own son how he lost his right eye. An ordinary, lonely teenager that no one really noticed or paid attention to, he’s saving for a car when a new family moves into the neighbourhood.
He begins to do yardwork for them and becomes fascinated by Clark, who is tough, sweary, and irreverent. He gets pulled into Clark’s deranged worldview, which includes increasingly extreme ‘training’. He goes along with it, desperate to be accepted, and starts to feel indestructible.
This story is sad and disturbing but well written. It shows how childhood experiences can affect who you become as an adult.
Wednesday: A Summer Kiss
A Summer Kiss by Lauren Elizabeth. Read on the Reedsy prompt competition website.
It was a perfect summer day. The kind made for ice cream cones, short shorts and swimming pools.
What it’s about: Sarah heads to her hometown after fifteen years away and encounters Josh, an old boyfriend.
Sarah’s parents are renewing their wedding vows. She literally bumps into her old boyfriend, whom she hasn’t forgiven for leaving town without her all those years ago.
A predictable summer romance reunion story.
Thursday: Belly of the Beast
Belly of the Beast by Joy Baglio. Read on the American Short Fiction website.
It’s Saturday night, and the beast has swallowed my husband.
What it’s about: A wolf eats the narrator’s husband but remains in their bedroom.
Men in this neighbourhood disappear regularly. After the wolf eats her husband, this woman looks after it while it stays in her bedroom. She believes her husband is still alive in the beast’s stomach. She’s reluctant to kill the beast and comes up with a plan to try to get him back.
This story does not have a neat ending. I guess it’s up to me to decide if it worked or not.
Friday: Rust and Bone
Rust and Bone by Mary Robinette Kowal. Read on the Shimmer Magazine website.
Grandmother’s rocking chair is made of iron. It is rust and death and blood.
What it’s about: Grandmother tells the child to check the mailbox but not to step into the street, but the girl does.
A fantasy story in which Grandmother and the girl are not what they seem. Grandmother sounds terrifying and the child knows not to make her ask thrice.
The descriptive writing portrays the setting perfectly and makes you feel you’re there with the girl. The characters are also brought to life nicely and the story is intriguing. A fascinating read with an ambiguous ending.
This is my pick of the week.
Saturday: Kiss Kiss
Kiss Kiss by Peter F. Stine. Read on the Flash Fiction Magazine website.
The moon lit the Earth with a brilliance befitting love and adventure. Altogether, an ideal setting for the well-rounded frog who sat on a muddy bank looking up. A figure stood over him in pink taffeta and tulle, topped with a bejeweled tiara.
What it’s about: A different interpretation of a princess and a frog.
The princess agrees to kiss the frog. But they both have things they need to confess.
This was a very funny take on the Princess and the Frog fairy tale.
This week’s short summer stories, in the order that I enjoyed them.
- Rust and Bone by Mary Robinette Kowal (Fantasy)
- Way of the Dog by Douglas Silver (Contemporary, TW: self-harm, abuse)
- Kiss Kiss by Peter F. Stine (Fantasy)
- Hall of Small Mammals by Thomas Pierce (Contemporary)
- ZZ’s Sleep-Away Camp for Disordered Dreamers by Karen Russell (Urban fantasy)
- Belly of the Beast by Joy Baglio (Fantasy)
- A Summer Kiss by Lauren Elizabeth (Romance)
Story number 8
And one extra story if you’re interested. Here’s one of my own that takes place in summer that I wrote for a Vocal challenge: Sacrifice.
I’m fascinated by short fiction. I write it and I read it.
As well as reading longer-form fiction, I try to read at least one short story every day. I select out-of-the-way stories and authors I’ve never read and sometimes never heard of.
Sometimes I pick competition entries, often ones that didn’t win. Sometimes I find random personal websites where someone has published their own stories. Sometimes I seek out professionally published stories from hardcopy books or online magazines. Sometimes I look for really old stories that are out of copyright and available online.