Having to make cuts…

I’ve had this short story for a couple of weeks now and don’t know what to do with it. I was aiming for ultra-short fiction but at 36 words this piece seems a little bloated somewhere around the middle. However, owing to the nature of the subject matter, I’m a little hesitant to cut any more.

See what you think…


bloodbathA Close Shave:

His back twitched and he breathed hard onto the cold mirror, steaming his view. Blood dripped into the bath. He cursed.

The paramedics were dumbfounded
when they arrived:
‘What idiot tries to extract their own kidney?’


This is based on a true story I read in the ’90s.

If this post messed with your mind in a way you liked
but wished you’d have read it after breakfast because now you feel queasy,
then you need to get Better


Published by mike olley

Mike Olley writes short fiction. He has two collections of very short stories available, Better and Mind Clearance. His work has also been published online as well as in several anthologies. Originally from London, he spent a few years in Spain before a quirk of fate brought him back to live in an English seaside town. He now spends his time gathering storylines washed in by the sea.

10 thoughts on “Having to make cuts…

  1. Made me chuckle, just the sort of dark flash fiction I like.

    If you’re wanting to cut off words, you could remove ‘when they arrived’, and just go straight from ‘dumbfounded:’ to the final line, with a line space in between, perhaps? You could also, at a push, remove ‘and he breathed hard onto the cold mirror, steaming his view’ without losing too much, but it really depends on how short you want/ need it to be. I like it as it is, too.

    1. Thank you, Sykes. Good ideas. I agree with your first point but think the second point is necessary to express the pain and panic (that’s my take, at least). When working with a piece this compact, it becomes interesting how every word choice affects the story.

      1. In truth, there is no externally imposed word count, this was just a writing exercise for myself, a whim, nothing more. Just a story that passed through my mind, so I grabbed it and thought – I’m having that.

  2. Bloated at 36 words! Loved that.

    Interesting to see how everything has to work together – title included.

    Working with such short stories must have had an effect on your longer proses pieces in numerous ways.

    1. The title is a little cheat though, framing the mind for what it’s about to read. It was the last thing added to the story.

      I like writing flash fiction because of the constraints plus the quick turn-round from idea to finished piece. I think the process has helped my longer prose pieces in both choice of words and narrative structure but it does feel weird lingering on description. The urge to cut is great. My stories are getting shorter and shorter. I may end up monosyllabic.

  3. I agree with your first critic – “when they arrived” is surplus to requirements. It’s a good nasty little story but my logical mind (dammit) asks why he was breathing into a mirror while he removed his kidney.

    1. Thank you, Lizy. Agreed. But it takes two mirrors to see the back of your body – a reflection of a reflection. Now imagine trying to control the co-ordination of your hands in the reversed image. I know this from trying to cut the back of my own hair as a teenager, sorry, not me, a friend told me this…

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