"Like Owls"

 Tania Hershman                                                               v.4  Kaleidoscopic Point           

On Like Owls       (link to video)

I wrote this piece for a challenge set by an online flash fiction writing group, which is how many, many of my short short stories get written. The challenge was: Write something under 500 words in which someone dies in the first line. Like Owls began from the first line "Someone died" and then that utterly mysterious force took over and the rest came out, all in one go. The odd thing about this piece—which I think is more prose poem than flash story, having now read some prose poems—is that it is the first piece I've written where even I am not sure what is going on! But that doesn't bother me. I did think it might bother anyone who read it, but then it was selected as one of 16 of my very short pieces to be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 last summer, and when i heard it read by an actor I was really moved, it meant something to him. I got a wonderful response to that piece in particular—a schoolteacher even got in touch to ask for a hard copy because she wanted to use it with her drama students! This meant an enormous amount to me. It reinforces my belief in minimalism, that this prose poem can be ready in so many different ways, it is whatever the reader wants it to be, and this involves the reader in the reading process much more intensely than if you feed them every detail, explain every line. And apart from anything else, I love reading this piece out when I do a reading or event, it's got such a surreal energy!