short short short stories

There is an anecdote that gets passed around about Hemingway which may or may not be true. He wrote what he (supposedly) called a six-word novel, (supposedly) on a bet. And henceforth considered the six word novel his most accomplished piece of work. And here it is: For sale: baby shoes. Never used.

For some reason this popped into my head the other day and I haven’t been able to shake it. So maybe if I write a little about it I can free myself of those six words.

My first observation / opinion: if this mini-novel had been written by a woman, it would have been dismissed as sentimental slock.

Next: A hundred different nouns could be substituted for “baby shoes” and some of them would be far more evocative. Wedding dress comes to mind, but of course that would be equally as melodramatic. For sale: wedding dress, size 22, never used. The size gives this what little punch it’s got. And yes, I know it’s eight words instead of six.

If I had the energy, I would try to come up with a long list of nouns that could be substituted for baby shoes, and see what happens. Most of them would fall flat, some would be melodramatic and/or sentimental, some would be funny, and a few might really be evocative.

For sale: AK47, never used.

For sale: typewriter, never used.

For sale, bowling ball, never used.

I think it would be far more interesting to try to make a story out of a bowling ball than out of unused baby shoes. The baby shoes have a very simple and straightforward backstory, all tragic, no complexity. The bowling ball you could a lot with.

You could go all quirky: For sale, sense of humor, never used. Or: For sale: PhD in Theoretical Physics, never used.

Any ideas for other revisions to Hemingway’s six word novel?