Flash Fiction: for writers, readers, editors, publishers, & fans


Tuesday Flash Focus: Steve Almond’s “How You Know You’re an Adult”

FlashFiction.Net con­cludes the unof­fi­cial Steve Almond month with a flash from his col­lec­tion of mini-essays and short shorts, This Won’t Take But a Min­ute, Honey. Pre­vi­ous entries in the Almond series include a reprint of a mini-essay on plot, an arti­cle about his advice on with­hold­ing infor­ma­tion from read­ers (Don’t!) and Todd B. Stevens’s review of Almond’s This Won’t Take But a Min­ute, Honey. Below is Almond’s short short, fol­lowed by a brief dis­cus­sion:

Flash Fiction Symbol


Reprinted with the per­mis­sion of the author © Steve Almond 2009

Flash Fiction Symbol

  • Sud­denly, it begins–not once with sud­denly, but twice. That’s surely a no-no, yes? Elmore Leonard, in Rule Six of his Ten Rules for Writ­ing, advices writ­ers never to use sud­denly (or all hell broke loose). But there sud­denly sud­denly appears. Sud­denly socks might not quite be what Leonard had in mind when he banned the word; maybe he was think­ing more on the line of, “Sud­denly, she pulled out a gun and shot him. Sud­denly, he real­ized he was dead. Sud­denly, the door flew open.” Sud­denly socks. That’s mag­i­cal.
  • Sounds. Sud­denly. Socks. Silk. Sub­tle. Slate. See. Nice. Socks. Sangfroid. (A word that has to do with cold-blood­ed­ness, grace under pres­sure, socks under shoes. Snakes?).
  • Desire. Ways to make your flash unlike oth­ers? Cre­ate a desire rarely seen. Here’s one: “You covet other men’s socks.”
  • Arche­typal Themes. Ways to make your flash expand beyond its bound­aries? Con­nect the rarely seen desire with a uni­ver­sal arche­typal desire. Here’s one: “…and you rise and walk like a grownup.” 
  • Sec­ond Per­son. A risky choice, for it puts the reader on the defense. Almond writes, “You see your­self in nice socks.” A reader might respond, “Really? No I don’t. I’m sit­ting here read­ing a story. That’s what the f*** I’m doing.” Why does sec­ond-per­son work here. Maybe it’s because it rein­forces the theme, of walk­ing in some­one else’s shoes, well, some­one else’s socks. Or some­thing like that.
  • Metaphor. The desire for socks (I acci­den­tally typed “cocks.” Freud is happy.) is indeed really the desire for socks in this story, but it’s also the desire for some­thing else, the thing(s) that socks rep­re­sent. Many things might arise to fill the mean­ing implied by socks. Almond assoc­iates them with unlousy gifts, fab­rics, col­ors, cities, walk­ing, other men, life com­ing together, women’s responses, sangfroid, new inter­est, not lin­ger­ing, not look­ing for­lorn, hints, grand­parental cor­re­spon­dence, thank-you notes, lit­tle grace, lit­tle love, inside the fab­ric. Each of these has its own metaphoric mean­ing, and that pat­tern­ing and jux­ta­po­si­tions of socks and images cre­ate a very rich image pat­tern that can be deci­phered, if one so desires. It might have to do with the “know­ing you’re an adult” of the title; it might have to do with some­thing entirely else.

Flash Fiction Symbol

For fur­ther read­ing, check out FlashFiction.Net’s sug­gested read­ings of flash fic­tion and prose poetry col­lec­tions, antholo­gies, and craft books, by click­ing here.

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Oh Ran­dall. Of course I love Steve Almond’s Flash but I also love your own com­men­tary, espe­cially this:
(I acci­den­tally typed “cocks.” Freud is happy.) 

Thanks. Are socks fem­i­nine (the foot enters the sock) or mas­cu­line (phal­lic-like? snake-like?)?

I’d say that socks are fem­i­nine unless they’re argyle. 

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