Smokin’ 40-word stories

Hey all! We’re going to be at the Boston Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference this year in a big way. We’ll have our very own SmokeLong table at the massive and crazypants bookfair, and we will have lots of fun things for you, so make sure to stop by.

To make our table even that more awesome, we’d like to enlist your help. We’ve got some candy cigarette packs, and we want to print your stories on them.

Your story here!

Your story could gussy up these delightful packs of candy!

Send us a story that’s 40 words or less (in June, we’ll be publishing our 40th quarterly issue and celebrating our TENTH anniversary, hence the 40 words) and if we like it, we’ll print it up and publish it on our packs. They will be adorable and fun, just like our staff.

There are two ways and only two ways to enter: Fan us on Facebook and post your story on our wall. Hate Facebook? You can also post your story as a comment on this blog post. Those are the two places we’ll be looking for you. If your name is different than your profile or blogging name, make sure you tell us what name to attribute to your story.We will NOT accept 40-word stories via our regular submissions site, so please for pete’s sake don’t send them there.

We’ll also post our favorites on our blog after the conference.

Deadline for stories is February 25! Previously unpublished stories, please. There is no entry fee.

Questions, concerns, and love letters can be sent to

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104 Responses to Smokin’ 40-word stories

  1. Pete Stevens says:

    “Legend of the Man who purportedly Fell into Flames”
    Some said suicide. Others were not so sure. The fire examiner’s report claimed that the door had been locked from the outside.

  2. Ken Smith says:

    A Private Club

    After I learned the secret handshake of the Partners In Misery, I saw it everywhere.

    Ken Smith

  3. erikevenson says:

    Alright, Smokelong, my name’s Erik Evenson. Here’s my forty word story:


    “Totally bogus,” Emma says. The wet soot sits in the bowl. Usually there are some flecks. But not today. Panning for gold normally funds our ventures. It’s ok. We’re resourceful. If this doesn’t work out, we’ll rob another bank.

  4. Sandra Gould Thompson says:

    A Desert Treat (Body word count: 40)

    “What is this delight? It promises life itself. It is sweet and familiar, yet so novel…”

    “Ms. Gray.” The medic shook her shoulder. “In this scorching heat, we worried whether you could survive. Here, now take another sip of water.”

    Copyright © Sandra Gould Thompson

  5. The Philosopher and the Parrot

    An old philosopher said, “I think therefore I am.”
    His parrot squawked, “Rubbish! You are therefore you think. If you weren’t you couldn’t do anything.” The philosopher realised the parrot was right.

  6. Amorak Huey says:

    U.S.S. Bonefish
    by Amorak Huey

    This is war: under water when the other side is in the trees. Support and protect, smoke break and missile launch. You will come home with four tattoos and still your father will not say he loves you.

    (Word count: 40)

  7. Joel Smith says:

    Mimeograph (34 words)

    And when June’s health declined, he drove her Jaguar to Yuma with Gene, a retired Navy man with tattoos of chickens on his toes, all to buy a dachshund that no one really wanted.

  8. Anthony Cote says:

    Two Cigarettes
    Anthony Cote

    I’m waiting in her fathers’ garage. She’s returning with two cigarettes. We’re still wet from swimming in the above-ground. Her hair, thick wet-paint brush strokes on her back. Breasts. Lighting me up. The floor is our ash tray.

  9. Emily-Jo Hopson says:

    Em had nails the colour of cherries, so much that when slotted between my tongue and the roof of my mouth I expected them to taste fruity. They didn’t.

  10. Cooled Lust
    The freezer door was not supposed to lock shut, but in their haste and delight the cook and waitress kicked the wedge of cheese so carefully slipped under the door.

  11. Nicole A. Buskey says:

    Hi SmokeLong, my name is Nicole Buskey and here is my 40 word story:
    “Hometown Men”
    Where I come from the men wear white shirts and cuffed jeans peppered with oil like pubescent faces slicked with acne. Their hair is coarse and eyes hooded and their words are chopped hunks of meat eaten raw.

  12. TJ Rivard says:


    Lightning flashed from his body. Embarrassing. Never certain when it would happen. Luckily, often alone just before a shower. Once though — on a date. His heart sank. She stared him in the eye until thunder reverberated from her lips.

    TJ Rivard

  13. jennie says:

    kleptomania is indicative of deeper psychiatric problems, she knows in a place of logic. she operates on stimulation, sliding small items up her sleeve, into her purse, down her waistband. she’ll buy something, but not this thing. this is free.

    -jennifer omega

  14. mebeaton says:

    by Margaret Eaton

    Professor Madison often talked to herself.
    “Every year I dumb it down and every year it’s not enough.”
    A timid knock.
    “Can I talk to you about my grade?”
    “Sure Alex. I was just chatting about you.”
    Buoyed, Alex approached.

  15. schietree says:

    O darling, this could be a poem or a song, but we’re pushed for time here.
    so let’s grant ourselves all the deserts and their chill at night
    and every fucking star cracking between your teeth.

    – Helen McClory

  16. Lisa Aldin says:

    His sleep noises dance around the room. His staccato breaths mix with intervals of worn sighs. As I listen, I wonder if other women have tasted this song, or if they chose to know his happier rhythms.

  17. Alexa Lash says:

    by Alexa Lash

    I wrote out ten-thousand, three-hundred and seventy words in the span of a month. Checked six-hundred and eighty-two boxes. Filled out eighty-two surveys. Made sixty-two follow-up phone calls.

    Forgot to attach my resume.

  18. Eric Johnson says:

    40 word story by Eric Johnson:

    “Harold! Harold!” His mother dashed into Harold’s room, holding aloft the handset of the cordless phone in triumph. She was beaming. “It’s the Nobel committee calling from Helsinki!”

    “The Nobel committee is not located in Helsinki,” said Harold. “You idiot.”

  19. Bruce Harris says:

    Candy cigarettes may cause tongue, lips and teeth to turn various shades of neon blue, yellow and red. No worries. Continued use can result in dreaded stomach bulge, belt adjustments, and asking questions like, “Do I look fat in this?”

  20. Annie pie says:

    “Cat got your tongue,” seemed the most foolish to Cecilia.
    The fickle feline with whom she shared space had ambushed her
    from under the butter bean tent while harvesting in the heat.
    Now claw tracks on her calf oozed crimson.

  21. T.O.Saavedra says:

    The new face of humanity (A Manifesto by the League of Animals).

    Hey humanoids! Facescaping the hills and forests and oceans is for wussies.
    Change into whatever YOU want to be.

    Be a Superhero.

  22. Secret Songs

    Thirties became twelve for six months. Forty mixed-CDs elicited 25,000 emails. She listened for code, believed 182 days were a life, though they only had three nights. Married. Each four or seven minute song, four or seven months.

    Vallie Lynn Watson

  23. Love and Updates by Brian J. Hunt

    I sat staring at my email. The screen offered a limited upgrade to Love2.0 beta from my current stable install of Love1.8.
    Would 2.0 be compatible if she didn’t upgrade? How would it look if I upgraded first?

  24. Danny Morgado says:

    The Flintstones glasses went first followed anything else my mother could smash on the terrazzo floor. My father watched from behind a cigarette, its coal nearly matching her burning eyes then he left for good. I really miss those glasses.
    – Danny Morgado

  25. Ron Burch says:

    Amy says she’s always faked it. Squeals and smiles.
    What the fuck, I say, we’re having breakfast.
    She’s packing up her shit to leave.
    I always faked it too, I say.
    Bullshit, she replies. Pick up this box for me.

  26. Sally says:

    Cry Wolf

    You are wolves circling, eyes burning in the dark, hair bristling, mouth red and wet. You circling the bed, attacking from all the angles. You, on the bed, stalking on all fours. I am the flock of sheep.

  27. He offers an ember like firefly between finger and thumb. The drag splits me down the middle, cleaving boy from man, life from death, heat from cold night. My exhale breaks across his face. The burn stitches me back together.

  28. Amanda Kidd says:

    Watery Grave.

    He descended into the clear blue water, mesmerized by the abundance of colorful marine life, completely oblivious to the treacherous hand creeping up behind him, turning off his air supply.

  29. Carol Guess says:

    I love this idea! xo Here’s my try:


    Striking drivers bring us closer to garbage. You’re texting or lifting my prints from the bed.

  30. Adeline After

    I buried your letters behind the shed–they sprouted hope which kept me alive. After you stopped writing, stopped being, I didn’t seek your truth; I sought my voice. It sang, “Phantoms rarely die.” In your absence, I’ve changed.

  31. I discovered the side effects to the medical experiments when the chocolate cake I’d been eyeing exploded. Never get pumped full of psychotropic drugs and electricity–unless you don’t mind your subconscious taking charge of that diet you’ve been considering.

    Tamara Walsh~

  32. Jack Getze says:

    Through a window above the toilet, moonlight throws our shadows on the bathroom door. The taut, hard muscles of his abdomen hold my gaze as he slides out of his jeans. I’m already naked. Hope my husband doesn’t wake up.

  33. With your knickers in a twist at the bottom of the garbage can, now do you get why
    Eddie had to get an operation?

  34. Nieve O'Bleary says:

    We sand the black spots and put polyurethane over them. Yuk.
    What’s the point of perishing in the flames the Lord sent if your kitchen set looks like it was already sacrificed? All we want is to make it shine.

  35. jonathan kosik says:

    Secret Agent

    Appears each November. Brings a boys bike this year. Wipes his handkerchief over the seat. Says, “Getting older, Kiddo.” Gives me sip from his bottle. Tussles my hair. Disappears before mom makes it out the back door. Best birthday yet.

  36. Cyn Vargas says:

    Pucker Up

    Our shadows stretched on cement like stomped black licorice. His pimples on one temple, the rest of his face smooth like the middle of a Band-Aid. Going to let him feel me up though I don’t have any boobs really.

  37. We ate dinner together. It was a humble meal – stale bread, hard cheese, one knotty apple to split. I said, “I love you.” I sliced the apple, and she watched my hands. “I love you, but I can’t love this.”

  38. I’ve already entered this on Facebook, but there seems to be more life here:

    Road Kill

    Jake roars east at sixty, Glock pistol in his waistband; low sun in his eyes. Cedric idles in the road. Nurse Lindy, heading west at forty, swerves, collides, expelling Jake through crimson shattered glass. Cedric, purring, moseys on his way.

  39. Id need to examine with you here. Which isn’t one thing I normally do! I enjoy reading a post that will make folks think. Also, thanks for allowing me to comment!– italian greyhound puppies

  40. Skin

    They arrived in machines, in heart-shaped, almost flesh-like ships. The women were athletic and small breasted. The men wore clothes that we thought would look good on us. We wanted them to stay.

  41. Merle Drown says:

    “Do you mind if I ask you a personal question?” she said.
    I nodded with a the hint of ambiguity such questions deserve.
    “Do you want to fuck me?”

  42. markmaynard says:

    “How long’s she going to take?” He drew deeply on his cigarette and felt his lust welling up again as he watched the arched hallway that led to the women’s restroom and through which she would never return to him.

  43. Mike Seperack says:


    “Steering is dying,” he says. “Brakes are gone. Cliffs everywhere. If you go over they don’t even mark the spot.”
    “Visibility?” I ask.
    “Less than zero.”
    I hear her lighting up behind me.
    “Fuck it,” I say. “Drive on.”

  44. RBS says:

    American Spirit
    In the dream it’s our house but it isn’t. We’re breathing fog and watching the superbowl. You’re singing the anthem to a kid. I say, ‘She’s choking.’ We don’t know if it’s the haze, or the screen, or the song.

  45. mebeaton says:

    Rue de Rivalite

    Matisse: God damn it I can’t find the scissors.
    Picasso: They’re on the kitchen table where you left them.
    Matisse: Does this look like seaweed?
    Picasso: It looks like shit. And they say my work looks like kindergarden crap.

  46. Rachel says:

    Three 40 Word Stories Called Cohabitate by Rachel Mangini

    “Go away,” I said. But she waited on the porch a long time, until dark. Her headlights scanned my bedroom wall when she drove away.
    To fall asleep each night, I have to picture her there, against my door. Close.

    Dropped my phone into the sink. My anxiety decreased. The phone dried out, started to ring. I didn’t answer. It took messages. Broadcast the weather. Alerted me of appointments, birthdays, promises. Finally, the fierce chirp of the dying battery. Peace.

    There was a tomato on the counter when I left for your house. When I came home, the place smelled rancid. The tomato had half melted into a puddle. Everything looked unfamiliar. Who was it that lived here, ate tomatoes?

  47. 40 words – not including the title!

    Pili Pala by Elaine Atkins

    The dog races towards me, scattering the cats, ears outspread like aeroplane wings, lip curled. Then she brakes, body dissolving into a sleek, black sphinx with dancing eyes, and I know that the butterfly she holds is fluttering its last.

  48. harleyscribbles says:

    by Harley Crowley

    Brief Encounter

    I told the guy on the bus my name is Frances. When I got off at my corner he shouted down the steps, “Hey Frannie! I’ll call you!”

    The number written on his palm in ballpoint is made up too.

  49. Beth Konkoski says:

    Beth Konkoski

    This Girl They’ve Set on Fire
    No flame, just smolder in a rhythm to her screams. I carry a pail and a splash of useless air. Her skin bubbles open, dark and abandoned. I look away. She twitches on the playground as night collapses into morning.

  50. Rumit Pancholi says:

    “Shower Caps”

    The prince lifted the hotel phone. “I called earlier for more shower caps. When will they come?”
    “Any minute now.”
    “Any minute? Which minute?”
    “Um, in two minutes.”
    Outside, two housekeepers hurried from opposite elevators, collided, and both fell unconscious.

  51. gailaldwin says:

    My skin’s opaque where it stretches over the baby parcel. You curl inside like an ammonite. I recite you lines of poetry, the words are jewels on my tongue. Spreading my fingers I clasp you, my globe of the world.

  52. Julia Strayer says:

    By That Time, The Cat Slept

    Paired animals lined up near the ark; Noah directed.
    Later, skunks and camels and pigs lay scattered, and Noah was missing, so were one duck and both snakes, as if the flood had come and receded before preparations were final.

  53. Ben Hoffman says:

    Regret To Inform

    Markley’s commanding officer wrote two letters and finally sent Markley’s mom the one where her kid died a hero. Markley’s hometown built a statue of Markley. The statue wore pants, which could not be said of Markley when he died.

  54. Autumn Humphrey says:


    The postcard from her lover was wordless, a picture of dead celebrities eating at a diner its only clue. Unsure if the missive was a threat or forgiveness, she decided it was irrelevant. Both were weak warriors against impenetrable guilt.

    –by Autumn Humphrey

  55. dave housley says:

    Next to the sticker, “#1 Dad,” there was a gritty crescent where it had been removed, then stuck back again, slightly askew. The boy circled the van. He rubbed that spot. He balled his fist. He smiled.

  56. Shaun Turner says:

    She had this saying–it wouldn’t be hers unless it was French. L’esprit de l’escalier. A staircase pity. How are we supposed to know what to say to each other when our best words fail to be good enough?

  57. Pedro Ponce says:

    I was a jet-lagged insomniac. Morning people mistook me for one of their own. My molars ached from small talk and mini-muffins. Coffee? they asked. Black was all I could say into the glare of birdsong.

  58. TJ Rivard says:


    He brushed the crumbs of his vest. Crumbs? That’s how he thought of separation. Flicking them away, convinced he got them all, a few caught in the embroidery, rooting in his chest, his heart. Nothing to do but love again.

  59. Ellen Birkett Morris says:


    When I heard “rescue dog” I thought of Lassie, who pulled people out of wells. Why would I need rescuing? Standing in the pound, looking at the dirty dog curled in the corner, I finally understood who was rescuing who.

  60. Jay MG says:

    Side by Side

    Your hand print remains on the bonnet of my car. An involuntary cartwheel over the roof. I imagined you nailing the landing – slow motion Olympic expectations after a summer of patriotism. No perfect ten. Teeth and gravel, side by side.

  61. Jay MG says:

    Becoming My Mother

    I say I’ll be happy, keep my spine straight, avoid the bitter twist of regret. I say I’m nothing like her but the fingernails latch and drag at my loosening skin. Age is heavy and maybe she’s right.

  62. Sherene Aram says:

    Lost Boys

    It is still their favorite story, even though the oncology ward social workers repeatedly urge all volunteers to stress that Peter did grow up.

  63. Broken Biro says:


    All day he’d been hunting for that screwdriver, his grubby fingers blunt amongst the sharp things. Nothing.
    At nightfall, he scattered a trail of screws in likely corners, and waited.
    Finally his patience paid off..

  64. Patrick R. Shepard says:


    He hesitated outside her townhouse. “But what am I s’pose to do without you?”

    “Get a job. Get a grip. Get a clue,” she snapped.

    He jiggled his suitcase. “Spot me som’ cab fare?”

    She slammed the front door.

  65. TJ Rivard says:

    Face the entrances. Act casual. Scratch your nose to distract attention; the other hand slides behind you into the bowl, pulling a peppermint out silently by the cellophane twist. I study those early lessons again and again in my cell.

  66. stirlingnoh says:

    Emergency Silence

    When the engines shut down, you’ve only got the pedals. They’re way in the back. Stretch your legs. Giant glider now. Dead stick or doom. Blue expanse below, inviting, taunting. Find me somewhere to land, I say. Fast.

  67. dave housley says:

    The reasons we drank: a good day, a bad day, Thursday, the kid was sick, the kid was asleep, friends for dinner, Friday, the game, the movies, happy hour. She stopped. She left. She started again, came back. Us.

  68. “Carpe diem, Darling,” said the boy with the moss and fire eyes.
    Dance, squeeze, rub, tease.
    Everlasting light of the black keys.
    Here in this bathtub with you.
    All I ever need to ease the ancient ache.
    “Carpe fucking diem.”

  69. Sally Toner says:

    Maestro visits his first piano teacher in assisted living. He scribbles over crosswords in the music room.
    “I hear ya Beethoven!” he howls. “Deafness, thief, is luck slapping your soul in a skillet and frying it to a crisp.”

  70. Daniel DiFranco says:

    The hills were on fire. Men dropped water from helicopters and put out the flames. I wondered what it’s like to spontaneously combust. Would people laugh and point? Applaud? Would little men, who don’t understand, come and stamp me out?

    Thank you for reading.

  71. Daniel DiFranco says:

    Spent that summer looking out the window minding my business. Still had to call. Still had to watch Mrs. Smith’s towel slide from her body as she moved towards another man when Mr. Smith pulled in the driveway.

    Thank you for reading.

  72. Diana Reed says:

    At fifteen, she stared at the cord, gnarled and strange like roots. He cried while she fed him, changed him, sang to him. Then her hands tightened like her father’s had. The shock in his baby eyes matched her own.

  73. ‘Mare

    Her eyelashes made taught Velcro. Prised open end to end she looked slow, hoped not to see. The once white walls burnt with dawn. He was not in her bed. It was over. She knew it. Her body clings on.

  74. Breakage

    The repetitions were the worst part. Continuous looping of a bird-songed car screech. Light shattering in the glass. Splitting on tarmac. Twisting. Flowers gently letting go. Mothers that never could.

  75. Earl Hoffert says:

    Bearded, bespectacled hipster picks up the cigarette candy pack, shows it to the girl in the trucker cap.
    “Wow! 40 words or less!”
    “Too meta?”

  76. Dream of Red Knife Sky

    She was raised by wolves until they kicked her out over her gambling addiction. Now she no longer tries to win bones and blood. Instead she just howls and looks at the sky.

  77. Pool

    She slips the stool in silence. He loses grip to soon. She is a puddle on the floor. He mops her up, again.

  78. Mike Stone says:

    What are you having?
    I don’t know. You?
    Pancakes. The blueberry pancakes.

    She takes three mouthfuls, then sets her fork on the plate
    tines on its rim, stem at nine o’clock like it’s the time we should be talking.

  79. Sherene Aram says:

    Imaginary Friend

    “Little ladies do not fidget and do not contradict.” Grandmother says, slapping Elizabeth again. Elizabeth doesn’t cry. Only babies cry. Crayon clutched in her fist, she keeps drawing stick figure self-portraits. In each one she wears a vivid red hood.

  80. Annam says:

    Arranged Marriage
    You will cook and clean and massage his feet. You will have his son. Yet still, when he has run out of money and love, he will burn you alive. You will call it duty, he will call it honor.

  81. The surgeon general fell in love with militant precision. Just once. She emerged swollen and unsteady, the aftermath of ash. Now she whispers in black ink: Inhale. Exhale. Desire at your own risk.

  82. Ben White says:


    The girl leans over the plywood table and squeezes her elbows together behind the solo cups. His son winces as he misses the shot, and he remembers clearly the times when he used to have fun.

  83. Liam says:

    I tend not to drop a leave a response, but after browsing a bunch
    of responses here Smokin 40-word stories | SmokeLong Quarterly.
    I actually do have 2 questions for you if it’s okay. Is it just me or do a few of the comments come across like they are written by brain dead folks? 😛 And, if you are writing on other places, I would like to follow you. Could you post a list of the complete urls of your shared pages like your twitter feed, Facebook page or linkedin profile?

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