I remember one assembly, the headmaster kept us back for admonishment over the proliferation of graffiti. We knew why. It was ZP.

Around the school, singularly or amongst others, the initials “ZP” could be found. Originally, the perpetrator must have fashioned them with a blade into the soft brickwork. Latterly, he had employed more expedient methods.

Who was ZP? I spied a boy once in the act, but was it he? By then, years had passed. I heard the originator had gone to study archaeology. I hoped so: in time, he may be required to account for his folly.

(99 words)

Written for Carrot Ranch Literary Community Flash Fiction Prompt – “Graffiti”.

“December 6, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about graffiti. It can be an artist, art or the medium itself. Get out your can of spray paint and go where the prompt leads you.”

I enjoy this process, it teaches me the discipline of hard editing. I begin writing with the sense of constraint in mind, like curving a shorter line into a circle, or tying a knot in a minimal length of string. It’s almost impossible.

This came out initially in 132 words. 33 words, around a third of the composition, seems a lot to remove and retain the same level of meaning. Only the challenge stops me abandoning the effort and publishing the piece separately from the prompt; I love a challenge.

It amazes me how many words I write are redundant or unnecessary. For instance, this fiction is partly based on truth and discipline and rule enforcement was the job of our deputy headmaster. But who out there cares? One word gone, 32 to go. Whenever I spot a whole sentence which can be pruned with success, then I feel I’m cooking on gas. But the closer I get to the goal, the harder it gets. Editing becomes brutal and more imaginative. Yet it’s fun to do.


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