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Short story: Robin

My college’s literary magazine held a contest: the prompt was to write about a window washer named Robin. At the same time, my professor in the advanced composition class assigned us to write a story in which we adhered to strict sentence lengths: nothing longer than 16 words, the words must never be longer than two syllables, and every sentence must be at least 4 words longer or shorter than the last.

Naturally, I wrote one story that fit both criteria. Here it is.

(In the end, I revised it a bit, adding a few three-syllable words for clarity.)






I lean against the thick metal rail, still angled forward to balance my rig. The chill September day funnels into my rear through the railing. But I don’t mind. My pails are dry; it’s break time. I hit a lever, and start moving up the sixty story building.

I like window washing. There’s no better excuse to peer into the lives of hundreds of strangers. Except maybe holding an audit.

The first forty floors are gray. Gray cubes grip gray men with great piles of grey papers. I can smell the inbound rain and my oily jeans, neither of which are gray. The windows filter; the seat of my pants conducts.

One worker looks up. He blinks like a lizard exposed to sun. His shirt is white and his shoes are black, but his hair is red. He stares ‘til I pull above him, maybe glad for the change of scene or maybe just tired. I’m already gone.

I knock gently against the glass every few feet. Strong wind. Inside, office drones huddle in clumps, breaking off only to scuttle into another group. Moving up. They get more frantic the higher up they are, it seems. Man. I don’t even have to look for the metaphors at this point.

There’s a swift switch at floor fifty, where the senior partners reside among dark leather and crimson carpets. My bay window view is of one man eyeing me from a floor-length painting. He’s got color – trophies, wine, and rows of antique books. Gray’s just in one spot. His head.

With the CEO below, I reach the next level of power. The building sentries. They scan screens and tap keys to survey and secure. Right now, they’re the most frantic. A big red light sputters. Panic.

I have only one story left. Almost safe. One man, a leader, sees me. He pauses. He throws a finger at me. He yells. Work, work, work: It’s clear to me that no one here takes the time to fully enjoy life. That’s why I like the window washer getup: normal art theft can get boring.


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