Literature 8-17-2009

mnLIT presents: Brian Beatty

This week's mnLIT winner, "Velour" by Brian Beatty, is one of the 2009 miniStories grand prize recipients. You can hear Brian read his victorious short story, along with a host of other mnLIT winners, tonight at 7 pm at the Ritz Theater.

One of the 2009 miniStories grand prize winners, Brian Beatty
mnLIT: What Light Poetry Project and the miniStories flash fiction competition


I was slicing strawberries for the fruit salad I was making for a party later that evening. The paring knife I was using had been in my family for generations. Exactly how many fresh strawberries its gray blade had stemmed and separated over the years, I had no way of knowing.

But that’s what I was pondering when there was a loud banging at the back door.     

I rinsed my hands in the kitchen sink, wiped them dry on a dishtowel, and turned off the radio before going to the door to see who had scared me half to death.

My girlfriend always let herself in, and I wasn’t expecting my first guests for several hours. I pushed aside the curtain to peer out the back door’s window.

Outside in the mid-morning light stood everybody I knew — everybody I had ever known.

But rather than dressed for the dinner, drinks, and delightful conversation I’d promised in my party invitation email to a dozen of them, they were all decked out in identical running suits. Navy blue velour running suits. Everybody was wearing the same expensive athletic shoes, too.

Family. Friends. Neighbors. Current and former co-workers. Classmates from college all the way back through nursery school. Strangers I recognized from the bus ride to work and Saturday morning trips to the bank. Previous lovers. They even had Sara, my current girlfriend, with them, holding two full grocery bags of party snacks in her arms.

Rows of everybody I had ever known (except people who’d died) spilled off my porch, across my back yard and down the alley. Over the horizon, it looked like.

 “What?” I said through the window. I wasn’t unlocking that deadbolt for a million bucks.


My parents had been elected the spokespeople for everybody I had ever known.

“We’re worried about you, Brian,” my mother shouted.

I shrugged. “Could you be more specific?”

My father frowned. “You’ve let yourself go long enough.”

“Not everything is worth overdoing, son. Your beard, for example,” my mother said. “You don’t have to believe us. Ask Hurley.”


I’d always considered my basset hound Hurley my best friend — like some kind of idiot.


For obvious reasons, there was no party that night. After I finished cutting up strawberries, I put the fruit salad in the fridge to chill. Between the fruit salad and the snacks Sara traded me for the dog (through a bedroom window, when no one was looking), I had enough food for a few days.  

By the time I would need to go grocery shopping, I was hoping everybody I had ever known would be gone. They couldn’t put their own lives on hold forever. Or so I was seriously hoping.

At the moment, they were circling my house, waiting for me to join them. Just for a run, they insisted. I wasn’t falling for it. Just a run, my fat white ass.

Their matching velour outfits had disappeared in the dark. But the crunch of their identical Nikes continued, as did Hurley’s pleading howls.

From what I could overhear without being caught near any windows or doors, they were passing the long hours swapping their favorite funny stories about yours truly.

Funny to them, anyway.

Talk about unnerving. 


Watch below for a video of Brian Beatty reading his winning short at Monday night’s mnLIT reading and celebration at the Ritz Theater in Minneapolis. (Video courtesy of Kenny Bellew)


Juror comments: This story was selected as a 2009 miniStories winner by novelist David Oppegaard, who writes, “Velour is a humorous take on a situation we’ve all dreaded — the combined judgment of everyone we’ve known. This story will hit home to anyone who’s ever worried about what someone thought about them, and that’s pretty much everyone.”

About the author: Brian Beatty‘s jokes, poems and stories have appeared in numerous print and online publications, including The Big Jewel, Conduit, elimae, Exquisite Corpse, Forklift, Gulf Coast, Hobart, Juked, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, METRO, Opium, Phoebe, The Quarterly, The Rake, Seventeen, The Writer and Yankee Pot Roast. He lives in Minneapolis with his girlfriend and dog.

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