It's just 53 words, but Jeffrey Whitmore's ``Bedtime Story'' has had an amazing and varied life, but then so has Whitmore _ journalist, editor, cartoonist (``Roka''), novelist and, as Sterling Johnson, prophetic cultural sage (``English as a Second F*cking Language'').
``Bedtime Story'' has been made into at least five short (of course) films, and we'll link you to a few of them here (www.atom.com/funny_videos/bedtime_story/, www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSLItfJicQE, www.youtube.com/watch?v=N7PyM0Cw3uA) but it's more fun to view them after you've read the story at the end of this page.
When I approached Whitmore about wanting to write something about ``Bedtime Story,'' he said, ``I just googled ``Jeffrey Whitmore Bedtime Story'' and found it's now a tango _ a Canadian dance company performed it.'' I'm not surprised; the first time I read it, I kind of wished Aaron Copland had still been around to choreograph it into a modern dance. It's also the stuff of classic cinema noir; picture Lizabeth Scott and Bogart.
``Bedtime Story'' has also been included in the recent ``Introduction to Narrative'' by Cambridge University Press, giving you some idea of its reach. And Cyberjournalist.net says of it: ``Here's a wonderful example of how you can tell a compelling story in very few words, a great lesson for online writing.''
Whitmore said some of its more interesting printings have included Cosmopolitan Magazine, The Globe ( sensationalist sheet, Paris Hilton and . . . well, you get the idea), and the Los Angeles Times obituary for Steve Moss, who first published ``Bedtime Story.''
Moss founded the San Luis Obispo, California paper New Times, and in 1990, after Whitmore entered ``Bedtime Story'' in the paper's 55-word short story contest (the winner would receive a bottle of wine), Whitmore found out that, unbeknownst to him, the New Times had published his story. When he called to ask when the bottle of wine was coming, he was told there were so many fine short stories, the editors couldn't decide on a winner, so no one would get wine.
This excuse itself deserves an award as one of the cleverer ruses for welching out of giving an award ever devised. Later, Whitmore _ the writer's always the last to know _ heard that Moss had published a book called ``The World's Shortest Stories,'' including, of course, ``Bedtime Story.'' When Whitmore called, the excuse this time was the publishers didn't send him a copy of the book because they didn't have his address. This excuse wins no award. Still, Whitmore's easy, and he said, ``Soon after they sent me a copy I had a pleasant chat with Moss, who seemed like a pretty nice guy.''
Moss later sold the book rights to Running Press, and Whitmore, despite all the films, dances and anthologies, was out in the cold again. ``For me, the monetary rewards have been nil,'' he says. `` In fact, they've been negative, considering I had to pay for postage to send in the story and had to pay for long-distance phone calls from Monterey to San Luis Obispo (albeit at weekend rates) to find out the results. I probably lost a dollar fifteen on the deal but, what the hell, it was fun.''
So's ``Bedtime Story.'' Bedtime Story by Jeffrey Whitmore:
``Careful honey, it's loaded,'' he said, reentering the bedroom.
Her back rested against the headboard.
``This for your wife?''
``No, too chancy. I'm hiring a professional.''
``How about me?''
``Cute, but who'd be dumb enough to hire a lady hit man?''
She wet her lips, sighting along the barrel.
Causes Steve Hauk Supports
City of Pacific Grove Public Library, Pacific Grove, California; Animal Friends Rescue Project, Pacific Grove; Animal Welfare Information and Assistance,...