Short story 'Dallas Fireflies' published by Short Édition

In a short story machine near you!

Remember offices?

In the olden days, before coronavirus proved Bruce Wayne isn't the only badass bat in this world, there were places called offices. People would gather in them to push buttons, leave and receive Stickies, eat birthday cake for someone named Dave, wait who's Dave, wait he's Dave?, spit out birthday cake because Dave is a smirky douchebag, point at whiteboards, seethe, swivel, snip, and occasionally be glad to gain bill-paying prowess just by showing up.

Back in the era of offices, I would work out of one in the US Bank Tower in Downtown Los Angeles, a few days of the week. I liked confusing those people who assume writers work in sweatpants on wifi siphoned from the payday loans store over which they precariously live. I'd rock some pinstripe visuals and some breathless paramedic spiel to front desk about needing a stapler stat. I like to think that those in the vicinity whose thoughts didn't go straight to what a dick were considering instead that writing isn't all 'Shakespeare In Love' disheveled antics in an attic. Writers can wear pantsuits and needless lanyards too. It's a profession, after all.

After representing the dignity of writing at the US Bank Tower, I walk home by kind of a funny route. The 7th Street/Metro station is a few blocks away, 5 minutes tops even with an unlucky run of walk lights. But I go instead through the Los Angeles Public Library, entering on Fifth Street and leaving on Hope Street, whose exit doors are inscribed with 'Hope' and typically open into the setting sun like a physical manifestation of a Michael Bublé song. That's not why I walk that way, though. I go for the short story machine located by the Fifth Street entrance.

It looks a little like those customer feedback machines you see after security in airports, with three emoji buttons for travelers to express whether shuffling through scanners while clutching their beltless pants above their butt-crack was a Good, Meh, or Bad experience. The buttons on the short story machine in the library are marked: '1', '3' and '5'. Pushing button '1' gets you a short story or poem that takes 1 minute to read, '3' gets you a 3-minute read, '5'... well, you can figure it out.

Every night, on my way back from the office, I hit button '5'. After a short wait, a receipt-like strip of paper slides out of the machine and on it is a bite-sized piece of literature. In other words: I pay nothing and get something simply and incalculably wonderful.

Here is an example of a poem I picked up in this way:


Heard of Short Édition?

The company behind that short story machine in the Los Angeles Public Library is called Short Édition. They've installed more than 300 such machines all over the world ("from San Francisco to Melbourne, Hong-Kong, Paris, London and Philadelphia"), with over 5.6 million stories printed for free for passers-by. 'Godfather' badass Francis Ford Coppola is among the champions of (and investors in) the company, which means reading short stories and poems officially just got as cool as a severed horse head on your pillow. You can find out more about Short Édition here.

Here are a couple more short story machines, both of these in Paris (where, it happens, the company was founded):

Above: A Short Édition short story dispenser in Gare d'Austerlitz, Paris at December 2020.

Below: A Short Édition short story dispenser in Gare du Nord, Paris at December 2020.

For me, the Short Édition short stories or poems are perfect for filling those pockets of dead time, maybe on the subway platform, or in line for groceries, or waiting for your beau to parallel park the car to his exacting standards. In such moments, sure, you could stare into space and worry about whether Laundromats cause cancer, or pull out your phone and Google 'do Laundromats cause cancer'. But what if you could instead read something satisfying, self-contained and elevating? Designed exactly for such throwaway minutes? Me, I unfold my latest story machine printout and step out from this madding crowd without moving my feet at all. Levitation, thy name is literature.


'Dallas Fireflies' in a Short Édition machine near you

Which is why I'm enormously proud to share that my short story 'Dallas Fireflies' has this week been published by Short Édition and could well be among those stories available in a Short Édition story machine near you.

'Dallas Fireflies' is an urban romantic comedy centering on two women with chemistry but baggage, who meet in an awful bar with low expectations. What follows is... well, the story will tell you. 'Dallas Fireflies' is from my short story collection in progress of the same name, and I couldn't be prouder for it to debut with Short Édition, whose machines I've fan-girled the living heck out of since first sight.

To be clear: you can't march up and demand my story specifically from the machines. First, that's not cool, kind of like showing up at a speed-dating event and insisting you're only interested if she's called Lola Jolawski. Second, there are only those three buttons, remember? No way to state the author. So there's a pot-luck element. But the chances are, if you don't get my story, you'll get another one that rocks. So knock yourself out and go find a short story machine near you! (The map on this page, showing Short Édition story machines around the world, may help.)


Get printing! Get free stuff!

So go at it, folks! You'll get something free no matter what, because, don't forget, every Short Édition story or poem is dispensed for nada. Should you luck out and get my story, take a picture of the printout and email it to info@winterbel.info. If you're among the first ten folks who email a snap, I'll give you something cool for free. Like an ice-cream. Or a copy of the full short story collection 'Dallas Fireflies' once it's finished and in print.

(Pssst... If you desperately want to boost the odds of getting 'Dallas Fireflies' from the machine, know my story is a 5-minute read.)