Flash fiction is the art of telling a really short short story, in many cases a story inspired by an old photograph. There are more than a few practitioners of the art, but none better than Greg Sullivan, dba Sippican Cottage. The boy has a feel for humanity and a love for the language. His first book, The Devil's In The Cows, is a collection of flash fiction originally posted on his blog. You can buy it here. Do. The following is a transcription of his story "The Young Man Don't Know Nothing":
You see, the young man comes in here and he don't know nothing. That's a given,
Well, not precisely nothing. He knows all sorts of things. It's just that everything he knows isn't so, or isn't worth a fart in a whirlwind to have rattling around in your head. Useless.
A young man isn't born to be useless. You've got to make him so. A young man is born into this world to be a boon to his fellow man and a credit to his parents - if his parents don't pay too much attention to him and ruin him. Let him be.
They come all in here, one after another, extravagant of hair and miserly of manners. They want to start right in being something. They want to nuzzle up at the front of the pig, right off. Son, you're an unthrowed pot. Stand up straight and listen.
You see, you're not born knowing, and you can't learn much useful from a book. How you gonna know to put fabric softener in the steam box to make the oak come out of there real withy and limber? Your grammar school teacher don't tell you that out here in the real world you gotta use the ceiling for a brace for the inner stem while you make down the bolt.
Oh, a smart one or two do come in, though not as often as you'd like. Often enough, maybe, to remind you how dumb you were when you were their age. They're young and handsome and clever and the whole world stretches out to their horizon. You're already on the horizon and you know it.
You think to yourself how wise beyond his years that boy is to come in here and stand up straight. He's wearing the wrong clothes and toting a comical box of the wrong tools, and not enough of them, either, and his hands are like his momma's, or more likely his daddy's if he's an ink-stained wretch. He's wrong, all wrong, and in every aspect and from every vantage point - asleep or awake, in action or repose, drunk or sober - but he's smart enough to look you straight in the eye and say, "I don't know nothing but I'm willing to learn if you'll show me."
A boy like that know's everything.