Words are amazing things. Yesterday after work I stopped to fill up the car’s gas tank. I looked at the fuel gauge on the pump, saw that the person before me had purchased 1.37 gallons of gas for $5.05, and instantly thought of the short story Ernest Hemmingway (allegedly) penned to win a bet. You know the one:

For sale: baby shoes. Never used.

I thought there might be a story in the decision to buy such a meager amount of gas, which could be conveyed in the few words it would take to detail the purchase.

Today I logged into Facebook and saw a re-posting, by a friend, of his friend’s status update. I don’t know the author of the post, but I got the whole story immediately, and it was devastating. It said:

I couldn’t save her. I couldn’t save her. She’s gone

Just like that. No final punctuation, as if in that last moment the writer was overcome with emotion and fell away from the keyboard. I got it, everything I needed, in those ten words. One person loved another, who died. What killed her doesn’t matter. The gender of the writer doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is that the writer’s world is shattered. It will never, ever be the same. Even before I followed the links and learned that the woman who died, Molly Glynn, was an actress, and the author of the status update, her husband, Joe Foust, is an actor, and they have children, and she was in her prime, killed in a tragic accident, I had all I needed to know. Ten words, the maximum Hemmingway’s bet is said to have allowed.

I couldn’t save her. I couldn’t save her. She’s gone

It’s the oldest story in the book, isn’t it?

There’s a memorial trust, if you’re as moved by those ten words as I am.