One hundred seems perfect. It’s the basis of percentages, the perfect test score, the boiling point of water (Celsius), purity. Pythagoreans considered 100 as divine because it is the square (10 x 10) of the divine decad (10). Even a Scrabble set has 100 tiles.
And yet 100 is a fragment. It’s an arbitrary marker, like the “First 100 Days” of a president’s term—merely a promise of what’s to come, or a whiff of what has passed.
The whole is a part and the part is a whole. The 100-word format forces the writer to question each word, to reckon with Flaubert’s mot juste in a way that even most flash fiction doesn’t. At the same time the brevity of the form allows the writer “to keep a story free from explanation,” as Walter Benjamin wrote.
For life doesn’t lend itself so easily to our elucidations. “Incoherence is preferable to a distorting order,” said Roland Barthes.
None of us will ever know the whole story in other words. We can only collect a bag full of shards that each seem perfect.