Short Story is the third episode of the first season in this television sitcom on Family Matters, which was aired from ABC on October 6, 1989. It was directed by Joel Zwick and written both by William Bickley and Warren Miller.
Early in the series, Harriette's widowed sister, Rachel Crawford, is a budding freelance writer who has just written a short story. She's really excited when Tomorrow's Woman magazine wants to buy the story, but no one else (except Eddie) wants to celebrate. It seems they've read the story, see negative representations of themselves in Rachel's characters and are offended that she's using her story as a way to express her frustrations about them.
Rachel's short story has characters that hit too close to home. Carl investigates the family water bill.
The episode begins with Laura giving Estelle a lot of mail from celebrities she knows and gives her father a water bill. Then he takes a letter addressed to Rachel from the SciFi magazine for a short story she wrote into the kitchen and complains about the skyrocketing water bill. At first she's excited about the news and that thinks they've accepted her story. Immediately, she feels dejected that the magazine rejected her short story. Minutes later, Eddie comes into the house and tells Carl that he's done washing the car. His father is upset that he's wasting water and he blames his father for doing something good. Harriette apologizes to Rachel that they rejected her story, but firmly tells her that she can't write about things she doesn't know. She needs to stick with what she knows about and heads to the sink to wash the lettuce but the water has been turned off. Carl comes back and announces that the water will be off, but they'll save a lot of money. Harriette tells him that she knows how they'll save even more money, no one in the house eats, causing him to turn the water back on.
The next day, Rachel has Writer's block since she has too many ideas, but couldn't put it on paper. Laura's suggestion to her is interrupted by Carl's announcement to have everyone report to the living room at once. Then he asks who left the sprinkler system on all day and complains that the front yard looks like a rice patty. Most of the family denies any involvement in what happened. Eddie comes home and confesses that he left the sprinkler system on all day. Carl tells him that he forgot to turn it off and mentions that if they short on cash, he'll be the first one to go. Harriette tells her husband that he's go too far with the water bill and wants him to lighten up. Carl refuses and goes too far by telling them that no one uses the water without written permission from him. The family complains as all three members heads into the kitchen. Laura tells Rachel her suggestion to write a story about their family because people love stories about domestic violence.
Later on, Rachel receives a letter from Tomorrow's Women Magazine and she's real excited that she sold her story and makes copies for the whole family to read. Harriette watches Little Richie and tells Laura to change his diaper. After dinner, she comes into the kitchen and asks the Winslow family how they liked her story. To Rachel's surprise, no one loved her story and Carl told her how upset they are that the characters resembled the family:
- Estelle claims she isn't pushy and wants her to take her out of the story at once.
- Carl claims he's not an overbearing cheapskate, which Mother Winslow whole heartedly disagrees with him.
- Laura is totally upset that she was displayed as some wisecracking smart aleck who doesn't know when to shut up.
- Judy is upset at Rachel because she made her look like she liked to complain a lot and tells her that she has never complained a day in her life.
However, Eddie is the only one who really loved her story and was happy that she captured the real essence of him, a guy whose great with the girls. Laura tells him off that it's the only part it's fiction and he's not real good with the ladies. Eddie is insulted by her comment, but the sibling rivalry is short lived compared to how their mother truly feels about the story. Harriette tells Rachel that her story is about both them and how she sees her as an overbearing older sister who always loves pushing her around. She also mentions that it's nice to know how she really feels about her. Rachel tells Harriette that the story is fiction and she made it up. Harriette responds by telling her that her actions speak louder than her words.
After everyone has calmed down, Rachel explains herself to Estelle that it's how freelance writers express themselves. They may take someone they know and use them as inspiration for their fictional characters, like Ernest Hemingway did. Estelle understands and forgives her. Next, Carl tells her that he has convinced Harriette to talk to her. They head into the living room and he tells them to straighten out the misunderstanding. However, all of his efforts leads to an all out screaming match between the sisters. Rachel threatens to write a novel about her sister and Harriette challenges her to do an intraction. Carl heads into the kitchen to drink some coffee and Mother Winslow asked if they made up yet. He said they were close, real close. However, Estelle didn't even believe him for a second and knows that he has escalated Harriette and Rachel's fight further.
The next day, Eddie is in the hallway dressed up in his best outfit and cheap cologne to ask Linda Fontana to go out on a date with him. Laura warns him to reconsider asking her out because all he'll get is rejection and it's not worth the embarrassment. As usual, he ignores her warning and heads off to Linda's house(a decision he will regret later on). She heads into the kitchen and sits down on a stool.
Carl walks in the kitchen a few minutes later as Harriette is slowly grating carrots for salad. He asks her if she has reconciled with Rachel. All he got was her shredding the carrots faster, which implied she still hadn't forgiven her at all. Rachel comes home a few minutes later and tells Carl that she will be eating lunch in her room. Harriette tells him to inform her sister that if she eats in her room, that she better calls for pizza because there's no way her food is leaving the kitchen. Rachel tells him to inform Harriette that's just fine with her and leaves. Carl tells Harriette that she took the story too literally and tries to convince her to talk to her sister. She refuses to even budge, even after he kissed her. This action causes Laura to go to her aunt's room and convince her to talk to their mother.
In Rachel's room, she's about to eat a slice of pizza which she ordered, when Laura comes her room. Her aunt tells her this is the worst fight she and Harriette had for a long time. Laura tells her of her own experiences with Judy, who shows up for her doll and tosses a pillow as a reminder to knock first. Rachel tells her, she needs to apologize to her sister at once. Laura tells her she will and tells her despite what's going on between them, they can't their fighting sever their close knit bond with each other. She leaves her aunt's room and congratulates Judy for her help. She comments what their mother and aunt do without them helping out.
Rachel agrees and heads into the kitchen to talk to Harriette. She apologizes for the story she wrote about her, but she also tells her that sometimes she feels like she's too overprotective of her. Harriette tells her the real reason why she did what she had to do. She wanted Rachel to be safe and only wants the best for her. Rachel agrees, but she needs her sister, not another mother. Harriette agrees and promises to not be pushy towards her anymore. Carl is happy that they worked out their differences and Rachel's glad her story didn't do anymore damages.
The happiness is short lived when Eddie comes home black and blue and his best shirt torn on the shoulders. Carl asks him what happened to him today and he tells them that he went over to Linda Fontana's house to ask her out. His father asks him if she beat him up, which both Harriette and Rachel gave him a dirty look though. He asked whatever happened to girls just saying no for dates. Eddie tells him it wasn't her, but her boyfriend, Bubba, that beat him up. He tells Rachel that the next time she writes a story, just leave him out of it. Carl decides it's time for another father/son talk with him about girls and boyfriends named Bubba. As they head into the living room, he smells Eddie and tells him that he stinks (due to his cheap cologne).
- Reginald VelJohnson as Carl Winslow
- Jo Marie Payton as Harriette Winslow (credited as Jo Marie Payton-France)
- Rosetta LeNoire as Estelle Winslow
- Darius McCrary as Eddie Winslow
- Kellie Shanygne Williams as Laura Winslow
- Jaimee Foxworth as Judy Winslow
- Joseph and Julius Wright as Richie Crawford
- Telma Hopkins as Rachel Crawford
- The scene in the opening credits for seasons 1, 2 and 3 where Carl, Harriette and Rachel all hug is from this episode.
- This is the first episode to feature a cold open. Every episode from this point on uses one except for "Torn Between Two Lovers" due to originally airing with "Rachel's Place" and "Farewell, My Laura."
- Harriette (while looking at the water bill): That is a little high.
- Carl: A little high? They don't use this much water at Sea World!
- Judy: (as she follows Laura, who took all of the mail in the house) I'm really getting sick of this! I want some of that mail and I want it now!
- Laura: OK. Here!
- Judy (looks through the mail that Laura gave her): This is junk mail.
- Laura: Hey, you're new in this profession. You've gotta start at the bottom.
- Judy: I was born at the bottom!
- Eddie: I don't believe this. I do something good and I'm in trouble.
- Carl: Big trouble. And from now on, ask me before you do something I told you to do.