“So why the eyepatch? Is she a sexy pirate?”
Simon took a swig from the bottle of cheap red wine. The wind had died down with nightfall and the harbour was flat, sending little lapping slaps of water against the breakwater beneath their feet. “It is not,” he said, “an eyepatch. Because she can see through it. It’s her hairstyle and I love it. I love her. And you need to tell her that.” He handed over the bottle.
Dean held up the bottle to the sodium-orange streetlight, shook it back and forth and grimaced at the cork bouncing around in the remaining wine. “OK, eyepatch hairstyle then. But if she was a pirate she’d be BLONDEBANG which would be choice, I reckon.” He took a sip. “I like this wine, it’s very honest. So, you want me to call her, lay it all out, hang up and then, what? Change my DNA and gently caress off to Guatemala?” He swung a questioning glance round to Simon, who nodded, firmly. “In that case I get lasties,” said Dean. “I’ll need the cushion of sweet booze for when the gene probes go in.”
Simon shrugged. “Sure. It’s your backwash. Guatemala’s lovely this time of year.”
Dean was already drinking. Simon looked out across the harbour to the Oriental Bay fountain, which was sending out a roostertail of illuminated spray, and pulled his school blazer tighter around him. “It’s getting cold. Manners Mall?”
“Bible-bashers,” declared Dean carefully, “won’t know what hit’em.” He cocked his arm and sent the empty bottle spinning far out into the harbour.
Two days later Dean opened the front door of his parents’ house and put the old dial phone down beside him on the step. He took a sip of cold coffee, breathed deeply a few times, then picked up the phone and dialled five digits before hanging up. “poo poo.” He looked down at the number Simon had given him. “Shitshitshit.”
There were footsteps on the path and he tensed, ready to put the phone back and give up on the whole project; it was the old guy who lived next door with a paper bag of shopping. Dean’s shoulders slumped. Then he watched in alarm as his fingers took advantage of the sudden loss of tension to start dialling. Three digits, five, seven, oh god, it was ringing. She was answering. Oh god start talking.
“Hi, uh, Chish. This is Dean. Yes, that one. Hi. How are… good. Yes, me too. It’s. I’m calling about about, uh, Simon. He’s sort of totally, sort of, in love. With you. He’s in love with you. Yep. Yep. Yes. Uh, no. Okay, yeah, that’s a good idea. I’ll, I’ll let you give him a call then. Bye.”
He put the phone down harder than he’d intended and sat, looking out the doorway, finger on the handset as if to keep it from climbing out of its plastic cradle.
|# ? Feb 17, 2014 04:25|
|# ? Jan 27, 2022 00:22|
Bohemians - 960
We stared out over the ocean, city lights in our peripheral vision, growing brighter as the last light kissed the water. The park was filled with voices, and the smell of grilled meat filled the air. I felt the sting of gin now and then as we passed the bottle around.
I wanted to keep this moment as something solid. The grass whispering to bare feet, the slow passage of enormous ships as they left the bay. In their industrial splendor, they became part of the landscape, an extension of the glittering water. The alcohol kissed my blood and I felt the last rays of sunset burn their goodbyes.
I walked with Mila as song filled the park and the people disappeared. Our group remained, too careless and content to leave. We followed the paths as the dark and the cold bit into us, held at bay by thin jackets and cheap beer.
“I guess it's the contrast,” I said, “I've been alone most of my life. This is different. This whole year has been different.”
We reached the edge of the water, where a pier and a shingle beach met the waves.
“Different can be a whole new world sometimes,” She said.
The city lights left reflections in the water, growing and shrinking in the movement.
“Will you keep an eye out?” she said.
“Yeah. For what?”
She walked down to the water, looked back at me and smiled. Taking a few deep breaths, she dipped her bare foot into the cold.
“It's not too bad,” she said.
I sat down on the pier. She stood there for a while, with her foot in the water, and then she stripped down to her underpants and waded out. I laughed, and so did she, teeth clattering, arms crossed.
And then she just stood there, a statue half submerged, arms dropped to the side and fingers curled in the water. Dark against the light of the moon, I couldn't see her face, but I imagined she had her eyes closed against the white light. In the distance, the singing carried on; Norwegian drinking songs and raw, beautiful laughter softened by the wind and the night.
The cold became too much, and we walked back to Wilde's place. Mila said goodbye at the door, had to catch the last bus home. Something so mundane left a small crack in the dreamlike nature of the night, where the ships were like whales and the cars like strange beasts prowling the streets, but the thought disappeared as the warmth and the light and the music filled my ears.
We passed around an old bottle of wine, tongues too dull to care about the sour and bitter taste, and watched the cartoons we'd watched as children. We all laughed, some had tears in their eyes and wide, grateful smiles. We'd reached that place where everything had some intrinsic deeper meaning. If we were sober, we'd shake our heads at the stupidity, laugh at how pretentious and young we were, but we were too full of joy to care now. Watching memories from our childhood on a widescreen TV was suddenly something we could have written books about. Great poems and scientific dissertations.
Jonathan climbed out of the ceiling window just as we opened a bottle of champagne. A few people objected at first, but as soon as Wilde said it was safe, we all climbed out. We found comfortable positions in the dip between two sloped roofs, and watched the moon bathe Bergen in silver. In the distance, we could see the softly swaying trees of the park. Scattered clouds moved fast across the sky and painted shadows on the water, and behind the photopollution, we could see the stars.
We talked about everything. Wilde sang a soft song, her eyes closed. On the second beer run back into the apartment, Jonathan found a guitar, and we all joined in. Six voices, all without shame but none without merit. At first we sang softly, like Wilde. We'd sing about what we could see; the moon, the roofs and the hidden stars. We'd pass the song along, weaving it together and without pause. We couldn't stop. After the first fifteen minutes, the song picked up the pace, and after half an hour it was a wild thing so full of joy that we barely contained it. The first complaints started after an hour, as a window opened and someone screamed at us to shut up, but like the boat-whales and the car-beasts, he was nothing more than a part of the landscape, and we took it into our song and spun a tale about The Man in the Window.
We sang until the half light of dawn streamed through the streets. Until our voices were hoarse and Jonathan's playing hand fell asleep. Until the neighbor from the the apartment next to Wilde's climbed out, thanked us for our song but told us that he really had to sleep now.
“Actually, I'm writing a book about spontaneous moments,” he said, “And I'm grateful. I wish I could be like you, I appreciate what you've shown me.”
We climbed in through the window again, past the Moomin DVD and the empty wine bottles. As I said goodbye and headed home, the world was stark and sober. People weren't just angry shadows from distant windows or strange authors writing serendipitous books. Cars were cars and the ships were drab metal things in the harbor. The noise of traffic and people had none of the poetic quality of that hazy night.
But as I looked out across the sunlit bay, I could see moonlight on soft skin and hear songs sung until dawn, like an echo never ceasing.
Black Griffon fucked around with this message at 04:40 on Feb 17, 2014
|# ? Feb 17, 2014 04:37|
First World Problems (1135 words)
Saturday night. I cruised down the N1 in my battle-scarred white VW Citi Golf, away from Durbanville, deep in the hinterlands of Cape Town, out from behind the Boerewors Curtain, towards the Southern Suburbs and fun. My destination was a tiny goth club in Obs, which friends had not-so-affectionately dubbed "Treehaus". At the club, stomping down the tiny entrance hallway in the opposite direction, was my friend Allie, phone to ear and worried intent on her face. Gears grated in my mind as I switched from clubbing to get-poo poo-done mode, and followed after her. Thus began a long and gloriously weird night.
Allie filled me in on the story as we wove our way through the narrow byways of Obs, accompanied by her sister Christine, who was in town visiting. They'd been robbed at knifepoint about half an hour earlier. They were rattled but unharmed, and only their bags had been taken. However, inside Allie's bag, tucked neatly beside the keys to her flat, was a medical bill with her address.
Haunted by the spectre of knife-wielding gangsters in her home, and without her car keys, she'd called her boyfriend Ronaldo for a lift. Ronaldo had been celebrating his birthday by wandering around a different club a kay or two down the road, a bottle of hard liquor in each hand. In response to Allie's call, he'd gotten in his car and come rushing over, four sails to the wind, through streets barely wide enough for two cars to pass each other. We were walking towards the resulting carnage.
Ronaldo's fancy Mercedes was stopped forty five degrees to the curb ahead of a trail of destruction. He'd hit one parked car hard, scraped along the next two, clipped the wing mirror off a fourth, then crashed into the pavement. Ronaldo himself was stumbling around in the street, slurring repeatedly that his life was over.
Some of his (much more sober) friends were huddled in conference, concocting a plan to keep him from spending the night in jail and having the insurance refuse to pay out for his drunkenness. This involved whisking him away from the scene and dealing with insurance and police in the morning. Meanwhile, a middle-aged gay couple had been standing in their back yard listening, safe from us rabble behind a pointed fence. The shorter, his arms folded, spoke up in a beautifully measured and just slightly camp Capetonian English accent.
"You can't take him away. He's as drunk as a fish. It's also illegal. If you do, I'll tell the police!" he interjected, firmly.
The brilliant plan foiled and Ronaldo's fate sealed, Allie, Christine and I left him with his friends. A brief episode of Ronaldo screaming screaming drunkenly at Allie that it was all her fault had also left her less than enthused to stand by him. So, in my car, we headed for Rondebosch and Allie's flat.
At the complex, we tried buzzers randomly until we found someone willing to let us in. This turned out to be Geoff, a blonde guy in his thirties, who sauntered down the corridor, glass of red in hand. Allie thanked him.
"Oh, no problem. I was just sitting at home, drinking wine, and thinking..." he said, then paused, lifted his glass into the air, and peered intently through it.
"Yeah ... thinking."
We set about the next task of finding a locksmith, both to break into Allie's flat, and to change the locks so the gansters couldn't. The corridor was covered but open on the side, and despite it being almost summer, the midnight air was turning chilly. Allie's short skirt and sleeveless top were poor protection, so I lent her my jacket while I waited with her. Meanwhile, Christine took refuge in Geoff's flat.
After the locksmith had arrived and gotten to work, Allie began to worry about Christine, alone with a weird guy she barely knew, and sent me to check up. I found her being innocently regaled by tales of Geoff's life as a cruise ship cook, sometime amateur cricketer, and, presumably, professional stoner.
Satisfied that she was in no danger, I returned to Allie and the locksmith. Picking having failed, he had resorted to the noisy process of drilling out the lock. This was soon eclipsed by a greater cacophony of blaring sirens and flashing lights as a small convoy of police cars pulled up outside. In the ensuing confusion, a pair of Dutch exchange students peered, sheepishly, from a door down the corridor. It emerged that, heads full of mostly fanciful horror stories about power-tool equipped burglars, they had assumed they were under siege and dialled 10111 in intense panic. The police had lept at the chance to actually stop a crime in progress and responded in force. Their disappointment was palpable.
Commotion resolved and flat secured, we paused for some tea in Allie's living room. Allie remained concerned about her car, which, still parked in Obs, might be identifiable to the gangsters with her keys. I offered to drive back out and secure it. The car stood alone in the still morning air, patiently waiting as I unbolted the battery. I dropped it back at Allie's, and, after perfunctory goodbyes, set off home.
It was growing lighter as I entered Durbanville, and the thought entered my mind that the only way to end to a night like this was to stop and watch the sun rise. As I waited in a scraggly park, three men dressed in black walked single file along the far edge. Black men, terranauts in this alien bubble of first-world white suburbia. A race-conditioned part of me suggested that black men in a white suburb at five in the morning were obviously up to no good, but I dismissed the thought. I'd walked to distant workplaces before, and the early morning streets are filled with poor black people plodding their way to menial jobs. This, my exhausted mind told me, was all that it was, and I turned instead to the east. Across a vast patchwork of tan fields and emerald vineyards, behind the dome of Paarl and the craggy, mist-wreathed Boland Mountains, the first purple-haloed sliver of golden light was sliding into view.
My reverie was interrupted by the arrival of two police cars and an alarm company's armed response unit.
"Did you see which way they went?" asked an ADT guy in grey.
My faith in humanity lowered a notch, I reluctantly indicated the side of the park.
Basking in the sunrise a few minutes more, I snapped a few photographs with my phone, but the milling uniforms had ruined the ambience. Wearily, I drove the last few kays home. The Capetonian sun streaming through the windows, I booted my laptop, gently gathered my scattered thoughts, and began to write.
|# ? Feb 17, 2014 04:44|
LC Video Club
“Sir, this is my first day on the job. I really have no idea how to sell you this. I haven’t been trained at all and this computer is like, MS-DOS, with the green text, you see?” I said, turning the screen towards him.
“This is ridiculous. This is a business,” the man said. He was the first customer to come into Video Club today.
“You can’t be the only one working here today. Who can actually serve me?”
“The manager is in the back but she’s caught up-“
“So I can’t buy this,” he said, “this is bullshit.”
“Look man, it’s eleven o’clock in the loving morning. You are literally, literally, trying to buy porn at this time in the morning.”
“You little poo poo, don’t you loving judge me. This is prejudice, y'know that?”
“I don’t care that you’re gay! Okay? Guys Craving Five Or More Cocks is fine a film, no doubt, but I just legitimately do not know how to sell it to you. Take it, gently caress. Just take it.”
And bless him, because he took the DVD with him and left without saying another word.
I had just turned 15. I showed up early for my first day, thinking it would bode well with Ruth, the manager. She was middle-aged, and her features were so round and ill-defined that convex would be the most appropriate term to describe her. She was late coming to work and I was locked outside the store, where a letter was folded over and taped to the door. I thought it might’ve been for me so I opened it and peeked at it. It read like this:
'Ruthy you little slut is this what you do you? it is isn’t it this is what you do you take old men back to your grandparents home and gently caress them in your grandparents gross bed you are sick you. i cant believe you hosed other men besides me. what the gently caress is wrong with you. oval office. im going to loving kill you. im going to loving come into your store and kill you you better watch your back' (sic)
I replaced the letter on the door and once Ruth had arrived to open the store she just put me behind the counter and scurried out back, saying she had business to take care of.
An hour and a half into my shift and she hadn’t yet left her office. Fortunately, after Aggressive Porn Man had taken his DVD, I was able to shift through the computer for a while and figure out the basics of renting out and selling films/videogames, etc.
The only items I couldn’t sell after the morning portion of my shift were the swords. The store carried them as some sort of exotic merchandise. Two customers had come in during the afternoon and tried to buy one, and I went out back to see if Ruth could help me out. Near her office I heard her talking on the phone.
“I can’t call the police, though. . . because he knows about the. . . I don’t know, I don’t think he will actually. . .” she said. Yikes. I knocked and she told me she was busy. Tell them to come back later, she said.
A girl came in around 4 o’clock, looking for the new Harry Potter game.
“I’m sorry, we don’t have it yet,” I said.
“But it’s out.”
“Yes, I guess so. But we don’t have it.”
“But, why? It’s out. It’s released.”
“Yes, but, we just, we don’t have it yet.
And thankfully at that point the phone rang and I excused myself to answer it.
“Hello, Video Club, how may I help you,” I said.
“Where the gently caress is Ruth?”
“No never mind I’m just going to loving come in.”
My shift was supposed to end at 5 and I hoped that I’d be out of there before he decided to come in and murder every single person in the store. Maybe I was exaggerating, I don’t know. At least being murdered would let me off the hook vis-a-vis the Harry Potter debacle.
“You know what,” I said to the girl “It says right here that we’ll have it in tomorrow. Just come back then and it will definitely be here.”
“Fine,” she said, and left. I started to clean up the counter, process some returns, restock shelves, browse titles of porn films — a friend of mine would later print out a definitive list of pornos that the store had owned over the course of its existence, and it totalled over 300 pages.
It was 4:45 when Angry Phone/Letter Guy made good on one of his promises and actually showed up, barging through the door.
“Hello,” I said.
“Where the gently caress is she,” he said.
“Why?” Please don’t kill me, please? I certainly didn’t gently caress Ruth at her Grandparent’s house, I swear!
“Where is she?”
“Out back. . . But, maybe you shouldn’t-“ but he was already headed back there. I did not want to be any more complicit in this than I already was, so I left the store and walked along the avenue of the tiny shopping centre where Video Club was, and on my way home a police car with its sirens blaring sped past me.
Later that night, my girlfriend of the time and I were sitting on a swing set, drinking beers. “So how was work today,” she asked.
“It was okay,” I said. “It was not bad.”
|# ? Feb 17, 2014 04:48|
Flu bad. Fever bad. Brain not make words good. Pathetic excuse. Drop out. Do better next time.
|# ? Feb 17, 2014 04:55|
I don't know about you, but when I think about walking along the highways of New Jersey at midnight in the rain, I don't think that it's a great idea. In fact, I think it's a terrible idea. It brings to mind filth and murder. Despite all that, this exact situation is where I found myself one night late last April.
Lydia and I had just gotten off the train, back from a day exploring New York City. It was only two miles back to our hotel, and we were too cheap to spring for a cab. Besides, we thought, two miles is nothing. We plugged our destination into a smart phone, and it dutifully led us on the beginning of our trek.
Things started off innocuous enough. Down through a few residential neighborhoods, along sidewalks lined with freshly budded tulips and crisp houses, stray weeds peeking up through the carefully tended beds. It was pleasant, after all the noise and people in the city. We laughed, and were both quietly amazed at where we were. We'd just met last month, at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Artesia, New Mexico. Now, less than a month later, we found ourselves walking through the suburbs of New Jersey at midnight.
We got to the edge of town, where stores start dropping letters off the end of their signs in an attempt to seem more relatable, but instead end up seeming quietly terrifying. The phone lit up and told us to turn left. To our left was nothing but a poorly lit highway on-ramp. This can't be right, we thought. I tapped the screen in an attempt to recalculate our path back to the relative safety of our hotel. Nothing. The two miles between our hotel and us were solely connected by the highway. We weighed our options.
"We could call a cab?"
"Dude, we make 300 bucks a month. I'm not blowing 40 of that on a cab to take me where my feet can."
"We could call Brian and have him and Huff give us a ride?"
"Huff's out of town, and besides, we can't use the van past midnight and Amber has the keys."
But we were young and stupid, and decided that we might as well follow the path laid out by the phone. So we started out on the highway.
Some parts of it, we were lucky. There was a barrier along maybe 50 percent of the road that we could stay behind and pretend we were safe from the tons of metal hurtling along the wet, slick roadway. We stepped over sticks, thorns, and broken road signs. Our feet got caught on wire and in holes made by creatures more desperate than we were to get home. We fell in to a comfortable rhythm, calling out hazards back to whoever was behind the other. In between, we sang the songs that had been designated "our songs" to bring sanity to the wildness of our journey.
"I put one foot in front of the other one...” she sang.
"Oh oh oh, I don't need a new love or a new life," I sang back.
"Just a better place to die!" we sang together, not bothering to appreciate the wild appropriateness of the lyrics.
Parts of the walk were scarier than other. At seemingly random points, the barrier dropped away, leaving our comparatively weak human bodies completely exposed to the cars rushing by us at breakneck speeds. It was at these points that our adrenaline levels soared higher than they already were, our minds racing and spurring our feet to do the same. It was at these points that the adrenaline and the situation led our minds to morbid territory.
"Dude, don't people get murdered in New Jersey? Like, they loving dump the bodies along the highway, yeah?"
"I don't loving know, just keep walking."
"But, wait, hear me out. What if we get murdered? Like, who would be surprised to hear that two chicks got murdered on the side of a New Jersey highway at night? loving no one dude, no one would be surprised."
"Shut up! Jesus loving Christ on a cracker, keep walking. Use all the energy you're putting in to concocting stupid scenarios, and take it and use it to hurry the gently caress up."
Up ahead, we saw the fluorescent blue sign of the Wal-Mart across the highway from our hotel. The end of our seemingly suicidal journey was nigh. We drew even to our hotel, just one little street between us and our hot showers and warm beds. We looked back over our shoulders, towards the highway and the Wal-Mart. I don't know what came over us, but maybe we just we weren't ready to be done being young and stupid.
"Hey, uh, want to head over there and maybe get some stuff for breakfast tomorrow?"
"Yeah! Should we maybe walk further down so we can take the bridge across?"
"No, that's like at least another 15 minutes. Let's just wait for a break in traffic and run across."
"Sounds good to me."
The break came, and we darted across, like deer scared by a gunshot. We did the same when we had finished our shopping, unfazed by the headlights gleaming off the raindrops falling all around. Eventually, we ended up back at our hotel, amazingly unhurt. We couldn't believe what we had done. We had basically invited murder, or at least grievous bodily harm, and escaped with nothing more than soaked shoes and a story.
I've asked Lydia if she would do it again, if she were faced with the same set of circumstances. She laughed, looked me square in the face, and said, "Absolutely. Wouldn't you?" Absolutely.
|# ? Feb 17, 2014 05:02|
The S Stands For Hope
Word Count: 1125
I couldn't breathe the hot and thin air inside the suffocating cardboard. My back was aching from sitting hunched over in the cramped box. Sweat was dripping in my eyes, and the Dio playing from the speakers was loud enough to cramp my ears. I lifted the ashy roll of carpet like a handkerchief, dabbing the liquid from my face. Reed was going to be fired if this didn’t work, and I might be fired for helping him.
The Sunshine Department Store, one block off the beach on the corner of Oceanside and 38th Street, didn’t employ the smartest staff, because it didn’t take a rocket scientist to stock beach chairs, umbrellas, and water wings. So when my friend Reed Martin painted the floor behind the cash register in stolen lighter fluid, bootlegged from a case of neon Bics he should have stocked on the counter, nobody thought to question his sanity. When he gathered us around; me, Blue, and George, and lit the masterpiece with the only lighter he didn’t break open for fluid, I was intrigued. When the capital S and diamond outline flamed and smoked like a wildfire, I was impressed. It wasn’t until the phone rang that I became nervous.
George picked it up and recited the standard greeting, “Thank you for calling Sunshine Department Store, where the sun is always shining.” He looked at us. “Okay,” he said in-between giggles. “Okay, will do.” George turned to Reed. “I hope you are ready to die, because that was Liz. Apparently nobody did a deposit yesterday, so Robert is going to come in and get the money from the safe. You’re hosed.”
The Levin brothers, Barry, Robert, and Juan, a trio of hardcore Jews from New York City, collectively owned five tourist shops between 6th and 38th Street, including Sunshine, the store that now had a large, scorched Superman emblem right in front of its safe. Barry and Juan were complete nitwits. Robert, their older brother, was a different story. Robert had an innate ability for bullshit detection, and if you weren’t making him money, you were in trouble. Robert hired Liz to keep us all in check, but even Liz had to have a day off and today Robert did too, or at least he was supposed to.
If Robert would fire someone for being too lazy or slow, he would kill us for burning a hole in the floor. We needed a plan, and with a minute of reckless planning, we had one.
The Levins used the same blue and red speckled carpet in all of their stores, so all we needed to do was steal a square from someplace where nobody would notice it. The 6th Street shop fit the bill perfectly, as it was the only shop with a carpeted storage area. All I had to do was get into the back room, use the square he cut as a template for a replacement, and fill the square behind the register at 38th Street. We figured that Robert would likely stop at the three other stores between, 6th and 38th to get deposits, so we had time.
I pulled up behind 6th Street with skidding tires and sweating palms, adjusting my grip on the dirty roll. Tyler, the unofficial boss of 6th Street, was waiting for us. Despite the fact that were all friends, Tyler, Reed, and I, we were the type of friends to bust each other’s balls for our own amusement, and I could tell by the look on his face that he planned just that.
“Hey guys” Tyler said. He pointed at the roll of sweaty carpet tucked into my underarm. “What do you have there?”
Tyler flashed a gap toothed grin that betrayed his false ignorance. “Well,” he said, “Blue called me a few minutes ago and said that you burned a big rear end S into your floor. He also said that you were going to come down here and try to take some of our carpet to fill it.” Tyler took a step toward us, “I hope you know I can’t let that happen.” He entered the back door of the shop, before poking his head out for one final comment. “Also,” he said, “I’ve told everyone to kick you dudes out if you even step foot in the store, so good luck.”
“What now?” I asked Reed, playing with the gravel under my feet.
“We can’t leave without that carpet,” he said. “So let’s get it.”
Reed scouted the front of the building to see what we were up against. Jasmine and Seth were on the register; Phillip was working the floor; Tyler was roaming, on the lookout, he had no doubt. The odds were against us.
I needed a disguise.
I needed to call Clay.
Clay ran the distribution for each of the Levin’s stores. In the morning, he would call and ask what products the store needed for the day. An hour later, Clay would pull up in a brown van, with screeching brakes almost loud enough to drown out the Dio blasting from the tape deck, and unload the day’s merchandise for someone to stock. Today he’d be making an extra stop at 6th.
I clutched the carpet roll as Clay hoisted me down with a rattle.
“What’s up Tyler?” I heard through the cardboard. “Juan’s got a new batch of shirts that he wants you to display. Where do you want them?”
“In the back is fine,” he said. “I need to have Phil clear some rack space.”
I felt the unsteady wobbling of Clay’s old hand-truck before he dropped me in the storage room. I had to be patient; I couldn’t risk Tyler opening the box. I had to wait for Reed; he was the diversion. The seconds I spent waiting for him were some of the longest of that entire magical summer.
“Okay bitches! I’m here for the carpet and only the carpet, so hand it over!”
If Reed bursting into the front of the shop and causing a massive scene wasn't enough to pull Tyler away from the storage room, nothing would be. I sprang from the box, my carpet still in tow. Spreading my template on the floor, I made quick, hurried cuts. I’d done it.
As much as I would have enjoyed taking a victory lap, we weren't in the clear yet, so I ran through the rear door, jumped on a bike, and pedaled with a fury that caused my lazy calves to throb and quiver. Approaching 38th Street, I thought about my one deviation from the plan. I looked down at my ashy, sweaty carpet. I couldn’t just leave it in some dingy back room. It deserved better.
|# ? Feb 17, 2014 05:15|
Word count: 988
When I was a kid, summers were spent at my Grandmother's house. She lived all alone in a three-bedroom home with solar panels on the roof and a swamp cooler hooked up to the wall. Grandma was a short, stout, and dark-skinned woman who wore tinted glasses and spoke broken English. She could sew anything and was the best cook in the world. I remember her albondigas soup most of all with giant meatballs, huge potato slices, and broth so rich that it was almost gravy. Just the thought of it always made me hungry. She never had much money but she always spoiled me with food: I think that's with all Mexican grandmothers, actually.
Her front yard was a huge grass lawn with sweet-smelling rose and hydrangea bushes planted along the walls of the house. The backyard was a giant dirt pit with trees and cacti planted along the fence and walls. Me, my siblings, and our cousins spent those long and hot summer days in endless play. To keep cool, we'd have water gun fights that went on for hours. My cousins always had the newest super soaker guns and we'd run around the the front and back yards pretending we were fighting a war against each other. We turned the back yard into a huge mud pit by the end of the day and the fight wouldn't end until someone cheated and used the hose. Since we couldn't afford to go to a water park, we'd make our own by turning on the water sprinklers in the front yard and running through them. It was ghetto as hell, but it was fun.
There was this one time where a potato bug got inside the house. If you don't know what a potato bug is, it looks like something Satan made in his off time to scare the bejesus out of you: it's a giant, brown, cricket-looking thing the size of a mouse with beady black eyes and huge mandibles. We all jumped on top of the couches and screamed like crazy as if a demon from hell suddenly appeared in front of us. The little bastard scuttled around until Grandma came in with a broom to swat it. Since there was so much time on our hands, we did stupid poo poo like practice wrestling moves on each other. My cousins Jamie and Mark were huge wrestling fans and played the video games all the time. Jamie was the tallest and strongest so he'd put me in a lock and then try to flip me over. We'd do it on a mattress to keep ourselves from getting hurt, but one time he tried to suplex me and I landed head-first into the ground. Jamie helped me up and after checking that I was okay, he made me swear that I wouldn't tell anyone or else he'd do it again. I hit the ground so hard that I think I suffered a mild concussion.
What I remembered the most were the fruit trees planted in the back yard: an apricot tree next to the garage, a plum tree along the wall, and a mulberry tree next to the back gate. Every summer those trees would bear fruit and I spent those summers gorging myself silly. The mulberries were my favorite. The black ones were always the sweetest: they tasted better than candy and I'd eat them by the handful. The red ones were slightly tart so I'd eat them with sour Lucas candy. I'd get sick but it was all worth it if only to experience that temporary natural sugar high, the kind of high that made you feel like you could fly and send you running around with your hands out pretending you were a plane.
Grandma eventually moved in with my uncle who rented her house out. Some families kept the house in good shape while others left it in complete disarray. Last summer, we went back to her house to renovate the place for new tenants. The first thing I noticed was the giant holes in the ground in the back yard. “What happened?” I asked my uncle.
“You remember Jamie's friend? The redhead?”
“Yeah, I was friends with him. Why?” I asked.
“We rented the house out to his family and they had dogs.”
I suddenly imagined a pair of huge, slobbering pit bulls digging holes in the back yard. “It looks so ugly,” I said. “What are you going to do about the holes?”
“I called some friends and they're going to come here and fill those holes with dirt,” he said, visibly annoyed. “I told them to keep their loving dogs from digging in the backyard.”
“Well what can I do in the meantime?” I asked.
“The inside of the house needs painting,” he said and motioned inside.
I spent the rest of the day putting primer on the bedroom walls. I got my shirt stained and my Dodgers hat covered in white. I had to step outside after getting lightheaded off the fumes when I suddenly remembered something. I checked and sure enough, the fruit trees were dead. “Grandma, the fruit trees.”
“I know, son,” she said sympathetically. “The trees don't get watered and now they died.”
“What's going to happen to them?” I asked.
“Your Daddy's going to cut them down,” she told me. My Dad worked full-time as a groundskeeper. He came over and cut the trees down with a chainsaw. I watch dejectedly as he fed them into the wood chipper. All those happy memories were gone: all that was left behind were barren trees and yellow grass. Eventually I took a break from painting because breathing in the fumes was making my head hurt. As the warm summer breeze blew, I sat there thinking wistfully about those halcyon days when a familiar song came to mind.
“The summer wind, came blowin' in, from across the sea...”
Benny the Snake fucked around with this message at 06:04 on Feb 17, 2014
|# ? Feb 17, 2014 05:54|
I had just learned to drive. My instructor, three times my age and then some, became intent on teaching me to drive near practice fields and schools. There he would consult me on the ratings of females of dubious ages. He would say things like “Nah, look at that rear end. She’s an 8 for sure” of someone wearing a backpack featuring the Powerpuff Girls. I often just grunted at his assessments. If he seemed uncertain as to my agreement, the double grunt and nod would mollify him. He almost certainly teaches people to drive in Thailand now. There or Rikers.
I was 16 years old, in my car, and on my way to my first date with a girl named Casey. It’s a name that conjures up images of a father who envisioned a linebacker, but had a backup plan in case it was a cheerleader. One of those neutral, androgynous sounding names that my adult self couldn’t possibly imagine climaxing around without wondering who was in earshot. I went over the scripts of potential date topics in my head, and I decided that “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” would be my go-to area if there was ever a lull. We had met during Quiz Bowl: the two of us locking eyes as we both blurted out that answer simultaneously. It became our inside joke.
I arrived at Casey’s house, and walked along the weed-infested path to her front door. Casey lived in a working class neighborhood a few miles from the north shore of Long Island. I knocked on her screen door, and waited nervously. Through the haziness of the screen, I could see a man lumbering towards the knocking. He was about my father’s age, but the similarities abruptly ended there. His gait had all of the gracefulness of a ballet of steak knives. He was completely bald, with a scruffy beard, and a tanktop written in a foreign language. The man looked like the bouncer to an elicit cockfight. Terror washed over me.
“Hi...Mr. Winslow? I am here to pick up Casey.” My utterances were more mouse than human. Fievel hitting puberty.
“Yes, yes.” I jumped at the loudness of his voice. “Are you Matt? I’ll call her.” With each passing word, the noise became more cavernous. “Casey!” “Casey!” Pounding a gong would have been subtler.
He opened the screen door, and I shook his hand while he studied me. I could feel myself de-evolving under his gaze. Daughter, Casey. Man, kill me. Find, mommy. The sound of Casey’s footsteps echoed in the distance for an interminable amount of time. How many flights of stairs were in this house? The silence between us closed in on me. I HAD to say something. Think, drat it! “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” was my safe spot.
“Do you like...crossbows?” came out of me. I immediately shifted my eyes off of his face to his chest, studying the hodge podge of undecipherable letters desperate for a rescue code. My eyes then moved down to his legs to determine if I could outrun him. I gulped down a golf ball of air.
“Crossbows?” “You a hunter?” He looked at me with a slight smile, as if I had asked a perfectly normal question. Not only was he clearly a hunter, but that smile implied that he knew - down to the second - the waiting period for assault rifles in every place he’s ever lived. I saw an opening and unslouched my shoulders. “Yes sir, I go out every now and again.” If picking up Easter eggs in my yard counts. “I was in the Boy Scouts for a few years.” I had considered claiming to be a recent discharge of the Marine Corps.
“Casey must’ve been talking about me, huh?” The wry smile turned proud. Casey stood behind him at this point, out of my view. “Dad, don’t be nosey. I’ll be back before dark. Promise.” She came into the doorway and placed her hand on my shoulder as if it were the undocking procedure from her father’s orbit. “Hi, Matt!” “Heya!” We walked out together as I managed to mutter out a goodbye. “Nice to meet you, Mr. Winslow.” I waved to him and made a mental note to buy magazines with names like Ammo Up and Animal Slayer if I ever planned on returning here.
I looked at her and smiled: part relief, part nervousness, all excitement. She was about 5 feet tall with deep black hair that extended past her spaghetti-strapped shoulders. Her skin had a slightly darker tone, a chance DNA mixture that gave her a permanent spray tan. She had a full figure with an athletic build. There was an aura of complete confidence surrounding her that intimidated most people, as if each step taken was on land recently conquered for her.
When we reached my car, I did a slight jog to open the passenger side door, a ritual that seemed to satisfy some expectation rather than accomplish something that was needed. I began to mentally opine on the usefulness of chivalry while I stood there waiting. I studied her hands: ungnarled and functional, as far as I could tell. I would need to evaluate the opening of doors on a case-by-case basis so as not to send the wrong message.
“Oh you are sooooooo nice! Thank you!” She brushed my arm and smiled. It was decided: I need to encounter lots of doors. Door reconnaissance! Is a door store a plausible second date?
We had planned out a visit to the beach, and drove to one a few miles away. Upon arriving with our blanket in tow, we came to the realization that late-October beach-going was a plan doomed to failure from the start. There was not a sign of life in sight on this cloudy, breezy day. I half expected to hear air raid sirens and see German war planes on the horizon at any moment.
“This is a good spot.” Casey pointed at a nondescript area of sand a good distance from my car. I looked out at the water as if to double check her choice. The waves hit the shore with an exasperated “clop, clop”, begging us to be any other place in the ocean except here. A Radiohead cover of “Surfin’ USA” began to play in my head, the soundtrack to the bleakness. “Yup, this is a great spot.”
We sat down on our blue blanket. “It’s beautiful out there,” she said, pointing at her approximation of where the sun was last seen. I made sure she saw me nodding wistfully. “Indeed.” The believability of two toddlers studying a crayon-filled wall and deciding that they had nothing to do with it.
“So…” She looked at me with eyes that screamed “now is the time to take out your gum!” even though neither of us was chewing any. The chilly beach faded away as I closed my eyes and leaned in. This was my first kiss outside of a Kindergarten recess area. I began my task, furiously.
“Slow down, champ!” Casey was laughing. I suddenly became cognizant of my kissing method. It was like a woodpecker who hadn’t seen a tree for a month. A rocking chair granny on speed. “This is not the Kisscapades. Slow and steady, Matt.” I blushed, and we started over. We made out there for about 15 minutes, both of us too nervous and naive to do anything but mix in a little tongue. The cold finally got to us, and we returned to the car and drove back.
“That was fun. I would rate today a 9 out of 10!” she assessed as I pulled into her driveway. Reflexively, I checked my three mirrors and made sure my seat belt was fastened.
|# ? Feb 17, 2014 05:55|
The 4th floor had no water on the night of the Nimton Hall flood. That's the part that always seemed weirdest to me. At first it was just a few girls wandering the halls, whispering complaints of no shower, no faucet, the toilets won't flush, but not ten minutes later, the plumbing gods heard our prayers and sent rain in spurts and dumps from the bathroom ceilings.
The main water pipe to our freshman housing tower was ruptured, the fire department explained. Somewhere between the 5th and 6th floors, the pillar of white-painted steel in the stairwell retired from pipedom for no good reason. No two weeks' notice, no warning leak, just a 1 AM Poseidon adventure for every sleepy co-ed in the bottom half of the building.
I stood fascinated in the doorway of our floor's sole private bathroom, watching geometric rain shoot down in sheets from the creases of the fiberglass tile. You could twist the faucet knobs and flush the toilet with bone-dry results, but just a few feet above those logical fixtures, impossible water came down in droves. It overflowed the sink, was quickly filling the bathtub, and eternally drumrolled the toilet seat. I hoped it wasn't building to a "ta-da!" of rain in our private rooms too.
Yes, lucky for us, individual dorm rooms on the floor had concrete ceilings. Umbrella'd from the madness, we only had to worry about a quickly mounting overflow rising under our doors. Not good news for messy students. Me, I envied messy students. I was outright slovenly, and even after securing my electronics and books above ground, I couldn't fix the mess that followed me outside my room. My stuff was safe from the rising tide, but I wasn't.
More than anything, I was mad at the Nimton Hall flood for exposing how gross I was to everyone else on the floor. My greasy rooster-tail of hair gleamed under the fluorescent lights, crowing to all that I hadn't showered in a couple days. My face, already broken out from stress and greasy food, felt swollen and sweaty from the rude awakening. I was even forced to roll up my fleece pants and share my two-weeks-unshaved legs with the world. It was November, and I'd lost my job and my boyfriend inside of two days. Honestly, the job hurt much worse. gently caress my ex. But whatever the reason, no cash or bad blood, I stood in that doorway and hated that flood.
I was an iceberg in our 4th floor ocean. Some girls flew in a shrieking panic from room to room, knocking on doors and fiddling with their phones. Others, smarter than me, stayed in their rooms and tried to sleep the nonsense off once they realized an inch and change was as high as the water would go without escaping down the stairwell. Too self-conscious to help but too curious to retreat, I just squatted there for half an hour like a toad under a flashlight.
One of the loudest girls in the littlest disaster relief team, a hefty blonde named Megan, eventually saw what I was (not) doing and beckoned me over. I flinched from the eye contact but shuffled over the squishy carpet to see what she wanted.
"Fifth floor is where all the water's coming out. Can you take them these trash cans and towels?"
I peeped "yes" and made my way to the inside stairwell. A reeking wall of some smell between chlorine and mildew smacked me in the face. I nearly lost the fresh towels to the spiraling river that had taken over the core of our building. There were fresh human eyes to shrink under in the stairwell too. People looked down from floors and floors up to watch the winding waterfall, and laugh at all the dummies who tried to descend it in traction-less shoes. The concrete steps had been transformed into slippery river stones under Minton Falls' power. Me and my flip-flops only had to salmon our way up one floor, so I took my time, not eager to become entertainment for the upstream balconies.
What did it matter, though? This night couldn't get any worse.
I opened the door to the fifth floor and entered Shangri-La.
Nimton Hall was a co-ed dorm with odd floors for boys, and even floors for girls. This odd floor had become much odder after bearing the full brunt of the water main's collapse, and the chaos was beautiful in a way I hadn't expected. There were dozens of boys in water up to their shins slamming towels under doorsills and bailing trashcans full of water out windows. There was laughter and splashing and even one man's despair at a lost macbook or textbook was met with assistance from others adrift.
Maybe one in five were wearing a shirt. No one was wearing pants.
"I'm here to help!" I squeaked out.
A few heads turned my way, and for reasons I still don't understand, I wasn't embarrassed or angry. They must have seen my gross hair and fuzzy legs, but they were looking at the fresh towels and buckets, which got a few claps and "oh thank god"s. I was grody, but this was a real crisis. These beautiful unclothed men were in crisis. And I could help out.
I stayed on the fifth floor for the rest of the night, laughing and cursing and getting messier and sweatier by the hour until the water was shut off at sunrise.
|# ? Feb 17, 2014 05:57|
WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO ME THIS WEEK
1) the bank accidentally cancelled my credit card
2) I got the time of my flight wrong and had to pack my entire life in 20kg in the space of about three hours
3) a volcano exploded and turned the entire town into Silent Hill for a day or two, rendering 1) and 2) hilariously moot.
4) my ISP blocked the SA forums as pornography.
So, it's been a fun and interesting week. Now I'm in Singapore, far away from ash clouds, weird ISPs and demons-built-from-my-guilt. They have this paper here that you're meant to wipe on your rear end after you poop. It's weird.
As such, I was unable to finish my story in time. Still, I'm here with an interprompt to shut you all up until the real prompt rolls around. As usual, no signup period, no winners, no losers, submission closes when the new prompt is up.
By popular IRC demand:
AS THE DOME TURNS
Write a story in the style of a soap opera
You've all seen at least one. If you haven't, watch this. So here's what I want: cliche coincidences, labyrinthian romance and most of all, ridiculous, ridiculous melodrama.
Max 300 words. That's a lot for an interprompt, so I won't accept a single word over the limit.
GET IT ON.
|# ? Feb 17, 2014 06:56|
You've all seen at least one. If you haven't, watch this. So here's what I want: cliche coincidences, labyrinthian romance and most of all, ridiculous, ridiculous melodrama.
You may also refer to http://www.rotten.com/library/culture/passions/
|# ? Feb 17, 2014 07:10|
My humble submission to the interprompt:
Behind The Dome (300 words)
“Do you ever go home?” the runner asked as he walked into the break room.
“Who can find the time,” Jack muttered, washing his mug.
“Reckon we’ll actually reach the finale? A soap opera with a finale. Weird.”
“Aye. What's your name again?"
“It's, er, Goodwin. Cooper.”
“How long have you been here, Goodwin?”
“A month. Sod’s law. First job out of uni, it’ll be my last.”
“You watch the show?”
“Nah. Not big on soaps. Me mum was. This one was always on when I got home from school. Seemed pretty silly to me. Bit OTT.”
“Working here changed that at all?”
“Not really. Actually, behind the scenes is kinda worse than the show.”
Jack turned off the tap. “What does that mean?”
“Oh, I didn't mean anything by it...”
“No, seriously,” Jack looked at him. “It’s worse?”
“Just, the gossip you hear.”
“Seriously?” Goodwin yawned. “I thought you’d worked on this show, like, forever.”
“I have,” Jack sighed.
“You never heard that, say, Edwina and Carl have been...y’know...for years?”
“Isn't Edwina married to...?”
“Our glorious director, yep. But that’s okay, because he’s been copping off with her sister the whole time–”
“Creepy, right. He went to school with their dad, too. That billionaire oil guy who disappeared a while back?”
“Better still: during all that, Alexandria’s had a thing with that other camera guy...What's his name...”
“Alan,” Jack whispered. “That's Alan.”
“Right! Which is weird, cos I always thought...”
“Alan’s my husband.”
“...Oh. Sorry, I...” Goodwin stood up to leave. “Listen, I need to get out there. Deadline’s fast approaching, and all...”
Jack slumped to his seat. He watched another solar flare burn through the sky and for the first time since it started, it felt like the end of the world.
|# ? Feb 17, 2014 13:30|
Soap Opera Interprompt
Oh No, Clones!
Tanyah Starz stormed into the living room. “You can’t stop me from dating him!” she said.
“But he’s my clone!” Lukas Starz said. “And I’m your father!” He closed in on Tanyah and glared at her heatedly.
The door swung open in time with a dramatic chord. “Hey pops,” Kaz Starz said. He swaggered over to Lukas and Tanyah. “Hands off my number one squeeze.”
Lukas turned to Kaz and closed the remaining distance, before shoving his clone against the wall. Their shirts were missing for some reason. “How dare you talk to me in such a fashion! You are a bad clone,” Lukas said.
“Hey, old man, you’re just too old for this game, can’t keep up with my youthful vitality!” Kaz said.
Tanyah sighed and sat down on the steps. Kaz and Lukas pressed in closer, gazing into each other’s eyes with fierce determination. Tanyah checked her watch, just as Kaz and Lukas began making out.
Luke Starz snuck down the stairs after Tanyah. “I talked to the scientist! Kaz is actually the evil twin. You and I should run away together!”
With Lukas and Kaz trapped in a lip-lock, Tanyah muttered something about contracts. “Oh, take me away you vital stud, away from all of this,” she said. The pair linked hands and ran out the front door.
The scientist had been watching on the hidden cameras. He cackled in his empty laboratory. “Yes, the fools! Luke does not realize that he is in fact the good clone of me! All is falling into place!” he said.
|# ? Feb 17, 2014 14:14|
Sharing The Clap
Rosco’s hand shook, the gun slick from the sweat of his palm. “I ought’a kill you, you bastard!”
Kitridge puffed out his chest. “And why?”
“For stealing my manuscript! That was my Newbery to win!”
“Is that what this is about?” Kitridge laughed, his fat belly jiggling under his waistcoat. “You have some gall to complain about your manuscript!” Before Rosco could react, Kitridge reached into a nearby bouquet of flowers and withdrew a gun of his own. “And what about my wife? Did you not steal her?”
Rosco gasped. “How dare you! Her and I were in love! I cannot steal what is earned through passion!”
“That may be true, but I’m afraid the last laugh will be mine, for there’s a truth I never told you. My wife—she is your mother!”
“You can’t prove it!”
Kitridge cackled. “Why don’t you ask her the next time you crawl into her bed? Only be warned—she may not be alone.”
Rosco ground his teeth. “What do you mean?”
“You claim she loved you, but it certainly didn’t seem that way when I made love to her last night!”
Now it was Rosco’s turn to smile. “Joke’s on you, Kitridge—I gave her the clap!”
“You can’t prove it!”
Rosco cackled. “Why don’t you ask her the next time you crawl into her bed?”
There was a pause, and the pair glared at each other nonplussed. “This is getting a bit redundant, don’t you think?” Kitridge asked.
“How’s this for redundant?”
Rosco fired, striking Kitridge in the chest, and the old man slumped over dead. Then he raised the gun to his own temple. “I gave my mother the clap...” he whispered as he pulled the trigger.
|# ? Feb 17, 2014 15:36|
As The Dome Turns Interprompt
Heraklion papyri Hk-j03
(HORUS stands at the island in his kitchen in the PALACE OF THE HIDDEN AND REVEALED. He is preparing candied figs, but looks anxious. He picks up his cell phone, then brushes his forehead feathers.)
HORUS: Hail, my consort. I have sent out my Eye but have yet to find you. After last night, I am--
(HORUS is interrupted by HATHOR coming in through the kitchen door. She straightens her solar disk and tries to smooth out her linen dress.)
HORUS: My Mansion, my consort, you are back!
(HORUS runs toward her, but stops short and cocks his beak. HATHOR responds immediately, as if knowing his suspicion.)
HATHOR: It was Aphrodite Hagne! She invited me to an orgy and--
(The camera cuts, HORUS in the foreground, HATHOR over his shoulder.)
HORUS: This was no goddess’s orgy night. I smell the Greek wine. Tell me. Was it Bacchus?
(HATHOR is near tears. The kitchen door bursts open and SARAPIS squeezes his giant serpentine tail into the kitchen. He is not wearing a shirt and has magnificent mastabas.)
FEMALE SLAVES IN AUDIENCE: [Cheers and wolf whistles]
(HATHOR runs to SARAPIS and nuzzles against his beard.)
HORUS: You half-breed bastard! Greek in Egyptian clothes!
HATHOR: You see the whole of the Two Lands, but you never see what’s in my heart. I love Sarapis!
(SARAPIS wraps a well-oiled arm around HATHOR. HORUS tears open the cabinets and flings a pot at them.)
HORUS: Run back to Alexandria, you...Greek-lover!
(SARAPIS pouts handsomely as he pulls HATHOR away in his coils.)
HATHOR: I will!
(SARAPIS slithers out of the kitchen. HORUS grabs a bottle of beer from the fridge, then slumps into the breakfast nook.)
HORUS: My only mother and wife...Hathor, my Mansion!
(HORUS sobs into his beer.)
|# ? Feb 17, 2014 16:52|
LATE ENTRY. Was vomiting up everything I ate yesterday, but I'll take a DQ over a failure.
Jugendherberge 1254 words
Fabian looked like a douchebag. He wore a plaid checkered hat with a stubby bill and long shorts that went down way past his knees. I’d known him long enough to know that he’s not really a douchebag, even though he sat with his legs wide open, as if his balls were so large and needed extra space.
“Are you still drunk?” I asked Fabian.
“Yeah, you?” His head wobbled around, or maybe it just looked that way.
“Yeah. Thanks for getting us back to the hostel last night.”
“I have no idea how we got back.” He laughed, but I knew it was him. He was German, and good at being drunk. There’s no way I’d have made it back alone. When we woke up, there was water all over the floor by our beds. I always drank a lot of water before I went to sleep, but I must have dropped the bottle and been too drunk to clean it up.
I saw all the other people on the train dressed to go to work, and I felt self conscious. I put my aviators on and looked across at my reflection. The big zippers on my chest pockets were definitely the coolest part of my outfit, but the aviators really tied it together. The train stopped, and more people got on. I watched for Ellen, but of course didn’t see her.
Summer in New York City was just as muggy as Florida, but there was less A/C. I was too hot to care where we went, so I just followed Fabian.
“In Germany these shoes would cost like, 90 Euro! Voll geil!” He holds up a pair of giant shoes with green four-leaf clovers on them. He’s already bought two other pairs. How many shoes did he need?
I humored him, and he eventually bought the pair with the clovers.
“Hey, let’s call your ex.”
“Why?” I had hoped to run into Ellen, and had been watching for her since we arrived. There were nine million people in the city, but still, it could have happened. But I was not going to call her.
“She can get us some weed.” This was the only girl who had ever loved me back, and she had been the one who had stopped loving me. Fabian didn’t understand the emotions I felt, and how much it had hurt for her to discard me. I wasn’t ready to contact her again; I wasn’t confident enough or good enough. No, I couldn’t call her, but if we had just run into her, that would have been different.
“Nah,” I said, “she’s annoying anyway, you don’t want to smoke with her.”
“Alright. Let’s go back to the hostel though, I want to drop all this stuff off and take a shower.”
Back at our hostel I passed by a girl who I had talked at for twenty minutes the previous night. I had acted more confident than I felt, but I felt self-conscious about it, and she must have sensed it. She looked down at her phone, pretending she didn’t see me. She wasn’t really that great anyway.
Fabian and I went into our room, it was 100 square-feet with twelve bunkbeds. There was barely room to walk. The Czech couple whose beds were across from us were inside, and they looked at us and spoke in Czech. Fabian threw his shoes under the bed with all the other clothes he’d bought.
I put some stuff away, and remembered that my phone was still charging on the window sill. I went to get it, but the Czech guy had planted his foot on my bedpost. His sculpted calf blocked me from the window.
I asked him, “Hey, can I get my phone real quick?”
He didn’t move, but he looked me dead in the face and said, “No.” His ‘no’ was flat and robotic and made no sense. I just wanted my phone.
“Uhh, it’s right there,” I said, “I can just grab it real quick.”
He didn’t look away from me, and his face was red. “No.” The vowel was flatter this time. He was mad at me, and I felt terrified. I scanned my hungover brain for a possible reason, and it clicked onto the spilled water. Surely it was just water.
His girlfriend helped me out. “Do you not remember what you did last night?”
What I did last night? God, no. Had I pissed the bed? My underwear and sheets were dry. My face burned, and an icy-hot tightness shot down from my neck and swelled in my chest. Blood pulsed along my ear canal.
“No…” I said, looking at her as if to say that I was a good guy and didn’t usually drink. She must have seen Love in the Time of Cholera on my bed. Guys that read books like that don’t black out and...and what?
“You came in really drunk late at night,” she said, “and you stood in front of my bed.” hers was the one on the ground, right across from mine. “And then you pulled your pants down and pissed all over the floor under my bed.”
I felt the tiny room shrink even more, and choking shame enveloped the three of us--the two Czechs and me.
“All of our things were under there,” she keeps going, “we spent the whole morning washing everything, and our shoes were ruined because we couldn’t get the smell out. We had to spend the rest of the day buying new clothes.”
She was mistaken. “I didn’t do that,” I said.
The boyfriend stared me down.
“How do you know...” the shield of denial was already crumbling. “It wasn’t me.”
Shame contorted the girlfriend’s face. “I know,” she said, “I...saw you.”
Could I apologize for something I didn’t remember. Even if I could, what good was an apology? I had to show sympathy though. “I’m sorry, but I still can’t believe I’d have done that.”
The boyfriend looked me in the eyes and said, “You’re just a loving piece of poo poo.” And that was it, that was the worst I’d get. He wasn’t going to hit me, and he wasn’t going to call the cops. It didn’t seem fair.
“Take your phone and go,” the girlfriend said.
He took his leg down and glared at me as I took the phone away. I said I was sorry again, and it felt pathetic and empty. I grabbed Fabian outside.
“There’s no way you did that,” Fabian said. “Why would she just watch you do that, then let you go back to sleep? It doesn’t make any sense.”
He wanted me to feel better, but I just wanted out. “There’s no way we can sleep there again tonight. Can you go back in and get our stuff out?”
Fabian did it for me. I couldn’t face the Czechs again. I sat in the hostel lobby and saw the girl who blew me off laughing with people way cooler than me. I was glad I hadn’t run into Ellen. I wasn’t good enough for her, but I would change that. I had to grow up.
Fabian came back with our things, and said, “They are gone, and I got all our stuff. The shoes I just bought are missing though. I think they stole them.”
I probably should have paid the Czechs for pissing all over their clothes, but instead I paid Fabian to buy a new pair of leprechaun shoes.
angel opportunity fucked around with this message at 19:45 on Feb 17, 2014
|# ? Feb 17, 2014 19:40|
My inter-prompt submission.
Hearts of Gemini (299 Words)
Faith was initially ecstatic to find the engagement ring in her beau's linen closet, but was devastated when she read the inscription. To Margo, My Love. Margo was Faith's twin sister.
Faith weaved through traffic while frantically hammering out a text. Kent, where are you?! He wasn't at work, and when she called his cell it went straight to voicemail.
Faith's brought her Porsche to a screeching halt in Margo's drive way and her sweaty hands fumbled with the keys at her sister's front door.
“Margo, have you seen the body oil- Faith?!” There was Kent, wearing nothing but a towel and a look of surprise.
“It's not what it looks like!”
“Then explain this!” She threw the ring at him.
“Faith, I'm not Kent. I'm Kent's twin brother, Riley.” They were twin sets of twins and it was always trouble.
“Riley fled to Mexico after escaping prison.”
“I came back...for Margo.”
“And the ring?”
“I ran in to Kent when you two took that cruise to Cancun. I was in trouble with the cartel at the time and I was worried I would lose the ring. He agreed to smuggle it back to the states for me.”
“What are you talking about?” Margo said, stepping out from behind the staircase. Her eyes were fixed on the ring.
“This isn't how I wanted to ask-”
“Yes.” she said before throwing herself into his arms. Faith shifted uncomfortably then slipped out the front door.
“Where were you? I have a gunshot victim prepped for surgery.”
“You wouldn't believe-” Faith pulled back the curtain and froze. The patient strapped to the operating table was Kent.
“Where am I?” Kent asked groggily.
“You're in the hospital, Kent” Faith had been with him since the surgery.
“I'm not Kent. I'm Riley.”
|# ? Feb 17, 2014 20:44|
Alright kiddies, step aside and let me show you how it's done.
Trouble in Paradise
"Carmen!" cried the Generalissimo. His lady love swooned in his arms, the backs of her fingers making communion with her forehead. Her red dress was torn in three places, and she reeked of garbage. "Carmen! Whatever have they done to you?"
"I do not know!" she lamented. Each word was as a rose petal gracing an angel's feather down. "I awoke in an alley with a bruise on my head, having been afflicted by amnesia! Presumably related to the bruise on my head!"
It was true: she could remember nothing but her own name. The Gereralissimo had watched with tears as she failed to eat a peanut. Ten seconds later, he wrapped his barrel-arms around her slender waist and gave her the Heimlich Maneuver. Her hands grasped backwards at his hips, and his holster.
His enemies had done this, to get back at him for his Glorious And Revolutionary Seizing Of The Means Of Production And Also The Greater Good Of Statues Of Him Being Put Everywhere. He ruled El Pisango with a fist of Iron and Velvet.
He felt to his knees and screamed at the sky. "El God, why have you done this thing to me? Was I not an honest and just man? I'm really sorry I killed all those people but in all fairness they got in the way! Why God, why?"
"There is no God," said Carmen, "but the lead god, who comes out of the barrel of a gun, and goes into bodies and hurts them a whole lot."
"My love, whatever do you mean?" said El Generalissimo, tears carving his mighty features.
"I am not your love!" she said "I am the black widow!"
"The very same!"
And then she shot him with his own gun.
|# ? Feb 18, 2014 00:30|
Flaky vs Djinn Dreambrawl Results
Last week, I asked you both to tell me a story about dreams encroaching upon reality. One of you took the prompt quite literally, the other tried to be clever. Lets see who failed to succeed the least.
No Longer Flaky
You went for the literal approach. This guy's reality IS pretty much a dream. He never wakes up. It just gets dreamier and dreamier until we hit maximum dreaminess at the end.
Plot: An insomniac who is slowly losing his mind is about to have his yearly review, which he doesn't feel too optimistic about. He goes into work that day and starts to hallucinate, all the way up until it's time for his review, which at that point he doesn't seem to care that much about. He gets fired, then either dies or loses his mind or is beamed up into Carl Sagan's ship of the imagination? I'm not really sure.
The setting doesn't really bear mentioning. We've all seen offices, heard office people talk office talk. You had the boundless realms of the human psyche at your disposal, and you set your story in an office.
Character Development: Jim can't sleep, and hasn't had a good year at his job. I don't know much else about Jim than that, which is a shame because dreams are a great way to literally show the reader things about your character. I think that when you were writing out his hallucinations, you were trying to make them seem like hallucinations that anyone might have rather than a hallucination that this specific character might have.
He thinks he's going to get fired, and then he does. The only change in his character is that by the end, he's crazier than before.
My Overall Impression: This was lacking in any theme; there was action, and it was clear enough, but I didn't care. Dreams are a chance to look into the mind, to show universal ideas, symbolism, and archetypes. This was a sequence of weird stuff happening in a logical order.
In terms of actual writing mechanics, you had some typos here and there, stuff like writing 'minute' when you meant 'minutes'. This could use a once-over by someone a little more spelling and punctuation-savvy than me for sure.
God Over Djinn
Plot: I might get some of this wrong. Hal has to check people's dreams for use of copyrighted material, so that they can be charged accordingly. The assumption is that everyone is basically always using copyrighted imagery, so when Hal gets a dream that appears to be entirely original material, he has to investigate the anomaly. Cause he's a happy little worker bee who's great at his job and is like employee of the year. A bunch of cyber-gently caress-knows-what happens, and it turns out that it was Hal's dream all along! Say it aint so! So he puts on a helmet thing and watches his own dream, and it's all this fantastical nature stuff, and wasn't life great before we all became serfs to the corporate oligarchy, or something.
That's glossing over a bit. But if I did get anything wrong, I'm parroting it back at you this way to make a point. And that is that there was soooo much Googlesoft computer ping beep boop cyberpunk stuff. I kind of had to force myself to read through paragraphs that were particularly dense with corporate futurenet lingo.
Character: Interestingly, both of you went with similar characters. Kind of the office-working everyman. But at least by the end, your protagonist has undergone a change. I have no idea WHY he was able to dream about all of this stuff he's never seen, but we know that the dream impacted him enough that he didn't care about the employee of the week award anymore.
My Overall Impression: Well, I could've done with about 20% less cyberblah blah blah. Like with Flaky's piece, I was kind of at a loss when I first read this because I felt like you both had weirdly constricted premises for something as open-ended as "life being encroached on by dreams."
The writing in this piece is just fundamentally more solid though. The formula of CHARACTER WANT THING, CHARACTER DOES/DOESN'T GET THING, CHARACTER CHANGES AS A RESULT OF GETTING/NOT GETTING THING shines through, and gives this a backbone that its competition doesn't really have.
To be honest, neither of these pieces did what I was expecting, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. But only one of them really hit the mark on all points: Story, character, and writing quality, and that was God Over Djinn. Your concept definitely grew on me after I thought about it, even if it wasn't what I was originally envisioning for my prompt!
|# ? Feb 18, 2014 00:30|
It's posted! Because I'm sad and have
Without further ado, my inexpert-reviewer's reviews:
You have a major problem with commas, fragments and complete sentences. Please read these thoroughly before your next submission:
Try not to repeat words if you can avoid it.
I'm still trying to put my finger on why your writing often comes off as sixth-grade level. It might be the monosyllables. It might be that you under-use the continuous tense. It might be that you just don't have a good command of register.
In terms of your story, you missed a huge opportunity with the dream/hallucinations. You could have had the hallucinations be consistent and tell a story of their own. Instead we get "guy goes for work appraisal on no sleep, trips balls randomly, gets fired".
God Over Djinn versus No Longer Flaky DREAMBRAWL
This is pretty great as genre-fic. Cory Doctorow would lap it up. In fact, I feel like maybe you should consider submitting it to a sci-fi mag if you can find one that takes shorter short stories.
Also, did you just read the story I posted in the Farm? There's some familiarity...
|# ? Feb 18, 2014 01:37|
[Great crit of Djinn's stuff]
I forgot to say this. If you could really clinch the ending, give this story a defined theme or point or moral or something, there are places I'm sure who would publish this.
It's just a little too dense scifi for me, personally.
|# ? Feb 18, 2014 01:46|
THUNDERDOME LXXX RESULTS
So, I was pleasantly surprised by some things this week. There were a lot of competently written or otherwise good stories; there are a lot of HMs, but I'm not even HMing all of the stories that I/we liked, because there was a fair bit of competition at the mid-top end. An HM this week means either an unusually good piece, or one that was universally liked, or both.
I especially enjoyed the quality and quantity of humor this week. I am a giant sourpuss with high standards for funny, but many of you made me laugh out loud while judging. There were also relatively few truly, genuinely, bottom-of-the-barrel terrible stories. (Specifically, there were two. You'll see in a moment)
That said, there were a lot of bad stories. Many of you read the prompt up to 'tell me a story about' and glazed over, opting instead to write something that was NOT A GODDAMN STORY, JESUS loving CHRIST CLAW MY EYES OUT WITH A DENTAL PICK. I am left with the impression that a solid 60% of Thunderdome has never read a piece of short fiction outside of a forums post. Please read more. Please keep coming back.
Okay, hold onto your butts, here's the results:
Winner: Erogenous Beef, for beautiful language and scene-setting and a fun, bold narrative. You don't do everything perfectly or even well, but this story does many things competently and a few things beautifully. I cede the throne to you.
Honorable mentions: crabrock, Mercedes, Quidnose, Entenzahn, Jeza. Lots of entries means lots of good entries, means lots of HMs. Sorry no DM for you this week Merc, we all loved your piece, it was just a little too ragged around the edges for the win.
Very special dishonorable mention for thinking, apparently, that being able to string together a coherent sentence means that you're safe from the wrath of judges who do become very cross when you choose to look at a prompt requesting a story and barely even write a goddamn story; a dishonorable mention which, in fact, all three judges unreservedly agreed on, looking at each other (metaphorically, of course, because we were on IRC) with mild surprise and a certain amount of gratitude that the others felt the same way: sebmojo
Dishonorable mentions: Whalley, The Leper Colon V, Meinberg, Palisader
There are two losers this week. Why? Because the entries were divided into two camps: People who wrote a drat story, and people who did not write a drat story. Each group had a representative, though, that was just unabashedly terrible. The loser on behalf of the story-writers, by virtue of writing a completely incoherent story: Crab Destroyer. The loser on behalf of the people who thought I was asking them to write applications essays, who not only failed to give me any semblance of narrative but also did a terrible job at that: Mister Morn.
Beef, the throne is yours - do it proud.
|# ? Feb 18, 2014 03:33|
Crab Destroyer and Mister Morn. You are both LOSERS. But only one can receive the sticky kiss of the losertar. And now we get to decide which with a brawl-off.
48 hours and change (11.59 PM, PST, 19 February). 300 words. Topic: Victory from the jaws of defeat. Must be set in Kazakhstan.
I will judge and for some reason I have a lot of rage right now so make it goddam good.
|# ? Feb 18, 2014 03:45|
So, even though godoverdjinn was pretty nice about it, a huge chunk of the entries this week were SO VERY BAD. It was like you all copied and pasted entries from your 9th grade journals instead of taking an experience from your life and, you know, writing a story about it. Because STORY was the operative word in the prompt guys, not "your life". I don't want to know every detail of your personal anecdote exactly as it happened, with a few fancy words thrown in there to make it seem exciting (hint: this strategy doesn't work), I want you to tell me an interesting, engaging story featuring events that you may or may not have experienced.
Anyway, here are my live-crit notes that I made as I was reading through all the entries. PM me or get me on IRC if you desperately want an in-depth critique of your terrible story
Tense switch/typo within 2 sentences, such fail
UGh so much tense switching I HATE YOU
P. great story otherwise though, you fucknugget.
Good opening line
3rd paragraph all hosed up tho
Ugh, this got real boring real fast WOMP WOMP
'seemed' 'began' ugh just kill me now
wow thanks for letting us read your journal
brb jumping off the empire state building
(it would still be a better story than this)
199 words, I like it already
Actually the word count is the only thing I like
How is this even a story
God, how did you make Hong Kong through the eyes of a child so dull?
Oh a log how exciting I guess you had to be there.
I am loving enraged by how boring this is
cool story, grandma
BRAVO for not being boring as poo poo
Adverbs + overdescription, tone that poo poo down son
Your mom is cool tho
THANK YOU for not using 'I'
LOL PUA SPOTTED
Whoops, persepective switch, FATAL ERROR
Subject matter: yes, style points: -1000
This one time, I shattered my legs into a million pieces, lol oops CLUMSY
Ugh this is so much less funny than you think it is
LAME (like your legs lol)
UGH TENSE SWITCHING
If I blow into this story will it make it good
WTF is up with that first/second line
ARE YOU FATSHAMING
Nice PSA at the end there
Should have been way funnier
Hmm intentional typos? CLEVER IF YES (lucky if no)
THIS IS HOW YOU WRITE ABOUT YOUR OWN LIFE, CHILDREN
great atmosphere, much gratitude, I have briefly regained my will to live
Leper COlon V:
Wow way to tell us about the story you're not telling us
Nothing revolutionary indeed
Nice opening line
Short, sweet, to the point
Your Dad is cooler than Whalley'S
PALISADER TAKE NOTES
God, children are annoying
Too many meaningful looks, yo
Cpt. M. Ghandi:
Too much telling in the hospital scenes = BORING
Why the blood blot? No-one cares.
WE KNOW WHAT ANTICOAGULANTS ARE, GOD
NO, YOU RUINED IT.
I love you (and ur penis)
Ugly in the Morning:
Too much lead in, I don't care
Gets better towards the end, hooray!
Page 63/CYOA thing works okay, but could work better
oooh so meta
do you want us to make you a loser out of spite
READING THIS IS A TENACIOUS BURDEN
(I wanted to DM you so hard for this but I was overruled, FYI)
That sure was a lot of words to tell us that the girl you dramatically girlfriendzoned dramatically slept with your other dramatic friend.
Your 12 year old friends were knocked up?
And you knew what a dick looked like?
This is bad and you should feel bad
Also your peers totally killed that yeast I bet their pizzas were terrible
Not horrendously boring, bravo
Some sentence-structure errors
Kind of ends abruptly despite having lots of words to spare
drat is this a Bond movie
Can adobe buildings be tall?
WOO INTENSE, I like it tho
You have staved off my desire for the sweet embrace of death for another 10 minutes or so, go u.
Thanks for the history lesson I guess
Story does not deliver on Machiavellian high scool drama
OH GOD SUCH TENSE SWITCHING
what, exactly does the first half have to do with a)the prompt, and b) the second half
Good last line
POtentially a good kernel of a story
Too much telling tho
Like literally zero action
Haha, I love the style/age combo
Wow thanks for the anti-smoking PSA
Say no kids
Don't smell his shame
Wait, boys do that?
So, nothing happens in this story?
It's actually still better than like 90% of the others though so GOOD JOB I GUESS
I too, have memories about things that happened that i remember
are you trying super hard to be funny (bc it's not working)
you are officially gayer than your dad for writing this
Note to Jonked, this is how you muse about memories or whatever you were trying to do
Were you three in league with each other or what
Ha, the Bible scene is fun
UGh tense switch whyyyy
Cute story, well written
TAKE NOTES EVERYONE ELSE
Tree, tree, tree
Hmm tricksy grandma
good story tho
Hmm, kind of confused as to who is on which side of the door
Tight otherwise tho
Go to the head of the class
Sick title bro
This really goes down in quality towards the end
last paragraph = barf-o-rama
No Longer Flaky:
OKay I guess?
Use more words, make more story
Good, but too much lead up
Srsly, way too much lead up for a one-liner
Grats on not being awful tho
Chish again? COINCIDENCE? What are you up to?
Nicely written, but I don't really get it?
You had so many more words you could have used
She she she she
MOOMINS +10 points
Competent, but also kind of boring?
SOrry abt your unrequited love, yo
Lead out in cuffs:
Competent, but boring
too much telling, very clinical and precise which = uninteresting
How very dare you, my name is Ruth
WHAT HAPPENED TO ME
It's actually p okay tho all things considered
Wow 2 paragraphs to say you were taling a midnight walk
This would be way more interesting if someone did get murdered
Too many words between beginning and end, I forgot what was going on
Benny the Snake:
Hm another journal entry
I can't deal anymore
Not terrible, hooray for you
I am officially dead
NO U LOOK LIKE A DOUCHEBAG
Ugh emotions, FABIAN U DON'T UNDERSTAAAAND
Where have you told this story before, you cheater?!
Seriously, I've read this before elsewhere on the forums I KNOW IT
|# ? Feb 18, 2014 03:58|
I just wanted to thank you for this - this is an awesome, constructive crit, and I sincerely appreciate it and will take it very seriously as I edit this big ol' mess of a story. Thanks so much.
|# ? Feb 18, 2014 05:06|
Beloved Dome participants,
I am aware that the 'quality' of my 'crits' drops off towards the end, which is why I offered in-depth crits to anyone who wants one. However, given that you will likely get crits from both godoverdjinn and tyrannosaurus, and considering the time and effort it takes to do crits for that many people, may I request that if you're going to ask me for a crit and be a massive donghole about it, kindly go gently caress yourself instead:
I will post your crit tomorrow Arkane you whiny little shitlord.
Fanky Malloons fucked around with this message at 05:30 on Feb 18, 2014
|# ? Feb 18, 2014 05:26|
Beloved Dome participants,
Soap opera interprompt is actually already over but it's nice you two have entered with this collaborated effort! I like this story a lot
|# ? Feb 18, 2014 05:40|
I'd love a more thorough critique considering the somewhat positive reinforcement I got after last weeks terrible entry :P
|# ? Feb 18, 2014 05:59|
I will post your crit tomorrow Arkane.
Sweet, thank you.
I'll stand by what I wrote, but I was pretty rude about it and sorry for that. I just think more than a few of the entrants got short shrifted there, even taking into account that judging is a huge time commitment (that everyone is thankful for).
|# ? Feb 18, 2014 06:06|
Thanks! Consider that it takes up to 15 minutes to seriouscrit a story, and with 46 entrants this week, we're looking at 11+ hours for anybody who decides to do all of them. Generally in the Dome one or two judges do more casual crits (usually the poor sods who got shanghaied into judging at the last moment, which this week was Fanky), while one or two do more extensive ones (or alternatively, the judges split up the stories, in which case you'll only get the one). Serious crits usually aren't up until Tuesday night (ambitiously) or later (normally), but earlier stuff may very well be the first indication of whether your story was good or terrible.
|# ? Feb 18, 2014 06:13|
We barbequed your rear end in irc, and I think that's enough. I may have gone a little overboard myself in there. I guess it's touchy because you're not the first person to do something like that and if you've been a judge before, you know how horribly time-consuming it can be. The judges aren't maliciously denying crit because they want to gently caress with you: it's just that it can easily take a whole day to get through all the entries and there's only so much time going free in a week.
Sweet, thank you.
|# ? Feb 18, 2014 06:15|
I don't know if it's more proper to PM directly or not, but I'd love a more in-depth critique if anyone has time.
mostly I'm just happy that I didn't get a DM
|# ? Feb 18, 2014 06:41|
This is most, but not all, of my crits. If yours isn't here, I skipped it on my second readthrough for some reason, and I'll do your crit sometime before Thursday (probably earlier, but I have to work tomorrow and Wednesday, so possibly not).
Sitting Here - Ripples
Oof. I’m going to assign everyone whose story started out boring to read this, because yours starts like a punch in the gut, from line one. We’ve got characters, action, drama, WHAM. Especially characters - from the way Miles talks I can just absolutely picture him. You’ve chosen the dialogue carefully, and it shows. Actually, reading further, the dialogue is a huge strength here. Every line is just so illustrative; there’s context in and around and through it, especially in the first half. A few things that made me take a breath: “She needs to be alone”; you throwing Miles’s words back at Mira; “His insanity fits mine”. Wow.
Language is not a huge strength, on the other hand - I’m not sure if you rushed this a bit, but there are a handful of outright editing errors, and a number of points that make me go ‘Seriously, sh?’.
(1) Miles's voice slithered through the bedroom door like a hunting snake, all smooth scales over the turbulence of Mira's sobs.
(2) Miles’s voice slithered over Mira’s sobs.
See what I mean? (2) has the same image, the same feel, but it’s less than half as talky. Give it another editing pass, it deserves it.
The ending is satisfyingly ambiguous, and leads me wondering what happens next without feeling unfinished. There’s a spark of hope (maybe Mira’s going to use art as a way out of her hosed-upedness?) but you don’t delude us into thinking there’s a happy ending. I also really like the characterization of your narrator - it’s far more self-aware than most of these stories.
Jeza - Empty Cups
Lovely, eloquent prose studded with startling images - the novelty giraffe draught excluder, “where all good roaches come to rest”, etc - this is gorgeous. I can’t help but feel, though, that you could have done better - there is a bit too much narratorial rumination hanging on too little description, so that the whole thing feels less immediate than it could, and more secondhand. There are points where I start to glaze over a bit by virtue of knowing nothing about the narrator’s or C’s desires, habits, interests, etc. Of course this is probably intentional, because you’re painting a picture of a narrator who seems to experience things secondhand - instead of letting them hit him in the heart, he does ruminate over them, often to absurd lengths. In the end, it’s believable. There are also a few places where you could tighten it up in general - “staggered buzzes emanate from my phone” - just cut that bit altogether, start with “People better at answering their phones…” - it has more punch. Man, though, it’s not easy to pull off a narrator who’s so… vacant? sociopathic? (none of these words seem quite right - there’s a very specific kind of vagueness that you’ve eloquently captured here, that reminds me very much of myself and certain people I knew at around 19-21) with almost no interactions for him to bounce off of, so nice work. Yeah, on second reading (and this is the first story I’ve wanted to read twice, this week) I really like this. Even though I’ll confess here to hating your reverse-chronology story. High pile.
Erogenous Beef - Sodom Has No Pause Button
I like the weird imagery in the beginning (as well as the language); it’s just enough to make me wonder. Actually, the images you give us are a huge strength all the way through: “words flow like cheap beer down a urinal”, “a studded-leather cave of couch-filled alcoves”. It’s all very seedy and sunburnt and neon-lit; even the narrator’s largely indifferent attitude (which you’ve written quite believably) adds to the tone. Listen up, those of you who I yelled at for caring more about creating a lovely picture of a time in your lives rather than telling a powerful story; this is the way to handle that. You have to be very good at writing beautiful words.
Something about the pacing in the middle really irks me: the rapid-fire short lines. It simultaneously feels like too much (bouncing all over between ideas), and not enough (nothing that I can really grab onto, to ‘see’ what’s going on). I also got nothing out of the ending, although I do see what you were going for. I just felt like I needed more: either more nutty poo poo needed to happen to the narrator, to force him to act instead of largely observing, and that needed to push him into gently caress-it-I-need-a-salad territory; or else, there needed to be some believable reason that he was ripe for being loving tired of madcap conference life - but it doesn’t seem like that’s there either, since he seems pretty game for anything, and the beginning. Basically I wanted something or someone to push the narrator over the edge. Maybe have him talk to Stan?
This is some of the best writing in the Dome this week, by the way. I really like your style.
Mercedes - Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide
I really liked this. It had some really fun lines, and I love the idea of the familiars - it’s metaphorical while still being relatable enough to truly read as autobiography. I actually like this the most of anything of yours I’ve read before, probably because there’s a sort of cohesiveness and flow to it, a sort of coherence, that I think is missing from your wackier stuff. The emotional aspect is keenly felt, too, I really get the sense of the place you were at in life when you wrote this, kind of wanting to do the right things but not really knowing how - it has this very ‘early-20s’ feel to it. You also nailed the ridiculous flash rules/restrictions, and I gotta give you props for that.
That said, you really suffer from clumsy prose here. Not mechanical errors per se (although there are a few of those), but a lot of lines read like a brick falling onto sand (“This squirrel on the girl’s shoulder pressed its face against her ear and chittered terrible advice.”) It’s also got a lot of verb tense errors. On top of that, it loses something between the scenes, there’s not really a sense of connection between the situation with Roller Girl and the one with Christine - maybe a tenuous temporal connection, just based on the order you show us the scenes, but you don’t necessarily feel the echoes of the second scene in the third one until you just kind of tell us (via seeing your second familiar) that your mind has changed. I’m not sure how you could fix this, but there needs to be more sense of connection between Christine helping you out, and your whole outlook on life changing.
This story is also exactly what I meant when I said that you could talk about sad, difficult, complicated, etc. stuff in your lives, as long as it wasn’t self-deprecating. There’s a sense of a certain attitude towards yourself, but it doesn’t read as e/n or judgmental.
tl;dr This is really strong and I’d like to see more serious-ish stuff from you.
Quidnose - Go Home, You’re Drunk
This has a distinctive voice, which is way more than most ‘Dome stories can boast. You’ve very nicely captured the feeling of being drunk but smart, you know? Where the mathematics you always have floating around your head keeps popping in as a half-incoherent touchstone to the world of the sober, and you stop trying to sound normal but you also can’t quite sound clever. Also the way the narrator keeps fixating on the same things over and over perfectly echoes the way that drunk people repeat themselves without realizing it, which is a nice touch. Generally some really, really nice and vibrant images here, that tug at my heartstrings as an occasional drunk. Just needs some polish, because sometimes you go a bit too far with it (like the reference to Perks of Being a Wallflower, which makes an otherwise nice moment in your story go *thud*).
I’m not sure that there’s a story here, and I’d like to know who Chris and Renee are to you, and why it meant so much to you to have this night with them in particular, or how that night was representative of a period in your life (which I think is what you’re trying to do, but you aren’t quite there). As it stands it’s much more about the images than the plot or characters, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but I would’ve liked it more if it’d had both. You can convey those nice images while having something happen that allows your character to act and react in addition to sitting around being a lush.
Anathema Device - Breathe
This is sensitive and has some weight to it, and you do a nice job implying the existence of backstory that we never hear about (and that you don’t need to tell us for the story to function - some other combatants should take lessons from you! I especially liked the implication that your parents were divorced for reasons you didn’t quite feel yourself). It would have been stronger, I think, if you’d given us a single episode in the adventures of you and your father, and let us learn that this was an ongoing thing through subtle implications, because as it is it reads a little oddly. I’m not sure why so many people did this, this week - almost summarizing their experiences, condensing them, instead of letting them stand on their own as events. Maybe because that’s how memory worked, and people were reluctant to make up details to fill in the holes? You could’ve gotten away with more lyricism in the writing as well, because the drama of your settings (wind-swept fields! Mountains! Etc!) would easily support it, whereas your simple, straightforward tone might suit your memories of your father better, but because the story isn’t really about your father, but is rather this beautiful, poetic, metaphorical image - I dunno, I just wanted to see more… elaborate? prose. Some sentences are just clunkers, especially at the beginning (for instance, you completely waste your first sentence by telling us nothing remarkable or interesting).
crabrock - My Life in Knots
Aw, man, you tied your dick to a table. Twice. High points: the dialogue between you and your mom is totally believable; I can definitely see your mom as a character, as well as young you, squirming under her gaze. It’s what Orgasm-Shirt Story was trying to do this week, but didn’t quite hit (possibly because there weren’t identifiable characters in that one). Also, the ending had me rolling. You didn’t telegraph it at all, and it was absolutely hilarious. Would’ve liked to see the ‘want to be a scientist’ bit a little more pervasive throughout the story though, because it’s pretty jarring when you suddenly start the serioustalk with us on your way out. Maybe if you’d mentioned it at the beginning, and then occasionally throughout, and then at the end, just hit us with ‘The thing about scientists is...’? That would have made it feel more coherent, I think. But I thought this was really funny, and spot-on in its characterizations, so nice work.
Nikaer Drekin - For Your Consideration
Sunday, 5:12 PM. I was starting to internalize exactly what it had meant to invite E/N into Thunderdome, give them a prompt that hearkened back to college admissions essays and “What did you do last summer?” tales, and allow them more than a thousand words to hang themselves. Fifty thousand words about goons, I thought. A small novel’s worth of words, and if I was going to maintain my precedent of posting crits by Monday night - Pacific time - I’d be looking at an all-nighter. I am not a fast reader.
I clicked on the seventeenth story of the night. I usually need a break after fifteen, but tonight I had pressed on, for reasons I couldn’t understand myself. My eyes wandered down the 22-inch monitor, jumping to familiar words: cartoons, thirty-three, wait, Thunderdome?
“wait,” I typed into the Thunderdome IRC channel. “did nikaer drekin write thunderdome fanfiction?” I rolled my eyes. “Somebody wrote, uh, Thunderdome fanfic,” I said to my cat. Then I began to read. I smiled at the refreshingly competent prose, realizing that Nikaer Drekin had, in fact, written a story - one which involves characters and events, nonetheless. I stifled a snort as I double-checked today’s date, realizing how he had implemented the flash rule. Then, when I hit the final line, I laughed out loud - pitch-perfect humor, not overdone like so that of so many bloodless E/N combatants. “Okay, fine, he’ll get a good crit,” I said. “Pandering, maybe, but at least he had the nads to put himself out there and write something interesting, instead of making me read How I Overcame My Deepest Fear, by Nikaer Drekin, Age Nine.” Ctrl-x, ctrl-c - into the ‘high’ list.
p.s. your fellow judges didn’t dig this, so no HM for you. Don’t look at me, I wanted to give you one, but hey, I delight in coincidence.
Entenzahn - Sleight of Hand
Okay, kiddy-noir thing, can’t tell how old they are - the very beginning makes me think tiny children, in which case the noir thing is hilarious and cute, but then he starts talking about dates and saying ‘gently caress’, and it becomes less funny and closer to genuinely sordid - just not quite incongruous enough. The action is also muddled; I had to read three times to figure out why he was falling down. You need to clean up and tighten the language a bit (‘my jittering hand edged closer’, ‘like a walrus making a backflip’, seriously?), but you’re basically most of the way there with the tone, and it’s clear what you’re going for, so good work. This is a cute interpretation of the prompt, too - it’s larger-than-life, but not completely bizarro. A very enjoyable story, it made me smile, and unlike most of the stories this week it told a story with action! and characters! and events! nice work.
Joda - My grandmother and I
I liked this. There’s a little adjective abuse, even in the first paragraph: “spiked, green cocoon-like shells”; “small, quadratic area”. You could have completely rid yourself of all of those adjectives while losing nothing; think about this when you edit. The story itself is, while not at all remarkable or innovative, told in a competent, workmanlike way - you aren’t suffering from College Applications Essay syndrome, it isn’t boring or pointless or stupid, it’s just fairly unsurprising. What does bother me is that there’s no real satisfaction or resolution in the ending; nor do we get the sense that there are enough loose ends left for an ambiguous, rough-edged ending to be what you’re going for. Your grandmother was born, she lived, and she died, while being somewhat sad and difficult in a way that you never came to understand (and apparently never wondered about), and when she died, you were both frustrated and sad. Did you ever try to understand your grandmother more deeply? Did you ever wonder about her as a person? Thinking about it, that’s what I’m really trying to get at - that the grandmother here is just a prop, and the story would have been identical regardless of what old person you barely knew died. It’s sad, sure, but it doesn’t really mean much unless we know her a little better (which you apparently didn’t.)
Kaishai - Reasons
Hmmm. I don’t like this as much as your more baroquely written stuff, to be honest; I think command of language is one of your strengths, and I don’t really see it here, although I do understand why, from a story perspective. The whole thing is light and sweet and simple and summery (and you could have used some of those leftover words to give us a little more imagery, metaphor, etc that would have enhanced that), and it made me smile, but it blows away in a strong wind, basically. I want to hear more about what Young Kaishai’s relationship is with this story, what the birds meant to you, more of a narrative, less of a slice of life (as a narrative object, the bird at the end feels a bit pasted-on; it doesn’t really exemplify or tie up or contradict or remark upon anything that’s suggested earlier in the story). There’s some of that, but it’s all very far under the surface. The most powerful moment I think is when you say “I could have hurt her, but I never wanted to” - it drives home that the story is about the joy of simple curiosity and wonder, without rubbing it in our faces. I did like it, but just - not quite up to the standard of the better stuff this week.
Walamor - Fighting the Beast
The extended metaphor here is fairly predictable, but it’s better, I think, than just straight up telling us about your struggles. Yet at the same time it gives the whole thing a kind of applications-essay/Lifetime-movie feel (because it’s just so overdone and predictable). I would rather have read the story of some event or series of events that defined your quest to stop smoking, rather than just have you tell me about it after the fact - but a lot of people did this let-me-tell-you-about-my-feelings-take-them-at-face-value thing, and you managed to do a little bit better than most of them (landing you in the mid pile rather than the low one), just because your narrator has an interesting voice, your writing is coherent, and there’s some emotion in it - the way you describe the little indignities of smoking, and of quitting, and the fact that you give us, at least, a series of anecdotes rather than just straight-up telling us how to feel. It still isn’t quite a story, but it’s a nice little piece of writing, quite likeable.
Cpt. Mahatma Gandhi - Feeling a Clot Better
Ughhh terrible pun title in a story that isn’t funny, what are you doing?
This is weird. It’s well told; you have a nice narrative voice, no typos or grammar/spelling issues that I can make out, etc. And the story is clearly told and easy to follow. But it’s hard to write about medical stuff well, and you absolutely do not nail it. Here’s why. Your story just goes like this: unpleasant but relatively quotidian medical event happens, is explained, friends/family rally around the patient, who recovers unremarkably. There are some nice words about your gratitude towards people, your concern for your wife’s health, etc. But there’s absolutely no power, no surprise, no wonder, no feeling, no change. What emotion there is, is sanitized and totally predictable. It reads like Oliver Sacks decided to stop writing about bizarre and fascinating things, and write about completely mundane ones instead, without changing his style at all. Also, directly addressing the reader like you do - and you’re not the only person this week to do this - doesn’t work well for you at all. It just pulls me further out of the ‘story’ flow of things, and makes the whole thing feel even more like a forums post or some curious anecdote to be told at the bar.
Xenocides - Slaying a Childhood Devil
You got some verb/noun agreement, tense, and general wording issues (“I gesture the game towards the console”? ‘Gesture’ is not ditransitive! “My brother sucked at this and I exclaimed…” - those two sentences don’t coordinate with ‘and’!) They aren’t terrible, but there’s enough to be jarring - it’s obvious that you know how to do this stuff, though, so just proofread a little more carefully next time. As far as the story, it’s light but cute, and it’s actually told as a story, not an essay on What I Did Last Summer, so you get some points from me. It isn’t very substantial or meaningful, but you convey what’s going on, and there’s a nice feeling that the two brothers are bonding with each other for the first time in many years (although I’d like to see more about this, maybe even metaphorically. Do you guys start relating to each other more like you did as kids, when you start playing the game? Is there any awkwardness? Have you grown apart since you were kids, or have you stayed friends the whole time?) But overall, despite the fluff, this is sweet and I enjoyed it more than many entries this week. Good work, keep writing, work on your editing.
Djeser - To Impress
I thought the gimmick here (that it’s the same kind of lying, right?) was a bit ham-fisted and simplistic, but another reader didn’t pick up on it right away, so it might be more subtle than I thought. It’s funny, the voice is relatable, you make a good point in a clear way, but there just isn’t enough to judge. You should have used the rest of your words to make these situations feature in a story that had an actual plot and characters - right now there isn’t a character at all, just a bit of social commentary, i.e. I don’t find myself caring whether your particular character was an administrative assistant, what degree he graduated with, that he was a dragon as opposed to a ninja, whatever; the details are only there because they happen to be true, which is a bad position to put yourself in in a story. Details should be what they are for a reason, not just for the hell of it. If I learned a little more about you in this story, it could be great.
Palisader - The Move
Why are you starting your story by telling me that some aspect of your story is unexciting? I’m getting very sick of writers this week trying to head off preconceptions that they assume I have. Let yer tale stand on its own.
Oh man, and then you tell me that you ‘can’t describe the experience.’ Why are you describing it then?
Yeah, so the writing here is fine and all, but this, like certain other stories this week, isn’t really a story in any meaningful sense. You’re telling us about a lot of things that happened in a very sketchy and abstract way, without really showing us the heart of any particular anecdote. Short stories have to be tiny - not necessarily temporally or spatially, but something about them has to be small; you can’t tell us everything about Hong Kong, you have to somehow come up with a way to imply the big stuff within the confines of a small thing. Make more choices!
If you were going to rewrite this - which you should - you should write the entire thing as the story of you and Amy finding the temple, and what it meant to you. Don’t tell us Amy was your best friend, don’t tell us what your mixed feelings were about living in Hong Kong, let us discover them through the microcosm of this tiny experience you had.
The ending is awful, too, it’s like you’re trying to make some bigger point but I’m just not getting it.
Huntersoninski - It Could Have Been Worse
This was funny. (I especially liked this line: “If I didn't try, my parents would find out I knew what sex was.”) And funny enough, almost the same thing once happened to me - except that it was a pair of underpants with cartoon condoms on them, and my mother actually did see them (she threw them away and never mentioned it to me again.) So I get where you’re coming from, at least. It also flows nicely; it’s not particularly elegant, but the prose doesn’t stand out, which is a fine start. A couple of awkward phrases (‘my drool-soaked obscenity’) but no big deal.
Now, here’s the problem. “it was frustrating to go back to my parents' house after having lived independently for over a year.” Thanks for telling me. How about you show me? This is a problem this story suffers from throughout. It’s a funny anecdote, yeah, but you don’t show us anything interesting, although you do tell us a lot of things - that you felt conflicted between gratitude and frustration at being home again, that your parents are conservative, that you were ‘trying to play it cool’ when you ran into your brother, etc. etc. This story wants to be about the differences between you and your family and how you feel about them, but doesn’t quite get there; why don’t you show us something interesting about how you changed when you moved away, instead? About why you bought the shirt? About why you’re so incredibly terrified of your parents finding out anything about your life? Examine this stuff a little harder, and then show it to us through your thoughts (ok) and actions (better), and you’d have something.
Little Mac - Last Date
Ugh, the first two lines are not only jarringly written, they’re also a totally unnecessary piece of I don’t even know what you’re trying to do here - foreshadowing, maybe? Whatever it is, don’t do it. Also, etching poetry into stone? Really?
The next three paragraphs, you tell us a lot of stuff about yourself and your internet dating experiences that you want us to take at face value. I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with telling a reader facts about yourself when you’re writing memoir, but the beginning of a story is the worst place to infodump like this, and there’s no pressing need for it - why do I need to know how your previous dating experiences went, or what witty aphorisms you’ve come up with on the subject of OKC, in order to understand the story? If I don’t, it shouldn’t be in there. Why not show us her inviting you in? Give us some more real-time stuff, it’ll read more like a story.
Anyways, this is competently written from a grammar/mechanics perspective, and the anecdote itself is amusing enough if somewhat pointless. But it really just reads like Little Mac is telling me something surprising that happened to him yesterday, not like a story, if you get what I mean. Nothing really changed, there was no significant struggle, we didn’t get a deep sense of anybody’s personality (would’ve loved to have left this story knowing why Little Mac, the narrator, didn’t walk right out when his date started Heiling Sieg.) Half of this is the problem I describe in the paragraph above, and the other half is just what you chose to talk about - stuff that makes good party conversation isn’t necessarily stuff that makes a good story.
Ugly In The Morning - A Little Too Routine
“Life’s a lot like a Choose Your Own Adventure book, where the author got lazy.” is a great first line, so why didn’t you use it as your first line? Yeesh.
You lost my goodwill vis a vis the ‘this is just how boring the daily grind is’ schtick at the end of paragraph three. Cut it there - that’s enough. The whole opening suffers from this; the first ten paragraphs could’ve been three well-written ones instead, but as it stands the action doesn’t start until way too far in.
So eh, this story kind of failed to grab me. I think stories with an external antagonist that has no relationship with the narrator often do this, unless they’re written very carefully. Person gets in a car crash, wants to survive, either lives or dies. Person suffers a medical mishap, wants to survive, either lives or dies. Person runs into an uninteresting, garden-variety nutjob on the train, wants to survive, either lives or dies. So what? Unless there’s some greater point to be made (medical mishap helps person overcome fear of intimacy; near-death in car crash causes life-altering fear of anything with four wheels; person feels afraid to stop nutjob because of feeling disenfranchised in his daily life), then so what? These things happen every day, and unless you convince us that it was important or remarkable, we’re not going to read it as such. But instead of giving us more emotional stuff, you give us more details (why did we need to know the contents of your text message? Why is the guy doing so much shouting and walking around, while your narrator does a lot of staring? Boring.) This wasn’t awful, but it’s got Anecdote Syndrome, Type Two - where the telling itself is unproblematic, but the story doesn’t justify its own existence. But those meanwords said, I did like some of how you told this story; the choose your own adventure metaphor was cool and clever, and not overplayed (and good job bringing it back in at the end).
Sparrow - Genghis
So I hated the first 90% of this, but you redeem yourself at the end. Specifically, when you actually begin to tell a story and communicate things to your readers instead of just listing Things That Have Happened To Sparrow. The ending is cool - I like the idea of expressing your inner Genghis by being a Tough But Fair Teacher, and there are even some interesting aesthetic things going on there with the lists of anonymous names. But up until then, it’s like this: either tell us the story of how you took over your high school directly, or let it come up naturally in the course of the story (in the course of things happening) when it becomes relevant, or if it isn’t relevant, then don’t mention it. You can’t just dump all of this backstory on top of us with no action to justify it and expect us to be interested, because we aren’t you - we aren’t invested in you, we don’t know anything about how you behave, what you care about, etc., so why would we care to hear the background details? Also your first line is miserable, but the “dog” thing is pretty cute. Start with that - you don’t have to start a story with big truths and work your way in; it’s okay to start it with something happening.
Jonked - Memories
No. No, no, no. Oh, Jonked. So you start your ‘story’ - and I use that term loosely - with three paragraphs of faceless, featureless rumination. You may think you’re getting away with this - ‘after all, they already know who the character is!’, you might be thinking - but I don’t know you and you haven’t made yourself compelling enough to hang this stuff on. This reads like a five-paragraph school essay, thesis: sure is weird how we misperceive people sometimes, man - supporting evidence: anecdotes about my gay dad. (Note: you don’t even say anything remarkable about memory in the text; it’s more about how we see people differently in different circumstances. You keep bringing up what you do and don’t remember, but the overall effect is to make me go Man okay we’re about to get to the interesting bit - wait now he’s saying he doesn’t remember it? gently caress.) Write this again, as a story, because you obviously aren’t a bad writer, and see if you can get a little emotional impact in there by distancing yourself from it less. If you don’t remember the details, make ‘em up.
Paladinus - A Cautionary Tale.
Don’t put periods at the ends of your titles unless you know why you’re doing it.
Oh god, yet another story that starts by warning me that you can’t remember anything in it, that it’s going to be vague and half-sketched-out, Jesus Christ. Stop doing this. Make the details up, if you can’t remember them, and for god’s sake don’t cast aspersions on your own story within the story itself. In fact, Paladinus, cut your whole first paragraph and just tell the story.
But when you actually get to the story, I’m pleasantly surprised. There’s the usual clumsiness of language (one specific problem is that you get a bit too chummy with the reader - “You know, the usual puberty stuff”; “even more expensive, etc.,” and this makes your piece read very forums-posty and colloquial) - but the story itself is interesting, meaningful, and pretty well told. You had more words, and there was a fair bit of irrelevant verbiage that you could cut, so I would really have liked to see the “how this affected Young Paladinus” angle expanded upon. You hint at the fact that the second incident convinced you that you couldn’t save the world by yourself, so to speak - but the story would have been more satisfying if you’d also taken the first incident and explained how it made you feel like a powerful avenger on the side of righteousness, or frustrated, or whatever - anything but just “and then everything went back to normal”. At that moment in the story faithful telling of the events is less important than getting to the heart, the emotional point, and you just give me total blueballs.
But on the whole, very nice work after some of what I’ve seen from you. Keep writing.
Ursine Asylum - Early on Tuesday
Mmm, starting a story with a line of dialogue is sometimes tricky to begin with; starting a story with what appears to be dialogue, but in fact isn’t, because it’s just something “everybody” (everybody who?) says, is even riskier, and this is a clunker. Try starting this story with you on the hill instead, and let us infer the lovely pile of imagery (midwestern suburbia encroaching on the flatlands) while you tell it, instead of dropping it, lovely as it is, directly on top of us. As I read through the story, I keep getting this feeling - he could have started it here, no, he could have started it here, etc. You could definitely cut at least a few paragraphs at the beginning.
“its” does not equal “it’s”.
Ahahaha oh man. So, you really got me with that last line. It made me laugh so hard it scared the cat. It’s a shame there wasn’t anything else funny in the story, to let it read as a ‘funny story’ - you might have gotten away with this if it had been, for instance, parodically overwrought (to really put emphasis on the ‘glories of nature’, etc), and a lot shorter - almost like a long-form joke about the Midwest. Alternatively it could have been a more serious story about the futility of these sort of peer-created mythologies, but then I’d need to know more of your narrator’s thoughts and reservations: I’d need to feel that he was torn between taking the legend seriously and thinking it was stupid, which you could turn into a cool growing-up-putting-away-childish-things (but being slightly disappointed by what we all lose when we leave childhood) sort narrative. You don’t quite pull it off, but I get what you’re doing, and I appreciate it.
Black Griffon - Bohemians
At the end of your first scene, I’m impressed by the language and imagery, but I have no idea who these people are, what they’re like, or even what they’re discussing. It’s vague. Are they lovers? I can’t even really tell. I don’t love the whole thing as a story, either. The problem with writing about spontaneous moments is that if you genuinely believe they emerge spontaneously, there’s no story there - stories are about why things happened the way that they did (either in terms of plot, or I dunno, faith, metaphysics, etc.) So why did this moment happen at this time, and why did it affect you so profoundly? What was it about Black Griffon at that point in his life? Maybe start by thinking about why you felt compelled to write this specific story, and try to get that desire across to your readers, somehow. Or did this moment perhaps itself serve as the catalyst for something greater? It’s nice as a snapshot of a moment in time, in short, but it takes a really, really good writer to pull off a story that is all about giving us an elegant picture and not about drawing parallels, making new connections, etc. And that you ain’t, unfortunately, at least not today (dialogue and pacing are notable weaknesses).
Jeep - LC Video Club
I both liked and didn’t like this. There’s definitely way too much pointless dialogue, but at the same time, there’s a perceptible narrative arc, but at the same time there’s a lack of conflict and resolution. You have some really funny moments, and it’s a great arch, ironic look at a certain element of modern life, but it’s just too light - we don’t learn anything about you or your life, we don’t learn anything about the modern porno-culture, etc. Basically, an anecdote, cleverly and compellingly told, but not substantial enough to stand on its own. I would really have loved this as a forums post, or as a component of a book on ‘the time I worked at a porn store’, but there just isn’t enough power here for a great short.
I do like your writing. You have a good eye for revealing dialogue, subtle humor, and characterization of the slightly seedy underbelly of life. But this story is just a bit unsatisfying. Keep coming back.
WeLandedOnTheMoon! - The S Stands For Hope
Hah! I enjoyed this story, it made me smile with the sheer joy and ridiculousness of it, and it’s quite evocative of a particular attitude and time-in-your-life. It still does suffer a bit from forums-post/anecdote syndrome (i.e. not really having a point, message, lesson, or making literary choices, but rather just being a series of interesting facts for the reader to enjoy). Anyways, you did lip-service to a satisfying and non-pointless conclusion, so you get some points for that, although I would have liked a bit more. Beginning is dumb too, absolutely no need to flashback that poo poo (reconsider why you thought you were doing it, because it doesn’t add the dramatic tension to your story that I suspect you were trying to.)
Benny the Snake - Summer Memories
Not bad, Benny. It ain’t great, but somehow I like it - it’s sweet, nostalgic, and vivid, with the colors and flavors and whatnot. I would’ve preferred an actual story, mind you, with a plot and characters that develop and change over time, rather than a series of (rather sweetly written) snapshot images. Maybe start the story with you showing up, seeing the holes in the yard, and letting the background unfold over time? I’m very tired of yelling at people this ‘Dome to do this, though, so I’m going to end the crit here and just suggest that you read the stories I’ve listed above, and think about how they are structured differently from yours.
Arkane - Kisscapades
At the beginning, I do love how you aren’t calling the driving instructor a pedophile, but you’re showing it through his actions. Nice work - but then, what happens to the driving instructor? Don’t waste your precious first paragraph on him if you aren’t going to discuss him in the story. Save it for a different story.
There are a number of straight-up awkward phrases. “lumbering towards the knocking”? “a tanktop written in”? “the noise became more cavernous”? Ugh. The writing is overall coherent, but this stuff comes off as you’re trying to be a bit more literary than your writing can really support. Yet simultaneously there are moments where you take risks with the description (‘door store’, ‘undocking procedure’) and it pays off for you. Very uneven - this will probably improve with some work and serious consideration of what sounds good and what doesn’t.
The plot is feeble. So you go to pick up a girl from her house, stare at her dad for a while, then drive her somewhere and make out with her? I dunno, there’s just not much here - the lack of conflict, and lack of investment in the narrator (and lack of knowledge whatsoever about the girl) makes it difficult to perceive the making-out as a triumph (and it isn’t that great of a thing in itself, even if there was triumph). It’s just another story that’s happened to everybody, so it’s relatable, but not remarkable.
Jay O - Overflow
A big improvement from your last two. Please keep coming back, because I can tell that you’re working your rear end off, it really shows. You have a clear narrative and your story did (unlike 99% of the other stories) make me feel certain emotions, specifically, to recall the sense that at age 19 every tiny thing feels significant, because you haven’t quite learned to ignore beauty in unlikely places yet. That said, too much rambling early on, not enough drama or conflict, not enough of an ending. Just a lot of talking and talking and talking about a pipe bursting, which is not remotely mysterious. Maybe you could have started with the actual flood dripping/gushing/bursting into your room, as the catalyst for certain actions or feelings of yours?
Starter Wiggin - Don’t Die
Mid pile. This is decently written, although the dialogue is a bit excessive, and you never really get away from the fact that your entire plot is ‘two people walk down a highway, talking’. If you gave me just a bit more context to understand, a bit more metaphor, I would understand why the highway was so significant for you - but as it stands, I recommend that, like a number of other competitors, you come back after deeply considering what it was that made you tell this story, and thinking about how you could convey that (‘because it illustrates a certain point in my life’, ‘because I learned something significant from it’) to your readers.
Whalley - Dads Roll Out
Wait, whose dad is the biggest badass to pump blood (?) Mine?
I’m confused by this. It isn’t even a story, you just give us a series of facts that are only tenuously connected to each other, hinting along the way at the existence of at least half a dozen really interesting stories (I’d love to hear about you and Mark bonding over cars or drug dealing, or you in your father’s library, or a time when you went to somebody’s house and played with their Transformers figures, etc). But you don’t tell us any of those stories, instead expecting us to take a bunch of things that you coyly say about your life at face value. There isn’t even a beginning, middle, or end - there’s no sense that you went from, say, struggling with having too few (or too many!) fathers, to being okay with it, through some event or paradigm shift. It just happened. This reads like a college applications essay, where you’re trying to stuff as many facts about yourself in there as possible.
Also, “He’s not a monster, he didn’t irreparably destroy my childhood. I even have strong memories of Peter and my mother together that were beautiful”? Really? I wasn’t going to wonder whether the guy was a monster, but now that you mention it, that’s all I can think about - ‘gee, did he tell me somewhere that I missed about his dad doing something really terrible’? You get to tell your readers what their ideas should be about your characters, so if you don’t want them to think a certain thing (and it isn’t relevant to the story that your narrator assumes everybody would think that way - which, there’s barely a narrator here-) then just choose not to convey that thing.
Mister Morn - Empire State Heights
It is possible to write an interesting story about an irrational fear. This is not that story. So, you had a fear of heights, you decided that you wanted to go up in the Empire State Building, then you did, and you didn’t die. And? And then you spend paragraphs of stultifying inelegant prose on ‘Mister Morn Tells Us About The View.’ Boooooringggggg.
Let’s talk about conflict in stories. So, here’s what would’ve been interesting. You have a fear of heights for some reason, right? Presumably it’s caused you other problems in the past, where you desperately wanted to go up in the elevator, but just couldn’t do it? So what’s that fear clashing with (and losing against) in this story? Are you in love with Brian, and you’d follow him to the ends of the earth, fear and all? Are you about to move out of the US for the rest of your life, and you want to have the memory of the Big Apple From Above to carry with you to Uganda, where you’ll never see a big building again? I guess what I’m asking is, why now did you overcome this fear? That’s what would make this a good story. As it stands, it just reads college-admissions-y again: there’s something that looks superficially like a conflict, but it’s resolved without anything happening. You aren’t even going upwards under your own power, so the only possible moment of conflict is, IDK, buying the ticket? Pressing the elevator button? Which you don’t even show us.
elfdude - Highschool Justice
THAT KID IS…. INHUMAN!
Your narrator spends like fifty goddamn paragraphs staring at two kids having a fight and thinking about doing something but deciding not to for the most obvious reasons known to mankind. It’s not like there’s even an entertaining action sequence here - you could’ve condensed the first 80% of the story to two sentences and lost nothing. The plot itself is, well, at least it exists. But there’s nothing novel or beautiful or surprising here. Also, this is what I was trying to head off when I said not to be self-aggrandizing. The agonies your narrator goes through trying to decide whether or not to punch a kid are dull as dishwater and feel thrown-in just to justify to the readers - hey, I’m really not a hero! I have troubles too!
You’re still having problems with comma usage, but not nearly as bad as before, so good work on that front. But ugh, this is awful. Write more about your relationship with your mom instead, maybe? If you’re afraid she’s going to slap you, but she hugs you, there’s the core of a story there - clearly your relationship has changed somehow over this incident, which is what’s interesting.
The Leper Colon V - Someone I Didn’t Deserve
What even is this? I said, shut up and write a story. And you start by telling me that the story you’re telling ‘wasn’t anything special’, and then proceed to not even tell me the story, but rather to just allude to it. Show me the two of you interacting! Show me why you love him so much! Show me you running off with the old flame! Show me him taking you back! Show me somebody telling him to throw you out on your rear end! Anything! It’s practically Valentine’s Day, show me the love! This sad little thing is neither here nor there, too wordy to be a flighty little vignette about love lost and found, and waaay too abstracted and Leper-Colon-talks-at-me-about-his-life-ish to hang it on the characters, who barely exist.
gently caress, too much crit for one post. Stay tuned.
|# ? Feb 18, 2014 06:52|
Meinberg - When the Cold Wind Blows
Eh, dull morose misery with no hope. It’s kind of neat as a picture of the hopelessness of realizing you’re beginning to age (but not quite universal-feeling enough to hit that; your characters seem occupied with problems that are more specific to them, the issues of alcohol tolerance, tiredness, getting fat, etc. only coming up tangentially). See Quidnose’s story for one that does ‘universal portrait of being a certain age’ well, if that’s what you were going for. Your characters spend way too long talking about nothing in a McDonalds, whining, and being sad and cold. Think a little more about what story you want to tell - I assume it’s the story of your inability to do anything about your failure to connect with Marie? (which is in itself not a great start for a fascinating story - people who are limp and boring being depressed about their inability to have sex, very, very goony) - but so much of what you do in this relatively short story is ‘scene-setting’ if I’m being charitable and ‘pointless’ if I’m not. Also, where/when does this story take place? Why are you presumably 30ish but staying in a hotel room with a bunch of random dudes? Are you at a conference? Less floating heads talking about how sad and fat they are; more content. I dunno, it’s believable and the tone is consistent - which is to say it’s grey, dull, and morose - but the story is all over the place and I don’t walk away from it feeling like I’ve learned anything about the characters or the world. Not your best, Meinberg.
Comrade Black - Maternity Fingers
Okay, starting off with a combination vague first sentence/info-dump-scene-summary first paragraph, although better than some we’ve seen. Is your apparently precocious sexual knowledge, obnoxious feeling of superiority about it, and apparent emotional immaturity relevant to the story? I guess I’ll find out in a second.
Let’s talk about this: “Sal was always one of the few people who was nice to me. You could color me happy when I found out he was in my home economics class in 6th grade. Home Ec was almost always fun because people couldn’t tease me as much and I could keep to myself. However, on the few occasions I wanted to cook something with my peers, everyone wrote me down on the chore sheet for cleaning everything while everyone else cooked. It really sucked.” This is not story. Nothing is happening here - it’s just the story of Comrade Black, age ??, telling us facts about Comrade Black, age 12, and expecting us to take them at face value - and the worst time to do this is when the facts are interesting or improbable, because you’re making the conscious decision not to tell us an interesting story but rather to just allude to it. Why not show us the chore sheet? Why not show us what you thought about it?
This story is bad all over. The writing is so-so at best, I mean, you’re no Baudolino, but there’s nothing aesthetically remarkable here, and you do a number of things that just made my eyes roll back in my head “Or something. I can’t really remember.” “It really sucked.” “made me even more excited to participate.” “I cried out in a lot of pain.” Are you writing a story, or some colorless mush of a post in ‘PYF embarrassing anecdote about your preteen years’? Then the content is just, ugh. Unpleasant things happen to your narrator, possibly because of a flaw she has (she’s ‘sheltered’), but you only tell us about this flaw, instead of demonstrating it to us, so it comes off as if people are just being jerks to her and that’s the entire story. Middle schoolers are awful little twits, news at 11. No lessons learned, no lasting results, even though you had plenty of words left to show us that maybe because of this you changed? We like our characters to change, here in the ‘Dome. Also, to learn about them on our own terms, not to just be told SHE IS SHELTERED, SHE IS UPSET. I hated this. Please keep writing.
NewsGunkie - Away
Okay, I should have expected this, given that probably a quarter of the first twenty stories have failed to even attempt to tell a story. You did better than some of them - there is at least some action occurring; you’re having a conversation with your mother, then riding on a bus, so it isn’t just NewsGunkie’s Anecdote Hour. But 90% of the action goes on inside of your head - which isn’t inherently problematic, but you aren’t doing a great job handling it. We don’t meet any characters, we never hear any justification for your struggles, we don’t learn what makes you think the way that you do. The most egregious paragraph is the one that starts with “It’s a family trait” - don’t just tell us this stuff about your family; show us! What made you come to this conclusion about your family? What made you come to this conclusion about this situation? Give us that story, that’s the one I actually want to hear. What events made you the person who is sitting on a bus being a boring lump of flesh and thinking about your mom? I’d also like a little more description in place of the shoegazing; taking a Greyhound across the flatlands is something that merits telling us a little bit about the inside of the bus, the scenery, your sleeping seatmate. We need a bit of help picturing it. Opening is weak, would be stronger if the stuff you were bringing with you was intriguing and not so conventional. Also, you’ve got one or two errors with apostrophes and whatnot. Weak. Keep writing.
Crab Destroyer - Princess
“You can’t kill the faeries, doing so takes an incredible mental toll that results in permanent brain damage if not death. Even if you couldn’t kill yourself with the exertion it takes to psychically destroy the brain of a sentient creature, faeries were too ecologically important to kill.” Did you steal this from Otherworldly Wikipedia, or is it a metaphor for what is happening to my brain while trying to read this? This is awful, awful prose - clumsy, awkward, arguably ungrammatical. Other stuff: stop switching tenses in mid-stream. “It’s” does not equal “Its”. STOP SWITCHING TENSES what is wrong with you. Also the dialogue does not sound like anything anybody would ever say. Try reading it out loud, it clunks and thuds.
Also, when I said “hyperbolic, metaphorical, magical” I assumed that any stories like this would be recognizably, you know, hyperbolic, metaphorical, or magical. Meaning that they’re an exaggeration of, a metaphor for, or a magic-added version of real events. This story is none of these, it’s unrecognizable as memoir - if you want to read a story that did this right, read Mercedes’s. On top of it all, your plot is pointless and bordering on incomprehensible (psychic teenagers hang out, then a dog attacks someone, and then…nothing?) and the ending makes it feel like the first chapter of a thirteen-year-old’s self-pub fantasy novel. Blurgh. This has my vote for lose, although I’ve only read half of ‘em so far, so you may be saved yet.
curlingiron - The Sins of Our Fathers
Off to a great start, with a featureless head asking another one about an event we don’t know about. Boring. And it only appears to get more boring: two floating heads sitting at a table and exchanging three lines of dialogue, while one of them thinks about the other one? What I actually want to read about is your/your mother’s interactions with your grandfather, which sound interesting or at the very least dramatic; why have you chosen to tell this story from a many-times-removed perspective, with the narrator thinking about (not interacting with) somebody (your mother) who interacted with somebody (your grandfather) in the past who is now, at the time this story takes place, dead? Things need to happen in stories; we don’t have access to the memories that led you to these conclusions about your mother and grandfather, so you need to show them to us. Start by depicting one event and the effect it had on you, then get more complex from there.
Mechanics aren’t bad, although you have a habit of predictable and irrelevant metaphor (“sulked like a jealous boyfriend”, “a cursed gift from a fairy tale”, “ugly duckling”). The words you choose have power, and you’re obviously a competent enough writer to put easy stuff like comma usage on the back burner and think harder about why you use the words, phrases, structures that you do (the answer should never be ‘no reason’.)
Baudolino - The Dildo.
Ugh. Normally, I wouldn’t let subject matter get in the way of critting the story, but this is just… too graphic and creepy to get any point across. Made me very uncomfortable. Entertaining enough, but basically, why did you choose this particular subject matter? If it reveals something fascinating about your character, I'm pretty concerned.
No Longer Flaky - Losing to a Girl
Oh my god, if the ‘first round passed with little action’, then start the story during the second round. It’s a story, you don’t have to tell us every event in what you perceive as a self-contained experience.
Yeah just generally stop telling me stuff. Here’s an example:
(1) I focused on hydrating and catching my breath.
This reads like a sack of bricks. Here’s a version that isn’t a literary masterwork, but it beats (1) by a mile:
(2) I gulped down water, red-faced and panting. I could barely hear him over the throbbing of blood in my ears.
Some of your sentences here made me cringe. Edit, edit, edit, ideally while reading out loud, so you’ll realize why “My coach coached my ears off” is not something a fluent English speaker should be writing.
This is godawful as a story, as well. You fought a girl, you lost because you didn’t listen to your coach, and your conclusion is “She was fuckin’ huge”? Are we supposed to assume that you learned something from this match? Because if you did, there’s no indication of it in this story. I mean I suppose I’m supposed to guess that you started out thinking that no woman could ever beat you, and then this match changed your mind, which I guess is the foundation of a story, although it’s a pretty stupid change of heart to go through, because there’s nothing complex or remarkable about it. Maybe you learned something about being less impulsive, overcoming a character flaw that you are impulsive regarding situations you expect to succeed in? IDK, can’t even tell. Ugh, Flaky, I know you can do much better than this. At least you told a story, which is better than many of your compatriots could do. But sorry, this is going in the low pile.
Lead out in cuffs - First World Problems
“I cruised down the N1 in my battle-scarred white VW Citi Golf, away from Durbanville, deep in the hinterlands of Cape Town, out from behind the Boerewors Curtain, towards the Southern Suburbs and fun.” Urp. Not off to a good start, I’m afraid; the trick to pulling off these long strung-together sentences is the sense of rapidly occurring actions ‘flashing by’, and the linguistic parallelism. The first means you can’t really put them in until the middle or end of the story, where you’ve established the pace and series of events; the second means that you just have too many drat different prepositions here. I’d cut this up.
Overall this is mediocre to bad. A series of unfortunate/unpleasant events occur, you react to them reasonably, while becoming tired and irritated; in the end, everything works out okay. Where’s the story? I don’t find myself caring much about your narrator or the apparently large and bewildering cast of other characters, and although some of the anecdotes you give us are amusing enough, it doesn’t feel like the night had a ‘point’ (but it didn’t have a point, you say! It was just something that happened! Well, that’s the difference between stories and real life - in a story, you get to decide what you want something to mean, and subtly or less-subtly choose your details and wording to convey that to the reader.) There’s the barest germ of an interesting point about class stratification in South Africa here, but nah, you really just don’t hit it.
|# ? Feb 18, 2014 06:54|
I just think more than a few of the entrants got short shrifted there, even taking into account that judging is a huge time commitment (that everyone is thankful for).
Nobody got short-shafted. You're defending nobody. Everybody will get crits, they just take a while. Have you ever tried in-depth critting on 46 stories? You will want to kill yourself.
What she posted were her reading notes, her base impressions of your story. Then she said if you'd like a longer crit, she'll do one. But instead of spending time on people who don't care, she will spend more time on those who request them.
|# ? Feb 18, 2014 06:55|
Crits suck to do and are hard. Please be nice to your friends the judges.
PS: If you are mad about flippant judgment now, don't ever, ever ever go back and read the first Thunderdome thread, you will simultaneously flip your wig AND poo poo your pants.
|# ? Feb 18, 2014 06:55|
PS: If you are mad about flippant judgment now, don't ever, ever ever go back and read the first Thunderdome thread, you will simultaneously flip your wig AND poo poo your pants.
Also you will do those things if you ever enter a week I judge.
|# ? Feb 18, 2014 06:59|
If I'm destined to wear the losertar, then so be it, but I will not go down without at least trying to write something not lovely.
Loser Brawl: Mister Morn vs Crab Destroyer
The Struggle of Almaty Zoo - 296 words
The envelope lay on the desk, taunting the staff of the Almaty Zoo. They hovered around it, barely able to stand from the work they'd done cleaning up the exhibits and preparing a new place for what they hoped would be the 351st species to have a home with them.
The first visit had been disastrous. The representative from the Beijing Zoo had looked around, muttered words in Cantonese that his interpreter refused to translate, and eventually stormed away without even finishing his tour. It had come down to Almaty and London, and unless the Almaty zookeepers turned their entire zoo around, London was going to get the honor for sure. So the staff worked overtime, day and night, to prevent that from happening, as well as to overcome their embarrassment and make the Almaty Zoo something they, their city and their country could be proud of.
The second visit had taken a lot of begging, but at least that time the Beijing representative finished his tour. Differences in culture and language made it hard to tell whether he'd been impressed with their efforts, or whether he was just being polite and London had already been chosen. Nonetheless, the staff redoubled their efforts in anticipation of the final decision, which was in the envelope on the desk in front of them.
The head zookeeper picked up the envelope, and, trembling, pried it open. He read the words on the sheet of paper within and, with a whoop, threw the paper onto the table so his staff could read it. The answer was written in Kazakh, Russian, Cantonese, and English, and it said “we would like to congratulate the Almaty Zoo on being the latest zoo we have selected to house a giant panda.”
|# ? Feb 18, 2014 07:28|
|# ? Jan 27, 2022 00:22|
Alas, the sting of defeat. All men must face it: I know that more than most.
This week, I have crossed oceans. I have outran the fire of god itself, and after such a feat, no mere 'domer can stand in my way. ErogenousBeef may have his victory, but it has only made me stronger. I must carry on, scarred though I am. There is one last fight that was promised, and I will not back down now.
Kaishai, you owe me a brawl.
Come and fight me, if you dare.
|# ? Feb 18, 2014 07:30|