Fishing with rear end in a top hat
The chimp stared at me while I blubbered into my bowtie. His name was Sammy, but I just called him rear end in a top hat. Three hours earlier he was biting me on stage (second time in three days) in front of the cruise guests. He had a moment in the middle of the show where he was supposed to come out with a top hat and cane and do a little dance, but that’s never what happened. Instead, with the malevolent glee of a toddler who has learned to say no, he’d do whatever came to his chimp brain. Usually, this entailed hurling his cane into the audience, slapping Sandra on the rear end while she tried to do her number, or, of course, biting me. The guests loved it.
Now we were watching the ship sink together.
I had tried to keep him out of the raft while I was launching it, but once we were on the water, I didn’t have the heart to throw the little bastard overboard. He behaved himself at first. He stared at me with a look of steadfast confusion while I cried, and then spent the next three or four hours doing chimp things like babbling to himself and picking his rear end. As the sun set, I was beginning to think that this might not be much worse than being on the raft by myself.
Then the sharks came.
I barely caught a glimpse of one fin before the little asshat had wrapped himself firmly around my head, his hairy arm completely blinding me. My senses became three: hearing (neverending screeching), smell (a petting zoo with children who have filled their diapers to the brim with diarrhea), and touch (prickly chimp hairs oh god I think it’s in my mouth). I snaked my hand under his arm and tried to pry him loose.
“Quit it, rear end in a top hat!” I yelled. It was a common refrain, and delighted by the reminder of his past life as a performance artist, Sammy bit me on the ear so hard I felt a chunk of skin rip free. The more I struggled, the worse he got, so I finally just gave up, hoping only that if the sharks were going to eat me, they’d do it quick.
After about 20 minutes with a chimp adhered to my head, the sharks moved away. It was hours before Sammy calmed down. I waited to make sure he wasn’t going to wind up again and then moved to the far corner of the raft to catch a little nap.
I had barely gotten settled before that little shitheel was all over me, wanting to cuddle. I pushed and prodded, trying to turn him away.
“You almost got us killed back there, rear end in a top hat,” I said. He was an obstinate son of a bitch, I’ll give him that. I had to resort to a swift kick to finally get him off me. He scurried to the other side of the raft and bowed his head pitifully. As I began to drift off, I felt a brief little guitar pluck of regret.
I awoke to splashing. As I squinted into the bright morning sun through a haze of exhaustion and panic, I saw Sammy hunched over the side, pulling still-wriggling fish into the raft. He heard me stir and turned to flash one of those poo poo-eating chimp grins, the ones where you can tell they are trying to be an rear end in a top hat.
I smiled. He was finally being a useful rear end in a top hat.
“Good job, Sammy,” I said. He smiled back, a real one this time.
|# ¿ Nov 29, 2014 06:25|
|# ¿ Nov 30, 2021 17:25|
In all the way for this,
|# ¿ Dec 2, 2014 01:51|
Well done, Mercedes, you are a worthy opponent. Don't think you've seen the last of me, though. This is but the opening battle of a war that shall rage across the Dome.
|# ¿ Dec 2, 2014 03:09|
Week 121 SledgeCrits
J.A.B.C. – Let’s Go Away for Awhile
I kept waiting for some little twist at the end that never came. The flashbacks are the best part (and the contain the best writing of the story), but the sweet moments in the past don't really jibe with the stuff happening in the present (1986?). The marriage ended but we never know why, and the tone is pretty uneven. The sudden appearance of the narrator's mom is really jarring and does nothing for the story. But hey, the flashbacks were decent! You’ve got some cliché dialogue (“They put on a heck of a show, folks…”) and some dialogue that seems absurd in context (who tells their mom “good to see you again” if their relationship is at all warm and loving? I think they’d say something way more personal and affectionate). I also don’t see the smell of whiskey being noticeable through a basement door (?!). Take a look at what you did in the flashbacks, those were fairly effective and the prose there was good.
N. Senada – Taking the Lead
I liked this one. The opening really hooked me and it was well written. My only issues were that it dragged a little bit towards the end (I feel like you go on just a touch too long about how the dog is going to be put down and there’s essentially nothing the narrator can do), and also that it wasn’t clear to me that the narrator was a kid until about halfway through. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it was surprising in a way that I don’t think you intended. Not much happens, but it still manages to be a pretty good story anyway.
Systran – Aliya’s Hat
I liked this a whole lot. I don’t know how, but you match the tone of the song really well. You tell a pretty horrific and dystopian story through a smear of childlike wonder, and it all works. The only thing I’d change is taking out the part where the narrator bursts/destroys (?) the blonde girl’s arm. I didn’t really get what you were trying to do there, he suffers no consequences for what he did and we never get a reaction from the girl, although it does show some of the powers of the helmets and it also clues us in that he isn’t really emotionally affected by violence. It’s like the moment isn’t given enough weight. Overall, though, a great story and the ending is perfect.
Entenzahn – Space Simmens
Some strong writing here and a plot that hums right along, but I felt oddly disconnected from the characters, especially Leah. I feel like you had to spend so many words setting up what was going on that you only had time to sketch the characters rather than flesh them out, and it robbed the story of some of the emotional impact. Nan Ertie was the strongest character in the story, but her clear connection to Leah wasn’t enough to give me a sense for who Leah is. A really nice take on your song, though.
Boozahol – The Din Within
This one felt pretty flat to me. Predictable from the outset and not terribly original, and I feel like you hewed way too closely to the song, even going so far as to having your character named Caroline (why?). There’s no real depth to latch on to here. Your writing is decent and you’ve got some nice verbiage in there, but the story is sort of lifeless.
God of Paradise – Friendly Takeover
Refusing to follow some basic guidelines after you were explicitly asked to do so means no crit for you. Welcome to the Dome, I hope you stick around long enough to win some stupid awards!
ZeBourgeoisie – Last Reflections
A whole bunch of “meh” here. I liked the beginning and the end but not really the middle part so much (the bit about the pregnancy and shooting). This one felt overstuffed, and I feel like you could have used the additional words you had up to the word count to flesh out the middle a bit more. The shooting is jarring and you don’t give any motivation for it beyond “she has to die for my story to go the way I need it to go.” It felt like a really cheap out to me, and the pregnancy bit threw me a little bit too, because I really liked the romance you were talking about in their younger days and then you jump right to them married and pregnant. The end was well done and I like your last line, and the character of Tyler comes across pretty well, but this one was marred by cheap shock that wasn’t set up well enough.
SurreptitiousMuffin – Hole in the Wall
This one is aces all the way through. A little confusing at times but the imagery is vivid and it all coalesces as the story goes on. I love the little hint that Samantha is pregnant early on in the story. You disguised it so well with the fact that everyone is going hungry that the twist later was a real pleasure. I like where you take this and the ending is really strong, but the one letdown I had was that I struggled to understand Samantha’s motivation to kill her unborn baby. I mean, you kind of paint the angels as the bad guys, but I never really got a strong sense for what is motivating Samantha, personally, other than just the horrified realization that she didn’t know something (a potentially destructive something, at least to the world she knows) was growing inside her.
Kaishai – The Stars Are Not Silent
This one is so beautifully told but uneven to me. I absolutely love the premise. It’s so fascinating at the beginning and the family drama provides a nice backdrop, but then you bring the family drama to the forefront and that’s when it starts to come apart for me. It’s well told and avoids well-worn paths and cliché, but the initial premise was so interesting to me that I felt let down when you didn’t do more with it. Once I settled into what you were doing with the ending, I enjoyed it, but it sorta felt like a bait-and-switch.
Nethilia – Momma’s Girls
Great from beginning to end. Only criticism I could come up with is that it’s a little predictable, but not really in a bad way. Very well-written and kept me interested all the way through. What I love most about it is that all the characters shine through, the characterization in this is really strong. All of the characters (even the minor character of the grandmother) felt fully fleshed out and real. It ends up being more than the sum of its parts, and its parts are pretty drat good to begin with.
Broenheim – More
The writing is decent but this one is confusing to me. Which account at the end is supposed to be what really happened, and does it even matter? I guess that ultimately is the major problem with this one; I don’t feel strongly enough for the main character to really care if he killed his friend or not. It feels like there is no real meat to this one, no theme to latch onto other than a pretty standard drug abuse story. Fairly clever use of the song but not enough to save this one. The “snow” thing is also kind of annoying; it was sort of clever the first time but not the next twenty.
Docbeard – Foundling
I really like this a lot and you made good use of the song. It’s a pretty simple story but you do a lot with a little and it hits all the right notes. The emotions of both characters come through strongly, though Mia is a little flat (I guess partially due to what the story is, since she’s all but mute when we first meet her). It moves a little slowly at first, but never slowly enough to hurt the story, and the ending is a really sweet, well-earned moment.
Crabrock – For Want of a Bird’s Eye View
I like what you did with the song here, but I don’t like a whole lot else about it. The writing is good but the ending is really jarring and rushed to me and it ends up affecting the whole piece. Audrey is just not a strong enough character and I feel like her turn at the end isn’t properly motivated. She doesn’t really seem to give much of a poo poo about the harm she is causing the birds, even right up towards the end, and there is little weight or impact to her change of heart. You try to do a lot thematically at the end with the old man and it kind of turns into a mess. The setup was nice, and you’ve got some fascinating bits, but the weak ending overwhelms the rest.
Grizzled Patriarch – This is the Part I Hate
Well-written but predictable and a little flat. I feel like the character of Preston was as interesting as the old man, and that’s a huge problem. You don’t spend enough time in the scene with the wife, I really wished you’d lingered with the old man’s emotions more and maybe had the narrator talk to him a bit, but you didn’t, and the story suffers for it.
Obliterati – Don’t Talk
This one doesn’t really go anywhere and is sorta try-hard for me. I was with you at the beginning but the more it went on, the more you lost me. It moves at a glacial pace for what it is and the main character is two-dimensional. What’s going on with him, and why is he refusing treatment? It’s an enigma, and those only make interesting stories if they have some thematic weight or if you allow your readers to solve them (or both, preferably). We get neither with this mystery, and the narrator himself is impenetrable; there’s nothing to illuminate what’s going on or why. I’m not sure if the ending is supposed to be funny or not, but I laughed.
Benny the Snake – Brand New Morning
Pretty bleh. Kinda bored me, honestly. The main character is fairly well-written but pretty drat unlikeable up until the very end. This was just too unrealistic for me, and I feel like realism is what you were going for. The internal thoughts of the main character occasionally make little sense – for example, it’s clear at the beginning that he is doing it for Petra, yet by the end, he doesn’t know where she is and may well have ruined his marriage in his withdrawal rage, yet it doesn’t seem to affect him that much. Also, one night without alcohol is hardly kicking the habit and it robbed the ending of all its weight.
Tyrannosaurus – Inheritance
Well-written and held me all the way through but pretty obvious, at least in how the story itself plays out. Use of the song was pretty clever, and the characters shine through here, but it just didn’t do much for me. I was with it while I was reading it, but found it pretty forgettable when I got finished. There’s not much wrong with this, but not really much to get excited about, either.
Jonked – It’s Late And I’m Tired
This one is really great. I like what you do with the prompt here and I love the characters. I don’t have much to say about this because it’s nice and tight and well-told. The prose was excellent, the dialogue was realistic, and the characters felt like real people with real histories. The argument at the end drips with tension and I like how you resolve it. I think what stands out the most about this is that it could easily have been a cliché “son rebels against his father” story, but it wasn’t; you did something original and unexpected with the way the father reacts. Good job.
Newtestleper – Ronnie’s Mum
I like the ending but this was waaaaay too slow. I feel like you could have cut it down and it would have been a lot more effective. The relationship between the father and daughter is great. The mom is nearly a caricature, but we don’t really need much of her to get the gist, so it works. The ending is nice and nearly makes up for the slow pace of the rest. Pare this one down and you’d have a pretty strong piece.
Dr. Kloctopussy – New Life
Good but uneven. I was honestly about ready to give up on it after the first few paragraphs, but it gets much better as it goes along. I like the narrator and pretty much hate Jill, and I feel like that’s exactly what you were trying to do, so kudos there. I like the sci-fi spin on Kokomo and the background elements work, but this one was a bumpy ride even if it ultimately got around to something good. I think what threw me off most about the intro was that it was mostly dialogue, and that made it confusing. Give us a little bit about the characters before you have them speaking to each other, otherwise it can be pretty disorienting.
Fuschia tude – Harmony and Dissonance
Here’s why you got the loss: it’s boring. Nothing happened, essentially. We get more background than we do story, and that’s bad. I like what you were trying to do with the song but that little bright spot is not enough to make this interesting. There is not much technically wrong with the prose, but the characters spend time talking and thinking about stuff that we don’t care much about as readers, because we have no reason to. Then, at the end, the characters never get around to doing anything. I had high hopes for this one when I first started, because I liked what you were doing with the setting, but it quickly becomes inert. This might have been fine as part of a larger piece where we know more about the characters, and something happens after the endless discussions, but as it stands, there is nothing for a reader to sink their teeth into.
JcDent – Together, They Fight Crime
There’s some interesting stuff here, but the writing is a bit rough in places and the ending was really flat. Like most of the stories, I like what you were doing with the song, but the ending really torpedoed this one for me. You set up this interesting contrast with what the kid thinks of the frontiersmen and what his uncle actually does, but then you don’t really explore it with any depth, and that becomes painfully obvious at the end. There’s a little hint that perhaps the uncle has seen more action than Billy thinks, but just a hint alone isn’t enough to make me care.
Sebmojo – Heroes and Villains
Strong writing here. The rural Australian setting is a really great backdrop and I like the voice of the narrator; his thoughts feel really human and realistic, and that can be hard to do sometimes. I like the fake-out with the trunk not opening at first. The characters are fleshed out and you never lost my interest. The ending is a nice little stinger and you avoid the temptation of lingering on it, which sells it and leaves the reader with a little something to chew on. Not the most imaginative use of the song, but the story is so strong that it doesn’t really matter.
|# ¿ Dec 2, 2014 05:04|
Prompt: Four Score
I could see him across the flat, dry earth from miles away. He walked the Salt Flats like a slug, melting, waxy, and indistinct. A mirage, I figured. As I got closer, the details emerged from the haze. Shredded jeans, a white cotton teeshirt yellowed by weeks of sweat and exposure. He carried nothing but a guitar case slung over one shoulder. Closer still and I realized he was a boy no older than fifteen or sixteen.
He glanced back when he heard me coming but never stuck his thumb out or anything. He didn’t even look over as I passed him. I couldn’t help myself, though, and pulled over anyway. He climbed into the truck without a word.
“What’s a kid your age doing walking the Salt Flats?” I asked.
His only answer was a wan smile. Mussed hair, filthy cheeks, and weeks old peach fuzz rounded out his bedraggled look. His eyes, however, looked fresh and new. They were the color of topaz and had an otherworldly haze to them, two little blue pools of impossible depth with who knows what lurking beneath. I don’t know how to describe it, but he didn’t feel like a person, you know? The way he looked at me probably should have scared me.
“Where you headed?” I asked.
“Wendover, just ten minutes down the road,” he croaked. “I’m Gabe.”
“Dan,” I said, and shook his hand. “Where you coming from, Gabe?”
“The desert,” he said. That uneasy smile again. “Where are you headed, Dan?”
I could have told him all of it. The soul-sucking Wall Street trading job, the failed marriage, and my grand escape. Days spent on I-80 headed away from a life that I didn’t want and that didn’t want me. My daydream about staking out a little farmland somewhere and living like a monk. I was afraid it’d sound ridiculous and childish even to a fifteen year old, so I kept my mouth shut.
“California,” I said. “I’m taking a little vacation of sorts.”
“Just a vacation, huh?” he said as he stared at me.
I tried to control the goosebumps but failed miserably. Five more minutes and we’ll be there, and then he’ll be gone, I told myself. I kept quiet for the rest of the trip but he kept right on staring, like he was looking right through me.
We made it to Wendover and I pulled over as soon as I could. Gabe climbed out of the truck and slung his guitar case over his shoulder, then looked up at me and gave me a brilliant smile, and all the dirt seemed to disappear from his face.
“I didn’t believe him at first, but he was right about you,” he said. “He wanted me to tell you some things. Said you were on the right track, just keep moving in that direction and he’ll make sure things get taken care of. You’re going to look back ten years from now and see this move as one of the defining moments of your life.”
I felt tears welling up. “Who?” I asked.
“You know,” he said. He glanced up at the sky and then back at me. Another huge grin and then he turned his back and walked away.
|# ¿ Dec 8, 2014 05:00|
I was considering taking a break this week but ah what the hell, I'm in, and me up as well.
|# ¿ Dec 9, 2014 02:29|
Thanks for the crits, Kaishai! You = awesome
|# ¿ Dec 12, 2014 20:38|
Conversations with Bobby
Prompt: Someone receives a phone call from an unknown number.
The incessant, motorized buzz of his cellphone woke Robert from his Tuesday evening ritual of napping through a Netflix binge. He didn’t see a name on the display and his finger was halfway to the lock button before he realized what he had seen. Where there would normally be a name or number, the screen showed an incoherent jumble of numbers, letters, and symbols. Robert briefly considered ignoring the call anyway, but nagging curiosity finally got the better of him and he lazily swiped to pick up the call.
He didn’t really know what he was expecting, perhaps a recorded voice or the irritating whine of dial-up era gibberish. What he certainly wasn’t expecting, though, was the jovial voice of a young boy.
“Hi, Rob!” the child chirped.
“Hey buddy, I don’t think I’m the Rob you’re looking for. I think you’ve got the wrong number,” Robert replied.
“Well, you sure sound like my friend Rob, mister,” the kid said.
“What’s your name, bud?”
“Bobby!” the kid said gleefully.
Robert indulged the boy for a few more minutes but finally insisted that he had things to do and wished the kid luck in finding his friend. A few minutes later and he had both Netflix and his snoring cranked back up.
Coffee, emails, the morning meeting, more coffee; the day trudged along under the sickly sheen of the office fluorescents, this day no different than all the rest. Robert found himself returning again and again to the phone call, each time ending his reverie with a shake of his head and a chuckle. The kid had been absolutely sure that he was speaking to the right person. Robert even dived back into his recent calls list to see if it would give a location that the call originated from, but no luck.
He was counting the final few minutes to his lunch break when Howard from marketing popped his head into the cubicle.
“The sailboat fund healthy?” Howard asked, motioning with his coffee cup to a picture of a sailboat prominently displayed on the corkboard that covered one wall of Robert’s cubicle. Robert smiled.
“Last year’s bonus actually put me over the top on the sailboat itself, now I’m just trying to make sure I’ve got enough to last me for a few years,” he said.
A smirk spread across Howard’s face. “Yeah, gotta make sure you’ve got enough to wine and dine that exotic woman you’re going to meet and marry while you’re out adventuring, right?” he said.
Robert laughed. “Something like that, yeah.”
“So when you think you’ll be cutting loose?” Howard asked.
“I don’t know, man. I guess when I have enough saved up, you know? I think I’ll know when the time is right,” Robert replied.
Howard flashed a grin. “Whatever you say, hoss.”
“Hi Rob, whatsup?” Bobby said.
Robert glanced up at the wall clock. Seven thirty, same time this happened yesterday.
“Listen bud, I like talking to you but I really think you have the wrong number,” Robert said.
“But I just want to talk to my friend Rob!” Bobby whined.
The voice sounded vaguely familiar to Robert in a faraway sense. He was about to say goodbye and hang up when Bobby offered up something that brought goosebumps from Robert’s fingers all the way to his neck.
“Momma doesn’t like it when I use the phone, so I have to sneak it while she’s watching her show,” Bobby said.
Robert was so stunned that he momentarily moved the phone away from his ear to stare down at the screen. His parents had called him Bobby all his life and he wasn’t allowed to call people on the phone until he turned eight years old. He thought he was being very clever as a child when he’d wait until his mother was wrapped up in primetime TV to try out the phone in the kitchen.
“Bobby, what’s your mom’s name?” Robert asked.
“Mom is Cheryl and Daddy is Bill!” Bobby replied happily.
It all matched. Robert could hear his heart pounding in his chest. What does it mean, he thought. Is this what a brain tumor feels like?
“I think Momma heard me, gotta go!” Bobby whispered, and then the line went dead.
The calls continued every weeknight at seven thirty for the next two weeks. At first, Robert attempted to come up with an explanation. He tried calling back but it never worked. As soon as he pushed the call button, his phone would turn off. He googled the random string of symbols that would appear on his screen when Bobby called. No luck there either.
“Will you come visit me sometime?” Bobby pleaded.
“I’d love to, buddy, but I don’t think I can make it out to your neck of the woods,” Robert replied. He’d chosen not to disclose his unique relationship to the boy.
“OK,” Bobby sighed. As only children are able to, Bobby quickly moved past his melancholy into excitement. “Today in school we got to draw a picture of what we are going to be when we grow up!” he said.
Robert smiled broadly. Bobby’s daydreams about adulthood had come up on the third day, and Bobby eagerly revisited the topic every day since.
“Did you draw your boat on the ocean?” Robert asked.
“No, I drew my luxurious captain’s quarters! I got done so fast that I got to draw another drawing of me fighting pirates!” Bobby exclaimed.
Robert couldn’t hear enough about Bobby’s hopes and dreams, even though they exposed the sharp, jagged edges of a painful nostalgia. The failed Coast Guard bid still stung, though Robert could scarcely admit it to himself.
“What do you want to be when you grow up, Rob?” Bobby asked.
Robert was pulling down the picture of the sailboat and packing it on top of the box when Howard popped by.
“Woah hoss, you going somewhere?” he asked.
Robert grinned so hard he felt like his face was going to crack in half. “It’s time to sail,” he said.
“We’re going to miss you around here, man. I’m a little shocked, I guess the office grapevine failed me,” Howard said.
“Nah, I just couldn’t wait and didn’t bother with the two weeks notice,” Robert said as he eagerly shut down his office computer for the last time.
“So the fund is finally enough, then?” Howard asked.
“I’ll get by. Life’s just too short to put something like this off, you know?” Robert said.
That night, Robert had his phone out and ready to go at seven thirty. He couldn’t wait to tell his friend about the adventure he was about to embark on. He’d let Bobby do the brunt of the talking most of the time, but he knew the kid would eat this up.
At seven thirty-five, he started to get anxious. At seven forty-five, he started to get sad. At eight o’ clock, the sadness gave way to understanding.
Robert closed his eyes and sent up a brief prayer. Thank you.
|# ¿ Dec 15, 2014 02:36|
Thunderdome 2015teen: How Important is the Word Count?
|# ¿ Dec 23, 2014 03:32|
Week 124 SledgeCrits
Overall, you folks acquitted yourselves quite well. I'd call this an above average week in the Dome. None of the stories, even the DMs and losers, stood out as irredeemably awful, so kudos.
ZeBourgeoisie – A Story from the Backroads
I was entertained, and it’s certainly a unique take on your story, but I ultimately found this one to be a little bit too goofy. The premise itself is so hard to swallow that I had trouble taking the story very seriously, and it wasn’t funny enough to get by on a comedy angle (I don’t think you intended it as comedy anyway). Like I said, though, it’s entertaining and I was never bored with it. The human characters were a little bit flat (didn’t feel much for Stan), but the spiders were fleshed out enough that the drama and emotion at the end was well-earned. Prose is pretty clean for the most part, but your metaphors and adjectives are occasionally a bit mixed and imprecise – describing the road as “claustrophobically straight” for instance, is sort of confusing to me, as there is nothing about a straight road that strikes me as inherently claustrophobia-inducing, unless there are trees looming on both sides or something. The descriptor of the noise that Paulie makes towards the end (“sounded like the full force of a tornado merging with an atomic explosion”) is clunky and seriously overwrought. I feel like the best prose of the piece is when you are describing the action and fighting at the end. Overall, not bad, but the premise was just a bit too hard to swallow.
Screaming Idiot – Into Frozen Jaws
I liked this better than the other judges. This one could have easily been cheesy, schlocky, or stupid considering the source material, but you elevated it, so kudos there. This was entertaining all the way through, the prose is tight, and there is some nice substance and weight to the story. Smilodon steals the show and you did a really good job with the “tragic villain” thing. There’s an interesting theme of authority, control, and free will, and I like how you even went so far as to buttress the theme by hinting that Omni’s relationship to Switch may be something less than mutual and friendly. The only real story weakness here is that I came away wanting a little bit more of an arc from Omni, he’s pretty much the same throughout and he was consequently a less interesting character compared to Smilodon. Prose is pretty effective but I noticed a couple of weak spots. For one, I occasionally had trouble following who was talking at the very beginning. There are a couple of lines of dialogue that you don’t attribute to anyone, and since this is the beginning of the story and it is a short conversation, there’s not quite enough context to easily deduce who is saying what when you don’t tell us. Also, the bit about the Ride Chaser thing (“Omni dismounted the Ride Chaser he'd scavenged; the terrain ahead was too unstable for it to cross, sections of ice collapsing into a vast gully.”) is unnecessary. I get that you are describing the terrain, but the Ride Chaser reference is not really connecting to anything else in the story, so you should probably jettison it. Overall, though, a well-told story.
Maugrim – The Story Thieves
I really liked this. You nailed the Grimms Fairy Tales aesthetic. It’s engaging all the way through and the twist that allows Dummling to escape the spell is pulled off with just the right amount of the audience being in on it. I like how the brothers sorta got a taste of their own medicine from the witch. The ending is also great, especially what you imply about the two oldest brothers. It was a nice touch that made me smile. Not really anything wrong with this one, and it’s also memorable. The prose is spot-on for the fairy tale syntax/language, although on one occasion, you put it on so thick that it was somewhat irritating (Beginning of the fourth paragraph, “by and by”…not sure what it is, but that phrase just verged a touch over the line for me on overwrought fairy tale prose). It’s a really minor quibble though, this one was really a home run that was more clever than it had any right to be. Well done.
Jitzu_the_Monk – At my house, everyone’s sad
First, the good. The prose is really tight, and I love the characterizations. The mom comes across as appropriately crazy and spiteful, especially at the end. The kid narrator is sympathetic and his eagerness and innocence really sells the tragedy. I knew what was coming at the end, but you still made it appropriately shocking with the brutal and twisted way it played out. Now, the bad. I honestly found this sort of irritating because it hews way too closely to the source material. You followed the story beats point for point and it robbed it of any insight or real drama. Your story can be entirely summed up as “Medea set in a rural American backwater” and that is its fatal flaw. You didn’t do anything truly interesting with the material. I had brief moments where I felt like you were about to surprise me (at one point, I even thought you might straight up invert the ending and have the mom stop being crazy), but nope, it’s a straight retelling and that really disappointed me.
Nubile Hillock – Fastwipe
I was intrigued and into this all the way through, but when I got to the end, it was just like “Hmmm….ok.” This one felt like an appetizer, a tasty but ultimately insubstantial little morsel. You paint a really vivid picture and the narrator is a strong character. The prose is exceptional, though it occasionally verged into overwrought (“They wouldn’t stay solid at the edges, instead they branched out like solar flares before dissipating” probably stands as the most egregious example, although none of it is really that bad). I liked what it was and I was intrigued to read more, but by the time I got all the way through, I felt like it didn’t quite set up right. There’s something missing thematically or ending-wise, like the narrative equivalent of an open parenthesis. This one left me wanting more, but not necessarily in a good way. Whittle this one down into a sharper point and round it off at the end, and it’d go from great to exceptional. The writing is very strong.
crabrock – We Are What We Are
This was great. It can be tough to keep the reader’s interest with a story that is mostly dialogue, but you pulled it off with panache. Well done. I quite liked the characterizations. Orr is perhaps a bit flat, but he’s more or less the thoughts of the reader or the straight man in a Socratic dialogue, so it works well enough. The wit and philosophical musings shine through at every step. Some of the bantering is occasionally a little overcooked or too cute (“Tried it, but with nowhere to be there’s nowhere to go…and it’s impossible—improbable—to get from somewhere to nowhere without being late” and “We should slow our pace to get there more quickly” probably stand as the clearest examples), but overall, you maintain the right sort of balance. Precious little happens in the story but it entertained me anyway; I mean that as a high compliment and as a nod to your ability to write good dialogue. Some strong stuff here, crabrock.
blue squares – Dawn of the Beginning of the Night of the Living Dummy: the novelization: the story
This put a smile on my face when I started. By the time I got to the middle, I was twiddling my thumbs a bit, but it ended strong. Pretty good overall. There are some decent jokes and the main character is fairly compelling. However, I came away from it feeling that it was something of a one-trick pony. “The dummy from the RL Stine books was invented by a focus group in Hell” is a pretty strong premise, but the “Hell as corporation/Satan in a business suit” thing has been done to death and this didn’t bring much new to the table. The most original part is the beginning, with the focus group. After that, the story gets pretty predictable. I think this one would have been better if you stuck with the focus group stuff and tried to wait to reveal what they are talking about. Considering your prompt and the title of the story, it would have been tough to keep the audience from figuring out it is the dummy, but a little misdirection would have solved that. The focus group scene stretched out to the whole story would have been more interesting, but as it is, you quickly pivot from something fresh and exciting to a well-trod path, and the story suffers for it. Prose is pretty strong, though I noticed a couple of grammatical issues (You’ve got a quotation mark that never gets opened halfway through the focus group scene). Overall, this was funny but forgettable.
Nethilia – Reptilia
Some excellent writing on display here, the prose is so well-measured and punchy. I love how you inverted the source material; it made for far more drama and kept me intrigued all the way through the end. The friendship between Heidi and Ramona is what especially sells it; that scene is pretty short but you leave a really strong impression in just a few sentences. That followed by the flashbacks of the friendship falling apart is probably the strongest part of the story. My only beef is with the ending, it honestly felt somewhat weak and I think there are some interesting thematic things going on that got ignored. Ramona stands up for herself and overcomes the bullies, but at what cost? The last vestiges of her friendship with Heidi are severed, and she seems to have set herself up for even more loneliness and alienation, but we’d never know it by the way you’ve written it. It’s a Pyrrhic victory that you’ve written as a triumphant exclamation point. The other thing that sort of bothered me is that the victory over the bullies seems as much a result of fate as it does Ramona’s actions. I see that the anger is what produced the venomous snakes, but it still feels like it didn’t come from Ramona, you know? It’s sort of unclear how much agency she had in producing that outcome, and it blunts the moment a bit. The writing is fantastic and I never stopped being entertained, but the ending could stand to be sharper.
docbeard – The Truest Power
A whole lot going on thematically here and you pull it off well. I love the massive scale of this thing; it pivots from the cosmic to the deeply personal not only without a hitch, but while tying it all together, which can be hard to do. Your descriptions really shine, especially the way you described the monster. You managed to make it menacing even in its weakened state. I also like how the source material influenced the characters of Melanie and Ben. Ben being the one who can see and sniff out the supernatural with Melanie being the main one who understands and interacts with it is a nice contrast and helps underscore their connection as siblings. The writing is strong, although there were a couple of trouble spots. You’re missing a period in the fifth paragraph, and the dialogue from the monster is occasionally a bit weak (“Suffering, death. Inevitable. Join me in it” particularly strikes me as a bit too brusque and clipped). Relatively minor quibbles, those. This was very strong overall, and the only overall criticism I can come up with is that the character of the monster could have been a touch more rounded and interesting, perhaps by exploring his desire to be different a little bit more, as that is where most of his depth comes from. Like I said, though, this is great work and you produced some strong themes that probably would have overwhelmed a lesser writer.
Fanky Malloons – Twilight in Alpha Seven
This one was very well written but uneven. I know you were going for a sense of urgency, but the stuff that takes place in the present felt weak and watered down to me. The water is slowly rising and Sarika has to get past A-Crew to get the situation resolved, but we don’t even know why that is going to be problematic until about halfway through. Very little happens in the present and you ended it before the good part (what I’d assume to be a tense climb out past A-Crew), which was disappointing. You even hint at a little showdown between Darla and Sarika, but just as quickly pivot away when Darla moves away from the door. It makes sense as a way to introduce a flashback, but after having learned the threat Darla posed, thinking back on the near miss just frustrates me, because it was a missed opportunity for drama and conflict. The flashbacks are the best part by far and are full of juicy tension and very real dread, but they should have come much earlier in the story rather than here and there in the last half. The story almost feels reversed, if that makes sense. We’re presented with a situation at the beginning that we don’t understand the full gravity of, and only as the story winds toward an anticlimax do we find out the depth of the problems. If you put the flashbacks towards the front and ended it with a confrontation between Sarika and Darla, this one would probably be a top contender, but in its current form, it’s a missed opportunity.
Sitting Here – Non Se-Q-tur
The prose is very tight as usual, but you’ve got a bunch of interesting bits that don’t work well together and the whole thing becomes weird and lumpy, the narrative version of a Christmas fruitcake. The strongest bit by far is the holodeck scene. You present us with a real conundrum only to have it instantly evaporated by the random arrival of a Q on the scene. A cute nod to your title, sure, but that’s all it ends up being, and that makes the ending really disappointing. The relationship between Wesla and Ken is one-note and does no favors to either character, although Wesla is well-written and interesting largely due to the contrast between her exasperated defiance of Ken and her genuine concern for the perv on the holodeck. That scene is almost strong enough to save the piece, but it turns into something cutesy and ridiculous with a snap of the Q’s finger. I almost thought you were going to go with Ken being a Q, which would have been fascinating and could have set up an interesting conflict, but my hopes were dashed. This one is tightly written and manages a lot of earned humor in places, but in the end, a cheeky wink at the readers is not at all a good substitute for a solid ending.
Benny the Snake – All Soul’s Day
This one is an entertaining mess, and I considered arguing against the DM/loss but the prose is too sloppy. I’ll stress the entertaining though, as your narrator’s voice shines through and the action is pretty great. The chunks of sarcasm and sardonic tone of the narrator strongly channel Butcher, kudos there. The action is also strong, especially the little duel between Rosa and the bad guy. You use the fantastical elements to great effect, and though the ending is a little bit deus ex machina, the magic and description of rituals sells it, and I didn’t feel at all let down by it. On top of that, things wouldn’t have happened that way without Rosa providing a distraction, so there’s that, too. Where the mess comes in is your prose, it almost shines in places only to be followed by something sloppy or inartfully written. My main advice is to cut down on unnecessary words and make every effort to show rather than tell. For example, “he pointed his cane at me and fired an arcane blast at me.” The first “at me” is completely unnecessary, and its inclusion makes this sentence really clunky. The description of Katie’s abduction at the beginning also stands out as pretty rough. It’s very tell-y and not nearly enough show-y. This one is not bad, Benny, but you need to work on the prose.
newtestleper – The Hawke Brothers #29 – Peril in the Old Museum
That ending – so, so great. Sells the whole thing and overshadows some of the issues I had with the rest. It’s a really nice reversal of fortune compared to the typical Hardy Boys ending. The twist is also nice and pulpy. The lead-up is just a touch uneven, though. I like that you started with action, but then you immediately flashback to earlier in the evening, and it all but puts the brakes on the story, which is not good. It’s a too slow until we get to Archie’s abduction, and the action at the start just makes it feel slower. The brothers feel like near carbon copies save Kurt’s impetuousness, but I guess that fits with the source material. I really like the old school feel of this and the nods to the Hardy Boys. The writing is pretty solid but I noticed a few grammatical issues here and there, lack of capitalization, missing quotation marks and the like. Be careful and make sure you are proofreading, because that stuff will be easy to catch and correct. Overall, this is a solid effort and the ending is a satisfying home run.
Grizzled Patriarch – The Soul is Like a Cellar
This one had me enthralled. Way more than the sum of its parts. It’s almost a vignette but you’ve managed to infuse it with some real thematic weight, a nice little undertow. The prose is sharp and the narrative is somewhat spare; you leave room for the reader to ponder the meaning of what is unfolding. It left me wanting more in the best kind of way. You do a whole lot with a little. The characters shine through and are fleshed out, and the sin-eater himself is appropriately alien and mysterious. The descriptions are full and almost lyrical. There’s really nothing I don’t like about this. The mysterious pronouncement from the sin-eater at the end of the intermission seems to come out of nowhere, but that’s sort of the point, isn’t it? It’s probably my favorite line in the whole thing. There’s something almost religious about the line; it’s a very heavy statement but it’s open to interpretation, and it immediately gets you thinking. A poetic and enigmatic piece, and a walk-off home run if I ever saw one. Good job.
kurona_bright – Errantry
A pretty strong start to this one. I was with you all the way up to the part where Ali spots Ryan, and then this one starts to unravel. The actions of the characters don’t feel authentic. Ryan is incredibly trusting and slow on the uptake, and I felt like I was a step ahead of him. I thought to myself, “Why is he just going along with this?” and then two lines later he thinks the same thing. He seems weirdly unimpressed by what is going on, and Ali doesn’t seem to understand how disorienting it would be to Ryan. Bill is so insubstantial that the story would be stronger if he was only mentioned and never actually appeared in the story. In what seems to be a theme this week, this one also ended right before something that could have been really interesting. There’s not really anything wrong with the prose, but the narrative is pretty flat and there are times where I feel like you didn’t consider whether the reader had enough information or not. For example, why are Ali and Ryan both reading from mobile devices right before they end up in space? It’s clearly something important and the most critical part of the spell, yet as I reader, I have little idea what is going on except what I can infer, and that’s just not good enough. You’ve got a skeleton of something interesting here, but the last half needs work.
sebmojo – Iron and Glass
Entertaining while I read it but also instantly forgettable. Very little thematic weight to this one, and there just isn’t enough action to float it by on entertainment value alone. The skirmish at the end is the highlight by a country mile, but it’s a case of too little, too late. The prose is solid but a little overwrought and wordy in places, to the point that it doesn’t flow the way it should sometimes. A few grammatical issues (some missing commas and also missing capitalization at one point), but nothing too bad, though the lack of commas made the wordy sentences harder to read. There are hints at a deep world with a deep history, which was a nice touch. I especially like what you did with Boris, and the little details like the incongruously feminine necklace gave the character some nice layers. Miguel is pretty flat, though, and I found myself wishing the story were primarily about Boris or Mukagee. I’d also have preferred starting with the skirmish and having the rest of the story be about the fallout and flight to Fort Rusty. There’s not necessarily anything wrong with this one, but it’s too insubstantial to be truly interesting.
Entenzahn – A Writer’s Revenge
I was pretty drat annoyed within the first few paragraphs. The letter switching on the names was irritating (and remained so throughout). It felt like it was going to weird, stupid places. But then it kept getting more ridiculous, and you kept piling on the well-timed jokes. I found myself smiling in spite of myself and you just kept upping the ante, until the ending, which somehow felt both completely ridiculous and well-earned. Goofy as all hell, but in an amusing way. This was clearly a story written for Domers, and the Dome is the only place it could work, but it does indeed work. The ending could have come across as a dumb little thumbing of the nose, but it’s actually pretty funny, and I like that you slowly revealed the meta-ness of it all. This could have very easily plunged into irredeemable stupidity, and that was where I felt it was headed at the beginning, but you threaded the needle. Not the best this week had to offer, but not the worst, either.
Your Sledgehammer fucked around with this message at 04:12 on Dec 23, 2014
|# ¿ Dec 23, 2014 03:50|
No, he also chose you as loser because your writing is a mess. Take your loss, learn from it, make your writing better.
|# ¿ Dec 23, 2014 04:16|
Not fighting for your own honor against the double loss means it's brawl time for you, Jitzu. This is the Dome and you fight with your dying breath. Saddle up, bud, we've got a duel at high noon.
|# ¿ Dec 23, 2014 05:13|
But. But. Luckily for you, tomorrow is my birthday. I will be busy most of the day. If I do not see your story by the time we hop to the new thread then you're pretty much screwed bro.
Luckily for me indeed. You are a most kind and merciful judge, Phobia, and I'll make sure my story hits before the new thread does. An early Happy Birthday, by the way!
Jitzu, you get the eternal pleasure of knowing that your blood will be the last spilled in this thread.
|# ¿ Dec 31, 2014 05:47|
|# ¿ Nov 30, 2021 17:25|
Jitzu Sledgehammer Brawl
Zack the zamboni cringed as Wade blew glass chips in his face and laughed.
“All you do is make a mess on the factory floor, you failure!” the leader of the glass sweeping trucks bellowed, shooting more glass in Zack’s direction. “I don’t even know why you’re here!”
Zack stole a quick at the other glass sweepers. All of them cowered away from Wade’s rage. Only Bubba would hold his gaze.
“I don’t know, either! There must have been a shipping mistake. I’m not even a glass truck!” Zack whined.
“Sure you are, you little punk! You’re just defective. C’mon boys, there’s glass that needs to be cleaned up!” Wade said. He drove off, his underlings dutifully falling in line behind him.
“I don’t know why he keeps doing that to you,” Bubba said as Zack wheeled up to him. “He’d shred our tires if any of us said anything, though.”
“It was never this way at my ice rink in Saskatoon,” Zack said. “We treated each other fairly.”
“Sounds nice! I bet you miss the ice,” Bubba said.
“I was too scared to ever get out on it, and I never figured out my water jets. I’d give anything for another shot,” Zack said. He downshifted his engine mournfully.
“BUBBA!” Wade howled. Bubba flashed a pained smile at Zack and was gone.
Evening set on Alberta Glassworks. The glass sweepers were returned to their bay, and their tyrannical leader, the biggest and baddest sweeper model of them all, was driven to his special double padlocked garage. The manager of Alberta Glassworks never took chances and wasn’t about to start. Before he headed home to his wife, he took one more confused look at the zamboni they had taken to parking on the factory floor, and made another mental note to contact the shipping company again in the morning.
As soon as he was gone, Zack began pacing about the whole factory to occupy himself for the night. He couldn’t sleep unless it was cold, and the glass factory never was, even in the Alberta winter. As he made his rounds, Zack’s sights fell on the factory heater controls, and that’s when the idea hit him. Tonight, he’d face his fears.
Bubba awoke the next morning to the laughter of his comrades. He hurriedly buzzed out of the bay to see what all the commotion was about.
A solid four inch sheet of ice covered the floor in front of Wade’s garage door and extended well out into the factory. Workers were desperately trying to clean it up. On the other side of the open door sat Wade, glaring at the other glass trucks and fuming. No, really – smoke was literally billowing out of his engine block he was so mad.
Someone was missing. Bubba looked around, but he was nowhere to be seen. “Where’s Zack?” he said.
The sweepers found him out near the loading dock, preparing to drive up into a semi. He was beaming.
“They fixed the shipping mistake! I’m going home. It was great to meet you guys,” Zack said.
Bubba grinned. “We’ll miss you and those water jets of yours! Especially when Wade gets out.”
“Everyone should have a say, not just Wade! You guys outnumber him. Don’t let him push you around,” Zack said as he wheeled up into the semi truck.
The glass sweepers grinned. After all, he was right.
“Take care of yourself, Zack!” Bubba said.
“Don’t you mean take care of the ice?” Zack said, and laughed. The door on the back of the semi closed.
|# ¿ Jan 1, 2015 01:13|