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Oct 30, 2003

In with Donald Barthelme


Oct 30, 2003

I've been lurking for a while, and am even more impressed now that I see how difficult a (less than) one week turnaround is.

Donald Barthelme

Daddy Issues
(733 Words)

Seventeen million dollars worth of lightly mildewed Barnett Newman studies. The little bastard was only alone for five minutes. Twelve expensive full colour periodicals, a Van Doesburg stool (original), a gleaming stainless steel wastepaper basket, a lumbar support cushion: a pile of objects that had remained a staircase just long enough for my son to climb up to my work bench.

He’s cut them up horizontally, so that each strip is two colors, separated halfway by a thin band of a third. I can imagine a hiss and a thin stream of vapour as he made the first cut, the integrity of the work compromised by the slightest nick. They say the old masters are the toughest to restore, but the thing about Newman and his ilk is the purity of their artistic vision. It’s not enough just to get the brush-strokes right. You need to understand the intention, or else it won’t work, you’ll be able to feel the seams between the work and the restoration.

That’s the service I provided until today, a day that appears to be the last day of my career. I’ve always taken a lot of care, that’s the whole point, but I’ve never stopped to think what would happen if one got destroyed. I do some quick arithmetic. My net worth is less than four percent of the value of a single one of these pieces. What do you do when the son of the person you were paying to carefully attend to your priceless cultural artefacts cuts them to ribbons? What do you do if you’re the owner of the company that person works for? What other work is available to someone who has dedicated his life to so specific a field? I wish these questions were rhetorical.

I have to admire his work with the scissors, despite myself. Good co-ordination for a six year old. Tightly wound spirals litter the floor, made by drawing the paper hard across the open blade. He must have learnt that at school. There’s a few stuck in his hair as well, tangled shocks of colour in his pale locks. He’s tucked most of the strips into the band of his pants, where they hang like a hula skirt in Newman’s sombre but vivid colours.

He’s been into the paint, too. A discarded pot of mahogany has tipped over on the floor, creating the kind of thickening and slowly growing pool that the police find when they arrive just too late. I’d never noticed that the treads of his shoes were patterned with smiley faces, which now form a haphazard track in the same bloody colour around the hardwood floors of the office. He’s giggling now, and looking up at me proudly with his big gray eyes.

I can see his Mom in those eyes. If she were here she would take his hands and swing him around and up and catch him over her shoulder like a sack of coal, and they’d laugh and laugh. I remember when we were at art school and they let us set up our easels in the art gallery to copy. We’d sit right next to each other, and get used to the tourists and school groups and old people so that they became like furniture, until it was just her and me and the paintings. We would paint and talk about painting, then earnestly gently caress in the top floor bathroom while we waited for our work to dry.

But he taught her to laugh, and together they filled their world with other things. Building blocks, action figures, hedgehog shaped birthday cakes, his friends and their mothers, while I work alone in a back room of the building where he was conceived. He brought some of those figures today, an Aztec warrior, an Indian brave and a King Arthur who brandishes a stolen M16. They too are touched by the chaos, their cheap plastic bodies dissolved slightly in the cup of thinner on my desk.

And now he’s spinning around, dancing though the shreds. As he spins the hula skirt flies gaily out, and the paper and pigment that seem weightless, all their grandeur gone. He’s laughing as he spins, and tracking great crazy spirographs of paint with his feet. He’s beautiful and terrifying, as he laughs and spins and dances and laughs and spins and dances.

Oct 30, 2003

That was super fun, I'm very happy to avoid a DM first time around. Bring on the next round!

Oct 30, 2003

Thanks for the crit!

Oct 30, 2003

Blade_of_tyshalle posted:

Sign up below, and let me know which story of yours you'd like sold into slavery.

Is this limited to thunderdome stories? I'd love a crit of this:

It's a bit longer than a thunderdome story though, so no worries if not.

Oct 30, 2003

Okay, consider me signed up with Grace is Gone.

Oct 30, 2003

Some Guy TT posted:

I'll handle this.


Oct 30, 2003


Week 76 - Bottom of the Barrel

I picked a week with a low crit ratio, then saw that this story was alone in not having a single crit.

crabrock posted:

Frankie let each pretzel soak up the spit in his mouth before chewing, so Ms. Jepson wouldn’t hear the crunching. They tasted terrible this way, but he reached into his bag to grab another. His hand brushed against something unexpected--rough and cold--which he hoped was a snake or tarantula or mole rat. He made a weird gurgle not far removed from the myriad strange noises he generated at the back of the classroom, and nobody paid him any attention.
I think this is a fantastic opening paragraph, though there are some minor flow issues with one sentence (italicized). The opening sentence in particular is great, such a singular little detail that sums up what a grot he is.[/i]

He grabbed hold and wrestled out a note tied to a fun-size Twix.

"Oh balls."
I like the phrase, but I don't understand why it's being used here. Is he disappointed to get a twix? Also the expression confuses me as to the age of this class- I never really get a good idea of that.[/b]

Ms. Jepson always had two chopsticks in her hair, and Frankie told people she hid another up her butt. "That's your second warning this morning,” she said. “One more and I'm sending you to the principal’s again."

"But somebody left me a note."

One of the snobby girls scoffed. "Like anybody would give you a valentine, Stanky Frankie."

A valentine? He had forgotten. needs a bit more explanation.

The rest of the class laughed and Ms. Jepson gave Stefynee a warning too. Love the name Stefynee, funny.

He was probably the only boy in the whole world who didn’t already have a date to the Valentine’s dance that evening.

Stefynee was out, obviously. She has hated him since that field trip they had to sit together and he couldn't stop farting. this is fine but isn't up to the standard of the other details you use. Disappointingly obvious given the quality otherwise.

Hannah wouldn't have given him a Twix; he had told her his favorite candy was Necco too, so she would like him. She didn't, and Necco still tasted like chalk. hilarious

Frankie took quick stock of each girl in his class, making sprinkler sounds in his head, and then out loud.

Tst tst tst tst tst chtttttttttttttttttttt tst tst tst-- [/b]I LOVE how this is written, I know exactly the kind of sprinkler he means, but I would like to understand why he's making those sounds a bit. It seems a little too random[/b]

“Frankie!” said Ms. Jepson.

“I have to figure out who gave this to me before the end of school so I can ask her to the dance.”

“Are you even following along with the lesson?”


Ms. Jepson put a third check next to his name and pointed to the door. Frankie closed his binder of mostly doodles and trudged down to Mr. Milligan’s office.

I think you take a little too much time before moving the story on from the class to the principal, considering the world count. I think that hurried the actual mystery solving part of the story.

Mr. Milligan described himself as “jolly,” and now Frankie knew better than to tell people that was just another word for fat. Did he get in trouble for this in the past? This is a great detail but I think it needs to be laid out more clearly

“Hi Frankie. Noises again?”


“Ayup.” Mr. Milligan motioned to a chair, and Frankie jumped into it.

“It wasn’t my fault though.” Frankie told him about the note and Twix, and his fears of going to high school without ever having danced with a girl.

“I’m sure we can figure it out. Do you have any leads?”

Frankie shrugged. “Definitely not Stefynee or Hannah.”

“That’s a start. Let’s see if we can whittle the list down a bit more.”

“Well, Alison once told me Star Wars was for morons and then hit me in the head with my Star Wars thermos.”

Mr. Milligan sat up in his chair. “That’s promising. You know sometimes at this age girls don’t know how to properly show their affection.”

“She didn’t stop until it broke.This cracked me up. I snorted. Then she threw it at me and I had to wear a steak on my eye." don't think the rest of the joke is necessary, though I like the idea of the steak on the eye, it fits with his grottyness

Mr. Milligan slumped back in his seat. “What about Cheryl?”

“She has a crush on a boy at her church, and plus everybody knows she isn’t allowed to date until she is 16.” Still confused about the age group. Some of the stuff the kids are doing is very childish but they seem to have a more mature conception of dating and dances

Frankie and the principal sat in silence; both stared at the ceiling.

“What about Jenny?” asked Mr. Milligan.

“She carries around that teddy bear from her boyfriend, and he’s on the school basketball team.”

“Yeah, she’s probably not looking for a downngr--er, replacem--er, somebody else.”
There was a soft knock on the door. Frankie thought it sounded sweet, and imagined his dream girl standing on the other side. She had probably come down to rescue him, to profess her love, and make plans for him to have his mom pick her up for the dance.

“Come in!” Mr. Milligan said.

Frankie’s heart skipped a beat, and he turned around.

Doris glared at him as she peeked her head inside. “I got caught smoking in the bathroom again,” she said.

Mr. Milligan sighed. “Wait outside, we’re almost finished.”

Before she closed the door, Doris cracked her knuckles into her palm, and then hit it with a close fist. Frankie jumped and cowered in his seat. No, not Doris. Frankie reckoned she was more interested in pounding kids into the dirt than dating boys.

“That rules out all the cute girls,” Frankie said after the door closed.

“What does the note say, exactly?”

Frankie blushed. “I haven’t read it.” He fished it out of his backpack.

To a special boy

“It isn’t Hayley or Amanda,” said Frankie. “They both write like they’re riding a skateboard over asphalt, and this is perfect.”

“Open it up.”

Dogs love to sniff butts,
And flies love poo,
But nobody loves Frankie
As much as I do.

XOXOXO this rhyme is so sweet

Mr. Milligan opened his mouth and then closed it again.

“This girl gets me,” said Frankie. lovely

“Maybe we need to think about this differently, Frankie. How about you retrace your steps this morning. If we can find out when they stuck it in there, we’ll have a good lock odd turn of phrase here, doesn't work. on who it could have been.”

Frankie let out a squeal. “Yes! I’ve had it with me all day in my backpack. It must have been somebody super sneaky, probably with some ninja training.”

“Start at the beginning.”

“My mom handed me my lunch on the way out the door and gave me a kiss on my cheek. The note was at the bottom of my lunch bag, so it must have been sometime after that.”
This just ends WAY too suddenly, out of nowhere.

I am sorry you didn't get any crits at the time, because I really enjoyed this story. The little details that made up Frankie, who was gross and weird but also sweet and hopeful, were extremely well chosen and consistently surprising, to the point where it made some of the more workmanlike writing seem more jarring.

There were some clarity issues in the writing, but they were more technical than really bad- I was always able to understand what you meant to say.

I didn't like the way the resolution was arrived at. It very much felt like you rushed the way they came to the conclusion, and that the natural end of the story probably extended on a few sentences after the point you stopped. I think that how evocative your description was in the first half meant you could potentially lose some of it, or shorten it, and move on to the next part of the story more quickly.

Oct 30, 2003

Grace is Gone
1199 words

We were both over at Dad’s for a roast when Dean just spat it out.
“I’m getting married.” The length of the sentence was pretty standard for my older brother, for guys round these parts in general, really. It was the content that shut us up. He’d barely left town for months and there were exactly three single girls within fifty k, two of which were under sixteen and a third who hadn’t been right since a four wheeler accident.
“To Jan? Do they even let handicaps get married?” Maybe he’d got her knocked up, the filthy bastard.
“gently caress off, not Jan. Grace, she’s Filipino.”
There’s this internet service that set lonely blokes like Deano up with Asian girls, so you do see the odd one around. It must look drat nice to them out here in the wops.

The surprising thing about Grace was what a crack up she was. Back when Dean would take her down the pub she’d always have this group of chicks around her. The first time she showed up there after the wedding I think they wanted to take her down a notch or two, she’d made the rest of them look drab. But when they laughed at the way she spoke she’d just laugh along with them, and taking the piss out of yourself goes a long way around here. In a couple of weeks she was a fixture, chatting away with her mates while Dean sat in the corner with his jug of DB, exactly where he always did. Back in the day he’d play a little darts as well, but he didn’t get much joy from winning and when he lost he’d go into a rage.

Grace charmed me, too. The way she took to that horse, pretty soon I was the only one who could keep up with her. She was so tiny I had to stick a childrens saddle on it, though the way she rode it seemed like she barely touched the seat. I remember one day we’d left the others behind and rode hard along the beach until we pulled up by the old jetty piles, panting from the effort.
“It’s magic” she said, watching the waves struggle to reach the driftwood and drying seaweed that marked the high tide.
“She’s a beaut, alright”
“I wish I could ride forever” Despite the low sun shining through her black hair into my eyes I could make out her face just well enough to see that she was crying. She looked at her watch, then dug in her heels. “We’d better go”.

First Dean stopped taking her to the pub, and not long after that she was missing Sunday dinner, too. I’d slaughtered a sheep to roast, and the rich lanolin smell of the mutton fat was as thick in the air as the silence.
“Where’s Grace?” Dad spoke first. He’d grown to enjoy Grace’s company, and had missed her help round the house.
“At home”
“I mean why didn’t she come? We like to see her.”
“She doesn’t want to come here anymore. She says it smells of old man.”
Dad’s face tightened and his breaths came fast and shallow, but he looked back down at his dinner. Dean watched him, deliberate and unblinking, while he reached for the mint sauce.

It didn’t take us long to get why he was keeping her home. I was exercising her horse, and kept thinking of her long brown throat and his big callused hands. I rode around to Dean’s place, and saw her briefly at the kitchen window. The corner of her mouth was turned up a touch, I’d seen Dad smile the same way when he looked at the old picture of Mum in the hall. I motioned for her to come out but she just stood there with her face half hidden by the curtain. That’s when I was certain. I wondered how messed up the other side of her face was.

The morning air was getting cold, but it was still too early in the season for the families on day licenses to scare away the ducks. I figured that I’d head out to one of the farther lakes with Dean while Dad got to work on the plan. I’d tell Dean what we’d done on the way back. Better he lose his rag with me than with the old man.

The mai-mai was a good one, with a little bench and a great view of the lake. I’d bagged a brace of paradise ducks, but Dean hadn’t got anything despite some real good chances. His dog lay bored beside him, vapour rising from it’s soggy coat. He was cruel with it, but it made for a drat good duck dog. I was rummaging in my rucksack for my thermos and just as I touched it I felt the twin barrels of his shotgun in my back.
“You smug little poo poo. Think you two can get away with it do you?” I froze. Had dad said something to him?
“What the gently caress?” I decided to play dumb.
“You and Grace. I’ve seen how you look at each other. You’re jealous. You’re turning her against me.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. Put the gun down. Just put it down” I could hear the dog growling.
“You better remember this. Keep away from her.”
“Of course, mate, of course. I’ll keep away from her. I’ll sell her horse. Whatever you want.” I felt the pressure in my back relax then subside. I turned back so I could see him, keeping my hand in my bag and tightening my grip on the thermos.
I knew I had to tell him now, despite the presence of the guns. His was still within easy reach, but hard to handle in the cramped hut. I gave myself 30 seconds to settle my nerves.
“Dad took her to Dunedin while we’ve been out here. The flights are all sorted. She’s going home, Dean. She’s on the plane to Auckland right now. Grace is gone.” I thought he’d take it like a man, but he immediately went for the gun. I brought my arm out of the bag in a wide arc and caught him across the chin with the thermos. The cap broke off, spilling hot tea that splashed against the dog’s face. It yelped and sprang on Dean, clamping onto his arm like it had been begging for an excuse. I pushed past the struggling pair to reach the shotgun, and they fell through the side of the mai-mai onto the damp dirt.

I took aim at the dog, but my first shot missed, putting a few pellets in Dean’s leg. If he noticed he didn’t show it. The second was better, hitting the dog square in the side and knocking it back half a metre where it lay still, a decent chunk of arm flesh still lodged in it’s teeth. I sized up Dean’s wounds, not too bad, then grabbed my gear and both guns and set off on foot back to get the ute. A couple of hours cooling off in the dirt should do him some good.

Oct 30, 2003

in with 2 and 6

Oct 30, 2003

Not gonna make deadline. Sorry Fanky. Next entry will be with a Toxx.

Oct 30, 2003

Since I had one more evening than I thought I managed something.

Mare Erythaeum - 997 Words

Inspired by The Beginning

“Honey, you know you can still change your mind... ” The insincerity of her words came through crystal clear in my helmet.

“That’s not fair, Mom”. She had my sister in her belly, the child that would be the first human born away from Earth.

“You’re doing the right thing, Bridget” Ken now, formal as usual. I couldn’t stand to hear them, so I broke off comms and focused on the slope ahead.

Some sea. The peaks and valleys of Mare Erythaeum stretched out to my left and right. We’d never ventured off the Jagged plateau that we’d landed on until now, until we really needed to. The other hab unit was fifteen kilometres away on the plain, where we would have been had things gone to plan. I stepped off the ridge, feeling my boots skid down the loose sand and rock. It was fast, so I made good time as I floated and fell towards the flat.

“You alright, Bridge?” I didn’t expect to hear from Harry. We’d grown close in training, closer still on the ship. The tests had said we would, genetics and psychology pairing us in something close to destiny. He’d been silent since I volunteered, I hadn’t turned off our private channel.

“I’m fine. This is actually kinda fun” I ramped off the lip of a precipice and flew eight feet high before sliding down an expanse of scree, gravel skittering behind me.

“I should be there” He was fighting back tears. This was why it had to be me.

“Harry right now I need you to shut up” I waited for a second till he’d finished sniffling “But I also need you to stay on the line”.

Once on the plain the going was slow, and Harry’s breathing went only a little way to relieving the dread. The others had contracted some sort of illness. They didn’t know whether it was from something Martian or if something had gone wrong with the library of DNA brought from Earth, but nothing could stop the tiny blisters spreading. Within weeks their unit was a shiny cylindrical tomb. And it was only four clicks away.

I switched the comms back on when I got within visual range. Nearby was the rover that Bisa had left in when he’d realised he was infected, just after his daughter had died. They’re supposed to have life support for three days, but we kept him company for seven before he finally ran out of oxygen. Only then did Maria let us know the rest were sick too. They didn’t want to deny Bisa his martyrdom.

I kept my distance from the rover, but I was close enough to make out the human silhouette through the cockpit bubble. The seams in my suit were red with the dust of the plains, so much finer than in the mountains. Maybe that was what carried the sickness.

The hab unit was identical to ours apart from the darkness. I asked Ken to turn the lights on and it burst into life, disrespectful of what lay within. The plan was to get in, grab what we needed, switch out my tanks, and get out. The air had been purged, so the theory went that whatever had killed the others would be long dead from lack of oxygen. It was more a hope than a theory.

I knew where everything was supposed to be, but a lot of the lab equipment and DNA stores had been shuffled while they looked for a cure. The DNA was the most important thing. Food, water, air, all that could be taken care of so long as we had the building blocks from the stores. After ransacking the labs I spoke up.

“I’m going to head into the quarters. I’m missing one”.

“Be careful honey. How are you doing?” I knew what she was really asking.

“Fine so far” I checked my temperature “No symptoms” I heard Harry exhale heavily. It made me smile, he always wore his heart on his sleeve.

The first few rooms were empty. There was a lot of extra space for the children that were to come. Maria was in the next one. She’d been perfectly preserved, right down to her long fingers that had played the keyboard as well as they’d held a pipette. They were the only part of her body that had been spared the blistering, she must have died just as it reached her knuckles.

In her lap was the last of the DNA stores, as though she was offering a gift. I carefully moved her arm and took the last small case of samples.

I felt the itching as I started the climb home. I switched my monitors off. Ken would see, I just hoped he wouldn’t tell the others.

About half way up I was sweating in my suit.
“Talk to me Harry. What’s Mom cooking?”

“Brownies, with the last of the real chocolate.” That made me feel better, I hated her brownies.

I looked uphill. I could make out the beacon through the martian haze. “I’m going to rest a while” I put the tools and stores down and started gathering rocks. I was feeling weak but it still amazed me how I could lift such big ones in this gravity.

“What’s happening?” Concern in Harry’s voice. “Is everything okay?”

“It’s will be, my love” I concentrated on balancing one of the rocks just right. “It’s will be”.

That’s when he knew, and immediately the tears came. “I promise you I’ll never love another”.

Ridiculous. He was always such a schmalz. But he also always did what I said. “You have to. One day these mountains are going to be filled with little Harrys”

With that I switched off my comms for good, and studied the little cairn I had made. It could last a thousand years. I looked out and sized up a long slope that ended in a perfect little ramp. Surf’s up.

Oct 30, 2003

Okay, I'm ready to be a victim. I'm in for merc-brawl III

Oct 30, 2003

Mercedes posted:

If you want to brawl with him, he in. If not, he's out and we'll get another non-winner.

Bring it on

Oct 30, 2003

Mercedes posted:

The order of domers is such:

Character for Phobia: An aging professional athlete. He or she does not fully comprehend what is going on.

Relationship for Docbeard: Ex-spouse

Oct 30, 2003

Benny the Snake posted:

Hey y'all I've been under a rock for the past week or so. I ain't joining this prompt, but I am going to give back to this fine community. I'm offering one free crit. Post and let me know who's down.

Can you do mine?

Oct 30, 2003

My shameful Mercbrawl failure.

We got two weeks, so I have no excuse. I loved my original idea for this story, but completely lacked the chops to pull it off. This is what I have so far, 2/3's written and unedited. I have never spent so much effort on doing something so poorly. I am posting slightly early because I'm at work until deadline. I'm sorry to waste your time Merc, you are doing good work running these brawls.

To top it all off this is the second time I've posted this. The first was in the Magic the Gathering thread. So many failures.

Half of a London Story
1716 Words

The flyer said two, but Maddy had arrived at Parliament Square a half hour before the protest was due to start. It was still relatively quiet in the shadow of Big Ben, just the usual array of languid backpackers in the way of bankers and politicos, ties flying in the wind. Perhaps there had been more dreadlocks and natural fibres on the tube than normal, but it might have just been because she was looking for them. She’d always been the one to turn up before the party really started, forced into small talk with the hosts while they waited for other, trendier guests. Milling around waiting was giving her that same awkward feeling.

She popped in to a Cafe to pass the time. The barista was aussie, they always make great coffee, and this one was hot, too. She watched his strong young arms yank the machine’s handle around and smack it hard against the bench to eject the spent grounds. When she was married she’d envied the freedom of travellers like him, rootless and drifting, and it had taken her a while to realise how much closer to that her change of marital status had brought her. Sure, she still had her job to think about, but outside of work she answered only to herself.

When she got back to the square the crowds had really started to gather. White vans and minibuses were dropping off groups from the unions. Their colour coordinated uniforms and professionally lettered signs lent a disappointingly festive air to the scene. Maddy was hoping for something harder edged than a polite bunch of civil-servants, something dangerous. Across the road from the square, out of the sight of a couple of cops in high-vis vests, she saw a kid tying a handkerchief round her face. That was more like it. She looked both ways and crossed to the shadowy arches.

In the shadows of the arcade Maddy was surprised to see a ragged queue of about seven or eight young men in hoodies. Only in England would civil disobedience take the form of such orderly lines. The kid with the handkerchief round his face said a few words, but between his accent and the cloth over his mouth she couldn’t make them out. He rolled his eyes and pulled it down over his chin.

“Y’alright love?” His accent was the mixture of Cockney, Caribbean and North African that she heard from the back when she rode the bus. He didn’t look so intimidating up close with his face uncovered, he could have been any of the first years in one of her lectures. He was a good looking boy, maybe twenty years old, with a thin black moustache growing on his otherwise smooth, dark brown face.

“Fine, I think. I’m here for the protest.”

“Right place then, innit?” He looked over down the line. “Hey boys, Broad here wants in.”

One of the others, rummaging in a rucksack, looked up “Least she’s dressed right. Whatever, Bruv. Just look after her”. He was older and rougher looking, as were the rest. She was starting to turn around when the boy continued enthusiastically.

“So I’m Trevor, that’s Ray” He nodded at the guy with the bag. “The rest of ‘em are Ray’s mates.”

“Maddy, nice to meet you.”

“Just stick with us and you’ll be right. Most of them ponces just want to wave flags and sing, innit? If they want to get on TV they need people willing to start poo poo up”.


The march had headed up Whitehall before turning left down the Mall towards Buckingham Palace. She’d been there with Greg three months ago for the Royal Wedding, standing on tip-toes in the grass to try to catch a glimpse of the new Duke and Duchess through the bulletproof glass windows of their Bentley limo. What a hypocrite she’d been, teaching her Marxist theory on the one hand and propping up the Monarchy with her flag waving on the other. She wasn’t exactly a revolutionary but it was best just to avoid that stuff completely to stop Greg getting pissy. How had she ended up with such a complete Bastard? Walking in on him and that grad student was a blessing. Had she known it at the time she might not have slapped the bitch so hard.

Her group of new friends had fallen in behind a row of teachers with a huge banner, hiding them well from the cops that lined the mall despite the way their black tracksuits clashed in the sea of colours. Trevor was jerking his head around, eyes wide, trying to drink in everything around him. He grabbed at Ray’s bag.

“Come on bruv, gimme one.”

“Just settle down, stick to chirpsing with wifey.” There was a snort of laughter from further down the line. It was strange how they insisted on staying in such a neat row.

“Oh my days. That’s out of order. Come oooon.” He drew out the last word, reminding Maddy of her little brother whinging when he was little. At this Ray relented and reached into the rucksack and pulled out an orange stick with big black arrow pointing to one end. He tossed it to Trevor, who fumbled it a few times before catching it.

“Sick!” He pulled at a tab and the flare burst into life from the bottom end, spewing red smoke and flame over his trainers. He dropped it, shaking his hand in pain, then a murmur started through the crowd as the smoke rose and spread.

“Tear gas!” came a cry from behind them, and the crowd surged forward, building pressure at their backs. This was more like it. She grabbed Trevor’s shoulder and steadied him, he was still nursing his hand.

“I’m alright, I’m alright.” He gritted his teeth “Oh my days!”

She saw a small red mark on his hand, could have maybe used a band-aid but it wasn’t too bad. He saw her smirk and pulled himself together. With the commotion the protest had picked up speed, and it wasn’t long before they were in front of parliament, just a row of short barricades and the odd policeman between them and the tourist entrance. The cops seemed laid back, though the mounted one down the way was scary, her horse barded with clear plastic riot gear. Ray reached into the rucksack, and brought out half a dozen pairs of handcuffs. They jangled, innocent as a set of keys, but Maddy could see where this was headed. She imagined Greg sitting on the couch eating dinner, watching the news, and smiled at the thought of him spitting up his food when he saw her. Ray started handing out the handcuffs from his rucksack.

She was nervous now, though the plan seemed safe. She looked around, could there undercover officers in the crowd? She caught Trevor leaning back to check out her arse. She watched him look for a few seconds before he realized and blushed hard enough for her to see it clearly through the dark skin of his cheeks. She raised her eyebrows in mock admonishment, happy to be noticed by the young man.

“Well what are you waiting for?”

He looked at her for a second like she was speaking another language, before he remembered what he was doing and took the last pair. “You sure about this? It’s a wicked thing to do, know what I mean?”

He didn’t get time to hear the answer. Ray shouted the signal and the flare burst into life before being lobbed into the air by two of the crew. Then they made their run for the wrought iron fence surrounding the ornate gothic building. It was easier than she’d thought, half expecting to be tackled before they could even make it the few steps across the road. The clacking sound of the ratchets in the cuffs indicated that Ray and the others had done it, then Trevor’s slipped around her wrist and there they were, a human daisy-chain.

Down the fenceline she saw that one of the flares had landed beside the police horse, who was backing into a corner to try to get away. Their run had spurred on the rest of the protesters, too, and they’d started pressing up against the barricades and even hopping them in places. It was too much for the horse, which threw its rider and started walking straight towards them. Maddy, at the end of the chain, tried to swing herself around to give it room but it was headed directly along the fence line into their path, whinnying and bucking and stumbling back and forth just a few yards away.

When she threw herself against him, cowering from the horse, Trevor knew it was on him to keep Maddy safe. Ray had told him as much, and besides that he really liked her. He didn’t normally go after older women but something about her made him think she was up for it. He’d been screwing stuff up all day, but he felt steadier from the adrenaline running through his veins. Ray was ahead of him, pulling off his sneaker to get the key hidden there. The horse had turned, and kicked backwards in panic, catching Ray with a glancing blow on the leg. this spun him around, and the key went flying, catching the sun at the height of it’s arc. For the first time that day Trevor acted quickly. He pulled Maddy close to give the cuffs some slack, then he swung around ray and the others flicking the two out like the tip of a whip. He grimaced as the cuff connecting him to the others cut into his wrist, but he got up enough speed to catch the key in the folds of his hoodie as he fell to the ground with Maddie straddling his stomach. She took the key off his chest and used her free hand to unlock the cuffs connecting Trevor to the others, then threw it across in the direction of Ray.

The horse was still bucking and kicking, but a bunch of the cops had surrounded it and were trying to get it under control. More were on their way, with their sights set on the group.

Oct 30, 2003

Benny the Snake posted:


Thanks for the crit!

Oct 30, 2003

Your Sledgehammer posted:

Use the secret BBCode command to covert your story to Wingdings font, then post it here. Once it's up, PM each judge to let them know you've submitted, and be sure to address each of them as "my liege" unless you want to cop a DM.

Post it, include a word count, no edits.
Have a look at some previous submissions by regulars and do what they do.

Oct 30, 2003


Oct 30, 2003

Golf on the Edge
898 words.

“Can we at least use the mens tees?” I said as I watched Sherri’s annoying butt wiggle when she stepped up to the ball. She was teeing off first, again. I’m all for equality, but did we really need to go from the ladies?

She hit it hard, calves flexing as she pivoted, sending the ball down the bright green fairway.

“Jesus Frank, you take all loving day as it is. How many had to play through us yesterday? It’s embarrassing.”

She’s a lot better then me. I guess that’s what hard work gets me, emasculation at the hands of a Wife who spends all week at the club. We weren’t supposed to be golfing, we had a tour booked and paid for. We should have been on camels, trekking through the desert to watch the sun set over the Sahara dunes, feasting on dates and tagine around a Berber campfire.

Instead I was on another goddamn golf course about to hit another goddamn slice. Sure enough the ball jagged off to my right with a hollow thunk. It barely missed a nearby guard before ricocheting off a palm tree through the 15 foot chain link fence and landing on the other side of the border.

I decided to blame the clubs. “Goddamn rentals.”

“Ha!” She snorted. “Hope they come with a sand wedge. This whole stupid country’s a bunker.”

It felt strange to hit a golf ball from Spain to Morocco. Sherri had lasted half a night in the Tangiers pension before she had us in a Taxi to the Spanish enclave of Melilla. The dirty scrub and trash had as little to do with my idea of North Africa as the manicured greens of the resort.

In the distance I could see a shimmering line. At least I’d be able to tick mirage off my list of desert sights. The guard noticed it too, raising binoculars to his eyes before dropping them and letting them swing down hard against his kevlar vest.

He had a cellphone out now, and was speaking quickly. Snatches of guttural Berber interrupted his smooth Spanish.

“Quit daydreaming. I’ll let you away with that one.” Sherri said, knowing I’d refuse the offer.

“Hang on, something’s happening.” I took off my Oakleys and shaded my eyes. Through the heat sheen I saw the mirage was a line of people. Then came the sirens, cheap and tinny like everything else on this continent, and half a dozen more guards in an electric cart.

“Mister please be calm please mister sir. No move.” The guard was gesturing at us, palms to the ground. He knew three languages but was probably bringing in about twenty bucks a day, crossing the border each morning to protect the rich Spaniards inside.

I sat on the bench by the tee to watch while Sherri leaned on her three wood. They were close enough for me to make out individuals now. They were a pretty sorry lot, ragged and grimy. They were black like I’d never seen, not brown like back home, but so black they were almost navy against the dry red Moroccan dirt.

“Who are they?” Sherri asked.

“That one has Barcelona kit on. I’m guessing they aren’t terrorists.”

The guard raised his eyebrows at the loaded word. “No, mister, no terrorist. Refugee. Sudan maybe?”

Sherri rolled her eyes “They can’t be doing too badly, I know how much your soccer shirts cost. They better not stop us getting down the back nine.”

I looked at the scarlet and blue barred shirt. The peeling decals of the old sponsor and the name Ibrahimovic had left a dirty crusted outline of glue. We’d walked past dozens of little shops in Tangiers selling them for five bucks. Was she making a conscious effort to be ignorant? I looked at her with disgust.

“I thought you’d be happy to have them here with you. They match your little waiter back home at the club quite nicely.” Now I’d done it, tears of rage welled in her eyes while behind he the refugees started climbing and the guards raised ladders.

“You’re an rear end in a top hat!” She screamed, flinging the club at me. I liked her when she got fired up like this, her faced flushed with anger. I doubt she’d ever cheated on me, but I’d got her attention.

“I said I’d give Morocco a try.” She continued “So I gave it a loving try. That place didn’t even have a flush.” She pointed to the wall “You got your adventure in the end, didn’t you?” A scuffle had started between the guards and the refugees, both straddling the top of the fence. “Well done, we’re probably going to get murdered.”

The refugees didn’t look like murderers. They didn’t look like they had the energy. They gave the impression they were relaxing on a beach somewhere, even when balancing fifteen feet high in the air. Poor bastards. Sherri reached into her bag and grabbed a wedge of some kind and scattered some balls. Then she lined herself up and wiggled her butt. This time it looked good.

“Here’s your loving adventure” She said, and started swinging. She shanked the first ball, but the second flew true and pinged off the visor of a climbing guard. Guards were running towards her, but she just kept swinging. She’s drat good at golf, I’ll giver her that.

Oct 30, 2003

In with a :toxx:

Oct 30, 2003

796 Words
Winter, Air

Now that he was out of his depth John was regretting bragging about his skiing prowess on the coach up the mountain. He was struggling to track the swooping trails of Molly’s skis as they curved through the pines while still keeping his footing. He’d followed her off-piste, the first time he’d ever been off the groomed slopes. At first the fresh snow had been fun, carving against the weight of the fluffy drift.

Things had started to get hairy when they descended below the treeline, where it got steeper and the shade had let a crust of ice had formed over the powder. He caught an edge on a patch of it and veered off course, flapping his arms to try to keep his balance. He was successful, but rewarded only with a pine needle whip to the face as he barely missed a tree. He was thinking too hard, planning the turns instead of feeling them out, and he knew that meant he was skiing badly. His hangover didn't help either.

Despite a full twenty four hours of bus and ferry travel and an 11 pm arrival time, fifty-odd young Aussies weren't about to spend their first night in the French Alps doing much sleeping. Molly had been as confident at the bar as she was on the slopes. John liked her blonde hair and her perfect teeth that were only just too big for her face.

“I heard ya on the bus, good to have someone else here who knows their poo poo, most of this lot haven’t seen snow before” she said to him. He bought her drink.

“Let’s make these our last” she said, and started walking back to her group of friends. She looked back over her shoulder “See you at the lifts tomorrow at nine.”

The trip was about two things: snow and screwing. He took her advice and went to bed, thinking that with a bit of luck he might have both covered. She’d looked even better that morning, all the girls did. John loved their rosy wind-burned cheeks and the way that goggles and jackets forgave any imperfections in their faces and bodies. They looked as perfect as the fresh powder.

John paused on the lip of a steep drop, looking out over the valley. He had no idea where on the mountain he was, the lines on the map didn't mean much to him on the second run of the day. At least he could see the village below, though the cheap “chalet” hotels they were staying in looked as small as monopoly houses. He guessed Molly was back on the chairlift again, pointing out squirrels and making easy conversation with someone who wasn't him.

He held his breath before pushing off with hits poles and launching himself over the lip, still following Molly’s crisp trail. He was getting the hang of the ice now, pushing hard to cut through it instead of skittering over the top. He was lucky he had, as about ten meters ahead he saw the ground give way to thin air. There was no time to stop, so he dug in hard to the right, aimed for a tree that hung out over the bluff, fell sideways, and closed his eyes.

After what he thought was only a couple of seconds he opened them again, but he really had no way of knowing how long it had been. He felt the pain through his whole body, excruciating but dull, more like a punch than a stab. Maybe that meant nothing was broken, but it was doubtful. He still had one ski on, the other couldn't be seen from where he lay crumpled against the tree that had saved him. It looked so supple and alive, but had felt like concrete. He pulled himself up to his knees and opened his jacket to let the snow out. He could feel the scrapes of ice on his stomach as he moved his clothing against it.

He looked up the slope and saw the bright red rental ski jutting out like a javelin a few metres from where his tracks stopped. The other tracks continued, and John could picture the snow spraying up as they approached the edge, before they continuing over it at a 45 degree angle to the edge. Molly hadn't stopped in time. He looked over the edge of the bluff and could just make out a human form spreadeagled at the bottom, completely still. When he stood his legs hurt, and when he used his pole to pop his boot out of his remaining ski his shoulder hurt. There was no way he could get down there. It was a long walk back to the village.

Oct 30, 2003

Thank you so much for the crit, Hammer. You are a scholar and a gentleman!

Oct 30, 2003

Can you crit this story please?


Oct 30, 2003

Thank you for the crit!

Oct 30, 2003


Oct 30, 2003

A Natural Cricketer
1394 words
A man with a hammer sees every problem as a nail

Crack! Dan took two steps down the pitch and hit the ball on the half volley, back over the poor bowlers head. The ball went over the white painted boundary line on the second bounce, and we cheered as the umpire signalled yet another four runs. He took a few steps then doubled over, leaning on his bat. Sure, it was hot, but he looked terrible even so, sweat streaming from his helmet in thick rivulets.

Despite this he still looked so comfortable when he batted. His usual fidgeting stopped and for a moment he’d be perfectly still and calm. He bowled well too, fast and accurate, but unlike batting it exacerbated his tics and aggression. He’d kick the ground and mutter as he turned to run bowl, and sometimes it seemed like he he’d rather hit the batsman rather than the wickets.

He was our star player, but when Bundy had first suggested he join our team I was skeptical.

“We're soft, We need a bit of mongrel,” was the pitch “and I think he's okay now.”

When we were all at school together Dan’s name had been spoken in hushed tones. His Dad had been the leader of a bikie gang, and there was a rumour he’d put a kid in hospital when he was in primary school. Our team was basically a bunch of nerds, so none of us had ever had much to do with him except for Bundy.

I remember giving him a lift to the first game he played for us. When we pulled up outside his flat I could see him getting his stuff together through the one window that wasn’t boarded up. He ripped the tags off a bright white shirt and pants and stuffed them into a shiny Slazenger gear bag. The brand new equipment stood out against the stained, coffee coloured wall behind him.

I honked the horn and he came out wheeling the bag behind him. He saw Bundy leaning forward from the passenger seat and I saw that broad gap-toothed smile for the first time. He was pretty rough, with his shaved head and gothic script neck tattoo barely covered by his popped collar. The smile softened this, so wide it showed his gums, ridiculous and warm in equal parts. He was easy to get along with, chatting openly with Bundy and I in the car on the way to the park. The conversation came around to his tats.

“I loving hate them. Except this one.” He said, pulling back his sleeve to reveal a small pink pony on the inside of his wrist. “I let my daughter choose it. She’s the reason I got off drugs.”

A few weeks later one of the guys had his first, a wee girl. Dan brought him a 6 pack of bourbon and cokes in congratulations. “They’re the expensive ones, the eight percenters.” he said “Drink ‘em before she gets home from the hospital, you won’t get a chance otherwise. You’re a lucky man.” There was a touch of sadness there. Dan didn’t really get to see his daughter.

His plan had been to slum it with us for a season in 3B, then move to second grade to try to get into the premiers. That was four seasons ago, and it wasn’t for a lack of skill he was still with us. We didn’t see him outside of cricket, but he was a great mate on the field, at least until this summer.

For a start he hadn’t been coming to practice, which was only kind of unusual. Then he had a few bad games and dropped off the radar for a few games, no call to say he wasn’t coming, no text, nothing. Then today he turned up out of the blue. I could see his smile from across the park.

He was amped to play, so we put him in to bat first. His break sure as hell hadn’t made him rusty. He was as focused as I’d ever seen him, though his uniform looked like it could use a wash. He’d taken twenty minutes to get his eye in, then just started unloading. In no time he’d got fourty runs, and he hadn’t even looked like getting out.

Then he’d started flagging. The runs kept coming but he was moving slower. When he raised his bat to celebrate getting fifty he looked like he could barely lift it, like he was going to topple over in the breeze. Then he bent back down to bat and was fine again.

I looked at him doubled over his bat. “He looks pretty sick” I said to Bundy, who’d been lying in the grass, quieter than usual.

“I don’t think he’s sick, mate.”

He used his foot to lift the flap of Dan’s gearbag. A glass pipe sat nestled among the protective gear, the bulb blackened with residue.

“Oh poo poo. What’s he on?”


“Jesus Christ, I didn’t mean what score.” I did a double take. “Wait, really?” This could be the first hundred for our team this season, a rare milestone in the our grade. He was one good shot away from it.

The whole team watched from the sideline as the bowler started his run up. They’d brought their quickest guy back on, but that hadn’t stopped Dan so far. He bowled a slower one, and Dan swung hard, but the impact sounded hollow as the ball came off the toe of the bat. Still he got a big piece of it, and we all stood as it looked like it was just going to make it over the boundary on the full. But it faltered in the hot northerly wind, and the fielder took a good catch just inside.

It wouldn’t have been entirely out of character for Dan to throw his bat in anger, but despite his pale face and shaky hands he still had his focused batting look on as he walked slowly off. We went onto the field to congratulate him on his score, but he ignored us, staring at something on the sideline.

When he got to his gear bag he opened it and picked up the pipe. He gripped it hard, his knuckles pale, and looked at it. This lasted a good ten second before he threw it as hard as he could into the air. It seemed to hang there for an age, the tube spinning around the bulb in a drunken arc. He took his bat brought it round in a textbook pull shot, clipping the tube of the pipe and shattering it. A thousand little shards of glass caught the sunlight, as bright as fireworks.

That’s when I saw them. I didn’t recognize the woman, but Dan had bored us with enough pictures of his girl that she was easy to pick, even though she was heaps older than when they’d been taken. I looked at Dan, looking at them. The sweat had been joined by tears. He looked heroic as he introduced us. We gave them some space, sent the next batsman onto the pitch, and the game continued.

“What the gently caress is that?” The woman yelled, her voice breaking into a squeal.

I turned and saw her pointing at the crusted bulb of the pipe, jagged where the tube had been smashed from it.

“It’s nothing. Please don’t worry. I’m fine. It’s fine. Please.”

I’d never heard him beg like that before. His daughter started to cry.

“You said you were off that stuff forever. You loving loser.”

“Don’t go. Don’t take her from me again.” Panic was replacing sadness in his voice.

“Just gently caress off. Four years and then this. You’re never seeing her again.”

She sounded really mean, but I could understand it. It was a pretty hosed situation. She turned and started walking off, and Dan just stood there. He looked like he did when he got out, just totally focused, totally in the zone. She’d got maybe a dozen steps away when he started walking towards her, dragging the bat behind him. She hadn’t a clue he was coming for her, and when the bat hit her she dropped like a puppet with the strings cut.

Bundy and a couple of the other guys tackled Dan before he could take another swing. I kneeled to check her pulse while his daughter bawled and bawled.

Oct 30, 2003

I think I'll try to do crits of first time domers when I can.

So here is a crit of Head Space by Pete Zah.

The first line of this just about made me vomit. I was scared of what i was about to read. There at least two redundancies within the first two sentences, and I think there would be a third if I understood what a polygonagal thingamabob was.

I actually think I understand what you're trying to do here, juxtaposing the technical jargon of the first sentence against the mundane reality of the subsequent one. The execution is just abysmal though. There is no excuse for "lying supine" or "surrounds and encapsulates".

After that I was very pleasantly surprised by the quality of the writing. It was clear and easy to read, and there were very few spots that I found clunky.

Characterization of the protagonist was somewhat developed, but developed in a way that made me hate him. He was basically a sad lump who didn't do anything. The only decision he seems to make, to take a walk, is borne from indecision and apathy.

This is something I struggle with in my writing, and I see other similarities between this story and some of my pieces. I find it hard to have my characters do stuff, rather than have stuff done to them.

The characterization of Teddy was poor, I didn't get an idea of him apart form "random colleague/friend". Actually at the very end I did, as he was the only person who did anything, but it's no good establishing character only through a single action.

This brings me to my biggest issue, which is the disconnect between the end of the story and the setup. I didn't understand what relevance the trip up the water tower had to Arthur's problem. Was it going to help get his creative juices flowing? That seems pretty weak. I liked the idea of squashing the buildings with their fingers- that made a lot more sense to me. This bit would have made more sense to me if it were part of a novel- it wasn't meaningful enough in itself to carry the story.

Yay: Well written
Nay: Chump protagonist, loose plot, outrageously terrible first line

newtestleper fucked around with this message at 02:47 on Nov 26, 2014

Oct 30, 2003

I'm dum

Oct 30, 2003

Ronnie's Mum.
956 Words - Help Me Ronda.

I packed the letter in a shoebox with the others, unopened. The post-mark was from California this time, some town I’d never heard of in a country I’d never go to. It was addressed directly to Ronda in her mother’s freewheeling handwriting that had no need to stay straight. There was no return address.

The first few had cheques in them, but after that stopped I didn’t even bother opening them. I’d read about half of the first one, stopping as soon as it was clear that the words weren’t for me. I didn’t want to know anyway, every word that wasn’t my name broke my heart again. So four years worth of letters just sat on the top shelf of the wardrobe, waiting for me to do something with them.

She’d gone down for her nap twenty minutes ago, but I could still hear the sound of pages turning through the thin wall. The book I left her was yet another one about a mother and daughter. I’d given up trying to filter them out, and we always seemed to end up bringing at least one home from the library. Still, either she hadn’t cottoned on what it meant that her Mum wasn’t there or she didn’t really care. I hoped it was the latter.

I went to the chest freezer for a ball of dough. I used a painted fingernail to pick at the cling film frozen to its surface. Ronnie had begged me to let her paint them the day before, and she’d chosen alternating shades of her favourite colours, lime green and hot pink. They were chipped already, she hadn’t done a great job. My friends would have given me stick if they’d seen, but it wasn’t long after Ronnie was born that most of them stopped coming round. I didn’t mind, they just have different priorities than mine. The ones I still kept in touch with didn’t care about nail polish, my little pony posters in the living room, or Let it Go blasting from our TV speakers.

I rolled out the dough into a thick disc and spread ketchup on it, followed by a sparse layer of cheese, luncheon sausage and tinned pineapple. The trick was to get the oven super hot, and to use plenty of flour or else the pizza wouldn’t slide in easy. It was supposed to be a special treat, but it was cheap and easy and I’d been getting lazy. I was getting lazy, but it was hard.

It was especially hard on those days I was thinking about her mother, and the arrival of another letter always got me thinking. The last time I saw her I didn’t realise what was happening. She’d changed after Ronnie turned up, and when she told me that she was exhausted, and sad, and scared, I thought it was something we could fix. Even when she said she didn’t love me any more. It was left to the mother-in-law to let us know she was leaving us. Ronnie was only 6 months old.

I remember her face that day so clearly. Ronnie’s the spitting image, with her straight dark hair and olive skin. The two of us could almost be a different species, she makes my ginger curls and pasty complexion look comical. They laughed the same, too, a loud snort, cheaply earned. We used to laugh until we could barely breathe. Even Ronnie’s hyphenated last name was a constant reminder of what I’d had before. That hurt the most, I think, the public mark of what was missing.

I put another log on the fire and went to get Ronnie up. The hall was cold, I only bothered heating the rooms that she was using. I opened the door a crack, and listened to her pull up her covers and throw her head down on her pillow. I loved how artless she was. I pulled the blinds and she slowly blinked her eyes, yawned and stretched.

“I had a good sleep, Daddy.”

“Oh yeah? Sure looks that way to me” I said, pulling out the picture book half-hidden under her pillow.

She snorted out her laugh and I reached down and wiped away a marmite beauty spot she’d collected on her upper lip from lunch. I’d showed her a picture of Marilyn Monroe and she hadn’t let me near it.

Later we were sitting on the couch in front of the fire, our pizza crusts sitting next to the unopened shoebox on the coffee table. The TV was on, but I could see her looking at it and in the ad break she turned to me.

“What’s in there?” She said, wide eyed like she was looking at present.

“Letters. They’re from Mummy.” I waited a few seconds but there was no reaction. “Do you want to see them?”

Another pause as she twisted her mouth in thought. “I don’t think so. She’s not a Mummy like in my books,” she said. I think she saw the tears welling up in my eye. “Don’t be sad, Daddy.”

“Don’t worry, I’m not sad” I said. “Sometimes crying can mean happy too. Hey! Want to see something cool?”

She nodded, not sure what she was supposed to be thinking. I opened the box and took out the map and unfolded it. Then I crumpled it into a ball and tossed it into the fire where it flared up and burned bright blue from the ink. Ronnie’s eyes sparkled and she smiled and I grabbed her and tickled her until we both laughed so hard we could barely breathe.

The letters went back on top of the wardrobe. If Ronnie wanted to get rid of them some day she could.

Oct 30, 2003


Oct 30, 2003

Crit of Mammon the Socialite by JcDent

Oct 30, 2003

Crit of Of Boys and Bikes by crabrock

Narrative Voice
I liked the use of voice in this piece a lot, but I think it was let down a little by some consistency issues. Most obvious is the momma/mamma change from the start to the end, but there were some other less obvious problems, like I didn't buy the narrators use of the word "assumed" when he could have said thought, or when the officer said "proper hosed" which is contemporary urban London slang.

So it was definitely a good voice, entertaining, useful and drove his character well. it was just let down a little.

This was a tight, exciting plot that didn't try to do too much. It was framed nicely by the Momma bits which gave it some emotional heft.

I liked both of the developed characters, particularly the narrator who was dumb but loyal and sensitive. The line about the sunset was lovely and beautifully written.

The characters were forced to some degree, especially the line about maths and angles. However this is not a major issue and is pretty much necessary with a piece as short as this.

Overall this was a well written, compelling adventure story with likeable and interesting characters. It also had a nice emotional weight to it with the momma arc, giving it some depth. It was let down a little by some inconsistency in the language used.

Oct 30, 2003

Thanks for the crit!


Your Sledgehammer posted:

Sebmojo – Heroes and Villains
The rural Australian setting...

Please fall off a bridge.

Oct 30, 2003

Crit of The Din Within by Boozahol

I like the style of your writing, it's clear and generally flows nicely. It kept my attention well enough that reading this wasn't a chore.

Some of your longer descriptions feel a bit tortured and don't flow so well. An example of this is "A lanky fourteen-year-old, her shiny, new skirt flying; waist-length hair whipping around. And a giant, braces-filled smile across her face, with confidence and a blissful lack of self-awareness."

I find these things hard myself, but it's so important to get these things just right because they're so memorable. This magnifies problems like starting a sentence with "And".

Another example of this is right at the start " A hopeful grin without showing any teeth." The adverb isn't good here and a grin that doesn't show teeth doesn't really make sense.

I liked the narrator well enough, he was clearly sensitive to her problems. The story isn't really about him though, and I felt that Caroline wasn't interesting enough. While we saw an image of her as a kid to contrast to her current broken state there wasn't enough to her to make me really feel for her.

This is more of a vignette than a story. We are presented with a problem but there is no kind of resolution. It is also quite an expected vignette, and I don't think the fact the PTSD soldier home from war is a Woman changes that. For a vignette to work it really needs to bring something exciting, unexpected, or poignant to the table, and I don't think this achieved it.

I felt like the story started where the vignette ended.

Overall I felt this was competent but uninteresting. There were small issues with the writing, but my main problem was that there was no meat to the most important character, and that it wasn't a story at all.

Oct 30, 2003

Crit of Taking the Lead by N Senada

You used a lot of very short sentences which can be good, but in this case it felt weird and stilted to me. Maybe it's because of how often you use the word I? For example this sentence seems odd, almost childish. "I went to the owner’s house. I knocked on the door. Nobody answered me. It was early, I reasoned, and so maybe they’re still asleep. I walked back down the street to where the dog was lying. I sat beside it and wondered what to do."

There were also some things that you focused on that felt completely out of place. The second paragraph about the grass seemed to have no purpose at all, though I think it was supposed to be meaningful in some way. The phone conversation is another example. It's boring and could have been done in one or two sentences.

The short sentences sort of made the narrator seem like he was a small child or mentally disabled or something. I don't think that was the intent. The section after the break was confusing- was this the same person? I think it was but I couldn't really tell.

I had to google what an "unincorporated territory." was, and it seems either you misused the term or this was set in some sort of dystopia. I think you were aiming for the latter, which is really bizarre when it adds nothing to the story whatsoever. This was a very confusing choice.

I like the idea of someone who tries to save a dog and it gets taken away and killed due to the apathy of bureaucracy. If the plot had been more focused on that it could have been a good one. I have no idea what the passage at the end was supposed to mean, why it as there, when it was set, who the character was.

Overall I strongly disliked this story. The core of the idea is fine and could be interesting but your story is a bit of a mess. The style was a bit weird (in a bad way) and the section at the end was unnecessary and confusing.

Oct 30, 2003


Oct 30, 2003

[/b]Assassins Ledger[b]
993 words
Sundowner - rum, pineapple juice, and bitters

Victoria could see the contract on the other side of the cruise ship dining room, across the tables filled with the newly wed and the nearly dead. Her little black cocktail dress stood out among the pastel ruffles of the elderly and the off-the-rack numbers of the honeymooners. She felt like an expensive hooker in a cheap hotel bar.

As always she’d received a manila folder with nothing but a photo and an address. She matched the photo exactly, right down to the tufts of facial hair, the too-shiny costume jewellery and the prominent wart on her nose. She was sitting with a couple, holding the lady’s spray tanned wrist and tracing her palm with a fingernail. Why anyone would want to kill a crone shyster like her, a mere cruise ship entertainer, she had no idea. Much less why they’d pay what her employers charged. Still, it wasn’t for her to care. She only had a few left before retirement.

All of a sudden the contract stopped and furrowed her brow, then turned and looked directly at Victoria. The couple leaned in, worried about their life lines. Victoria’s face remained calm. There was no way she could know, and she knew she was convincing when she played it off like she was watching the band. Still, she couldn’t help feeling she’d been sprung.

Victoria set an alarm for 3 am. Tomorrow there was a stop at St Maarten, a chance for the contract to escape. Tonight was the night. She wasn’t happy that circumstance had decided the time for the kill, but you couldn’t always expect to be in charge in this business.

She slept terribly and dreamed of contracts past. They’d never been anything but marks on a ledger before, but that night for the first time they played on the backs of her eyelids. There were dozens, sad and faded, but a few stood out. There was Mousey, she’d hosed up and given him time to beg. She heard him still crying about his kids. Then there was Egashira, she’d had to suffocate him with a pillow when she’d dropped her knife. His last breath had sworn revenge, and here he swore it again a hundred times over. Dozens more echoes from her past drifted through her slumber.

She woke in a cold sweat, still dressed from earlier, ready to act. As she made her way through the cramped crew quarters she was stopped by a sailor emerging drunk from a cabin.

“What you doing, babe? You know you gotta pay for your drinks in crew?”

“Sorry. The drummer from the band told me to meet him down here.”

“Jason, you lucky sonofabitch. Down that way on the left.” She winced as he stumbled off, but the sea was loud enough that she didn’t think they’d have alerted the contract. Besides, where was the old woman going to go exactly?

She found the right door and picked the flimsy lock in seconds and readied her stiletto. In one fluid, silent movement she slipped into the room and closed the door behind her.

It only took a few seconds for her eyes to adjust, and as soon as she could make out the body she pounced, driving the stiletto into the place where the head meets the back of the neck. Or at least should, as instead of the satisfying click of a thin blade separating vertebrae she felt only the hollow pop of cotton being pierced. Then the lights came on, and she heard a door swing open behind her.

The contract had stuffed herself into the tiny cabin wardrobe. She held a silenced pistol, with long red fingernail on the trigger.

“How did you know?” Asked Victoria in a whisper.

“You know it as well as I do honey,” she said in a deep Caribbean patois, “it came from the spirits.”

Victoria waited for a few heartbeats. The woman was waiting for an answer. “So you can you tell the future, can you?

“Ain’t no-one who can tell the future, honey. I just talk with dem who passed.” She smirked, jutting her grotesque and hairy chin.” Oh you don’t believe me? Den answer me a question, would ya? What’s my name?”

Victoria had no option but to keep her talking. Perhaps she’d make a mistake. “I don’t know your name. I don’t know any of the names of my contracts. What does it matter to me what your names are?”

“Well what about Mousey then? What about Egashira? You get their names when you done em in?” The smirk broke into a horrible grin. “Or did dey introduce themselves tonight? I tell you honey, I done some bad things in my time. You wouldn’t be here if I ain’t. There’s a lot of dead folk who wanna make it real tough for me when it’s my time, that’s the truth. That’s why I ain’t done myself years back.”

She paused for another few seconds, and the grin turned into a piteous frown.

“But I ain’t got nothin’ on you. The spirits, hoo boy, dey bay for your blood. I tell you honey, you wanna stay alive as long as you can. You wanna give dem spirits a chance to forget what you done to ‘em. And you sure as hell don’t wanna make a spirit outta me. You live a thousand years, I ain’t ever forget.”

Victoria looked back at the Woman. “So we make a deal. We both get off tomorrow. You disappear, I tell my employers you’re dead. Neither of us have to run, neither of us have to face… whatever I saw tonight.”

The crone’s wizened face softened again as she mulled over the proposition, and the gun lowered slightly. That was all it took. She didn’t even get to squeeze off a round before Victoria had snapped her neck.

I’ll take my chances with the spirits, she thought, and counted one more contract off her ledger.


Oct 30, 2003

systran posted:


Write up to 5,000 words on why the judges from a few weeks ago, the week where all three failed to crit anyone, are all total poo poo.

They are poo poo because I got my first hm with a really personal story and I want to make it better and I want people to write nice things about me because I was super excited and happy the end.

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