In with Astor man told deputies he is creator, owns world.
|# ? Dec 16, 2015 03:04|
|# ? Jan 26, 2022 07:58|
School's out and I'm back! In with Man Blamed Dog for Drunk Driving.
|# ? Dec 16, 2015 04:00|
TD WEEK 175 AUDIO CRITS:
THE SHITTIEST WIZARDS
When I read the stories for this week, I read each of them out loud and recorded myself reading them. It was the first time I'd ever read through the stories, so you can hear me stumbling over the tricky parts. That's on purpose. Then once I was done, I tried to sum up my thoughts as best I could before moving to the next story.
I think a crucial part of an editing pass is reading your story out loud. Putting it into a new context like that helps you see spots you might have missed. And, more than that, it can change your opinion of a story when you read it. One of my co-judges told me that after listening to me read Broenheim's story to myself, they understood better why I liked it. On the other hand, having to read crabrock's story out loud was probably part of why I disliked it.
If your name is ZeBourgeoisie, Entenzahn, Broenheim, WeLandedOnTheMoon!, or Thranguy, your crit is here:
If you are Benny Profane, Fumblemouse, jon joe, Killer-of-Lawyers, or crabrock, your crit is here:
And if you claim to be C7ty1, spectres of autism, Kaishai, Grizzled Patriarch, kurona_bright, or A Classy Ghost, your crit is here:
All the videos have timestamps in the descriptions for when I started reading that person's story. These are unlisted videos, but if at any point you'd like me to take out my reading (if you're looking to submit your story for publication, for instance) just let me know and I'll snip it out.
|# ? Dec 16, 2015 04:11|
Crits for Week CLXIX: Stories to My Sorrow
Most of you did all right when it came to interpreting your verses; a couple of the takes were exceptionally good bordering on beautiful. The stories themselves just weren't exciting due in part to a plague of unsympathetic, even loathsome major characters. Cliche gamer goons, date rapists, and adulterers, oh my! Is it possible to write a good story about a horrible person? Sure. About a boring person? Maybe. Did anyone pull either feat off in this round? Nope. The successful stories had protagonists we didn't despise, and to see which those were, you'll have to read on.
newtestleper, "Mile End"
The first rule of a gimmick, narrative or otherwise, is that it needs to serve the story. It not only has to justify itself, but its use has to make the story stronger than it would otherwise have been; otherwise it's at best a pointless distraction, at worst a hobble around the work's ankle--or a bullet to its brain. In the event that a gimmick is successful, it deserves admiration. In the far more common event that it fails, admiration is not likely.
This one failed badly. You served up an anecdote from a vague narrator with zero personality to call his or her own, a figure who was not even remotely part of the events he or she or it described. I do not have the least idea why you thought that was a good approach to take. There was no one with whom to connect. The narrator's delivery was deadly dull. The anecdote wasn't much worth the bother of telling it: a sick junkie visited her sick junkie ex, and they were sick junkies together until she ditched him and he went after her. Not much of a plot. Plot isn't everything, it's true, but if you don't have one then you had drat well better have something else to make a story worth the reader's time. You didn't: the approach you took put a wall between the reader and the characters who mattered, and the flat drone of the narrative voice made the whole thing a bore.
Telling a story from the viewpoint of a secondary, uninvolved character can work, but is there any reason this story wouldn't be better if we saw it unfold through the eyes and in the heart of either of the junkie lovers? Why not let us feel what they feel? Why force a distance? Nothing about your choices makes sense to me, and I wonder whether you wrote it this way for the sake of trying something different without thinking enough about whether the differences were to the story's gain. That question should be at the front of your mind whenever you experiment.
brotherly, "The Murder of Camper Lee"
Someday, someone will write a Thunderdome story about gamers that doesn't play off cheap goon-approved stereotypes. Someday a protagonist who likes video games will not be morbidly obese; someday he will be a decent human being--or even a woman; someday restraint will be applied in the cursing. Someday.
You can guess I wasn't a fan of this. No one was sympathetic. The stepfather went far over the top as monsters go, and I was never sure what exactly his issue was. He had a secret, the nature of which was never revealed. The way he talked, you'd think he'd raped Lee, but Lee was only afraid the man would "berate him for a few minutes" and preferred staying in that house to finishing his degree, so surely it couldn't have been that. Surely. There was such a mismatch in tone. No matter how into his game Lee might have been, he really should have been more worried about his obviously psychotic stepdad.
I never knew why the stepdad would buy, make an account on, and learn to play some shooter in order to threaten his goony stepson before murdering him, but I figured out pret-ty early that he and CatatonicKillingSpree were one and the same, so I spent half the story waiting for that twist to appear. It was unfortunate that the stepdad's actions had so little logic. His excessive hatred for Lee had little grounding. He hated him just because evil, apparently.
Your stanza was clear in the story, but in places it felt shoehorned in. You remember how Lee had no clue where his stepfather's line about rear end pies in hell came from? Hanging a lampshade on how random something is doesn't make it less random!
What this desperately needed was half a pound less dull stereotyping and two full pounds more development for its villain. Shave off Lee's goony obliviousness, make the stepdad a person (evil is far more terrifying when it wears a believable face), and remember to have things happen for reasons, and you could wring chills out of this premise. In its current state, it's a wreck.
HopperUK, "The Surly Bonds of Earth"
So... what happened that left a frozen alien arm stuck in the hull? How did the alien die? What were the ramifications for that rescue ship? Did the alien have no friends, and how did they know that, and--this part of your premise raisesd too many questions for what it brought to the table. If you removed the alien so that the disaster that threatened Alvarez and Garcetti was due to mechanical failure, impact, or any other force, it would be exactly the same story. It wouldn't meet the prompt then, of course. You needed a war, and I'm guessing that's why you shoved the alien in, but you did so little with it that it was detrimental. You obeyed the letter of the prompt while missing the spirit. You could possibly argue that Alvarez's conflicted emotions about Garcetti were a form of internal war, but they weren't intense enough for that to be convincing.
Other than that point and another I'll get to soon, I liked this. The writing had that polish so treasured in Thunderdome, and Alvarez was at once curmudgeonly and likable, her relationship to Garcetti pleasingly complex. He was a good guy; I wondered why their romance hadn't worked out. Probably for frustratingly human reasons. Ignore that the prompt was pasted on and it was a nice piece of work, except--
The ending. It was too easy. A miraculous rescue out of nowhere! Just when all seemed lost! A downer ending isn't inherently more realistic in my books, but the eleventh-hour rescue still felt a bit cheap here. After reading that last paragraph again I saw that the question of whether Alvarez (side note, it struck me as strange that she thought of herself by her last name) and Garcetti would successfully make another go of it had been left ambiguous, which I preferred to the sweeter alternative: things might not work out a second time. Alvarez sounded conflicted about it herself. Neither she nor Garcetti changed noticeably as people, so an uncomplicated happily-ever-after for them would have been too sweet, I think.
Jocoserious, "Under the Day Moon"
This was a good use of the prompt! That guy barking at stars could have seemed wedged in, but he didn't, because the tribe's acceptance of his odd ways helped illustrate their familiar-yet-strange society. I especially liked the transformation of "I'll chase the Moon 'til it be noon" into the raid on the Day Moon people. Dreams' culture was pretty well drawn in a short space, outlined with just enough detail to make it feel real and not too cliche. The prose was competent more than elegant, reasonably good rather than remarkably so, but you delivered a decent plot with an ending that grew on me.
Dreams' inability to fight worked fine. It was interesting that he, who couldn't or wouldn't fight, was the one to free the women, accomplishing what wouldn't have been accomplished if all the men had fought and died. Wielder's hope worked too once I realized that he wouldn't have known the other women had escaped. What he saw, then, was a man and a woman of his people running free, and even if Dreams was a deserter, his tribe would still live. I initially thought the last line was twee; now I like it, except for the mangled tenses in "He should have followed, catch the coward, punish the betrayer [...]." All the verbs should have been in the past tense: caught the coward, punished the betrayer.
Thranguy, "No Takebacks"
Interesting strategy, to choose a genre more suited to the disconnected spontaneity shown in some of your recent entries. Children's stories allow--somewhat--for that "it's so because I say it's so" approach. A lot of the objects and ideas and actions in this piece came out of nowhere, but for the most part that was okay. Your take on the prompt was good, too. Other weaknesses did the work in and kept it from excelling as it needed to do to impress a panel of adult judges.
Mostly it came down to bloat. The core story was Tristan's love for and journey to his star. You didn't need the character of George to tell it. You didn't need the Seven Starchildren or the Comet Princess, or the Void-skates or the dark matter ghosts, or any of those smaller mini-adventures, which could all have been fun in stories of their own but made this one drag on. You pared down your banter this time around, and that was good, and cutting George out would have removed even more.
The way the story ended made Anna necessary, but I didn't like Lo's pointless, random, cruel action. Anna's death--and George's--didn't fit the story's tone. All that excess whimsy didn't go with abrupt self-sacrifice and senseless murder, not in something this short. (Disney films can pull it off. Disney films have more time and room to work.) The time scale Lo was working with made it even less appealing: if Tristan could hang around for epochs while the moon spawned life, why did he need a moon at all?
Here's an idea. Let's ignore the epoch thing. Let's say that Lo told Tristan he would have to give up some part of himself--a hand, a leg, whatever--to seed the moon with life. That ought to work about as well as throwing his whole body in. What if Anna volunteered instead, and Lo accepted, either tearing off one of Anna's limbs or killing her by accident? You could still have love ruined by loss without Lo being a monster, and for Tristan to keep loving that version of Lo would be less horrible. That's one way you could improve the ending; I'm sure there are others.
Serious editing would be required to make the most out of this, but it could be worth the effort. There's a workable idea at its heart. There's a moral that I like: that people who aren't friends still matter.
Sitting Here, "Yielding Fruit"
To put it right up front, there was a lot about this I wanted to like, but I couldn't get over date rape presented as romance. You did a wonderful job with a difficult verse, you pulled off your flash rule with aplomb, and I wanted so badly for Finch to escape Maude's selfish greed and stew roofies--but he didn't. She literally stole his mind and heart. And while she was at it, she violated his trees. The ending was horrifying, and if it was meant to be so--perhaps it was--the tone didn't do enough to support that intention; the second-to-last paragraph in particular read as though Finch had come into something marvelous rather than, you know, being drugged into sex.
Most of the time your prose was good, but whenever it strayed toward sex it took on a vaguely sleazy quality. The "soft, ripe fruits" were awkward. "She needed to have him, to feed him, to put part of herself inside of him" contributed a lot to the reading of Maude as repulsive. Even now I want to yell GET OUT, FINCH! CALL THE MEDIEVAL COPS!
I finished this story horribly disappointed and hating one of the main characters. The former was more the problem, though I'm not sure I was meant to despise Maude for all that I can't imagine having any other reaction. If you intended horror, then Finch shouldn't have welcomed what was happening to him, and if you intended even dark and messed up romance, the emotions should have been less one-sided--and Finch should have been half as unsettling as Maude, probably. Though Finch thought of her as beautiful at one point, his wariness of her food--likening her customers to junkies in his mind--stood out more and was so very sensible. He was hesitant until her drugs were in his system. Shudder.
On a less important note or two, I noticed your adverbs, which probably means you overdid them: "wringing his hands doubtfully"; "Finch took it reverently, mouth hanging open slightly"; "kissed him passionately." You could have cut the first and last of those, no question, and rephrased the Finch sentence to not have two -ly adverbs in sequence. Three uses of the abominable "alright" in a short span made me cringe. "All right" is a perfectly fine pair of words, dammit!
Fumblemouse, "Corridor 6"
"It's my job. I'm a test pilot." That's the sort of thing a man's pregnant spouse/GF would know, wouldn't you think? The Edgar conversation worked as a means of delivering information, but most of the content of the Christine conversation wasn't graceful. That it was an old fight made the recap odder.
The actions and Jamison's silent sighs did a better job of showing their relationship dynamic, but I'm not sure the impression I got of Jamison through the flashbacks was the one you intended me to have. My take was that the man was an rear end in a top hat. He cheated on his pregnant partner for the sake of doing so, when he wasn't even excited, then tried to cuddle up to her. He didn't want to be bothered with her fears. So when he stopped giving a drat about Christine or his child during his time in Corridor 6, that didn't come across as a change. He went in a selfish dick, he came out a selfish dick, and the concept that time could wear away care (that's what I thought you were getting at) didn't have weight because I wasn't too sure he'd cared about them to begin with. End result: the story fell over.
Possible solution: cut the cheating altogether. Jamison could feel guilt for other reasons. Lengthen the part of the story he spends in Corridor 6. Ironically, it's too short. Consider thinning the other two flashbacks so you can set almost all the story in that white space. Dig deeper into the horrors of unchanging eternity. Make it bleak and meaningful that Jamison doesn't love or hate or feel anymore. In this version, it's only worth a shrug.
Pham Nuwen, "The Host of Fancies"
The Host of Fancies as a sort of Wild Hunt that preyed on the mind was a fun idea, but I would have preferred it if one of the men had been the main character from the outset. Fil ended up the protagonist, unfortunately so given that he'd only had one line before buggering off and leaving the others to die. He was either absent or all but absent from two thirds of the piece, and I'd actually forgotten about him when he popped back up. Not good. His use of music to defeat the Fancies was on the trite side, and his reaction to his victory crowned him as King Douche of the Wastes. The ending was somewhat saved by the neat image and idea of Pride following him. A more fitting end for Fil I can't imagine. Shame about Tans and Olano, though.
Olano's part of the story ended up being my favorite. That a money-loving merchant would throw his treasures in the face of Melancholy to escape it, and that the gesture would fail, spoke of the nature of despair. Tans' death didn't strike me as equally fitting. Maybe he should have kept flailing until his heart gave out?
Most of the story's problems were tied to Fil. You could improve matters by putting him in the center at the beginning and having him be a bit less of a git (I'd have him stay in the wagon and try to flee with Olano, then possibly get out and try to run once the other two are clearly toast; that way you could show all the action from his perspective). There's not much help for the musical ending: "music soothes the savage breast" is worn thin. But possibly if Fil were more likable, that would matter less.
Grizzled Patriarch, "If I Find Jack Nicholson Under the Ground"
You chose a fine verse. You wrote pretty words. You didn't give those pretty words enough meaning. Your main character drew parallels between events or situations that my eye couldn't see: his father's active pursuit of the secret of the hole bore no resemblance to a child hiding from an argument, nor did it resemble either caring for roses or walking through weeds where roses had once been. (I couldn't tell which activity "that same gleam" was supposed to refer to.) The protagonist's relationship to his father remained confused at the story's close. He cared about his dad, but he didn't understand him. Neither did I. It disappointed me that though the protagonist projected his own feelings on his father, he never did meet the man on his own level.
Did he try? Maybe. I'd hazard this was meant to be about a man trying to connect with his father but unable to do so, maybe because he couldn't stop seeing things through his own lens. He went down in the hole and dug, doing what his dad had done. But in the last section, although he waited on the rim of the hole rather than going back to the house, he didn't go down with his dad to dig or watch or be company. There was still a distance between them, the dad was still a mystery, and not much had changed. Meanwhile I wanted to know what the deal was with that hole!
Even the judges using judgemode knew this was your entry because it had no ending, which says something about how often you try that and how often it hurts you.
Fuschia tude, "Uniform"
Jon and Cindy wandered abroad, sure enough, and that was enough to fulfill the prompt. The worrisome suspicion comes to me that I was supposed to believe Jon was forsaken by his senses when he decided to accept the Singapore transfer. I did not! The personalities, dialogue, and circumstances you gave your characters worked against the arc you seemed to be trying to draw, with the result that the story just didn't work--the ending didn't compute, and the message wasn't carried.
What I think you were going for--and I could be wrong--was the idea that Jon had failed to prioritize love and thus lived an empty life with money as empty recompense. The final section strongly suggested this. However, everything you wrote before that point convinced me of the exact opposite. Jon's position in the beginning was clear: he could go to Singapore or probably lose his job in a crappy economy. Accepting Singapore made perfect sense! And because that move seemed so sensible, his wife's incessant complaints didn't. Cindy had no job of her own so far as I could tell, relied on him for her upkeep, and yet did nothing but bitch and moan right up until she ditched him. So how were the stable career and money in the bank that Jon achieved without her inferior to the life he could have had with a woman who berated him every time she opened her mouth? Jeeze. Not to turn this into an E/N thread, but that was as clear a case for severing as I'd ever seen.
Cindy's syntax was so consistently odd that it surely was meant to tell me something about her. I would guess she wasn't a native English speaker. If that had gone anywhere, I would have appreciated the relatively subtle clue, but it didn't, so...? If anything it made me wonder even more how she and Jon had ended up together.
I preferred this to "The Murder of Camper Lee" because Jon was at least a little bit sympathetic. The story I think you intended, though nothing new under the sun, would have been a very solid use of your verses if Cindy's characterization hadn't spoiled it.
Obliterati, "Liberté, Egalité, Baiserité"
So you remember how I praised your use of dialect in School Week due to how it served a useful purpose in the story? I can't say the same about this entry's thicker and more ubiquitous patois. This time around, all the dialect accomplished was to establish that the story sure was set in Scotland--possibly in a particular region, but I'm not up enough on British Isles dialects to be able to distinguish variants. You could have used a much lighter touch and conveyed the same information without making your words harder to get through. For contrast, look at how crabrock handled an accent: it was there, it colored his protagonist's voice, but crabrock largely stuck to dropping Gs (signalled with apostrophes) and toned the dialect down considerably once the first paragraph had established it. His chosen accent faded into the background. Yours kept intruding. His told me that his main character wasn't likely of high class; yours suggested the same, but in your story that wasn't as important.
Your plot was more muddled than your prose, worse luck. Whores were on strike and staging a public protest because...? Soldiers back from Afghanistan were dealing with it because...? The whores were in lingerie while they charged armed men because...? The strike broke up because...? The final paragraph suggested this was some sort of large-scale revolution. To accomplish what? To have the military interfere when they wanted (with the pimps) and stay out of their business otherwise? What was the point of any of it? I wondered for a moment whether I had everything wrong and this was a historical piece set during the French Revolution maybe, but given Valerie's megaphone, nope. Things just happened without rhyme or reason, as though you fixed on the ten thousand harlots of your verse but had only a vague idea of what to do with them.
crabrock, "Piggie Steps"
Fun and enjoyable to read, but somewhat forgettable and poorly proofread. You and I and all God's little children know you could have done a better job of the editing. Neigh, crabrock? Neigh? (You wanted nay there. Other horrors: "pants that is too small," "A nobel calling," "Ok," "much to big," "it's shorn and oiled body," and to a lesser degree, "Step five: Quickly think of a new plan five." Is it a step or a plan? Make up your friggin' mind! Usually I don't see your work as that mechanically rough, but this time... yeeeeah.)
The oaken armor didn't hold up well to thought since something as heavy and unyielding as oak would have been horrible for wrestling a pig in, but as a lighthearted interpretation of your stanza, it worked. The take on the verses was where this really shone. The main character had an amusing voice on top of that, so I was interested in his fate, however ridiculous it was bound to be.
Your use of dialect compared well to Obliterati's. I liked the technique of lightening the dialect after its introduction. You put the idea of what this guy talked like in my head, then let my imagination maintain the accent with the help of reminders here and there. Nice! On the other hand, it could have been because of the shift that the voice didn't feel consistent. The voice I liked was the one employed in the middle section, with phrases like "My countenance was suddenly less smiley." The man who said "Can't have nobody gettin' a leg up on the bacon" didn't sound like the same guy.
It was a shame the princess had no personality. Some interaction between her and the pig-wrestler could have been entertaining or a little heartwarming, even if he'd only seen her clapping for his win or caught her looking amused or impressed or whatever by his armor.
The worst I can say about this is that it didn't make much impression, and that's why I doubt it would have risen above HM in a week with less widespread deficiency. Humor, an engaging character, some action, and good prompt use is always a nice combination, however. Thank you for delivering all of them.
SurreptitiousMuffin, "from atop the crown of stone"
A lovely vignette, but there wasn't a lot to it. I expect that's not a surprise to you. Whether there was any more there than two boys (or men--which was it? The words teens and men conjure different mental images) sitting in a tree and chatting depended on whether that kiss was their first. It might have been. If it was, you showed a relationship transitioning from friendship-with-interest to romance. That would have been a story, one the more elegant because of how much was left unsaid to unfold in the reader's mind. If it wasn't, though, then this was pretty fluff, nice to read but insubstantial. It was insubstantial regardless, too much so for the crown, too much so to HM though you came closer than most.
To take a verse that lent itself to darkness and violence and turn it into a sweet story instead was also lovely.
paranoid randroid, "Satan Diversifies"
Stories that are all conversation can feel insubstantial. You wrote a fair eighty-percent-dialogue story as they go, since although the characters were cliches with hellish trappings, their voices kept the banter amusing and the question of whether Baelgi was as much of an idiot as Victor thought provided interest. It was still an eighty-percent-dialogue story; nothing happened on-camera unless you count Victor's interview with Dismater. It would have been more entertaining to see Victor try to get a soul than it was to read his rantings to Baelgi about it after the fact. Too much talk, not enough action, and a certain familiarity to the whole thing if you stripped off the devil horns would have kept you in the unmentioned middle.
You made good use of your prompt, though, and I chuckled at the ending. Character voices seem to be a strength of yours. I like your chances if you keep Thunderdoming, assuming you can edge a little further back from archtypes.
Broenheim, "The Not-So-Kind Merman"
I trust we're both aware this is as dumb as boxers on a merman and would in no ways be a contender to win a round of Thunderdome, like, ever, unless everybody else submitted renditions of "The Dildo." You pandered to my love of fine, sparkling specimens of mermasculinity with enthusiasm and aplomb; Snap had no motivation, however, and the action blocking was a mess, and there was a lot of repetitive banter with nearly no glittery action. I imagine you know all that. I'd be very sad if you didn't.
Where exactly were Snap and Tom in that van? First Tom was thrown in the back, so I assumed Snap had to be back there with him. Then Snap threw Tom into "his seat" and walked--walked?--to the other side of the van to lean against it and read. The heck? How big was the van supposed to be? Was Tom up front or in the back? Was Snap inside or outside? Who was driving?? I'll buy the underwater cigarettes and underwater road, but I need a clear picture of what's going on in even the silliest story, so that was a genuine misstep.
Otherwise your dazzling mermen in inexplicable shirts get a C+, upgraded to a B- because you did a better job with your verses than some of the serious efforts. Think upon that, ye Thunderdomers, and despair.
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 06:58 on Dec 17, 2015
|# ? Dec 16, 2015 11:26|
Thanks man. Also, your voice is pretty nice man!
|# ? Dec 16, 2015 15:00|
I hope that the fact that you chuckleheads have forgotten to toxx up doesn't mean one or both of you havve forgotten about the whole thing Wouldn't want to see one of you sneaking in a last-minute cute-with-the-prompt (And boy am I glad I chose the word I did. I'd hate to have to read serious stories about roosters or badminton.) story for a win by default, nosiree.
|# ? Dec 16, 2015 17:30|
Thanks for the detailed crit, Kaishai!
|# ? Dec 16, 2015 20:39|
In with Florida Man Nearly Mauled After Opening Trunk, Finding Unconscious Bobcat Has Woken Up
Also, since I lost last week, let's slap down a while we're at it, why not.
(also thanks for crit, etc.)
|# ? Dec 16, 2015 21:12|
oh yeah I forgot because I don't pay attention to your posts whatever man
I hope that the fact that you chuckleheads have forgotten to toxx up doesn't mean one or both of you havve forgotten about the whole thing Wouldn't want to see one of you sneaking in a last-minute cute-with-the-prompt (And boy am I glad I chose the word I did. I'd hate to have to read serious stories about roosters or badminton.) story for a win by default, nosiree.
|# ? Dec 16, 2015 21:26|
If I must. You are such a Thranguy.
PS - You totally gave Muffin an advantage because, f'reals, does that boy like dick.
|# ? Dec 16, 2015 22:04|
this is actually literally true I loving love dick
PS - You totally gave Muffin an advantage because, f'reals, does that boy like dick.
Mercedes what are you doing later
|# ? Dec 17, 2015 00:06|
Part 1: Thunderdome Startup Crits, Week #172
The first lines set up some expectations about a conflict with the protagonist's priest father, but that character never comes out to play. A few things like that were mentioned or implied and then never fulfilled.
The app, however, was novel, and one of the few relatively mundane (that is, not haunted by grandma) apps in the week. I assumed the app was somehow either anticipating Nick's situation or receiving and interpreting audio/visual input, since Nick never seemed to actually be texting it questions, and it instructed him to tell Tracy he was proud of her. In fact, the program seems rather sapient -- is it a past Nick who wasn't an rear end in a top hat? And what happened to Nick to make him that way? The early story hints that something perhaps catastrophic might have happened to his personality, but whatever that might have been is never explored.
What is strange is that the app pulls a 180 and tells Nick to leave Tracy after she discovers the program. Is the artificial personality catching up to the real Nick in terms of development? Is something more sinister going on? Or has an invisible calculus occurred behind the scenes wherein the app determines that Nick will obtain more happiness utiles if he ditches his umpteenth wife and becomes a bachelor, permanently? Because I'm sure the app could have spontaneously told Nick to desert her earlier. He didn't need to ask if the app were capable of messaging him with its own suggestions. Why introduce that element and not make further use of it?
Unfortunately this story felt dull. I didn't sympathize with Nick. Despite the emotional language, none of it resonated. Perhaps it was a problem with showing, not telling. Nearly nonsensical relationship drama ending with a cop-out as Nick escapes his problems on the advice of a questionably sapient EMILY clone.
Just Checking In
This story made quite the impression, but the conflict and conclusion were muddy. It's effective because most of us bear cultural baggage that make being yelled at your grandparent for abandoning them to a nursing home/unhooking them from life support among the worst imaginable arguments. At least one judge wasn't sure that was what the ghost/prank grandmother was criticizing Jim for. If we knew a little more about her situation, that might clarify the nature of her accusations.
The app concept was interesting enough. What we were torn on was whether Mark had actually engineered what Jim experienced, or if Jim's grandma was literally haunting the app and sending everyone the nightmare of NanNags. Since that was the heart of the conflict, everything from there on became a confused tangle of how to interpret the story.
Now I'm going to go call my grandmothers. The muddled ending here really hurt you with the judges, but it wasn't the worst entry this week and the characterization of your protagonist was good.
What I'm Looking For
This was a well-assembled story that lacked spooky rear end ghosts, wailing grandmas, or phlegm. We were all pretty certain a lost/found-style app must already exist outside of Craigslist, but that didn't prevent me from appreciating this tale. A sweet romance entry was a good palate refresher. Given that the apps were supposed to bring people together, I had anticipated seeing more entries in the romance/break-up suite. Still, the resolution felt too easy. Did Imogen really roll over on her stance after Ethan posted his corny message?
You really have something here, and if this had been a week asking for super short stories, I think you would have been golden. If you had perhaps expanded on the story - especially what led the protagonist to choose her husband over her ex besides a snazzy one-liner -- you would have fulfilled what Crabrock was asking for. You had a couple extra unnecessary commas in there. It's a nitpick, true, but given the length of the entry, those errors are something you have to catch. Too short! Not satisfying! Pile the plate higher.
This story probably suffered in the rankings from being the umpteenth haunted app story in the pile. The pirate app treasure cookie clicker whatever the hell also just seems like something that must already exist. I like the idea of a dead man's switch, but it makes me wonder why the dumb, dead Marlowe didn't sell out of his part or buy out Evan once he suspected Evan would kill him. That part, at least, didn't seem supernatural, but I could be misinterpreting things. What did seem "revenge beyond the grave"-y () was the disassembled phone still broadcasting from Evan's location.
I actually thought this whole story was pretty loving funny, but I think Weekend at Bernie's is the height of humor. Still, I'm an accountant. I find it hard to believe that murdering the chief moneymaker after he finds out about some embezzlement is the go-to solution for a numbers guy like Evan. Of course, I find it even less likely that Marlowe would be conversant enough with debits and credits to figure out Evan was stealing from Pointy Pete's Penis Palace by reviewing ledgers, but that's my jaded perspective from answering questions from Marlowes for the past few years. Maybe if I knew that Evan actually took the Series 7 exam I'd believe that he is homicidally insane.
This story lacked a core conflict -- well, let me revise that statement. The problems with the app are too obvious and it's frankly insane that anyone would have backed this venture in the first place. That it lasted long enough for everyone to become rich before being sued into oblivion strains credibility. That said, besides failing to address the critical problem with a neural link app that makes you experience enough pain to actually lose concentration and control of muscular functions, the story doesn't set up an actual conflict within the narrative framework until the sudden death of a pilot off-screen.
Anyone with a driver's license would have to avoid installing this app. That says nothing of the possibility for someone to hijack the application to torture and coerce victims or any other number of unpleasant possibilities. The app itself steps outside the bounds of what Crabrock was asking for and goes into weird wetware scenarios that fit in better with Ghost in the Shell than a mobile app. The characterization here was flimsy to non-existent. Only Daddy Warbucks had any, thin though it was. What kind of idiot agrees to install something like this in himself when he's not even sure he'll back it?
That said, no ghosts showed up.
Is this a dream, or is this a story about hosting a part in L.A., where a "yes" on an RSVP means "yes, unless something better comes up"? Okay, I borrowed that line from somewhere else and already forgot the source. As usual you dole out good imagery, but this suffers from extreme dream logic, and an e-invite app was integrated into Facebook over a decade ago. It's awfully strange that Craig expected to capture a social hierarchy rocket power party around New Years, too. Aside from some of the nicer lines, this was one of the duller entries. My inner heckler was screaming "jump, bitch, jump!" throughout the fall.
When the Heart Bleeds, It Never Stops
Repetitious relationship angst. A motif of repeating a line or phrase can work really well, but not if you flog the living poo poo out of it. It's interesting that Julia never gets her own voice throughout this story. I don't know what to take that to mean. Richard does. David doesn't. How should I interpret that? Should I be reading David as abusive or not? Is the crux of their conflict something I shouldn't care about, since it was never explained or given air to breathe?
Another matchmaking app--don't we have eharmony for that? Obviously it predicted incorrectly, because Julia still seems broken-hearted. Maybe she didn't wait long enough before her rebound.
Ask an Angel
The question of whether people would activate a self-downloading app came up in judgechat for this story. My answer? Yes. Of course they will. If you push an invitation like this to enough users, someone will take the bait. Otherwise we wouldn't have faculty and staff at my institution still falling for phishing scams every week.
I enjoyed reading this, even if the conflict between free will and omniscience/predetermination was a fobbed-off afterthought. The fart of an ending hurt @AskAnAngel. I wish more thought had been devoted to the conflict and ending. There were a lot bad endings delivered to the 'dome in this week, but this was the worst. It just wasn't enough to sour me on the story.
The One-Minute Witch
Another story which probably suffered from too much supernatural stuff coming before it. I enjoyed this one, too, though. This one needed some more editing time; it was the last entry not counting a DQ, so I wonder if you ran up against the line. Would this story have been significantly weaker if the first scene had been omitted? I'm actually sympathetic to job issues being central to the conflict of a story, so that worked for me when it didn't for at least one other judge.
|# ? Dec 17, 2015 02:22|
this is actually literally true I loving love dick
Bout to plunder some booty, y'know what I'm saying?
Bout to dig for some gold, if y'know what I'm saying.
Bout to euphemism your euphemism, if y'know what I'm saying.
I'm gonna put it in your pooper.
|# ? Dec 17, 2015 18:35|
Thanks for the crit.
|# ? Dec 17, 2015 18:59|
Florida Man Hellbent on Catching, Eating Shark That Bit Him
|# ? Dec 17, 2015 21:24|
Crits for Week #173 - Pilgrim's Progress
We had a pretty decent variety of stories this week, for which I was intensely grateful after your bitter, dead grandmas during Start-up Dome. Overall, this was an improvement on the prior week's submissions. The quality of endings, though, was almost uniformly poor.
"That one went sideways from Pixartown and hard." What I like about you as a writer is your commitment to trying something unusual in each entry. And, you know, story beats wise, Madison is fairly well assembled. The problem here is the inconsistent tone and the "everyone dies, the end" conclusion. This is a bad crutch. You did this in Oysterbros, Butterman, and now Buggirl. Staaaaahp. Try concluding a story without terminating all characters. The foreshadowing at the start was so clumsy and obvious that I thought, as I read, that you surely wouldn't go there... But no. Madison obliviously crawls into a web and tamely permits herself to be juiced.
You're making bold moves with your premises, but you fumble the conflicts and your voice is, at this time, too muddy to make up for those weaknesses. You need to make the difficult narrative decisions instead of fobbing them off.
Didn't I already read Roots? Or watch it?
The story beats here are awkwardly deposited with a long section about either townies lying to Karen or just being indifferent and male-gazing at her. The tension is mostly manufactured, which is an odd outcome since this should be an inherently tense situation -- an exhausted woman, underdressed, with a nursing infant, in a strange town, seeking shelter with her mother's estranged sister. Why wouldn't she just walk into the shop she's been lurking outside and ask whoever works inside? They're likelier to live in the town than truckers and laborers. This seemed designed to draw out the magic of ... What? Nothing.
The constant direction to ooh gosh Karen's a prostitute, a whore!!! is a little weird. It's a weird thing to spend narrative energy on, especially in a first person perspective. I don't get the sense that Karen really hates herself over it, but I get the sense that you expect us to judge her for it.
The interesting conflict here is resolved out of view by the aunt when she appears in the last third of the story. The resolution is all something going on with the aunt, and has nothing to do
with Karen. Nothing Karen does really matters either way after she locates her aunt.
saline, or the last man alive, who is too cool for capital letters in titles
I'm surprised this week didn't end up filled to the brim with spaceship stories. The first paragraph in this one reads weirdly; it took a couple tries to get things to parse (I assume) correctly. Maybe it's because you have a grown rear end man bawling his eyes out because he thought about the drowned people who are responsible for his seatbelt (and by extension, the entire mechanical womb sheltering him from certain death). At first I thought he was allergic to the seatbelt. I'm not against men crying, but there is a hell of a lot of crying here. Eventually that saline drip has to run out. This ran right out of pathos and straight into bathos, but it wasn't funny so it didn't really work. I think the first paragraph could have been cut entirely, especially since you re-exposit later on and much more clearly. After the first paragraph, I didn't have strong feelings about this either way.
Aside from the length DQ, you got too cute with the prompt and tried to wriggle your way into writing something else. And it's weird that this is only one of a set of war stories for Pilgrim's Progress.
This was the most competent story, I think, but somehow not the most memorable. It lacks that fresh feeling, but as far as structure goes, Forest Flower was fairly well put together, there's an ending, people go from one place to another (even if it doesn't feel much like a migration or pilgrimage to me). We didn't have to argue over whether this won the week. I think if more effort had been put into the fable-y language, I would have rated this higher. It feels a rote, almost; a by the numbers tale of love and loss, and maybe a lesson about not blaspheming the gods sort of wedged in there. It's bad that you managed to misspell the daughter's name though. Is she Sarota or Sorota?
|# ? Dec 17, 2015 23:26|
In with Florida Man With Socks on Hands Denies Burglarizing Home, Says He Was Invited in For Gatorade
|# ? Dec 18, 2015 01:07|
critique of WLOTM's late brawl story
ok moon man, i tried to read this three times. the first time, i stopped after the first scene break because i got bored, then the second time when we get to near minnie cause i got confused and bored. ok, i'm not not exactly sure what you were trying to do with this. Your prose, I'm not a fan of. There's a lot of big fancy words that don't really work the way you want them to work, and they make feel like you're trying to be fancy rather than being clear or descriptive, aka way better things than fancy. Anyways, I didn't really understand what was happening. Like, I thought the guy was going to Chernoybl because ??? but then I think it was going to a village where everyone was mutants or something, (and also where he was born apparently?) to go see his mom before he died. I think that's the plot, but the issue is that I'm not 100% sure. Ok yeah, he's for sure going back to home, but I'm not quite sure why. He says he wants to die where it all began, but... why? What's the emotional importance of it. He obviously left his mother for a reason, and it seems like he has another life, so he just leaves Jasmine, who I assume is his wife/girlfriend/SO, because.......... I don't know why. He just wants to? That's some grade A bullshit right there. Without a sufficient or well explained motivation, this just makes your entire story crumble. I don't really care because I didn't understand why he wanted to go somewhere, which also steals away all the tension of the fight sequences because I don't care if he dies or not. Tension is like hanging a cute little puppy with a wagging tail and a long pink tongue over the edge of a cliff, and I'm unsure if you're going to drop it, or put it down. This story is more like putting a rock over the edge and expecting me to be worried about the rock falling. Who loving cares, it's a rock.
Would this have beaten Ent's? I'd say no. With your main character being so bland and uninteresting, I can't help but not care. In Ent's, I barely cared, but there was some caring. A little. You, you just have none.
|# ? Dec 18, 2015 01:12|
Week 175 Crits!!!!
ISOLATED WITH A BEAST
So, okay, you have this guy who’s just fine being a hermit. THEN A DRAGON (or something) HAPPENS. And he’s just helplessly terrified. Which didn’t sit well with me, since immediately before the dragon, you characterized this guy as a self-sufficient loner who was at ease in nature. He shoots first and asks questions later, which seems weird. The story gets a lot better once he kills the dragon, sees the eggs, and realizes how distant he is from his mom. Cleaning his house from top to bottom symbolizes his change of heart about his own isolation. Feeding the dragons pretty much clinches the fact that, for better or worse, he’s not alone anymore. I think what didn’t sit well with me is the part where he falls to his knees in terror, and is then tormented in his dreams. That kind of reaction is very...Lovecraft, kinda? But it doesn’t quite fit with the more emotionally evocative ending. I’m not saying your whole story has to be feel-good, but think about how YOU react when you’re horrified by something. Would you fall to the ground and go “aaaaah” or would you freeze, inch for cover, reach for your gun, then fire a shaky shot in the air? Anyway, this story has a sweetness and a sensitivity to it that I was pleased to see from you, Zeb, so keep it up (one nitpick--you wrote that the eggs were “unperturbed”, but “undisturbed” would’ve been better, since perturbation is more of a mental state).
A MALICIOUS LETTER OF APOLOGY/THE B-SIDE OF LIFE
Ha Ha Ha gently caress you. But okay, now that’s over with. This was...something. I wanted to dislike its tone and the incorrect opinions of its characters. It’s almost like you knew I’d be reading on judgemode and decided to write me a letter that said “HI SITTING HERE, IT’S ENTENZAHN, HA HA STUFF YOU LIKE IS BAD, ALSO HERE ARE SOME CONTEMPORARY CONFORMIST POST-HIPSTER STRAWMAN PEOPLE”. I decided not to DM this because most of the writing wasn’t bad, and because of the very last line of the story. Anyway, I like your writing better when it’s sincere and isn’t trying to be all cheeky. Like, this was fun in a way (much like WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL: TRAIL HARDER from week 162), but the actual story takes a backseat to the cynical humor. So hows about it, champ? Write more stories with some real feels in them. You like that word? Feels. Right in the feels, bro. Feeeels.
This is more prose poetry than a story. There’s something I want to like, but that something is buried under a lot of bloat and unnecessary words. I like the way the prose kind of conveys whirling and thrashing, which is evocative of drowning. There were just too many words, and your more profound and lovely sentences got buried in a bunch of wordfat that could’ve been trimmed. It’s hard to critique beyond that because it was so abstract. I don’t think abstract images need to necessarily have a set meaning, but I should at least be able to connect your imagery to something relatable. I definitely get a feeling of oppression and panic and helplessness and anxiety but...it never resolves into anything more distinct than that. I think the most valuable crit is probably Djeser’s reading of this story, since it highlights some of the places where the language was especially stilted or otherwise clunky. All that said, there was something about this that was too intriguing to DM, so good on you. I think you’re really finding your voice, and it’s cool to watch.
THE APPLE OF BENUS
This story is trying to do that multi-layered thing where seemingly mundane small-town happenings are actually all connected to some sort of understated magic. But each section is too thin. You don’t have enough words to do the elaborate thing you were going for. Like, the beginning of the story would’ve been cool if the other sections were long enough to support the conceit. I like the idea that something magical happened to Felix, something worth its own story, and now we’re seeing how the fallout of that is woven into the lives of the people around town. I’m a fan of interwoven narratives and I especially love what I’ve come to think of as suburban magical realism--stories where ordinary folks are moved by surreal/magical forces both large and small. And if you’d just honed in on Kent and Virginia’s relationship with the tree and each other, you might’ve been able to capture more of the feeling you were trying to evoke. It was when you introduced Kent’s dad’s suicide that everything went off the rails. After that, the shuffling POVs take too much work to keep up with.
FINGERS OF A LOATHFUL SKY
This is the beginning of a novel. Maybe that’s a totally valid form of flash fiction story, but...I don’t know. I’m a fan of the concept, and the writing isn’t shabby. Like, it’s fine that this family has hereditary magic(k) powers over tornados. I think you lost me when the protag put a car together magically using a tornado. Like, it feels like the protag’s car broke down just so he could exhibit this inexplicable power, but then the magical sedan dies so...meh? I didn’t really like the forced arc with the ex girlfriend. Like, she only gets mentioned in an off-screen capacity, but the protag’s “arc”, such as it is, revolves around him making the decision to forgo magical training and instead call her up, presumably with the intent of moving in with her. All the interesting parts of the story involved the protag’s family’s powers. I don’t care about whether he gets back together with a character we’ve never met.
MODERN TELEKINETIC HOUSEKEEPING
I liked this the more I thought about it. It was just straight up storytelling: A guy, a problem, and a satisfactory resolution. You had fun with your spell! This is like, a perfect example of conflict escalation. Cosma needs to clean--but wait, he’s possibly lying about his telekinetic experience?! And then, oh no! He inverts gravity for himself. How ever will he get out of such a predicament? With wits and just a bit of acrobatics! This story is kinetic and fun and probably the most “in the spirit” of the prompt. You took a spell and explored the implications of the magic. As I said in the results post, it was kind of light on character, which was the only reservation some of the judges had. But I’m not sure where you would’ve fit that in, since you were right at wordcount. Decision-making was not goons’ strong point this week, but I think you made the right decision in foregoing a lot of dialog or characterization in favor of writing very clear action. So good job.
THE BASINGSTOKE AND WARTING LADIES THAUMATURGICAL SOCIETY
I personally enjoyed this story, but it didn’t sit as well with my cojudges. The prim narrative voice didn’t work for everyone. The one specific thing that I had a problem with was the whole business about the dust mote. It was so awkwardly done. It required the reader to pick up on one stilted detail:
“Think nothing of it,” lied Mrs Gibson-Scythe, brushing an imaginary dust mote from her shoulder in Amanda’s direction.
I don’t like that the narrative has to straight up tell us she lied. I don’t like that you specifically say it’s an “imaginary” dust mote, when later on it turns out it’s very real and very key to the ending of the story. That said, I did like the character turnaround for Mrs. Gibson-Scythe. I just hated the way the mote was used.
The first couple sentences made me roll my eyes because I thought I was in for some hillaaaaarious tongue and cheek parody. I mean, Captain Steampunk. Super Enforcers. But then it occurred to me that you were using easy-to-understand cliches in lieu of using up words for worldbuilding. Which isn’t the worst idea, IMO. This was cartoonish, but not flat. The image of Moistman running around with Captain Steampunk, making sure all his pneumatic bits are full of water, was kind of endearing. It was a neat mechanic for a sidekick. Things got a little cheesy when Moistman ran into the kid, who was like, “You can do it!!!” And then...suddenly Moistman could beat the bad guys. Grim Nidder felt like a dungeon crawler boss, just standing around spawning enemies. The heroic punchline was cute, though. All in all, this story was charming, but the conflict resolved too easily, which made the feel-good ending seem not totally deserved.
Okay, first of all, let’s talk about your opening paragraph:
Jeffery did his best to ignore his beagle's howls as she tried in vain to bury a dog treat in the towel she laid upon. His backyard was a sulfurous smelling mess, and he had little to show for it. He picked his cell phone up and began dialing.
Right up front, this is a big jumble of ideas. A howling beagle trying in vain to bury a treat while howling while jeffrey does his best to ignore it. A sulfurous smelling mess. Jeffrey calling someone. I felt a little bit….disoriented was the wrong word, but when I first read this story, I wasn’t sure which of those details were the most important.
Then the customer service dialog starts. I wish you’d given Tiffany more of a personality beyond “peppy call center operator”. It would’ve made things more interesting, and the dialog more tolerable, if there were some kind of human connection between Jeff and Tiffany. Like, what if Jeff is trying to use the wrong spell to turn his beagle into hell hound (which is what you wrote), BUT the reason he and Tiffany don’t sort that out sooner is because they’re busy developing a personal relationship--maybe not romantic, but something personal that adds dimension to the calls.
As it is, we couldn’t really forgive the amount of mundane dialog, even if I was somewhat amused by the premise.
Banter banter banter. You’re lucky that you’re good enough to get away with it, and that you saved your own rear end with some actual story. The otter was cute, and I was a fan of how you shifted the conversation away from prolonged bickering, to something more story-worthy like “what is my purpose?” I mean, it wasn’t perfectly done; Tabitha doesn’t actually do much, except stare into a well and mope, then head home just in time to save Tom with the lust potion from the beginning of the story. It’s weird that she can freeze all sorts of forest animals in her search for Tom, but as soon as she encounters the racoons, she has to come up with an ad hoc solution like chucking the potion at them. All that said, Tom’s dialog pretty much made me smile the whole way, and the image of him holding the mushrooms in his little paws was basically all the way adorable. As I said in my results post, you have a gift for combining the dickish with the adorable.
This is cheating, but I’m going to start this critique with a quote from Djeser in judgechat:
•Djeser> it is so dream logic. oh no my friend is here and i've gotta help him but he's drunk or maybe asleep. then the police come in and arrest some of us but it's okay. but now the police are coming, and i have to throw my burrito out the window so i can leave. then my friend leaves and i wake up and go back to work
That’s kind of an apt summary because it reflects how I felt after finishing for the first time. The story sort of washed over me, but not in a pleasing way. It was just things happening and me taking your word for it that any of it made sense. Sometimes the issue was that you didn’t link ideas together with action:
He slouched down in a failed bid to make himself look less suspicious, and glared at his phone. The meeting would be starting soon, and his mysterious handler would want his answer beforehand.
We see Joe looking at his phone, and next thing we know, he’s hanging up a call? When did the call itself happen? If he’s arranging to betray the location of the hideout, why wouldn’t he give his “answer” to his “mysterious handler” before he puts himself in a position where he’s surrounded by the people he’s going to betray?? Also, presumably he knew the location of the hideout before he entered it, since he had to know where to go in the first place. So why not just tell Mr. Mysterious handler where it was? That way there’s no risk to him. But so OK, he’s in the hideout and any minute the police (??) are going to show up to arrest all these unlicensed magic users.
Another part stuck out as confusing and unclear:
The old wooden door suddenly swung off its hinges, as men and women in uniforms began to march inside and began to arrest those without a minor practitioner's permit. Those who could vanish, did. A few fireballs and beams fired out at the attackers, but it was no use, they had surprise and numbers on their side. Joseph could only watch as they were led out the door, to whatever fate awaited those like himself, and—
What happened here??? Was it a hallucination? What did psychics have to do with anything?
But, so, then, the cops are nearly there and Joe and Don have got to get out, and the only conceivable way of doing this is...to break the windows with some gyros. And then it’s all a moot point anyway, because once Don knows what’s happening, he turns around and goes back into the hideout as it’s being raided, presumably to defend it..? It’s not totally clear, actually.
At the end of it all, we learn that Joe’s whole motivation was to get a permit to practice gyromancy at work. Which is...kind of a weak motivation to betray all your friends.
Going forward, work on clarity--making sure all your actions are linked together in a logical way--and motivation; a story isn’t satisfying if the stuff that drives a character isn’t proportionate to the stakes of the plot. Like, getting what amounts to a liquor license isn’t a satisfying reason to gently caress over friends/comrades.
The very opening scene was cute, though, so you can be proud of that.
This story caused a small argument between myself and the usually affable Ironic Twist, so good job. Here’s an excerpt of our conversation about this story:
<Twist> I understand the moral, but it's more of a platitude
If it’s not obvious, I got a lot more out of the story than twist did. But I think it’s because I related to the story on a personal level, so I was willing to work a little harder to get the gist of it. The problem here is like, the “point” of the story is what makes the story less interesting. Twist is right; so much of it is fastforwarding. Not only does it leave Kristle feeling disconnected from her life, it makes the reader feel disconnected from her story.
As I said in the quote, I thought all the worldbuilding surrounding the Blache house was not necessary; it ended up not being too important to the plot (Kristle could’ve obtained the time perception spell by other means with less words about it). That added to the kind of convoluted feeling this story had.
All that said, at its heart, I think there was a worthwhile feeling and idea behind this piece.
BROTHERS AND SISTERS
I’m just going to cut to the two things about this story that I wasn’t a huge fan of. The first was Neil. For all his importance to Zach, there wasn’t much to this character. Which is a shame, because I wanted to delve deep into the inner psyche of a sparkly merman! But his character doesn’t seem to have any traits beyond his willingness to help and befriend Zach. Zach sees Neil as a brother, but it’s not something the reader gets to feel for themselves.
The other problem was Aileen. Of course, I’ve been the bossy older sibling, so hers was the character I wanted to related to the most. Unfortunately, her arc didn’t feel very natural--she’s bossy and kind of a bully at the beginning, but has a heart of gold at the end. I’m not entirely sure why she was out on the boat (I mean, yes, she wants to learn fish so she can support the family, but..), except that maybe she had some preternatural sense that Zach was considering living permanently as a merman.
When all is said and done, this story is basically about two things: Aileen’s tough love, and Zach’s developing independence and disatisfaction with life on land. In the end, I guess it’s like...some notion of family triumphs over whatever the characters’ personal motivations were. It’s not dissatisfying, it’s just not satisfying.
Oh good, the crit I was dreading doing. Here’s the thing. I just finished a really cool book called Ship Fever, which is a bunch of short stories about rival scientists and aging scientists and disillusioned scientists. The tone and narrative in this story would fit in perfectly. It’s rich and eloquent without being stuffy or too dense to read. The supernatural component (if there is one, which I’ll get to in a moment) coasts riiight in on the wake of the narrator’s jealous obsession, which worked really well, IMO. I guess I would’ve liked something more of Fretwell’s motivation, if he had one. I mean, it’s obvious that the narrator takes on Fretwell’s...spirit? Ghost? Essence? Or is everything that happens at the end purely because of the narrator’s obsession? I am fairly certain that Fretwell somehow worked his essence into the margins of the book, but the ending doesn’t afford me that “ah-ha!” moment I wanted. Mrs. Fretwell’s reaction has me convinced that there is something not-quite natural going on, but it’s not clear whether Fretwell meant for the narrator to find the book. IDK. This HMed for a reason, because it’s great, but the ending left me feeling a little bit wanting.
A FLIGHT HOME
Oh, Kurona. I feel like our crits of your action stories made you compensate too hard in the other direction these past couple months. In this case, anything interesting happens off screen, before the story began. So, Ri was framed for blowing up a school. Cool? We only see him work in a bar and talk to people, so it’s really neither here nor there. These aren’t novel characters who we get to spend significant time with, so their backstories are nearly unimportant. Also, this was magic week! But the whole floating cups thing felt like you shoehorned your spell in.
The crux of the story is, I guess, Ri deciding to go home. I don’t know what his home is like. I don’t really know what his life up until the moment of this story is like. I don’t really know how bad of trouble he was in. Frieze felt really superfluous for how important she is to the “plot”, such as it is. She’s not there, then she’s there, then she leaves, then it’s revealed that she gave Suzanne Ri’s backstory (off-screen, of course). Like other stories this week, this piece ended up being mostly talking heads. This could be any bar in any speculative genre setting. There’s no action, and everything meaningful and interesting is established through dialog.
It’s almost never a good call to show your characters in the aftermath of the action.
Why exactly did Dink want to be a dog? Other than his berating GF, there aren’t many clues as to why Dink thinks that being a dog will make him happier. The very end certainly suggests that he’s happier as a dog, but the POV doesn’t let us too far into his head. I mean, yes, it sucks to be with someone who makes you feel like poo poo, but most people would choose to break up with that person rather than permanently turn into a robot dog, who will never ever be treated like an autonomous person again.
TBH I would have ditched the Friend Fixers section (it may feel necessary, but it’s not) and focus in on Dink’s work on the robodog and his conflicted relationship with his GF. I would’ve shown Dink suffering because maybe he just can’t deal with human obligations.
There’s no real conflict here. I mean, yes, he doesn’t know how to build a robot dog. But you solve that. The narrative basically tells us that Dink studied and experimented a lot and then got the thing he wanted. His mean GF isn’t even really an obstacle.
Anyway, this was cute, so there’s that.
|# ? Dec 18, 2015 04:40|
WEEK 167 BLACK SUNSHINE CRITS
I had to think for a second about why this story escaped a DM, and it’s because your premise, while not terribly original, does in fact get at something ominous. It makes absolutely no sense and has no payoff, but the whole Syndicated Incorporated lack of control over your own life was something, at least. But it doesn’t have any room to build or release in a satisfying way. And I think you know that, because there aren’t many ways you couldn’t. The body horror was nice, though. Again, just enough to keep the story’s head above water.
About as scary as: A pair of slacks with three legs.
The opening line is purple, and the rest of your story is green, in more than one sense. It’s verdant, sickened, and it gives off a real lack of experience.
Scridiot, dude, on some level you have to look back at your story and fix the things that don’t make sense. I know that “characters doing things that don’t make sense” is its own horror-movie trope by now, but those movies have other things that are interesting and charming about them that make people want to re-watch them again and again. This story doesn’t have those things, because it’s trying too hard to ape them in the first place, so the whole thing just comes across as bungled. I remember your School Week story about the demonic presence within the student, and that worked because it was an interesting perspective and voice, portrayed effectively. This…wasn’t that.
About as scary as: A plastic office plant with googly-eyes glued onto it.
This was similar to Scridiot’s story, but with a much, much lower grade for “execution” and “making the reader give a poo poo”. There were hints of an interesting setting and world within this piece, but the whole thing just felt so low-effort and half-hearted, from the beginning to the who-cares ending. I have a feeling that if you used more words, started later in the story, and gave the draft another editing and proofreading pass, you might not have earned the DM. Other stories this week (see above) had janky plots but were able to stay out of trouble just through the simple grace of more-thorough execution.
About as scary as: A mirage, shaped like a pregnant dick.
This was another story that could have benefitted from just starting at the climax, but in this case the writing was a lot more solid, which made it a shame that it just wasn’t there on a conceptual level. Why start from the very beginning when you have less than 2000 words to work with? And why just kill off the main obstacle within 200 of those words? It’s one of those stories that really suffers from not having a lot of original material, because it all seemed very cliché, down to every character and plot element. Have you ever heard a horror story about a Yeti? That’s this story. All of them are this story, only if they were told by a person who didn’t know about pacing.
About as scary as: A well-kept and clean carnival ride, run by an Economics major.
A Hole, or Maybe a Tunnel
You took this off the Archives so I’m going solely from memory here, but I loved it. I loved the setting, the characters, and how both combined to form this sheer merciless brutality that was unrelenting. The ending was a fantastic gut-punch and tied everything together very well. I wasn’t quite clear about what happened to the African friend, whether he sold out the main character or he was thrown into the pit with him, but on the whole, solid work and a well-deserved win.
About as scary as: The serial killer from Wolf Creek if he ran a construction crew.
Eyes on me
OK, if this was well-executed, this would have been the winner of this week, almost certainly. The concept of a sort of Saw-like scenario playing out in a shared office with cubicles is an interesting spin and I was on-board, despite some of the editing mistakes. But to be honest, I’m not sure of the best TD writers would be able to pull something like this off in 1600 words. It’s something that requires too much setup and construction to be satisfying in a flash fiction piece. The fact that you tried is commendable, but the fact that you spun it off in a completely different direction at the end with the possession twist makes me think that your instincts weren’t that good to begin with. Because that ending did not work in the slightest. All it did was piggyback another story on top of the already-straining back of your first one.
About as scary as: Dilbert, if he was a Serial Killer and also a Sorcerer and ooh what if he was a NINJA but wait he’s still dumbass Dilbert.
You Didn’t Deserve All This Gray
I had to be convinced into giving this an HM. I’m ultimately fine with it, but for me this story was more poignant and depressing than scary. It’s a story about cancer, but also about intrinsic worth on a larger scale—why does a thing have to make others die just to live? The children’s book sort of tone added a lot to this story, but there were times when it seemed almost too facile, like everything happened too easily for there to be any suspense. Still, I thought that it was a story executed successfully, even if it wasn’t a horror story per se. Really, it’d be worth coming back to and expanding.
About as scary as: The creeping existential dread that plagues us human beings on a day-to-day basis—but with kawaii anime eyes.
This was another sort of standard horror-movie enterprise, but with a much bigger budget than Nature’s Blessing. The characters were decently crafted, and the horror-movie boogeyman was a murder of Magic Metallic Mushrooms, which was unique enough. Would this have received an HM in a stronger week? Probably not, but it was a solidly-executed story nonetheless, and this week, that was enough. I feel like I don’t have much to say about it, because while it was alright, it didn’t take any real risks or cover any new ground beyond putting a different mask on the monster.
About as scary as: A paint-by-numbers picture of a childhood fear.
Under a Thin Layer of Skin
I liked it, but I didn’t love it. The character is pretty much the epitome of a passive protagonist, and the plot is sort of stock, but some of the descriptions were cutting and definitely attention-grabbing. It’s…just…778 words, out of 1600. You had room to plug some holes and give the character more agency. I feel like you’ve exiled yourself to Vignettopia for reasons that I can’t understand.
About as scary as: A creepypasta, but that type of pasta you find in a Lean Cuisine that takes 2 minutes to heat up.
The Reddleman on the Barrow
Maybe this was supposed to be a thought experiment—“Here’s a look at what would have been considered a horror story during the Victorian Era.” Like, the worst horror of all would be to lose social standing among your fellow noblewomen and aristocrats. That’d be the Gilded Age equivalent of Freddy Krueger slashing you in your sleep with his rusty finger-knives.
That’d be the only circumstance in which this story made any sense. Because nothing else about it does. The writing does its job, minus a few grammar errors, but conceptually it’s such a gigantic whiff that it almost immediately puts itself in contention for the loss. What sealed the loss was that fact that the plot didn’t make any sense even within its own parameters. Why would she kill a stranger, while naked, on a hillside, with a rock, then presumably have to come home covered in stranger blood—why would she do all that if she didn’t want to cause a scene? She goes from the Gilded Age to the Stone Age in one sentence, and it’s not scary, it’s not disturbing, it’s just ridiculous and it doesn’t conclude the story in any way.
About as scary as: The Itchy and Scratchy show, starring Keira Knightley as Itchy and Timothy Spall as Scratchy.
This was a story almost as divorced from horror and terror as Reddleman was—maybe even moreso. A man is wandering through the desert, searching for something off in the distance. He finds it, then he’s dropped off at the beginning of his quest. I don’t know what was supposed to be so scary or ominous about this story—it just came off as pretentious and droning. Okay, yes, a desert can be a good setting for a daylight horror story, but when it’s just the main character, alone with their thoughts in the desert, there’s not a lot more that can happen to them or affect them. What the winning story figured out, and what both DMs failed at, was the actual humanity and relatability necessary to make a story resonant and emotionally distressing and yes, scary. I don’t know how most of you could have looked at the Oates story I provided for this week and then go in the direction of isolation. “The endless fractal patterns of dissolution as reality slipped away into its hot white interior” is not a substitute for actual character.
About as scary as: Stephen Hawking’s Chiller Theater.
The wedding of Form and Void
Lots of Alice in Wonderland vibes from this one for different reasons, some good, some not-so-good. The dialogue was very stilted and downright stony in some parts, the philosophy part of the concept seemed very shallow and surface-level, and hooboy does this story take way too long to get started. You could’ve kept it from ending on a cliffhanger if you’d begun the story a lot further into its iteration.
Despite all that, though…I wanted this to HM. Why? Because the concept was far and away the most original one this week, and everything that happened after the protag made it to the center of the maze was genuinely creepy and chilling. You gave me a new flavor of daylight horror when I was choking on sand from almost everyone else, and that I felt deserved to be commended in some small way. The judges didn’t agree with me, but on a creativity level, I think you should be proud of this story, and you should definitely come back to it.
About as scary as: Margaret Thatcher, who played the part of the bride very well.
This was definitely the prettiest and most evocative story this week. I wanted to spend a lot more time in this world, even though I wasn’t that scared by it. I thought you were very creative with the prompt interpretation, as well as the bits of horror you were able to glean from the season of decay that is Autumn.
So, we both know the problems with this story come down to character, specifically there not being much of one. Or much of an ending, either. I would love to read a longer version of this, though. So many people (including me) romanticize autumn as a time of year and I think you could really do something with the vein of that paragraph about cicadas and galls. He was able to leave that town too easily. Make him stay a while.
About as scary as: Hot spiced amanita cider.
|# ? Dec 18, 2015 05:27|
Crits for Week CLXIX: Stories to My Sorrow
|# ? Dec 18, 2015 05:33|
Week 175 Crits!!!!
WEEK 167 BLACK SUNSHINE CRITS
ty 4 crits ironicing here
|# ? Dec 18, 2015 07:05|
Danks dor da drits.
|# ? Dec 18, 2015 17:04|
The last plane for Florida leaves in less than three hours
|# ? Dec 19, 2015 02:07|
In with 'Florida Man Admits Killing Goat and Drinking Its Blood For Pagan Sacrifice, Would Still Like to be Senator'
|# ? Dec 19, 2015 02:31|
Florida Man Drops Shot Friend Off at Wal-Mart Instead of Hospital
|# ? Dec 19, 2015 02:52|
Part 2 of Crits for Week #173 - Pilgrim's Progress
I got woken up at 3:30 a.m. by someone's computer being turned up at full blast and shrieking alerts about people logging in and out of Skype. So have some fuckin' tiny crits while I try to go back to sleep.
Ontonagon Route 28
I was pleasantly surprised by this entry. It''s definitely in a wide category of bro stories I'm not the target audience for, but it didn't end with rocks fall everyone dies and it delivered on the premise. The problem with it is that if you're going for some sort of dudebro life lesson story, you usually need something gripping - usually more humor if you're not going for rocks fall everyone freezes - which this lacks. Maybe it was a case of trying to subvert expectations; the understated story may have gone too far in the other direction.
Two stories converge in an arena, neither leaves. The setting idea is interesting, but ultimately doesn't save the story from itself (such as it is). The whole thing reeks of being built around the final line, which was in no way strong enough to carry this entry. Intrusive talk therapy town in the end didn't mix well with parent fleeing in the wake of their child's death. That thread dangled throughout with no satisfying resolution.
Another novel setting to a Murican judge. Unfortunately for a character drama, the characterizations were incredibly thin. There was bully character who showed up in one scene, ambiguous Euro love interest, ambiguous white adopted tribesman love interest, and boring heroine. Tipene is exotic-but-safe hero pick, though aside from his general foreign-ness, it's not clear why Octavia falls for him. Tom is just "possessive, well-heeled" and that's basically it for his development. Whether any of the characters have loved or even liked each other (and why) at any point is up for grabs, I can't tell. There's no passion in this romance, and it doesn't feel very adventurous for an adventure story either. I get some shades of "Romancing the Stone," I think, but the story doesn't really have much tension after the very first scene. The conflict feels pat. Tipene, Octavia, and Tim don't seem to have any real stake in the outcome besides switching the "T" in the O/T pairing.
On the Hearth a Little Flower Blooms
Another war story that plays a cute game with the prompt instead of just bringing a pilgrimage to the table. Plus it's basically a vignette, and a vignette that looks away from every important moment in the story. Why? If the lesson is war is hell, if we're supposed to immerse ourselves in man's inhumanity to man, if we are supposed to witness what atrocity does to those who carry it out, why look away? When the entire point seems to be Nelson's interior journey, you shouldn't look away from the conclusion. So this is a story about Nelson's journey into the heart of darkness and snow and German poo poo, but what it ends up being is a pile of nice voice that falls out of formation to freeze to death in a ditch. Relies on our shared historical knowledge for emotional resonance, doesn't carry its own weight, but it's pretty even if it's not a story.
Knee Deep in the Hoopla
This is one of my favorite stories of the week despite the flaws. It's lively, refreshing, and is blessedly cheerful. Unfortunately it's also a hot mess. Lani's secret piano tuner skills are a red herring. You don't have enough spaces for random red herrings. This wasn't a mystery story. The theme of authenticity versus nostalgia/novelty is never developed and only crops up near the end, starting with the test performance. Ian never tries to figure out why Kass knows a song that Ian thought was super secret. Ian is saved from the Acoustic Inquisition by accident -- not because he was actually innocent, or knew the stakes when he made his decision on what to play. And why did neither he nor Kass know that it was a bad idea to play that particular tune in the temple? If the dark arts of the electric guitar are so fearsome, one might have a better idea of how to avoid blaspheming. Despite that muddle of ???, I think this story shows writing progress and is a good candidate for revision.
|# ? Dec 19, 2015 09:36|
Crits for Nonsense week #174 - Ladles and Jellyspoons
So - the one thing I mentioned previously is that very few of these stories had a clear idea of what nonsense is. Possibly this was my fault A number of you fell foul of the wrong-headed assumption that a single fantastic element made a story nonsense. Nope - that makes something fantasy. The illogic of nonsense needs to be brought to the fore, and more often that not - that is where a number of you were marked down. More by me than sebmojo, probably, because he thinks of prompts as ephemeral guides and suggestions that hold your hand as you skip through fields of punctuation toward lovely stories, whereas I think of them the tenets of your writing religion over the course of 1000 or so words - and I despise apostasy and have a meticulously constructed system of punishments ordained by the God of Whiskers and Cheese.
Into the Mineshaft
The first thing is; I have no idea what a sabina is. Sembmojo thought it might have been some exotic ninja weapon. I googled it and it’s juniper bush. To be fair you do mention a sword later on, which someone then charges a cave with it hugged close to their chest, like a teddy bear. But until I actually did some more advanced googling I had this entire story pictured involving your protag carrying shrubbery. This could have been a cool nonsense bit - but then I discovered it was a small personnel sword, and was less impressed, because that reduced your nonsense component to one character, who wasn’t particularly nonsensical, being quite readily understandable in motive.
Some clumsiness in construction. “When I thrusted the blade at him” How about thrust? “A green, vine-like abomination.” Right. I can picture it, but it’s the centerpiece of the entire story, so I am not being carried away by your description. What was abominable?
I don’t think the word knave means what you think it means. Knights and knaves are opposites (honour and chivalry vs selfishness and discourtesy), rather than one being the embryonic form of another.
On the plus side, there was a beginning, middle and end, and the character kind-sorta had an arc. On the minus side, the nonsense was basically a magical fantasy goblin, which had nonsense factor of -2 and the arc was he was frustrated, so threw a sword in a cave and knocked out some bats who flew away, and then he yelled out “Goblin is distracted” to someone else (which would have been fairly noticeable to the goblin), but really it was all a secret plan of the magical fantasy goblin so he didn’t actually achieve anything by his own efforts.
Selene starting off cute, and interesting, but by the time I’ve gotten three paragraphs in the cute is starting to wear off and the interest is diminshing. You’re clearly going for a mood piece (which is risky under this prompt)
She’d fracture space and time and probably warp her bones into another dimension, but if she could just see what life was really like in the mines, it would be worth it. Because not knowing was unbearable.
I love this sentence, but I have no reason why she actually wants to know what life is like in the mines.
How do you stifle a yawn and sound apologetic? I wondered. then I got to the end, and stifled a yawn. Sorry. This mood piece, while relatively moody as these things go, just kind of wimped out on the nonsense aspect. It’s that last comic of calvin and hobbes, where they put him on ritalin. The protagonist has a small degree of agency, but it’s largely futile. Which is the message of the story, but so far off the prompt that I’m kind of lost as to what it’s doing here. This was a ton of no-fun.
Sugarplum Fairyland Home for the Insufficiently Exuberant
“The mellifluous, if perhaps cloying voice of the nine foot tall bear shaped honey container crooned at Jeff” - ouch - that’s an ambling sentence. It just kind of wanders along looking at things that may or may not be the subject of the sentence. Much like this story is kind of ambling aimlessly towards some exposition and no action.
Initially I was intrgued by in this story and where it is going. Please don’t be crap, I said.
I even liked the reveal. It got a chortle out of me. But I was worried that there won’t actually be an arc - there weren't not enough words left. Jeff is just sleepwalking through exposition.
...And, at the end, there wasn’t an arc. Crap.
Dammit - this was a good idea, kind of readable, but Jeffypoo is just wandering along being led to an explanation and then it ends. There are no stakes, no decisions. Protagonist has no agency.
And hang on - Dr Snuggles. That’s a thing. A living, breathing character that bears a superficial resemblance to the character mentioned herein. DQ or DM? It should really be a DQ, but there’s no reference to flying airships or anything else, so it could be a genuine mistake. We’ll let you off, but google is your friend if you don’t want some editor to blacklist you because you think Gamgee as a character name has a nice ring to it.
Obvious phallic symbol
I lolled. I revelled in its sheer exuberance. This was a very strong contender for the win, and the Blood Queen only pipped you because, while her story was not as joyous, it handled the nonsense better.
Our Most Illustrious Lady of Science
Ok - I quite like this one. It holds together, the nonsensical aspects of it are kind of fun, there’s a complete arc. I wasn’t super in love with it being called science - for some reason that left me wanting to know what kind of science it was - and the weakness of Our Illustrious Lady, when revealed, seemed like something you had pulled out of you arse - had that actually been deducible from the story or from the intersting elements of 'science' that yu chose to mention, the piece might have been stronger.
Rotten at the Core
At one point in this story, Jimmy’s truck turns into a horse. Unless trucks can canter. Can truck’s canter? I don’t think so - stop making your trucks canter.
Also, Jimmy is a prick. Protagonist starts as unlikeable and then gets moreso by the end. I always used to think that making characters unlikeable was an OK choice, if it fitted the story, but I am moving away from that opinion. In every bastard, you need something the audience can identify with, otherwise you lose them, and your lovely story that you sweated buckets over, gets ignored or hated. Even Draco Malfoy gave the tweenyboppers something to identify with, because his parents were sooo totes unfair.
Not so here. Juimmy is a prick who says things like ““I will eat an apple today, you dastardly beasts!”, because he has never heard of the grocery store or normal patterns of speech among people who drive trucks. Also - he hates all food except apples, which strikes me as somewhat unrealistic right off the bat. Does he hate apple sauce? Apple pie? As a motive - this is terrible, because it’s literally the case that you just made up some bizarre thing about hating all food besides apples. Did an apple kill his dad? We’ll never know
So here - the story had an arc, but the story just wasn’t very enjoyable. The simple style of it faltered in places. Sebmojo hated it more than I did, if I recall, but I had been drinking so whatevs.
This one too, fell to the wrong headed interpretation that a single fantasy element (here, a talking tree) makes something nonsense. It doesn’t. It really doesn't.
Who Ordered That?
It is probably worth noticing at this point, that for the purely poetical efforts, Sebmojo and myself hooked up on our Steamamophones and read alternate verses aloud to each other, to make sure our sense of syllable count and scansion was correct. It was interesting to note that where we’d seen flaws while reading, we often found things went better reading aloud, and in general this wasn’t a problem for the poets this week. Good work on that, Rhymers.
Who ordered that - this was, perhaps, eight tenths of the way there to quality. I really liked the conceit - the general idea. Rhyme, however is hard, and in one or two places the scansion was off - which added a sour note to an otherwise delicious nonsensical feast.
Are gym and dojo interchangeable? Perhaps they shouldn’t be.
To look at this in terms of nonsense - it does a great job because there’s a glorious illogic to it - and once understood, that illogic is played to the full, and the situation and circumstances derive from it.
On the other hand - quite disliked the last line. Went from clever to a pun. Nothing against puns, but this one only worked with one interpretation, and so wasn’t so much a play on words as ...words. there was also perhaps a little too much middle. You stertche the concpet as far as it could go, and then some. Perhaps the narrator's actions could have tied in more, or something, to feel like he had a greater stake in the outcome.
Barrel of Fun
That was not a barrel of fun. Random, disjointed and pointless. But not in a good way. The by the one third mark I was profoundly uninterested and started to skim, then forced myself to keep going. It didn’t get any better.
Sebmojo saved this from the loss. I just couldn’t see the point of it. I have bounced off stories before, but this one really did nothing for me.
Not sure why this needed to be in the present tense. Or why it needed to almost rhyme, but couldn’t quite decide that it was a poem. Neither seemed to contribute much except make it feel less well put together than it might have been. Everything was just so matter-of-fact, and twee. Oh, no! Someone has called the parrot useless. Now she feels useless. But wait, someone had done the opposite. Now she feels pretty. The characterisation is so simplistic that I can’t help but think even a child would complain. If they weren’t aleady in a state of disbelief from the time when the snail cut them off at the pass.
When writing these up, I had another look at it. There is a level of detail that I perhaps missed the first time, because I was bored. But the sense of "this happened, because this needed to happen, then this happened," was still pervasive, and the rationalistions for what was happening was relatively weak. We need to tidy up the stuff so we need the glasses so we neeed to get the acrobat to find them, or something. Felt like components of a Scott Adams adventure game from the 80s, rather than a sotry, at least in its construction. I would have been happier with more character and fewer item driven plot requirements.
Emil, Who Climbed The Mountain To Find His Face
The nonsense here is in the fantastical creatures, but also in the plot driving the protag - wanting to change his face. Makes a nice sort of illogical sense.
Not a bad effort, all told. I liked the ‘years of experience avoiding his own reflection’ and I loved the bone spider that spun its own face as a concept. I don’t think the ending rang true, for some reason. The fact that it was a random face, one that doesn’t sound particularly good looking, when not-good-lookingness had been the driving force to set the story off, didn’t ring true. (Or lack of storiedness / everydayness, if that was Emil’s problem with his original face, that needed to be more clear, somehow.)
A good test of a story is how much you can remember of it. I still had the bone spider in my head a week later. You should totally write more about that spider. I need backstory!
A congealing mist is pretty yucky when you think about it.
the biggest problem with this one is, again, the protagonist is forced into a situation and then just limps along with it. At no point does he do anything beside politely enquire as to whether or not his current situation can be changed.
The only thing resembling action, driving in the dark, swerving to avoid an animal, getting lost in the magical woods, all happens offstage. And is also a gigantic cliche.
You might have developed some sort of arc for the main character by having him become more tree-like as time progressed. As it is, he just suddenly turns up and decides it’s time to be a tree full time. Comes a bit out of left-meadow, if you catch my drift.
For the Price of Postage
Now that is some good nonsense. It’s a clever mix of the familiar with the strange, it holds together just enough conceptually for the conceit to work, and it all comes from the protagonists desire and her actions to accomplish that desire - so it works as a narrative too. As an added bonus, there’s the twinge of sadness in the setup, though Ferny the fern is possibly just a little too twee.
So let’s have a look at the nonsense that actually goes on here, so see what made this the best type of nonsense on display this week:
travelling dismembered is too horrible so
Sending yourself by mail is an option
By writing your core concepts and memories down
Memories vying for your attention literally
Losing your name one letter at a time
The world of envelopes, addresses where you go when you are lost
The concepts flow one from the other, they are none of them logical, but they form their own traceable stream of thought, and together form a nonsense narrative that just works.
If I had one criticism, - the final transition from envelopes to parent’s house is not quite as well defined as the others, and could use a little tightening. Other than that - definitely the best example of nonsense on show. Well done.
Joey Romaine's Live House of Wax
Good lord. That was certainly a story, all gritty urban decay and the sadness of the peeples, but it had nothing to do with the prompt. I don’t event hink there was anythig fantastical in the story - except the slight paradox of live wax, which just seems like human tableaux, which I believe is an actual thing. Congrats - you are serious writer who cannot read a prompt. Blergh.
That Jerkface Moon
So - this was competent, and perhaps a little twee. Could have done with some bite - some element of danger or unpleasantness worse than the moon being a jerkface.. some kind of conflict. The poem scanned quite well, with the line ”They flew toward Fred's nemesis on a straight path.” being the only one we stumbled over.. Good effort, but lacked the something special that took it into HM territory. PErhaps the fact that fred’s rancour is pretty flimsy. the moon is ‘smug’. It hasn’t actually done anything, so when the opinion is changed, there is no sense of any real achievement (frederick realises he is wrong, but not why he is wrong. That might be asking a bit much for something which wears its feelgood child suitability on its sleeve - but it needed something extra in the mix to really spark.
|# ? Dec 19, 2015 10:54|
Thanks for the crits!
|# ? Dec 19, 2015 15:08|
As a Christmas present to the dome, I'll be sending out some cheap cigars to any dome regular who is interested, because I need cigar buddies in IRC to chat with on my carcinogenic hobby. It'll be a cheap-ish, mild cigar. Anyone interested can hit me up at john.m.morgan11 at gmail.com
Only rule is you're a regular in the IRC channel and have at least one submission, or are signed up for this week.
|# ? Dec 19, 2015 17:40|
Side effects include
Our current state of affairs isn’t perfect, but it’s something; I’m sorry the drugs that stop me from killing myself also stop you from getting hard. I know you like getting hard, and I like it too. Suicide would make my whole body hard, but I don’t think you want that. I want it sometimes, which is what the drugs are for. They let me taste food, and hear birdsong. They make death seem like it would be a bad thing, rather than a quiet inevitability. There is a great weight to that big ole' darkness -- it is a thing so empty and lonely it bends the world around it. I find myself drawn to it on my worst days, and the act of thinking about it frays my seams and makes me taste blood. I would miss birdsong very much, if I died.
My granny hated birds – some Old Country thing about how they come to carry the souls of the dead up and up to heaven. When she passed, I heard their little scratching feet on the window. I stayed until the room was empty, then opened it and let them in. After all the wars –civil and uncivil– she earned her rest.
There are birds outside, singing. They haven’t come for me, not today. They came once or twice, but they were false alarms: “cries for help” as they say. It doesn't feel like that when you're shaking in the corner and feeling some brutally vital part of you fall away into the darkness but hell, when did I get to choose my own names for things? The doc said it’s like neurotransmitter gridlock, where they’re all jammed up then they all try to hit the intersection at the same time and nobody gets through. Here’s a joke: Larry, Curly and Moe walk into a dopamine receptor and they all get jammed in the door. Wakka wakka, things get broken.
I am sorry, Penis, but it’s better than the alternative. Bought the t-shirt, rode the waterslide, left with my all-of-me in delicate, crumbly little pieces for the birds.
Weed helps, but the cops have been cracking down. I can barely afford it these days, what with all the other drugs that the doctor gave me. I used to get it free, but then I broke up with my dealer and things got even worse. Weed’s unsafe, unpredictable: sometimes I watch TV and laugh, sometimes I stare at the city lights laid out on the hills and there’s a giant spider with eyes on its legs coming for me, and each eye is a streetlight, and the beast is waiting to swallow me up unless the birds get it first.
There are other drugs the doc could give me. Some make me fat, and some make me crazy, and some wrap my brain in bubblewrap going a-pop pop pop and I can’t see a drat thing through the other side. It’s safe though, and that’s what matters. I know you like those ones better, Penis, but I can’t write and I can’t think and some days I just can’t, which rather defeats the point of those other drugs in the first place.
I’ll talk to the doc about changing things up, I promise. There must be something.
The birds outside have not come for me today, and that counts for something. I don’t know what, but it must be something. I’m here, and I’m writing, and the summer pollen smells are coming in through the window – earthen, muddy, filled with promise. I’ve smelled nothing for years now except gasoline, blood and rot: some curious trick of the brain that blocks out the good and magnifies the bad until the beast comes and swallows you whole. I wonder if there’s birds in the darkness. I stared into it once, and whatever I saw scared me so bad that the memory just ain’t there any more: I walked into the bathroom with a razor, ran a warm bath, then walked out three hours later stinking of vomit. Trying to see what happened in those hours is like punching fog. It's all blurry images -- wings beating in the darkness, and a colossal hole so far down that no light could escape; a mouth perhaps, waiting to swallow me whole.
You and I have places to be, Penis: places that aren’t shrouded in fog, or wrapped in bubble-wrap, or stalked by the beast that’s come to swallow my soul. There is a world of birdsong, and the smell of pollen. There is a world where I walk barefoot through mud outside my house and it smushes up through my toes, and it’s warm in the summer sun. There is a place where birds are just birds, and darkness is just darkness, and I am never alone.
It’s not perfect, but it’s something.
|# ? Dec 20, 2015 10:45|
The Alpha Man
Andrew Bolling feared nothing more than his inevitable death. He sat in his great dining hall at the head of the table, but his wealth and status were useless at deflecting the reaper’s scythe. He kept his wife, Karen, close, and told her of his existential fears at night. She joined him in his fears, which bonded them closer together. He promised her that, using every resource at his disposal, he’d find a way to extend their time together.
A telephone call from an entrepreneur in the medical industry piped Andrew’s interest. His name was Collin Detty, and he proposed something he referred to as the Alpha Man Project. A massive undertaking, it would be a complete brain matter transplant into a biomechanical body. The body, he said, could last for thousands of years.
Andrew agreed to fund the project, on a single condition.
Sitting on Doctor Detty’s operating table with anesthesia already flowing through his veins, Andrew prayed despite being an agnostic. Detty warned Andrew that the surgery would be risky, and that he was the first human subject to undergo the procedure after extensive animal testing. Images of the bionic dogs playing behind a one-way mirror in Detty’s office flashed in Andrew’s mind, filling him with hope.
The anesthesia turned the world to black.
Andrew groaned, not sure where he was. He lifted his hand to his face, and did a double take at the metallic appearance of it. It took a moment for it to register for him.
“I’m a robot now,” he said to himself.
“Not quite a robot,” said Doctor Detty.
Andrew didn’t notice that Detty was standing over him. He recoiled.
“Relax. You’re a biomechanical cyborg now. You should be proud.”
Detty pulled a pistol from his coat pocket.
Detty fired the gun into Andrew’s head. The bullet shattered on impact, its shrapnel scattering harmlessly over Andrew’s nose and mouth.
Andrew felt his new head, and indeed he was impressed.
“And this body will last a thousand years?”
“Absolutely. In fact, if you bring in in for repairs, you’re more or less immortal.”
Andrew tried to hop from the table, to jump and skip and chortle in the reaper’s face. Instead, he found himself restrained by wires and other surgical bindings. Detty covered his mouth and chuckled.
That evening Karen saw her husband, who had been fully outfitted with silicon skin. He looked exactly like the old Andrew, except a tad more muscular. Karen embraced him, but something was off. It was like hugging metal and plastic, not flesh and bone. Karen felt a tinge of disgust for her husband, but it faded quickly and she admonished herself. He was still her husband, no matter what.
While laying in bed, Andrew extolled the virtues of becoming an Alpha Man. Karen wasn’t sure if this Alpha Man thing was all it was cracked up to be, and she let Andrew know it. He petted her head and reassured her that she too could become an Alpha Woman. It would take a few weeks for her body to arrive, however, and she had to be patient.
Karen felt awful for thinking it, but she didn’t like the new Andrew, and she certainly didn’t love him. He laughed harder, joked cruder, and treated her less like an equal and more like a pet or possession. He also picked up a disturbing habit; he would take a pistol and shoot himself right in the head with it. It was simply to demonstrate how durable his new body was, he told her.
Andrew was lazing in his chair when he called Karen over. He instructed her to get on her knees. She did as she was told, and Andrew undid his fly. His bionic penis flopped out, looking more or less like an ordinary penis. Karen grimaced. Andrew commanded her to start sucking. He made unpleasant sounds as she did so, and right as he was about to come, he pulled out his pistol and shot himself in the forehead.
A piece of shrapnel from the bullet ricocheted from his forehead and struck Karen. Andrew screamed and rushed to the phone.
Andrew rocked back and forth in his chair as they worked on Karen in the ER. Someone placed a hand on his shoulder, and Andrew looked over to see Doctor Detty sitting next to him.
“I don’t know for sure, but in the glimpse I caught of her, it looked like her cheek had been hit.”
“Please, you gotta help me!”
“I could, if I had another bionic body.”
Andrew jumped from his seat.
“Take my body, doctor. I don’t want to live without Karen.”
“Well, I suppose I could. And I could keep your brain in cold storage until we get Karen’s new body.”
“I don’t care, just do it.”
Andrew once more laid on the table, this time next to his nearly dead wife. They were separated by a thin sheet, but Andrew could still discern her silhouette from behind the curtain. He sighed as the anesthesia pumped through his veins. His last thought before blacking out was how sorry he was for how he treated Karen.
Andrew lifted his thin metallic hands to his face. He blinked and realized that he was also staring at a mirror image of himself, or what used to be himself. It was Karen, who now looked exactly like him. Detty stepped into the room.
“I can reswap the bodies in about two weeks. It’d be too risky to do it now, everything must get settled and such.”
Andrew hugged his masculine wife close. He didn’t care what she looked like, or what he looked like. All he needed was her.
|# ? Dec 20, 2015 13:59|
A Day At The Meat Shack 1198 Words
Dewey “Fill'erup” Rumphol; an unfortunate name, with a man built to match. Thirty years old with an extra hundred fifty pounds to spare, the bald patch on his head was like the last dot of a cruel exclamation. Every day felt like the beginning of a new joke at his expense, but even if Dewey had already given up, his mother prodded him awake regardless.
The morning air bit hard, like a pack of wolves with fangs of sharpened ice. “Aw man, people gonna be swarmin' us, then.” Logic argued that people wouldn't want to leave the warmth just to get some burgers. Experience stood behind it, saying the same words very sarcastically. Dewey began the drive to work with a sigh, cursing his broken heater with every second that passed.
Just as he'd expected, the rush was terrible, lasting more than three hours. Burger after burger popped up on his tiny screen with an infuriating beep. “Golly, somebody wants a loving burger?” He shouted after the fourth beep in as many seconds. “Their fuckin' corpse can supply the meat, then!” Beep. “Who the gently caress just ordered a salad at the MEAT SHACK?!”
And so it went, just like any other day. What caught Dewey off guard was when his co-workers, having finished the rush, decided they were sick of all the shouting and stormed off in a huff. “It's a loving joke! Hey, get back here!” Despite his pleads, a pair of middle fingers were the only response he got. “Who the gently caress's gonna prep then?!” The doorbell chirped happily as they stomped out.
Dewey stood in front of the prep table, sweating. It was easy enough to fumble through, so long as you didn't expect it to be done well. Thankfully he wasn't half-bad with a knife. His manager, Angela, suggested that he might want to use a cutting glove, but he just scoffed and chopped up the jalapenos without a care. His task complete, he went to the sink and washed his face with a contented grin.
Five seconds later, the diners were treated to a scream, followed by a three hundred pound man running out of the kitchen, face beet red with eyes like a feral dog. “WOO!” He screamed, rubbing at his face.
Angela looked up at him, her eyes filled with concern – for himself or the customers, Dewey couldn't tell through the pain. Was his flesh actually burning? “Um... you okay?” She said.
Dewey stared down at her, searching for any words that could explain even a tenth of the pain. He made do. “Bad!” The after-rush crowd, all laborers, watched on in casual interest as Dewey charged through the door to the sound of a welcoming ding-dong. He'd thought the freezing air might help the agony – it only made it more complex. “RUUUUUUUUUGH!”
The diners watched from the windows as the world's most eloquent caveman shoved himself into his tiny subcompact, wheezing with pain and exertion. Angela came sprinting out the diner after him, smacking on his window. “No! No! You can't do this!” He looked her in the eye, turning the ignition. Her desperate pleading was silenced by Swedish power metal blaring so loudly it sounded like a bassy kazoo.
He jerked his wheel left and right, barely weaving through her attempts to block him, his car whining with the effort. “gently caress you!” Both of them screamed, neither of them hearing the other. Two of the more enterprising diners organized a betting pool. Finally, the car stopped. They stared eachother down, equally out of breath. Dewey gripped the wheel so tight his hands hurt, and slammed his foot on the gas.
The rear of the car kicked out as Dewey wrenched the wheel to the left. It clunked, it ground, it screamed, it leapt. Angela stared as the car charged over the mound of grass that separated the street from the lot. Dewey was impressed with his quick thinking; the driver of the pickup that had just turned the corner, less so.
Dewey thought back to his days in grade school, no older than nine, banging on a triangle with a huge grin on his face. “Kid, will you shut the gently caress up...” Though his mouth formed words and air left his lungs, he couldn't hear a thing. The younger Dewey looked into the eyes of the elder, childish grin only growing wider.
Finally, Dewey managed to open his eyes; but still saw nothing but darkness. Through the ringing he could hear a scream, quiet as an echo from a distant valley. He grasped at his face, and met only cushioning. Dead, trapped in a coffin, buried alive?! His arms flew, and the airbag was pushed down without much trouble.
Light flooded in along with pain, the latter of which invited its friends for a block party. His face still felt like it was being pressed against a hot plate, and now a dull ache twanged through his body like a string played pizzicato. He fumbled for the door handle, dove outside, and nearly hung himself with his seatbelt.
Dewey saw a shadow, stark against the already setting sun. Like Dewey writ even larger, it came close, closer, until Dewey could see the blood running down the man's pinkish cheeks. “What is wrong with you, you little fucker?! Somebody feed you retard flakes for breakfast?”
Retard flakes...? Dewey coughed, his face twisting in discomfort; that made it easier for the capsaicin to make his life a living hell. Another sharp pluck of pain's strings and a swift recollection; that's all it took to turn Dewey's thoughts deadly. “Larry?!” The roar drifted on what air managed to make it out of his lungs, floated through the colony of frogs nesting in his throat, and emerged with all the impact of a dollar store whoopie cushion.
Larry frowned, leaning forward. “Well holy fuckin' poo poo, it's Fill'erup!” He grinned, blood flowing from his headwound onto his teeth. “Still fulla' rump as always, looks like!” Dewey wheezed, the ringing in his ears fading into cheers of “Fill'em, fill'em, fill'em!”, the pig's squeals, his own sobbing grunts of exertion, the scattered laughter.
Dewey pulled himself back into his car, Larry squatting down at his side. “You know, i'm glad it's you! Always nice to have a good friend owe you a favor, eh?” Dewey made a noise; it might have been a response, or air escaping. “So, how do you want to work this out?” Larry was never that observant. The glovebox fell open. Dewey felt cold steel in his hands.
Dewey thought he'd moved beyond wanting retribution. The pain seemed to fade as he flipped the safety, the jalapeno agony and broken ribs slipping into the aether. He saw Larry's face, the eyes widening in shock, the fist sailing towards him – his finger tensed and the shot fired.
Two men capable of filling an elevator by themselves stared at eachother. A tiny girl in the light brown of the Meat Shack uniform hadn't stopped screaming for two minutes solid. Blood spurted from Dewey's thigh even as it dribbled from his freshly broken nose. “Agblllllllllllt.” Dewey managed before the world went black.
|# ? Dec 20, 2015 16:35|
The Night of the Goat - 1196 words
There are no wild places left, least of all in England. But the land’s wild spirits live on; in the geometric plantations of pine for lumber, in Merseyside’s polluted estuaries, in derelict urban graveyards haunted by knotweed. They are powerful, and they deal in the oldest currency: blood.
When Charlie Bell wanted to meet such an entity, she marked out his glyph in chalk on the concrete leg of a bridge over a disused railway, smeared black pudding into a certain spot, and waited. Her nervous anticipation sent her back to the first time she bought weed, lingering under a streetlamp for a white Vauxhall. And these appointments run on a drug dealer’s schedule: half an hour late, unless they’re early.
She was ready to leave when a figure appeared at a bend in the tracks, a shepherd with a white dog at his heels. He seemed to walk slowly but soon was right by her. His face was young, like a teenager playing dress-up, with pale skin and old, red eyes. Smell of the sea; soot; wet leaves.
“What is it?”
Her father once told her, “Don’t talk to strangers, and never talk to ghosts.” So she pressed an acorn into the man’s cold hand by way of reply, which he held up for inspection to his thick bifocals. She had scratched a symbol into it with the compass from her maths set.
“One goat,” he said, and turned to walk away. She knew better than to watch him go.
The engraving on the acorn meant power.
Jake Sommerville had known since they were fifteen Charlie Bell was his one true love, but he was starting to think meeting her for coffee six years later had been a bad idea.
“I can’t believe you want me to do that,” he said, grinning. Charlie had been into some weird poo poo in school but he never thought she’d stick with it – certainly not take it this far.
Charlie had liked Jake, once, but she knew more about his infatuation than he was aware of; probably more than he did. She knew, for example, he didn’t really love her. When she talked about what she believed in – the unfairness of the world and how she would change it – he laughed, dismissive. That wasn’t unusual: her accent, upbringing, and dyed black hair meant a lot of people didn’t take Charlotte Emily Bell seriously as a future politician. But she knew the power she had over Jake, despite the different directions their lives had gone, and she knew about the darker side he tried to keep hidden. Jake had once left the memory card for his camera in her laptop when they were working together on a school project. She had seen the photos he’d taken of her in secret – and a lot more besides.
“No, I’m serious. It’s for my dad, ever since he passed away… And you don’t have to kill it for me, just help out a bit.”
“And you’d get a goat, how?” His voice was smug. Jake turning her down outright would be inconvenient, but part of her would be relieved. Telling anyone about this meant risk, but Jake brought his own unique set. He was a creep, but hopefully he was as dopey as he looked. At least no one would believe him if he talked. And there was another advantage:
“Your family has goats,” she said. His parents, the hippy progeny of aristocrats, kept a smallholding with a few animals on their property – two pigs, some chickens, and three old nannies his mum fed jam sandwiches. Nothing anyone would miss for long.
“You want me to help you sacrifice my mother’s pets?” Jake laughed. “This is too much. I’m not doing it.”
“She wouldn’t even notice. They get out all the time. They’d chalk it up to a fox or something.”
“Charlie. I mean it. No.”
But his eyes gleamed with macabre excitement. He was lying.
Jake had never been to Charlie's house until the evening he came round with the goat. He hadn’t realised how small it was. Her mum, who looked frail and sad, poured tea for two into chipped china. She wore long sleeves. When they were in Jake’s car, Charlie said he’d met her mother on a good day. On a bad one, she could hardly get out of bed. Charlie had cancelled her university plans because her mum wasn’t capable of looking after her young siblings. Now the government had declared her fit to work. She wasn’t. With the threat of losing what income they had, things were desperate. Charlie worked two jobs. She didn’t tell Jake how scared she was her seven-year-old sister would open the bathroom door to find their mother drowned in red bathwater.
The goat, braying grumpily, stuck its head between the seats and licked Charlie in the face. She had to admit it was cute, in a toothy sort of way. They killed it under a secluded bridge of the M52, watched only by jackdaws from bobbing cables strung between the pylons. Charlie slit its throat while Jake stood behind her, keeping lookout. The thirsty grass drank in the animal’s dark blood. When they were back in the car, he tried to kiss her. She was so grateful she let him put a hand up her shirt.
The scariest thing about deals with the devil is that they work. Charlotte Bell became an MP at the next general election, and eventually made deputy party leader on a mental health platform. Shortly after her appointment, she opened an envelope sent to her home address to find a black ink drawing of a goat with its throat hanging open. Off to one side, a quickly sketched camera; on another sheet, a P.O. box and a figure. Three digits. She recognised the hand-writing. Hating herself for relying on a creep like Jake, she submitted to the blackmail.
Two months passed before the next letter came, with another drawing and a larger sum. She paid it. But the next one took only a week. She couldn’t tell anyone, even her husband, but if she kept losing so much money he would notice – or someone else would. Gambling that whatever photos Jake might have got would be dismissed as fake, surely being taken hastily from behind, in poor lighting, on an old phone camera, she refused to part with more cash and instead wrote to say unless he produced the photos, she didn’t believe they existed.
When she opened the next envelope to find five clear photographs of herself under the bridge, bloody knife in hand, carcass at her feet, and scruffy pentagram resplendent on the damp-stained baluster behind her head, she nearly fell off her chair. They were taken from the front, with Jake’s ‘Megadeth’ tee-shirt clearly in the frame. The drawing was even worse. This goat seemed undead, laughing manically, and something had been singed into the paper between its wild eyes. A symbol, and one she recognised. It meant power.
At the bottom of the envelope, where Charlie almost missed it, a yellowed newspaper clipping. The headline: “Local Smallholders Lose Three Goats in One Week”.
|# ? Dec 20, 2015 18:02|
Dare To Be You
crabrock fucked around with this message at 22:53 on Dec 31, 2015
|# ? Dec 20, 2015 21:00|
That Furry Son of a Bitch
"So I tell the bitch, that's not your dog, that's your husband!"
Jessie burst out laughing. Beer infused spittle splashed the windshield. He gripped his gut with one hand and slapped the other on the dashboard like he was trying to squish an Everglades dragonfly.
"God drat, Rex! You sure tell 'em like it is!" Jessie wheezed out a compliment for his buddy while stomping his boots on the floor of the old Chevy pickup. They were driving up 95 to Rex's sister's place on Daytona Beach for Thanksgiving. Like all their road trips, they brought several cases of Bud and another year's worth of stories to share. Jessie had told the one about the bar fight with the guy in the Mickey Mouse costume last August, and Rex had just finished his turn.
"You sure you don't want one?" Jessie asked, reaching down for another can of Bud.
"I told ya, I'm the one driving this poo poo-heap, I'll make up for it when we get there," Rex replied.
"C'mon man! One ain't gonna kill ya," Jessie said. Rex hesitated, looking at his best friend. They had known each other since they were kids, and Rex didn't trust anyone in the world more than Jessie.
"Fine. Pour it in my mouth, I can't free up a paw." Jessie immediately obliged, snapping open the can and holding it over Rex's open mouth. He had to hold it with both hands to keep it steady. The bumpiness of the truck might've caused the can to get punctured on Rex's front teeth. He drank the whole can in one go, and Jessie tossed the remains out the window with a happy sigh.
"This is the good life, ain't it Rex?" Jessie said, leaning back in his seat.
"It sure is. Now tell another story, it's your turn," Rex said as he crossed into an open lane.
"Alright, alright," Jessie said, straightening out his back. "Which one you wanna hear first: the weekend I spent in Miami, or the time I caught Bobby in bed with his cousin?"
"First or second cousin?" Rex asked.
"First," Jessie replied with an eyebrow raised.
"Aw poo poo, I gotta hear that one!" Rex said.
Fifty miles and another three beers later, they crossed into Volusia county.
"poo poo, man. Why'd you have to go and feed me all those beers? I can't see the drat road." Rex said in a woozy huff. His paws were hanging limp on the wheel and his tongue was out farther than usual.
"Don't look at me man, you were one who was drinking it. You always were a loving lightweight," Jessie said, shrugging.
"I'm eighty pounds soaking wet, of course I'm a loving lightweight!" Rex snarled. "You better hope we don't run into any-"
A police siren went off before Rex could finish. A Volusia county sheriff had been sitting on the county line and spotted the Chevy swerving dangerously between lanes. He was now tagging behind with a breathalyzer at the ready.
"Aw gently caress me, man," Rex's ears drooped down as he went from anger to fear in an instant. "It's the cops!"
"So what? I've had less than you, We'll tell 'em I was driving," Jessie said.
"No way, I ain't taking that risk. I'm already on two strikes!" Rex said.
"Two strikes? For what?" Jessie asked.
"One for that fight with the hound on Lipton Street. Another for the stash I kept under your bed." Rex said the second sentence with guilt in his voice. He had kept it a secret for the longest time.
"That was you?" Jessie said, flabbergasted. "I thought you were off that stuff!"
"I am, man! I was selling it for the Shepherd! I owed him for chopping my balls off!" Rex said.
"I can't believe this!" Jessie said. "You, working for the Shepherd? I thought you were my friend!"
"He was the only guy I could afford."
"You sure as hell can't afford it now."
"Oh yeah? Well gently caress that."
The sheriff that had been tailing them only rolled his eyes as the Chevy began to speed away.
The chase was big blur for Jessie. For Rex, it was the most stressful moment of his life. He had taken the first exit off 95 into the suburbs going sixty. Since most people had already gotten to their holiday destinations, the roads were mostly clear. The bigger threats were the trees and buildings, which Rex was barely avoiding in his state. Several police cruisers were following at safe distance, using speakers to tell them to pull over. Rex didn't hear it.
"You better not get us killed," Jessie said. In spite of his buzz and the wild swerves, he was finding his happy place so as not to panic. Rex was silent, teeth bared, focusing only on the mess of black and white that was the road. "I never should've let you drive."
The pickup took a hard right, dragging its tires on the asphalt. Inertia pulled it onto the sidewalk and they smashed a mailbox into oblivion. Jessie started praying that no pedestrians would be out today.
Rex slammed on the brake, realizing that he had turned into a cul-de-sac. He turned his head rapidly back and forth, looking for an opening as the police sirens grew closer. He spotted a yard without a fence on the left, and floored it. He laughed like crazy and turned around to flip off the cops. He didn't see the empty pool until the truck's front dropped into it.
Jessie awoke to EMT's pulling him out of the wrecked truck. Miraculously, neither he nor Rex had any serious injuries. God protects drunks, he thought. As his focus returned to him, he found himself being read his rights.
"W-wait! Hang on a sec! I didn't do this!" Jessie said. The officers paused their speech and listened with skeptical looks. "It was Rex! Rex, I tell ya! He got us into this mess!"
Jessie looked over and saw Rex at a nearby phone booth, talking into it. Rex's eyes met Jessie's, and his old companion looked away in shame. Jessie's heart plummeted, and his blood pressure rose in response.
"No...No!" Jessie shouted. "You bastard! Don't you run away! This is your fault!" The officers just looked at each other, and placed the handcuffs on Jessie's wrists. "I'm telling you, you've got the wrong man! It was him! It was the dog! It was that furry son of a bitch!"
|# ? Dec 20, 2015 22:02|
What You Learn When You’re Robbing a Store as Darth Vader
flerp fucked around with this message at 03:45 on Dec 29, 2015
|# ? Dec 21, 2015 00:19|
The Florida Man and the Sea
Frank leaned against the splintered wooden railing of the pier. He squinted into the stinging rain, searching for a dull grey fin in the foaming white caps below. He gripped the base of his fishing rod with his uninjured hand.
Jimmy hugged his plastic rain poncho against his body with scrawny arms. The wind sent the bottom puffing out. “How do you even know it’s still out there?”
“I seen her,” Frank said.
“Dad,” Jimmy said. He shivered. His teeth chattered. “Can we just.” He changed course. “Your hand is bleeding bad.”
Rivulets of blood streamed down from the duct tape Frank had used to bind the shark bite. “I’ll fix it up better when we get home.”
“Dad,” Jimmy started again.
“We ain’t leaving ‘til we catch that oval office shark.”
Jimmy sniffed. “Momma said not to use that word. She said she’d knock your teeth out.”
“I ain’t using it on her.”
“Still. Best not to get too used to saying it. Makes for all sorts of slip ups.”
Frank reckoned Jimmy could be a politician with a diplomatic mind like that. Or some sort of businessman. That made Frank’s mission all the more important. “We ain’t leaving ‘til we catch that shark, Jimmy. It would be easy to just pack up and go home wouldn’t it? But it’s on us to make this right.”
Jimmy studied the sea, letting Frank’s wisdom sink in. “It’s getting dark.”
“I got lights in the truck.”
Jimmy stomped off to the other side of the pier. He squatted, trying to use the corner where the railings met as some shelter.
“Stay close,” Frank said. “I’m going to need your help to reel her in.”
The light grey clouds darkened until they hung like charcoal above Frank and Jimmy. Jimmy paced and sulked. He knew better than to ask Frank to go home again. All the while Frank’s hand throbbed. He was about to tell Jimmy to go grab the lights from the truck when he felt the pull at the reel.
The boy stood motionless, his big eyes staring back at Frank through the dusk, like a raccoon caught rummaging through the garbage.
“I got her.”
Jimmy’s poncho opened like a parachute as his arms shout out from under it. “How do you know it’s the shark?”
“I just know it. Help me bring her in.” Frank withdrew his useless bloody hand from the reel. “Just like I taught you.”
Jimmy cranked at the reel, slow and steady. Frank alternated between pulling back on the rod and giving it some slack as his son brought in the line.
Jimmy peered over the edge. “I see it! It’s the shark!”
Frank didn’t even look. He put his knee against the rod and grabbed his crowbar.
“Dad, don’t get bit again.”
“I’m prepared this time. You just worry about reeling.”
The shark rose out of the water. It whipped around as it dangled, sending it into a spin. Frank leaned out over of the railing. He hooked the crowbar under the base of the shark’s tail and flung her onto the pier. Jimmy ducked and ran out of the way. Fish and rod clattered onto the pier.
Frank circled around the three foot mako. “Woo!” He pumped his duct taped hand in the air. “Time to pay the piper.” He dropped his knee into its back, just below the dorsal fin. He bent down.
Frank sank his teeth into the shark’s right pectoral fin. He jerked his head to the side, tearing out a chunk. The fish thrashed. It tried to buck him off. Frank spit the meat out. He watched the shark’s mouth open and close as its gills fanned in and out.
Frank looked into the eyes of the defeated beast. It would be so easy to finish it. All he had to do was bash it in the head with the crowbar. Hell, he could even let the drat thing asphyxiate.
But that wouldn't be just. An eye for an eye. That's in the bible. A piece of fin for a piece of hand. No more. That's what separates man from shark.
Frank ran his tongue against the inside of his cheek. He spit again. "Do you understand why I had to do this, Jim? No real man let’s injustice lie. You fix things with the power God gave you. Now help me throw this oval office back in."
The shark made a thunk like a depth charge going off in one of those submarine movies when it hit the water. A salty mist washed over Frank and Jimmy.
Frank hefted his crowbar over his shoulder. “Grab the rods and the tackle, Jimmy. You can throw the leftover bait in.”
Frank’s hand hurt worse than ever as he rested it on the steering wheel of his old Ford 150. The pain radiated up his arm, seemingly straight to his brain. The dark sand appeared to sway and swell like the sea as his headlights washed over it. Frank popped the glove box open as he steered the truck back onto the road from the beach. “Do me a favor and roll a joint, Jimmy.”
Jimmy fished around for the little baggy of weed. “I don’t roll them as tight as you.”
“Don’t matter. You’re going to need to step up and be a man with my hand all messed up.”
Jimmy sprinkled the schwag onto the rolling paper the best he could as Frank’s truck bounced down the uneven asphalt. “We don’t got any fish to bring home.”
“We got something more important.” Frank swiveled his head between the darkened road and his son, searching his face for understanding.
“Do you regret fishing the shark out of the water in the first place?”
“Hell naw. That was cool as hell. I may have gotten a little hosed up, but it’s square now.”
Jimmy stared at his dad’s bloody duct-taped hand.
“You see that it played out how it needed to, right?”
Jimmy rolled the joint as tight as he could. He handed it to his dad. “You got her back.”
“drat straight I did.” Frank took the joint between the two fingers he could still work. “Now give your daddy a light.”
|# ? Dec 21, 2015 01:15|
Crits for Nonsense week #174 - Ladles and Jellyspoons
Good point about the mist. Thanks!
|# ? Dec 21, 2015 01:20|
|# ? Jan 26, 2022 07:58|
Late Night Pit Stop
Lights rush by in a hurry. My heart still beats. I know because the blood booms through my ears. I know because the sting from my wound keeps spreading through my arm. I know because with each beat, with each pulse, with each time that blood is pumped further through my body, pain washes over me and then recedes, a crazed cycle of tide and ebb, and my shirt is getting a bit wetter, a bit redder.
“Take me to a hospital,” I say.
But my voice is so faint I’m not hearing it, and Barry has long since gone off the deep end anyway. That’s what I see through the blur, a panicked mouse at the wheel. He’s never had an exit plan. He’ll leave me in a ditch by the road just to throw the cops off his trail.
The lights slow down and Barry says something to me, but I don’t catch it and I don’t care. I want to stop. I want for the pain to stop defining my existence, and for the world to stop being upside down. The pain, the ebb and the tide. I want peace. Barry shakes me, and I hear myself scream. The lights stop moving, one of them right above me like I was lying on a comfy operating table instead of the cracked-up passenger seat inside a lovely 80’s Pontiac. I close my eyes.
There’s a dull noise and the cold air burns my arm, and my teeth bite into each other. The lights move again, but sideways, and I’m falling, and then the curb hits me and Barry is gone, car disappearing behind me until the engine is a whisper in the wind and all that’s left is the blood, the thud-thud-thud, the desire to just lay there and have it loving over with.
They burrow into my conscience like a rabid pack of bloodhounds. Get up. Get the gently caress up and run. I just want it to be done, but what I want even more is not to spend the rest of my life in prison. It’s a basic instinct. Genetic. Crime runs the family. So I’ll have to get up. I don’t know where I’ll be going. I don’t know if I’ll be going. But that’s for later.
First, I have to get up.
I use my good arm but it still feels like I’m standing up through a heap of razor blades. My body is a two-hundred-twenty-pound sack of meat and I’m trying to lift it up with a toothpick and two half-empty jenga stacks for legs. It’s a war against gravity, a climb up a ragged mountainside, and even if I make it there will be cuts and bruises.
I reach the top and the air is so thin the world starts spinning and never really stops again. I set one foot in front of the other, roughly pointing away from the sirens, but they seem to come from everywhere so really I’m just doing the zombie-shuffle all the way to gently caress-if-I-know. There’s a box in front of me, and as I keep dragging myself towards it the Walmart logo blurs into focus, plain yellow text on a plain blue building, empty parking lot in front, a sad, barren grid of white combs on concrete. The lights are on but nothing moves inside.
I reach the building and the sirens are still there, and I think they’ve gotten louder but I can’t tell through the ringing in my ears. The doors slide open. There’s seriously still a greeter by the entrance. At least I’m not the only one having a poo poo night.
“Welcome to Walmart--” the old guy says, but then he stops and looks at me like I’m a ghost. I’m probably not far from it.
“Hi,” I say. It doesn’t sound as friendly as I wanted.
“Jesus Christ!” He fumbles for his walkie-talkie.
“Hold on.” I forget not to move my arm; the pain reminds me. The old man’s eyes dart up to where I guess a camera is watching us, but the guys behind that lens are still far away and I just need some meds and I’ll be off. “It’s not that bad. Looks like I’m bleeding like a pig, but it’s really just a dumb, minor cut. But wouldn’t you know it, we ran outta band-aid, and the misses has already taken off her makeup. So I look barely presentable and it’s my fault for doing garage work that late at night anyway, but here I am.”
Is what I’m trying to say.
What I’m really saying is, “Eugh,” a dozen times while I’m bleeding profusely onto the man’s workspace, and as I keep being this poor soul’s living nightmare the walkie-talkie on his hip begins to crackle all of its own. So I just go past him, a bit faster now, because I’m this close to being tackled and arrested by an elderly store greeter and that thought fills me with so much fear that the adrenaline does the walking for me.
Walmarts in Florida are all laid out the same so I go past gardening, take a right at the gun shop and end up inside the pharmacy store. The shelves are white, cool. I can’t read labels through my pounding headache so I just stumble through the aisles, marking where I’ve already checked with a faint trail of blood until I bump into an employee who has much the same reaction as the greeter from before.
“Painkillers,” I say.
He looks me up and down, then points in a vague direction at the other end of the aisle. I drag myself over, and I swipe the loving boxes off the shelves. Even in here I can still hear the sirens, which is probably not a good sign. I have to get going. I let myself onto the ground. The boxes are all over the floor. I don’t bother reading the instructions. I rip the loving things open, red and white and blue pills mixing with my blood on the ground, and I scoop them up and gobble them down like a pack of half-molten, sticky smarties.
At first, nothing happens.
Then the room begins to shift. The aisles move apart. The thumping of my heart mixes with an army of approaching footsteps until I am in the epicentre of a soundquake. At some point I stand, and I tower over the shelves. Faint shapes, shadowmen, move in the semi-darkness at the pharmacy entrance. There’s a door behind me. It shines green.
I run. Above ground. Jumping over aisles. I’m not entirely sure how much of it I’m imagining, but the devils are coming, and their screams are fearsome. I take what I get.
I let out a mighty war cry and dash for the door.
I throw it open to a sky full of stars. They shine at me from all directions, and their light takes my sight, so I just run towards it, as they tell me to, tell me to keep running in a thousand voices. Keep running, running, running.
So I run. Until my legs give out.
|# ? Dec 21, 2015 02:11|