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  • Locked thread
May 7, 2005


I randomly selected a story to crit this week. I immediately regretted that masochistic impulsive decision.

Schneider Heim posted:

New Habits
1178 words

Robert held his coat around his shoulder, trudging back to his apartment after another day of work. boring opening, awkward too, why is he holding a coat over his shoulders like some sort of old-timey belle, instead of wearing it? I already hate that I randomly chose this story to crit on a whim He noticed a thin man loitering around the building, looking lost. usually I don’t need thorough descriptions of characters but describing this man better would go a long way of showing v. telling

"Can I help you, sir?" he asked, putting on his most helpful voice. It did not come easily, despite his service-oriented profession. why are you trying to be so loving mysterious in this story, it’s not intriguing, just annoying tell us what is happening straight up, rear end in a top hat

The man sized him up with eyes that did not belong to someone so infirm. what does this loving mean, does he have bright, healthy eye? Describe them He was weak, no poo poo you already said that but his eyes knew the feeling of power, or once did. what does that even mean? How can you tell that from someone? His eyes knew the feeling of power? What. The. gently caress, man? "Why thank you, officer. OH ROBERT IS AN OFFICER OF SOME SORT, WHAT A loving PAYOFF FROM YOUR EARLIER VAGUENESS! I'm looking for a man named Robert Walts, who lives here."

"May I know what business you have with Mr. Walts?" Robert asked, not dropping the charade. what charade? What is anyone even doing in this goddamn story?

"To give him news: Solveig is dying."

Robert felt the ever-familiar flare of anger through his body, and willed himself to reject it. this is not how emotions work It took him a second to calm his senses. think of a better non-cliché cliché phrase than “took him a second” and I ‘m note sure “Calm his sense” is what you’re going for – he’s angry, his senses aren’t ablaze He assessed the threat. lol what? How? ["Why do you know who Solveig is? Who are you?" grade A threat assessment

"I need your help, Blake," the man said, smiling sadly.

That was a name Robert hadn't heard in ten years. It was also his real name. clunky as gently caress and I feel like you are dropping poo poo on the reader and expecting the reader to be like “OH poo poo” and to keep reading, really intrigued by this super mysterious encounter, but in reality the reader is like “OH THIS IS poo poo WHAT IS EVEN HAPPENING” and wishing to himself he didn’t choose your garbage story to read

"Come inside," he said. no paragraph break since its still Robert/Not Robert and giving it its own line with no dialogue attribution is a little confusing


Robert made themselves tea. no, try again – “them” Solveig sipped it gratefully, his thin arms trembling on the table. ok, now this shows that he is weak, thank you for this line, please go replace all the previous words telling the reader he is weak with something similar

"Who did this to you?" Robert asked. Why did you let them? what? Who is this guy even?

"No one," Solveig said. what? That guy is Solveig? This story is really awful, man "It's my cells. They're dying at an accelerated rate. At first my powers disappeared, then my own health deteriorated."

"The Guild of Heroes could not help?" oh my God shut the gently caress up that name sounds so bad What use are they, then? ? these little inner monologue asides are awful and serve no purpose

"Doc Merlin no turned me away," Solveig said. "My condition is in the realm of science, he said, and any spell that could cure me would also exact a heavy price. And I'm not willing to pay that price, not when it could affect the ones I love." I was just thinking, now that you’ve actually added some concrete details after a rocky start, I sure could use more vague off-putting garbage!

"Your family?"
Solveig shook his head. me too

Robert considered smashing the table, and consoled himself by tapping it instead. "I may be sociopathic, but isn't that what families exist for? Giving moral support?" ok so this guy is a Hulk-like dude, explain this better up top, your tell-y mentioning of it did nothing to keep the reader interested; also, just terrible terrible dialogue, no sociopath would acknowledge his sociopathy, that’s what makes him a sociopath

"I was inconsolable. I became a danger to Marla and my son, so I sent them away."

"This is all difficult to take," Robert said. He may have lived alone for ten years, lying low, fixing the world on a smaller scale than he would've wanted to, but he had made some progress. The little corner of the Earth he lived in was safer, and people could walk in the streets without fear shadowing their every step. But Solveig? How far could the mighty have fallen? ? why is this last bit italicized? It’s part of his prior reflection, which by the way is way to expository and clunky; I just scrolled down to see how much I have left and got really really depressed

"In the end, I'm just human," Solveig said. "And look at you. It took me a while to find you. Marvel Marlowe worked on your trail for weeks. And it turns out that you're now chief of police in a country on the other side of the world." and and and and – go count how many times you use and in dialogue in this freaking story

Robert smiled. Marlowe, greatest detective in the world, flummoxed for more than a day. He was flattered. "I've had time to think while licking my wounds since The Demagogue. But surely you didn't come here to praise how I've turned my life around. You're calling in a favor from me to cure your condition?" boring exposition; reference to mysterious past event does not pique reader’s interest

Solveig looked Robert in the eye. "I'm not calling in a favor. I'm asking you, out of the goodness of your heart."

Robert's muscles tensed. How like Solveig to consider only the best from the people around him! Long-quenched emotions swirled inside him what? Vague , thoughts that he had now considered beneath him. what thoughts Such condescension! Solveig had been the only one standing between him and world domination, all those years ago. What would he give for the man's power? what are you even talking about?

Robert took a deep breath. Just old habits. He had thrown away his pride, but it kept running back to him like a well-trained dog. bad, nonsensical purple prose "So I am your last, desperate choice," he said.

"I may be desperate," Solveig said, "but I didn't want to disturb your exile. I also feared that... my presence would make you revisit unpleasant memories. But I don't want to give up just yet."

"You've said enough," Robert said. "I'll help you."

"You can cure me?" Solveig said, his eyes regaining a shade of its old fervor. Lord of the Sun, Highest of Mortals. Such titles did little justice once you've seen his eyes.

Robert grinned. "But of course. How could I take over the world if I couldn't even save the life of one man?" I don’t know what’s going on, but I don’t even care anymore


The subspace gateway closed behind them. Solveig gazed in awe at their new surroundings. empty nerd jargon

"This reminds me of your old lab," Solveig said.

"This is a good deal smaller," Robert said. "Only the most essential devices are here. Meaning..." He sidestepped the miniature black hole cage, the positronic shotgun, and the time machine jammer to reach a contraption that constituted a human-sized glass chamber on a dais, and a detachable control panel. He performed authorization checks and turned on the device. a highly obnoxious amount of empty nerd jargon

"Is that... intended for me?" Solveig asked.

"I made this one to strip you of your powers. It works by overcharging your cells to effectively cause a short-circuit. It was initially supposed to transfer your powers to me, but I've scaled down and reformed, so I scrapped those plans." I still can’t tell if these assholes are supposed to be former teammates, former adversaries, or former frenemies, and now it just seems like you’re stealing from the Tower of Babel story or the general concept that Batman has fail-safes for every super powered being, even his friends

"So if I don't have my powers anymore, that will give them back to me?" Solveig said.

"It should, theoretically," Robert said. "I have never tested it, because Solveig would never be so foolish to enter the chamber out of his own free will."

Solveig smiled. "Call me a fool, but I'm taking the chance."

"Then step inside."

Robert started the device, making final checks. "Feels comfy in here," Solveig said, his voice muffled by the reinforced glass.

"Try not to talk," Robert said. "I'm concentrating." He was torn between two equally attractive options. He had lied to Solveig--the transfer feature was built into the system since day one. Who wouldn't pass up the chance to take the man's powers for his own? He could usher in a new age of humanity that would no longer be ruled by base desires. All he needed to steal Solveig's powers was to set one tiny switch.

The switch was currently set to on.

And yet he remembered Solveig's words. He sought Robert's help because he trusted him. He believed that Robert had changed.

Had he?

"After we defeated The Demagogue, why did you let me go?" Robert asked. He had fought Solveig many times in the past; eight of his teeth were synthetic.

"You helped me save the world, just as I thought you would," Solveig said.

Robert closed his eyes. Their first meeting, their first skirmish: We can save the world together, Solveig had told him. "All this time, and you still believe that?"

"Until I am dust."

Robert flicked the switch.


Afterwards, Robert made himself more tea. I'll need a new set of clothes, he thought. He would never send a naked man outside his apartment--it would be bad gossip.

You're welcome. He still tasted the words in his tongue, a gag reflex to Solveig's overwhelming gratitude.

He repeated the words, over and over. It was a habit he could get into.

Man, you sure created an asinine jumbled mess of a story – it is clear that these two people used to be superheroes and/or villains that helped stop another super something together and then for REASONS went underground then REASONS one needs the other's help which results in EMOTIONAL COMPLICATIONS. Since it isn’t clear what Robert’s internal conflict even is, it completely undercuts the impact of his decision. This story is shining example of a quasi-good idea executed like complete poo poo.


May 7, 2005



May 7, 2005


All In
482 words

As I watched the blood run down my fountain pen, it occurred to me that it had always been there, in a way. I had thought myself a business man, a bookkeeper above it all, working separate and apart from what Bobby Rinco’s goons did to the deadbeats I indicated were in arrears.

The cops had picked me up knowing I didn’t know much. Sure I recorded who owed what, but they were after something bigger than loansharking. They had roughed me up then dropped me off right in Rinco’s territory, thanking me, loud and clear, for my help. I’d either end up dead, a lead to chase, or find something useful for them real quick. My life was pocket change to them, to use for an idle wager.

Sure enough, some tough guy, the one now sporting an inky hole in his throat, had walked right into the street and grabbed my arm tight as the squad car pulled away. “Bobby’s going to want to see you,” he’d said. He had dragged me to through the slush and muck in the gutter toward a warehouse, ignoring my protests and explanations. I had searched my pockets desperately. I took his gun as people gawked at him bleeding out in the street.

The revolver felt so heavy at first, clunky. I wandered through the city, looking to balance the books so to speak. I found a cop walking his beat. I pulled the trigger in full view of the bystanders – a wino, a fruit vendor, some ladies speed walking to a better part of town with department stores. Afterwards, the gun felt lighter, much more so than the spent bullet.

I placed two calls, one to the cops and one to Bobby Rinco. I told both what I had done. I told both where I was, a crumbling rat hole of a boarding house off 4th. I told both I was ready to turn myself in.

I finally understood how the deadbeats in my books got themselves so deep. I was desperate enough to believe in my system, that I knew what I was doing, like a hundred names I had written down who threw money at sure things until it ruined them.

Car doors slammed outside. Guns popped like a string of fire crackers. I headed out. I hit them sideways as they focused on each other. I left none of the cops alive. Detectives would identify Rinco’s goons in bloody trench coats and figure out who they worked for. I spared one of Bobby’s boys to report back.

I had no real plan, only a desire, the same desire your average gambler has: to get far enough ahead to get away. The wager, placed by the cops, remained unchanged. That was my advantage. That was what separated me from the deadbeats. I couldn’t get any deeper in the hole.

May 7, 2005


In. Song me please.

May 7, 2005


964 words

I didn’t mean to go underneath the world the first time I did it. Lying in bed all those days, I could feel another place tugging at me. I began to feel curious. It was like the time in Kindergarten I stuck my head under Kimberly Stone’s skirt because I wanted to see what was under there . Going underneath the world though, isn’t as easy as peaking at a passing girl’s underpants while you’re sitting Indian-style.

Going underneath is more like pushing through the dress racks in a department store. That’s what I used to do when my mom dragged me shopping with her. I’d go to those circular racks and squeeze through the blouses to the empty space in the middle. When they announced my name on the loudspeaker I knew it was time to come out. Hide and seek was over and Mom was usually mad. That’s what it feels like dropping from here to there. It feels like squeezing and pushing through something mostly solid until you’re somewhere else.

Once you get underneath it’s like being under the world’s bedspread, squirming around. It’s the same places, but everything’s different. It’s darker underneath and most sounds are muffled or aren’t there at all. People in the hospital are still there underneath, at least a part of them. They show up like bright outlines of themselves, like I’m peaking at them through a special camera, and they can’t see me back. There are also a lot of other people, people who aren’t on top anymore. Those people are dead. A lot of the dead people underneath don’t understand where they are and are stuck. Imagine that, the feeling of pressure on you and darkness, forever until something gives. It makes me sad for them, sadder than I am for myself or the other kids in the hospital.

Other people underneath, ones like me, who’ve had practice or understand where they are, can move around down there. I can even talk to some of them. Their voices sound like high pitched jibber jabber, but I understand what they’re saying. It’s like they speak into me instead of at me. Of all the people I’ve met down there, I like Mr. Hinkle the best. He’s old like my Grandpa. He’s nice too. He died slowly in the hospital and figured out how to go underneath like I did. He knows lots about Underneath. He says there are things about Underneath that I’m not ready to hear yet.

A few days ago when I was underneath in my room, not doing much, just hanging out all snug down there like when my Dad used to tuck my sheets in real tight, I saw my parents and Dr. Baum come in. The outlines of my parents were dark. They were sad. Dr. Baum’s shone bright. He’s always so hopeful. He really likes his job helping kids.

I didn’t want to come back because I knew they would be talking about my Pokémon. I came back anyway because I knew it would make my parents happy. Whenever I squirm back through the barrier and open my eyes, my Mom and Dad smile so big. It’s not really a Pokémon in my head. It’s a tumor. But the first time I heard it, it sounded like a Pokémon. Glioblastoma. It sounds like the evolved form of a “Blastoma.” It even looks like a Pokémon when Dr. Baum shows pictures of it in my brain. Its “tendrils” spread out every which way like a squid thing. That’s why Dr. Baum can’t take it out. It’s not a round lump like some tumors.

I don’t try to talk about going underneath anymore with my Mom and Dad or Dr. Baum. The first and only time I tried, I couldn’t do it well. Underneath is hard to describe and my Pokémon’s tendrils poke into my “language center,” which makes it hard for me to think of words. When I first told Mom and Dad and Dr. Baum that I went somewhere else, a place that was underneath the world and where dead people were, they blamed the Glioblastoma. They thought it must be poking into a part of my brain that would create a place like that, like it was poking into my language center.

Underneath is real though. I don’t hurt underneath like I do when I’m lying in bed on top. I can also think straight down there. And I’m getting better at moving around underneath. It’s becoming less like crawling around under the sheets and more like swimming. Mr. Hinkle says it’s even possible to fly underneath. He’ll show me if I “stick around.”

Dr. Baum started me on a new experimental cancer drug. It starves my Pokémon of blood until its tendrils and the rest of it shrink. He is careful when he talks to my parents about it. He doesn’t want to get their hopes up. I know it’s working though because it’s getting harder to go underneath. The barrier is thicker and not as easy to push through. I’m not dying so fast.

Mr. Hinkle seems sad that I might not stay with him. He says that if I want to, there are things I can do to make sure I don’t go back. I may be running out of time though. I have to make a decision. I like Mr. Hinkle and I like a lot of the other people underneath. They don’t treat me like a kid like my parents do. I never get in trouble. No one yells at me or punishes me. And if I try hard Mr. Hinkle says I can learn how to fly. I have to try to stay as long as it takes to experience flying.

May 7, 2005



Not Taken

Gnocchi stared at the closed door in the empty apartment. "I don't know where you are," he said, his jowls rippling. "If you are looking for patience, I can tell you I don't have any. What I do have are a particular set of skills. Skills that make me a nightmare for masters like you. If you come home now, that'll be the end of it. If you don't, I will look for things, I will find them, and I will destroy them.” After another minute he pulled the wedding album off the coffee table and went to town.

May 7, 2005


monsters INc.

May 7, 2005



Jagermonster fucked around with this message at Mar 27, 2015 around 17:55

May 7, 2005


The Mind Killer
1112 words

Roman shook the jar, sending the creature inside hissing and clawing against the glass. He held it up to the single bulb in the dim basement so the bloodied, bound man seated before him could get a good look. “You know what this guy’s called, Jimmy?”

The whites of Jimmy’s eyes stood out against the dark bruises mottling his face as he peered up at the trapped, writhing thing.

“They call it a Mind Killer,” Roman said. “It uses these little pincer arms to burrow up your nose. He looks big, I know, but trust me, he’ll get in there with a little ripping and tearing. He digs into your brain where he sinks his not-so-little fangs in. Then he shhhhlurps up your free will, providing the same effect as scopolamine, which you might know as ‘truth serum.’ Then you die, slow and painful, as it gorges. One way or another, you’re going talk.”

Jimmy’s narrowed eyes danced between Roman and the Mind Killer.

Roman set the jar on a blood-stained card table. “Do you know how I knew you were a pussy, Jimmy? The way you reflexively brushed your piece when I came to pay you a visit, like it was a blankey that’d keep you safe. I notice things like that. You know how I knew how wide your pussy was, Jimmy?” Roman plucked a Dessert Eagle from the card table. “By how loving big your piece was.” Roman held the silver magnum in his upturned palm, bobbing his hand to get a feel for the gun’s heft. “I mean Jesus Christ, Jim, you going to take on an African Elescect with this loving thing?”

Roman dropped the gun back onto the table. He grabbed a bent folding chair and flipped it around, taking a seat, cool teacher-style. “You know what’s intimidating, Jimmy? Not strapping at all. I think twice about loving with an unarmed man.” Roman grinned. “You never know what you’re dealing with.

“This one night me and some guys were picking up some product. We get to the boat and the deck is abandoned. Completely bare, except there’s this one dude standing in the dark, grinning like a mad man. One of the guys I’m with walks right up to him shouting, ‘Hey, what’s the meaning of this!’ already waving his gun around like a tough guy. The grinning man just stares straight ahead, his creepy smile getting wider and wider. That’s when I knew we were in the poo poo, Jimmy.” Roman whipped his wrists forward one by one, “fwip fwip – loving praying mantis scythes shoot right out the dude’s forearms. He took out three of my guys, including the cowboy that strutted up to him, before we brought him down. One of those body-burrowers.”

Roman waved his hand dismissively. “Whole thing was a set up.” He patted Jimmy on the head. “Don’t worry though, we settled the score.” He hopped up from the chair. Roman drummed his fingers on the lid of the Mind Killer’s jar, sending it into another hissing frenzy. “Anyway, back to the business at hand.”

Jimmy gurgled something around the old t-shirt tied around his mouth gagging him. He stamped his feet against the dirt-caked concrete floor.

Roman hooked a finger around the cloth and yanked it free over Jimmy’s bottom jaw. "You feel like chatting now?"

“If that thing can get me to say whatever,” Jimmy said, spittle running down his chin, “then why don’t you just use it and shut the gently caress up?”

Roman frowned, feigning offense at the suggestion he was taking some sort of sadistic joy in their conversation. “Because, dumb dumb, the Mind Killer dies. It sucks on your brain til it bursts. And these things aren’t the easiest to obtain.” Roman unscrewed the top of the jar. He lowered it to Jimmy’s nose.

Jimmy jerked his head back. “gently caress you, man!”

With his free hand, Roman grabbed a fist full of Jimmy’s hair. He wrenched Jimmy’s head forward, smashing Jimmy’s nose against the rim of the jar. “Where do you dispose of the bodies, Jimmy.” Roman tipped the jar forward. The Mind Killer scraped against the glass trying to get up and out.

“Fuuuuck, man!”

“Where, rear end in a top hat?” Roman grinded Jimmy’s face harder against the glass edge.

“The swamp!” Jimmy shouted. “Off of I-10!”

“Where? Exactly.”

“There’s a Widow Pit! Southeast of Baton Rogue. We dump them in there!” The Mind Killer’s claws nicked the tip of Jimmy’s nose.

Roman shoved Jimmy back. “Why are you bumping off our guys? Who are you working for? And if you say, ‘I don’t know,’ I’m going to shove this thing up your rear end, let it take the scenic route.”

A thick mucus and blood mixture dribbled out of Jimmy’s nostrils. “Gordon Puckett. He’s trying to pick off a few guys at a time before he makes his move.” He swallowed hard. “He’s trying to sew fear or whatever.”

Roman snatched up Jimmy’s Desert Eagle. “Alive or dead?” he asked quietly.

“Wha-at?” Jimmy said in a half-sob.

“Are they alive or dead when you chuck them in that pit?”

Jimmy squeezed his eyes shut and clenched his teeth. He whimpered.

The deafening bang reverberated through the basement. Jimmy flew backwards, the top third of his head spraying outward in a wide spread. The recoil caught Roman off guard. He dropped the jar.

Roman blinked against the spots dancing across his vision from the muzzle flash. “Jesus,” he said to himself. He tossed the gun back on the card table and looked for the Mind Killer. He could only see broken glass.

As he stepped carefully away, he had a vision of himself lying alone on the basement floor, the Mind Killer lodged in his brain, as he babbled confessions to the empty room. He chuckled.

Roman found the so-called Mind Killer futilely scraping its pincers against the cement wall. The only thing its claws were good for was sifting loose soil in search of roots. Roman knelt down and picked up the little creature. It skittered up his arm, gently probing Roman’s hairs with its needle-looking, but flimsy, teeth. Roman cupped it in his hands. His footsteps echoed across the basement as he headed to the stairs.

He needed to find a new container. He needed to let his bosses know what he’d found out. Most importantly, he needed to teach Jimmy’s upstart boss Gordon Puckett a lesson in in the economics of fear. That was Roman’s currency.

May 7, 2005


i don't really have time to do this this week, but gently caress it I'm in and will make time because this is shaping up to be a record-breaking clusterfuck.

May 7, 2005


I'm with Cache - the illthundernati has long conspired to keep the brilliant ones down in this thread. I AM BETTER THAN BEING CONSTANTLY RELEGATED TO THE MIDDLE OF THE PACK AND ONE DAY I WILL MARCH IN HERE AND POST THE E-ZINE I'M PUBLISHED IN TO PROVE IT!!!! You assholes will eat all those crits you generously spend your free time on to help people!!!!

May 7, 2005


Of a Feather
1195 words

Frantic chirps warned Trutlag of the approaching soldiers. Trutlag waved a hand. The birds in the trees around his hut quieted down. He had nothing for the soldiers to take and nowhere to run. The old man leaned back in his chair and waited.

The birds’ cries began anew as a soldier’s boot splintered Trutlag’s flimsy door. Royal thugs poured into the small hut. “Where’s your tithing?” a big one asked, grasping Trutlag’s coarse collar in a large hairy fist.

“Please, I am just an old man,” Trutlag said, placing a small shaky hand on the soldier’s plated forearm. “I have no trade. I forage and barter.”

The soldier threw Trutlag to the ground as if the old man were nothing more than an empty robe. The soldier kicked over the chair. “Find something useful for the King, or we’ll take your head.” He jabbed at the chair and dirt around it with his sword, prodding for hidden treasures.

Trutlag crawled over to a branched wall and wriggled his hand through. A Starling fluttered down from a tree top and dropped a pink jewel on a rusty chain into Trutlag’s open palm. With moist eyes Trutlag held it out to the soldiers. “If you must have something, take this. It was my wife’s.”

A soldier snatched it up. He held it out to the big one who had questioned Trutlag. The big one grunted and headed out the door. The others followed.

Crows heckled the intruders with angry squawks as they marched off. Trutlag crawled to his mangled chair and righted it. He pulled himself up. It cracked and shifted under his weight, but held. Robins and Sparrows tugged at the loosened sticks in his door, straightening and weaving and adding more materials.

A freckled face with tangled red hair peaked around the doorway. “Are you ok, Mr. Trutlag?”

“I still have shelter and friends. That’s all one really needs, so yes, young Roddie.”

“You should do something!” the little boy said, marching into Trutlag’s hut. “They’re bullies!”

Trutlag sighed. “If I were to use my power to hurt them, I’d be just as bad as them.”

Roddie’s face reddened, camouflaging his freckles. He stamped his feet. “It’s not fair. They took half of my dad’s wares! And his good hammer!” Tears slid down his cheeks. “They pushed my mom!” A sparrow landed in the boy’s hair and tugged at the red curls for building materials.

Trutlag waved away the bird before it could do any damage. He grinned. “Maybe I could bring them down a peg, Roddie. I trust you’re attending the King’s declaration tomorrow?”

Roddie sniffled and rubbed his head. He nodded.

The next day the villagers from the surrounding hamlets assembled in the Town Square to hear the King’s address. Soldiers carrying shields formed a rectangular phalanx around the King and his bodyguards. Knights on horseback patrolled the outer perimeter.

Trutlag set himself down upon a bare muddy knoll. All around him birds perched silently in the trees. Boughs sagged under their weight. Trutlag spotted Roddie across the square sitting on his father’s broad shoulders.

The King’s soldiers pounded the ground with spear butts until the crowd’s murmuring died down. The fat regal man at the center of it all took a step forward. His bodyguards mimicked his movement, flanking him. One by one, the birds in the surrounding trees took flight.

“Loyal citizens!” the King shouted. “I thank you for once again contributing your fair share to support the realm.” A fat white and black blob splattered on the ground in front of the King. “With your support—” Another glob splattered to the King’s left. Then another to his right. The King looked up. Bird poo poo splattered on his face.

The crowd began shaking and giggling, trying to hold back at first. They erupted in raucous laughter as more and more bird poo poo rained from the sky over the King. The King’s bodyguards drew their swords and futilely swung at the low flying birds dive-bombing their crowned target.

Roddie looked over to Trutlag in gleeful astonishment. Trutlag caught the boy’s gaze from across the square and smiled back.

The King lurched to and fro, his head bent, as he tried to avoid the onslaught of bird droppings. Now run back to your fortress, [/] iTrutlag thought. [i] Go hide away in your stone burrow from the indignities of life and leave us be.

A guard broke off from the perimeter and ran toward the King, holding his shield high. “My King!” the boy shouted, intending to use the shield as an umbrella. A step away, the shield bearer slipped on a slimy mass of poo poo and fell forward. The rough metal edge of the shield bashed the King’s temple. Royal blood sprayed the King’s bodyguards.

Trutlag’s jaw dropped. He tried to pull the birds back. He couldn’t. It was like trying to stop a wave by diving into the surf. A wave he had summoned.

The bodyguards whirled around on the young shield bearer as he picked himself up from the mud with tears in his eyes. The King lay motionless on the ground, in a puddle of blood expanding into a small pond. “Traitor!” a guard roared, raising his sword.

“It was an accident!” the young shield bearer said. He stumbled back as a bodyguard ran him through. He cried out, but was silenced by a second sword.

“My son!” a knight cried from the outer ring of the crowd. He drove his horse straight through the assembled villagers. He crashed through the King’s perimeter guard, already half disbanded in the confusion. “You’ve killed my son!” the Knight roared at the bodyguards. He snapped shut his helmet’s visor and charged.

Trutlag rose to his feet in a panic. This was not what he wanted, he told himself. The birds were still raining poo poo upon the King’s soldiers as the armored men drew their weapons and joined, seemingly at random, one of the two sides forming in the confusion. The villagers began throwing stones. Some ran back to their huts to fetch weapons. Trutlag caught Roddie’s horrified face briefly before the boy’s father lowered him from his shoulders and took off running.

A soldier shrieked. Trutlag found the source - falcons clawing and slashing at a large man’s face as he tried blindly to shoo them away with big hairy fists. Trutlag recognized the soldier.

Trutlag dropped to his hands and knees. He tried to concentrate, to figure out a way to stop the madness. Angry shouts, squawking birds, and the clang of steel striking steel distracted him. A Starling fluttered down in front of him. It dropped a bloodstained pink jewel on a rusty chain into Trutlag’s open palm.

“Thank you, my friend,” Trutlag said. The Starling flew off. Trutlag rolled over in the dirt onto his back. He was not unhappy things had taken this turn. He watched a cloud float by as the sounds of chaos in the square below continued unabated. A part of him had wanted this. He closed his eyes and called for buzzards to help with the cleanup.

May 7, 2005


Noeland posted:

Three Dimensions, More or Less 1272 words

Chairchucker already gave you a pretty good crit, but I just want to expand on your choice of a starting point which led to all the boring exposition. Always start as close to the end as possible ( You had some neat ideas and imagery, but it was all wasted on a dull slog of a narration. Try rewriting the story starting with the passage of the freaky tome cutting the narrator, with a vivid intro line. Then, you can go back, as he's worrying about the side effects/what will happen to him, and briefly talk about the guy who cut a paper cut from the Necronomicon, etc.. Then jump into the meat of the story, pushing the boundaries of his new found powers and the consequences.

May 7, 2005


Ironic Twist posted:

I will provide graph crits in the style of week 115 to the first ten people that ask (someone else can share an example of said crits via a link). First come first served.

I will take one of those. Thank you.

May 7, 2005


May 7, 2005




This is a bad story, man. It starts off bad, with a cutesy title, and get's worse with a bad opening AOL-speak. That poo poo is played out . Millennials take selfies and are obsessed with likes and retweets. We get it. I thought that may have been your prompt, and was cutting you some slack at first while I was reading it. Then I saw that it wasn't, that you had so much to work with, and I was even more disappointed in you. Tonally, you're all over the place. You start with a tweenage-like AOL-speaking sassy Zeus who schizophrenically shifts into a more stilted dull narration about how the virtual competition with the wizard is affecting him. You use awkward telly lines like, "Everybody sees you getting pwned by a kid, and then they have a hard time taking you seriously." You pretty much just showed that effectively with Zeus withering, etc. right before that. Edit stuff like that down. Then there's the "done hosed up" line which is jarring because it doesn't match the tone of the rest of the story. I don't know if you were just loving around this week or what, but the social media/Jeff K. humor just didn't do it for me. The best part was the imagery of the superpowered nerd wizard rolling across the plains in a thunderhead towards Zeus, then . . . . what? The tension and the story fizzled for another dumb gag. That prompt could have been put to really good use. Instead you squandered it on dumb interwebz lulz jokes. I'm not mad, I'm disappointed. I expected better from you.


You've got some great trippy imagery in the dreamscape or wherever they go, but man, you took your sweet time getting there. You waste a lot of words on a dumb sparring session that has absolutely no bearing on the story and then you painstaking set up the scenario with some cookie cutter fantasy setting conflict. Assassins, barons, Red Kings. Who cares? This is flash fiction, you need to jump into the cool poo poo and the conflict immediately. Start in the trippy dreamscape, and figure out how to drop some exposition - that they're searching for assassins to murder with a nightmare - in naturally. Trust that your reader will catch up with you. Don't spoon feed it. I'm not sure what happened at the very end. Bonus points for a main character whose name starts with a soft 'J.'

May 7, 2005


More WizCritz


Haunting, mesmerizing stuff, not unlike staring into the wail. Some things bothered me, niggled me as I read. "Wail," for example. Not sure how I feel about using that word, so close to "whale," that it seems like a typo at first. There are jarring typos such as "No should one ever miss a day," which do damage when word flow is as important as it is in this story. I like how you took a stark departure from traditional medieval type wizardry with a more exotic Island flavor. I sound like a broken record by now, but the intro could be stronger. Maybe start with Diau floating in the water while the celebrants look on unworried, creating a sense of mystery and tension. As it stands, 19th birthday, standing in the surf, etc., just doesn't grab the reader like it should. The ending could have a stronger punch. It's not really clear if this is what he wanted, if he looks forward to teaching the next Diau or what. I think it needs a clearer resolution to flesh out the main character's development/journey.


*Obligatory shpeal about the need for a stronger opening.* I don't know why, but I got the feeling Red was playing the narrator and when it turned out to be true, I felt smart and good, which is something you want your reader to feel, so good on you, if you intentionally dropped hints. I'd have to go reread the story, which I don't want to do, to look for the clues, but one was Red snapping and releasing the waitress from her trance, indicating she knew more about the narrator's "magic" than she was letting on, though that may have been a typo on your part. Was it? Was it supposed to be the narrator who did that? I think you could have cranked up the noirish tone. As it stands it's a little flat. I liked the touches of him remembering to zip up his coat after she embraced him indicating the warmth she made him feel, though it could have been more descriptive than just the narrator remembering it was winter (zipped up against the wintry chill, etc). I don't really get the ending. Why would he be mad and want to go after her despite the sick son, but give up after finding out she had played him and didn't in fact have a sick son? It wasn't clear what the narrator "wanted." You end it by explaining he didn't really need money because he could get what he wanted throw magic hypnosis. He wanted Red, but not until after he met her for this bank job. Does he just want to help people by helping them rob things? Stronger character motivation would go a long way to strengthening the story.

May 7, 2005


Thanks, CancyCakes. Still looking into how to appeal that brawl decision, btw.

May 7, 2005


Cache Cab posted:

I shall be critting this piece for the critique requirement this week. I am doing it in the manner of bolding my suggestions, as several other people in this thread have done, so that I can't be yelled out for doing something wrongly.

To be honest I do not get this story. Thankfully it was very short, and enabled me to qualify for this week without too much extra effort, as I think it is unfair to impose additional restrictions on us after we have already submitted a story. That is a bait and switch and it is illegal. Thank you.

I think something in your post messed up because you ended up writing, "http://www.bankofamerica.comhttp://www.bankofamerica.com" over and over again in some places. You might want to go back and redo/edit it. It's important to edit and look over your posts, even crits.

Thanks for the crit, Hammy Brah.

May 7, 2005


In. Hit me with a flash rule please.

May 7, 2005


Big Enough
1398 Words
Flash rule: Your protagonist is almost certainly going to win this bet, but they don't want to win.

The Wilderness has a way of diminishing a man, making him feel insignificant. Earl slid down the loose scree and nearly tumbled when the ground evened out. His legs ached from days of frenzied traveling. His horse had given out on him a hundred miles back, close to the top of Gunderson’s pass. He longed for human company if for nothing else than to have lesser men to judge himself against in order to make him feel big again.

Earl found a trail and followed it to switchbacks leading down to a town. He cut straight through the winding path, crashing through the underbrush. He braced himself from tree to tree as he stumbled down. The peaks of the Sierra Nevada shrank behind him as he approached civilization.

Patches of snow clung stubbornly to the shadows and shade. Earl stuck to the outskirts of town, away from the main lane, until he found the building with the yellowest snow pile behind it. He made his way around the side and through the swinging doors of the saloon.

Earl peered through the dimness at the few men sitting idly at tables nursing their drinks. More would come as the sun sank lower. He walked through the sawdust on the floor. He placed a silver piece on the bar.

The muttonchopped barkeep glanced at it. “Where you in from?”

Earl flashed him a yellow smile. “Out of town.”

The barkeep kept his crossed arms resting on his paunch.

“Looking for some honest work,” Earl said. “Been traveling for spell.”

The barkeep eyed Earl’s ivory gripped pistols.

“Look friend,” Earl said, getting used to talking again after a month on his own. “I’m down from San Fran. I got money and I intend on having a drink here while I wait for some local cowboys to stop by who might could help with a job.”

The barkeep plucked up the coin. “You mean up from San Francisco.” He turned around to fetch a bottle of murky brown stuff.

Earl tried to visualize a map. He was further north than he thought he was. He scanned the tattered wanted posters plastered behind the bar as the barkeep poured out a shot. Earl stopped at a newer poster of a mean-looking clean-shaven desperado.

“What’d you say your name was?” the Barkeep asked.

Earl finished reading the poster. “Peter Peyton. But my friends call me Pete.” Earl had apparently grown two inches since the last wanted poster he had seen himself on in Carson City. He scratched absentmindedly at his scraggly beard. He would have to keep it. He handed the barkeep a wrinkled bill and took the bottle of the foul whiskey to a table.

Soon enough the jingle jangle of spurs against the wooden boardwalk outside announced the arrival of local cowboys. They filed in under a shroud of dust and slapped coins down on the bar. The Barkeep poured out shots as each newcomer scanned the usual drunks and stopped on Earl, sizing up the stranger. Three of them converged on him.

“Where you in from?” one with a handlebar mustache asked.

“San Fran-cisco,” Earl said, leaning back in his chair to get a better look at them.

“You don’t look city,” another with a tattered sombrero said.

“Because I ain’t,” Earl said. “Took some cattle to market, last of an old rancher who’s passed on. Now I’m looking for a new boss.”

The cowboys glanced at each other. “Tables are for card playing,” Handlebar Mustache said.

Earl leaned forward and moved his bottle of liquor to the center of the table. “Who’s dealing?”

The cowboys passed around another look before taking up seats.

The strangers warmed up to each other as they played. Handlebar Mustache’s name was Joe. He got louder and more boastful with each hand, even though he was steadily losing. Tattered Sombero was Sampson. He drank the most from the bottle and got sloppy quick. The third, who hadn’t spoken up at first, and still didn’t talk much, was Zeke. Zeke had loosened up momentarily, but eyed Earl harder and harder each time Earl claimed the pot.

On Earl’s sixth straight win Joe threw his head back and howled. He chuckled and said, “I’ll lick you yet, Mister.”

Sampson grinned and shook his head. He poured himself another drink from Earl’s bottle, overflowing his glass. Zeke, still holding his cards, glared at Earl.

“You lot want to take a rest from cards?” Earl asked. “Shoot some billiards?”

“Ain’t no pool table,” Zeke said. “Sampson, Deal.”

Earl reached across and took the deck from Sampson all the while looking across the table into Zeke's eyes. Zeke had a gun, an old rusted piece fastened tight into a raggedly leather holster. Earl had noted all three of the men’s unimpressive revolvers when they had joined the table. None of them posed a threat to Earl’s person. They were thick fingered and sloppy with drink, graceless insignificant oafs. Still, they threatened the respite Earl thought he had found.

“Deal,” Zeke said again, louder. The surrounding tables quieted down.

“Why don’t we take a break,” Earl said. “Maybe you all can help acquaint me with one of the ranchers in these parts. I’ll get another bottle.”

Sampson poured himself another drink from the last of their current bottle.

Zeke pounded the table. “We're playing another, Mucker!”

Joe put a hand out. “Ain’t no need for that talk. I’m sitting right next to him, Zeke. I could see he wasn't up to nothing.”

Earl drew in a breath slow through his nose. His temper was an unbroken horse. He struggled to keep it steady. He knew where it would take him if he lost control.

Zeke moved his jaw around as if chewing something. “You’re giving me a chance to win some money back.”

Earl wagered Zeke didn’t have it in him to do actually do anything. “No,” he said, “I’m not.” Zeke’s friends seemed too use to this sort of thing. They seemed bored by it. A part of Earl hoped Zeke would try something, even though it meant heading out into the wild again if he did.

Zeke drunkenly knocked his chair over as he stood. “Stand up!”

Joe took a step toward Zeke with his hand out in a calming motion.

Earl swept his hand across the table and funneled the coins into his purse, trying his best to ignore the fuming man on the other side of the table. Zeke’s hand hovered by his holster. Still, Earl made no aggressive move. Zeke’s fingers trembled. Earl was right. The chicken poo poo didn’t have it in him. Something inside Earl erupted. He felt several times larger than these excuses for men he had shared his liquor with. Two shots rang out. Zeke collapsed, a slug in his chest, a second in his head

“poo poo!” Joe shouted. He angled his hips back and reached for his gun. Before he could get it, he spun around from the impact of the bullet in his shoulder.

Earl stood, both pearl-handled guns out now. Sampson was still fumbling with both hands at his holster, drunkenly trying to draw. Earl sighed and put one in his knee.

Earl surveyed the foolish men lying on the floor. He spat. On his own, he had been too big for this town. He had known it deep down since it had been a speck at the bottom of the switchbacks. He sidestepped to the door keeping an eye on the other patrons who gawked wordlessly.

The barkeep took an old sawed-off shotgun out from under the bar. “You can’t leave just like that. The law will be here soon enough.”

“I could have killed you several times over as you pulled that out,” Earl said, backing toward the exit. “And I’ll put a hole in you before you can pull the trigger.”

“They instigated,” the barkeep said, “but you’ve got to put in your statement.”

Earl didn’t trust the strangers in the bar would have the same account. They'd itch for a lynching. Small men like these always yearn to form a big faceless mob to feel some power. And even if their stories did square, the scrutiny might reveal who he really was. Earl backed out of the saloon.

The Barkeep took his time getting around the bar. He peered out the door after the stranger.

Earl was already a tiny figure speed walking north, out of town, keeping his head down. He shrank into the distance until he was nothing more than a speck.

May 7, 2005


May 7, 2005


Almost finished with a book I've been writing (at 149k words/397 pages) and should wrap it up tomorrow or Friday. But then I need to read a book on self-editing, write a poo poo ton more (need to level up that skill, baby!), and edit it so it's not complete garbage so IN and please flash rule me.

May 7, 2005


The Greatest Day
Word Count: 1496
Flash: Your party consists of exactly one weathered veteran with everyone else being novice greenhorns. The veteran cannot be brooding or jaded

Richter used Gar’s rhythmic axe sharpening to keep pace. Schink. Richter pushed off with his good leg. Schink. Gar vanquished another foe in his imagination, miles and years away from where he should be focusing. Schink. Richter tried to keep pace with his younger companions as they marched through the forest, oblivious to the fact it boiled around them. He peered around Gar’s broad body to try to catch a glimpse of their scout. He wished she didn’t go so far ahead. Parchment rustled behind him.

“Put the book away,” Richter said to Voss.

Voss scanned the last few lines of the page and shut the tome. “I need to study.”

“You can learn more from your immediate surroundings at any given moment,” Richter said, “than you can staring at a book.”

Voss glanced back and forth at the dense forest surrounding them. “You don’t understand, sir. There’s so much I don’t know.”

“You know everything you need to get through today,” Richter said. “Concentrate on what’s around you, on the magical energies and whatnot flowin’”

Voss rolled his eyes.

“Feel that breeze, Voss.”

Voss closed his eyes and walked blind down the path, letting the sound of the others’ footfalls and Gar’s incessant sharpening guide him. The air felt cool on his sweaty brow. It flowed through his loose robes. Somewhere in the distance a hawk cried. He couldn’t calculate its distance in the forest’s quiet. The sound could have traveled for miles. He opened his eyes and ran to catch up with Richter and Gar through the still wilderness.

“Sir, what—”

“Gar,” Richter said, interrupting Voss.

Gar grunted. He continued sharpening his axe, schink, lost in his daydreams of retribution.

“We’ll need firewood to make camp soon,” Richter said. “What do you reckon these trees are?”

Gar’s throat emitted a deep rumble as he analyzed the surrounding foliage. “Beech.” He grunted. “Leaves ain’t movin.”

Voss pressed against Richter’s back, leaning over his shoulder. “What kind of force could freeze the trees like that, Richter? What is happening?”

Richter stared straight ahead. He gave Gar a push to keep him moving forward at the same pace they had been traveling. “Fall in line, Voss,” he said in an even tone. “Keep cool.” He whistled a blackjay’s melody. After another ten paces he whistled it again.

Richter spotted Eve in the distance squat-walking toward them, keeping low. Her dark brown skin and leaf strewn cloak would have camouflaged her had she not been moving so fast. Even crouching she moved faster than others could run, and showed it off whenever she could.

Eve did an about face in front of Gar and took up the lead. She straightened and then arched her back. “What’s up?”

“It’s nice to have our point-woman here with us,” Richter said.

“I was scouting ahead.”

“And what did you find that was so important it justified being separated from the group in dangerous territory?”

“There’s a good water source. Several sheltered spots we can make camp. Dangerous?”

“Choke points up ahead?”

Eve thought for a moment. “A river crossing. A part of the path that curves with a ditch to one side.” She looked back to Richter. “What’s going on?”

“Ambush,” Gar said, more growl than speech.

Eve peered into the forest.

“Don’t-“ Richter started.

“The trees,” Voss said.

Eve looked up.

Richter shoved Gar forward again. “Keep the pace.”

Eve stepped out of the way of Gar’s stumbling. She drew her bow. “They’re everywhere! In the treetops!”

“Where?” Voss said, taking a step back. “I can’t see them!”

Richter grabbed Voss by the shoulder. “Protection. Now.”

Voss murmured and swayed, as if in a trance. The air shimmered around the group. Rocks hurled from the treetops crashed into an invisible barrier.

Gar spit. “There.” Ape-like creatures, no longer trying to remain concealed, leapt from branch to branch flinging stones from crude slings.

Richter sat down in the flattened undergrowth of the path and stretched his right leg out. He reached for his toes and groaned.

Eve trained her nocked arrow on one attacker and then another. “Richter. Richter, what are you doing?”

“At my age, the most dangerous enemy is sometimes your own body.” He grimaced as he reached for his other foot. “I ain’t goin down on account of a tight hamstring.”

Eve rotated. “We are completely surrounded, Richter.”

Richter stabbed the dirt with his sword and pushed himself back up to his feet. “Listen up. This is the only fight there is. Don’t think about the next one or your final one or the one that people will write songs about. This is the only one that matters. Don’t think about your vengeance or your education or your rep. The enemy, the only enemy that matters right now, are in those trees. Voss-”

Voss stopped chanting, dropping the barrier. Eve loosed an arrow at an attacker. She drew another. Gar shouted and charged into the forest.

Richter ducked a rock. “No!” He dove prone. “Gar! That’s not- Voss, bring him back!”

Voss reached out and pulled back. Gar flung back to the group, landing hard in a crouch.

“Eve!” Richter shouted. “They’re pawns! Save your arrows!”

Eve froze mid draw.

“Voss! Reveal whatever traps are in there.”

Voss shook his head. “I don’t, I don’t think I know that . . . .”

Eve somersaulted forward then rolled back, dodging missiles.

A rock caught Gar in the small of the back below his armor. He gritted his teeth and spun around, preparing to charge again.

“You know it, or something like it, Voss.”

Voss closed his eyes. He muttered one phrase after another. Beads of sweat formed on his creased forehead. Something popped at the tree line. Wood snapped. Voss put up another barrier. Splintered traps erupted all around, peppering the assailants with wooden shrapnel. Ape-men rained from the branches. The survivors scampered away.

A great gray ape charged out of the woods and bared its fangs. It raised a long bone-strewn staff and howled in anger.

“Gar, with me.” Richter said, trotting forward. “Eve, disarm him, please.”

Voss dropped his protective barrier, allowing two of Eve’s arrows to pass. They caught the gray ape in its exposed forearms. It dropped its staff and roared. Gar charged past Richter straight for the enemy. Richter dove for the staff.

Gar raised his axe. The gray ape grabbed Gar’s wrists. The two strained against each other. Richter rolled out of the way as the two behemoths stomped back and forth. The ape bit into Gar’s shoulder. Gar head-butted it in the side of its face.

Richter scrambled to his feet and ran back to Eve and Voss. He called back over his shoulder to Gar, “There’s no honor to be won in this fight.”

Gar kneed the ape in the crotch. Its legs buckled. He brought his elbow down on the creature’s neck, loosening its grip on him. Gar thrust his axe up and back down again.

Richter dropped the staff at Voss’s feet.

The young mage knelt and examined the gnarled thing. “We should burn it. There are many deaths connected to this weapon.”

Richter sucked in air. “Sounds good to me.”

Eve rotated in circles, her bow drawn, an arrow nocked.

Richter sat down. “They gone?”

“As far as I can see,” she said.

He laid flat on his back. “Take a rest then will you?”

She crouched by his side. “Are you injured? I spotted May Weed down the path, I can fetch some.”

“I said take it easy.”

Gar loomed over Richter. His massive head partially and then fully eclipsed the setting sun.

“That’s great, stay right there,” Richter said. “Sorry about that rough landing earlier. That was on me for not being clearer.”

Gar grunted. “Will the Heretic feel this?”

“Naw,” Richter said. “This lot was probably independent. Bandits. Local outfit.”

Gar snorted. He stared at his axe.

“We did a good thing today,” Richter said. “Who knows how many travelers this will help, how many lives we avenged.”

Gar nodded.

“I think,” Voss said, “I figured out what they used to freeze the trees like that,”

Richter plucked a handful of grass. He tossed the torn blades toward Voss. “Good. Try to replicate it.”

Voss twirled a piece of grass between his thumb and finger, whispering at it. He blew on it, causing it to shake. He tried something different.

“It’s going to be a clear night,” Eve said, watching the sun set.

Richter got to his feet with a groan. “And tomorrow?”

“Too soon to tell. Come, let’s find shelter for tonight.” She stayed close as she led her party down the forest path in the dimming evening light.

Richter took up the rear, following his charges into the unknown, only focusing on the imminent. There was nothing waiting for Richter up ahead. No family. No glory. Only these three, today.

May 7, 2005



May 7, 2005


The Beachy House’s Gift
993 words

Like most old houses, the Beachy House stood disjointed in time. Not just a weathered cabin in the South Carolina dunes, to Sandra the house remained new, the same place she lived with her mother and father, then just her mother, those endless summers. Other houses closer to the coast came and went, washed away by floods and hurricanes, replaced with bigger, newer houses. The Beachy House, miles from the coast, remained safe and isolated.

Walking barefoot across the Beach House’s always sandy wooden floor, Sandra too felt disjointed. Pittsburgh, and her ex-husband along with, seemed not just miles, but years, a whole different life away. Sandra also felt weathered and isolated as she examined dusty heirlooms trying to reduce her mother’s clutter, only to put them back down again, unable to part from anything that reminded Sandra of her. One piece of stood out from the rest, an eyesore of painted driftwood, covered in touristy pabulum. It read:


Her mother must have bought it at some souvenir shop in town to replace one of the mocking family photos of a dead husband and an absent daughter. The silly plaque stood out like a gaudy umbrella in an otherwise desolate shore.

Sandra lifted it off the wall, determined to get rid of at least one thing. She flipped it around to see which mass-shlock producer had made it. Finding the back blank, she flipped it around again. A soothing wave traveled up her arms, loosening her shoulders, and releasing the stress throughout her body. The years had somehow washed off of her like sand in the surf. She felt as if she could run the whole way to the beach, across miles of hot dunes and thick vegetation.

A knock shook her part way out of her trance. She wandered toward the door in a daze, stopping at the mirror. Her wrinkles had disappeared. Her skin shone smooth and dark with a summer’s tan. Designer sunglasses had replaced her blocky prescription frames. Her thick city waist had slimmed down to that of a swimmer’s. Her scrawny typist’s arms had toned to that of a surfer’s .

“Hello?” a familiar deep voice called from outside.

She lingered at the mirror for another few seconds still in disbelief. She touched her face to confirm her senses were in agreement, that this was really happening.

She opened the door to find Bobby Preston. The years had hardened his face and grayed his stubble, but standing on the Beachy House porch, he was the same boy who'd come calling day in and day out those decades ago. His sun bleached hair hung down to his bare shoulders. A scar started below his nipple curving out across his bronze chest then bent back to his rib cage above his tight stomach, the mark of his foolhardy heroism in saving a young swimmer from a shark years ago. His cut off jean shorts ended in frayed tendrils running down his hard thighs like thin grasping fingers.

“Oh,” Bobby said. “I thought Sandra might be home. I saw a car and thought – are you a new owner?”

Sandra stood speechless for another moment, remembering her change of appearance. “I’m a cousin of Sandra’s. The Doyle’s still own the house. Can I help you with something?”

“I’ve just had a day. Was hoping an old friend was here.” Bobby peered inside past Sandra, hoping to catch a glimpse of her.

“You can tell me.” Sandra offered a weak smile.

Bobby examined her young face. “I don’t want to burden a stranger.” His eyes became unfocused. “I tried to save it. Carried the drat thing all the way to the vet’s office. Boys told me I was wasting my time. I’m a fire boat captain, not a marine biologist. Still, a sea lion’s too beautiful a creature to give up on.” The corner of his mouth twisted down for an instant. His frown flicked upward and he revealed his white teeth as he shook his head. “Listen to me, going on to stranger.”

Despite his façade Sandra could see his pain. He hurt in a way only a strong man can, bored into like solid rock. Such devastation of something so solid sends shock waves through all those around. “I’m sure Sandra will be back soon,” she said.

He brightened a way a person couldn’t fake, his forced smile softening. “Please tell her Bobby stopped by. It would be great to catch up with her.” He turned and left without so much as asking the young woman's name.

Sandra watched him go, padding barefoot down the sandy lane. On her way back to the magical kitsch she stopped in front of the mirror. The fun she could have in this young attractive body. All she had to do was drive in to town and wait at the bar for the men to come to her. But, whatever pleasures stemmed from such an outing, would be cheap, superficial. They would be as out of place in her life as a piece of driftwood with a corny list of beach buzzwords in her sacred Beachy House.

She lifted the plaque from the wall. She flipped it around and sighed. She flipped it back. Her arms at once felt heavier. Her youthful posture gave way to her usual deskbound slouch. She placed the painted driftwood on the floor. In the morning she would take it the dump with whatever else she cleared out.

After disposing of the eerie, unwanted gift, she would go for a run. She would give the Beachy House a nice new coat of paint. Then she would call Bobby as herself, not some young impostor.

May 7, 2005



Florida Man Hellbent on Catching, Eating Shark That Bit Him

May 7, 2005


The Florida Man and the Sea
1050 words

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 stinkyhole 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 stinkyhole 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.”

May 7, 2005


Christmas is Ruined

Florida Santa fucks chimney.


May 7, 2005


Thunderdome 2016teen: gently caress PC Writing: The Real World is Cruel and Your Writing Should Show It

i spent way too long looking for that cache cab rant to find this quote

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