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Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


Oh hey, Thread. Whatcha up to? Let's see, a bunch of boring old avatars (few of them as shiny as mine), bit o' banter, story writing. That's cool. I was just in the neighborhood and thought I'd say hi. Anyway, look at the time, I probably oughtta...

Wait a minute. You get audio crits now? You know I don't have enough background talking to drown out the day, right?

What? No, I was just kidding about earlier. I've got all the time in the world for you, Thread.

*clears throat not just metaphorically and switches to movie announcer voice*

One is a bright-eyed idealist who wants only to help his fellow man. The other is a silver-tongued con artist who's only out to help himself. Together they are in.


Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


Hey, if I can create another protagonist even half as memorable this year then I'm doing better than most of the authors I read about in the Book Barn.

I also may have a wee bit of masochism.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


Equites (686 words)

Hyb returned with a triumphant grin on his face and a bucket under his bicep. Lil smacked her lips and swept their food low-bord.

"What's for me?" she asked.

"A king's ransom of red wine. Prepare to be carried home tonight."

Hyb lowered the bucket high-bord, careful not to topple it. Lil doused her bowl, tilted her head back, and slathered her face. Still dripping, she tore off some chuck and affectionately hand-fed Hyb.

The door crashed inward while he was chewing.

"Sorry!" came a shout from the perimeter. Two figures stepped over the rubble as a different voice said, "You really must learn to whistle."

Hyb's chewing slowed as he surveyed the strangers.

One was draped in tatters too heavy to be practical this season, unless he was a proselytizer from Pestis Quay. But his circular blue irises refuted that assessment. The other was a flawless specimen of a man, meticulously wrapped in whole cloth and sporting a matching hat.

"Who're you?" Lil asked as she cradled her bowl protectively.

"I'm Cipher," he said as he tipped his hat from across the room. "This is Zeus. We're here to talk about your future."

Hyb scanned the room for egress, then nodded. At least he hadn't heard this one before. "Go on."

Zeus took a step forward and asked, "Have you ever considered the divine institution of matrimony? I'm sure the union between a lovely young couple such as yourselves would be healthy, hearty, and whole."

"But I'm already nineteen," Hyb said. He knew Lil appreciated the lie; it made her feel distinguished.

"That's a magnificent achievement," Cipher said, placing his hands on Zeus' shoulders, "and I'm sure you have many years of prosperity ahead of you."

Zeus whipped his head around and glared at Cipher as though to crush him with his eyelids. "But what of the community? Think of all the industrious parents out there who lack only the children to ply their craft."

Lil relaxed her grip on the bowl and looked to Hyb, the ghost of maternal instinct partially exhumed. Hadn't they gone over this?

Before he could object Cipher chimed in.

"We're not suggesting you should; just asking you to consider your options." He closed the gap as he spoke, moving with a perfect but delayed symmetry. What a showoff. "You've still got time to think about it, and while you do, you can practice your art."

Lil's hands froze above her shoulders. The vinegar and the vapor cordially exchanged taints. "You know my art?" she asked.

"There's only one hearth in this district, so naturally I assumed those striking assemblies belonged to you."

Blushing, Lil wiped her hands and re-submerged them. "I could make beauty. Even for sprats."

"Of course," Cipher demurred.

Zeus threw two hands into the air and shook his head. Hyb suppressed a snarl.

"Don't you love her?" he asked Hyb. "Don't you want a chance at perfection? And," he lowered his voice theatrically, becoming no quieter in the process, "don't you want to know how it feels?" The last syllable was drawn like air from a pinched balloon.

"Everything I do is perfect!" Hyb shouted, surging to his feet. "If you're looking for donations, take my old chariot. It crosses all but the freshest terrain, and it can be pulled from the hip. Now your charity is satisfied, but your mockery must end!"

Cipher bared a full complement of uncannily white teeth. "I agree one hundred percent. And I sincerely apologize on behalf of my comrade. We've clearly taken enough of your time."

"Enjoy your supper," Zeus mumbled.

Hyb fumed silently while the assailants departed. What did they know about denizens like him?

Lil anointed her bosom as though nothing untoward had happened. Perhaps she was so porous that nothing had.

Outside, Cipher turned to Zeus. "You really should play Father's Advocate if you'd like the species to survive."

Zeus shrugged. "Degenerates like that? They'll be dead by twenty. Which is a shame, because they actually would have joined nicely, in a Mr. Potato Head sort of way."

"Hah! And you say I'm the Devil."

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


What? I didn't think this week's stories were that bad because I've only read two of them.


Drive-by impressions: Double-space your lines. It's easier to read in-browser. I know they're doing a thing, but I haven't yet clicked with the protagonists by the end of a first break. Possibly because I don't know what their motivations are, and if they're greedy or righteous robbers.

There are some commas that could stand to be periods. Technical style issues in general, though not rampant. How does one "display" their slick black hair? That's not the best verb there. Minor smirk at the pratfall with the security guard.

The action of dropping the USB stick is muffled by the complicated sentence structure. Shorter, simpler sentences would have more punch there.

I am garnering a little more empathy from the interaction with the lady. Those IT guys really do make excuses. I can relate to that situation.

The chase action is better paced. I read it quickly without pausing, except for a minor stumble in that screams were referenced twice in quick succession.

It's a nice gesture that Claude makes lifting Travis over, but it's not a meaningful gesture because the characters don't resonate with me. Travis is a guy who ?s and Claude is a nicer guy whose ? relationship with Travis contributes ? merit to that scene. Most I get from it is that he's a nice guy, when I think it was meant as a grander gesture of self-sacrifice.

The twist was a nice idea but it didn't have as much impact as it could've. I didn't get as much from the setup paragraph as you meant to communicate. I got the basic structure, but not enough of their motivations or greater situation, so it's more of a non-sequitur than a punch-line.

a friendly penguin

What's up with the tone and the tense in the first paragraph? It's all detached and encyclopedic and a mite off for other reasons I can't quite identify. The first couple of lines need to have a hook, something that motivates me to keep reading. Your lapse into unconsciousness is nestled at the tail end of the paragraph and with passive wording such that I almost didn't notice it as something significant. You're selling yourself short.

Again with the tone and tense; it does not endear me. The first line that works is "He needed to calm down.", though you were near overdoing the narrative questions just before that.

Is that 17+1 bullets as in 17 in the magazine and one in the chamber or 17 "+1 bullets" from urban D&D. I can't tell if you're being silly. "The longer it took to pounce" only works if it pounces. "The longer it went without pouncing."

You know about passive voice, right? It should only be employed deliberately, whereas it seems to be the default here.

The dialogue does work for me, and that's a reasonable use of a language barrier to create some in-world confusion that doesn't come across as ham-fisted.

The long paragraph feels more like a montage than a thing with significance. And all this passive voice makes any character development a narrated fact rather than an earned accomplishment.

The attention-grabbing farce definitely got my attention, and is the highlight of the piece. I'm not sure if the ending would've felt significant given my lack of understanding of the characters, but the passive voice and encyclopedic tone certainly muted what was there. Work on active sentences.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


Mr Gentleman

The first sentence is a decent hook. But then I get a little suspicious of a boar working with a wolf, and I'm going to get tired of the word Johnsteinbeck right quick. Also wolves don't read Steinbeck.

Although now I'm intrigued again, because all the other animals have alliterative names. Either the wolf's name starts with a 'w' or it's not a wolf.

I actually am becoming endeared to your characters. They display their personalities nicely through conversation that I would believe is happening between the two of them, and I can imagine multiple potential things that could go awry.

I'm fine with the literary references, although I feel like they're only there so the wolf can get interrupted. And I'm agreeable to the suggestion of suggestion, so all of that went down easy. The prose was acceptable, as well.

The montage/interlude is well written, and I'm curious to see its relevance.

The ending is well enough cute and satisfying, but I think I would've gotten more out of a tragedy. Even though I figured early on the wolf would be shot at, I think the pig's unrequited curiosity in the stories would have lingered with me longer. Overall, good job.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


Marshmallow Blue

Whoa, extraneous commas.

I like that the parrot is trying to sell things. I'm not sure why Jim Gorges got a full name since I'm assuming he's a minor character.

I totally would buy a used car from a parrot like that, by the way.

Wait who's Brady?

I'm not sure why the normal people aren't still in shock at the intelligent parrot. They got over that awfully quickly for what I'm guessing to be an otherwise normal backdrop.

Heh. I like the detail about the parrot's singing being significantly worse than the dude's. I suspect it would be true.

Nothing to say about the next few scenes. That's generally a good thing.

So I like that the car salesman is sabotaging the car in car-specific ways. Then by the way he pops out and breaks a neck. Whoa is that understated and incongruous.

The action that follows is painfully encyclopedic. Let me quote you the first word of each of those sentences: "Jim. Brady. Jim. Brady. Jim. He." I left out about half the Jims and Bradys that were present there, but it grew monotonous right quick which is not something you want in your action scenes.

Aha, what? Despite being quite trite I'll give you some points for the ending in that it's got nice finality with the up/down/pound/boom which I didn't see coming when it was said earlier.

Overall this piece feels like a generic and forgettable action script (daytime television), with one protagonist swapped out for a parrot.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


Yo yo it's only Monday so why you sayin' I'm in for ____day?

Also sebmojo's flash rules are way better than Sitting Here's. Scroll down for proof.

Finally, Grizzled Patriarch gives good crits. Carry on, fine thread. Carry on.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


I clearly have problems communicating along the lines of that adverb.

seb. Flash me. Flash me good.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


Touch and Thirst.

Back to the drawing board.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


Tipua (1000 words)

The Waka drifted to a stop half a league from harbor. Its sails were tattered, its hold depleted, and its crew exsanguinated. No one knew why Tangaroa sent the boats back.

Sonorous bells gathered the townsfolk -- everyone over sixteen assembled under threat of drowning. The Chosen died the real death, but The Drowned came back vengeful. Avaricious. Silent.

Rongo suppressed a shudder as he reached into the cauldron. The cold ivory of washed-up bones slid between his fingers until one found purchase. He closed his hand around it and reverently, gingerly removed it.

All eyes bore down on his fist. Rongo took a ragged breath and opened his hand: the black bone.

The crowd erupted, quivered, and departed. Rongo remained rooted to that very spot, as though he could escape his fate by melding into the earth. The fallen bones intermingled with the seawrack at his feet. His empty hand remained open. During the hours of his catatonia, kūmara vines visibly encroached upon the town square. Someone would have to fight them back before the next assembly, but that someone would not be Rongo.

He was freed from all duties but one.


Raw fingertips scratched angry red welts in his whiskers.


Toi had been an irascible chatterbox in life, though many years of death had mellowed him out considerably.

Rongo ran his tongue across the coarse plaque of his remaining teeth. "Stronger."

Toi shrugged, knocked the neck off of a particularly grimy bottle, and tilted it over Rongo's cup.

Rongo tossed it back in one quick motion and luxuriated as its toxic fires deadened nerve cells throughout his body. He didn't care if the numbness was permanent. The captain got free waipiro for a reason.


A week later The Waka had been refitted and it was time to go. He had enlisted one crewman and coerced two others.

Two Enforcers, naked and hairless, wrapped their massive hands around him. One on each bicep. The sudden change in blood pressure intensified the throbbing in his head; Rongo giggled at the sensation.

His crew openly traded glances of fear and disgust. Their captain wasn't a coward, he was just too drunk to board.

The Enforcers dropped Rongo off at the wheel, saluted, and returned to shore.

"Fffirst mate Rātā!" Rongo bellowed.

"Yes, captain?"

"Have we got the grog?"


"And the moonshine?"


"And the waipiro? Three barrels of waipiro?"


"Then let us be off!"

"Aye-aye," Rātā responded. The crew shuffled to their stations.


For three days they sailed in darkness, for none had the heart to set the day-lights. During this time the captain hardly drank a drop. The crew was encouraged. During this time the captain ate none of his kūmara. The crew was disheartened.

The South Island materialized in the distance, and adrenaline galvanized the crew. The band of ogres that roamed this island had been raiding the mainland with increasing savagery. Already Rongo's town had more dead than living. But at least the ogres hadn't invaded since the town started mobilizing against them.

They docked quietly, and Rongo put his finger to his lips. He hadn't shared his plans and the crew was too afraid to ask, but follow-the-captain seemed as reasonable a strategy as any. Rongo pointed at the gangway, and the crew lowered it as somberly as a casket. Rongo pointed at a barrel of spirits then upward, and two crewman lifted the barrel. He tiptoed down the gangway and motioned over his shoulder, and they followed.

Rongo led them two cables inland, then pointed to a glistening patch of loam. His crewmen planted their barrel. Without a word of explanation, Rongo returned to the ship.

They repeated this process until every keg was packed in a tight circle on the marshy soil. Exhaustion blunted the crew's apprehension, though Rātā remained chary. Rongo returned to the ship for his uneaten kūmara, then trekked back to their circle of casks.

Rongo upended his burden while the crew watched silently. They returned to the ship, and Rongo raised the gangway. He crept back to the helm, pointed at stations, and gave the signal to depart.

Rātā's eyes bulged as he gasped. Here was an act of clear cowardice in premeditated sobriety. "An offering? You cannot placate--"

Rongo backhanded Rātā so hard that the first mate nearly crumpled. Recovering, Rātā turned to Rongo and drew another breath.

Rongo shoved his hand on Rātā's mouth and thrust his gaze down to the primal part of Rātā's brain which demanded animal obedience. Rātā deflated.

Gesturing northward, they sailed away from the island in silence. Once they had passed a comfortable distance, Rātā asked, "Why are we fleeing? We cannot return home except through victory."

"And victory we shall have," Rongo said. "Once that island is out of sight, drop anchor. There we shall wait for two cycles."

"But we'll starve!"

"Obey me in this, or captain your own fate." Rongo crossed his arms and looked away; the conversation was over. Did they have to abandon all the alcohol?


Two days with no food and limited water left the crew feeble and desperate. They would have mutinied if there were even a glimmer of hope, but the ogres would kill them on sight, and at this point so would their townsmen. Sprawled across the deck, Rongo croaked, "Cut anchor and sail southward."

The crew struggled to obey, and the instant they were in motion everyone collapsed back into prostration. An hour passed in agony, then the ship ran aground with a terrible roar. They could hide no longer; this was the end.

Rātā slumped his torso over the railing so he could face his demise head-on. Demise was not what he saw.

The island was inundated with kūmara. Gargantuan ogres, normally so fierce and facile, stumbled about and tripped over the vines.

"What?" Rātā asked.

Rongo broke into a gap-toothed grin. "Gentlemen, tonight we feast! Kūmara 'til you vomit, and waipiro if you find some. But not too much."

Man agonizes over potatoes. Drunk captain of a warship. Touch and thirst.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


I did crits of the first three or four stories last night but when I plugged my USB stick in to take a backup my computer crashed.

You'll have to wait until I get back home to get those. But everybody's story up until Chernabog's got a crit. Except mine, if it was in there.

Maybe more crits after that if I have time.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007



Casual language but an adequate starter paragraph. I can anticipate Something happening.

The prose was working for me (I'm exceptionally weary right now), but you've tripped me up with "Mel". Isn't the protagonist speaking? Tom's the only other person I'm aware of. Mel doesn't sound like a nickname. I'm stumbling instead of reading.

Is there a third person here? You haven't introduced them so I'm entirely lost with regard to who's speaking to whom.

There's some tension in the Russian Roulette scene, as I'm also counting bullets. Then they shoot at ??? for ??? reasons and are shot back at.

The prose is alright but because I don't know the characters' motivations (why are they doing that and under what conditions) the tension lacks weight. Also I'm not sure how the potatoes are central to the agony. I'm not motivated to study this one further.


I like the title.

That's a wonderful first paragraph and I have some delightful ideas as to how this man might agonize over potatoes, although I wouldn't have this were the story outside the context of the 'dome.

Dunno how I feel about the lack of line breaks around dialogue. It's nonstandard, but it might not prove confusing.

I'm really empathizing a lot with your protagonist even though I have no direct experience with PTSD. Way to tap into shared expectations.

So I read the rest of it, and there's a bit of a conundrum. I really enjoy knowing that he's somehow going to freak out with regard to potatoes, and you certainly nailed that part. But part of why I know that is because of the prompt, so I can't take that delight into account as a feature of the story itself; I don't think metafiction was deliberately employed. The explanation of why he has P-PTSD is passable, but it interrupts my anticipation of the climax. Also, though I like the thought of the setup, I don't really feel it (you've Told me how bad Sergeant Soldier is, but I didn't experience it) and I don't buy it as a cause of this level of PTSD.

If somehow you could establish the PTSD around potatoes in advance of the opening paragraph without relying on the context of the thread, I think this would've been great as a much shorter story. I have nothing against one-note punch-line stories as long as they go all in. But I'm not exactly sure how to accomplish that, so what I'm left with are conflicting feelings.


I'm not with you (and maybe a little against you) at the end of the first paragraph. That's a no-no. You've got some office worker with an overactive whiny imagination? Boo-hoo. I hope that the world is actually changing based on his mood or something more interesting.

You've got some tense changes that I don't think are intentional (The shadow was / So here I am). And some capitalization issues ("Harv, when are you coming home?" my wife asks.) I probably won't mention these further unless they're particularly egregious. (There's another.)

Not waiting for the response is fine, but predicting what the response will be has the opposite of the (I imagine) intended effect, as now I fully expect something to go wrong because of that line. Also I'm not sympathetic to someone who hasn't figured out how to manage his workload.

Why the heck is he sabotaging someone else's work now? You list his rationale, but I don't swallow it. I can't conceive of this being a real fellow. Also I make computer games from time to time and work in an office.

Why are you saying why so much? It has overstayed its welcome.

There's a glimmer of satisfaction in that he actually does see the smiling family at the end (especially since I'd mis-predicted the trajectory), but there were way too many roadblocks for me to enjoy this story. It didn't resonate with me. None of the actions or motivations or descriptions made sense -- I'm not sure if that's because of how similar a situation I've been in or in spite of it. The mental breakdown is underplayed and a bit irritating in style. Ham it up a little more -- spend less time on the encyclopedic parts (which even I glazed over, though I've never been fond of doing assets) and more time on the fun stuff: the flipping out, the discrepancies in working conditions, and an external sense of pressure instead of the bizarrely self-inflicted one.

a friendly penguin

I'm neither with you nor against you for the first few lines. I don't dislike anything about it but I'm not convinced it will go anywhere interesting, either. Mild amounts of amusement about the doodling (that's easy to relate to), but then a brief hiccup of confusion when Andre responds with "A masterpiece." I had no reason to assume he was looking at Eddie's drawings. I do like that Andre is trying to sell pear sketches to pass as potato sketches. That feels real.

The first paragraph of Tuesday is a good one. It conveys a sense of tension and apathy. The banter's better on this day as well.

Heh, Bob Ross. The structure and especially the opening paragraphs of each day does convey a sense of progression, but I'm losing interest. They're agreeable characters, but I don't have enough reason to care about them specifically. Something's up with their mom, I guess.

Ah, there's some interest in the characters with Andre's outburst. It's set up such that it makes sense in the context, and it's human enough to garner my empathy. For Andre.

I feel Eddie's sense of excitement at the potato's growth although I can't comprehend how he wouldn't know how a potato worked.

Why is Andre thanking Eddie?

I also don't know what Mr. Ashi meant, so the ending jest misses its mark.

This story had a few moments of interest, but I'm going to forget about it quickly. Also, don't edit your submissions!

Black Griffon

I'm up to the first separator, and I'm not feeling much of anything. She's looking for someone who isn't there in a warzone, which should be a little more gripping, but it's not doing it for me. I think the prose is a little to calm for me to feel a sense of urgency, so instead of getting the associations with chaos, confusion, and loss, instead I get a sense of forlorn but perpetual wandering. Not in a poignant way, just not in a way that makes me feel for the protagonist.

There should be horror when the solder gets eaten but there just is not enough tension in the prose. It's sort of meditative and now there's a monster. But also I don't care about any of the characters, so predominantly I feel relaxed.

Your verbs aren't punchy enough to convey a sense of urgency or danger. "The dust fills the room as Anja shakes the journal, giving birth to beams of light in the haze by the window." That's generally peaceful. "Anja shakes a layer of dust from the journal." That's more immediate. I'm not sure what purpose the other descriptions serve but it strikes me as contradictory with regard to tone.

Now you're changing scenes too quickly. The creepy science fiction horror didn't stick to me; again the sentences are too passive and ponderous and reminiscent. Though it's in present tense, the tone makes me feel like the events are being recollected calmly, so the conclusion can't be that dramatic.

Too many passive sentences. Or, if you're going for sad, you're not hitting it.

The concept here is all right but the execution doesn't do it for me. You're the second person to edit their submission -- that's a big no-no!

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


Dr. Kloctopussy posted:

A time-invested line-crit.

Thanks for the crit; it was illuminating and informative.

Yes, I did mean exsanguinated literally.

Also thanks Tyrannosaurus for the crit a few weeks back. Also educational.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


drat. Keep on keepin' on.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


I'm diggin' all the crittin' that's been goin' on around here lately.

Let me rephrase that:


Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


Candybrain (1467 words)

Dave squirmed in his desk as he scratched at the base of his skull. Stop fidgeting. Mrs. Maiter walked down the rows of alphabetized students, returning last week's sensitivity exams. Dave's was stamped with an ugly red "unsatisfactory".

Earnest objections bubbled up to Dave's forebrain, but even he knew not to speak to an adult unless first spoken to.

He flipped past the cover page and read some of the teacher's comments: "Willing to be generalized." "Hesitation before action." "Does not display sufficient outrage."

That last one wasn't even true. Righteous indignation swelled within him as he thought, The teacher is correct.

Mrs. Maiter returned to her podium and asked, "Before we adjourn, are there any questions?"

Dave scratched at the back of his neck as though his fingernails could tear away his generalized sense of discontent.


At lunch Dave received an undersized braisé. He wondered if he were somehow being punished. As always, it smelled delicious.

He sat by himself and dutifully ate his serving, spitting out the gristle when nobody was looking. When the bell rang he got up, disposed of his waste, and filed out into the yard.

Tuesday was football day, one of the few school activities he looked forward to. The students organized into teams of ten and spread out in horizontal lines thirty yards away from their opponents. Dave was given a ball.

The whistle blew and his team surged forward. Billy from 12th grade blocked his path, but Billy was notoriously slow. Maybe this time Dave would score.

When Dave was merely feet away Billy raised his hand, palm upward. Stop. Dave halted and handed his ball to Billy while the rest of his team did likewise. They marched back to their initial positions and awaited the next whistle.

Dave was going to give Billy such a halting when the proper time comes.

Sometime during the third quarter Dave's eyes started to wander. Down the field the girls were practicing their cheerleading routine. They looked so wholesome that Dave couldn't help having complimentary thoughts about them. He was so distracted he didn't notice Billy running up to him. Always the absent-minded one, Billy didn't stop himself and crashed right into Dave, knocking him on his back.

David stared blankly at the sky while he caught his breath. The back of his head tingled. Was it this hazy when he left the cafeteria?

Billy helped David up and David thanked him before recoiling. Somehow his opponent had become filthy during the scuffle -- his shirt was tattered, and grime stuck to him like tattoos on a carnie. David looked down to find himself in no better condition, and it dawned on him that all of his classmates were grungy. Had he fallen unconscious? Was this some kind of prank? Best keep his mouth shut.

The whistle blew, and David's nine teammates charged at their opponents.


The rest of the day passed like a dream, where the most arbitrary details seemed incongruous and remarkable yet David's conscious mind could not describe them. He blinked and class was over. He nodded and his concerned friends evaporated. Two steps later and he was at his front door; all he had to do was knock on it.

The knocker glared down at David as if crossing its imaginary arms. "This is not your house," it said when David listened closely. But no, knockers didn't talk. Certainly not ones as worn-down as this. There was a hole just below the knocker where some recent accident had torn into the door itself. David thought he saw a family of spiders living inside.

He took a step backward and the door swung outward, its hinges creaking in protest.

An unfamiliar woman greeted him. The pattern on her dress was worn beyond all recognition, and her hair shot greasy tendrils in all directions, in stiff defiance of gravity.

"What are you still doing out here, Dave?" she asked. "Why don't you come inside?"

David was fascinated by the gaps in her teeth, the sores at the edges of her mouth. Her words hadn't registered with him.


She reached a spindly arm toward him, and everything clicked into focus.

David turned and ran.

He ran down the row of houses, past a weedy dirt lot, and out toward a fetid pond. The bog-stench threatened to overwhelm him, and David had to steady his breathing. There was supposed to be a park somewhere around here, but in this grim caricature of Aller Mieux David couldn't find it.

Covering his nose with his hand he nestled between two scraggly bushes, receiving numerous scratches for his trouble. David concealed himself as best he could, then tried to gather his thoughts.

Everything had been fine this morning; he remembered it clearly. But the events since football were hazy. Something about Billy. Something about a collision.

David absent-mindedly raised his hand to scratch the back of his neck. Nothing happened.

An alien feeling of dread clamped down on him as he slid his hand higher, past the bottom of his hair, up to -- there!

His hand seized onto something foreign which was stuck to his skull. David pulled at it with his hand, but felt nothing with his head. Frantic, he jerked vigorously at random angles until he was rewarded with a startling snap and a few cuts on his forehead.

David brought his hand in front of him, his fist still closed. He took one breath, then another, and opened his hand. In his palm lie a shiny chrome antenna.

That didn't make sense. Antennas were for televisions. How had one got stuck to the back of his head? Was he delusional from a head wound?

The sun began to set while these thoughts bounced around in him, and a dull siren lazily bellowed. That was the signal for curfew, or close enough to it, which meant that he should be heading home.

David braced himself for the journey then realized that he was still crouching. Even though the curfew bell had rung. He searched his memories for a time when he had been out past dark but came back with nothing. He noted the phenomenon, but it was low on his list of concerns.

The sun had gone down by the time David finalized his plan. He carefully crept out of the bush he had been hiding in and retraced his steps to where his house should have been.

It was lit on the inside, but David still didn't trust the door. He snuck around back and looked at the second story window frame that should've been his. Good, the lights were out.

As quietly as he could, David emptied the garbage can, turned it upside-down, and stood on it. He counted to three in his head then jumped, his fingers just barely catching the bottom of the window sill.

David pulled himself up and inside, gasping as a shard of broken glass cut into his leg. The blood looked strangely clean against the filth on his calf, but it quickly coagulated into another ugly brown. At least the cut wasn't too deep.

In the darkness he gathered some of his belongings: the compass from geology class, a few extra pairs of clothes, and some stale crackers he'd managed to squirrel away one dinner. Zipping up his backpack, he turned back toward the window and cleared away the remaining shards of glass.

The lights came on.

"What are you doing, Dave?" the grotesque mockery of his mother asked.

"I was just, uh, cleaning my window. It looked dirty, you know?"

"And you've done a fine job, but if you don't close it then bugs will get in."

"Right." Sweating, David waved his hand across the empty portal. Then he turned back to the woman. "There."

"Good. Now take of your backpack and go to bed; you've got school in the morning."

"Yes ma'am."

Smiling a hideous yellow smile, the woman who thought she was his mother turned out the lights and closed the door.

Tonight was too dangerous, David decided. Tomorrow he'd make his break on his way to school.

With that thought to buoy him, David drifted off into a deep sleep. Something in his dreams suggested clowns and dentistry, but David's mind was to numb to awaken.


The next morning he put his school supplies back in his backpack (which was strangely packed), went downstairs, and ate breakfast. He waved farewell to his mother and closed the front door behind him.

Wasn't there something he was going to do today?

Go to school.

That's right. Dave walked past the park near his house and whistled a cheery tune. Idly, he scratched the back of his neck and no higher.

It was shaping up to be marvelous day.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


Wait, were there really only five of them?


Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


Huzzah! Finally get to listen to one of these about stories I've wrote or read.

Now I need to write more stories.

In for whatever the next prompt is. Also I need a flash rule, preferably in advance of the prompt.

Edit: Bwahaha, that was delightful! Fantastic voice acting on the dramatization, and I think "overwrought and underdeveloped" shall be my new motto.

Plus if Kaishai ever has an aneurysm, we'll know who to blame.

Hammer Bro. fucked around with this message at 21:44 on Aug 22, 2016

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


Perhaps I wasn't loud enough last time.

In with Meet the Taoist Steel Workers Who Are Putting Soft Grunge Back on the Map.

:siren:Hey, 'domers:siren: I'm soliciting flash rules. You've got until I start thinking about my prompt in earnest 'til I tell you to stuff it; that's probably 7:30 PDT.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


Quidnose posted:

Also can I still sign up? Put me in.

Yeah I'm 0 for 2 on the signing up to the prompt blind game.

Pick a headline from here and write 1,500 words about it. It does not have to be from the perspective of a news reporting agency. It's due whenever Tyrannosaurus closes up shop in New York on Sunday.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


Because gently caress You, That's Why (1433 words)

Prompt: Meet the Taoist Steel Workers Who Are Putting Soft Grunge Back on the Map.
Flash Rule: Your protagonist wants to be the lead singer, but he can't sing.
Flash Rule: There must be a limerick in your story.


"The Sultan. The Sultan! The Sultan's coming to town!"

Miriam had had just about all she could take of the stupid "festival".

"Don't fault him, exalt him! Let's bask in his renown!"

She was just trying to get to the market to buy some produce. She'd hoped to wait it out, but the celebrations had been going strong for over a week.

"Praise him. Upraise him! Do naught to make him frown!"

If those sweaty bastards got any closer she was going to have an aneurysm. Then they'd likely trample her without even realizing--

"Implore him, adore him! Make sure to--"

"SHUT the EVERLIVING gently caress UP!"

The revelers stopped in unison. Some froze mid-stride from the force of her blasphemy. All eyes faced Miriam, though only the closest could see her.

"Don't you people have anything better to do than dance and praise some distant idol? How do you put food on the table if all you do is sing? Have any of you even seen this Sultan you waste your lives for?"

There was a moment of silence. Tendrils of ice sashayed down her spine. The crowd hadn't so much as blinked during her outburst. Miriam turned to find them parted like the Red Sea.

Standing amidst them was a single man; a man of such concentrated intensity that all the details of Miriam's surroundings swirled away into nothingness.

"Perhaps they have not. But you have."

Oh, poo poo.

"I'm sorry! I didn't mean it! I was just so fed up with all the noise that--"

"Tut, tut." the Sultan said as he put his finger gently to her lips. The last guy who'd tried that had gotten a black eye, but Miriam found herself as immobile as her surroundings.

"I don't normally meddle," he continued, "but given the severity of your transgression, I feel I must."

Miriam quailed.

"It is my decree that henceforth, you shall be the leader of all musical celebrations in this town."

No. No! Miriam's eyes widened, and the spell was broken. She wheeled about and sprinted as fast as she could, weaving through the crowd of cardboard cut-outs, mindless as to where she was going. Away. That was her only guidance.


It had been hours since the irrational fear had subsided. Miriam was in a strange part of the sultanate, one she hadn't known existed. The huts were no longer clay, but some well-worn metal that did nothing to convey opulence. Most appeared abandoned, and many were obviously unfinished.

Miriam hurt all over and could hardly breathe for thirst, but she knew she couldn't go back. At least not until the fervor died down. After all, who was she that the Sultan should take notice? She was a nobody. He didn't even know her name. In a day or two this would all blow over; she just needed to lay low until then.

One particular building pulsated hypnotically. Miriam approached it like a moth drawn to a flame, but was interrupted by the bellow of the most reverberant whistle she had ever heard. The door crept open, and behind it stood three identical monks. They did not seem surprised to find a bedraggled stranger in their demesne.

"Blessed be the traveler, for his privations repel stagnation," one said. "Even a god requires respite," said another. "Every man deserves shelter," concluded the third.

Something about their demeanor drained the last vestiges of adrenaline from Miriam's system. She did not remember passing out.


Miriam awoke with a start and jerked upright. Mistake! her body protested. More delicately, she lifted a nearby pitcher of water and drank until her stomach ached. Then she surveyed her surroundings.

The room she was in was made of metal. The walls were metal, the floor was metal, even the bed was (painfully) metal. She hadn't seen this much metal in her entire life.

Groaning, she pushed herself upright and left the room in search of her new hosts. The air throbbed with a steady thumping, occasionally undercut by something she could not make out.

She traced the sounds to their source and found the monks, industriously pounding away at molten iron. That explained the thumping, but not the other noise.

The monk with the hammer set the stage. "Pump the bellows, spin the wheel. Turn that iron into steel!"

You have got to be kidding me.

Another joined in. "Shape your future with your hand, at Commissioner's command!"


"Work the body, work the mind. The reward is the work you'll find," the third concluded.

Miriam swallowed her first response. "What are you doing?" she asked.

The men wiped their brows and turned to face her in disconcerting unison.

"Let not your vision exceed your eyes," spoke the first. "The only worthy effort is the one which engages all senses," said the second. "The bat screeches because it must, but the bird salutes the dawn with glee," finished the third. drat they're weird.

"O-kay. Is it all right if I stay here a few more days? You said I could."

One said, "What is sought is not always found." Then another, "A plant cannot grow without sunlight." And the third, "The free exchange of gifts leaves all parties enriched."

Did they have to talk in proverbs?

"So you're saying I should help out to earn my keep?"

"The light of wisdom penetrates even the darkest corners." Hey! "What's congenial to the quail is congenial to the covey." "A single drop is harmless, but the mighty ocean erodes mountains."

"I think I've got it. Just tell me what to do and I'll try my best."

The monks turned back to their refinery as though she hadn't spoken. One monk began rhythmically pounding slag while another pumped the bellows in harmony. The third scraped around melodically with tongs.

One of the monks began to sing. "Every piece can sense its part. Combine them into works of..."

All three looked at her while they hammered out another measure. "Art," a different one chimed in at the last second.

Miriam's jaw dropped. This was what they wanted?

A different monk picked up the mantle. "Let us work in har-mo-ny. Surely four is more than..."

Another measure passed and the monks began to scowl. "Three," the third one finished.

Fine, drat it! If this was what these freakshows wanted then Miriam was going to give it to them.

With a note of warning in his voice, the third monk opened, "Everyone deserves a chance--"

"So shut your mouth and drop your pants!" Miriam shouted arrhythmically.

The monk with the hammer missed his mark and the one with the bellows paused. The one with the tongs narrowed his eyes.

They quickly returned to their musical machinations, but before the next measure arrived Miriam barreled forward.

"You goofy dolts are weird as balls. Where'd you get those overalls?" She managed to be both monotone and out-of-key.

The first two monks cringed while the third remained impassive. A whistle blew and they tossed their tools carelessly to the ground.

"What, why are you stopping?" Miriam teased. "Can't handle the straight truth?"

A new voice spoke behind her. "I am pleased to see you've been practicing."

Goddammit, not this clown again. Miriam turned to face the Sultan.

"You!" she pointed. "You were in on this the whole time!"

The Sultan took the accusation with pride. "All things conform to my strictures. Those that resist may cease to exist."

Great. Even this onion-headed asshat was starting to rhyme.

"Are you ready to return to town?" he asked. "The people await you."

Miriam was more than ready. "Hey, monks!" she barked. "Strike up a tune."

The monks gathered their instruments reluctantly and returned to their work. A rhythm established itself, but Miriam failed to follow it.

"There once was a Sultan of slaves,
who treated his subjects like knaves.
If he had the chance,
I'm sure he would dance
on top of their mis'rable graves."

Miriam glared as though daring the Sultan to object. The monks shook their heads in collective dismay.

The Sultan burst out laughing.

To her surprise, Miriam was not offended. His was an honest laughter, one that held no judgment nor malice. Soon she found herself smiling at the absurdity of it all.

"Does that mean you're not going to punish me?" she asked.

"Oh, no," his chuckles subsided, "you'll still have to lead the celebrations. But only you can decide if that's punishment."

Miriam thought about that for a moment then broke into a wolfish grin.

Maybe the festivals wouldn't be so bad after all.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


Whoa, thread moves way too fast now.

Here's all I got:

Sailor Viy

The opening image doesn't quite work for me. I imagine totems as large things that would be hard to carry with two hands. After reading the next sentence I think you meant that Dmitry looked like a totem, but the phone is the noun that immediately precedes the description so that's what I associate it with.

"trip over", without having something to trip over, is an awkward phrase. Just say "trip". Also, I'm not sure why a phone is so important yet, but I'm tentatively willing to accept that it is.

"long hours more" is also awkward. Is English not your native language? I'll stop pointing out these minor irregularities, but the phrasing is frequently just off enough to be distracting.

"Their father came home around eight, later than usual. He must have had a good run at poker." This is a nicely evocative section. It sets me up with all kinds of preconceptions about their father and his relationship with the protagonists and garners a bit of empathy for the boys. Even though the abusive parent trope is a bit trite, it's applied (perhaps only implied) with a soft touch here. We'll see where it goes.

The abstract paragraph describing the freshly-booted computer is all right. Perhaps because I already considered Vine and all those other social media trends surreal. It puts a concrete image in my head; who hasn't quietly snuck on the computer when the adults were asleep? (Younger people, I suppose.)

You're building tension, and that's good. I'm curious to see where it goes.

The second section (in the library) reads smoothly. I haven't read your prompt but it's an interesting situation you're describing, and the concept of cultural mimicry is something I can relate with. After a fashion, that's how we all learn to speak and interact, especially colloquially (or in whatever memes the whippersnappers repost these days). So it's novel to see that concept exaggurated to the extremes that it is here.

The prose in the third section gets awkward again. I'm starting to feel like the father is more of a caricature than a character -- I understand that he's a drunk and abusive, but what's his motivation for getting rid of the computer? That seems like an awful lot of effort as opposed to an impulsive backhand and you haven't given me any hint as to why the dad doesn't want them on the computer.

Uh. The ending doesn't work for me. Sergei's concern on Dmitry's behalf definitely resonates -- I think most of us have a large collection of irreplacable personal files on computers these days, and his concern on behalf of his brother is appropriate. But his solution? Dmitry would be crushed to know he didn't have access to his videos so let's make sure Dmitry doesn't have access to his videos. Doesn't make a lick of sense.

I can kind of see what you're implying with "Natalya will take care of us", but I'm not convinced that the strategy will work, or how. You've Told me to some degree that she's popular (kind of), but I can't conceive how a few hundred Twitter followers or whatever would pay for room and board. Partially because of that, and partially because of the abstract (but concretely visual) penultimate sentence, the last paragraph which is supposed to be inspiring instead feels forced.


I'm neither amused nor off-put by your almost Yakov-Smirnoff-joke setup. (As an aside, turns out he rarely actually told such jokes.) Unfortunately that means I'm a handful of lines in, and I haven't caught a Hook.

All right, your catching me with the second introduction. I do like it when people personify stereotypes without realizing it.

The line after "I shrugged" does not make adequate sense without the assistance of your prompt, which I had to go back and read. In general I think pieces that establish their own context are stronger than ones that lean on the precise circumstances of their initial presentation.

I smirked at Vladimir's actual joke.

"Saturday came around, and so did I to the oval where the match was being played." This feels like Awkward trying to be Clever.

Football is a binary game -- either one team loses, or the other one does. There are clear rules for resolving ties. I don't see how the narrator could think by half time that it would be "tough to ask for either team to get a win". On a personal note, I'm not fond of "win" as a noun, but that's probably due to rampant corporate misuse.

"It was directly after time on for the second half" sounds weird. Maybe I don't watch enough football, but "time on" did register with me. "the start of" would've been just fine.

"There was an overpass that passed by the field." Oof. Clunky repetition.

Even if they're playing soccer, how can one team have multiple "goals"?

A bunch of poorly edited words and phrases in the second start of your story -- did you not proofread it? Are you trying to affect a narrator whose mother tongue isn't English? He seemed perfectly fluent in his early dialogue, so I don't think that's the case.

Revisiting the prompt, I do like the ironic use of "whistleblower". But the second half had so many poorly constructed phrases that I just couldn't stay with your story, as simple as it was.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


The Cut of Your Jib posted:

Sign-ups are now closed.

Still have an open judging spot if there are any volunteers (and before I resort to begging)

I judge all of you on a regular basis, but due to a strange quirk of scheduling I'm free to do it in an official capacity.

'magine I have to dust off an IRC client or somethin'.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


Ham-based crits!


Your first paragraph does well. It establishes the desperation of a main character, taps into the anti-establishment zeitgeist, and gives me a reason to empathize with him.

Tragically, you immediately move on to ham-fisted exposition. I do not have nearly enough empathy for the protagonist yet to endure this much Telling and repetition. I already got that he hates Headhop, and considering how encyclopedic it is you might've been better off without mention of the sister.

That means you could've saved 293 words of my life. I'll never get those back.

More exposition in Scene Two, this time in the form of dialogue nobody would ever say. "Hey, remember how right now I'm judging you because I made a Big Mistake? Let's come back to that later."

The third scene advances what little plot there is, but it's so dry and uninteresting I have trouble forming thoughts about it. I have trouble forming thoughts in proximity to it. It feels aggressively uninteresting.

The fourth scene also falls flat. More exposition, this time from an even less developed character. The twist(?) ending is about as far from Orwellian as one can get.

Your characters aren't really interacting with each other or contesting directly -- instead they're both talking to me, the reader, about their goals which happen to be in conflict. I didn't write this prompt so we could have wooden characters think aloud at us. Actually, I didn't write this prompt at all, but I don't think that's what Jib had in mind when he wrote it, either. You were supposed to get into the heads of the protagonists, that way their actions would be justifiable and relatable. Instead you gave us First Person Present Tense, which at best only serves to make the narrative more confusing. It also adds a weird, inappropriate sense of urgency to something I caren't one whit about.

Rotisserie Breakfast Sausage

Some Strange Flea

I like the mood established by the first paragraph. It's contemplative. I don't want to point out all of the individual details you've employed, but you've really got a knack for them. Almost nothing felt inappropriate or wasteful, hard to do in a limited word-count, and a few of them ("in a way no-one has ever done by accident") resonate quite strongly.

The "Not a smile. Not for him." line does a fantastic job of implying backstory and getting me interested in its resolution. I know that there's history and stubbornness, but I don't know what or why.

On my first readthrough I can't tell if the male protagonist has physically matured (narrower jaw, healed scar, taller) or if something more exotic (robots or reincarnation?) is going on -- he was using a different name for reasons unknown.

I like his rationalizations -- he comes off as probably in the wrong but relatable. The imagery of his singular path of trials is probably the most impactful piece of prose for me. While he could come across as a (n android?) stalker, instead he is shackled with tragic determination.

Lisa's metaphorical paragraph was the only point where you started to lose me. There are enough unresolved implications right before it that I want to digest them (actually want to know more; that's rare in the 'dome) and so the visual imagery feels distracting. My brain is still trying to work out the significance of the scabs on her back.

But you get me right back with Question One. Enough so that I scrolled up to re-read questions two and three.

The last scene brings some resolution, but it leaves a lot of things open. Which is what I like most about this piece -- it's evocative.

But there also isn't enough on the hook that I want to try to puzzle it out myself. It's the kind of thing I'd probably look up spoilers for, and then retroactively appreciate it based on how well they paid off. I also think my head's in a slightly weird place right now because I won't let go of the idea that they've all had some kind of cybernetic alterations performed on them. You link very specific physical locations with their motivating feelings, and it seems to me like more significance was intended than mere suggestive imagery.

A Savory Pork Chop eaten at a Mystery Dinner Theater with Seasonings I Can't Quite Identify but also I'm Distracted


I stumbled a bit in the opening scene. Other than "matronly" (and perhaps the name "Doris"), you didn't convey that Doris was old. So I start off thinking they're comparably-aged adults, and when Lenny is crawling around in the cupboards and calls her "mom", I downgrade him to a youngster, despite the previous mention of his work-talk. Lenny also sounds like a kid's name.

So when you say "ever since his divorce there wasn't much soft left in him", first I think that it's a good line for painlessly establishing some backstory. Then I realize you said "his divorce", and I'm confused. He can't have divorced his mom, and in my head he's too young to have been married.

It's a weird tangent, but we had an implicit failure in communication between writer and reader. I think I liked the details well enough, but my attention has been by this point thoroughly diverted.

Things are cleared up entirely on the next scene, but I lost my momentum before I got there. I think you swapped a "she" with "he" on that paragraph, which isn't helping my sense of stability. Also "couldn't" -> "shouldn't"? Those feel like odd errors in the otherwise smooth (my distraction notwithstanding) narrative.

While I like the "Maybe they didn't tell you this" line in theory, its placement is jarring. I'm under the impression that this scene should be from Lenny's point of view (maybe biased by the similar structure adopted by the previous stories), so something that's first directed at me (with "you") then from Doris' point of view (coupled with a few odd word choices and apparent editing errors prior) makes it another tripwire.

You're starting to win me over with the introduction of plausible senility. Now both characters are in conflict and their motivations feel sensible.

I'm glad you agree that Lenny is a kid's name, enough so that you worked it into the narrative. Though he still sounds like a bit of a pain in the neck even from his own dialogue.

I do like what you've done with the ending. I empathize more greatly with Doris, but then Leo just up and steals victory. I feel like I would've enjoyed this story decently if I didn't hit so many stumbling blocks; there is a decent amount of heart to it.

Ribs left Directly Over the Fire for Too Long


An acceptable first paragraph. I like the silliness of the names, although I feel like I've read "Fistibulus" before.

The silliness has yet to let me down, though I was hoping their duel was actually merely the eating of figs, or some other ritual evolved into obscurity. The humorous tension between the formality implied by wizards and professors compared with their actions is satisfying.

Feels appropriate and perhaps commentary-y that they're voting on his charges, then immediately voting on the verdict themselves.

Got an audible laugh out of the big punchline.

I don't have a lot to say about this piece, but that's a good thing. You were going for some silly humor and you succeeded. The mental imagery is pleasant, and there was ample will-dueling. Plus I liked all of the characters involved, even if they were mostly one-dimensional. But the point of the story wasn't characterization.

Pepperoni from the Pack while the Pizza is Cooking


Oh dear. This one needs some work. I thought I was losing my brains due to fatigue, which perhaps I am, but there are a whole slew of awkward phrases and run-on sentences and passive voices in this piece. Since you're new, I'll opine on it line-by-line:

Beige posted:

Screen test

1585 words.

Climbing out of the valley the city cab curved and pushed upward into cleaner air. Awkward, but normally passable. Except that we're all salty and jaded in the Thunderdome. In flash fiction, and our modern world of ADD, people can't be bothered to read something unless it hooks them immediately. Sometimes that can be accomplished in the first paragraph, but it's best to try to hook the reader in with the first sentence. Especially when: There was green here to line the roads and rock and the houses were set apart with real gardens afforded them. Passive voice, odd construction, run-on sentence or maybe it's just missing a few words that would assist with my reading-comprehension. Streetlights neatly arrayed led the diesel car along, skirting the edge between the city below and the upmarket apartment buildings.

The cab driver glanced in the rear view and the passenger already knew what he was thinking. By not naming your character ("the passenger"), you're distancing us from him. That's not what you want in a sympathy piece. He rounded a corner still wet from the rain shower and looked back again. “You know. I don’t believe I’ve ever been up here before, can you believe it?”

The passenger returned the glance and gave a courtesy “Oh, no?” and then turned back to the black window, and stared through his reflection. Meandering sentence. The small lights of the city lay out behind the treeline and beneath the road and a few miles distant. Weird and clunky The luminescence in yellow rotating around him as the car pivoted. Oof. Is English not your first language? He looked ahead and cleared his throat. “This next one, thank you,” he said.

“Man, these places are huge. Makes you wonder who owns a place like this. Like, doctors and things,” said the driver as the car navigated its way onto the driveway. Saying no more about "navigated", I don't really buy that a taxi driver would say, "Whoa, seems like only weirdos would go to that stop you're going to. Don't forget to tip."

He avoided the silent question and asked the driver how much the ride was and paid him and wished him a good night before crossing the lit courtyard and climbing the steps to the first floor apartment. Four "and"s, zero commas!

Their apartment smelt like soft fruits like a shampoo or light perfume. Like... like? She could have returned late from work or about to leave for an early start. Bad construction, and again you're distancing me from the second protagonist. He lost track of her work days long ago. [/b]Work schedule?[/b] He smelled like alcohol and cigarettes and looked no better in his coloured shirt pulled out at the waist and his blazer which looked worn when he bought it used a decade ago. Three "and"s, zero commas, and I had to scroll to the right to complete that sentence.

It had taken him a long time to feel comfortable in this place. She settled in right away, enjoying the large rooms and beautiful view of the valley. This was her style and she wanted it right away and so they took it. While less clunky than many of the other sentences, it's expository. You're just declaring things in an encyclopedic fashion, which makes for very dry reading. One of the most common pieces of advice when starting out is, "Show, don't tell." You could've achieved much greater impact if "He pulled his coat tighter about him, as if the thin fabric could protect him from the yawing emptiness of a three thousand square foot apartment." Now we know he's uncomfortable and lives in a big place, but it's been presented in a much more engaging fashion. After all he needed only the essentials to be satisfied and she was set on the place and she was paying. Awkwardly written. Also, I only need some calories for dinner, but am I going to complain if a roommate serves up a heaping pile of spaghetti? Your sentence doesn't even convey what you want it to, which is that the male protagonist is uncomfortable in opulence.

They had lived together in the city since meeting at university where she studied media and he pursued acting. They did not care that their ground floor flat was small and uncared for. Needing only a space to live and love while they chased their respective careers the flat was adequate for young lovers out of school. Again, very dryly descriptive. Also minor awkwardness that I don't really want to point out every instance of. Another good rule for starts: don't start sentences with -ing verbs. I don't know why most novice writers are attracted to it, but the common usage generally creates a stumbling block of awkward tense.

His talents hadn’t paid for this. Hers did. Being dragged up the ladder and rewarded with larger salaries they found themselves able to buy their home here out of the city. His career amounted to less that the value of the car in the garage and they each knew this. This is the first paragraph that gives me a glimmer of hope, but it's buried quite deeply. I'll talk more about what worked outside the line-crit.

She walked into the room with wet hair and a towel. “How did your screen test go?” she asked.

“About as well as the others,” he replied, walking over to the mini bar. He pushed the bottles around and pulled out the gin and a glass. “The whole business stinks these days. They don’t want the old style any more. They don’t know what they want at all.” Your dialogue is all right. This sounds like how people would talk, which is a good step up from most of your descriptive prose.

“You did try though, didn’t you?” she asked. She caught the scent of old booze on his clothes and sensed his frustration through his lethargic poise.

He finished his drink drat, that was quick. and reached for the bottle once more and hesitated and let his hand fall then turned to her. Ands without interruption. “What have you heard?” he asked in a non-accusing tone. She had friends in the business and word got around quickly these days.

“It’s just that one of the girls…” she inhaled again and continued. “They heard it didn’t go so well this time.”

“Oh, no?”

“I’m not blaming you,” she went on. “But…” she faltered for a moment, reaching for a gentle tone. “There was a monologue?” she offered, granting him a chance to explain himself. Right now I feel a little bit of sympathy for her, as she really does want to believe the best out of him. Even if neither of them have names.

“Yeah, I did a monologue,” he said, somewhat cheerily. “I really went all out on it. Full acting, gestures. Maximum volume.”

“Screen tests usually have a short script though, don’t they?” I'm not familiar enough with acting lingo to be confident that monologues imply unscripted, so this doesn't come across as clearly as it could.

“Probably. Yeah there might have been a script somewhere. They were all saying the same lines and inflecting the same words like some trash soap actor. I gave them a real fright. A touch of the old way of doing things,” he had poured another drink and was holding it up before him. The dialogue and the actions should be two separate sentences here. They are not directly related. Also I had forlornly hoped, when you said "fright", that the protagonists were ghosts and a screen check involved haunting old antenna-based televisions, whereas all the modern ghosts just sneak in product placement or something disappointingly pedestrian. His sudden burst of laughter unbalanced him and he grasped a side cabinet to steady himself. You say "His sudden burst of laughter" as though I should've been familiar with it. “This uppity young one walked out while they were shooting. She said I was spitting on her during my acapella rendition of the Coca Cola Christmas song.”

“The what now?”

“HOOO-LI-DAYS ARE COOMINNNG!” he was laying prostrate now and resting his empty glass on his soaked shirt. Wasn't that supposed to be "Santa Claus is coming"? “Darling, you do love me don’t you?” he asked, righting himself with his elbows. I will say that you're careful to keep subsequent dialogue in the same paragraph restricted to the same character.

“Yes. Don’t you think you ought to polish up your method though? Bring it a little more into line with what the producers are actually looking for?” she asked.

“The producers don’t know good acting when it’s in front of them and they are filming it and it is bellowed into their faces. They don’t want acting. They want the kind of person who follows a drat script and stands on the taped out crosses on the floor. Someone who follows ‘instruction.” I get that you're demonstrating his lack of self-awareness but it seems hard to swallow that someone could say something like that in what I perceive to be all-seriousness. "They want someone competent."

“So you’re saying that want an ac…”

“I know how to act, darling.”

“I heard you were looking at the camera on purpose.”

“Did ‘one of the girls’ tell you that too?” he said, swinging out his free arm with as much stage presence as he could remember learning from college. In my mind he's still laying prostrate when he does this. That's a funny mental image, but I don't think it's what you intended. “Rules are meant to be broken. So I winked at the camera a couple of times. It’s how I interpreted my character.” He paced from the mini bar to the window and looked into the dark.

“You ought to be taking your career a little more seriously,” she pleaded. “It’s your dream and you should be nurturing it, not pissing it away.”

Her reflection placed her in the middle of the room and he dared not turn around. It was beginning to sound like an intervention on his lifestyle; an argument a long time coming. No comments yet because all of that read decently well. Despite her reassurances through the years he’d always felt he was letting her down. This may be the first bit of sentiment that allows me to empathize with him. He seems to be the primary protagonist, but there's been very little for me to identify with. Wanting to please others and perhaps perceiving failure is a relatable quality. He was no bread winner nor did he feel he contributed more than a fraction she did.

In the beginning he believed he had charmed her with the flagrant impetuousness of his youth but as the years passed it was becoming markedly less tangible to him what it was that kept her around. That's a decent sentiment. I don't know how attached to it you are, but if significantly, the lyrics of capture it quite well in my opinion. And so he had fallen into maintaining his roguish pseudo thespian persona in lieu of money or pride. This is the bit that gives me some hope for you as a writer. That feels like a reasonably insightful observation about human beings. It was wearing thin with age and while she was steadily progressing her career it was painfully apparent to him that he remained stilted in the past and having no notion of how to remedy the situation he grew only more stubborn. Again a run-on, but at least one with a sentiment that I can empathize with.

She had moved into bathroom now and was brushing her hair. The short conflict was over, she knew. He would not pursue it and she would not want him to. Part of what made their relationship endure for the decade it had was that they each never felt obliged to press the other into doing what they did not want to. But still she harboured thoughts against him that she wished she did not. I haven't paid close attention, but both times I've read it this paragraph has tripped me up slightly. I feel like the rest of the story has been narrated predominantly from his point of view, and this slips in with a little omniscience about her thoughts.

The clothes she had laid out were folded on a kitchen chair and when she walked through to collect them she saw that he had gone to bed. Feels like an abrupt jump forward in time. She dressed and checked her face in the mirror in the hall. There was a corded phone attached to the wall beside the mirror and she picked up the receiver and looked back into the mirror. Why a corded phone? That implies that there are cordless phones elsewhere. Otherwise it's just a phone. Then she dialled a phone number from memory.

“Hello?” she said as she patted down her hair. “It’s me.”

“I want you to give him a part. Any part. You have the final call, please.”

“No, please. I won’t ask any more favours. I want you to do this for me.”

“But that’s practically background. You’re the producer.”

“I guess. Well, thank you. Wait, a condition? What do you want?”

That stuff all reads fine. Sometimes one-sided phone calls are treacherous, but I'm not bothered by this one.

She put a hand to her forehead and closed her eyes. Not again. Anything but that. She caught her own eye in the mirror and turned away. “Yes. Ok. I’ll be there in half an hour.” So I assume she's offering sexual favors. It seems like she was preparing to do so when she started brushing her hair at night. Yet I'm simultaneously supposed to believe that she's surprised and appalled by what she prepared to do?

The taxi weaved its way down the edge of the hills. Gaps in the treeline showed glimpses of the city rising up to meet her. Street lines crossing in thick orange, the neon lights of the night. Descriptive prose still needs work. She could almost taste the air from up here and she was descending into it. She thought of that old flat they shared as they matured together.

“He lives back then because I was drawn to him,” she thought. Huh? Her breath condensed on the window and she swallowed. “Acting the fool is all he can do. I know that he fears losing me should he change his ways so he persists with the humiliation. For me.” This does not match how I understand humans to behave. They're both clearly unhappy with his situation so he fears improving his situation because they might be less happy with an improvement? Also nobody thinks in such a declarative fashion. That's painfully clearly there for the reader's benefit.

“You know,” said the driver. “I always wonder what kind of people live up here. Like, doctors and things.”

She wasn’t listening. “And I cannot ask him to change for me. So I do this. For him.” Again, no. You've offered no redeeming qualities for her attraction to him other than that he used to be charming and now he's not. People don't sell themselves for those kinds of memories. I can't swallow your ending premise.

Now, I've kind of forgotten where I was going with the overall commentary. You display a few decent insights into human behavior toward the end, but then absolutely baffle me with the actions of your characters at the end. Which, considering the premise of your story (a two-person character drama), is especially harmful. Also there was very little battling of wills here -- they both kind of want the same thing for him but he's too cowardly to go for it so she gets slightly irritated.

One question which is worth pondering is Why do you write? I can surmise a few possible areas of personal attachment to the story, but I could just be inferring those. It may benefit you to hone in on what most attracts you to your rough draft and try to expand upon that. If you were aiming for a character who feared failure and therefore self-sabotaged, drum that up. I realize there were some prompt constraints, but having an unsympathetic (and oh yeah, unnamed) protagonist really takes away from it.

Also name your protagonists.

A Frozen Dinner with Pasta in White Sauce and For Some Reason a Tomato on top which Looks Good After Rationalization but then You Bite Into It And Find Out It's Actually HAM


I like outer space, so I'm with you after the first paragraph.

The "...there was no response..." line is a bit clunky. At first plus twelve civilizations in the same sentence? I do like the "they would've twiddled them" line, though.

Double-space between your paragraphs, which includes between dialogue.

The human organ analogue is less amusing the second time around. Which contributes to the fact that you're starting to lose me with the space jargon immediately afterward.

It doesn't quite make sense to me that (she)'d hate being called Ammy. Just the way the entities have been anthropomorphized, I feel like Ammy is a she who wants a little more intimacy from Nexy (he).

Ick, formatting.

I'm having trouble slogging through the schoolyard blame game. The first paragraph/section/blob of is was all right, the second one is grating. Ender's Game nod?

Bleh. So. There's some conflict of sorts, but it doesn't feel like a proper battle of wills. More like a temper-tantrum. Also it was clear you were leading to humanity/internet being the new device the whole time.

I can see an attempt at humor there and parts of it worked but the formatting and my patience level (somewhat biased by having to have read all of the stories before yours) did it no favors.

Bacon Past the Point in which it has Induced a Headache. But Still More Bacon


Huh, second person. I'll reserve judgment on that for a moment.

The thoughts in the first paragraph resonate with me; I've read a few interesting meditations on the responsibilities an author has to their characters, couched in the trappings of religion, also within the context of the narrative. I don't necessarily feel for Marcus, partially second person's doing, but I'm at least thinking.

A minor chuckle from Yaweh's perspective. Perhaps we've read some of the same books. I don't think this will stand well with the general reading crowd and I'm not sure how inherently meritorious it is but it fits my current mood and agrees (but possibly inherits much of its enjoyability) from my preexisting sensibilities.

I can't tell if this was meant to be an insulting piece but I find it thought-inspiring and moderately amusing. Though it's more of a presentation of a concept than a proper story, not terribly on-prompt, and lacking in external conflict. But you did ruminate on an idea I am interested in.

A Hot Dog Marinaded in Whatever Was In The Pantry


I do have a soft spot for bad television, so I hope you don't disappoint me.

Hmm. I've got mixed feelings after reading it. I did enjoy some of the ad absurdum, but about halfway through my disbelief could be suspended no longer. I get that these are supposed to be caricatures, but I only have so much tolerance for extremity.

There was really only one note to this story, and you held it longer than I liked. Which is unfortunate, because it's actually more of a story and more on-prompt than a lot of the competition, but by the end it didn't leave a good taste in my mouth.

An Entire Slim Jim


The action of this piece is a nice change of pace from all the other stories thus far, so I'm not sure if it's because of context or for other reasons that I didn't appreciate the stab at humor with the "other left". That and I don't know how Seth is communicating with him, but I feel like it would need to be something extravagant like an intercom with GPS or video because I didn't get the sense that he was running alongside but I can't otherwise see how he'd be so aware of Davey's position.

It might be a reading comprehension problem, given my current state-of-brain, but this feels a little abstract and ill-defined thus far, which isn't great for an action scene.

I appreciate the contrast you've developed by describing a kids' game in terms of actual war, but the dissonance created by that causes problems. The humor and the dialogue felt very inappropriate, and while I suspected Davey might be a kid (kid's name), that created a sense of distracted disharmony more than whatever effect you were going for.

I am smiling at the premise of a black kid at a Jewish camp, and you do a good job of coming from the perspective (I imagine) a Jewish youth would have in that situation.

I've been drinking this down no problems and am just taking a pause at the break because you've done a very good job setting up your protagonist's motivation (Seth's is still a bit weak) and I am legitimately looking forward to whatever Davey's plan is.

Ahh. I think the most satisfying part of the piece was the line about Nathan in '92. It really hits the priorities of childhood on the head. The ending was also nice, though I have a little trouble believing that Max would take his entire troupe outside to get Davey. It seems like too much effort when they could easily either bust him right there or pelt him on his way out.

Slightly contrived ending, but overall enjoyable, and actually a story, which is sadly lacking this week.

The Second Bite of Honey-Glazed Ham


Heh. So. I'm from The South. Parts of your dialect felt fine, but other bits stuck out at me with varying degrees of discrepancy. I'm not sure if I adjusted to your piece with time or it got better (or maybe I just got absorbed in the story) but it bothered me less as I continued reading.

Very strong piece. I feel for both of the characters and their plight. Strangely enough, I also used to watch Sliders, so your alternate-world references feel extra tight to me.

I don't have much else to say about this one other than that it found its mark despite the uncanny valley of mannerisms, except that I was a little confused with the "home" they were supposed to be returning to. Don't they not own that house anymore? To where are they returning?

Maybe a re-read would clarify that but I'm happy to savor this piece as it exists in my memory.

First Exposure to Bacon Weave, which happened to be In Person

Your Sledgehammer

The "her" in your first paragraph is confusing, since you haven't previously referenced any females. "Both of 'use'"? Come on.

Blegh. I'm hoping this was a low effort piece in a hurry, as the editing would suggest. I had trouble staying focused, and it wasn't even 600 words. But it was both melodramatic and uninteresting. I didn't care about the characters; their situation was too specific and too trite to garner empathy.

I feel like I just walked past a television that had a low-budged community college reproduction of some contemporary soap opera but with western trappings. Except that I was forced to watch all of it. Fortunately it was only a commercial.

Ham Hocks that you Didn't Even Boil

Sitting Here

I like where I think you're going with this but I was confused at first because I had no doubt that you were describing the birth of a kitten. And then fists. But I still continued for a few more paragraphs thinking that a kitten had somehow possessed-bonded-aged-up with its owner. I blame the word "mewling".

The longer I pause the less willing I am to slide past the abusive-for-no-reason father. It's just been done too much, I suppose. I do like the characters you're establishing and the way in which you're establishing them. I just worry the father was a MacGuffin.

Heh. I read "graveyard manager" and thought, "Okay, so Vin's a ghost." Then "at a trendy twenty-four hour gastropub" and thought, "That's an interesting graveyard which also serves food." I think I've been reading too much Neil Gaimain.

Vin Diesel, eh? That's a quirky and possibly charming touch. Certainly I wish to know more. Nice pond imagery.

No, additiction doesn't absolve the father of abusive-for-no-reason. That part still rankles.

I'm getting a distinct "Uh-oh" at the drugs, and need to Sit Upright.

I was just off-balance enough by the oddity of the story that I was willing to believe it would go in an odd direction when Jamie wanted to surrender, so I was totally on board when Vin manned up. That's what he does. He is very manly. Also the build up to his action movie line is fantastic. Of course he knows all his own lines, but that's not incongruent at all given the strange nature of the tale, which I have totally accepted.

There were a couple of hiccups ("prey animal" just doesn't read well to me), but this was fun. Probably the clearest and most direct battle of wills, a nice interpretation of getting inside their head, and a wide range of emotions: amusement, tension, action, empathy, charm. And best of all, it was unique.

Oktoberfest Links from Germany Made In Accordance with 400 Year Old Law


Them's some odd names. I realize it's deliberate, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.

I'm not sure if the tagging terminology is accurate, but some of it is confusing, especially combined with the names and the slang. I'm starting to acclimate to your cadence, but we're off on the wrong foot.

You build up some tension then immediately "months that followed" it away.

Huh, what? I'm not buying the misunderstanding. Or rather, I don't care about it. This piece is awkward and disjoint and I don't buy that someone would drop such build up aggrievances, even if they were perceived, after one whiff of the truth. People don't work that way.

Also the big twist is a deliberate letdown. "Hey these two people are really gonna go at it. Just kidding, haha!" Not satisfying to read.

Prosciutto that was Put Back In The Fridge With The Bag Torn Open Even Though It Was Clearly Self-Sealing But Now It's Been Open For a Day

Agh, no, I'm still angry. How is that a battle of wills? You neutered the conflict!


Hmm, a first timer, right? This was decent for a first timer. Not as good as what the old hands generally deliver, but a few nice parts and certainly way better than most starting out.

Blastinus posted:

A Typical Denny's Lunch Hour - 1093 words

High noon at Denny’s, two men were seated at a table; the first young, tall and lanky, the second middle-aged, stocky and shorter. Some oldies rock song was playing, only to be drowned out by a screeching toddler in the booth next to them. It didn’t really matter. Neither of them was paying attention anyway. It sets the stage perfunctorily but doesn't really grab me.

“I’ll have the iced tea, please. No lemon,” the tall man ordered. By all accounts, he was overdressed for the venue, just a necktie short of business professional, his short brown hair impeccably combed. Okay, more details. Haven't lost me yet. This was only natural, since he was on break from an accounting firm just downtown. [/b]Though this line reads poorly to me. Maybe I've passed the threshold for exposition by now.[/b]

The accountant stared over at his counterpart, still engrossed in the menu. A "who was" wouldn't go amiss here. He seemed a bit more sensibly dressed for a family diner, wearing a green polo shirt and tan khakis. Getting tired of the details His head reminded the accountant of a fuzzy cantaloupe although this one is interesting, and he wondered if this guy was military or police. Maybe he was just a bodybuilder.

“And for you, sir?” the waiter asked, not impolitely, but with the air of someone who really had to be somewhere else. Seconds passed, and then the waiter sighed and said “I’ll come back later.” Realistic but pedestrian detail. It does work into the overall characterization, though.

Silence reigned over the table. Don't like this wording. The toddler went up an octave. Do like this detail.

“I hate it when they try to rush you,” the thick-set man finally spoke. “I suppose introductions are in order,” he said, leaning back in his seat, insofar as these wooden blocks would actually bend, that is. His harsh blue eyes pierced through the accountant’s forehead. “You start.” Here's a more interesting character. He's breaking a couple of social norms and has a bit of mystery and power about him.

“Me?” The scrawny young man slapped his hand down. “You’re the one who called me here! How’d you even get my number anyway?”

“That’s a great question.” The stocky man began counting on his numbers. “Truth be told, I already know your name, where you work, even why you don’t like lemon in your tea. Yeah, I know a lot about you, Nathan.” Story could go in a number of ways here.

If there was color in his face to begin with, Nathan, or Nate as he preferred to be called Could've just called him Nate as the narrator and I would've got it., would have gone pale at that point. He almost rose to his feet, but the other man’s gaze drove him downward. Feels a little too exaggerated. “Who are you?” Nathan demanded, wondering if he should start begging for his life. In a way you're implying that the father is the narrator. Or that Nathan prefers Nate but nobody calls him that.

“Call me Archie. Here’s my card.” Archie pulled out a brown leather wallet, remarkably mundane-looking, and slid a business card across the table to the accountant. Nate read it, looked at Archie, read it again, and groaned.

Archie finally betrayed a smile. “My daughter tells me that you don’t want to talk to me.”

“I-I have to use the bathroom.” I don't buy it. That's too cowardly a response for someone who has clearly been trapped and was just eye-tied down to a chair. Doesn't feel realistic.

“Sit.” Nathan stayed seated. “Mind telling me why?”

“Why…why what?”

“Why not talk to me? Afraid I’ll say no?”

“N-No. I just…“

“Are we ready to order?” the waiter cut in, placing the iced tea.

“I’ll have a coffee. Bold.”

“Alright. How about the entrees?” The waiter turned to Nathan who was gripping the table like he might fall through the floor. Pursing his lips, he said “In a bit, then?” I could see this inversion coming and it's a little too stilted to be satisfying.

“Y-yeah,” Nathan stammered and waited for the waiter to amble off. “When…when a guy looks like…you know…”

“Deep breaths, son. Relax.”

“Alright,” he sighed, running his hands down his face. “Fine, yes. I thought you were going to say no. I mean, she’s told me stories. You know, about you. I don’t hunt, I don’t fish. I figured you’d call me a wuss, tell me I was no good for your daughter, that she needed a ‘real man’ and are you even listening?” I just can't buy in to Nathan as a character. Nobody's that cowardly, not for those reasons.

The whole time Nathan was talking, Archie was reading the menu again. Once the stream of words had stopped, he gave a sideways glance at his prospective son-in-law. “Well, you’re right about one thing,” he grumbled, looking at the prices on burgers. “But it’s not just because you look like you’re a hundred pounds in the rain.”


Archie slapped the menu down and leveled a finger in Nate’s face. “Let me tell you something. If you think that you know better than my daughter how to handle your relationship, you’ve got another thing coming.”

“What are you talking about?” Staring sideways, Nathan noticed that the parents of the crying child had left their own problems behind and were watching this conversation with rapt interest. A bit ham-fisted. I like the thought, but not the execution.

“My daughter would have been proud to bring you home, you bastard! Steady job, nice car, okay kid. This could be read as Nathan having an okay kid of his own. We’d have been glad to have you as a son. But you had to go and say it.” He put on a squeaky, mincing voice. “’We don’t have to tell your parents. It can just be the two of us.’ Bullshit!” Nathan recoiled back at the sudden exclamation. “You just didn’t want to face the possibility that we wouldn’t let you have her; that you couldn’t have a beautiful, talented girl who, for god knows what reason, thought you were actually worth something!” I also don't believe that's how the daughter would react. Betray no hint of her offense but bring it up so thoroughly to the father. If she's anything like her father, she would've said something about that remark right then and there, and Nathan would've either backpedaled or tried to mollify her.

From out of nowhere, something stirred within this accountant’s scrawny frame. Would've served better with more dramatic actions that demonstrate this instead of just telling me this. Before he knew it, he’d sprung to his feet and was shouting, “Oh yeah? Well maybe your daughter doesn’t need someone telling her who she can and can’t marry! She doesn’t even live with you anymore, so why is this any of your business?” While the dialogue is still stilted, I do feel a bit of the intensity you were going for.

“She made it my business! Who do you think I heard it from?” Archie had risen as well, only to hear that all-too-familiar voice from behind.

“Your coffee, sir?”

“Oh right. Thanks.” Slowly falling into his chair, coffee cup in hand, Archie let the waiter bolt for safety before continuing. “You hurt her feelings, you know that?” Archie sighed. “Hurt her bad.” Somehow he didn't know that. Or so I'm supposed to believe.

“I didn’t mean to,” Nate muttered, pouring sweetener into his tea. “It wasn’t like I was saying we’d elope or anything.”

Archie poured some sugar packets into his coffee, took a sip, and put some more in, “So, you’re gonna apologize to her, right?”

“I mean, I guess I have to.”

“Wrong answer. You gonna do it or not?” I'm not super fond of this simpering the first time.

“Uh, yeah, I mean sure. Of course I will.”

“And then?”

“I don’t know. I guess that-“

Archie shot another piercing look.

“I mean, I’m GOING TO talk with her. See what she wants to do.” So the pattern does not please me.

“Good plan. Always good to listen.” Another sip of coffee. Another sip of tea.

“So…” Nathan volunteered, “Does this mean we’re cool?”

Archie smirked and swirled his cup around. “Well, you’re still a wimp, but there’s some hope for you. We’re doing separate checks, right?” This is both too easy but also I'm almost completely detached from your characters. Certainly from Nathan, with whom I don't empathize or sympathize or even really believe could exist. And the father's more of a non-entity to me by this point; the conflict was interpersonal drama and I didn't care about the people.

Nathan opened his mouth in protest, and shrugged. “Yeah, sure. I’ll handle the tip.”

“Better not be a big one. This coffee tastes like poo poo.”

Doesn't hold up as well to scrutiny as it did when I was just glazing over it. Why should I as a reader enjoy this story? The primary protagonist is unbelievable and unlikeable, I'm not even sure I can say he experienced character growth at the end (more he was just cowed into acquiescence), and the Denny's details were adequate but you know I don't really like being in Denny's in real life.

Probably the 4AM Bacon at Denny's but I Don't Want to Find Out

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


I like the word "spooky", sure.

In with Silicon Valley Gothic.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


The Graveyard King (Silicon Valley Gothic, 1,487 words)

Atop his throne of moss and stone
there sits a giant, wizening.
He hems, he haws! He flaps his jaws,
for he is Nezz, the Graveyard King!

Nezz shut his eyes to better see. Nasty ol' North Wind had blustered into San Francisco, and though he might pester the locals for weeks, soon enough he'd honker down to Godsgate Grove. Last census saw 460 bats; they'd need shelter.

Normally Nezz would clear out Corpse Cavern for them, but Amy was due any day now. Nezz could still see the tears of pride and joy in her eyes as she begged him for sanctuary. Wolves that old don't usually have pups, but a prayer answered late is better than a prayer answered never.

No, that cave was hers for as long as she'd need it. Maybe Nezz could squeeze the bats into the ding-dong bell tower. The gargoyles would protest, but they'd been crotchety about everything since they'd fallen out of favor with the architects. A little company would do those ding-dongs good.

Nezz furrowed his brow. That wasn't a kind thought. He didn't really think they were--


Oh. Visitors.

Nezz came back to reality and sized his guests up. Behind his herald stood three scrawny gremlins. One had hair dyed garish blues and greens. The next had mismatched tattoos scattered every-which-way. The third had a face littered with piercings: ears, nose, lips, tongue, even eyebrows. They were not the kind of critters Nezz was used to. Still, it was his duty to hear them out. Nezz gestured to Harold to begin the formalities.

"Though young and fresh, here in the flesh,
before you stands a gremlin ring.
For minor perks they offer work
to you, the self-made Graveyard King."

Nezz nodded his head in time and thought for a moment before replying.

"That gremlins dare is rather rare
to dig and lathe and lift and sling,
but as your lord I shall reward
the subjects of the Graveyard King."

"Does that mean--"

Harold silenced the gremlins. Newcomers never had a knack for court, but they'd learn. After brief chittering amongst themselves the gremlins scampered off. Harold bowed before departing.

Let's see, where to put them? Gremlins didn't like manual labor, but it was a fact of life in the graveyard. Always a headstone needed righting or a lychgate reinforcing. The mausoleum looked awful barren these days; he'd have them hang some ivy.

Nezz scribbled a few new entries in the assignment ledger and put it back on its podium. Harold would get them settled; Nezz had to pay a visit to the necromancers. Their incantations and rituals didn't actually summon him, but they performed them so passionately that he felt compelled to play along. Theological debates aside, showmanship was good for the soul.


A week had gone by, and Nezz was glad to come home. Sneaking through cities was no easy task for a golem of gold and miry clay. Nezz' eyes were caught by several graves with thin layers of ice atop them. Why hadn't those been salted?

Nezz lumbered toward his throne but stopped when he saw Harold frantically flipping through the ledger. Harold's ruddy brown hair was disheveled and his clothing untucked. Nezz had never seen him so shabby.

"What's going on?" Nezz asked.

Harold's head jerked up and his eyes took a moment to focus. "Oh, Nezz, thank God. The skeletons have gone on strike. They say that mining hurts their bones, and they don't even need the salt, so why should they bother? Meanwhile the zombies are using that as an excuse not to leave their graves, yet they still demand fresh brains. And that's not even the worst of it."


"Yeah. Maybe you'd better see for yourself. Head out to the mausoleum. I've got to mollify the manticore."

Nezz chewed on his lip as he plodded toward the mausoleum. He arrived to find it dilapidated, with a makeshift barricade of wooden planks blocking the entryway.

The polite thing to do would be to knock. Nezz' heavy silver knuckles punched a hole right through it. Oops. A chorus of shrieking pierced the air as Nezz cleared out the debris and stepped inside.

"Help, help! He's invading our safe space!" a gremlin shrieked.

"Safe space? This is Dracula's private office. You were supposed to decorate it."

"Hanging gardens is hard!" whined another. "You just don't understand because you're tall and strong. But it's a lot to ask of goblins like us."

"Goblins? But you're clearly gremlins."

"How dare you call us gremlins!" the third yapped. "You think just because we're small and have large fuzzy ears that you can stereotype us? That's discrimination!"

"I meant no offense--" Nezz began.

"Then apologize!"

Nezz took a slow breath. "I'm sorry I misspoke. You can be whatever you want to be. In fact, it's good to have aspirations. But it's also good to work together to achieve--"

"Work? All you do is sit on that throne and boss people around. Meanwhile we're starving and shivering and we don't even have a home. That's not fair, not fair at all! Dracula has a bunch of houses; he doesn't need this one!"

"But he provides valuable accounting services which allow our business to expand year-over-year."

"Oh, and just because he provides value means he gets to kick us out on the streets? You don't even realize how hard it is for us hobgoblins; everyone just does what you say because you're big and scary."

"Now hold on a minute. I've spent decades building up this industry, and our affiliates look to me for my wisdom and experience."

"No, that's just your Fright Privilege talking. You shouldn't treat people that way."

The other two gremlins nodded eagerly and they all began shouting, "No Fright Privilege! No Fright Privilege!" not quite in unison. Nezz clenched his teeth and walked away; he needed some time to think.

Back on his throne, which had the words "Jack Lives Matter" smeared onto it with pumpkin pulp, Nezz closed his eyes and tried to balance himself. Not everyone was suited to every task, that's true, but Nezz saw that as an opportunity. He himself wasn't inclined to leadership, but after learning to hone and direct his thoughts he'd grown into the most successful manager Godsgate Grove had ever known.


Nezz opened his eyes to see the trio of gremlins in front of a whole host of other inhabitants: skeletons, zombies, ghouls and ghosts. Harold was nowhere to be found.

"We're tired of your oppression!" the gremlin shouted. "We demand that you follow this list of rules that we've created, to ensure everyone is treated fairly and equally. Number one: you must not refer to a creature by type. Just because you want to belittle someone by calling them a gremlin doesn't mean they're not actually a majestic orc. Number two--"

Nezz rose wearily to his feet and wandered off while the gremlins yammered away. They didn't even notice his departure. He didn't really believe he'd been oppressive, but if that was what the workers wanted, maybe they'd be better off without him. Nezz could use a little more simplicity in his life; maybe he'd clean up the unsightly garbage on the outskirts of town.


Grey-haired Harold led a patron back to the entrance. "We'll have one of our guys swing by tomorrow night to pick it up. You don't have to worry about a thing."

The man thanked him and got back in his rental car. Once he was out of sight, Nezz relaxed. His We-Haul brand scrapyard had become wildly successful, but it was hard work, made all the more so by the fact that he had to stand statue-still and let Harold speak for him when humans were about.

Nezz had enough work to keep himself busy through the coming full moon, though it was increasingly difficult to come up with excuses for the business' closure. But that would change when Harold retired. Then Nezz would have to find another protégé, and everything old would be new again. Except Nezz -- he'd still be old.

Yipping broke Nezz out of his reverie and he looked down to see Amy's pup with a scrap of leather in his mouth.

"Hey, Nezz. Mom says to give you this. You should come visit. Godsgate Grove is really nice now that it's overrun with animals."

Nezz patted him on the head and picked up the parcel. "Thanks, Gubby. Maybe I'll do that when business slows down. But right now I'm swamped."

"Okay, well, I gotta go hunt squirrels. I'll catch ya later."

Nezz bade Gubby farewell then looked at the piece of scrap. Scratched haltingly into the leather were the following words:

In banished junk there stands a hunk
who'll help you out for not a thing.
He's strong, he's wise, with prescient eyes,
he's Nezz, the mighty Junkyard King!

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


Fastidious Judging, Goon Judging.

What's truly horrifying is that you three read every story posted 'round here, even when you don't have to.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


What makes me giggle is how excited Sitting Here sounded on the Thunderdome Recap i just listened to.

What makes me not giggle are the stories. Well, only read one so far, but I have faith that we goons ruin everything.

Dr. Kloctopussy

Super-brief impressions: The first-person present tense didn't bother me at first. It adds a sense of immediacy to the story. The grotesque details were acceptable, but that cleverness predominantly radiates out from the prompt, especially if you've read all of them. The exposition is heavy handed, there are a handful of technical errors ("it's"!), and the reversals and repetitions are lackluster. You could've had me on this one, but it would've needed to be a whole lot tighter. As it is, the story drags on, with multiple scenes being ever-so-slightly escalated reiterations of the previous encounter and an ending twist that's hard to swallow -- the character's only obvious motivations are a paltry discount on lunches. After plodding through the entirety of the story, the first-person present tense became a detractor.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


In and practically done. Just gotta copy and paste "The bird bird bird, b-bird's the word." 34 more times, then come up with a title.

Also we're still in PDT through October and the 31st's a Monday. But I assume Flash Frontier deadline is also TD deadline.

You are a Good Person doing Good Things. Try not to burn yourself out.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


The Feast (250 words)

5,961 feathers painstakingly plucked, sanitized, and sorted by size. 62 pounds of meat, less 21 organs (maybe Oscar would want them) and 5 pints of blood (bottled for later).

They had laughed him off as second-rate for too long. Something inside of him was broken; maybe it always had been. So he sent out his invitations, first the first and second the rest, with their specific locations and times. Even if they groaned at his immaculate precision, they still showed up.

Every tick of the timer was music to his ears. 113 more and it would be ready. The whole street was talking about it. They didn't know what he was cooking, but they knew it was Big. He chuckled to himself. Once they saw this dish, there would be no doubt of his supremacy. The timer buzzed, and he pulled the steaming roast onto a platter.

He pointedly placed an ear up against the doorway. Most of the chatter was about the empty chair at the head of the table, although one boor blathered about cookies. Donning a fresh cape (the old one was stained yellow), he cued up a dramatic number on his pipe organ.

The room fell silent as he pushed the trolley through the swinging doors. Tendrils of drool traced the path of the wafting scent. He laid the fowl on the table and sat himself at the head chair.

A motionless minute passed, then Elmo screamed.

He just laughed. "Ah. Ah. Ah. Ah."

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


ZeBourgeoisie posted:

At first I had no idea wtf this was about until somebody in IRC pointed it out.

I hate you so much.

At least the word count was short this time.

Don't worry; I won't tell on you.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


I totally forgot that was a thing. Oops/thanks.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


I do enjoy letters, even the vowels!

Count me in as an epistolero.


Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


(728 words)

Dear Diary.

Mommy left the breakfast table to go to bed and take her medicine. Her head hurt again even if she didn't say so. I did good and didn't cry about it. Okay, later I did cry, but not right then. I hope her headaches go away.

Daddy got up and left for work real fast. He didn't even say bye! Sometimes he gets in hurries like that. Mommy says we should be grateful when he goes to work because that's how he gets us all our stuff. But she never looks happy when she says it.

Since she felt bad, I cleaned up breakfast. There was still bacon on her plate! I also tried Daddy's juice but it was super-gross. It must have gone bad because he left so much in the bottle. I put the food in the trash (eggs -- yuck!) and dumped the juice in the sink. The dishwasher was full so I put the plates on the counter. Now mommy will have less to clean when she feels better.


Dear Santa.

Can I have a puppy? My mom says it's a big responsibility but I promise to feed it and love it and I'll even clean up its doo-doo!

I want a lab or a corgi but if you don't have any of those then any kind of puppy will do. My dad says he doesn't want a dog but I know if he just saw it and its puppy-dog eyes (you know how they get) then he'd smile and be happy.

I promise I'll be really good and brave and quiet.

Can we name him Biscuits?


Dear Diary.

Mommy and Daddy are fighting again. I cried and they yelled at me so I ran in my room and shut the door and put my chair up against it. I had a bad thought but I won't write it.

Mommy keeps screaming about her lipstick but Daddy doesn't wear lipstick and I didn't touch it.

Daddy shouted something about hopscotch and now Mommy's crying. He's angry about some fourty-year-old, but I don't know who.

The door slammed then Mommy said a very bad word and then the door slammed again.

Now it's quiet.

I'm scared.


Dear Santa.

My parents are gone and Grannie Gretchen won't answer her phone. You must know my daddy because one year I saw him dressed up and he said that sometimes you were really busy and needed mommies and daddies to help deliver gifts.

I know I said I wanted a puppy but if you bring my parents back instead I'll never ask for another Christmas gift ever again. I'll even help you deliver them when you're busy.



The mailman never came and my neighbors aren't home so I'm leaving this by the chimney because that's how you get into houses.


Dearest Lilly,

It is with deepest remorse that I must inform you that I cannot bring your parents back. Something happened while they stepped out and they're with me now. I assure you that they will be treated with the respect and reverence they deserve.

Maybe later they'll come up and visit, but right now I need every last soul to help me through the holidays. Perhaps when you're older you and I can strike up a deal; I can think of a position or two you'd enjoy.

You may have noticed that a lot of your neighbors are on vacation. Don't be scared -- everyone who stayed behind is a friend of mine (even you, on a technicality) and I've instructed them to be very nice to you.

But just in case they don't listen I'm sending my dog to protect you. He's a big boy and may look scary at first but he's very loyal once you get to know him. You'll want to get a whole bunch of dog food from the grocery store -- he eats three times as much as other dogs!

One last thing. The guy from your grandma's church may come looking for you. You can go with him if you'd like, but he's heading far away from where your parents are. There's nothing I can do about that.

Let me know if you need anything else from me. Another letter by the chimney would suffice, but an entreaty to a live fire is preferable.

Your Humble Servant,

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