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rat-born cock
Apr 3, 2017

"Garbage! Trash! Offal! Debris! Come and get it! Nothing whole or undamaged! Crap, tripe, and useless piles of shit. You know you want it."

These will probably be the last ones until morning, unless a couple more come in before I go to bed.

Tyrannosaurus posted:

In with an item.

laser pointer

Yoruichi posted:

In, thing me and gimme a flash rule

shirt button

flash rule: bifurcated Tuesday



Idle Amalgam posted:

In, item please



Oct 30, 2013


They Only Take A Tenth (GrandmaParty)

The story starts out ok. The fantasy setting is established in the second paragraph and the 2nd person narration is an interesting choice, but it works for the most part. Some lines seem a little out of place; lines like “... much needed, because it turned out God did like the other guy best,” kind of stick out, they don’t really seem to add anything and they’re a little ambiguous.

The action segment is fine, although the magic seems kind of hamfisted into the story just to drive home the sword and SORCERY genre. Why would this seemingly random farmer know magic? Is this commonplace? I think maybe you could’ve done without. Overall the action is good.

I think that the last half of the story is a letdown, however. The dialogue feels really off, and the main character feels mischaracterized. I’d expect the wife to be more panicked, given the implications in the story, but she just comes off as mildly displeased in some lines. I also think the protagonist is a let-down. You establish that he’s returning from a six-year long war, and he seems more amused having slain a band of sworn enemies, but he should be jaded, gruff, serious. War is hell etc. I think I would have liked the story better if you had made the dialogue more dramatic, but I did like the idea of ending, even if it maybe could have been executed with a bit more emotion.

Overall a solid first entry. Way better than my first.

Going Back (Chopstick Dystopia)
Ok, a lot of things to unwind here. The opening is good, sets up the genre pretty quickly and well. For some reason I’m entertained by the Australianisms in the story, as an aside. The story has a lot of issues, however. You establish a lot of characters, none of which really have any depth to them. Mack’s fine being (and should be) a blank sheet, but both Blake and Mel could have used a little more exposition or at least something unique about them. The detail with Mel and Chuck is good, and I think it was a nice touch, but in general I think the characters need to be a little more fleshed out. The story feels unintentionally minimalistic at times.

Also: the sex scene. It’s not much, but feels unnecessary, and the whole act is a lot of text just for a small payoff/foreshadowing at the very last paragraph. It doesn’t flow very well, I think, and I think you would’ve been better off getting to the last line with a completely different setup. Likewise Mack could’ve been cut down severely and still served the same purpose with just a couple lines of introduction.

Lastly, the story doesn’t read a lot like “noir”, to me. Noir is supposed to invoke moral ambiguity and flawed characters, but the story doesn’t feel very morally gray. At the end Blake just seems fine with revenge killings, even though he was totally innocent, and he doesn’t seem at all bothered by his actions, other than the incident with Mel. I think Blake’s missing some internal conflict to really have the noir come together.

Still a decent first showing, though!

Homeland Improvement (rat-born cock)
Honestly, I got nothing. I don’t know what I could have expected from this prompt, but this is the sort of stupid, satirical stuff that I adore. Pretty much everything about it is hilarious, and the story also deconstructs sitcoms perfectly (speaking as a fan of Married… with Children). You literally made my day with this one.

Silver Screen Classics (MockingQuantum)
My first thought when I think “pulp literature” is “1950s or earlier”, but your modern (or within a decade or two of it) take on the genre works here. The choice of a drive-in theater is a pretty unique choice of setting for the genre. The intro was a little confusing on a first read; a disproportionate amount of time is given to Leather Jacket, who’s really just a redshirt, and it makes him seem to be a little more important than he is. Once the opening is over, though, the story works for the most part. The character dialogue is well written, nothing really overstays its welcome, and the buildup to the horror is both subtle. Reggie’s non-reaction to the carnage makes sense in the context of a movie/drive-in theater.

I think you did a good job describing the slasher elements graphically, but in my opinion the ending in particular is the reason for your DM. I’m fine with the killer being somehow from inside the film reel (a la The Ring), but the ending is written a bit chaotically and unrealistically. Somehow Reggie has spent 2 weeks in the theater in a literal bloodbath, and nobody has bothered to check up on the venue? Has he been sent to the Shadow Realm?

I think the ending would’ve worked a LOT better if you had ended it on the same day as it takes place, and kept the suspense going with neither Reggie nor the audience knowing for how long he could keep resetting the reel, or if anyone would come to save him. Horror is in the unease and suspense of the situation, and the ending fails in this regard from the logical inconsistencies at play here.

Open Book (sparksbloom)
I’m a big fan of sci-fi, so just the choice of genre puts me in a biased position, but I really like this story. It’s a little closer to real life technology than most sci-fi stories I’ve read, where the elements are taken to their logical extremes, but I think it’s a solid exploration of a tangible development that I think everybody can relate to (and worry about) in one way or another.

The writing itself is very well done, and Annabeth is a well-developed and believable main character with a lot of nuances and (justified) grievances. I think the relationship between Annabeth and Madeline is a bit of a weak point in the story, but this might more stem from me not really knowing how they are supposed to interact with each other, given their situations, rather than their dialogue being poorly written. I suppose I would expect some of Madeline’s expressions early in the story from a teenager rather than an adult woman.

That said, the ending does have a nice, emotional resolution, even though it looks like you forgot to write a word on the last line..

:siren: A Most Unsavory Brood (AstronautCharlie) :siren:
Okay wow. So this one is a lot to unpack. Before I cut to the bad (and there’s a lot to cover), I wanna say that you at least have some good (if safe) *ideas* for a whodunit. You bring a cast of unlikeable characters and a murder victim that everybody has some sort of motive to kill in a classic setting, but other than that, there’s not a lot going for it.

You’ve got a bunch of consistent grammar errors (punctuation goes INSIDE the quotation marks), and you seem to rely a little too often on adverbs that don’t really tell anything meaningful in some lines, but these pale in comparison to the real problems with the story:

The writing isn’t good, and it’s REALLY immature. Sorry, but the whole thing reads like a bad parody of a Scary Movie, and the ending reminds me of *holds up spork* for some reason. In terms of structure, you don’t appear to have a main character, there’s practically no narration, and what little narration there is covers a single paragraph near the end with the lawyer, not to mention that there are just way too many characters in the story. You don’t need to name every character, especially if they’re not important. The children (except maybe Aurora, who is actually relevant) don’t need to be named or have any dialogue. On that note, the dialogue is pretty bad, too. A lot of it doesn’t add anything at all (for example, the bickering between characters), and even the lines that are relevant just aren’t written very well. The story needs more consistent narration, a character POV, some exposition, anything to break up the monotony and make it more interesting. It just reads like it’s on a conveyor belt. You’ve used the entire word limit, but you could have expressed the same in like half the wordcount the way it’s written now. This is definitely an exercise in “less is more”.

Also, the actual *murder* in a *murder mystery* doesn’t even happen until almost TWO THIRDS into the story, and from here on it’s just madness. All the characters are written to be sociopaths; Edmund is somehow the least unlikeable character by the end of the story, and he’s meant to be a dick. All the deaths after his just feel like a cop-out to have a stupid twist ending, and somehow this adolescent girl is a Mary Sue of Machiavellian proportions.

It’s not a good story as a whole, but that ending really tanked it. Sorry bud.

michyeosseo (Tyrannosaurus)
I think this one was very good. It reads very well, the main character is a bit of an archetype, but a well-written one, and I like the contrast between her and the sister. It feels a bit like an inversion of the genre (per a quick skim of Wikipedia), but it works and the sister’s craziness is pretty subtle. I also liked the choice of a Korean setting and characters, but it does backfire a bit with all the Korean terminology that I’m not familiar with. Takes me a bit out of the story having to Google things every now and then.

That said, I appreciated the change from the norm, and I think it also plays well into the elements of the story, the Chinese Zodiacs and the metaphors used. However, the ending feels a bit rushed, to me, and I guess it feels like it’s missing something? For example, the driver is just calmly sitting there while a tiger is squishing an old lady right next to him. If you’d shown him to be panicking or at least have some kind of emotional response it might have sold the scene more, but that’s about the only problem I have with the story.

All in all, I really liked this one.

15 ways to process your trauma following an extraterrestrial abduction in your early teens (Ceighk)
This one makes me sad. I REALLY liked this story. The title makes it out to be an edgy “how to”, while in reality it’s an exploration of the victimhood and vulnerability of a traumatized person. It resonated with me a lot and it’s a very good representation of the psychology of trauma victims. It feels very inspired by “How to Lose Weight in 4 Easy Steps”, which is great, although this is obviously a lot more serious in tone.

HOWEVER, as you already know, you included a lot of banned words, but more importantly (I think), this story isn’t a horror. Yes, there are aliens, but it’s more like a drama (albeit a good one), not horror. I think it’s a great story; the writing is very good, it’s relatable and it would have deserved an HM under normal circumstances, but unfortunately you completely missed the prompt.

The Three Lies of the Imperium (UraniumPhoenix)
Oh boy, more sci-fi. Good stuff. The opening is pretty cool; the concept of symbiosis-based mycosynths is a clever break from the standard tech-glorifying sci-fi you normally see, and the story sets up a space opera conflict that’s easy to get into and suits the story well. Said conflict is also a little more nuanced than just “empire bad” once you realize that the protagonist is a literal terrorist, albeit one fighting for his people, homeland and family, and that’s pretty interesting. Everything feels really inspired and just about everything works for the purposes of storytelling.

The aforementioned nuance only goes so far, though. The Imperium is a pretty standard “bad guy” entity that we’ve seen hundreds of times before, and I think it would’ve been more interesting if Pyrion had stayed sympathetic to Armillarius rather than just going all “rebel scum” on him towards the end. Instead the Imperium turns out to be another evil entity, and IMO it would’ve been more fitting if both sides had a moral ambiguity to them.

Overall, though, I think it was a good story with an interesting take on sci-fi.

Rowless Revolution (Yoruichi)
This one kind of missed the mark for me. I don’t think it was bad, but I had a little trouble making sense of it, I guess? Like I knew what was going on, but something just didn’t click, and it all just felt weird and jumbled.

The opening is pretty interesting, but after that, it all kind of blends together to me. I don’t know, maybe I’m dumb. Granted, it’s a super difficult prompt, so I can’t blame you. Sorry that I can’t offer anything more constructive.

Research and Development (Something Else)
I think the opening here is pretty strong. Fiona is a pretty strongly established character right off the bat and the entire first half of the story just works. The background, expositions, etc. make for a really good setup for something more. Unfortunately, I think it doesn’t hold up to the last act of the story. I’m having trouble discerning if there’s actually a conspiracy present or if it’s just a convenient plot man that’s come to ruin the MacGuffin, because there’s not any real followup to it. The interesting part of a conspiracy story is the conspiracy itself, but you just gloss over it entirely without explaining anything and cut straight to the ending. For that matter, why would Tony, a random security, need to be present for the ending? He’s already had some involvement in the story, but there he just looks completely out of place.

I think the first half of the story is really good, and I wish you would have continued the mystery itself, maybe just left it on a cliffhanger after exploring the bird-dudes, because as it’s written, it all just seems very random and unconnected and not very satisfying. You have a strong base here, but you just completely abandon it after setting up the story, and I think that’s why we decided on your DM.

The Most Lamentable Tragedy of Backwater Jacks (CaligulaKangaroo)
I’d love to offer some meaningful critique of this, but I never really dug Shakespearean literature, and I find it a little hard to read (probably not uncommon). Obviously it’s not an easy prompt, but generally I find written theater hard to follow and not very interesting (since you lose a lot of the nuances an actor would bring to the scene). However, I did enjoy the idea of Anthony Fauci acting as the ghost of past, present and future disease control, and I think the ending was done well. As a European, the narrative was a little confusing, and I had to Google to actually understand the context behind the story, but I did end up appreciating it on some level.

Enslaved and Enraptured: A Flesh-Man in Space (Antivehicular)
I have to be honest. I can’t even hope to critique this thing. Any kind of joke at Mitch McConnell’s expense automatically triggers bonus points with me. I like Turtle McConnell jokes. That’s it. Also it all somehow works.

Words Writ on Floodwater (Thranguy)
This one felt off. There’s not a lot going on, and the connection between the characters aren’t really explained. Del is apparently this supernatural being that’s pretty much everywhere, so what’s her interest in the main character? What makes him special? What happened to London? If she did something to him, what was her motive? Don’t get me wrong, it’s an interesting character and I think it had potential, but in the end there are just too many unsolvable questions to really become invested in her.

Overall, the story is a little confusing. There is a lot of exposition and narration in the text, but I’m having trouble discerning which lines are fluff and which lines are actually meant to progress the plot. It all blends together at times; some sentences are very jumbled and unclear, particularly the opening line, and I’m not really sure how the title relates to the body text.

Red Eye (Idle Amalgam)
I see what you’re trying with this story, and it’s a good effort, but unfortunately it doesn’t quite come together here. Horror stories especially need a consistent internal logic, and this story just seems random and unfocused in that regard, like you’re slapping together a bunch of unsettling images without really knowing what to do with them. It’s okay to be mysterious about the horror or have it unexplained, but the elements here just don’t make sense as a whole. Even something like a couple of thoughts on what’s going on by a main character or narrator would help a lot to tie this together, but as the story is, the horror elements just don’t add up.

I feel the COVID backdrop is a little unnecessary, not that it makes the story worse, but it sort of feels like just an excuse to have a mostly empty plane when you can just as easily excuse it as being a last-minute flight. I also think that you didn’t have to title drop the story during the dialogue in this context. It’s a cool title, but I think it’s too much of a colloquialism for a helpdesk worker to say, and it would also be better for the reader to make the connection themself. This is mostly a nitpick, though!

Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving
And something has got to give

Here's a probably-overlong crit essay for mockingquantum's "Silver Screen Classics", because I have a lot of thoughts, apparently:

Like others have mentioned, I think the pacing is a little off here, and the story feels top-heavy. The initial scene-setting is pretty solid, and I definitely get the mood you're going for here -- "beer-and-pretzels" everyman horror in the Stephen King style -- but I think it probably cost you a lot of words and made the ending more rushed. It doesn't help that, after the mostly-effective intro with the customers that establishes Reggie's character, we move onto the conversation with Jimmy, which feels almost entirely like exposition. I get the feeling Reggie and Jimmy are supposed to be friendly, but the chemistry isn't great, and I don't get a lot of personality out of Jimmy at all; it feels like he's mostly there to "as you know, Bob" at Reggie about the film and generally barf out the premise of the story.

And about that premise... I'm a big believer in the idea that horror premises don't have to be smart or novel to be effective, but "long-lost weird media from eccentric/antisocial creator" is a stock online-horror-writing plot by now, and the details are distracting. This is an infamously lost film, never screened publicly before, but it's shown up in a catalog to be ordered by a random podunk drive-in? (By the concessions guy? The owner lets the concessions guy order movies on the regular? I could buy if the owner was letting Jimmy order stuff, since he's a projectionist and an authentic film buff, but why is anyone letting Reggie buy films and schedule screenings?) All of these are fiddly little details, but in horror of this form, you really, really can't let the reader get hung up on the details like this, or you've lost them.

I'm uncertain about the logistics once we get to the meat of the horror premise, too. It swiftly becomes obvious why this has to be the first public screening of the film for the story to make sense, since watching the film gets you slasher'd, but... what's going on here? Watching the film makes the killer manifest for the first time, but then after that, you have to keep the film on or he'll come back? There's also the question of how a slasher-movie killer armed with a blade manages to cause mass death and panic in a drive-in movie crowd -- slasher killers are superhuman, of course, but even a moderately-attended drive-in film has a pretty big crowd, and they're all in cars, which makes me wonder why nobody tried to run him down. But the slasher gets 'em all, down to the projectionist, and... then two weeks pass with Reggie in isolation? No other employees show up, or the customers, or cops? I like the mood in the last section, with Reggie subsisting on terrible concessions food while desperately searching for a solution, but I can't make it make sense at all.

I'm talking a lot about the plot, but of course, the elephant in the room is that Stephen King and writers like him often have really stupid plots, or plots that are barely there. Most of the plots and mechanisms of King's short work can be summed up as "something terrible is happening for no clear reason," and it usually works! (Often, the meaninglessness and lack of mechanism is even the point of this kind of horror; for example, Nathan Ballingrud's "Wild Acre," a werewolf story with absolutely no werewolf lore, where the whole point is the consequences of the werewolf instead of its nature.) King's dumb premises work (in short stories, at least) because the fundamental crux of his storytelling is character-based; he's very deft at describing interesting characters concisely, then having the horror stories that unfold be dictated by those characters' own reactions, instead of just the mechanism of the plot. I think the major flaw of this story is that it gets distracted by plot and sort of forgets about character, and if the ending had more to do with who Reggie is as a person.

Here's what we know about Reggie from the first section:

1) He's a serious cinephile, maybe to his detriment (pissing off his boss by ordering art films for the drive-in), and has some disdain for moviegoers who don't pay proper attention to the movies they go to see.

2) He's incredibly excited for the film being screened, but he's holding off watching it until he can see it with his girlfriend. (This seems to mostly be an excuse for why he isn't watching to get slasher'd with the initial crowd, but it's still a characterization point.)

3) When confronted with real horror, he doesn't react well, and it surprises him -- that, say, he reacts with reflexive cruelty to Leather Jacket, who is a jerk but really doesn't deserve it.

Integrating elements of Reggie's character into the plot and ending would make this a lot more satisfying. Maybe he gets fixated on the idea that the horror will only end when someone watches and appreciates Bleeding Edge "properly," which the drive-through audience clearly didn't, and that's what drives his obsession to watch and rewatch, instead of just "playing the movie stalls the killer?" Maybe Coleridge/the murderer's rants resonate with him somehow, and he has to struggle not to find the burnt-out director-turned-slasher a sympathetic figure? Maybe Reggie's girlfriend shows up in the flesh and manages to make things messier? Multiple angles could work here, but I think a story in King's style needs to have interesting character moments at their heart, and this doesn't hit the mark.

Simply Simon
Nov 6, 2010

📡scanning🛰️ for good game 🎮design🦔🦔🦔

I want in and an item pls

May 27, 2013

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


in & item me

Jun 14, 2020


In, and would love an item.

Aug 25, 2008

I've lost twice, I've failed twice and I've gotten two dishonorable mentions within 7 weeks. But I keep coming back. I am The Trooper!


In, like a virgin.

rat-born cock
Apr 3, 2017

"Garbage! Trash! Offal! Debris! Come and get it! Nothing whole or undamaged! Crap, tripe, and useless piles of shit. You know you want it."

Thanks Freakie for the critique, haha. I'll take leaving the judges basically speechless.

Signups, if you do not specially request an item, I won't give you one.

AlmightyDerelict posted:

In, and would love an item.


Simply Simon posted:

I want in and an item pls

snail shell

Ceighk posted:

in & item me

fishing hook

Nov 16, 2012

In, item.

Aug 25, 2008

I've lost twice, I've failed twice and I've gotten two dishonorable mentions within 7 weeks. But I keep coming back. I am The Trooper!


rat-born cock posted:

Thanks Freakie for the critique, haha. I'll take leaving the judges basically speechless.

Signups, if you do not specially request an item, I won't give you one.

gimme the item

Nov 8, 2009



Aug 2, 2002

hm. if i sign up and get an item, will i actually write a story?

give me something you wouldn't care if you never saw again. treat me like a bad friend.

rat-born cock
Apr 3, 2017

"Garbage! Trash! Offal! Debris! Come and get it! Nothing whole or undamaged! Crap, tripe, and useless piles of shit. You know you want it."

crabrock posted:

hm. if i sign up and get an item, will i actually write a story?

give me something you wouldn't care if you never saw again. treat me like a bad friend.

pearl necklace

crimea posted:

In, item.

a marble

ZearothK posted:

gimme the item

butter knife

Jan 31, 2003

My LPth are Hot Garbage

Biscuit Hider

gently caress it. Give me an item.

rat-born cock
Apr 3, 2017

"Garbage! Trash! Offal! Debris! Come and get it! Nothing whole or undamaged! Crap, tripe, and useless piles of shit. You know you want it."

Okay, fellow rodent avatar friend.

GrandmaParty posted:

gently caress it. Give me an item.


M. Propagandalf
Aug 9, 2008


In. Item:

Mar 14, 2012

rat-born cock posted:



But I want a more gender neutral, even female affirming version of "having a huge penis" from you in the mean time.

Something Else
Dec 27, 2004

big week. i'll judge

rat-born cock
Apr 3, 2017

"Garbage! Trash! Offal! Debris! Come and get it! Nothing whole or undamaged! Crap, tripe, and useless piles of shit. You know you want it."

Sorry for the delay.

Something Else posted:

big week. i'll judge

Thank you!

paper bag

Mrenda posted:


But I want a more gender neutral, even female affirming version of "having a huge penis" from you in the mean time.


Jul 26, 2016


rat-born cock posted:

Signups, if you do not specially request an item, I won't give you one.


Mar 14, 2012

rat-born cock posted:


Gonna smear my LUBE on everyone now like a manwoman-man.

rat-born cock
Apr 3, 2017

"Garbage! Trash! Offal! Debris! Come and get it! Nothing whole or undamaged! Crap, tripe, and useless piles of shit. You know you want it."

One more for the night.

false fingernails

Chopstick Dystopia
Jun 16, 2010

lowest high and highest low loser of: WEED WEE

Prompt: Shaggy Dog inspired Anti-Story
Item of disproportionate importance: floor

No More Plucka
765 words

“Jim, you’re a goddamn son of a bitch!” Ardie blasted at the room once he had cleared the pub’s double doors.

He threw one leg after the other in a conniption toward the bar, and with a meaty paw he ripped his broad-brimmed cattleman’s hat from his bald and weathered dome.

“Fucken hell, Ardie, calm down. Sit and have a drink,” said Jim, behind the bar.

Ardie got in front of the taps and swung a leg out over a stool. The cushion’s exterior had split years ago, the soft yellow foam inside showing through open arcs. No stool on the wooden boards of The Railway Hotel’s floor looked any better.

Jim pulled the lever and out poured a stream of draught. ‘Carlton Draught’ the brewery named it, but no one ever said the first bit, just ‘draught’. Jim caught the draught flow in a schooner glass at perfect angle, adjusting pitch as the glass filled. Jim looked at Ardie the whole while, hoping they’d soon reach agreement, and when the glass was full with beer but for the foam on top, Jim put the schooner on the bar right where Ardie sat, dead centre.

Ardie wore a navy-blue canvas work-shirt rolled up past the elbows. He had swollen arms and fat hands made rough from hard work in the hot sun. He clasped the cold glass of draught and lifted it up and looked through it, at Jim’s amber ghost. Then, he drank.

“Bloody alright that,” he said. It was his ritual. He’d labour from dawn until someone said it was after five or until he felt it was. He’d drive his busted-up ute to The Railway Hotel. He’d drink the night away with Plucka. To start things off, he’d savour the mostly foam mouthful off the top of that drought-breaking, thirst slaking, first beer. Then he’d express himself. Ardie was a man of consistency; the drink was always ‘bloody alright’ after a day of hard yakka.

The start of his ritual complete, Ardie turned his attention back to Jim.

“You’re a son of a bitch, you know that?”

“Yeah mate,” Jim said, “I heard ya.”

“Got no bloody appreciation for your regulars. No bloody appreciation for me or for Plucka.”

“C’mon Ardie, don’t tell me you didn’t see this comin’.”

“See what comin’? You barring me best mate from the only pub in two hundred kays? In the summer heat! You’re a dog oval office you are.”

“Ardie, mate, c’mon, seriously. Plucka brought this on himself. He’s got no control. All you do, by the way, is egg him on! You sneak him beers and just sit up here laughing while Plucka harasses people.”

“They fucken love it. Everyone loves Plucka.”

“You know how many times I’ve had to have these floors cleaned?”

Ardie took another mouthful of draught and looked at the polished floorboards. They were heritage, from 1859, when the pub was first built. They hadn’t been well taken care of.

“Yer floor looks like poo poo,” Ardie told Jim.

“Looks like poo poo. That’s very funny Ardie, very loving funny thing to say after your mate Plucka shat on the floor. Five days in a row! Last Thursday he shat on the floor three times! Three times! We can’t have that in here. And you come in and call me a son of a bitch?”

“Ah plenty of your regulars have done worse, don’t lie.”

Jim put both hands flat on the lowered work area of the bar and looked into Ardie’s eyes. They weren’t exactly friends, but when you spend five nights a week in the same room telling tales to one another you develop a certain familiarity. They were bar mates. It wasn’t a fondness either would dare express, but it was a bond that went back to before Plucka had come on the scene.

“First off, Ardie,” Jim said, “I don’t bloody agree with that, not for a second. Second, no one else has tried to take my eye out.”

“He was just playin’. Besides, you’d stopped serving him, I think you made him upset.”

“He shouldn’t be loving drinking to begin with!”

Ardie took another drink of the draught. It was true, all of it. Plucka had been a scoundrel, he’d taken poo poo after poo poo on the floor, and he’d nearly taken Jim’s eye out. Maybe it was time to accept that Plucka’s days at The Railway Hotel were over.

“All right Jim,” Ardie said, “it’s your bar. You made yer point. No more Plucka.”

Jim said, “Not just Plucka; I don’t want any more emus in the bar!”

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish


Mar 14, 2012


Mrenda fucked around with this message at 23:52 on Aug 4, 2020

Oct 24, 2018

by Pragmatica

taboo crits

They Only Take a Tenth -- GrandmaParty

Summary: A powerful warrior returns from the Goblin Wars to find a goblin encampment outside his family's home. He dispatches the goblins only for his family to reveal that the local humans and goblins have come to a comfortable agreement. The warrior's wife kills her husband in order to spare her family from the goblins' retribution.

Stuff I liked: Lots, actually! There's some superb prose here, like "pumpkins big enough to sit on." The action is prompt, clear, and exciting. Little details like the tattoos on the son's arm give us a good idea of this culture without wasting precious words on backstory. This was very readable and interesting throughout.

Stuff I didn't like: Not a whole lot! Your premise feels like it ought to be comedy and I felt a little let down when it wasn't. You could have leaned into the comic divide between the niceness of the goblins and the brutality of their murder. I get why you chose that ending, but it reads a little--and I mean a little--too easy and conclusive.

Overall: very well done, I'm impressed that this is your first dome story. 7/10

Going Back -- Chopstick Dystopia

Summary: Blake is just getting out of prison for a crime he didn't commit. He plans to rob the person who actually committed the crime, Chuck, but is caught by Chuck's secretary, Leo. Leo releases Blake, but Blake sees that his girlfriend was hooking up with Chuck while he was in prison. Blake knocks Leo out and then leaves to murder Chuck.

Stuff I liked: There is a good handle on the genre here. I like some of the casual dialogue, like how Leo refuses to torture Blake because he saw a documentary on Guantanamo.

Stuff I didnt like: Lots of details you didn't need. Mack is barely a character, we don't need to know his height. There are things you mention twice that you only needed to mention once; we don't Blake thinking he almost killed Mel, that was already clear from the events of the scene. You could have made some cuts in the beginning, so that we could actually see the confrontation between Blake and Chuck. The fact that Chuck doesn't appear "onscreen" in the story at all seems really off. It would have been really easy to replace every Mack scene with a Chuck scene.

Stuff I might just be too dumb to get: is "burg" common Australian slang for "burglary?" It sounded very silly to me every time I read it, but that could just be me.

Overall: I didn't hate this, but it is a little boilerplate. 4.5/10

Homeland Improvement -- Rat-Born Cock

Summary: The Father, a character on a certain studio audience sitcom, is made to take his young grandson to work with him. When he comes home, it is revealed that this was a ploy to get him to impregnate his wife, who disgusts him. The Father refuses, but is then devoured by his wife and daughters.

Stuff I liked: Hahaha, I had a big stupid smile on my face the entire time I was reading this. The gonzo horror element was perfect throughout; this felt like a Clickhole parody in all of the best ways. There's an actual satirical point about American masculinity here; the humor isn't random. I love how you actually used your banned words to make your story better; calling Tim Allen "The Father" is much funnier than if you were allowed to just call him "Mike," excellent use of the prompt. The Tim Allen face scene breaks put this over the top for me.

Stuff I didn't like: the studio audience bit went too over-the-top too quickly. Let it build to the staff physically restraining them, rather than that happening in the first scene.

Overall: I'm amazed by how good this is. 9.5/10

Silver Screen Classics --MockingQuantum

Summary: Reggie, a film nerd, is working a concession stand at a drive-in theater. The theater is doing a screening of an extremely rare supposed horror masterpiece, but Reggie plans not to watch because of a promise he made to his girlfriend. The movie, of course, murders everyone who sees it. Reggie continuously replays the movie every time it ends.

Stuff I liked: This is solid once it actually gets going; the actual massacre itself is appropriately gory. The characters are believable film nerds.

Stuff I didn't like: It took way too long to get oriented with what was going on here. Your decision to immediately capitalize Leather Jacket made me think that Reggie knew him; the first time we meet him, he should be "a guy wearing a leather jacket" before referring to him by his clothing. The amount of time spent with Leather Jacket made me think he was going to be a main character, but no. Was there a draft of this in first person?: there's still an extraneous "we" left in here. The exposition is a little clunky. I have literally no idea what's going on at the end. Why has he hung out here for two weeks? Are the cops not involved at this massacre at all after that amount of time?

Overall: I'm not sure if this is bad enough to warrant a DM but it's close. 3.5/10

Open Book -- Sparksbloom

Summary: In the near future, a dating site automatically generates a dating profile for every adult on Earth. Annbeth's husband has recently left her for a woman he met on the site. She discusses this with her daughter Madeline.

Stuff I liked: Great dialogue. The relationship between the mother and daughter felt real and lifelike. The melancholic tone is just about perfect.

Stuff I didn't like: Does anything actually happen in this story? Has anything changed from the beginning to the end? It feels more like a still image than a film, more a cross-section than an actual story.

Overall: There's a lot I liked, but I'll need some actual plot if I'm going to love it. 6.5/10

A Most Unsavory Brood -- AstronautCharlie

Summary: a family attends the will reading of their elderly patriarch. All of the money goes to the prodigal son, Edmund. Edmund is soon found dead, and a second will is found, which disperses the money to the grandchildren. The deceased's jealous daughter admits to Edmund's murder and kills her own children, then herself. It is revealed that Edmund's daughter, knowing how the chain of events would unfurl, forged the second will.

Stuff I liked: I laughed at the punchline. There's a decent sense of clockwork fun here.

Stuff I didnt like: Way too many characters introduced too early; give us some time to sit with each character before wheeling the next one out. Liam and Sylvia are not different enough to justify being different characters. Be consistent with what names you use to refer to different characters: you call Audrey Bloomington "Audrey" at times and "Bloomington" at others, and I got confused. Too much dialogue, not enough action. The murder takes place halfway through, giving us too little time for whodunnit shenanigans. Start with the corpse, so we have enough time for clues, red herrings, etc. There are enough plot points from Knives Out that I wonder if you saw it recently or just used similar genre tropes.

Punctuation always goes inside the quotation marks.

Overall: Since I know you, I can see where this comes from, how your sensibility informs it, etc. Unfortunately, there are just too many problems here. 2.5/10

michyeosseo -- Tyrannosaurus 

Summary: Soon-ja, a wealthy, murderous woman whose wealth is fading, visits her crazy sister, soon-hee, for a plot to steal her land. Tiger murders ensue.

Stuff I liked: I don't think I've read or seen any hagsploitation, but based off of what I know from wikipedia, you absolutely nailed the genre. I love the ending, which I should have seen coming, but didn't. 

Stuff I didn't like: I wish we had gotten to Soon-hee's house soon(hee)or. The intro felt a tad long.

Overall: Nice work. I'm not putting this up for an HM, but I certainly enjoyed it well enough. 6.5/10.

15 ways -- Ceighk

Summary: a young person spends years trying to avoid thinking about the trauma of their alien abduction, eventually coming to terms with what happened after finally opening up about it.

Stuff I liked: almost everything! This is a poignant, thoughtful piece, and I was moved while reading it. The last line was absolutely perfect; I love "throw rocks at freight trains."

Stuff I didn't like: I really hate that I can't HM this. Too many banned words, but that's more excusable than the fact that this isn't horror, like, at all. This is a touching drama, and barely alien -- it wouldn't take a whole lot of replaced words to turn this into a story about overcoming childhood sexual abuse, for example. I feel like you shied away from the prompt here -- instead of working around the banned words, you ran away from them, and still ended up using some of them anyways. 

Overall: this is a really loving good story and I'm happy you gave me the chance to read it. Still, this strayed too far from the prompt for win consideration. 8/10.

The Three Lies of the Imperium -- Uranium Phoenix

Summary: a prisoner aboard a prison ship of a colonialist empire remembers three lies that the empire will tell.

Stuff I liked: this is structurally pretty awesome. Once I knew that this was structured after the three lies, I wondered what the other two lies would be. They arrive in a satisfying order. The connection to the protagonist's husband is a good place to build the story's emotional center around.

Stuff I didn't like: It seems like all of the exciting poo poo happens after the story is over: the daring escape, the rendezvous with allies, the ragtag rebellion. I would rather read about that stuff than this stuff.

Overall: something I'll say in this story's favor: my opinion improved once I started writing my crit after my first initial read. That's cool! Structurally, this is great. But this is also a technologically powerful white people metaphor vs. an indigenous people metaphor whose connection with nature is literalized. In other words: this is Avatar as gently caress. The structural coolness isn't quite enough to elevate it. 6/10.

Rowless Revolution -- Yoruichi

Summary: A peanut bush learns of the genocide that is the harvest. It develops the ability to walk on its own roots and escapes. It passes along its genetic memories to future generations, who start a rebellion. 

Stuff I liked: this is a creative take on the prompt. This absolutely defied my expectations, and I love the feeling of being surprised.

Stuff I didn't like: I don't see why this had to be a multigenerational story, especially since none of the different Rowless generations are significantly different in character. This read mostly as summary, with very little scene. This one might be a little too weird for my liking.

Overall: Eh, I liked it, for the most part. 5.5/10

Research and Development -- Something Else

Stuff I liked: the third-person fight is well-handled

Stuff I didn't like: Lots of telling, very little showing. Fiona tells us Tony is annoying, but then we don't actually see Tony doing any annoying things. Toxic masculinity is ostensibly a theme, but all of the male characters who actually appear seem pretty nice. 

In terms of the prompt, what's the actual conspiracy here? I cannot tell for the life of me. Are the bird people being covered up? Is someone from the lab pretending to be a bird person? This is a deeply, deeply confusing story, so much so that you may have noticed I didn't include a "summary" section to this crit: I don't think I would be able to accurately describe the literal events here.

Overall: this patient needs an injection of clarity, stat. 3/10

Backwater Jack's -- CaligulaKangaroo

Stuff I liked: I liked this significantly more upon rereading for the crit. Using Fauci as a sort of omnipotent narrator is a clever bit. Much of the dialogue is appropriately funny, and I think you capture the Shakespearean spirit, if not the specifics.

Stuff I didn't like: Writing Shakespearean is more than old-timey and fancy. I would have liked to see some rhyming couplets or pentameter. I'm not sure if you used your thys and thous correctly. I see "thy" meaning "the" in some spots when it's "your" and you use "thine" a lot, even though it's only supposed be used before words starting with vowels, according to a quick googling. Much of this one comes down to a single argument; some more plot developments may have helped this a lot.

Overall: it's a hard prompt, thanks for actually doing it. 5/10.

Enslaved and Enraptured -- antivehicular

Summary: a fearless space warrior frees her human lover from a galactic empress' bondage.

Stuff I liked: this is actually refreshingly light on obvious McConnell jokes; even the obvious but welcome turtle jokes are subtle. Most of all, this works as an actual space opera. It's pretty much all action from start to finish, and all of the action is clear. 

Stuff I didn't like: what I like is exactly what I don't; since this is basically one long action scene, there's very little back and forth, no twists, no sudden strategic move on the part of the Empress that almost turns the tide, etc. Everything here is good, but there's also not a lot of it.

Overall: this is dope. 7/10.

Words Writ on Floodwater -- Thranguy

Summary: a person delves into the mystery of Del, a vague acquaintance, who seems to be lots of places at once.

Stuff I liked: what I think you're getting at is an exploration of the Dels in our own lives, the people that everyone seems to know but no one seems to know, the folks that skip across the surfaces of many lives without diving into any of them. That's relatable, I guess.

Stuff I didn't like: Is this magic realism? Serious question, I don't know. My understanding was that the magic in magic realism was metaphorical for the way things are in reality, and thus seems commonplace to those experiencing it. Here, the protagonist knows the supernatural element is strange and out of place. This felt like more of a conspiracy thriller than this week's conspiracy thriller.

On a more "I've read a bunch of your stories" note: you often make the decision to leave the supernatural goings-on relatively unexplained, which I honestly think usually works, since it makes the experiences of your ordinary protagonists feel more real. I would suggest, however, that the meaning of these experiences be made more concrete. As of right now, I'm not exactly sure what the protagonist learned from this experience. By the end of this, it just sort of feels like a thing that happened.

Overall: yeah, sure, this is good. 6/10

Red Eye -- Idle Amalgam

Summary: a person has an unsettling experience on a late night flight.

Stuff I liked: the scares here are actually pretty effective! But,

Stuff I didn't like: by my count there are three spooky things that happen in this story. 1. The black-dressed people across the aisle. 2. The dream. 3. Spider web possession. Do these spooky things have anything to do with each other? There's some whiplash here, I'm expecting I don't know, maybe the people in the protagonist's life to start getting replaced by the fancy-dressed people or for him to have the odd feeling they're watching him as they sleep or something but NOPE spider web possession. 

You slip into past tense for like half a paragraph.

Overall: I was still unsettled in spots, just really wish this came together. 6/10

Dr. Kloctopussy
Apr 22, 2003

"It's DIE!"

In + toxxxxxx

Jan 31, 2003

My LPth are Hot Garbage

Biscuit Hider

Third Generation

755 words.

My great uncle Herschel took to English like a cat takes to baths. I knew toddlers that could speak more complete sentences. His brothers and sisters all adapted quickly; as Polish immigrants, they knew about the importance of fitting in. Him, not so much. Even after living here for fifty years, he would still point one wrinkled finger at household objects and ask “Wus is dis?” and expect you to provide a translation for him.

That was most of what we did together. He would point, I would say, he would give me a dollar. Or some of the candy he was eating. Or a new pair of pants. While his brothers and sisters worked hard, and started their own businesses, Uncle Herschel worked for a man bought and sold used clothes. “Schmattes,” my mother would call them. Rags. Used jeans that my mother would hide in her closet until we had to go to his house for brunch.

Out of his eleven brothers and sisters, his house was the smallest. Rag-picking doesn’t provide much for a man or his wife. But that’s where we would gather. My grandfather would pay for brunch for thirty people each week; his brothers and sisters and their spouses and their kids and whoever felt like showing up. The original six siblings would crowd around and share stories that never crossed the language barrier. Their children would pour wine and gossip, and their children’s children were left to fend for themselves.
The older ones would go roughhouse outside. The youngest were usually still in diapers; with thirty nieces and nephews, there were always more grandchildren. I would usually go find a corner to read in, until 12:00 struck. Whenever it got near noon, my great-uncle would gather all the children to look at the clock he risked his life for.

While some people brought diamonds from the old country, or bank notes, or silver, my great-uncle brought a clock overseas. It was the height of a grandfather clock, only twice as wide. All along the sides, my great-grandfather had carved people. A renaissance fresco in woodcut. One afternoon, I spent forty-five minutes counting them, daubing flour on each one so I know I wouldn’t double-count them. My great-grandfather carved 94 individual people eating and drinking and laughing and dying. There was one couple, having sex in blobby woodcut fashion, and I mean really going at it. He hid that one around the back, where probably only he would know where it was.

And at the hour, the clock would chime and a gnome, modeled after my great-grandmother, would come out of the double doors and chase a mechanical chicken. And every single time, my great uncle would laugh and clap his hands and shout “She gonna get that sonnamabitch” and shake whoever was nearest to him. All the youngest children quickly learned to stay away from him at clock-time.

The first generation started to die when I was about 20. First it was my great-uncle Sol, and then my great-uncle Isaac, and their sister Rivka, and so on and so forth. My grandfather was the second-to-last to go. At ninety-three, he would still go to Great Uncle Herschel’s house for bagels every Sunday. And my mom would guilt me into coming with her. Every week of my life, except the four years in college, I went to his house.

Once the first generation died, their children stopped coming. The house gradually grew emptier. Herschel never had children and his long-suffering wife died relatively early. The last couple of weeks, the only people who would go to the house were me and my mom, partially out of habit, and partially out of pity. And every time noon came, he would make me look at the clock, clap me on the shoulder, and say “She’s gonna get that sonnamabitch.” I don’t know how many times he had seen the same scene over the years. It had to be in the thousands. And he never got less excited.

Even though the family drifted apart, they would get back together for two events: weddings and funerals. The whole tribe, numbering in the hundreds, all showed up for Great Uncle Herschel’s funeral. I sat there as his nieces and nephews and my mother poured out their memories of his life.

I knew the man for thirty years. He was in my life for thirty years and the only thing I know about him was how proud he was of his fat clock.

May 3, 2003

College Slice

sneaking IN

Health Services
Feb 27, 2009

In, if I can, too

rat-born cock
Apr 3, 2017

"Garbage! Trash! Offal! Debris! Come and get it! Nothing whole or undamaged! Crap, tripe, and useless piles of shit. You know you want it."

Thank you for the critique, saucy_rodent. I'm glad you liked my story, I wish I could say the same about my prompt, haha. Cheers.

Signups are closed. Anyone who said 'in' is 'in'. I don't see any new object requests, but if You want one, just ask.

Jan 20, 2012

Black Lines
793 words
item: sharpie


MockingQuantum fucked around with this message at 05:47 on Jan 5, 2021

May 27, 2013

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome



777 words

It was supposed to have been a holiday, but George was up the ladder again, looking out the window. “Is it still there, whatever it is?” I called up to him. I hadn’t once looked out since we’d got here. At the start I simply hadn’t needed to, and after that breaking the pattern seemed like it would bring bad luck, like smashing two mirrors while standing between them.

George said: “It’s not what is out there so much as what isn’t.” He climbed down the ladder and washed his hands. The altar was decorated differently today, though as usual it resembled a place of worship less than a tableau arranged for a still life painting. At the forefront of the display, between a bowl of mouldering peaches and a crisp white flower, lay a rusted fish hook, cruel and barbed.

“Who do you suppose sets out these things?” I asked. “We never see anyone coming or going at night, nor at day neither.” Not that I anymore could tell which from which, and if George knew, he wasn’t saying.

George picked the hook with grubby hands. “They were just like this that he did it with,” he said. “Not just one, of course, it took more doing than that. But like this all the same.”

Then his gaze, rotating me-wards, turned basilisk. “Fancy finding it here then,” I said.

At the back of the room, a blue plastic tarpaulin concealed lumps of the kind one might find at a building site. Walking the moors, we’d discovered a cairn. Each stone was covered in moss, and the moss was crawling with bugs. The whole thing was a city for bugs. I felt like I was in an aquarium. Doesn’t every living thing kill something else to survive? Next to the cairn, a shovel, a raincoat.

I thought about today’s arrangement and what it symbolised. Had the peaches been acquired new, with the intention of setting them here after a certain stretch of time, in a certain state of decay? That seemed like too much effort, given the necessarily small audience for an ephemeral piece of such narrow appeal. It struck me that perhaps they could be decaying backwards, and that if I took one and sequestered it away from prying eyes, by tomorrow morning it would be firm and ripe.

George rotated hook between forefinger and thumb, entranced by the way light caught and didn’t on its mottled surface. I closed my eyes and imagined how the altar would look with the hook at its ordained spot, inasmuch as I remembered. I had long ago given up on George one day appreciating such things.

Meanwhile inside, everything rotted, and fast. Lichen stained across glass like ice crystals, and a persistent drip from the belfry had the wooden pews into black sludge. From under the tarpaulin was starting to smell. I hadn’t wanted to go fishing - watching the writhing creatures gasp in air they couldn’t breathe always reminded me too much of myself - but you know how the men are don’t you. Don’t you?

I put my hand on George’s shoulder. “What sort of fish did you catch, anyway?” I asked. He tensed. Was that how they talked, the sort of men who went fishing? Was it a ‘sort’ of fish, a ‘type’, a ‘species’, a ‘genus’, a ‘lineage’, or just a fish?

“I’m not sure it is a fish, exactly,” George said.

I picked up one corner of the tarp and peeked under. “I see what you mean,” I said. George stomped off at that, offended. The walls were closer now so I placed my palm against one and wondered how George’s ladder could lean against such a material without being swallowed by it. When George returned he was hanging from the ceiling, suspended on razor wires by a thousand fish hooks. I turned to place both hands on the mossy wall, which was the consistency of warmish butter, and thought about whether I should leave.

George said: “If you leave then how will I get down?”

Once George had spent far too long explaining what to do if you got hooked by your own hook so the barb wouldn’t rip when pulled. Now I climbed George’s ladder and got one out of him with a swift tug. It wasn’t too difficult if you didn’t mind the blood. I washed it in the sink and put it back on the altar, where it had been when we first saw it. It seemed a bit of a shame that the way George was hanging meant he couldn’t see the diorama, but, on reflection, not too great a loss.

Simply Simon
Nov 6, 2010

📡scanning🛰️ for good game 🎮design🦔🦔🦔

800/800 words

“I’m so sorry to spring this surprise on you. But I can explain!”

She seemed entirely unconvinced, so I hurried along with my tale of woe, hoping for pity.

“It was a hot summer day and the air was burning. I was relaxing in the garden after watching the neighbors’ kids all day. They had left their inflatable pool, still filled, and whenever a particularly hot gust hit me, I almost considered going in. Although by now it was surely hot as piss and mostly full of that anyway.

Then, in the shimmering sky, I saw a speck of brown grow bigger in the otherwise uniform blue. It floated towards me like a shipwreck survivor’s raft on a becalmed sea. I squinted at the merciless sun until I could finally make it out: a bird, flapping slowly against the pressure of the heavy air, carrying something in its beak. The object drew my gaze like an unaware woman undressing, but it punished my attention immediately: an enraged peeping tom victim, it jabbed into my eyes a reflection like a celestial laser beam.

I had to blink, and during that moment of blindness, the bird dropped the object. I saw it tumble through the syrupy air, every revolution exposing me to another angry flash, until it vanished behind the rim of the pool.

Mesmerized, I got up, peeled my skin off the lawn chair sweat had glued it to. Bone-dry stalks of grass cut my bare feet as I stumbled towards the pool. I peered into the stagnant piss-water, feeling like a teenager stealing a glimpse through cabin boards.

There it was, still sinking, through a liquid barely more viscous than the summer air: a snail shell, ivory white outside and iridescent inside. It littered the pool, yes, but more importantly, it had insulted me, dared to punish my eyes for the crime of merely looking. I reached out to take it, and punish it in turn, smash the corkscrew perfection to pieces, shatter its pearly beauty into fragments so tiny, the light would scatter off them harmlessly.

It slipped my grasping fingers, jumping away like a giggling maiden, a teasing hussy, so I bent over further – and plunged into the cocktail of barely below boiling bilge and kid effluent. Thrashing, flailing, sputtering, I swallowed some and gagged, exacerbating the problem, and worst of all, I’d lost sight of my prey. The bitch had gotten away, and I could neither enjoy her beauty nor destroying it. But then, even through eyelids squeezed tight like thighs when you really got to go, another dagger of accursed light pierced my vision. I was committed now, would not be mocked by this shelly slut, and dove, eyes wide open, into the murky depths.

In the darkness of a sea trench, the only guiding light was the periodic flash of the tumbling shell. Surrounded by the warm embrace of the pool’s unspeakable contents, I followed it with the vigor of a hunter stalking a wounded animal. The embrace became a tight hug, then a chokehold as the pressure of the infinite depth increased. I was getting closer though, and beyond reason, and the flashes of sunless reflection became more frequent, a stroboscope light hammering my oxygen-deprived brain. In my mind’s eye, the shell’s curves became exposed buttocks bobbing away, alabaster skin taunting my caress.

One final stroke of a breast constricted by the fist of an angry giant, and I was close enough to touch the object of my desire! I extended grubby fingers towards the achingly elusive shell, and centimeters of distance became millimeters, then nanometers, then subatomic values as I pushed through her failing resistance…

Contact. One final flash to fill my world, blind me completely, make me gasp in awe and horror, swallow half the sea but without consequence, and that shock cleared my head and I could see: the shell, gigantic now, corkscrew wonder, and in it, proudly extending in shining slimy glory, the snail. The most beautiful, angelic invertebrate Madonna! A pure and innocent being, so demure and yet alluring, and I had to, I had to –

My eyes met her stalks. From them, twin beams shone that might scorch a lesser man, but I felt elated enlightenment. I sensed her intent, projected in my mind, her alien body language screaming NO! NO! NO! over and over, but if she really wanted that, would she have led me on this merry chase? Played so hard to get? I needed this prize for which I had suffered such humiliation, so again I reached out to finally despoil this sexy snail Goddess.”

“And this is why…” She said, already getting dressed again, and I sighed, another defeat suffered, another booty lost.

“That’s why my dick got turned into a pool noodle, yes.”

Apr 12, 2006

item: laser pointer

Speak Up
791 words


Tyrannosaurus fucked around with this message at 21:26 on Jan 8, 2021

Jul 25, 2012


Noise Cancellation
Words: 719
Item: Radio

I really want to like working from home. For the most part I do. I can sleep later. I don’t need to change out of my pajamas. This is the first apartment I’ve ever had without roommates too, so I should be able to actually focus on work. Should.

I don’t know if you could call anywhere in Staten Island “cheap,” but I’m not living in a penthouse either. Maybe if I did, whoever built my neighborhood might have actually finished. This is my third month here, my second week working remotely, and they’re still doing construction. Probably the same construction. Then construction holds up traffic. Then all the drivers get mad and start honking and yelling and I don’t even know what half the noises they’re making are. You get used to a certain level of noise pollution just by living in the city, but not when it’s all the noises all at once. Sunup to sundown, the room shakes from the pounding barrage of horns and jackhammers from intersection to intersection.

The only thing that really helps is this little radio from middle school. Just an old Sony clock radio. Nothing fancy. It’s a four inch cube with big green digital letters and a dial that never really hit the exact station you wanted. Last week was the first time I’d used it in years. The Spotify on my laptop wasn’t covering the horns and jackhammers outside, so I figured it’d be worth a try. And it actually worked, when it actually worked. There came a point when I realized I wasn’t just missing the station on the dial. The static and garbled audio were from it being nearly a decade and half old. I’d be surprised if it makes it another couple days. But my boss keeps sending me spreadsheets on Google. And if I’m not listening to fuzzy FM, I’m listening to smashing concrete and grinding metal. If I want to do my job, I need a new radio. And if I’m getting a new radio, it might as well get a nice one.

A buddy of mine recommends a place in Manhattan. I’m barely in the door before a salesman almost magically appears in front of me asking if I’ve been helped. I tell him about my noise issues and he says “I got the perfect stereo for you. Top of the line! Satellite Digital Audio Radio Service with Bluetooth surround sound and noise cancellation technology! You put this guy on, you won’t even hear yourself speak!”

“Noise cancellation technology?” I ask. “Don’t you need headphones for that?”

“Nope! All from the speakers themselves. Real space age technology. Stuff NASA uses to keep astronauts’ eardrums from blowing up when the rockets go off. These babies can more than handle New York.”

“So you’re guaranteeing it’ll completely mask construction and traffic?”

“Trust me! You won’t even know what happened!”

The box had to be like eighty pounds, but I still got it to my car, and somehow managed to get it up the stairs when I got to my building. I pop open the box and try to make sense of the mess of plastic inside. The instructions say I need to make five towers, each with three speakers positioned strategically around my living space. Once I get the towers built, I need to sync them with the base unit. Which means putting the three tiered structure together and making sure to wire each together correctly. To sync the towers, I need to enter the codes from each speaker. Individually. But before that, I need to make sure the front display touch screen works, which means a calibration check where I have to touch a red dot somewhere on the screen. Then it has to connect to WiFi so it can update the time and weather. When that loads, I have to download the smart phone app just to make the weird pop ups stop. Then the app has to load all the speaker codes directly from the base unit. Fine. Didn’t need my phone for that hour anyway.

Then finally, I get the entire stereo connected and ready to go. I pull out my phone, hit the app, and check the box that says “Noise Cancellation.” I hit the button that says “Radio” and

Nov 8, 2009


In Which Miss Belinda Darlington Receives an Unexpected Proposal

Guy Hadley, seventh Duke of Exham, seemed startled to find Belinda in the morning room. His Grace smoothed his already flawlessly-pressed jacket and clasped his hands so tight behind his back Belinda thought he might snap his fingers off.

“Miss Darlington,” he finally managed. “I – you – you’re looking quite lovely today.”

“Thank you, Your Grace.” Belinda set down the gothic novel she’d been trying and failing to enjoy for the past hour and gave Guy an encouraging smile. “You’re looking quite well yourself.”

A blush spread across Guy’s cheeks, which only made him look more attractive. Though the Duke’s features were too heavy, his body too large and awkward, for his fellow aristocrats to consider him handsome, there was a lack of artifice – a freshness, Belinda thought – about the man that she found charming. Though the rest of the peerage whispered behind their hands about His Grace’s “eccentricity,” Guy usually shunned society to work in Hadley Manor’s vast gardens with his own hands. Belinda had seen him in the garden many times during her six-week visit, pruning flowers with dirt-stained shears, carting massive bags of soil by himself. She smiled at the memory. What would it feel like to be held in those great, strong arms – to feel warm and safe in them?

Belinda shook her head, dismissing the thought. She was only a lady’s companion, a woman of no family or prospects, almost as invisible as servants to men and women of Guy’s class. Belinda was only here at Hadley Manor because Lady Ritchie, her employer, was a guest of Guy’s mother. When the house party was over, she would return to the crammed old townhouse in London, ever the old woman’s shadow: always following after her, never to outshine her. Men like Guy didn’t marry women like Belinda. It was foolish to hope for such a thing.

“Is Lady Ritchie about?” Guy’s voice broke through her thoughts.

“No, Your Grace. Her Ladyship accompanied your mother on a carriage ride into the village with Lord and Lady Ewing. I would have come, but there wasn’t room for me.”

“Ah, I see. I was wondering if –” Guy cleared his throat. “That is, if you would like to – I don’t wish to impose –”

“Your Grace, I have no demands on my time this afternoon. I should love a tour of Hadley Manor’s gardens.”

Every trace of Guy’s nervousness vanished as a grin spread across his face; his amber eyes gleamed with joy. “Precisely what I meant to ask! You are most perceptive, Miss Darlington.
Come, let us go.” He strode to the morning room’s double doors and swung them open. “After you,” he said, gesturing graciously to the outdoor footpath and the rose garden beyond.

“Thank you, Your Grace,” Belinda nodded as she stepped out into the sunshine. Guy was a different person where his gardens were concerned. Belinda knew he would love nothing better than to be there.

“Please, you must call me Guy. I like to think that we know each other well enough for that!”

“Very well, Your Gr- Guy.” Belinda blushed at her mistake. “But you must call me Belinda.”

“Of course, Belinda. I should like that very much indeed.”

The garden was in riotous bloom that day, with flowers in every shade from deep crimson to delicate white waving in the breeze before them. As they passed beneath an arch of climbing roses, Belinda breathed the scent in deep and sighed contentedly. She looked over at Guy, expecting to see him beaming amidst the flowers he’d worked so hard to cultivate, only to be puzzled by his furrowed brow and uneasy manner.

“Guy, are you quite alright?”

Guy wrung his hands and stared at Belinda with despairing eyes. “I – I don’t know how to say this.” Suddenly he was down on one knee and Belinda’s hand was in his own calloused one. “Belinda, no one understands me as you do. I wish us never to be parted. Please, make me the happiest man on Earth. I beg you -- say you’ll marry me!”

Belinda bit her lip. Society would never accept a duchess from common stock, and they would reject Guy too if she married him. But as he looked in his kind eyes, so full of love and pain, she realized that a “no” would shatter him. No matter how she answered, Belinda was destined to cause the man she’d grown to care for so much grief.

“Guy – I –”

At that moment, Belinda was instantly incinerated by an orbital laser fired from the Rigelian mothership hovering above the Earth, along with Guy, the gardens, the estate, the village, and everyone in them. Within an hour, most of southern England was a smoking ruin.

The course of true love never did run smooth.

Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!


756 words

The old yellow sofa, crossed with thin lines of thread, each faded to nearly the same color as the sofa itself but also frayed and broken in places, exposing short lengths that spent their years of service facing away from the light of the sun and so retained their original nearly-red orange, bought originally at a department store whose chain had long since been looted by fiduciary vultures, assets stolen and debts discharged in bankruptcy, whose location now is occupied by a remaindered book store that projects the aura of the fleeting, the temporary, but has stood unchanging in that location for more than two years while restaurants and sporting goods emporia rise and fall in the adjoining strip mall storefronts, including the Captain Xi Chinese steam table restaurant, one of the last of that chain of local renown that started with a single location at the very edge of the commercial zone from which Marcus Rhodes brought home food on a third date with Becca Fairpool in the late summer of '92, one egg roll and half of an order of Mongolian beef sitting uneaten on the living room table while the two teens' four hands went exploring unknown territories as they half-sat, half-reclined on that sofa, unaware of the Desert Eagle .50 caliber stuffed between the middle pillow and the hard interior seat, one bullet short of a full magazine loaded, until the arrival of Marcus's little brother Elias interrupted them with just enough time to straighten the clothes they had nearly escaped from and distract the eleven year old with the promise of a round of board games that took up the rest of the evening such that by the time the mouse had been covered by the falling basket and the princess had escaped the battle-station there was no time for more than a very brief kiss, full on the lips but with his intruding tongue denied by closed lips, and then delivering her home to a porch too well surveilled by her parents and grandmother for him to dare attempt even a second mostly chaste kiss, which was the last time he saw her owing to the sudden move of the entire Fairpool clan to, as the rumor at their high school would insist, either Texas or Montana, for reasons that the same rumor mill was bursting with speculation over, most popularly concerning the federal witness protection program, most plausibly concerning the closure of the paint factory across the river, and most fancifully concerning an abduction by aliens or possibly Russian spies or, in the occasional telling, a combination of the two acting either in tandem or in competition, but in fact was due to a series of clandestine assignations between the elder Mrs. Fairchild and Dr. Emil Taranta that were about to come to light thanks to the Doctor's other vices, most notably gambling, putting him in the position of being unable to afford the quarterly extortion payments demanded by Corporal Dan Tanner, whose network of informants and blackmail victims much later collapsed and threatened to land him a richly-deserved jail sentence which he avoided by fleeing town in Betty Rhodes' beat-up green Miata, bought from her for several times its market value, in cash, the windfall more than enough for her to replace it with a lightly-used silver Prius and to replace the most outdated furnishings in her home, most especially replacing that ancient yellow sofa with the second least expensive Ikea sofa that would fit into the same room layout, as the very least expensive one had a catalog name in that chain's dog-swedish that she and Mr. Rhodes found, in turns, vaguely offensive, somewhat twee, and irresistibly hilarious and in all cases distracting enough that it was worth the extra seventy-three dollars to avoid, and was quite comfortable for television watching in its home in that living room, displacing the older sofa, which was put up for sale on Craigslist where it sat unnoticed for two weeks until a group of sophomores from the local state College took it away in return for a single, suspiciously fragrant five dollar bill, after which it was in service in their room for two semesters until Bill 'Gun' Ballister, having staggered across campus and several city blocks, collapsed face-first on it and pissed himself, soaking through cushions and frame alike and rendering it unfit for all human use, to be left on the sidewalk for a brief final trip to the city dump and the long wait for the incinerator.

Aug 25, 2008

I've lost twice, I've failed twice and I've gotten two dishonorable mentions within 7 weeks. But I keep coming back. I am The Trooper!


Release, but no release
791 words
feat Butter Knife

My own breathing was the first sign that the world still existed, accompanied by a numb feeling at the end of my limbs. My clothes were on but I felt cold despite the fuzzy surface under me, some kind of rug… Okay? I opened my eyes to complete darkness, something was covering them, soft, smooth… Silk? I moved my head to each side, it was not restrained. I focused on my fingers, one, two… Five, ten all accounted for and mobile. My hands were behind my back, bound at the wrist by... Rope? I could feel the blood flowing to them as I became more alert, it was not too tight. I pulled but it added nothing but tension, not too loose either. There was a metallic taste in my mouth, as I could recognize because I used to be an idiot kid that licked pipes, which certainly explains how I ended up in this situation. I considered calling for help, but everything was too quiet, I’ve always had a hard time standing out.

My legs were still where I left them in relation to the rest of my body, I was barefoot, rope or something like it around my ankles, couldn’t really tell over my Jeans. I was suddenly concerned over the fate of my shoes, I really liked those Air Jordans. I tried moving and found that I was otherwise free. I rolled clockwise over the rug until my shoulder connected to a solid surface, I put my back against it and felt with my hand, a wall, wood. I decided to roll in the opposite direction to discover the limitations of my new universe.

I rolled four times before my thigh greeted something solid and thin with enough force to give me an involuntary yelp. How many meters had that been? Three? Whatever. I maneuvered my awkward form until my face could connect with the newest visitor to my universe, it was metallic and cold, I brushed it against my blindfold until I succeeded in removing the latter, revealing to me a darkened room, the only bare light coming from under a lonely door and the only objects the silhouettes of furniture. A large bed, nightstand, a chest, a wardrobe, no windows, the rug covered the entire floor. The liberator of my vision was an office table with a glass top and metallic structure. The lack of a chair disturbed me. The table had several objects over it, some gifted with forms that suggested what would come upon me if I did not escape, all mysteries except one reflecting the scarce light, my one hope in this darkness.

A butter knife.

I tried to stand and failed, thanking the soft rug for absorbing my fall. I listened for any reaction, but the world was still in silence as if this room and I were the only things left in the world. I tried two more times, growing increasingly frustrated, before coming to the realization that that would probably be easier if I supported myself on the wall instead of simply trying to get back up in the middle of the room, like an idiot. I did so between the nightstand and table, my eyes never leaving the butter knife and the promise it held.

As soon as I stood I heard a muffled sound from the beyond, from the door, a repeating and indistinct pattern. I froze as a shadow swiftly and silently passed under the doorframe, right to left, it did not otherwise disturb my prison. The sound stopped, I focused on my breathing and recalled the butter knife, the plan.

I carefully turned my back towards the table and began my search. The butter knife was around the center of the labyrinth of objects, my hands tested each object as best as they could given their limitations. Plastic box, the size of my palm, escaped into the unknown as I tried to open it. Something rubbery, wide, cylindrical, solid but not so much, not what I wanted now. Metal, the barest promise of an edge, butter knife, salvation. I grabbed it and began to work.

The door opened and the room came into light.

“Hey, my sister just called...” my girlfriend walked in, her hockey mask hanging from her neck. She started laughing when she saw what I was trying to do with the butter knife. I blushed, she untied me and resumed what she had to say as soon as she recovered her composure “My sister just broke up with her boyfriend and she’s coming over. I am really really sorry, could we… Give it another try next week?” I nodded along, I could forgive that smile anything.

“Hey, I'll be keeping that letter opener.” anything but that.


Apr 30, 2006

795 words

Poison in the water! That’s why I plucked my son out of middle school and threw him in the back seat of my car — we were going to wait this out in the town I grew up in.

“Who do you think did it?” I asked Jeremy, as we drove through a dusty desert road.

“Well,” he said, looking at his phone, “there’s three main theories. The first is that it’s Ann Orchis.”


“Yeah, that. The second is that a group of teenagers were kissing by the reservoir, and one of them accidentally kicked a can of stry — starch-a-nine — into the water.”


“Sure. And the last theory is that no one ever poisoned the water. The theory is that we just have a different relationship to water than we used to.” He rolled down the window and stuck his arm out, to flap in the wind. “I don’t get that one.”

“You’ll get it when you’re older,” I told him, even though the words rolled off my brain like water on a windshield. We drove in silence for a while, then I put on some music — Jim Croce, one of my favorites.

We listened to my playlist, which had eight different live recordings of “Leroy Brown,” but on the third one, Jeremy begged me “Please, Dad, can we listen to literally anything else?” So we listened to the radio. There was this talk radio station where a man was talking about the poisoning.

“We’re all poisoned,” the man said. I liked the tone of his voice; it reminded me of my dad, smooth but overcharged. “We’ve all been poisoned with television. Snack food. Self-checkout stations in grocery stores. But now that it’s strychnine, everyone is suddenly upset.”

“He’s so smart,” Jeremy said.

On the side of the road there was a sign:


“Best Hash Brown’s In The State!”

I had to stop. My dad and I had gone to Vivian’s whenever he let me ride with him in his truck. Those visits were some of the fondest memories I had with him — shoveling down the potatoes until my stomach hurt, while my dad kept ordering more servings. I wanted Jeremy to have the same experience. “You hungry, bud?” I asked him.


People were sitting in hushed little circles at Vivian’s. Folks fleeing the poisoning, just like Jeremy and myself. I winked at a family huddling over their prize: a tower of bottled water.

“Dad,” Jeremy said, “you think they’ll fix things?”

I wasn’t sure. The whole process of getting poison into water seemed pretty self-explanatory, but getting it out? That seemed more challenging. “Sure, buddy,” I said. “You can fix basically everything these days.”

The waitress looked tired, like she’d been up for three days. I ordered four orders of hashbrowns and two cups of coffee.

“We don’t have water right now, so we’ll have to make your coffee with V-8 or seltzer,” the waitress said.

“One of each.” If Jeremy tried to grab the one with seltzer, I would insist he drink the juice-coffee — it seemed like this was the sort of thing that built character. I needed him to understand that, just because we lived in strange times, it didn’t mean anything had changed. I was the father, and he was the son.

When the coffee arrived, Jeremy declined both mugs, but I still made him sit in front of the one that smelled like tomatoes.


Two miles away from my hometown, I slammed on the brakes hard. A blockade of people had formed in the street.

“Stop!” said the blockade’s leader. She was wearing a pair of cat ears, and she looked only a few years older than Jeremy. “We’re checking everyone for bottled water.”

I hadn’t brought any. Personally, I was hoping the water thing was localized — clearly I was wrong. I stepped out of the car with my hands up. “Sorry, folks, we’re fresh out,” I said, “but there’s a diner a few miles up the road with a lot of V-8.”

Cat Ears scoffed at me. “You don’t know anything, do you? About the poisoning of the water.”

“There’s three theories,” Jeremy said. “Theory one—”

“All theories are wrong.”

“So what’s the real story?”

It was dark by now. The stars were out in full — we were far enough away from the city that you could see the Milky Way. I thought about how small and insignificant we were. And oddly enough, I thought about my dad. What would he have thought? I think he would have relished the chance to eat some hashbrowns and spend some quality time with his son.

“Say,” I said, “do you folks like Jim Croce?”

“No,” said Cat Ears.

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