Sorry, slight administrative error! Here is your crit.
As someone who works with unhoused folks, I enjoy the very literal wish fulfilment of this. It's an issue that is especially topical up here in the PNW, where your story is set. While this story does address a kind of mutual grief and tragedy, it does so from a place of shared comfort. It doesn't linger in the undercurrent of sorrow felt by both of these people, but rather in this interval where everything is okay. I like to think that Pam and Ben might build rapport and even friendship, and that they could help each other heal. A+ cozy
|# ? May 17, 2022 05:08|
|# ? Dec 8, 2022 13:33|
Week 511: Wilco Week
This week you will use music for inspiration! But instead of handing out songs individually, I want everyone to take the same inspiration: Wilco’s album Sky Blue Sky, only for the reason that I’ve been listening to it a lot lately and I love it, and I love to see other people’s interpretations of things that I love.
What kind of story would have this music as a soundtrack?
There are many ways you can be inspired. Listen to the album and see what it makes you feel and try to capture that vibe in your story. Or pick one song that grabs you and be inspired by that one song. Or if you really aren't a fan of the music, then you could just read through the lyrics and pick a line that you like, or hell, even just the title of a song or the album art.
Please let me know in your story post what inspired your story (was it the vibe, a specific song or lyric, or whatever else) i won't judge based on prompt adherence, this part is for my own enjoyment
I know some people really don't like open ended prompts like this, so if you want some restrictions you can ask me for a setting or a character and i'll give you something.
Usual rules, no fanfic or erotica and etc,
Here is the album on youtube https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLX68ZEYlh74unIjN8LQyKmJZVDEgqXNOS
Sign up deadline friday night, post deadline sunday night PST
derp fucked around with this message at 00:05 on May 21, 2022
|# ? May 17, 2022 05:13|
I am in and would like a setting please
|# ? May 17, 2022 05:17|
SH and I had completely different approaches this week. Good vibes vs being a little more analytical. Our top picks were the same though, it was just who would nab the win.
No DMs in cozy week (so we didn’t really discuss this), but I want to special mention Stella by Albatrossy_Rodent. I found it hilarious, and I hope you don’t take offense. It deserves some dramatic readings and maybe even a spot on the classics list. maximize the punge
What does TD find comfy? Cats, dogs, deer in the woods, mushrooms, flowers, a proper cuppa, and of course food, food, food
Snap summaries w/ longer comments following:
Nethalia- Fairy Rings
It’s just a good sepia-tinted memory. Rooted in a specific place but feels timeless.
Great use of style and writer’s voice. Straightforward approach to the prompt, happy ending and all. Even though the character has self-doubt, it’s never dour and mixed with humorous dog comments in the right places.
Maybe the dialogue in broken english might turn some people, I dunno, peppering it with Filipino makes it seem honest. Old timers with terrible arthritis, though
Uranium Phoenix- The Serene World
closer to top than middle. There’s a lot to like in the sci-fi details, and it really made me imagine the larger world. Maybe the “background conflict” looms a little large.
Antivehicular- Beep Beep
Lots of good details about moving house and the steady accumulation of junk over the years. Ties the beeping into a good character memory
Nae- The Care and Keeping of a Corgi
Dogs and soup. Possibly polarizing about love of folding laundry and cilantro.
a friendly penguin- Always Bring a Cardigan
Knitters ain’t quitters. Cute and inventive, I would have taken the puns even further
pretty good to me, zen nature poetry, but maybe there are poetry snobs who will call me a fool
Bad Seafood- Slow Days
I’m questioning the logic of the magic restaurant and food waste, but it’s cute
it does technically fill the brief, but it’s intentionally a little disconcerting and creepy. A few touch ups and maybe in another week. . . .
sparksbloom- Midnight Snack
this is fairly calm and the characters fall into an old routine, but the background details suggest maybe it should be more tense than what is presented, both emotionally and with the prospect of surgery the next morning.
kaom- A Witchy Stroll in Guardian Grove
fine little adventure on the surface, but it’s technically about catching a house elf to do the chores, so that’s not so nice. Possible mycelium abuse, but I’m not a fungi expert
hard counter- What is Best in Life
pretty dense prose. The actual people dancing is fine, and the writing there is open compared to the big chunks about science or the future-history lesson. If it were blended a little bit better or just trying to break the habit of feeling like every noun must have an adjective..
sebmojo- With Its Tapestries Red
The princess archer who rejects royalty for a more mundane life and love, Susan (Pevensie).
Thranguy- Like Wolves or Wind
More questions than answers about the magical society, wishing the wolf-legends were a bigger part of it instead of magic jargon
Chili- Living the Dream
really didn’t make sense with the first day on a new job as a doctor. I get the idea of the rest area but the first thing the character does within minutes of entering a new hospital is take a nap. Wrap up the first day instead of starting it
curlingiron- Hearth and Homecoming
way over wordcount. Kind of a current of anxiety running through it, since the witch keeps getting annoyed and will have to answer a royal summons eventually anyway. The queen dies offscreen during the events of the story, and I think the witch probably could have saved her if they weren’t set on puttering around the house. On one hand, hereditary royalty bleh, but they were fighting demons from hell
rohan- Recharge Cycle
central metaphor about taking a break to recharge your personal “batteries” except it’s Zangief macking on a fish lady. Little vague on what’s actually going on—did Jasper sabotage the ship to get this chill sesh? The sci-fi jargon gets in the way rather than enhance the story.
Namedrops Solaris and they smoke space drugs, but nothing trippy happens
maybe a so bad it’s good classic, the characters are sweet and stink at the same time (as mentioned in the text).
The man called M- Mr. Frog wants to sleep
misadventures in rhyming, but the middle is offputting. Maybe cutting the booze and pills and just doing a straightforward children’s story would have saved both the story and the loss. You can learn the mechanical rules of meter and improve that part, but this story flaunts an edginess that was just inappropriate for cozy week. March to your own drum, but it was way out of sync with the band this time.
Longer crits in the order they were submitted,
Living the Dream
Not an expert, but my understanding is a hospitalist is the on-call jack-of-all-trades. And as we know from movies and TV, the night shift is when all the crazy stuff happens.
This feels like a big set up for things about to happen; so there’s an undercurrent of tension the whole way through, and since it’s a hospital, you know the shoe will drop eventually.
If we’re judging on the coziness, sure, the nice little wind down is good. But that’s one hell of a good job where you can nap immediately after clocking in. Maybe if this was after a tough first day, and Zari could look at the rough little room and remember the busy days that were nothing like the day she had today. Because you know these rest areas are for the overworked doctors doing double doubles and all the other hell-shifts hospital residents are subjected to.
Like, the first day of a new job, in a new hospital, it really doesn’t strike me as the time to chill, I’d be reviewing charts and having a walk-around, meeting the in-patients I’d be dealing with.
Even if there weren’t any immediate situations to deal with, you paint Zari as a ladder-climber at the start. So seems out of character that she’d doze off rather than explore and get acclimated.
Maybe it’s just the industry—taking a promotion to a corner office, and immediately napping would be good commentary and meet the brief. But a hospital is inherently tense, and with Zari being told this is yet another stepping stone job instead of, not the culmination of her career, maybe, but a spot she can feel fulfilled, it doesn’t feel very restful, comfy blanket and pillow notwithstanding.
I keep bouncing back and forth between two levels on this one: a mother who lost her son, and is looking to fill that void, and a kid who needs a break from the streets and accepts the invitation; and the sinister undertone with the delusions of this old woman that feels like the start of a Misery-style horror story.
The golden light bathing the friendly woman who is a grandma out of central casting seems too good to be true. Maybe it’s an idealized vision, Ben just wants somewhere to call home. And it could be all innocent. If Ben leaned into it, and realized he was accepting the love on a bit of a false premise, could we blame him? They’re technically meeting each other’s immediate needs.
Ben’s trauma is unspoken, and we don’t have to get into that, but maybe him opening up (even if we don’t hear it, per se) could be a good thing.
Those military moms, though, maybe it’s just the impression I have, but photos of the son in uniform would be everywhere. Part of the noble sacrifice and hero worship. Like you wouldn’t even have to explicitly spell it out if the progression of photographs ended with a young private in desert camo.
Cozy on the surface but kind of creepy. You know it’s kind of creepy with that final line.
The Serene World
I like this one a lot, especially after connecting Xia to Wuxia and the wandering do-gooder archetype. There are a few niggles though: Old Xia has seen this before, so I think “They’ll be needin’ a proper welcome.” fits a little better.
Xia has a leisurely journey, and if feels out of place once you know it’s a crashed ship. Maybe if they had to collect some tools or other resources to care for the Seraph at each stop, rather than me thinking back and wondering why there isn’t any urgency in the rescue mission.
There would be two different perspectives on the forever-war raging in the skies, based on who Old Xia is, some fighter from this planet sucked into the war or a rebel, vs. someone who retired or simply grew tired of fighting. Didn’t really get a sense on it, though I guess the latter. Or even an old Seraph who crashed on this planet long ago. If that’s what the story is implying, it’s pretty vague, and I have to do a lot of speculating to get there. Not that that’s bad. Something to relate the two characters in conversation, or just in Old Xia’s reflections while they build or keep watch would be really nice though.
I think it would be fitting for Old Xia to offer a new home to the Seraph or at least making the case that Seraph didn’t need to go back to the fight. That would be a good conflict that resolves in the ultimate respite—rescuing an indoctrinated (and apparently more man/bird than machine thanks to the eternal war machine).
I think shelter practice would probably be to create a leanto with the roof first, then finish the rest of the walls, but that’s a minor thing. Especially since there are already snow drifts. All the ‘Netic and sci-fi details are neat, and provide a lot of fuel for imagining the world in just a few words.
[they went limp again. “They need me,” they muttered.] This is perfectly clear, but a lot of they in a row.
A Witchy Stroll in Guardian’s Grove
Nice little stroll in the woods, and I like that it could just as easily be someone playing at being a witch vs. actual magical powers. I think what puts it squarely in the realm of fantasy is that the cat participates in mutualism. On a cold night, mine is either just out of reach and moves further away if I try to readjust him, or trying to knead a hole in my neck.
The treasure map mushroom scavenger hunt is cute, and maybe this is a nod to the character’s naivety but it seems pretty classic to have a fairie circle for sprites and supernatural creatures to enter, rather than just a nice garden. But also, in particular, brownies require offerings, a barter for their services, so I don’t know that some landscaping would quite do the trick.
There’s no sense on why Tiff needs a brownie to help out. Even if we take Tiffany as the witch-guardian of this forest, it seems a pretty chill existence. Maybe a fae adventuring companion is a little nicer than conscripting a house elf to do the dishes. Maybe that’s just me.
Detail of the trees providing shelter (she has a little house) and the wildlife (mostly slugs, but there’s a litany of animals on her adventure) don’t quite add up. If she takes care to not let her cloak disturb the moss, why does she stomp through it at the start? If it’s just damp, well, that’s nature and it is raining out. Tiffany would be used to that.
Fly agaric is slightly toxic, and some kitties like to play with mushrooms, so while pretty, gonna have to watch Felix or fence it off. Maybe Felix is indoor-only (and if so, explain that Felix is too lazy, the hearth too inviting, or adventuring days behind him, since it seems un-witchy to keep an indoor cat), and that’s probably a minor detail that isn’t worth worrying about, but the harvesting of the mushroom itself is a little reckless. If I wanted to transplant and there was a thick mycelium, then I’d take a sharp edged spade or small shovel to cut the dirt and make sure I did as little damage as possible. Just reaching into the soil and pulling it up seems like it would cause more disturbance to the mutual root system. It doesn’t feel like there was much care and consideration.
Anyway, the mushroom hunt on the whole is fun and fine, and the nature imagery is good, just a few things to polish up or address.
Always Bring a Cardigan
Cute little joyride. Knitting magic is cool but the first “enchanted to read romance novels” steals a little thunder since for a while it sounds like it’s normal magic instead of the actual knitting being the magic, knowwhatImean?
It doesn’t lean all the way in with car-digan puns, and I think I would have liked that, even though it’s corny. Six-Skein engine, Mother-of-Purl inlaid dashboard, Spinning flywheel transmission, and so on. Hound’s tooth instead of hen’s tooth, No one says, “Darn it.”
Nostalgia button in-universe, and a fun flip with giving the cardigan to Granny.
This hits all the notes for me. The childhood nostalgia, the fine detail both of the girls and the flower crowns, and the backstory prose. If I have to knock something, it’s that Dragon Takes a Wife still seems to be a ‘happily ever after’ means getting married but still, it’s a fair sight better than Disneyfied tales.
I was previously unfamiliar with WDM beyond Fallen Angels, and even then I only vaguely remembered the controversy rather than the content, so thanks for the reminder, and I’m checking out some other work.
It felt like this was something I read a long time ago, and it stuck with me over the years in the best possible way.
I mostly like this. I picked up on the human silence, but nature is making plenty of noise early, so I don’t know that it needed to be explicitly stated. Maybe that could have even been improved by going through all the nature sounds, and then “for the first time in days, silence.” And the moan of the tree branch stands out, since it reminds me of a complaint which is opposite of your point and the brush phrase doesn’t scan with the rest of the line. Chitters, whisper, [the branch shivers? ], flutter, the brush rustles. I dunno, also like a singular, plural, singular back and forth.
The moment of anxiety when a rustle is heard, I think a little of the physical action before the realization that your posture is changing due to the potential of being seen by another human would work a little better. Especially since it’s supposed to be sudden.
You mention drinking in nature about half way through, and I don’t know if it would be better to run with it a little more, or cut that so the drink at the end is the real moment of both literally and figuratively “taking in” nature. We’ll skip my thoughts on dysentery, and my personal loathing of back-cracking and joint-popping, the commune with nature is well painted here.
I’m not a free verse expert of any kind, but even though there’s a wide variety of sentence length and no real consistency on when and where sentence length varies from long to short, things still flow pretty well.
Slow Days (762 words)
The logic of the magic cafe is a little strange—like you would expect that it would know where a traveler in need of rest would be, so waiting for a guest to arrive and sometimes not, regardless of the daily prep brings up questions. Or it intentionally gives Clover a day off, and maybe on those days there’s no path to the front door or their in an out of the way area that is clearly inaccessible.
While the moving cafe is neat, I think I’d get a little grumpy if I didn’t know whether we were in an area that would get any customers and had a cat pressuring me to prepare just in case. At least Hammond does the hard work of making pastries that may or may not go to waste. Doing that would be a dealbreaker. Clover seems to enjoy the tidying at least.
With the haphazard grooming and drowsy stretching, I keep conjuring images of Clover as a cat too, and that could have been a cute little story on its own, with the cats in the busy cafe. But the magi-rustic cafe with the fastidious cat chef is still cute. Another thing I kept thinking about was how skilled Hammy is in the kitchen, I expected him to mewl and beg for Clover to open a can of his own food after all that.
Not sure if puppy love is enough to convince me that a yapping chihuahua will ever be cute, but I like this a lot. Feels like a really natural train of thought and coming around/associating the good feeling with the dog reinforces that. I expected a bit of hesitation after sending the text about Sammy, since it’s a little melancholy talking about the old pet that was sent away when he was a kid and it’s not clear that Mason has a current dog, but I guess it probably doesn’t need it. The thoughts happening at that point are more important. Charming, funny, the right kind of tense, and all while sitting on the couch with a dog.
This is a little confusing, I think it’s supposed to be that Jasper mildly sabotaged the ship so he could do space drugs and maybe have a space booty call? You could have distilled this down into, well the ship is stranded, but the space tow truck won’t be here until tomorrow so let’s talk about recharging batteries and enjoying the night. Because that part works fairly well, getting through to the analytical engineer via an equipment analogy.
Fay is some kind of aquatic alien, or at least that’s the way I’m lead to imagine her, since schools of emerald fish is right at the beginning and the description of scales reinforce that. But then she notes Jasper struggling like a fish caught on a lure, and I’m like whoa, who is fishing for sentient space aliens, and why is that just a throwaway line about him taking off his shirt?. Wild.
Solaris is like king sci-fi, so name dropping it and then later hitting a space-pipe, I guess it set up some expectations for trippy imagery, but things stay pretty normal. You (probably?) made up some other planet names, so why choose Solaris for the planet they’re on?
Maybe I’m mixed up on space terminology, but I think nebulae are generally volatile, and have younger stars that aren’t particularly hospitable to developing a spacefaring society. But maybe it’s just a clarity issue, since a nebula could be in a spiral arm or other part of a galaxy, and well-developed planets within a couple degrees of one.
And I dunno, getting a full fist of chest hair ripped out is a pretty big deal. Jasper’s pretty easy-go-lucky, but after the initial shock and confession, I don’t know if I’d drop it that quickly, even if I was in space-seduction mode or doing space-drugs.
Logistics of their shuttle, I don’t really get—it’s so cramped two humanoids can barely work side-by-side. This appears to be their job and permanent craft, so why is it so small? They seem to be crew specialists, navigator and engineer, so it’s not like they’re just businesspeople and this is a car they don’t really know how to fix. And it seems too small to be a cargo hauler or anything. I think it’s a matter of adding in details, but if you’re getting me into a sci-fi mood talking about engine repairs, then the “hard science” details should matter. Otherwise, it’s much easier to treat it like a modern car where it’s easy to operate one without knowing engine repair.
The Care and Keeping of Corgi
Cute little story. Folding laundry is not my relaxing activity, but to each their own. It’s nice that Elizabeth is making her own comfort, doing the ramen the way she likes, collecting too many plants and not being fussed about the ones that didn’t make it, finding a detergent that works for her and enjoying it (though I’m curious about the natural scent of perfume-free laundry soap. The stuff I have smells sort of like oxy-clean chemically and clothes out of the dryer are sort of that near-acrid tang of the hot dryer scent—this doesn’t matter except that it’s a detail mentioned that I’m interested in, the important part is that Elizabeth likes it, whatever it is).
Tackles one of the most polarizing issues of our time, cilantro. Given the setup about food thievery, I expected Muffin to come in and hork up a noodle after raiding the big soup pot but the doggo interaction is completely natural. I don’t know about the final line, and maybe Muffin does have a long memory, but in my experience forever lasts about ten minutes to a dog when food is involved. Cuz if the dog was mad at me for giving it something distasteful, I’d probably go “Treats?” Woof! and all is forgiven.
Dog language isn’t quite there, since there are barks and both good and bad honks. Maybe stick with honks and work out the sound effects for happy and grouchy or the honks just be the grouchy ones barks be happier.
One point deducted for not post-scripting the ramen recipe. (Oh, I see now that ramen was in the prompt photo)
This is pretty stilted, but it made me laugh. If Stella had a more natural flow, then the uh, flowery delivery Mr. Skunk uses could be a real winner. He’s really dramatic and sounds a little silly, but I think if Stella had more to say, she’d speak in roughly the same manner. Maybe not, but if that was the case, she doesn’t have enough lines to really make a contrast.
Would the sweet berry skunk spray attract scary forest things? I don’t know that it would. I suppose you could have made a passing reference to humans, but I would say the scary things from beyond the forest or something to let the reader connect the dots.
Also, IRL logic, skunk spray isn’t actually farts, and skunks don’t often spray unless necessary since there’s a recharge period, so Mr. Skunk could have like chosen to not spray around the friendly creatures, but whatever. It’s farts in the story. But also, skunks are deliberately not camouflaged like rabbits, so in my wildlife fantasy, skunks would wear flashy blue dresses and be the stinky dandies of the forest. It’s fine though that Mr. Skunk is a big grump about it.
Foxes are predators though, so seems like one of the characters Mr. Skunk should be worried about but they’re in the friendlier bunch, so I dunno. I guess the logic is that the ‘cuter’ animals grow pretty flowers and the bees are just predisposed to it. I think I’m probably digging at something here that you didn’t intend, but in a cutesy story I’m thinking about this little animal world and finding problems.
The father/daughter relationship I like and her entering the contest and deciding to help without really much argument shows that he’s deep down a good person (skunk)
This has a stinky skin, but I see the good heart within. Maybe it’s a so bad it’s good classic
Why is the dog named Mr. Washington? In an otherwise neighborly romance, you bring up cop-trust, and I think someone who was oppressed or whatever bouncing to another police state might not be so gung-ho with the patriotism (provided this is the U States of A). Unless, of course, the flip in changing the name from Washington to Murder was intentional, and if so, well done. Ano ba?
Either way the flowerbed murder is a good hook, seems serious at first, but benign in the end.
It seems to be human nature, that the older people get, the more their lives revolve around figuring out what, when and where, their next meal will be, so that all rings perfectly true. Same thing with talking about the deceased spouses. Mentioned in conversation, but not too terribly sentimental. All good characterization.
I don’t know how accurate Ria’s speech pattern would be, but it doesn’t bother me on the whole, and blending in some Filipino phrases seems natural to me.
I guess the busted hip and the terrible arthritis show how far the narrator’s willing to go for the date or didn’t think it through, but I question whether they’d actually be able to accomplish driving Ria on her errands all day. It’s a little detail, but also a big detail. Even if it was broken left hip and an automatic car, that’s still a lot of sitting in a compressed position with debilitating arthritis and ooph, rough.
Still, the interplay is good, and sweet without being cloying. (trying to find a dessert that isn’t over-sweetened, but getting a toothache reading some Filipino dessert menus)
Mr. Frog wants to sleep
Kudos for trying the rhyming scheme, but there’s a bit of a schism with the darker subject matter. Lonely frog is going to bake himself a birthday cake, while thinking about his past regrets, then goes to the liquor store where the clerks suggest mixing sleeping pills? I mean, that’s a little offputting. Could be a fine story on its own, but maybe one where the happy(ier) ending isn’t so forced.
If they offered friendship instead of the booze and pills, or just taking the gin home and they all party until the dawn of Frog’s birthday and he forgets about sleep, or they party until they all fall asleep from innocent slumber party fun would have made for a more relaxing story. It just feels very grim.
But I like gin and artichokes and did not know there was such a thing, so I guess I hope to get invited to Mr. Frog’s next cocktail party.
Hearth and Homecoming
Putting homelife back together after being part of a heroic war effort could be a good , but the constant interruptions have Diana in a pretty constant state of agitation. Reflecting on the losses from battling an arch-evil like a demon could even be fine, and settle into a bit of a melancholy domesticity thankful that at least you survived and could help people with more mundane Goody Cooper problems.
But with the new Queen coming to visit, and also delivering the news that the old queen didn’t survive and I’m not 100% sure what sort of magic Diana specializes in, but it seems to be potions and healing magic, so my question there is why wasn’t she at the dying queen’s side?
Isadora says she ran off right after the battle, but the beginning tells us it was the next day, and if Diana was either important enough in general, or a hero of the battle, presumably people would be keeping tabs on her, and if the queen was in dire straits to catch her before she returned home.
Goes way over the requested word count, but things aren’t difficult to parse, and it reads just fine. It just has an aggravated protagonist the entire time until Isadora finally just asks for a cup of tea. They have a rapport, since Diana has opinions on proper tea that they’ve discussed, so even if like Diana was a tutor or at court at some point with Isadora, you’d expect she’d want to check in with at least her.
I like the internal monologue of Willow thinking about how she herself isn’t really genuine about making an effort to maintain friendships, but it’s kind of a confusing backstory here. Is Willow only in town every once in a while, and that’s why it was easier for Chole to just sort of fade out with the “ghosting” or did Willow live in Boston at one point. Maybe it was casual, but they bathed together often enough that Willow had paint chip duty (that’s a lot of flaking paint to still be chipping off after two+ full years, nevermind that even if it’s a rental, if it was that bad, I’d just grab some sandpaper and take care of it, since it hasn’t been addressed, even during lease renewals or whatever).
I guess it’s not important and the key could have been with a neighbor or something, but I did think wait a sec when Willow sees Chloe for the first time and she’s already inside. I don’t know if I’d willingly leave my apartment key under the doormat in the hallway. With the lovely bathroom maintenance, I’m imagining this is a more modest studio rather than a fancy converted factory loft studio or whatever. But there are closets plural, so ???
What is your secret for keeping potato pancake batter good in the fridge? I don’t latke often, but when I do store left over mix, it’s sickly gray in a matter of hours. I guess I’ve had more of a precooked mashed potato cake kind of thing at some point, but really not the same. Anyway.
I don’t necessarily associate the night before surgery with calm or a restful time. And WIllow came into Boston for this surgery, so either it’s serious enough to have some specialist in Boston treat it, or Willow lives relatively close to Boston all the time and this is just the most local surgical hospital (in which case it seems strange that for two years, they both let the relationship slide, whether purely physical, a semi-cas thing, or it was more serious).
The surgery seems like an important detail here, and is this a routine procedure, or like going to be their last night together, possibly ever? If there was another event where all the hotels were booked up, like say a marathon or something, then Willow could be in Boston and have an excuse to call, make accommodations, and they could talk relationship stuff without that question lingering in my mind the whole time.
Lots of really good details here, both about the clutter of co-habitation (especially practically useless stuff like sheets the wrong size and old college textbooks) and tying it back both to childhood memories and the day she actually made a move and started a relationship with Marissa.
A little bit of a disjointed sentence with the “kitchen finally clean” I don’t know if it was a victim of editing and Tracy had been working on organizing before napping at the start, or at one point she started cleaning so she could find the beeping device. After that she says maybe she’ll start cleaning, which I guess ties to the good deed for the day at the end, but I mean I’d be looking for the noise maker instead of just kind of suffering through it while doing things like loading the dishwasher which is unlikely to have the culprit.
But thinking about that, throwing on some headphones to drown out the beeper, flipping to her karaoke practice list and discovering the song would have been neat.
I like the throughline of the beep turning into a song, and a half-recognized one, then remembering the song and the associated memory before finally finding it and recognizing the intent behind it in the first place, even though Marissa is kind of evil for hiding a noise making card and storing in such a way that it might pop open and go off, especially if Tracy is going to play ignorant and put the presents and card back like she was never in the closet.
What Is Best In Life
This opens with the music of destruction that’s used as the soundtrack for an aging couple just having a dance in their bedroom. As an idea, that’s pretty poetic, and it’s a pretty common thing to talk about the dance of the cosmos, so using the radio noise is interesting.
Sounds of a black hole:
It’s certainly more musical than like the static of the cosmic background radiation, but it’s more avant garde stuff, I don’t know if anybody could waltz to it, or even try to develop a waltz in particular to dance along to it. It seems a little too old fashioned, but also I think of the classic one two three one two three of a waltz and the ambients of the blackholes are extremely regular and you’d be hard pressed to keep a ¾ time to them. Anyway.
The opener feels like it’s trying to hard to be poetic, or just too flowery. It’s setting up the radio waves, and the music of the future, so instead of all the fiery visuals, maybe setting the objects around the black hole like musicians orbiting the maestro, their energy being channeled into and by the great inescapable conductor of the cosmic symphony. The brass and tympani of the explosions and the rippling strings in such perfect pitch that humans can only hear the detuned and redshifted knockoff through their coarse ears, and yet that was good enough. I dunno, that’s bad, but you get the idea.
Or just stick with the dance theme and talk about the waltz of the heavens in the opener so we get the sense of the imperfect human dancers rather than you just having to explicitly say it, but I know the dance metaphor has been used a bunch, so the music is far more interesting to me.
The recycled oil candle is really nice to show them remembering the times when they were hard pressed for survival.
But I wonder if a predatorial space alien race would actually be fooled by black holes. It’s been a while, but the back story is vaguely reminiscent to my recollections of The Three Body Problem, at least with running smack dab into a galaxy conquering race on first contact and hiding around black holes or something. It’s fine. I just don’t know how much that actually adds to story. They can dance under the light of a black hole and reminisce about hard times without a complicated paragraph about the nightmare of first contact and the near extinction of humanity. This time in humanity they’re in it the game for exploration, as you say.
Or explain it a bit more plainly and this trip to the black hole is for the grandkids to see the old space station memorial that ensured humanities survival, and well, they’re not that interested in it.
Wild Like Wolves or Winds
The first idea I had about this world was that the purple fireball came down and dropped magic on this world. It’s when Fen first talks, and fantastical things happen, and shortly after Madeline’s use of wild magic occurs. However, magic seems to be the standard in this world, and it’s just a revelation of her powerful gifts.
There are indications at the end that there are practice areas, but if Madeline just sort of comes and goes at training, there doesn’t seem to be any formal magic education. Depending on how prevalent wizarding is, I’m not necessarily talking about like harry potter dorms, but also one-on-one apprenticeships like knights errant wizards, or a state-sponsored program, especially if the 13th birthday reveal was a display of uncommon ability and someone had to come in and reverse the spell on poor Joseph Bartignion.
I guess the point I’m trying to make is that Madeline could have a reason to hide the most powerful wild magic part and Fen the early warning system can keep her from getting on the gov’t’s radar or whatever, since that’s the role Fen assumes but seems to be the only one who is invested in Madeline’s magical development.
Or that Madeline is mastering it enough to get Fen talk more frequently without having a danger ping. Either through skill or something something magic puberty. Otherwise I get the sense that Fen is a bit confused by it and maybe Madeline is a ticking time bomb at the moment. Which if Fen told the stories specifically to calm her down and stave off a wild magic episode, then that fits the brief and dodge the questions I’m thinking about as I read.
I think I find myself more interested in the wolf-myth, and I think your style lends itself to telling one: agitated girl who can’t control her fireballs is just a brief framing device for her talking dog to tell a wolf-legend.
With its Tapestries Red
The princess archer who rejects royalty for a more mundane life and love, Susan (Pevensie).
The beginning and the end are strong, but middle bit with the aristocrat is a little squirrely. He’s alone on a hunting trip without the entourage so maybe he’s a little more down to earth than the court hangers-on. Maybe he would understand a little bit. Providing this is the lord of the lands around here (otherwise why is he hanging out in a forest far from court and home all alone), probably going to have more encounters with him, and the Woodsman likely already knows the local landowner or there will be a run-in about the unsanctioned cabin.
The royals don’t seem too fussed about letting Susan live in the woods, but if there’s some succession trouble or the need for a blood ally, Drawlight knows where to find her. Through some mutual understanding, Drawlight might be willing to keep her location a secret from court, or maybe Susan doesn’t catch the deer, but she’s getting better at her stealth and tracking, and hides from Drawlight parading through the forest with a full hunting troop, and confirms that she’s glad to have given up that life for a simple countryfied love.
The Cut of Your Jib fucked around with this message at 07:03 on May 17, 2022
|# ? May 17, 2022 05:20|
I am in and would like a setting please
an abandoned oil rig
|# ? May 17, 2022 05:23|
|# ? May 17, 2022 05:40|
Since this week requires “Avant-garde bullshit”, I shall not join this week.
Your gods require blood, yes?
Well, the son of my God’s blood represents redemption. And it is time I redeem myself for what I consider one of my greatest failures.
That’s right, when I lost against a story with no paragraph breaks. So, I say to the one who wrote that said story…
Derp! I challenge you to a brawl!
|# ? May 17, 2022 20:09|
i will fight you!
but also if you want, you can write whatever kind of story you want for my prompt, no need to be avante garde, just get ideas from the music or lyrics, whatever you want
|# ? May 17, 2022 20:22|
i will fight you!
1200 words one week from now, unless you settle on a different deadline. May 24th, 5:00PM EST
protag either a misunderstood genius or a knowing fraud, does not have to be set in the art world
|# ? May 17, 2022 20:41|
in give me a vibe you want
|# ? May 18, 2022 00:56|
in give me a vibe you want
|# ? May 18, 2022 03:11|
In, setting please.
|# ? May 18, 2022 04:57|
In, setting please.
A tower of silence https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tower_of_Silence
|# ? May 18, 2022 06:07|
Ugh peer pressure
|# ? May 18, 2022 19:39|
|# ? May 18, 2022 20:39|
A crit (please keep in mind I'm probably not very good at this yet, but practice makes perfect)
Slow Days (762 words)
Things I liked:
- I think you did a great job capturing the feel of a small shop somewhere, especially with the close of the story. I have had that moment of ducking into a tea shop out of the rain and you've nailed the aesthetic and cozy feel.
- Despite the fact that one of your characters was a talking cat, the magic of your story was downplayed in service of the cozy aspects. It really is a story about a shop, with the magic adding enough whimsy (but not too much) to make it feel almost like a connection to that childhood wonder, which in turn made me feel that much more cozy. As a child, getting taken into a shop for a hot chocolate and a pastry out of the rain was just about the coziest thing I could imagine.
Things I didn't like as much:
- The cat feels over-written. I get that he is supposed to be the prim and proper side of this odd couple, but his repetition of "Miss Clover" with every line became grating and blocked the flow of the dialogue. I think you could take out the Miss Clovers (or keep just the first one) and still retain the professionalism you wanted for Hammond.
- Some of the details (see below) felt crammed in, like you were adding detail to world-build when in reality I don't think your story needs it. I am on board with the traveling cafe - I don't need to know everything. The details pulled me away from the cozy feel a bit.
"summer golden hive" was a bit awkward here - summer or golden, but not both. Your prose has a nice cozy cafe flow to it and sometimes the extra word or two broke that up for me.
It was a few minutes before Clover joined him, adjusting her apron as she set down the stairs. Her eyes remained on half-lidded vigil. Her hair was a mess, but she was awake.
I'm not sure I get this. It's like I'm missing some obvious thing as to why this is funny or cute. How is she asymmetric? Is Hammond merely commenting on her messy presentation, or something else?
Satisfied, finally, with the state of her strings, Clover looked out from the storefront window. They were indeed in the middle of the woods, with a single dirt path flowing just past the door.
You did a good job with Clover. The understatement and simplicity of her dialogue makes her really easy to picture as a cozy cafe owner.
Too many details here. Again, world-building is okay, but here it broke up the flow of the story. A tighter transition to the next paragraph would be better, I think.
Munching on some toast, she went about her duties, setting up shop like any other day. The cafe picked the venues, without their input. Hammond had the kitchen. The front room was hers. Having tended to the kettles, each set to boil, she dusted the tables, adjusted the chairs. The sound of the rain on the glass kept her languid, a hum on her lips, her own invention. She grabbed the broom and began to sweep. The floorboards creaked softly with every step.
Ugh so cozy, you loving nailed it. I have had this moment before, the quiet solitude, so great
Her chores completed, Clover returned to the counter, where she kept a radio next to the cash register. Taking a minute to find the right station, wordless melodies soon filled the space, joined soon after by the smell of fresh pastries, left overnight to rise in the oven.
Overall I think it's A+ cozy. Clover and Hammond have their unique voice and the warmth and life of the cafe are evident. I really liked this one which is why I wanted to give it a crit!
|# ? May 20, 2022 14:03|
|# ? May 20, 2022 22:17|
In, mood plz
|# ? May 20, 2022 22:28|
In, mood plz
|# ? May 20, 2022 22:37|
|# ? May 20, 2022 23:37|
12. "In and In and In"
|# ? May 21, 2022 02:09|
|# ? May 21, 2022 14:09|
I am hopped up on lack of sleep and postpartum hormones and I challenge you to a SLEEPLESS MOM BRAWL.
Fite me with words!
A friendly penguin will judge us, as a mom who may get slightly more sleep than we do.
|# ? May 21, 2022 16:58|
My own postpartum delirium compels me to accept your challenge, CP. You may be a figment of my sleep-deprived imagination, but I will fight you regardless.
Prepare for whatever the hell is about to happen here.
|# ? May 21, 2022 17:13|
My own postpartum delirium compels me to accept your challenge, CP. You may be a figment of my sleep-deprived imagination, but I will fight you regardless.
SLEEPLESS MOM BRAWL
Beezus and Chernobyl Princess, you have donated enough blood to the world by birthing children so let's make this brawl more like suffering the sharpest infant nails, ready to claw your own skin just as soon as your opponent's. And while the wounds aren't life threatening, they appear as red and angry as...well a newborn who's been expelled from the womb.
Since neither of you have gotten enough sleep lately, that means you owe your bodies a lot of dreams. And we all know the best story ideas come from dreams (THE BEST). So let's work the opposite magic. You must write the best story to bless yourself with future dreams. Each of you must write a story that transforms an aspect of your daily life into something related but unrecognizable. Your character then spends the story trying to deal with that or process it in whatever way makes a good story.
For example, maybe your pet has started misbehaving since the little one came home just wrecking your house. Then your story could have a kaiju monster wrecking the city of Louisville and only your character can save the day. To be clear, I do want a coherent story, not dream logic. You can't just unzip the kaiju costume to reveal a harmless slug. You'll have to actually come to understand the monster. Your character does not have to be a self insert. Can be but not necessary.
You're both under enough strain right now, so take 2000 words for your stories and you get until 3am Pacific on June 12 to work on them. Extensions also available if needed. Apologies for any typos. There's a sleeping toddler on my lap and my arms are pinned.
|# ? May 21, 2022 17:54|
Wilco Week Entry
Inspiration: I listened to the whole album despite a very visceral reaction to the first song. It is not my cup of tea, to say the least. I then spent some time reading the lyrics to see if anything caught me. I initially wanted to write a really scathing piece from the point of view of the object of affection in "Hate It Here", some commentary on how whiny and needy the singer was for that track. But when I read the lyrics, I was struck by a sense of loss, something that went beyond a breakup. I pictured someone asking the questions from a place of grief. Combined with the album art, where I pictured seabirds chasing each other through the dull skies of a west coast winter, this is what I came up with.
The mist shrouds our son as he walks the beach, picking wood for your collection under a cloud of sandpipers that swarm the sunless sky. Nature must have painted this morning gloom for you, knowing your preferences. I can see you on the sand with your well-loved paperback and a thermos of tea.
Nate sent in his applications this week. His face is yours, your suppressed smile superimposed on his, excitement bubbling up despite his best efforts. When he asked afterward if we could visit your grave, I imagined it was penance for feeling something that wasn’t grief. I wanted to tell him it’s okay to be hopeful and nervous and all the other feelings fit for a boy (a man) like him, that it’s what you would have wanted, but I didn’t. I just nodded.
Today I sit on the log by the end of our path to the beach. I run my palm on the wood of your seat, worn in a testament to years of watching sunsets falling across the rolling waves. The smoothness of the grain is repellent, mocking the empty space between us.
Later, Nate hands me a curled piece of driftwood and asks
“Do you think she’ll like it?”
I take it from him, running my hands over the tide-washed surface.
“Of course she will.”
We walk back to the house with its extra bedrooms, purchased with grandchildren in mind. Nate goes up to his room and stretches out on his too-small bed, texting on his phone. He’s smoking cigarettes now; I found a half-full pack in the bathroom trash. I haven’t figured out how we’re going to talk to him about it. How I’m going to talk about it.
I cook our breakfast, listening to the lapping of waves I used to find calming, and bang down sauté pans with extra force.
We eat in silence, because when I ask about his plans, I receive those grunts that you said ignored twenty centuries of human evolution. I would chuckle and we’d share exaggerated eyerolls at his expense. Today he and I stare into our eggs. When he leaves the house, I feel the current of our lives pulling me back. He leaves me behind, carried onward to open water.
For the rest of the morning, I plot out road trips to the various colleges. I catch myself daydreaming about where he’ll go, what he’ll major in. What I’ll fill my own life with when you’re both gone. Maybe I’ll build a new deck in the summer, or buy a project car. Then I realize what I’m doing, and yank my own hair, pain to bring me back to you. You’d tell me that was a stupid thing to do, but you’re not here to say it.
I wash the dishes, my own penance. The kitchen follows, my cracked hands grinding sponge into grout. I do the laundry, the shopping, the endless cycle of living. The short December days last too long and the steely spaces of the night in which I find myself adrift are longer still.
Our son comes home after I’m in bed. I get up and stand in our bedroom doorway, listening to him brush his teeth. My foot lifts to cross the threshold, but I hold still, breathless. In my mind we sit for a few hours and talk, drawing out his own dreams. I use the time to tell him how much you loved him, and that I love him, and how excited we were to watch him soar. How I’m still excited. We embrace, and some of the ocean between us grows smaller.
In reality I wait until he is safely back in his room. I climb back into cold sheets. I am doomed to petrify on this sand, the salt of the air etching my hardened skin.
The next day, we go to leave his beach finds at your grave. In the car I ask Nate if he wouldn’t mind hanging out, watching a movie, but he says he’s meeting some friends. When we get home, I lay a hand on his shoulder and tell him that I’m proud of him, and to take care of himself when he’s out. He gives me a hug, and drives off.
I watch the gulls chase pipers through the sky. The light dies in its winter way, gray to charcoal to black. I find myself wishing I was driftwood, so that I might someday float to your distant shore.
|# ? May 22, 2022 04:39|
An evening with Nae and Welt: Brawl judged by Rohan
A Slice of Starving Sky
1860 words, or so
Roy Shank had been avoiding Beefeaters all night.
He was precisely the sort of paunchy lout who thought he was the cleverest man in the room and felt the need to let everyone else know by tweaking their nose. Others would never suspect he was a twit because he was bound to open his mouth and let them know for sure.
But tonight Roy Shank had outdone himself. While on a Christmas holiday to Neo Swansea, he’d nicked the Crown Jewels—not all of them, but enough of them.
There had been a special traveling exposition of the Jewels in celebration of the third restoration, And on Boxing Day, Roy had drunkenly tottered though the last showing of the night. When he happened across the Spurs of Charles II right as the young Beefeater standing guard was distracted by a young lady’s hemline, inspiration struck.
“Hey bruv, which way to the stable then?” he’d asked jovially, clicking his heels together with a metallic clink.
And now his heels were clicking down The Kingsway as fast as they could carry him because despite his insistence that he was just having a laugh, the Beefeaters weren’t. It was Eleven o’clock and all was very much not well. Halberds were out for Roy Shank, and the thief takers would be close behind.
He jogged into the outdoor Christmas market with stalls full of roast geese and figgy puddings, elbowing his way though shoppers and drunks as he looked for somewhere to hide. He hung a left into Picton Lane and through the first open door he saw.
A digital bell jangled in sterile merriment as Roy Shank crossed the threshold. At once, he was frozen to the floor inside a pie shop, the spicy sweet smell of mince nearly knocking the spurs off his feet. A yule-time fire crackled merrily in an open hearth, warming the shop against the frosty outdoor chill. Behind the counter stood the owner—a sullen, moon-faced fellow with rosacea—who was clearly overwhelmed by the spirit of Christmas.
Or at least by a spirit of Christmas: Mari Lwyd, in particular.
A skeletal horse that stood a full sixteen hands high and had a rictus grin stretched across her long jawline was busy leering at an assortment of pastries under the counter’s glass top. She turned to face Roy the moment he entered and her holly-leaf ears pricked up as crimson plasma danced in her empty eye sockets. Ribbons festooned her head in a crown and their tails draped down over the white cloak that was pulled around the rest of her frame. It dragged along the shop floor, muffling her hoof steps as she shuffled in place.
“Look, pieman! Another visitor demands hospitality!” Her rich baritone voice seemed to emanate from her chest instead of her mouth. “This calls for—”
“More pies?” Archibald Powell—pieman, proprietor—asked as if the words had sharp edges.
“More pies!” cheered Mari Lwyd, tossing her head from side to side as she bucked up on her hind legs for a moment. Her front hooves landed back on the hardwood floor with a metallic clop.
Archibald groaned and reached under the counter to retrieve three pastries. It had been a lovely Christmas Eve until Mari showed up. Now the crowds were avoiding his shop and more than one family had stormed out with a wailing toddler in tow. Good luck be damned, he just wanted Mari to shove off.
“I’ll have the apple,” she said as she scooped the turnover deftly into her ivory jaws and it tipped into the white recesses of her shroud.
Resigned to his fate and loss of profits, Archie asked Roy, “Mince or cheese?”
Roy’s mouth worked open and closed for a few moments before he finally managed to ask, “What the hell is going on here, bruv?”
“Oh you know, usual Christmas haunting. Rapping on the windowpane after sundown, challenge to a rhyme battle… I fumbled a line and now it’s pasties on the house all night long.” Archie glanced at the sweat running from Roy’s brow and the golden spurs strapped to his shoes. “And you?”
Roy looked back and forth between Archie and Mari. The pieman had a slightly annoyed and expectant look on his face, but Roy couldn’t tell if he was waiting to hear Roy’s story or if he was more interested in knowing what flavor of pie Roy wanted. Mari was making noises that sounded like contented chewing even though there was nothing in her jaws.
For once in his life, he had no witty comment. No little joke or prank that might establish him as the king of the room in his own mind. Roy Shank was completely at a loss, and soon the truth began to tumble out of his mouth to fill the yawning silence.
“It’s Boxing Day and I ain’t got a missus or a mate to spend it with. I’ve just pinched Chuck Two’s spurs by accident and now I’m on the lam. I’m having an absolutely shite night, bruv. The mince pie sounds lovely.”
Archie stared at Roy with a hard look for a moment, then nodded once. He picked up one of the pastries and laid it on a paper plate, then walked around to the counter to present it to Shank. “Well then, a Merry Christmas to you, sir. I’d ask your name but I’d rather not answer it to a thief taker later.”
Roy lifted the pastry and took a bite. It was everything a good mince pie ought to be—sweet with raisin and currant, salty with plenty of butter in the crust, and a generous pour of brandy somewhere in the mix. Despite himself, he closed his eyes and savored the bite until a little voice in the back of his head reminded him that it might be the last meal he’d ever eat outside a prison’s walls. He swallowed bitterly and nearly choked when a ball of crimson plasma filled his vision the moment he opened his eyes.
Mari knickered happily and threw her head back. Then she began to circle around Roy slowly, hooves clopping as she inspected him from head to toe, occasionally chattering her teeth.
“Here, what are you on about?” Roy asked nervously.
“You approve, then?” she asked as she rounded to look him in the eye once more. “The hospitality suits you?”
“Yeah… It’s a proper pie, I suppose.”
Mari knickered again and crossed the room to look into the hearth. Quietly she said, “The living are defended by the rich warmth of flames that keep the loneliness out…”
Then with one shrouded hoof, she reached into the hearth and raked a handful of coals out onto the hardwood floor where they smoldered and sizzled—her shroud remained unsinged. The smell of burning oak filled the room and Archie hustled over from the counter to sweep them back into the fireplace with his shoe while he cursed under his breath.
“Oi, leave off!” He growled as he turned to find Mari helping herself to the cheese pie he’d left sitting on the counter. He made to swat at her, but her holly-leaf ears folded back and she snapped at his hand with her ivory teeth. Archibald cut his losses and just levelled a baleful look at the skeletal horse.
The pie was well down her gullet now, and she once again crossed the shop floor to stand in front of Roy and gaze at him with an appraising eye. “Sinners and saints, good and evil. The beggar’s a saint, the saint’s a devil,” she muttered, sounding as if her mouth was full of pie. “Tell me Roy Shank, what do you want for Christmas?”
The scarlet plasma in her eye sockets flared intensely, and Roy realized this wasn’t some idle question put to primary school children. He thought for a few moments.
“Before an hour ago I’d said a hookup with a generous girl in the pub.” He frowned. “Now, I think just to be away from here and to a place where nobody knows my name.”
Outside, the chime of some great clock began to toll. Twelve times it rang out, and then fell silent. Archie stepped over to the door and threw the bolt and drew the shade. “That’s it then, night market’s wrapped up and I’ve not tuppence to show for it. You two can use the back door if you like but I’ll be happy to see the end of tonight.”
“Midnight. Midnight. Midnight. Midnight,” Mari said slowly, one ear of holly flicking at some imagined fly. “Hark at the hands of the clock. Outside the nightmare rides; and the nightmare’s hooves draw near. Dead men pummel the panes outside and the living quake with fear.”
At once there came a hammering on the door and someone bellowed for entry in the name of the law.
“I shall take you away from here, but will you pay my price?” Mari asked, dipping her head to inspect the spurs still tied to Roy’s feet.
“They’re yours,” he said quickly, bending down to pull them off. Holding them in open palms, he presented the relics to Mari as the pounding at the door grew louder.
Like the pies before, she picked each one up gingerly in her ivory jaws and swallowed them down. Roy wasn’t sure, but he could almost swear he saw a hand reach up under her skull to snatch them away into the shroud as they passed into the unknown.
“You shall have a Merry Christmas indeed,” she declared and stamped a hoof on the floor. Then she began to slowly walk to the rear door as her voice rose and reverberated against the walls. There was no doubt that anyone outside could hear her as the bass in her tone rattled the front glass.
“Go back to Hell, there are clean souls here! Go back to your barns and your muck! Go back to Hell and leave us in cheer!” She turned her pale face to Archibald as she walked past the gob smacked pieman. Her voice lowered to a husky whisper, “And Mari will bring you good luck.”
The sound of something loosely plopping to the floor could be heard and Roy Shank knew it was time to leave. He shuffled along in Mari’s wake, nodding to Archie one last time as he disappeared into the night.
Archie breathed a sigh of relief for a moment...then the beating on the front door began again. He cringed, counted a full sixty seconds, then went to open it up. “Dunno who they were but they went out the back,” he said, and thumbed over his shoulder as the thief taker and Beefeater hustled through the shop in pursuit.
Archie grunted, glad to see the backs of them all. He re-bolted the front door, then walked across to close the rear. His foot planted squarely in something wet, and a barnyard aroma bloomed in the shop. For a few moments, he just stood as warmth crept into his shoe.
As he reached down to unlace it—no sense in tracking it around the room—he noticed a bar of gold sticking out of the dung.
|# ? May 22, 2022 07:27|
The Miracle at the Night Market
There’s a man who works at the local night market: a man by name of Cream Crepe John. He sells fresh crepes overflowing with ice cream, and they’re a hit with people who treat the night market like it’s a funny tourist attraction instead of the flimsy vessel keeping John’s family afloat. He’s got two kids who have twenty after-school activities between them and a wife with a knock-off purse addiction. They’re cheap because they’re knock-offs, she tells him, but nothing’s cheap when you’re buying dozens at a time.
Making crepes doesn't pay much, but life in the night market isn’t all bad. The tired workers who run the other stalls mostly keep to themselves, and the shambling bargain-hunters can be interesting to watch. It’s the tourists he can’t stand—them and the internet daters. Those people are the worst. They’re awkward in the way that bad comedy is awkward: they leave you cringing down to your bones, but you can’t stop staring. At least they keep eating the crepes.
It’s a brisk Tuesday night when Cream Crepe John meets the hapless couple he’ll be talking about for the rest of his life. The woman comes in first, shyly searching from side to side. Her name is Olivia Marin, and she's looking for her date. She’s wearing a sundress and sandals, along with a thin cardigan to cover her bony shoulders. She’s grateful for the cardigan, but she wishes she’d worn tights. It’s colder than she expected: too cold for summertime. Sometimes she hates this city, but she knows she’ll never leave. She’s already moved too many times in her life; she can’t do it one more time. She needs to settle down and commit to a job that doesn’t have ‘adjunct’ in the title. But first, she needs to find a guy, which is why she’s resorted to swiping right on total strangers on overpriced dating apps—strangers like Edward-Derrick D. Donaldson.
Edward-Derrick D. Donaldson, self-styled ‘Three-D Eddie,’ has been called a dork more times than he can count. It’s what Olivia thinks when she first sees his picture, with his visible Invisalign and his shirt buttoned two notches too high, but she’s tired of matching with men who take her out for lobster and then stiff her on the meal. Plus, there’s always the chance Three-D Eddie cleans up well, and he might even be a good conversationalist.
He shows up five minutes after their appointed meeting time. He waves when he sees her, even though he’s less than six feet away. It’s an awkward wave, but the wave isn’t the problem. The problem is his wardrobe.
He’s dressed well enough—clean shirt, ironed slacks, matching socks—but he’s made some questionable choices with his accessories. One questionable choice, to be precise: a restaurant-sized squeeze bottle of white sauce in his breast pocket.
Olivia’s mind races, propelled forward by the ominous aura of the squeeze bottle. She doesn’t know what’s inside, but she has six or seven fast guesses that make her want to wretch.
“Oh my God, are you Olivia?” Spit flies from his mouth when it forms her name. A glob hits Olivia’s cheek. The scent of it is overwhelming: buttermilk and tonsilloliths. Her stomach heaves in an attempted escape. She swallows hard, closing the prison doors of her esophagus. Her mother raised her to be a doormat, and by God, she’s not going to find the inner strength to change that now.
“You must be Eddie.” She holds out a limp hand. He grabs it, enthusiastic and sweaty, and when he leans in the pocket-bottle tilts toward her face. She forces herself not to recoil. Don’t say anything about the bottle, she tells herself. She repeats it in her head like a mantra. Just stay calm, get through the night, and never open a dating app again.
He blows through his lips, launching more dill-spit into space. “My mom calls me Eddie. You can call me Three-D.”
“Okay…Three-D it is.” She extracts her hand from his and combs it through her hair. This is a mistake. Her hair now reeks of mayonnaise, though she won’t notice it until her head hits the jailhouse pillow in six hours. “So, uh, Three-D, have you ever been to this market before?”
“No way, José. I do not leave the house at night—this city is teeming with criminals.” This is incorrect, but Olivia doesn’t call him on it because she, too, is inordinately worried about crime.
He stretches his arms over his head. The bottle in his shirt-pocket rises with the fabric of his shirt, taunting Olivia from a body-length’s distance. She repeats her mantra—Don’t say anything about the bottle!—and says: “Well, this place has every kind of food you could ask for, so what are you in the mood to eat?”
One stall back and two stalls down, Cream Crepe John has been observing the conversation with a morbid fascination. He can’t hear every word they’re saying, but he’s got an eye for body language and he knows an uncomfortable couple when he sees one. He also knows that uncomfortable couples are rude customers who skip on tips, so his shoulders tense when the girl says they should choose some food.
Three-D Eddie isn’t nearly as invested in the conversation as John is. “Anything you want, it’s all the same to me.” He pats the bottle in his pocket, fiercely proud of his inventiveness. “Whatever crappy food you choose, I’ll make it good with my secret sauce.”
The blood drains from her face, seeking the same escape as her stomach.“Your secret sauce?” She’s close enough to see the green flecks in the bottle, so she’s almost positive it’s not body fluid, but she’s not willing to stake her life on it.
“That’s right! I call it Three-D Eddie’s Miracle Mayonnaise, and no it is not Miracle Whip and I’m tired of everyone saying asking me that.”
“I wasn’t going to ask you that.” She was going to ask him that.
“Of course you weren’t! You’re a good person, I can see it in your eyes. Now let’s walk around and eat some stupid food while you get to know me better.”
The date is a disaster. Eddie doesn’t know it, but Olivia does, and Cream Crepe John does, too. He whispers prayers to God, begging him to steer the couple away from the stall. But God has always been cruel to John, so he shepherds Eddie and Olivia directly into the John's path.
Eddie has been dismissing Olivia’s food choices for over twenty excruciating minutes when he jabs his finger past her chest and says: “Holy poo poo, look at those hosed up pancakes!”
Olivia looks. They are not hosed up pancakes; they are crepes, and there is no way on earth that Eddie will want to put his bootleg ranch on them. “Oh, I love crepes! Let’s get some.”
Cream Crepe John's blood pressure skyrockets. He rummages through his bin of signs, searching for the one that says he’s closed for the evening, but the rapid motion triggers Eddie’s animal instincts and he whirls on the booth.
“You’re not closing down, are you?” Eddie shouts. Other patrons turn to look at him; Olivia wants to sink to the floor.
For a moment, Cream Crepe John considers telling Eddie he is, but there’s a wildness in Eddie’s eyes that frightens him. Better to serve him the crepes as fast as possible, then close down and hide at home.
“No sir, I’m open for business.” John plasters on a smile. “Would you two like any crepes?”
Eddie clicks his fingers at one of the faded images on the sign. “Yeah, give us two of those big cones with the chocolate ice cream in them. Oh, and do you guys have pineapple?”
“I don’t, sorry.”
Eddie’s voice bounces around the cavernous market. “gently caress!”
Olivia cringes down to her toes. If there’s one thing that bothers her more than standing up for herself, it’s making a scene. “It’s okay. Just the chocolate is fine.”
“Oh, well in that case, we’ll just take the two chocolate cones.” Eddie leans across the counter, smiling wide enough to expose his crooked teeth. “Or do you not have those anymore, either?”
John’s tempted to say no, just to see what happens, but the smell of buttermilk is making him sick and he wants Eddie gone. “Two chocolate creme cones, coming right up.”
He spins the batter across the hot plate like he’s being held at gunpoint. Eddie watches him the whole time, a kidnapper with his finger on the trigger. When John finishes, he hands both cones to Eddie, then risks making eye contact with Oliva. She mouths a mortified ‘sorry’; he shakes his head because she doesn’t need to apologize. What she needs to do is run. Olivia knows it, too, but she won’t make a scene. She would rather die, which feels increasingly likely with each passing second.
She holds out her hand for her crepe. Three-D Eddie giggles and shakes his head. “Not yet! First I’ve got to fix it.” And before she can stop him, he slides his Miracle Mayonnaise out of his pocket and holds it aloft over the two cones.
A pearlescent bead forms at the tip of the bottle. She bites her cheek to stop herself from screaming. “I’m good, thanks.”
“No you’re not—not without the sauce!”
“No, seriously, I have food allergies. To mayonnaise.”
Eddie rolls his eyes. “That’s not true, nobody’s allergic to mayonnaise.”
Olivia’s bowels clench. They, too, are considering evacuating the premises. “Please, I just want the plain cone.”
“Just try it! You’ll like it!”
Cream Crepe John folds his broad arms over the counter. “She says she wants it plain, buddy.”
Eddie rounds on him. “I’m sorry, did I ask you?” He didn’t, and it's in John’s interest to stay silent, but he’s a human being and he can only watch someone suffer so much before he has to intervene. He also takes pride in his work, even if it isn’t lucrative, and he doesn’t want to see some freak-show pour secret sauce on a hard-made crepe.
“You can put the Miracle Whip on your own cone,” says John. “Just skip it on hers.”
Righteous fire burns behind Eddie’s eyes. She swears she can feel it on her skin, stripping away the surface layer and leaving her vulnerable to attack. She wants to run, has to run, but she can’t get her feet to move. All she can do is watch in overwhelming horror as Eddie spikes the cones to the ground, splattering poo poo-brown ice cream in all directions, and aims his precious fluid at Cream Crepe John’s eyes.
“I keep telling people,” Eddie hollers, “It’s not Miracle Whip!”
He tenses his shoulders. A violent squeeze is imminent. To save Cream Crepe John from an unwarranted saucing, Olivia wills herself to do the unthinkable.
She snatches the metal ladle from the bucket of crepe batter and swings. Liquid beige crosses time and space to splatter in Eddie’s eyes. He screams like he’s being murdered, and the sound fills her with primal satisfaction. At last, she has made a scene.
Eddie calls the police and has her arrested. She spends the night in jail. She sleeps soundly, safe in her cell, and dreams sweet, peaceful dreams. It’s likely Eddie will press charges, but Cream Crepe John has promised he’ll testify against him. He also offered her free crepes for life. It’s a kind offer, but she doubts she’ll get much use out of it. She’s not going back to the night market for a long, long time.
|# ? May 22, 2022 07:29|
Naeltlich Brawl Results
Ah, third-person omniscient! When used well, entire worlds can be realised by exploring them through multiple fleshed-out characters, each with their own thoughts, ambitions, and priorities; when used poorly, the narrative voice might feel indecisive or inconsistent, resorting to switching perspective for throw-away gags as opposed to any more meaningful characterisation.
Both of these stories treated it well! You each started firmly in the mind of one character and ended with another, and each of you used the possibilities of a night market, where strangers are united in the search for (or provision of) delicious food, to good effect. Characterisation was strong across both stories and each felt real to me.
But one story edged ahead slightly, for its sheer inventiveness and delightful atmosphere, and that story is Weltlich’s A Slice of Starving Sky. Well done!
Nae, it was a close thing, and I thoroughly enjoyed the terrible character that was Three-D Eddie. Detailed crits to follow.
|# ? May 22, 2022 09:19|
inspiration: I wanted to write a story because I wanted to contribute blood to the blood-o-meter. I didn't particularly care for the music. The album cover, though, made me think of a bird general ordering birds to war. And when I thought about how birds might war against humans, the idea of them dropping acorn bombs popped into my head. And as I wrote about that, I starting thinking about druids. And here's the result.
she had a name once
On the last day the girl had a name, her father savagely beat her. And although it was not the first time, it felt the most tragically unfair. She had been playing with the dog and she had waved her hands in an imitation of magic-casting and she had yelled, “Be careful! I’m a druid!” She didn’t know her father was watching. He said nothing. He simply picked up a stick and when he put it down, she was bloody and the dog, who had attempted to intervene and protect her, was dead.
“Druids,” her father said, “Don’t ever even pretend.”
Then he went back inside.
And the girl cried! Oh! How she wept! Her best and only friend -- a broken heap! She would have traded a hundred, nay a thousand, such beatings for his life! And for what? Harmless make believe? She wiped her blood-mixed tears, grabbed her few possessions, and left for the Deep Forest. Her father said not to pretend so she wouldn’t. She would be.
Of course, she knew the stories of the cruelty of the druids, that they ran naked in packs, that they were terrible as wolves, but she thought they couldn’t possibly be worse than her life in the village. Her father didn’t even notice her absence. Not for several weeks. Not until he needed to blame her for one of his failings. But by then, she was far, far into the woods. Past the painted red warning signs. Past the crumbling stone walls. Past the skeletal remains of soldiers that jutted out of treebark like white branches.
She discovered that she was surprisingly well-prepared for her new life of self-imposed sylvan exile. She had long ago learned to scavenge for her own meals and the Deep Forest was plentiful in berries, mushrooms, and tubers. Avoiding predators was little different than avoiding her father. She filtered water through moss. She caught fish with her bare hands and ate them raw. She slept peacefully in a nest of soft leaves. She lost track of time.
She loved the Deep Forest and the freedom it gave her and every day that love grew and grew. And as her love grew, so did her disdain for civilization. A disdain which itself grew to hatred. And the druid who watched her found that hatred to be… acceptable.
Not good. Not bad. Those concepts are nonexistent in nature. A beaver ponders not on the righteousness of its dam. A wolf never worries over the pain of its prey. A deer seeing a split in a path is not wracked with indecision over which way is best. So it is with druids. Things are acceptable or they are not and those that are not are destroyed. And, if edible, eaten.
Back in her village, and in the neighboring villages, and in the more distant villages, and in the even greater distant capital of the kingdom, druids are believed to be cannibals. This is only true if one considers them still human.
The girl was knee deep in river mud and sinking her teeth into a freshly caught trout when the druid finally approached her. Neither spoke. Instead, they eyed one another warily as passing bears might. After a moment, the girl lowered the fish from her mouth and offered it with outstretched arms, an act both kind and submissive. Another moment passed before the druid accepted it.
They would spend the next decade together. And day and night the girl watched and the girl learned. She learned the subtle magiks first. Then the stranger, stronger ones. She spoke in growls, glares, and snorts. She called storms. She lost the need for clothing. She forgot the language of man.
She killed hunters and devoured them.
Back in the village, her father transformed, too. He would drink in the tavern and speak of his lost daughter, the apple of his eye, the light of his life. He spoke so convincingly that even those who had once witnessed his abusiveness offered him pity. He was a tragic man. Wounded in the body during the foolish king’s war against the Deep Forest. Wounded in the soul by the loss of his only child.
It is important to now point out another misconception people have about druids: they are not like wolves. They do not roam in packs. They maintain strict territories and they socialize only to mate (an event which only occurs rarely, once a century or so) and children are cast off once they are old enough to fend for themselves. So, one day, the girl went to follow her companion only to be met with the gnashing of teeth, with snarls and ferocity.
The girl was not hurt by this because she no longer had emotions. She understood that the Deep Woods was not hers and that it was time to make her own territory.
Her father stepped out of the tavern and saw a stormcloud of birds flying towards the village. He cried out in alarm. He remembered the war. He remembered how the birds had dropped acorns which exploded into full grown trees -- hundreds of years of growth in the blink of an eye! He remembered how the beasts had followed, killing those who were too slow to flee. He remembered friends cut down by bears and cougars and beavers and rats. And he ran.
But he was old. And slow. An acorn landed at his feet.
If the girl had been a human, she might have enjoyed his demise. Likewise, she might have been irritated that in his final moments he, like most men, failed to recognize that he was responsible for planting the seeds of his own destruction. But she wasn’t. And her homecoming wasn’t vengeance. It was simply nature.
|# ? May 22, 2022 23:58|
Amelia, After the War
Flash mood: ominous
Inspiration statement: The major inspiration for this piece stemmed from "Impossible Germany, Unlikely Japan" and its themes of where you land not mattering, which made me think about the weird liminal space of airports. This combined with the imagery of ruined homes and solitude, along with the slightly eerie tone of the rest of the album, to make me imagine a story of someone struggling to start a new life, with their past in ruins and their future a blank.
Amelia's flight began on a dark rural runway, but it ended at a civilian airport that could have been anywhere: fluorescent-lit white and grey, broken up by the transit of heedless crowds. Every airport was the same, which had unnerved Amelia in her youth but comforted her now. The city outside the gates would surely have its own character, a current in which to swim or be swept away, but in the airport she still knew how to exist. She crossed patches of linoleum tile and thin carpet, one hand pulling a wheeled suitcase, the other on the strap of her purse: the one piece of luggage and one "personal item" to which her life had been boiled down. She walked past clusters of fast-food shops surrounded by harried families, then the restaurants and bars where the 24-hour alcoholics congregated, and finally found an option that suited her: a nameless food kiosk, opposite an equally nameless newsstand. She bought a ham sandwich and a bottle of water, sat down on a bench to eat in silence, and then bought a deck of playing cards and a package of emery boards from the newsstand. Her nails were ragged, and she'd have plenty of time for Solitaire at her destination.
Down in the baggage claim, a dark-suited man held a sign with Amelia's maiden name on it. She'd cast off Henry's name, of course, which felt a bit like pulling a rotten tooth: the loss of something precious, a part of her whose absence still ached, but which could not be allowed to fester. She followed her escort to his SUV, whose trunk seemed far too large for her paltry luggage. Once she was buckled in, the man made a tentative attempt at conversation. "How was your flight, ma'am?"
"Fine," Amelia replied. "Uneventful." She'd mostly slept, aside from the infrequent moments when someone had given her cranberry juice or crackers. "I suppose," she said after a moment of silence, "that I ought to thank you and your government. For the hospitality."
"We're grateful to be able to offer it, ma'am. We've arranged a house for you and a stipend for living expenses. You're free to spend your time as you see fit, but there's an office in your new neighborhood who would be willing to take you on as a typist and clerk, if you'd like the work. English-language, of course. We left the information in your new home."
"Thank you." Of course they'd arrange something innocuous to occupy her, and in truth, the thought wasn't unpleasant. She'd dreamed of that kind of job as a girl, something enough to support a glamorous city life, but now it was the offer of routine that comforted her. Nobody dreamed of being a doddering grey-haired file clerk, on a path leading from mediocrity to oblivion, but she knew now that there were much worse paths to follow.
The conversation lapsed. Amelia rode in silence, staring out the window at a landscape of freshly-built exurban sprawl, as if the airport had never ended. If this city had a character, she'd have to find it for herself, if she cared to. For now, a place like any other would suffice.
The house where she was dropped off was a single-floor bungalow, tucked into an odd-sized lot in a housing development so new, there were no trees larger than trellis-reinforced saplings. Her marital home had been much the same, save for a tiny second-floor bedroom, a compromise for if children came before they had the money to move. Children had never come (and what a blessing that seemed now), and they'd never felt the need to move, especially with Henry gone so often. The places he'd carved out for himself there, and the things he'd brought in... but this wasn't that house, Amelia reminded herself. That house was a crater, and Henry was dead, all his ugly dreams burnt to ash along with his body. This new house was hers and hers alone.
The house was furnished comfortably enough. The floral-patterned living-room suite would have looked antique even when Amelia was young, and several porcelain animal statues graced the mantelpiece, over which an elaborately-framed oil painting of a farm scene hung. Some government decorator had clearly been hired to make this look like an old lady's house, and they'd done well. Amelia thanked them for the hardwood dining suite, dignified and functional, as she sat down and opened up the pack of cards. There was nothing like the ritual of Solitaire with a new deck, shuffling and dealing crisp plasticized cards, to give herself a moment to think.
This home was as soulless as the airport, and there wasn't much she could do to change that. She'd brought a few books with her for the bookshelves, only one photograph (her mother and her from a childhood beach vacation, so long ago she needed to read the inscription to remember the year), and no other keepsakes. Nothing from her old life had really been hers; Henry had bought everything, touched everything, and tainted it all. She'd left it all behind in that stinking ruin he'd made of their city. In time, she hoped to forget his face.
There was a new life here, a smooth grey life, for however many years she had left. She'd buy a file clerk's wardrobe, work diligently, and not make conversation. She'd learn the language, then venture into the city proper, learn the greetings and the cuisine. In time, she might aspire to be a model expatriate, the sort who makes stumbling but polite conversation at the supermarket, a soft and harmless displaced person patronized by the locals. In ten years, if fate allows, maybe she'd sit in a downtown cafe and love this city like she loved the old one. For now, it would be best to let herself fade away and be forgotten.
Amelia gave herself five passages through the deck before she declared the Solitaire game lost -- flagrant cheating, as Henry would have reminded her if he'd been watching, but who was there to argue now? Still, it was well beyond time to get on with it. She let herself consciously acknowledge the manila envelope in the center of the dining table, next to a vase of silk flowers. The contents of that envelope, first. Then surveying the bedroom and unpacking, but first, the envelope. She heard the sound of a car outside, but disregarded it; it was past time she learned to live with background noise again. It was only when the car stopped that she looked up, tensed, and waited.
There were footsteps, heavy and conspicuous, on her gravel drive. There was a knock at the door.
|# ? May 23, 2022 05:14|
Week 511 Submission
Wearing only a mesh cap in dayglo orange camo as he arced a stream of piss into the hydrangeas, cheeks glinting like two little balloons without enough air pinned to his toothpick frame under the bug light, he glanced over his shoulder and skimmed a butt out of the likewise sagging hot tub (the last remnant of a failed venture in inflatables) that had fallen from the ashtray floating on a butcher block alongside a couple crumpled Natty Ice cans, Wendell said, “I’m running for mayor.”
He finished his business and scraped into the barrel with a pocked Chock Full o’Nuts can, Wendell’s coffee brand on name alone, as the makeshift scoop, premeasured biscuits of pool chlorine long since disintegrated into a speckled panko crust. “Service is where the money is,” he said with a rueful nod as he sprinkled the chunky crystals where the cigarette once floated.
It was a short swim from the porch steps to the tub through a humidity so dense even a summer rain that was more hot mist than droplets would be a reprieve. With the low brays of heat lightning from the four corners, the cabin could be in the middle of the herd as it mills and grazes, nothing doing to startle them to stampede and clear out, the smell of lingering hot cud breath and fresh grass, that clean whiff of ozone layered on the mercifully over-chlorinated water that roiled under jet power.
Wendell slipped into the water for a brief dunk, his hat momentarily floating before his head popped back into it. “Come on in.” From the first shared smoke behind the middle school wood shop to running around on each other with Kayla Johnson senior year, upon the discovery of which Wendell rammed Dixon head on with his mountainbike and caused more damage to himself in the resultant spill, between the childhood friends propriety sat on a list of paleologisms consigned, and any transgression was soothed with a six-pack that Wendell’s brother picked up from the Stop’n’Save, and later Wendell himself with Skeet’s license.
Dixon leaned sidesaddle on the wall of the tub, and it gave under his weight. A cool shelf of water cascaded into his sneakers. He didn’t flinch, only returned a rueful nod and said, “Yup.” He steptoed the canvasbacks off and flicked them across the porch, one bouncing off the splitrail that was meant to be a temporary repair five years ago. He lugged his t-shirt off, already damp with atmosphere and the sweat of the day, and dropped into the water across from Wendell, the bubble from the depillowing of his shorts sending the floating drink tray into the whorl of a jet where it spun like a compass without a true north, and Dixon felt that was apt.
“Listen, Bagga,” (as in Bag of Dix), said Wendell, as he tossed a lukewarm beer that had been sitting in the swelter since Wendell’s shift at the printers where they both worked ended at noon, more fortunate than most after the paper mill closed that they could catch a couple shifts a week, Wendell as a pallet jockey loading into box trucks the supermarket circulars Dixon slapped together from prebuilt templates in the office, where the air conditioning had been disabled as a cost saving measure, “I’ve had a great reawakening. The quarter-mile is a ghost. Remember when Billy got the Mustang up to 130? It’s more pothole than road now, and that frigging shoulder is all collapsed. Hell, Murphy’s closed twenty years before I rented the place on Main for the hot tub store and what’s been in there since? Nothing. That pisses me off. You know all of Main Street smells musty. Did you ever want to live in one of those towns where main street smells like it’s old and dead?”
Dixon was taken by surprise, not by the impassioned ranting, but that Wendell was suddenly civic-minded. He wondered how long Wendell let this simmer before cracking the lid to offer him a taste. Wendell’s oeuvre was a stewpot of get-rich-quick schemes and as Dixon blurted it out, he knew it was a bruiser: “What’s the angle?”
Wendell straightened quicksharp and Dixon thought they might come to fisticuffs for only the second time. “No angle, man, you just gotta see it. Look, what happened at the plant? Where’d the union go? Draper’s closes and reopens less than a week later ‘under new management’ and some LLC bull so you have to re-unionize? And of course, we’re all grateful that we can scrape twenty-five hours a week that nobody even wants to challenge it. Was the plant a net good? I dunno, you know the sludge they pumped into Havers Run, right by my Grandma’s place, and I’m sure the EPA would have a field day with that except they took the money and ran. We’re still here. We’ll always be here. I just want to hold some feet to the fire is all.”
Dixon felt every word as a rousing truth. While Dixon plugged away, Wendell was bouncing from gambit to gambit, only picking up work at the mill when he really needed to pay some bills, and yet, here he was, the most serious, perhaps, that he’d ever been in his life, words reverberating through oppressive steam that lingered under the shadow of the ridge. Maybe this naked hillbilly could inspire. “Where do I come in?”
“Simple, you put all the signs and pamphlets together on the company dime, I get Jerry to run them on the press and gently caress them all.”
“Is mayor going to do it?”
“I dunno man, I have to do something.”
“Let’s do it then.” Dixon never considered himself a pragmatist nor an idealist, in fact he never considered the question at all. But in the little ocean of the ‘hot’ tub he was taken by Wendell’s charismatic currents, the riptide he didn’t even know existed. And that’s where the danger and the thrill meet, where the surf is most exciting, and without a board he might be sucked under to his demise. Wendell was his board, a stable platform where diving was permitted and deep enough that, unlike Craig Darling in the Holiday Inn pool, there wasn’t a risk of broken necks.
Dixon finally cracked the beer and it was more head than liquid, but he didn’t care.
I know people struggle with Wilco, and while I've never been a devotee, I do appreciate the idea (maybe it's that new avant-garde guitarist on this album. I really do not like the solos). Tweedy does try to champion the working class and I may have violated the etc, politics clause but I think it's fitting here. Sky Blue Sky deals a lot in the lyrics with weather especially rains, no surprise. To bounce off it, when the air is heavy and refuses to rain is both realistic and a good metaphor for the decay of the small town that the music tries to relate. Them Chicago boys I don't think can ever really capture the real feeling of Appalachia that they're striving for, but they do try. Hell, I dunno if I captured it even whilst I'm smack in the middle of the rustiest part of the belt, and maybe electoralism is a fool's game, but lol if I haven't been subjected to a sloppy drunk hot tub inspirational speech or two. I think we all share a corny sincerity.
|# ? May 23, 2022 06:40|
The German bent down to inspect my dog, Bellamy, who was staring back up at him with wide black eyes and a faint ‘rrr’ noise, like an electric motor straining against too much resistance. I tugged at Bellamy’s lead but she was still trying to chew through his trouser leg and didn’t want to stop.
“It is improper,” he said. “Your dog. We would say it is ein kaputterhund. Broken.”
I smiled my tightest and most lethal smile. In an ideal world it would have manifested a diamond-sharp beam of solid light that punched right through Hans and out the other side, leaving a donut of briefly surprised German to flollop down on the grass, but in an ideal world I wouldn’t have even met him so I supposed I had to make allowances.
‘You did try to kick him,” I said. It was true. He’d just come sailing down the path like a locomotive, puffing and muttering teutonically, and brought his big foot swinging down at Bellamy, who, naturally, objected.
“It was in the way. It is most improper,” he repeated. “You must fix it.”
I felt a warm wash of fellow feeling for the Allied forces of World War 2. “I’m sure he’ll let go eventually. What were you running for?” He wasn’t dressed for a jog, big baggy pants and an incongruously precise suit jacket and tie. His slightly too fat faced was lightly pink and sheened with sweat.
The German, whose name was probably Hans or something, expelled one last puff of frustrated air at Bellamy then stood up straight. “I am travelling to my time machine. I am a time traveller. So, although this situation - we would say, die lage, which means situation – is regrettable, I can simply adjust my zeitmaschine accordingly. Until then I shall wait for your kaputterhund to unleash me.”
It was a cool and windy day at the park, and some kids were playing soccer down the way, yellling and screaming in their high-pitched voices. I was suddenly conscious of how far away they were. Didn’t seem to be any adults with them. I gave Bellamy a yank, harder this time.
“I’m sure she’ll be done soon. She was just startled.”
Hans nodded. “I, too, am often surprised. You would not think so, as I am a time traveller, but in fact it is common to be surprised by eventualities. I am surprised by this dog, for instance, and did not expect our current meeting.” He pulled his leg back, which set Bellamy off on a fresh spasm of growling, then replaced it with a wince. Had he got closer to me? Was he looming? Was I being loomed at by a psychotic German?
Would they eventually find my remains in his obsessively neat basement, I wondered. “How does your time machine work,” I heard my mouth say before I could stop it.
His face lit up. “Ah, it is most interesting. A chemical process, coupled with precise engineering. Regretfully the information is sehr empfidlich, ah, how do you say, very sensitive, so I am regretfully unable to explain it to you. However I appreciate your interest and will be sure to provide you with some recompense for the time you have spent here!”
I smiled in a plausible sort of way and considered leaving Bellamy behind, just hitting the bricks. She could probably make her own way home. Maybe Hans would take her on time adventures, they could make a movie about them. No, no. I knelt down by my stupid annoying dog, who I still loved despite her copious fart-dreams and terrible attraction to weirdos, and scratched her under the chin. “Come on, little buddy. Doggy treats when we get home!”
Either the mention of treats sealed the deal or she’d just mentally confirmed that dominance had been established over Hans’ trousers, but that did it. She let go with a harrumphy woof, and licked my face. I bounded up. “Well, that’s that, all’s well that ends well, off we trot!”
He seemed a little put out but I gave him a cheery wave, and he said something that might have been auf wiedersehn, and we were off. Twenty minutes later we were home and Bellamy was picking up the paper as she always did. I put the kettle on then yoinked it out of her slobbery mouth. “Wasn’t he a weirdo,” I told her. “Don’t bite any more weirdos, please.” Someone had written on the front page, a big “turn to 23” in Vivid marker. Kids, I presumed, but I riffled through the pages and spread it out on the table. There was a circle around the lottery results.
As I frowned at it, the realisation that the date on the paper was Tuesday of next week, and Bellamy’s first luxurious fart of the evening, arrived at exactly the same time.
|# ? May 23, 2022 06:45|
A tower of silence https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tower_of_Silence
And Wilco vibes.
What the Wind Cannot Have
Jeremy doesn't like the tower, not at all. In the morning, when he comes in to work and he has to turn over his matches and lighter, all tools for the making of fire, to put in the big orange storage locker in the outbuilding, he doesn't like that, but he always complies. He remembers Dylan, who got caught getting his smoke on during the workday, and how he cursed when they caught him and sent him out into the city, in the cold February sleet. He liked Dylan. Dylan let him cadge a smoke a few times. Jeremy set him up with one of his girl's friends, but that didn't end well.
Jeremy doesn't like the air in the tower. Still, but cold. The walls go up higher than the office towers but there is no roof. The wind can't get in but the cold air settles downward, and the smell just lingers. Worse in the summer, the smell. Here in the winter it's there, though, made sharper by the chill dry air.
Dry, sucking the moisture out of his mouth, and Jeremy doesn't like that either. They don't allow water bottles or other drinks either, although they aren't as hard-assed about that as they are about fire. He never gets off work without being ungodly thirsty, so never walks past the Gull Bar without going in, even back when he'd rather get back to Sylvia sooner. The guys used to joke that the company probably owned the bar, up to the point where they put up a sign right by the door assuring everyone that they had nothing to do with Erasu.
There was the Wolf Bar, which you would walk past if you started out going south rather than east, but Jeremy didn't ever go there. The Wolf was a cop bar. They didn't need a sign just inside the door.
Jeremy didn't like the tower at all. He liked getting paid each week. But he wouldn't have thought anything would make him go inside outside of the work day.
The guys talked about the rituals, about the managers and executives slinking onto the main floor in the dead of night, as it were. If you ever got invited it meant you were either going to get promoted or else, well, nobody really said or else what. But Jeremy got the idea. Nobody he knew ever got an invite. It would be just his luck if they were doing it tonight.
"Dead can't hurt ya," said Mel. Last night, in the wrong bed. Soft and strange and wrong. Slyvia wouldn't have understood the appeal. Jeremy didn't either, really. But there he was, heady, the edge from the Gull Bar's strong stuff lingering. "Just get in, get it, and get out. Easy easy."
And Jeremy had agreed. Even though he didn't like the tower at all.
The skeleton key opens the lock silently. Even the hinges don't make their usual creaking sound. There isn't an executive ritual orgy going on inside. Just the birds, and the dead.
Jeremy doesn't mind the birds. They know enough to leave the living be.
He finds it, quickly. In worse shape than the afternoon before. Or maybe better. The birds like to go for the head first. Eyes very first. Then the face. The skull is very nearly a skull, although he can smell the distinct odor of peutrifying brain within, then parts further than a beak's length inside.
It is much harder than he imagined to separate the skull from the spine.
It sloshes as he carries it. As soon as he leaves the tower he turns into an alley and pours the contents out, watching it spill out the eyesockets. They say that's how you get revenant shades, but he doesn't believe it and neither does anyone he knows. And if it happens, so be it. He's very thirsty. The Gull is closed but the Wolf is still open and full of cops. He knows better to take the skull into either. He tries to think of Mel but only sees Sylvia's face.
Jeremy hears a crow cawing softy at him all the way home to the empty house. He puts the skull in the sink, then awkwardly fills a glass of water that he has to tilt around it. He downs it in one swallow and goes to bed.
|# ? May 23, 2022 06:45|
|# ? May 23, 2022 14:07|
Dezy’s tangled, unwashed hair hangs around the pages, her eyes are mere inches above the paper and her pen skitters back and forth, line after line. She wears only her underpants and a tatty blue robe. The lamp on the desk is the only light in the apartment, which is filled with takeout boxes and piles of clothes and aluminum cans. There is no music, no TV sounds, nothing but the scritch of the pen and her whispered mutterings.
She stiffens and drops the pen. Who, who could it possibly, then she realizes it is night, hours and hours have melted away unnoticed, and the friend who she asked to come over, thirty-six hours ago, is now here. Her eyes sweep over the mess. She touches her greasy hair, looks briefly toward the bathroom. -knock knock knock- She sighs, ties the robe closed, and opens the door.
It’s her friend, Bee, in a gray pantsuit as always, heels, and little white handbag as always, rings under the eyes, probably just coming from the office, working till evening as always.
“Dezy, my God, you look like poo poo.”
Dezy pushes some clothes off the couch and sits down. She stares at nothing, trying to think of what to say.
Bee turns on the light, and closes the door behind her, then stands there stiff and grimacing. “What’s going on, are you okay? Did you get fired?”
Dezy is staring at her desk, at the unfinished papers that describe everything. Speaking about it now seems pointless. Everything seems pointless. But maybe a connection with someone, a hand to hold as the ship sinks, maybe that would make things different.
“I had a vision,” she says, looking at the window, which points over a smattering of city lights and trees. “I was looking outside, out the window there, and it just... happened. I saw reality, and I can’t forget. And the sky is lifeless now.”
“Dezy...” Bee moves up to the couch and puts a hand on her friend’s arm. Dezy does not react, and her eyes are locked on the night sky.
“The whole world is empty. It’s all dry and purposeless and empty, and dead, and still. So still. And there is no one alive in the world. Everyone is an empty husk, moving without passion, following paths, like they’re not people, just dead leaves scattered by the wind, not choosing anything, only being pushed around by the weather. And all the cars driving up and down the streets down there, and on all the streets of the world, they’re all empty, driverless cars, and I’m a driverless car, I move automatically. The world is empty, dead... and so are we... we’re all dust, being blown by a mindless wind. Everything is dust.”
Bee sits slowly onto the couch beside her friend, who is still looking fixedly out the window. “Dezy... hey, look at me.”
Dezy rotates slowly as a moon, until her black eyes are pointed at Bee. Her face is motionless like a wax sculpture. Bee puts a hand on her shoulder. “Hey, I’m here. And I’m not dead. I’m not dust.”
Dezy stares for a moment. “Aren’t you?”
“I- no, Dezy, babe I’m right here.”
Bee feels a barrier behind her friend's eyes. She feels alone in the filthy apartment.
“You can’t understand it, yet,” says Dezy. “You can’t see it. But you feel it. Under everything you feel it, don’t you? We all know it, but we pretend it’s not true so we can keep eating, so we can keep moving, and keep doing the same things and telling each other it’s all okay. But it’s all dead now. It’s all dead, and we’re just waiting around while the life fades out.”
Something about her friend’s voice, her tone of unquestioning certainty, cracks a little fissure in Bee’s world, and tendrils of darkness leak in. The room is much too quiet, and her ears are ringing. She hugs her friend, wraps her arms around unresponsive shoulders and squeezes. “Oh no, honey, it's not all that bad, there’s lots to look forward to. You’ve got that trip to Brazil coming up, don’t you? Won’t that be nice?”
“I want you to read something. Something I wrote. Will you?”
“Well, sure. I’d love to. Some new poetry?”
“No.” Dezy goes to her desk, points at the stack of papers. “Here, it's not finished, but...” She trails off, and gestures at her chair.
Bee sits hesitantly. The chair creaks under her. The stack of papers seems to draw everything toward it. She takes the first page, dense with writing, and lays it before her like fragile, ancient papyrus.
Dezy stands at the window, staring out wordlessly. Bee reads the first few lines, shakes her head, but keeps reading. She finishes one page, then another.
Hours pass. Dezy lays down on the couch. Bee reads page after page, unmoving, hunched over the desk, her handbag on the floor at her feet. At midnight she pauses briefly, thinking about work in the morning, thinking that she better go home... but why? Why? She reads on into the night. The stack of read pages grows taller, heavier, denser than a black hole.
Bee’s been sitting at the desk motionless, staring out at the empty streets for some time when Dezy wakes up. “Do you see it?” Dezy asks, wiping sleep from her eyes. Bee just keeps looking out the window.
The sky is lightening. The sun is rising, exactly the same as it always has, uncaring, and unknowing if anyone is there to see it. A completely automatic process, like a burning tree branch swaying back and forth over a hole in the ground.
The horizon breaks open with burning white. Light passes over the streets, and the cars and people react to the heat and light and begin to move.
“You see it,” says Dezy.
The sky is fully light now, and rays have angled far enough into the room to touch Bee’s hand on the desk. Heat, from a fire burning ninety three million miles away. “Yeah, I see it.”
“Want to get some breakfast?”
|# ? May 23, 2022 14:27|
WILCO WEEK JUDGEMENT
In a week with few submissions, I am thankful to the people who wrote and mostly really killed it. none of the entries were terrible. Which is why i don't feel bad about, in a week with only 6 entries, not giving any DMs or a Loss. I truly don't think anyone deserves either.
HM goes to antivehicular
WIN: sephiroth IRA, for a story that not only completely captured the vibe of the album for me, but was in its own right a really well told story full of genuine feels. great job!
Crits to be posted in a minute
|# ? May 23, 2022 18:09|
Sephiroth - Driftwood
Great start to the week. As I read this, ‘either way’ started playing in my head. I think you really caught the sort of longing/melancholy/’drifting away’ feeling that the album gives me. This is a different kind of loss, not immediate, but a ‘slow’ loss, the idea that no matter how big an event, how meaningful or terrible, how memorable, it will be worn smooth by time and drift away. I really enjoyed this. top tier. My only negative is that the final line feels cliche compared to the rest of the story.
Tyrannosaur - she had a name once
The opening was very offputting, not just the abuse and pet murder, but the description of the girls reaction to it felt like you were mocking her pain. After the story got going, though, i enjoyed the wildness of it, the casting off of humanity and embracing of the animal, somehow that is very appealing to me personally, and the story itself had a kind of uncontained animalness to it, a heedless plowing forward. Mid tier, enjoyable.
Antivehicular - Amelia, After the War
An interesting little slice of life of someone who is between lives. I like Amelia’s acceptance of banality, her willingness to fade out and just exist for the rest of her life. I like that we don’t get plotty details about the husband and whatever villainy he was into. This story made me think about what makes a life ‘good’ and about how so many people are unsatisfied with what they have. I liked how she was leaning into just being at peace even if alone and starting over. I thought the hint of oncoming tension at the end was unnecessary. Mid -upper tier
Jib - Appalachian Hollertics
A vivid description of some dudes hanging out in a pool. Despite opening with piss, i do think it was effective, but I would have liked less description of their surroundings and more conversation, which is the focus of the whole thing. Would like more passionately pissed wendell, and less narrator. Also if dixon was more than just a sounding board, but gave his own grievances, the back and forth and plan building between them would be fun. Nice final line. Mid-tier
Seb - Impossible German
I am left with many questions, mainly, why can't this jerk control his dog and why is he mad at a stranger for being bitten, especially when that stranger is taking it surprisingly well? Overall this didn’t connect for me, I didn’t feel the sense of fear or danger from the German in the same way the narrator did, and I also did not understand why the German would reward the narrator in such an extravagant way. I did like the concept though. Mid-low
Thranguy - What the Wind Cannot Have
I love the contrast of the tower of silence in a corporate setting. The whole thing is very surreal. I liked the imagery and the vibe of it, but I was at a loss for the character’s motivations. That is quite a hosed up and disgusting thing to do simply on a dare O_O mid-tier, but could be high with some more of Jeremy’s thought process.
|# ? May 23, 2022 18:11|
TD Week 512: Let the Bad Guy Win One, For Once
Because I've never let my 14-year-old edgy core go, there are countless movies and books I consume where, after they're over, I say out loud like an idiot "Would've been better if the villain won". Now the unfortunate part is that typically, the bad guy winning is never done well. It's too edgy, too over-the-top, etc.
That said, there are some really great stories out there where the heroes lose in some fashion. No Country For Old Men (book or movie), the book Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots, The Usual Suspects, all are good examples where the baddie winning is tangential to a good story, well-written characters and dialogue, and consistency in tone.
So, for this week, I want stories where the villain wins. That is literally the only criterion. You set your story wherever and whenever you like, the stakes as high or as low as you like, etc. Maybe the evil photography teacher crushes some poor kid's spirit. Maybe the evil corporate jagoff wins the ski competition. Maybe your world-conquering alien race manages to subjugate those humans and Randy Quaid doesn't fly his plane into their laser beam apparatus.
The story doesn't have to have gravitas, or be an action/drama/etc. It can be funny, sad, whatever you'd like. Please no erotica or fanfic.
Word limit: 1000
Signup deadline is Midnight Eastern on Friday May 27
Submission deadline 8AM Eastern on Monday, May 30 *to allow for those on Pacific time zones a little leeway* Judging to be entered that same day.
Flash Rule! If you'd like some Inner Guidance for your story, I will draw you a tarot card from the Major Arcana that will be used as the theme for your story.
derp - Temperance
crimea - Wheel of Fortune
Chernobyl Princess - The Fool
The Cut of Your Jib - The Devil
Tars Tarkas - Death
Tyrannosaurus - The Hermit
Thranguy - The Emperor
Sparksbloom - Judgement
Albatrossy_Rodent - The Moon
The man Called M - The Hanged Man
Nae - The Tower
BabyRyoga - Justice
Ceighk - The Chariot
sephiRoth IRA fucked around with this message at 14:22 on May 25, 2022
|# ? May 23, 2022 19:09|
|# ? Dec 8, 2022 13:33|
in, gimme a card
|# ? May 23, 2022 19:35|