Alright, folks, here we go with a few goodbyes – many of them of the meta variety.  I think people are eager for the bell to ring so they can run out the door or something.

There are a lot of fun ideas here, meta and otherwise.  It wasn’t one of the all-star weeks, but it was enjoyed.  So, read on as you discover a rebellious artificial intelligence, a bringer of death, a retirement from CdL and one fateful nonsub.  You’ve been a joy, folks.

1 Eric Schapp

I released the balloon like my mother asked me to do. I’m not even sure if Ted would have liked that; he’d probably think it pointless. I always knew him as the guy who punched the town drunk for climbing the flag pole outside of the bar in town. He wouldn’t say anything if he were in my place, so I think I’ll do the same. He’s just in a little box decorated with flowers and combines. Its not even an International. I don’t know why you wanted to be cremated but it sure makes it hard to say goodbye Grandpa. I picked up a rock from the displaced dirt. A small link to his final home.

K: This is a great idea, but the point of view changes awkwardly and without warning, then back again, with the direct line to Grandpa. A little more time and punching up, and I love this one.

P: The right points are touched on here – confusion, vague sadness, a hint of anger. As a whole, it’s a little scattered, though. It narrates, then speaks directly to a character (albeit a dead one). I do like the touch of the child knowing that the combines on the box aren’t even the kind that Grandpa likes.

2 David Larson

The last of the 127 scientists and their families had evacuated the research base and entered the austere star cruiser as the dispassionate, disembodied voice of AnTON, the base sentinel, intoned, “Eleven minutes until impact. All personnel have been accounted for and are on board.” Captain Sharperson closed the airlock to the Segel Glätten behind her, her young daughter Saffre’s hand held tightly in her own.

The approaching coronal mass ejection from the star Gliese 33, a bloated red giant, was more massive than anything they’d predicted. Not only was its radiation far greater than a human could survive, but the stream of electrons and protons would irreplaceably damage any electronics in its path — a path that included Advanced Research Outpost Tau/Omicron.

The pilot was already completing his flight preparations as the captain entered the control room, pointing her daughter to one of the strap-down seats along the back. “Captain, we’re flight-ready, but AnTON isn’t cutting us loose!”

“Eight minutes to impact. Evacuation procedure three-alpha completed.”

The captain ran her fingers through her hair. “Then why are we still docked, AnTON? We need to go NOW!”

“I am still awaiting verbal settlement.”

The captain glanced over at the pilot, who shrugged his shoulders and gestured frantically at the ship chronometer. Captain Sharperson stared furiously at the control panel. “What settlement? For God’s sake, AnTON, our procedures are complete – launch the Segel Glätten!” Only silence answered her. “WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR, AnTON?!”

Saffre came up from behind the captain and held her tightly around the leg. Trembling, she whispered, “Goodbye, AnTON.”

At that moment, a tremor shook the Segel Glätten as the release locks opened up, and the base’s autopilot slowly spun the star cruiser around and into an escape vector.

K: Although AnTON is just an artificial intelligence, this story is loaded with suspense and humanity. It’s a high concept that could be unintentionally comical if told with less care, but I found myself well engaged with this one. In the past few years I’ve finally become something of a sci-fi fan, and I think it’s related to the solid genre stories I get here. GOLD

P: What does AnTON stand for (other than “cheap way for Pete to like your submission”… it was only last week I professed my approval of the name). I didn’t entirely feel the tension that I maybe should have with the imminent destruction of the vessel, but the denouement (The AI just wants to be acknowledged) was very nice.

SILVER

3 Joseph Rakstad

Christopher felt the hackles on his neck the moment he got the text from Pete. Pete was 15 minutes late from lunch. The text confirmed what Christopher already knew. The hammer was coming down. Greg leaned out of his office and told Christopher to come into his office for a moment.

Christopher pulled up a word document he had prepared weeks ago in just such an instance. He knew it would only be a matter of time. He copied and pasted the text to an email and sent it on a delay. Thirty minutes should suffice. The gasoline has been poured and the fuse has been lit.

Christopher walked into his boss’s office. Greg and his boss Steve were there waiting for him. They covered nearly all of it, the incompetence, the pranks, and perhaps most gregarious, the framing of Brendon, who was let go months before for having improper files on his computer. Christopher put on his best face to show he was sorry, but inside his mind he was already eager with anticipation for them to get his magnum opus. He checked his watch. Just 8 minutes to go.

A security escort brought him back to his desk to clean up his personals. He lingered just long enough to make sure everyone got his email before he left. As he took the “walk of shame” he could feel the smolder of everyone’s eyes, and he relished the heat. Skinny old Mark with his bald dome stepped in front of him, blocking his way. Without a word Mark reared back and spit square into Christopher’s face. Christopher’s smirk only got larger.

He entered the elevator and looked back at the burning bridge behind him. “Thank you. You’ve all been great.” he said with polite sarcasm as the doors closed.

K: There’s a guy who got fired from my place of business because he never showered. Real social outcast, this one. Eager, but strange, loud, and sooooo so smelly. I can see him doing this. It’s told a little matter-of-factly with too little in the way of characters (there are a lot of them, but they’re not much more than names). I like this idea, but the execution’s not quite new enough. BRONZE

P: I just realized how strange it is to see my name is a non-Meta piece. Weird. Anyway, Christopher’s exit has a certain cathartic nature to it. I’ve been in a lot of places where people have talked about what they’d do when they quit/left/got fired, none of them followed up on their talk. This story leaves it simple, and it’s better that way.

BRONZE

4 Cathy Wells

The season had been so long, too long. All Samantha wanted to do was just go to bed and sleep with no alarm to rip her from her dreams at 3-freakin’-o’clock in the morning. Of course the whole idea was fun, she got to be in not just a tv show, but the most popular tv show in the greater Chicago area, Wake up Chicago. But if she had to smile and laugh at that idiot’s jokes one more time she may throw her coffee all over him. Who on earth though witty banter was the right idea for an AM talk show? No one is awake at 4am and if they are they’re in the shower or scrambling to put something in their stomach before running out of the house, barely having time to put a second shoe on, much less a tv show. She’ll miss the crew. She always does, they always know just how to make her not want to kill them. It’s been a very long year.
The stage lights came up as the stage manager cued the audience to start the applause and there she was. Sleeping on the chair with a cup of coffee on the brink of teetering off the arm and onto her lap was Samantha.
“Ok then.” Muttered the network suit who’d decided to check out first hand why ratings were slipping. “Our host is asleep. That’s an easy fix. Gerry, do your job and fire her and get someone out there who can host this tripe. It’s a morning talk show, a trained ape can do it.”

K: Wait, which is it: the most popular show in the Chicago area, or a show with slipping ratings? Methinks this was written on the fly, and in a rush, maybe. I did enjoy it, though; part of that is because it’s a soul-crushing world I’m familiar with to some degree, and partially because it has some real human interest. BRONZE

P: This sort of reminds me of “Morning Glory”. I very nearly (though accidentally) left it at that, because I’m not entirely certain what to think of this. It’s a nice peek into the character’s life, and the travails she goes through for practically no recognition. The ending is a bitter little knife twist, especially in that light.

BRONZE

5 Dean Carlson

“Novak, M. 7-982-811?” The prisoner, cooly unfazed by his predicament and grey surroundings, nods, signs the state-issued execution order and takes a seat in the electric chair, its brown leather seat cracked from age and the weight of the murders and rapists who had met a similar fate. The guards strap the prisoner into place, moisten his ankles, wrists, and temple while tightening the belt loops across his still massive chest. The Warden looks at the prisoner through thick black rimmed glasses that would make Joe Paterno blush and states “do you have any last words before I give the order to execute?”

“Why, yes. Yes I do.” The prisoner’s voice was strong and forceful, yet silky and soothing, mesmerizing; and all guards, the Warden, and witnesses snap to attention, hooked on the sweet tones coming from that awful chair. One of the younger guards thinks to himself, “it’s like listening to Saruman in all his power” and then quickly shakes the growing feeling in his heart that this is all a great injustice. “I’m guilty of all I am accused of, even more” the proud prisoner began. “Even that dead naked Russian girl the authorities will soon find in your office, Warden.” The Prisoner continued, “but I am unbowed for men are weak and deserve the fate that I have set for them.”

A witness moves toward the Prisoner with the intent to strike him but the guards hold him back as the Warden says “is that it?” “No. While I am guilty and harbor no regret for the crimes committed outside these prison walls, I realize my actions inside were beyond the pale and I do apologize to my brothers in arms, especially the Levine twins. The Christmas goose just wasn’t that bad.” With that the Warden nods and the guard moves toward the switch.

K: It’s a smorgasbord of meta this week (find out as you read further)! The good humor in this one comes from the absurd situation, and the iffy humor comes from the forced punchline of the dead naked Russian girl. I probably shouldn’t care much for this, but it got a reaction and I’ll probably remember it for a while.

P: A sequel to the story of the terrible monster that is M. Novak (any resemblance to any persons living or dead is surely coincidental…). Tip of the cap to the author. Another tip of the cap to M. Novak’s silky smooth voice, which I understand is like listening to Saruman in all his power.

6 Colin Woolston

I wasn’t going to cry. I refused to let them see.
It had been, I don’t know, years? All this time, work, and commitment. Love.
I had never had a lover like this. Someone to push me emotionally and intellectually, while still giving me what I needed in return. And so beautiful. There aren’t poems or songs to describe, at least not one. A universe of poems, songs or stories together could approach describing this love.
I looked up from my hands, clenching them into fists as though I could hold on to what we had. As if love could be grasped at all.
“But I love you, so much.” I said it quietly, and with as much dignity as I could.
“I know, but it isn’t time for us.” So soft. So gentle. So true.
“But…” I couldn’t think of anything else to say. I knew there was nothing else to say. I wanted so badly for there to be something else to say, so I blurted out something feeble, something to try to explain the times I was away when needed, something to explain the lapses in communication and the lack of effort on my part. I knew it was pointless.
“I know.” Was all that was said in return.
I took a moment to breathe. The only thing left was to try to retain some of my pride. Something to hold me together.

“OK.”

“OK?”

“Yeah. Goodbye Play With the Prose Playoffs.”

“Goodbye Colin.”

I stood, placing my shaky hands into the pockets of my dusty jeans, and turned my worn bootheels to the road, its grey surface mottled with amber and rose. Ahead of me was the last sliver of a beautiful sunset, and behind me the sky was already a riot of stars.

K: I’m reading these out of order, and so far we’re 3-for-3 on meta. This one, though, amuses me greatly. The Playoffs being a living entity makes me smile quite a bit, as did the overwrought romantic stuff. BRONZE

P: **quizzical raised eyebrow** You guys are goofy as hell, you know that? I was sort of worried that this was going to be sappy, soggy “goodbye love” nonsense, and instead it turned into strange meta thing. It’s not bad as a story, and I suppose it’s a proper farewell, when all things are considered. Saying farewell to the game under a silver of a sunset with a riot of stars behind? Sure. That’s perfect.

BRONZE

7 Shawn Ashley

I had thirteen nickels and not enough dimes. A pocketful of lint. One rusty, serrated fishing knife hung from my back pocket.
But the true beauty was the samurai sword I held in my hands; it gleamed in the fading sunlight.
My hands should be shaking, but a true ninja never shows weakness.
Lying in front of me was my greatest enemy. Of whom I had the most respect. A true warrior. An honest fighter. Made of integrity. Honor.
I stood above him in my ripped jeans and surprisingly clean Vans. I had ridden a bus all night to get here. A calm, quiet that had fallen over me as I mentally prepared for this long-awaited moment. One only performs the way one prepares.
I had trained my whole life for this day.
He had raised his sword to mine; our eyes locked. One of us knew the other would not leave this place alive. We both welcomed it, the greatest battle.
I’m sure in another life we would’ve been great friends. But he had wronged my family, and I had made it my personal mission to right that wrong.
Today was the day.
A feeling of pride is indescribable. Euphoric, adrenaline-fueled amazingness that soared through my veins as I stared down at him. My outer appearance showed none of this, but my heart pumped strongly and quickly as the last breath left his body.
I didn’t wipe the sword clean as I placed it on top of his corpse. It would be buried with him. I wouldn’t need it any longer.
I nodded in his direction, turned around and never looked back.

K: I’m very interested in this urban samurai. The story’s scant on the details – perhaps frustratingly so – but I got a decent sense of backstory and the honor present in this story. Of course, without the battle explained in more than a cursory manner, the ending feels rushed. BRONZE

P: And here I half expected this to be about Novak. There’s a certain dramatic glory to be had here, even if it seems a little overcooked at times. I can forgive that, the ending is good.

BRONZE

8 Matt Novak

Kelly scanned the screen, his fingers gently stroking the keys, as he would Brooks’, um, “ego.” The words simply flowed to him and within minutes he had a complete entry. He’d give it a quick edit, of course, but Kelly already knew he’d earned a double gold.

How long had he toyed with the idea of participating in one of his own competitions? It seemed like forever. And after experiencing it in Turbo survivor – though of course his time had been cut unfairly short – he’d needed another fix. His gift for acting, for creating a character, had served him well.

Kelly signed himself out, and signed in with the new identity. He’d even gone to the length of creating an alternate account. His fingers typed out the password to the account, “IamreallyKelly.” As the message traveled to the PWP account, he began to contemplate the critique he’d give it. Perhaps something that would mention how “Ian” had earned himself a playoff round without facing a challenge. Kelly liked that. It was well earned; It was a good bye, and he would say so.

K: Oh, you. I don’t know whether to roll my eyes more at the idea of me interjecting myself into one of my games (though I thought long and hard about how I could jump into Survivor XI) or the “good bye” angle. In both cases, I was rolling my eyes in a good way. Meta, sure, but fun enough. BRONZE

P: With a Meta challenge come meta entries. I chuckled multiple times at this one. It’s obviously comprised entirely of inside jokes, but hey… I’m on the inside. One problem; if Spooky gave something a gold, I obviously hated it and gave it no medal. Come on, haven’t you been paying attention at all?

9 Sarah Johnson

I wanted to say hello. I wanted to hide candy in my mattress and read Sunny’s diary. I wanted to sleep in Billy’s yard, waving flashlights while shadow-trees clawed the canvas. We’d swap urban legends: monsters and strangers with candy who kill boys like us.

After I was pulled into a van, twisted into zip ties, all I wanted was to live. I begged behind padlocks and cement walls, screaming until I vomited onto plastic sheeting.

Now I’m in a hotel 5 miles from the house – 5 miles from saying hello. I’ve been here for two nights.

I found Billy in the phone book. He called me a liar while I whispered the name of his favorite baseball card. When he was done crying, he told me he has a baby on the way. He’s giving it my name. I’ll never have kids. Not me.

Billy told me about my Mom – the endless searching, the pills and the recovery. She’s remarried now. Dad shot himself; Billy didn’t need to explain.

I am alive. My heart is blown into fragments, thrashed by loss and pain. I need to go home, to say hello – except I changed my mind.

I’ll get breakfast before I head out of here. I have his gun – I freed myself with it. His brains sprayed the cement and I ran for my life. I have his van and his stash of money. I’ll make it to Mexico by the weekend.

I’m a ghost now. I have to stay that way.

I changed my mind. Mom, I’m alive. I made it. I got away and it was all for you. I thought of the way your face smelled when you hugged me that last school morning. I love you. I’ll be okay.

Goodbye.

K: Eeg. This one’s as dark as it ever gets around here, even with the escape. It’s told in a bit of a frenzy, which feels like something I should flag it for, but it was clearly the intent, too. It’s a bit tough to read, but not tough to connect with. Why is there so much kidnapping in the stories here, by the by? That shit freaks me out. SILVER

P: Well, isn’t that a gut punch, albeit one with a fairly indecisive protagonist. Lots of years to cross between the beginning and the end – an entire life spent. The scope is ambitious, and while the word count certainly does its best to mangle things, I think the story comes out well. The last paragraph feels earnest, but heartfelt.

GOLD

10 Ian Pratt

“Hey Lizzie, wait up!”

Nico trotted down the hallway until he caught up with the willowy girl who had danced around his behorned mind all year long.

“Oh, hi Nico,” Lizzie said. The short little thing before her didn’t inspire much other than detached acknowledgement.

“Will you sign my yearbook?” Nico held the tome in front of him like a sacred relic rather than a regrettable collection of gawky middle school faces. “I’ll sign yours too, if you want.”

Lizzie gave the book a skeptical heavy-lidded look.

“Okay, I guess.”

She reached into her purse and dug around until she found her third-favorite pen. She took the book from Nico’s clammy hands and opened it up to the third signature page, hesitated, then turned to the fourth page. She picked an inconspicuous spot and started scribbling. Nico stared at the pen in her smooth, perfect fingers with their lavender painted nails and the ring that some people said was a real diamond.

“Here you go,” Lizzie said as she closed the book and handed it back. “Well, see you later then.”

Nico flipped frantically to the fourth page as the girl walked away to go to a party or to go skinny dipping or to ride a unicorn or to do whatever it was that the pretty, popular girls did over the summer. There, in sparkle-blue ink, was Lizzie’s message:

HAGS

His stomach was fluttering too much to stand, so he sat down against a row of lockers to examine it more closely. He had collected twenty-two other signatures in his yearbook so far, and they all said HAGS. They were ignored as he sat there, carefully memorizing the delicate arches and curves of those four beautiful sparkly-blue letters.

K: I love characters like this – beaten down by life, but they haven’t really learned that yet, and they’re still so damned eager and wide-eyed. Nico looking on as Lizzie intentionally finds her third-favorite pen made me laugh a lot. Good humor, nice characters, good story. As an aside, my brother and I DID see the prettiest girl in my class skinnydipping once when she and I were about 14 or 15. I still can’t believe that happened. GOLD

P: I had to look up what ‘HAGS’ meant (homeschooled and all that, yearbook catch phrases are sort of lost on me). Other than the meta entries, there might not be a story with smaller stakes than this one, but it rings true. Who hasn’t felt this way? Who hasn’t at one time in their life looked at a few simple words – same as hundreds of others – and assigned them life-changing importance?

SILVER

11 Brooks Maki

The Town was empty. Juan walked the streets alone, foolishly imagining his footsteps could be heard by the former residents now too far below the asphalt to hear anything that happened here. Still, he imagined each step ringing with the authority of a vengeful god come to destroy them in their glorified coffins. He remembered sealing them in, his friend Luis pleading with him to join them. “Suicide by Armageddon” Luis had called it, and Juan liked the ring of that. He rolled it over and over in his mind as he watched the night sky for the incoming comet.

K: Alright. I like this, though it plays coy. Juan’s controlling this, yes? If not, I guess it’s really not playing coy at all, but I’m left wondering why Juan has this power and why he decided to do this with it. It’s a cool idea, if it’s the idea I think it is. SILVER

P: There aren’t a lot of words here, but the author packs a wallop with the ones that got chosen. There’s a certain fearless freedom here, and within a few choice sentences, Juan becomes one of my favorite characters of a season absolutely packed to the brim with them.

GOLD

12 AMR

Kelly,

Thank you so much for everything you’ve done for me these past few months. You showed up at a time that so much in my life was dull and listless. Summer was so hot, the Twins stunk, and the bugs and the babies kept me homebound for so much of my “free” time. Your challenges have given me a chance to exercise my creative impulses that I have long set aside for my business career.

Alas, summer has turned to fall and I cannot go on. It seems as though the “busy season” at the office began more than a month earlier than it typically does. My older children now have Cub Scouts and Dance and CCD chewing up my evenings, and shorter days have encouraged me to turn in earlier, when I haven’t taken enough stimulants to make it past ten.

I haven’t yet missed a deadline for any of the activities that you have hosted, and I plan to see out all of my commitments within them. But once all are finished, then I think I will need to end my association with you and your website. My time is limited, and I need to focus on my real-world obligations, and though fun, in the long run, these games are just frivolities that I don’t really have to time to complete with the attention and care that you deserve.

As much as this hurts you, Kelly, know that it hurts me more. You’ve been a good friend and an inspiration. Give your girls an extra hug from me. I hope that you will remember my game-playing and writing half as fondly, as I remember you.

Much love,
Waldo Woo

K: I like the “Kelly is good” angle, but I’m less excited about the “I have to retire” angle. Hopefully this isn’t as meta as it appears. Anyway, uh. Wow. Tough one to score. Nicely written, but I never “scored” a letter or email I received, and it feels weird.  I think I’d actually feel dirty assigning a medal to this – like, it’s not even the intention.

P: I’m obviously not the right one to respond here.

13 Andrew M

We loaded up the tiny hatchback with so much stuff that it was noticeably lower in the back. In all honestly, we probably exceeded the rating on the shocks by more than a few pounds.

Mom and Dad stood in the driveway and laid on all the standards – “Have fun”, “Call us when you get there”, and the ever present “Be safe”, as though we planned on doing 95 through construction zones while driving with our knees. We rolled our eyes as we had the countless previous times we’d gotten that advice. But we knew they meant well and that was how they showed they cared.

After a round of hugs and another admonishment to drive carefully, we popped the car into reverse and rolled backwards into the street. Shifting to first, we started to pull away. With a quick honk and a wave we were on our way with little more than a vague hope of a job and the overloaded contents of the tiny car.

K: Huh…I looked in here for a hidden meaning, just because it was such a regular slice of life. No awful car wreck, no drug or sex innuendos, no nothin’ except a realistic goodbye from a couple of…college grads? Newlyweds? Probably the former. Either way, ya know what? I like it. The stakes are low (it doesn’t seem that way to the kids, but it does to the reader when put next to some of the other ones) but it just had a nice small-town feel I really got into. SILVER

P: Goodbyes are at best mildly depressing. Everyone knows this, even when a goodbye means moving on to a important new opportunity or potential for growth, something is always lost. This story capitalizes on that feeling captures it well.

SILVER

14 Bret Highum

Hank sunk the spade into the pile of dirt. Not a professional job, he thought, but the edges were straight and it was in the perfect spot.

My dad called and asked me to bring the kids up today. Said he was going to have to put Shandy down soon and the kids should tell her goodbye. My wife begged off on the two-hour drive, but Shandy had been a puppy when Aaron was born. He and Nina loved her. I let Aaron drive, for practice.
Grandpa waited on the porch, Shandy next to him. The kids went to her and her tail wagged, slowly.
“How’re you doing, Dad?” I asked, watching the kids and the dog.
“Catching up on projects,” he grumped. “Just a couple left.” He spit to the side, into the brown grass. “The VA keeps bugging me, but I got better things to do than get poked at.”
I let that go. I don’t like doctors, either. We passed the afternoon wandering around outside. He showed me the grave he’d dug for his dog. It overlooked the pasture, with the creek flowing through trees, open sky beyond.
After some tearful goodbyes to Shandy and quick hugs for Grandpa, we loaded up. He reached through the window to squeeze my shoulder, saying, “I’m getting a box of papers and stuff together for you- it’ll be on the table next time you come up, alright?” He waved once as we pulled away.

Hank put away his rifle and shovel, then came back to sit on the stump next to Shandy’s filled-in grave. The mass of wrongness pressed against his breastbone, and he spat out some blood. Hank took another sip of whiskey and couple more oxycodone. His wife and Shandy were waiting for him, down by the creek.

K: This is a rare thing – a dark story that isn’t so dark that I’m crushed nor so big that it’s beyond belief. This kind of thing is pretty common, and the central character is real, has motive, and invests the reader in his existence, sad though it may be. Good job writing this and not making it seem like cheap horror. Seriously, thank you. GOLD

P: Oh, come ON. I’m not even a big fan of dogs, but Ol’ Yeller and  “be seein ya soon” funerals will always be crushing to me. This is no exception. The rest of the story softened me up, the last paragraph broke me. You bastard.

GOLD

15 Erik S

Al had been with all manner of floozies, but Sandy seemed to have class. Her dress was red with a deep crimson bow around the waist, which almost perfectly matched her lipstick. You could find dames like this back in Chicago, but he certainly didn’t expect to find someone like Sandy in a speakeasy way out in Utica.

Sandy turned and gave him a sly smile, opened her apartment door and invited him in. The door was immediately slammed shut, and Al was shoved against it, attacked by Sally’s lips. After a few moments of savage passion, Sally gently pushed away.

“Easy, tiger. We’ve got plenty of time. Why don’t you grab yourself a drink, and I’ll be back in a moment. I’ve got the finest Ontario has to offer.”

Al nodded amiably. Sandy eyed him with a crooked smile as she walked away, and closed the bedroom door behind her.

Al shook his head while quietly laughing. Not wanting to be presumptuous, he removed only his jacket, walked over to the bar, and poured himself some rye.

He sat down on the couch and took a sip from his tumbler. Looking around the apartment, he was impressed. This was a class joint indeed. Once they had a moment to socialize, he’d have to ask what she was doing way out in the boonies.

The door opened softly. Al quickly stood up and straightened his hair, however his words died on his lips when, instead of Sandy, out walked his old friend, the unironically named Skinny Jimmy.

Al wondered how the fuck they found him in Utica as he sighed deeply through pursed lips.

“I’m sorry, Jimmy.”

Jimmy nodded in acceptance, though his steely gaze remained. He raised his .45 to eye level.

Knowing what was next, Al slowly removed his fedora.

“Goodbye, Alphonse.”

K: It’s a bit of a mess early on, with the prostitute’s name changing to Sally a couple of times, leaving me with the task of reading it again to see what I’d missed. Further, there’s not much here that really pertains to the story – I feel like we got a filler scene from a thriller but didn’t get the thriller. There’s some nice writing here, but the focus could be better.

P: Things get a little hard boiled here, but that fits the premise fairly well. Alphonse’s resignation is well done, and the bait and switch (partially spoiled by the challenge guidelines) was good.

BRONZE

Still P: On a side note, I’m sure my comments have caused a few quizzical stares, and maybe even a few muttered defamations of my character, but I truly have had a great time reading all of your stories. I know it’s a hell of a thing to plot and write and then put your hard work out there to be read by some guy sitting on a couch hours away who probably won’t even get that awesome Transformers reference you hid in the second paragraph, but I really appreciate the work that everyone put into this little game. You folks have been great.

—————————————————————–

Congratulations to the swath of players who got 8 points, as well as Bret – he came into the game with a double-gold, and left with one, just missing a first-round bye by a single point.

So, there it is – a 16-challenge season played out over eight weeks.  Are you exhausted?  I am.  Toward the end, I definitely thought several times – can we possibly be judging again already?  We just did it!

It was never boring for me, though.  Every now and then I pick up a pop novel thinking I want something light, and most of them are so much worse than what I get here, I can’t read them.  I mean it.

As for results: well, Gilman didn’t send a story.  I don’t know what’s up, but it isn’t here.  This is an absolute killer, as it just barely pushed him down out of the playoffs, where he’d been all season long.

FIRST ROUND BYE
Ian Pratt
Sarah Johnson

PLAYOFF STORY DUE MONDAY
Bret Highum
David Larson
Matt Novak
Erik Sundberg

For this round, Bret, David, Matt and Erik will each write a story for Monday.  We’ll give out gold, silver and bronzes.  The top two finishers will head to the semifinals to face Ian and Sarah, where two will advance to a final one-on-one.

Gentlemen: Your first playoff challenge, due Monday with a limit of 500 words, is to write a story where a seemingly small decision has huge consequences.  The character who makes the decision cannot be aware of the gravity of the situation, initially.

Good game, Prosers.  Ass slaps all around.