Hi folks, it’s Matthew here. Well, you all came out of the gate swinging! Like racehorses with baseball bats, you were. I was really impressed with the different takes on the Showdown theme, and you should be very proud of yourselves. Except for the guy who didn’t submit: you should be publicly shamed and promise in the comments below never ever to non-sub again. Okay?

Okay, we’ve got lots of stories to cover, lots of bragging rights to be claimed. Let’s find out who wrote the things that three random people liked more than someone else’s written thing!

MATCH A

1 – Beau

Jason Carmichael checked his watch.

“This is it, folks!  Game one, Bulls ahead by one.  Carmichael with the ball, ten seconds left.  Jordan’s guarding.  He drives the lane!  Steps back, shoots…”

His words died out as the ball missed wildly.  He looked around.  “Foul?”

“Supper time!” Mom yelled.

Jason sighed, “Game two, Michael.  You’re going down,” then bounded inside.

2 – Eric Schapp

One, two, three, four…the fight was on. Tom was sitting back in the corner as usual, while Freddy wriggled around the ring. The dancing fool attempted to strike first, but was already visibly sweaty and slowing down. Tom saw his chance and ponced forward, but the slippery poindexter escaped the grasp reversing the pin. Releasing the thumb, Freddy smiled.

MATTHEW: Right off the bat, a couple of tricky twist endings. I didn’t see #2 coming really, but I liked the way #1 felt more, because lord knows I’ve been that solitary kid playing by himself. WINNER: 1

ANDY: Ah, the world of sport. I feel the tension and the heat of battle a little more viscerally in #2. Enough for me to overlook “ponced”, anyway. But I warn you all: spelling errors will mean your doom in furture!!! So, #2.

NOVAK: Both stories do a nice job of taking an obvious conflict and turning it into something else.  Not the easiest task in 59 words.  Nice, clear storytelling in both.  I think story 2 had a bit more surprise to the twist, so it gets the edge from me.

WINNER: Eric Schapp

MATCH B

1 – David Larson

Verlander shakes off the sign.  He looks to first, then throws over to first, but Schumaker gets back easily.  Count is still 2 balls and 2 strikes…

…so now all you need to roll is a 4 or a 9, and the lounge suite is yours!

Georgia placed the remote on the kitchen table and sat forward on the edge of her chair.

2 – Erik S.

The customs officer raised his hands in a motion to stop.

Fuck.

He rolled down his window as the officer approached.

“Where y’all headin’?”

He stared into his own wide eyes by mirrored Aviators.

“…Houston, sir.”

The officer stood mute in inspection.  His grip on the steering wheel clenched.

“Move along, son.”

“Thank you, sir.”

He shuddered and sighed.

MATTHEW: Story 2 suffered from a lack of atmosphere, unfortunately, although it was a strong story idea. In so few words, you have to sacrifice something, and the writer went for a sense of place over a sense of tension. And let’s face it, in a story about a showdown, tension’s what you’re looking for. Meanwhile, story 1 revealed itself marvelously. WINNER: #1

ANDY: I don’t really feel invested in Georgia’s story in the first one. I was hoping for a better payoff in #2, but the story kept me more engaged while I was reading it. So, #2.

NOVAK: Both stories here leave me wanting more.  I have a feeling I’ll be saying that a lot judging Fiction59.  Story 1 is a little more complete, but we don’t quite get access to the character’s motivation for changing the channel, which is something I think would wrap up the thought completely.  The name Georgia is absolutely perfect for it.  So much imagery caught up in that single name.  Story 2, we’re left with all sorts of tension, but I want details.  I think the writing in Story 2 showed a little something more, so it wins this battle for me.

WINNER: Erik S.

MATCH C

1 – Dean Carlson

“Five…” Take my final step.  “Four….” Twirl around.  “Three…” Yank gun from its holster.  “Two…”  Aim right between the eyes.  “One…” Pull the trig – oof!  Damn! right in chest.  Mind foggy and blood making it difficult to see but as I fade to black Polly runs over to Randolph and plants a congratulatory kiss on his cold, proud lips.

2 – Colin Woolston

Among the other’s, one bead of sweat stood out on the blood vessel mapped nose that twitched above Harry’s quivering lips. His dilated pupils suddenly contracted and realization dawned. He stepped back and delivered the almost forgotten line, casting the smallest of glances my way that said, “Next time, pick it up kid.”

MATTHEW: Here’s the danger with cultural references: if the judge doesn’t recognize them, it takes away from the impact of 59 words. I think I’m supposed to know what #2 is referencing, but I’m not getting it. In any case, #1 has tension in spades, and delivers a very nice, concise sense of the moment. WINNER: 1

ANDY: I still have no idea what the heck is going on in #2… it’s ambiguous, but not in a good way for me. However, the language feels better constructed in #2. So, #2.

NOVAK: A couple of words throw me in the first story.  “Oof!” takes some of the drama out of the scene, and the word “cold” leaves me concluding both participants are dying.  Otherwise, I like what this accomplishes, packing a lot of action into the scene.  The second one also leaves me thrown because Harry “delivers” the forgotten line and has a “glance which says”.  I’m not sure if that last sentence is actually spoken or not.  The writing in the second one is solid though, with strong imagery.  Still, the clearer conflict wins out for me, and #1 is my winner.

WINNER: Dean Carlson

MATCH D

1 – AMR

She thinks she’s waited long enough: that I’m asleep,  but I can will myself awake for hours.

Enough waiting, I go downstairs.  She’s watching TV with Daddy:  people kissing.  “What’s that?”

“Why are you up?” she shouts.  I scream.  She picks me up and puts me in my bed.  She takes my nightlight!

“NOOOOOO!”  Screaming will keep me awake.

2 – Ian Pratt

The sexy teen howled as his ’53 Bel Air roared down the hill towards Devil’s curve. Beside him, a sexy teen in a top-down ’55 DeVille laughed at the wind and speed and darkness. They went off the road neck-and-neck, and the explosions were too close to call. According to the official sexy teen rules, it was totally awesome.

MATTHEW: Story one doesn’t really feel like a showdown. You’d need more words and more time to draw in the mother’s role here. Story two is, let’s face it, a goof. But it did make me chuckle. WINNER: 2

ANDY: Oooh, “people kissing” and two “sexy teens”. Naughty, naughty. These both found my “humor spot”, which needed a good prodding. I think this one is coming down to “She takes my nightlight!” (correct usage of exclamation point), vs. “According to the official sexy teen rules”. I’m going with the nightlight this time, but these two might both be ones to watch. So, #1.

NOVAK: Story one is a pretty funny – easily true – slice of life.  Much appreciated.  Story #2 dominates this challenge.  It’s concise, it’s pointed, and it’s funny.  It’s also the winner.

WINNER: Ian Pratt

MATCH E

1 – Kelly Wells

My brother is dead; the blood loss from the falling chandelier is responsible.  I’d slept with his wife a couple of times and he came at me.  In two hours, she’ll get here, survey the scene and stick a knife in my throat.  There will be no one left to carry on our family name.  Probably a good thing.

2 – Christina Pepper

Katlin Kink has reigned since 2006, and she is going down. “One minute remaining,” the announcer calls. In Estonian, naturally. My hands and feet are tied in. My quads are burning. I’m gulping air. I strain harder, forcing the swing still higher. For one perfect moment, the world is upside down. “Ladies and gentlemen, your new kiiking world champion!”

MATTHEW: Kiiking, huh? Well, you learn something new every day. And while it was pretty interesting and kinda cool, the nature of story 2 didn’t really feel showdown-y to me. Story 1, meanwhile, was more of an aftermath than a showdown, and there’s no evidence that the protagonist was responsible for the chandelier’s fall, or if it was an accident. Hardly showdown-like. So I’m forced to turn to that sage bit of wisdom from Oscar Wilde: “When in doubt, choose a giant Eastern European swing over fratricide.” Winner: 2

ANDY: I like the matter-of-fact tone of #1. Sometimes this can drag a story but it works here. But, I’m sorry #1. Anyone who makes me Google kiiking (which by some insane reason is not caught by my spell checker), and lets me read “…and will by skillful pumping…” on a Wikipedia entry will win. So, #2.

NOVAK: Two clever set-ups.  #1 reveals its strength at the start, but packs a funny final punch – I laughed out loud.  #2 saves its reveal for the end.  It’s clever, and the action is tighter.  The edge just barely goes to #2.

WINNER: Christina Pepper

MATCH F

1 – Melissa Diamond

“He wants a virgin!”

“We’re all out! Find someone else!”

Make a sacrifice, save the town. Absolutely imperative.

So a not-quite-a-virgin faced the dragon.

And the dragon ate her. One satisfying gulp…

…that gave him The Clap.

As he died, the village doctor poked him with a stick. “So THIS is why dragons prefer virgins.”

2 – Sarah Johnson

I found snowy bootprints stamping the cellar floor. I bought padlocks.

Then I saw the ashy face warped in the oven door’s reflection: it slipped upstairs.

I read the newspaper articles but this is my house now.

He’s crouched in the corner, a greasy swirling sapphire. My pistol is oiled; a tarp’s laid out.

One of us leaves tonight.

MATTHEW: I have to say, I’m not feeling either of these. The first is a goof that didn’t make me chuckle. I think there’s something interesting that could be said about the non-virgin in a virgin’s role taking on a dragon. But it never got said. Meanwhile, #2 invests so much its abstracted imagery that it left me scratching my head. It’s more impressively written, but it doesn’t really tell me anything other than the protagonist is a bit off his nut. That said, you can tell the author of #2 was more invested in their little story than the author of #1, so that’s the deciding factor. WINNER: 2

ANDY: Do pistols work against greasy swirling sapphires? Tough to compare these two, as they both go for completely different tones. That’s why they pay me the big bucks, though. I want you to keep the Clap jokes coming, #1, even though I’m going with #2 today. Against most of the other stories, you would have won. So, #2.

NOVAK: Two strong ideas, fully realized.  I’m very impressed with what we’ve seen so far, and this particular matchup is excellent.  I’m not a big fan of ghost stories, but I really want to see how #2 plays out.  Definitely leaves me wanting more in the best of ways.  #1 is a smart idea, and very funny.  It might say a little too much in it’s last line, which is why, in my “Close Call” of the week, the win goes to #2

WINNER: Sarah Johnson

MATCH G

1 – Will Young

Enter item.  Limes.  Place on scale.  Inside plastic bag.  $0.79.

I placed the limes with my other groceries.

If no other items, press pay.  Pay be debit/credit.  Use pinpad to complete transaction.

Looking over, the jackass who took the last sprinkled donuts was removing his wallet in aisle 8.

Please take your receipt.

Beat him out of the store.

2 – Zack Sauvageau

NON-SUBMIT

MATTHEW: Well. Non-submit. Makes it easy on me. Luckily, the first story was a pretty good one, and unexpected (I thought it was going to be man vs. machine).

ANDY: Please tell me that “Pay be debit/credit” was intentional, and not just a typo. Because my insides laughed at that. “Beat him out of the store.” was one of the better lines of the night, as well. And against nothing, that’s good enough, friend. So, #1.

NOVAK: Obviously the decision is made by the non-sub, but I think it might have been made anyway by the very strong internal competition laid out in #1.  Very effective.  I love it.

WINNER: Will Young

MATCH H

1 – Erik Dikken

“No, I won’t let you.”

“There’s nothing you can do. I’m ending this.”

Julian braced himself against the railing of the bridge.

“Goodbye, Julian.”

He slipped. The falling sensation was like nothing he had ever experienced.

His hand gripped the edge of the bridge. He pulled himself up. His split personality was gone, fallen without him.

2 – Peter Bruzek

The fight was one-sided.

The giant’s blows rained upon Karlov’s shield. He had managed to draw blood once, and even that exceeded the crowd’s expectations.

The behemoth’s swings became wilder as his eyes began to glaze. It’s mace fell to the ground as the poison took hold.

Sometimes, a fair fight was a necessity; today it was a luxury.

MATTHEW: I had to re-read both of these before they really hit me. The twist in #2 almost snuck by me, which is itself a kind of accomplishment in a 59 word story. (Or maybe it’s just me missing something.) #1 worked a more unconventional angle, and it handled it very well. For that reason, I have to give it the edge. WINNER: 1

ANDY: I like the idea in #1 a lot, I wish you could have found a way to get this idea across without explicitly spelling it out for us. #2, you’re catching me at a good time, otherwise your “it’s” vs. “its” error would have me in a tizzy. I enjoyed both stories, but I like the concept of #1 a bit more. I like #2’s writing and I look forward to more stories from you. Today just wasn’t your day I’m afraid. So, #1.

NOVAK: I’m not quite sure where it happened, but #1 managed to convey it’s idea to me somewhere before the final reveal.  I’m deciding whether that was good or bad.  An idea I feel like I’ve seen here or there, but quite well realized in this story.  #2 is a story that makes me wonder a lot more about the world it takes place in.  I enjoy this kind of writing, and I’ve puzzled over the last line a bit, wondering what more was in this author’s head, and wishing I could be taken there.  Ultimately, I feel like the completeness of #1 carries the day in this matchup, and so that’s my winner.

WINNER: Erik Dikken

Woo! There you have it folks, Challenge One well met. Congrats to half of you. Nice try to the other half. We’ll be working on getting a standings spreadsheet up pretty soon here, but not before tomorrow. Once it’s up, we’ll post a link to it, I’m sure.

One quick word about…words. Number of words. Be diligent when checking your word counts! I know there are plenty of subtle differences between auto-counters out there, but with 59 words it shouldn’t be too hard to double-check with your own eyes. We don’t like being hard-asses. Not about this, anyway. But we kinda have to. Okay? Thanks.

For the next challenge, your story must be an entry from a private diary or journal. Entries will be due at 9pm CST on Wednesday. That means you have to write 1.15 words per hour between now and then to make the deadline. Pace yourselves! Cheers, writers.

NEXT CHALLENGE MATCHUPS:
Christina Pepper vs. Beau
Eric Schapp vs. Melissa D.
Kelly Wells vs. David Larson
Sarah Johnson vs. Erik Dikken
Erik S. vs. Zack Sauvageau
Pete Bruzek vs. Dean Carlson
DPWY vs. AMR (the battle of the acronyms!)
Colin Woolston vs. Ian Pratt